They said they can

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It should have been called a commitment ceremony.

Hosted at southwest Detroit’s Greater Apostolic Faith Temple Church by a coalition of Detroit advocacy groups, some of Detroit’s leaders responded to requests to address education, youth violence, abandoned and dangerous buildings near schools and harassment of racial minorities and immigrants.

The audience, numbering several hundred, chanted “Yes, we can,” and “Si, se Puende,” reflecting the bi-lingual community.

Detroit Emergency Financial Manager Robert Bobb committed to having certified teachers in every classroom when students arrive for the 2011-2012 year, allow parents on review committees to determine which management companies will operate charter schools in southwest Detroit, and provide better resources for parents who have limited English abilities including bilingual staff.

Detroit’s Group Executive for Planning and Facilities Karla Henderson committed to tearing down 50 abandoned and decaying buildings near schools.

U.S. Attorney in Detroit Barbara McQuade committed to investigating and prosecuting instances of racial profiling and harassment of immigrants.

“I will not make any promises to you that I know that at the end of the day I will not be able to look you in the eye and say, ‘yes, I made the commitment and I said “yes” but in fact I was unable to make that commitment.’” Bobb said. “If I make a commitment I would like to carry forward the commitment I have made.”

Many of the leaders promised follow-up meetings with the groups whose members attended. McQuade said people who have experienced harassment from law enforcement should bring information — time, date, place, agency, officers’ names, if known — to her. Detroit Public Schools Police Chief Roderick Grimes said he would continue working with the group Youth Voice, a student group working for the reduction of violence in and near schools and involving young people.

Bobb did decline to promise to implement the College Readiness Tracker, a program used in New York City schools that some parents had asked be brought to Detroit. It’s a tool parents can use to track their children’s classes and how they fulfill graduation and college-admittance requirements.

“I will be more than happy to come back to another meeting with the parent organization to look at the current tracking system we have to get to a more robust discussion of the tracking system that you all presented to me and then see whether or not we can install something for the beginning of the next school year that we and you and the school district can implement on behalf of your children,” Bobb said.

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