Districts’ Collaborative Approach Yields 35 Years of…

Districts’ Collaborative Approach Yields 35 Years of Student Success at CASA

(Crystal A. Proxmire, May 12, 2019)

Oak Park, MI – A model of shared services and focused learning, the Center for Advanced Studies and the Arts in Oak Park has been helping students from multiple school districts connect, grow, and succeed for 35 years.  This milestone was celebrated April 27 with an open house full of awards, presentations, and tours.

Oakland County Treasurer (and candidate for County Executive) Andy Meisner was one of those honored with a Distinguished Alumni Award.

He shared with the students and others in the room that he’d had a hard time growing up.  “I was loved. I had great parents, but my dad had difficulties.  We lived in a good community, but we were broke,” he said.  He attended Berkley High School, three decades ago.  When he started taking classes at CASA in the afternoons, his life changed.

“When you have stuff going on at home, it’s hard to think about your future.  Going to CASA took my life to a whole new level.  I felt like I was joining a community.  When I came to CASA and my community expanded I got to talk to kids with different backgrounds. That was very special and very meaningful.”

Other alumni presented with awards were Seth Berg who is the Principal at Meadowbrook Elementary, Aaron Levin who is an attorney with Lansing Attorney General’s Office, and Paige Pfleger who is a public health reporter with WOSU and NPR.

The day also featured tours of the building and presentations by students.

Jaylon Johnson of Oak Park presented his research exploring the benefits of video games.  Grace Rost of Ferndale spoke about student anxiety and depression. And Justina Bissett of Clawson shared what she learned about plastic bags from a chemical standpoint and a social one. (We’ve also done articles on each of those presentations. Click on the student’s name to view!)

CASA is a centralized location for students from Berkley, Clawson, Ferndale, Lamphere, Madison, Oak Park and Pontiac School districts. It began in 1983, serving 35 students with four classes.  Now there is an entire catalogue including AP level courses and the arts. Students go to their home high schools in the morning and come to CASA in the afternoon. CASA offers 16 Advanced Placement classes in all major subject areas, an advanced visual arts program, a robust dance program, three world languages and many unique electives students cannot find in their home schools.

A tour of the building showed learning on many levels.  One classroom is decorated in a 1960s theme.  Another is dedicated to yoga.  Another had an incubator full of eggs on the verge of being hatched.

“This is really just a special place,” said science teacher Ed McLeod.  “The students all want to be here, and they’re really excited about learning.”

He said the hallway chatter often has students practicing second languages.

Oak Park Assistant Superintendent Stan Trompeter was among the officials from the various districts who spoke at the celebration.  “[CASA] gives you a phenomenal opportunity to realize what real life is all about,” he said.  “You meet with people of different backgrounds, experiences, race, religion… We’re so focused on the academics, which are phenomenal, but this is important too.”

More info:

CASA website


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