Detroit Children’s Fund Launches Team Fellows Program

The Detroit Children’s Fund (DCF) has launched a new $900,000 Team Fellows Program that aims to bring advisors into Detroit schools to provide intensive coaching to principals, assistant principals, deans and other top administrators. The coaches will work with school leaders together as a team to collectively create improvement plans, then work to implement them. The program currently operates at Mumford Academy and two Detroit charter schools.

“At a foundational level, all high-performing schools have a clear vision for what they want to achieve,” said Jack Elsey, executive director of DCF. “They’re constantly assessing themselves and having others assess them. … The Team Fellows is designed to provide those reflective moments.”

DCF sees the Team Fellows Program model as one that could expand to across the city and provide a positive growth environment and support system for emerging leaders in Detroit’s education community. To learn more about the program and the impact it is making in Detroit schools, read a new article by Erin Einhorn of Chalkbeat Detroit.

Detroit Children’s Fund Elects Four New Board Members, Continues Investment in Quality Schools

Detroit Children’s Fund (DCF)—a nonprofit organization committed to ensuring that every child in Detroit has the opportunity to receive a quality education—has started the year with four additions to its roster of board members and a growing portfolio of investments.

Tony Barra, Tony Cervone, Wright Lassiter III and Matt Simoncini—have been elected to the DCF board, a group of prominent Detroit philanthropists. “We’re grateful to have these individuals join to our slate of leaders, committed to improving education for Detroit children. Each have displayed a deep commitment to Detroit and its children, and bring valuable experience from their service on other local and national boards,” DCF Board Chair KC Crain said.

Tony Barra is a retired technology consultant, whose expertise was focused on new business modeling and economic analysis. Barra also serves as co-chair of Eagles for Children at Meadowbrook Country Club. He has a bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering from Kettering University, and a master’s in Business Administration from the University of Michigan.

Tony Cervone is senior vice president, global communications at General Motors and oversees GM’s corporate giving activities. He is a 33-year veteran of the automotive industry. Cervone also serves on the boards of The LaGrant Foundation and Plank Center for Communications Leadership. He has a bachelor’s degree in journalism from Central Michigan University and was inducted into the Central Michigan Journalism Hall of Fame in November of 2017.

Wright Lassiter III is president and CEO of Henry Ford Health System. He is a seasoned health care executive with more than 25 years of experience working in large, complex health systems. An avid community leader, Lassiter has held volunteer positions at the United Way, Salvation Army and YMCA; and serves on the boards of American Hospital Association, America’s Essential Hospitals, Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago, LeMoyne College, City Year Detroit, and YMCA-USA National Board of Directors. He has a master’s degree in health care administration from Indiana University, and a bachelor’s degree with honors in chemistry from LeMoyne College.

Matt Simoncini recently retired as president and chief executive officer of Lear Corporation. Simoncini also serves on the board of directors for the Wayne State University Foundation, Michigan Opera Theatre and The Parade Company. He has a bachelor’s degree in accounting from Wayne State University.

“As we begin our work with the Detroit Public School Community District and the many non-profit charter schools in our city, strong leadership is critical to our success. The addition of these four individuals further bolsters our already talented and influential board,” says Jack Elsey DCF Executive Director. “We are united in our determination to ensure Detroit children have access to great schools.”

The Fund’s mission is to make high-potential investments to improve the quality of education in Detroit’s K-12 public schools. These investments expand successful schools, significantly improve lower performing schools, and discover and develop talented educators.

In 2017, DCF made its first investment in a high-performing charter school operator, New Paradigm for Education. The $5-million grant will help New Paradigm grow to accommodate more students, expanding quality school options in the city. New Paradigm high schools boast a 100 percent college acceptance rate. Its crown school, Detroit Edison Public School Academy, is the first and only Michigan charter school to be named a Michigan Exemplary Blue Ribbon School.

DCF also recently launched its first talent development program, DCF Team Fellows. The program is a partnership with the School Empowerment Network to cultivate teams of principals and school leaders. Leadership teams will be provided strategic direction and support as they focus on their school vision, build an inclusive school culture, raise academic expectations, and create positive momentum for their school community. The first cohort in the Team Fellows program includes Detroit Achievement Academy, Detroit Prep (both public charter schools) and Mumford Academy (a DPSCD school).

Detroit Children’s Fund will host its 2nd Annual Dinner on September 29th with Event Chairs Kim and Mark Reuss. Mark Reuss serves as executive vice president, global product development, purchasing and supply chain at General Motors Company.

