Mott Intern program designed to spread the “gospel” of community education

An old black and white photo shows three men outdoors wearing stylish hats and winter coats.
In the winter of 1946, Frank Manley — the “father” of community education — poses with two of the original Flint community school directors, Alton (Pat) Patterson (center) and Harold Bacon (right).

Editor’s Note: A chance meeting with Vernon Masayesva in the fall of 1993 prompted the production of this article, originally published in the Spring 1995 edition of the “Mott Exchange” newsletter. That year, Charles Stewart Mott Foundation Trustees and selected staff had traveled to Hotevilla, Arizona, to visit a solar energy project operated by the Hopi Foundation, a Mott grantee. Masayesva, then chairman of the Hopi tribe, mentioned to the visitors that he was familiar with the Foundation thanks to his yearlong experience as an intern with the Mott Inter-University Clinical Preparation Program in Education Leadership. Remembering his internship as “one of the best educational experiences I have had,” Masayesva noted that he and his fellow Mott interns “were educated to see the links and create systems around the child.” Children and education, he believed, were the linchpins to a healthy Hopi nation.

Community school directors in Flint, Michigan, were a hot commodity in the 1960s as officials from cities across the country came to visit the “Flint model” and opted to convert their schools to community schools.

Barely trained and barely placed, they were wooed away — not just by other school systems but by juvenile welfare organizations, YMCAs, reformatories and other child-service agencies.

Dale Foltz, retired warden of the State Prison of Southern Michigan (SPSM) at Jackson, was a case in point.

Hired by Frank J. Manley, then executive director of Mott Foundation Projects and co-creator of the Flint community school model, Foltz became a community school director in 1955. The following year he was sent to Oak Community School, which, he recalls, was “surrounded by an unstable neighborhood with a lot of transient families.”

“The neighborhood was having a lot of trouble with teenagers, and they asked me to do something about it. So I opened the gym for the kids at night and we formed a basketball team. They were pretty good, too. They ranked in the city’s basketball league.

Unfortunately, while the neighborhood finally did get some respite from the rowdy teens, it was not due solely to basketball.

“Most of those kids ended up in jail,” Foltz said. “I was too late for them.”

But it was not too late for the elementary school students Foltz saw each day. His in-school and after-school programs for youngsters at Oak School caught the attention of a fellow teacher. She mentioned Foltz to her brother, who was a superintendent of the Michigan Training Unit (MTU) in Ionia, a new, medium-security facility for young offenders. The superintendent approached Foltz about a job.

Loyal to Manley, Foltz was hesitant about taking the position of athletic director for MTU.

“Mr. Manley told me to go ahead and try it and if I wasn’t happy I was welcome back,” Foltz said.

Foltz never returned to Flint. Instead, he advanced steadily up the administrative ladder of Michigan’s prison system. In 1982, following riots that made the national news, Foltz took over as warden of SPSM, the largest walled prison in the United States. Literally a city unto itself, “Jackson Prison” as it is better known, drew upon every community-building skill Foltz had ever learned.

He has, he says, thought a lot about the community school concept over the years as he has seen the toll a permissive society has taken on its young.

Creative and committed community school directors like Foltz were snapped up by local educational systems and social service agencies across the country. Universities recruited them as enthusiasm for community schools and community education swelled nationally.

In Flint, Mott Foundation officials took notice of the talent raids and, with urging from Manley, concluded that the time had come to set up a training program that would stem the outbound exodus from Flint while producing the educators necessary to spread the community school concept nationally.

“They (Charles Stewart Mott, Manley and Earnest O. Melby, the original director of the Mott intern program) ruminated together about how to expand the concept,” said Donald C. Weaver, retired professor of education at Western Michigan University (WMU) and a former university representative for the program.

“The question was how to market community education most effectively. Ultimately, they concluded that the concept had such merit that all that needed to be done was to train people, send them out, and the idea would sell itself.”

