Jayne M. Rose-Vallee
back to blog

Dr. Joseph F. Pollack Academic Center of Excellence | PACE Academy

As the DLIMH Team prepares to visit this school, we have learned a great deal about Dr. Joseph Pollack; the man the school is named after. We think you will find his journey fascinating.

He was born in 1933 in the city of Detroit. He graduated from Central H.S. (Detroit) and went on to graduate from Wayne State. He received his Ph.D. from the University of Michigan. He received a Fulbright Grant to study in Italy. He went on to create a resume that looks a little like this:           

Detroit Public Schools, Teacher
Martin Luther King High School, Assistant Principal
     His “outstanding managerial style, intellect, and his ability to work with a variety of people,” insured his advancement.
Ann Arbor Pioneer High School, Principal
     During a transitional time.
Jackson School District, Assistant Superintendent
     Another large diverse district.
Ypsilanti Public School System, Superintendent
      “He initiated the desegregation of the district and introduced innovative programs.”
Flint Community Schools, Superintendent
     “His norm of excellence and quality continued. He had a knack for bringing people together. He laid the ground work for the Flint Community Schools to hire its first African American Superintendent.”
He continued to seek new challenges.
Evanston-Smokie Illinois School District, Superintendent
     Here he broke new ground and continued to set high standards.
He took his skills and went to New York.
UNICEF, NY & Abroad, Vice President
     Here he worked for children worldwide.
In 1993 and 1994 Two Public Acts passed which changed how schools could be set up.
Joe Pollack went to Eastern Michigan where he founded the Charter School Office.
Charter School Office EMU, Founder
     Schools Developed in Detroit, Inkster, Pontiac, Melvindale, Grand Blanc, Dearborn, Ann Arbor, and Southfield.

So, what’s the big deal? Lots of people are Teachers; Principals; Superintendents; Etc.

Here’s why I think this is important; why he’s important.

He was able to communicate. People trusted him. His intentions were to get the best education for children; All children. He initiated the desegregation of Ypsilanti High School. He was able to bring Flint Public Schools out of a racially charged bussing lawsuit that had been ongoing for years. These are not easy tasks. This shows he had vision and incredibly good people skills. We could use some of that in today’s world.

He was not satisfied with the public-school system. He took the opportunity to create something new; to try. The Charter School appealed to him because it empowered parents. It allowed for better education for those who couldn’t afford private or parochial schools options. He was committed to equal education opportunity for all.

There are currently thirteen schools K-8 in the EMU Charter Schools which developed under his leadership. A strong core curriculum, fine arts studies, special needs programs, as well as, gifted and talented programs are touted. PACE has tutoring, violin, band, choir, academic games, girl and boy scouts, mentoring, drama, dance, basketball, and cheerleading.

In 2009, Dr. Joseph Pollack died unexpectedly. Some people are simply irreplaceable. I say that because it’s been ten years and from my research it looks as though he is deeply missed. Some of the EMU Charter Schools seem to struggle with test scores as many Michigan schools currently are. It appears they are trying to address these concerns. It’s not news that education failings are widespread. From my small window of experience, there is simply not enough personnel, time, money, and resources necessary to turn this train around without major intervention and creativity. We need more people like Dr. Joseph Pollack to reinvent and reinvest in the hope of education. What I learned in this research of him was how one man, father of four, husband, dedicated family man, sports enthusiast (particularly Detroit Tigers and U of M teams), was how much he moved the earth around him. His goal of education equity and social justice for all, makes him a hero in my book. We look forward to reading at his namesake school in two days.

Join the Rose-Vallee Children’s Foundation and Shake Some Literacy Earth.