When David Rudolph was approached to serve on the board of Detroit Enterprise Academy (DEA), his first thought was, “Why me? I’m not in education?” Rudolph, a lifelong Detroiter who worked as a public-relations professional, had been recruited to join the DEA board by his friend Buzz Thomas, a former Democratic state legislator who was helping the school at the time.
Buzz asked me if I would be interested, and I had some reservations. I’d served on some different board, but I hadn’t been in education. Was I really qualified for this? I wasn’t a teacher?”
- David Rudolph
Thomas calmed his apprehension, telling Rudolph that he was exactly what Detroit Enterprise Academy was looking for.
“He said no, they’re looking for someone with communication skills,” Rudolph said. “Someone who’s a Detroiter. Someone who knows the community and has passion for the community and loves helping kids. And that’s where it started.”
That was in 2011, and 10 years later, Rudolph says that serving on the DEA School Board – he’s currently the board’s secretary – is one of the great experiences of his life.
“Education in the Black community is the key to breaking the cycle of poverty,” Rudolph said. “So the opportunity to be in that space and help in whatever way I could was very intriguing. Grand Valley (the school’s authorizer) offered to train me, and that’s been a huge help.”
Rudolph said that the training provided by Grand Valley State University and the support from National Heritage Academies, the school’s management company, has made his life as a board member so much easier.
“There’s a lot you need to know,” Rudolph said. “School finance is a complicated nut. Grand Valley in particular – they were so helpful in the training sessions they offered board members, educating us on school finance, budget literacy and all the other things you need to be paying attention to.”
Rudolph said he views his role as a board member as being a vigilant watchdog for the taxpayer and a tireless advocate for the school.
“We are a public school board,” he said. “Our role is there as governance, to shepherd the taxpayer dollars that come through. We also need to act as a sounding board for the school administration. To hear what they need and give them the support they need.”
Rudolph has also come to love and appreciate his school, Detroit Enterprise Academy.
“We’re an urban school on the east side of Detroit, and we’ve been around almost 12 years,” he said. “It’s a very dynamic school and a very high-achieving school. We’re a school where we’re always working to improve our learning environment and culture. We have almost no teacher turnover, which tells you a lot. Teachers are there because they want to be there, not because they have to be there.”
Recognizing the impact he can have in education, and in the charter school space, Rudolph upped his involvement a few years ago by also joining the board of MAPSA.
As for any other person who might be considering joining a charter school board, Rudolph said it’s the most rewarding work you can do.
People should consider joining a charter school board because kids matter. Kids eventually become adults, and if we’re going to continue to be the strong nation we are, we have a remember that they are our future. That’s not done in a vacuum. We need to stand with them. We are a village, to borrow from the African parable. I have to do what I can to influence them, and we all have a role to play. Our young people need us more than ever.”
- David Rudolph
We need voices like yours on charter boards!
Michigan charters are facing a board member shortage, and we need passionate community members to help support our schools