Mott, Manley and Melby had something fairly revolutionary in mind. They wanted to develop an educational program for urban communities dealing with low academic achievement and high dropout and unemployment rates which would in the words of educator and author Harold Taylor, bring schools “much closer to the social, political, economic and family lives of people…”

Michigan’s public universities partner to train community educators

In a sense, the seeds for the internship program had been sown several years earlier, with the introduction of a “colloquium series” held once a month for educators at Flint’s Bryant Community Junior High School, according to Douglas Procunier, the original coordinator of the intern program.

A man leaning over a dining table has a discussion with a nun who is seated at the table.
Frank Manley confers with a participant of the fourth National Community School Clinic in Flint, Michigan. Thousands of public and parochial school educators attended the clinics.

A few years later, in 1959, Dr. James Bushong, representing Michigan school superintendents, and Dr. Clyde M. Campbell, then executive secretary of the superintendents’ association, began meeting with the deans in the schools of education at all Michigan state-supported institutions of higher learning to discuss a possible joint program for the preparation of community educators. Melby was hired to coordinate planning.

The Flint Board of Education hosted an Inter-Institutional Workshop in January 1960, inviting 40 staff members from the University of Michigan, Michigan State University and Wayne State University to further refine ideas for a cooperative venture. Shortly thereafter, and continuing into the early months of 1961, representatives from Michigan’s seven public universities held a series of meetings to discuss crucial issues in education.* By October 1961, they were ready to meet with the Foundation’s Board of Trustees to discuss the possibility of support for a Cooperative Preparation Program.

In 1961-62, a series of eight, three-day workshops were held for selected students from the seven universities. The workshops followed a lecture-discussion format with nationally recognized experts specializing in some aspects of youth problems. The Foundation provided funding for honoraria and travel expenses for the visiting lecturers and meals and lodging costs for student participants. Students were also exposed, through site visits, to Flint’s community education programs in action.

Forty-seven students then were selected to participate in a cooperative preparation program, entitled “Educating Disadvantaged Young People.” Again, the short-term, residential, inter-institutional workshops emphasized academic theory partnered with practical implementation strategies.

In 1963, the Foundation initiated the Inter-University Clinical Preparation Program for Educational Leadership in Flint with a grant of $70,000 to educate 14 master’s- and doctoral-level “fellows” selected by the seven state universities.

This yearlong residential preparation program was to be “a groundbreaking experiment in the academic world of post-graduate instruction,” according to Weaver.

“To be able to convince seven institutions of higher education to work together cooperatively to provide a leadership training program within a strict philosophical concept was amazing in itself.”

The program for Mott interns included 12 quarter hours of internship laboratory; nine quarter hours each of coursework, administration and education courses and inter-disciplinary seminars or colloquiums; and six electives. At least once a week, professors representing each of the seven universities met with the Mott fellows at the Mott Leadership Center, which became the home of the National Center for Community Education (NCCE) in 1965. NCCE began offering short-term (six-week) leadership training programs that same year.

“We went to a joint program in Flint to escape the rigidities of the campus, to involve ourselves and our students in the practical realities of urban life, to have a chance to learn by doing,” Melby wrote of the internship.

Melby, who died in 1987 at the age of 95, was greatly concerned with what he termed “the elitist outlook” of most universities. The former dean of the schools of education at Northwestern and New York universities and past president of Montana State University felt strongly that education couldn’t be limited to just schools.

Education, he insisted, “has to get out there and become a part of the whole community.”

Practical experience distinguished the Mott internship

In additional to their academic studies, interns gained practical experience through rotating internships during their year in Flint. Although Flint Community Schools hosted the lion’s share of interns, placements were not limited to schools.

An old black and white photo shows a large group of educators standing outdoors in a group to pose together.
In addition to yearlong internships, educators from across the country attended training clinics that helped export the Flint model of community education.

“While a Mott Foundation fellow, I had the opportunity to serve internships with a number of organizations, gaining varied experiences with Flint Community Schools, Kearsley Public Schools, Pontiac Human Resource Center, General Motors Tech Center and the State Department of Education,” wrote Donald J. Tobias, a 1972-73 intern.