“We’re excited about the progress that was made last year and are even more encouraged as we look ahead in 2018,” said Nick Karmanos, chief advancement officer for DCF. “There’s a broadly shared conviction that improving the city’s schools is critical to Detroit’s recovery, and a determination that together, we can ensure children have a path to a bright future. I could not be more proud to be a part of this work.”

Detroit Children’s Fund is a nonprofit organization that makes high-potential investments to expand successful schools, greatly improve lower performing schools and discover and develop talented educators so that one day every child in Detroit has the opportunity to receive an excellent education.


Detroit Children’s Fund Inaugural Dinner Raises Over $1.55 Million for Detroit Schools

DETROIT – More than 240 guests were taken back to school when they attended the Detroit Children’s Fund Inaugural Dinner on Saturday, October 14 at The Factory at Corktown in Detroit, MI. The raw venue was transformed with a school theme, complete with notebook-patterned table tops, giant pencils, and a school lunch inspired dinner menu. Thanks to the generous support of sponsors and attendees, the event raised more than $1.55 million. DCF board member Adam Levinson and his wife Brittany generously contributed $775,000 of the total raised in a matching gift challenge. All funds raised will support the Detroit Children’s Fund quality seat campaign to create 25,000 seats for K-12 students in strong Detroit schools by the year 2025.

DCF Inaugural Dinner Chairs Kelle Ilitch, Ashley Crain and Gretchen Davidson

The Inaugural Dinner Event Chairs were Ashley Crain, Gretchen Davidson and Kelle Ilitch. Davidson and Ilitch also serve on DCF’s board of directors alongside Tonya Allen, Pernilla Ammann, Phil Cooley, Tiffany Douglas, Bill Emerson, Carol Goss, Adam Levinson, Ryan Maibach, Jacques Panis, Arn Tellem, Jason Tinsely, and Board Chair KC Crain. 

“I think we can all agree that Detroit is coming back. Our economy is beginning to boom. But how will we ensure our city continues to rebound without ensuring that the next generation is educated and prepared to be tomorrow’s workers and leaders?,” posed KC Crain. “DCF is working to make good schools the norm in Detroit. It’s an imperative mission for our city and I’m proud to be part of it.”

In addition to the funds raised at the Inaugural Dinner, DCF’s Executive Director, Jack Elsey, announced a $2-million grant from General Motors. GM was also a presenting sponsor of the dinner, alongside Tom and Holly Gores.

“I’m grateful for the generosity and commitment of our board and supporters,” said Nick Karmanos, DCF’s chief advancement officer. “People understand the critical need for good schools. Belief that, together, we can make it happen is growing. Parents, educators, community members, stakeholders, and businesses are rallying together like never before.”

“DCF is dedicated to ensuring all Detroit children have access to a quality education,” said Elsey. “We’ll accomplish this by investing in great schools to serve more students and by bringing nationally celebrated schools here to serve children in Detroit. We are also investing in developing teams of current and future school leaders, all of whom will raise the bar for achievement in our city.”

“Detroit Children’s Fund has people at the helm that are as passionate about this cause as they are talented at the work they do,” said Tonya Allen, DCF board member and president & CEO of the Skillman Foundation. “They have the right ideas to create a tipping point, helping strong schools thrive and expand, and signaling to others that, without improvement, they will no longer be able to do business in Detroit.”

Inaugural Dinner Presenting Sponsors were General Motors, and Tom and Holly Gores. Hometown Match Sponsors were Brittany and Adam Levinson. Executive Sponsors were Linda and Ed Levy, Jr. Dinner sponsors included AVL Americas, Barton Malow Company, Crain Communications Inc, Gretchen and Ethan Davidson, The Detroit Pistons, Marlene and Bill Emerson, Gallagher-Kaiser Corporation, Ilitch Holdings, Kojaian, Lear Corporation, Quicken Loans, and Arn and Nancy Tellem. The event’s Media Sponsor was Crain’s Detroit Business.

Media Contact:
Natalie Fotias
(313) 393-1179;  

Event photos are available on DCF’s Facebook page.

Detroit Children’s Fund selects Jack Elsey as executive director

DETROIT – Detroit Children’s Fund (DCF) announced today the appointment of Jack Elsey as executive director. Elsey brings 13 years of experience in public education to his new role.

“DCF has attracted a strong team to drive its mission of ensuring Detroit children have exceptional learning and development opportunities. We could not be more pleased to have Elsey at the helm,” said KC Crain, DCF board chair and president & COO of Crain Communications Inc. “His conviction that every child deserves a first-rate education and the achievements he’s led toward this vision make him an outstanding fit for the team.”

