In less than four full years, Superintendent Dr. Daveda Colbert has helped the Oak Park School District to experience enrollment growth while eliminating a more than $8,000 annual deficit. And during that time, she has also brought her vision of the importance of education to the Southfield DDA as one of its 13 board members.
Colbert’s presence on the board makes perfect sense. Despite the fact that she works and lives in Oak Park, the city shares the eastern border of the Southfield DDA along Evergreen Road and any elementary, middle and high school students who live within the DDA’s borders are zoned for Oak Park Schools, Colbert said. So she understands the importance of being a board member to help look after her constituency.
“I think a lot of people who aren’t familiar with the Southfield DDA don’t realize how many residential developments there are,” Colbert said. “The DDA is about more than just business.”
And Colbert has a strong understanding of business. She credits her district’s employees and unions for making necessary concessions a few years ago to help maintain financial stability, with the district’s deficit expected to be at zero by this summer, one year ahead of a state mandate.
Meanwhile enrollment has risen with more emphasis placed on academics, athletics and the arts, which is in stark contrast to many other metro Detroit area school districts that have experienced declining enrollment.
“A lot of the success is about attitude and having a strong customer service mindset,” Colbert said. “Our goal is to make a significant difference in the life of each student we have.”
During her three years on the Southfield DDA board, Colbert is proud to have strengthened partnerships with Southfield leaders, including Mayor Brenda Lawrence, and to have a say in the ongoing development and revitalization activities of the DDA. She believes that the Southfield DDA has unique offerings and that there is great potential in the short- and long-term.
“The city and the DDA has done a great job attracting ‘meds and eds’ as we like to say with Oakland Community College expanding its DDA footprint and all the healthcare employers in the district,” Colbert said. “We have several anchors in the DDA and the restructuring has been very successful. You see a lot of private practices popping up all over. It has been a very positive experience for me.”