“Jack has led classrooms, schools and districts to stronger academic results. His proven experience in improving education for children is complemented by a strong intellect, great relationships, an energetic spirit, and an uncompromising commitment to excellence,” said Tonya Allen, Detroit Children’s Fund board member and Skillman Foundation president & CEO.

Elsey began his career as a middle school teacher in the South Bronx as a Teach for America corps member. He went on to hold a leadership positions with several urban schools districts where he focused on school turnaround efforts.

Most recently, Elsey served as the chief schools officer for the Education Achievement Authority of Michigan (EAA), a district charged with turning around some of Detroit’s historically lowest performing schools. Under his leadership, EAA schools showed improvements in several areas: student growth results outperformed state averages, suspensions were reduced by 30 percent, and school culture was strengthened through the creation of small learning communities. Elsey has also served as an assistant superintendent for Detroit Public Schools, and chief schools officer of Detroit Rising College Prep Schools where he introduced governing councils and site-based management controls to empower nine low-performing neighborhood high schools.

Elsey has also served as chief of innovation and incubation at Chicago Public Schools where he helped establish a common evaluation system across schools of all governance types, equalized funding for charter and alternative schools, and more than doubled the number of seats serving opportunity youth. While in Chicago, Elsey also led a broad coalition of school leaders, funders, and policymakers to create the Commitment to Quality, a city-wide agreement to improve charter school performance. In the span of two years, the number of Chicago charter schools on the “warning list” was reduced from 10 to three.

Elsey holds an undergraduate degree from Wake Forest University and master’s degrees in teaching and education leadership from Pace University and The Broad Center for the Management of School Systems, respectively. In 2016, he was named as a Future Chief with Chiefs For Change.

“I am excited and honored to have been selected to lead the Detroit Children’s Fund.  Detroit’s comeback will be complete only when every school in the city is high quality,” Elsey said. “We at DCF intend to help make that happen by growing the best schools in Detroit, recruiting national high-performing schools to join us, and investing in our most promising future leaders to ensure our schools continue to improve for many years to come.”

“In our work, we have the privilege to meet talented and passionate people who dedicate themselves to supporting children. Jack is a prime example,” said Nick Karmanos, chief advancement officer of the Detroit Children’s Fund. “He works from the heart, has strong vision, and is a thoughtful collaborator. We’re delighted to have him lead the team.”

Detroit Children’s Fund adds three key staff members including Nick Karmanos as chief advancement officer

DETROIT – Detroit Children’s Fund (DCF) announced today the addition of three key staff members to aid in fund development for the organization.

Nick Karmanos has been hired as chief advancement officer, responsible for DCF’s institutional advancement and fundraising. Prior to joining Detroit Children’s Fund, Karmanos served as senior vice president of institutional relations for Karmanos Cancer Institute, where he raised more than $150 million over 16 years.

“The opportunity to have a positive impact on the lives of Detroit’s children through improved access to quality education is very important to me,” said Karmanos. “We have the chance to provide hope and opportunity to generations of kids, empowering them to find a brighter future. I am truly humbled to have the chance to contribute and look forward to working with the DCF board and my colleagues in advancing this epic endeavor.”

Lisa Laurin and Karry Dalton have also been added to the DCF development team, and will work under Karmanos’ leadership. 

Laurin joins Detroit Children’s Fund as corporate relations officer, developing relationships with corporate partners and supporting the execution of major gift solicitation strategies. Dalton will serve as events officer, responsible for planning and executing DCF’s fundraising events.

“I am thrilled that these very talented folks have joined the team. They will play a critical role in leading our outreach efforts with the broader community,” said Tonya Allen, DCF board member and president & CEO of the Skillman Foundation. “Detroit Children’s Fund has gained a lot of traction over the past year, thanks to our generous donors, our impassioned board led by KC Crain, and the work of Punita Dani Thurman, executive director. The addition of Nick, Lisa and Karry to the team will help us accelerate this momentum.”

“The experience and capabilities Nick, Lisa and Karry bring to DCF will be a tremendous support to our mission of dramatically changing the odds of success for Detroit children,” said KC Crain, chairman of the Detroit Children’s Fund.

About the Detroit Children’s Fund

Detroit Children’s Fund (DCF) is committed to dramatically changing the odds for Detroit youth by ensuring they have exceptional learning and developmental opportunities, both inside and outside the classroom. Built in partnership with a team of civic and corporate leaders from across the city and globe, DCF deploys venture philanthropy principals to invest in high-potential education nonprofits that serve Detroit children. More at

Media Contact: Natalie Fotias, 313.393.1179,