In addition to “allowing interns to syphon ideas and activities and implementation strategies” through their out-of-classroom assignments, the program also exposed them to people of national stature in the social and behavioral sciences, Weaver said. The Friday “colloquiums,” as they were called, allowed interns to learn from and converse with some of the finest minds in the country, such as the late anthropologist Margaret Mead.

From 1964 through 1974, a total of 694 educators received training though the yearlong Mott intern program. The Foundation invested slightly more than $5.5 million in this effort.

Intern stipends were among the most generous in the country at the time, according to James H. McGoldrick, a 1964 intern. Master’s candidates received $5,000, specialist’s $7,000 and doctoral $8,000. The stipends were awarded “with no strings attached,” according to Tony Carrillo, a 1968-69 doctoral intern.

Refocusing community education leadership training

While generous by 1960s standards, the intern stipends did not grow with inflation. By the early ’70s, it was becoming increasingly difficult, financially and psychologically, for interns with families to move to Flint for a year.

Furthermore, by the early 1970s, many of the original university representatives who had played a part in creating the program had left, replaced by advisers who were sometimes less familiar with the concept of community education.

While Flint was considered the mecca for community education programming, more and more interns themselves were questioning whether the Flint model always represented “best practice” in the field.

An old black and white photo shows a group of men pose around a seated Charles Stewart Mott.

“Much of the programming was superimposed and heavily influenced by the recreation people,” Weaver said of Flint’s community schools.

In 1971, the governing board for the Mott program inaugurated several experimental programs designed to institutionalize training in community education at colleges and universities elsewhere in the country. The Flint program had reached maximum capacity, and “until other universities have prepared programs and developed relevant community agency intern assignments, it is difficult to perceive the community education cause reaching international fruition,” the board concluded.

Stipends were awarded to post-graduate students studying at 11 college-and university-based training and dissemination centers. The regional centers, created in the late 1960s with Mott funding, had been instituted as a cost-effective way for cities interested in community schools to receive training and information.

By 1975, the regional network had expanded to 77 Centers for Community Education Development. Approximately 200 doctoral and master’s students were trained through these centers annually.

Female interns, almost non-existent in the Flint-based program, were more in evidence at the participating centers. Although the Mott program “was pretty liberal with minorities,” there was “such a prejudice against women,” said Weaver, who was responsible for bringing the first female into the internship program through WMU.

“Looking back, I wonder if women might have marketed community education more effectively,” he said. “Today, better than half the members of the National Community Education Association are female.”

While the regional centers took credit for preparing hundreds of community educators, haphazard record-keeping left little evidence of their success. In return for their stipends, students were asked to complete a two-page questionnaire about their internship experiences.

Responses varied widely.

“I wasn’t aware until two days ago that I was partly being supported by Mott funding,” wrote one exiting intern, apologizing for the tardiness of his questionnaire.

Another intern, from the same western university, wrote that his internship “definitely fulfills my educational needs to meet my career objectives. It has opened doors previously unexplored for career possibilities.”

A lack of evaluation made it difficult to determine the quality and effectiveness of the training, not only at these regional centers, but also in Flint.

“Evaluation is an afterthought,” wrote one intern, Flint’s K-12 educational system and the Foundation “seem to distrust the need to look carefully at what we are doing and measuring the effectiveness of each activity.”

The late Clyde Campbell, an MSU representative who became coordinator of the Mott program when Melby left, once attempted to explain why evaluation was not the principal focus of the leadership training.

“If the slums of America are to be alleviated or eliminated through education, then much trial-and-error exploration and experimentation is needed now,” he wrote.

“It was our humble opinion that research cannot always tell what needs to be done next. We affirmed that one should attack a problem and then try to research it in the best manner possible, not to try to force a problem into a preconceived research pattern.

“Mr. Mott never endorsed reasoning in a vacuum. His program calls for dynamic action by dynamic people; by leaders who are constantly learning through the process of doing, growing from their mistakes often more than from their successes.

“I was charged with changing educational practice, not writing papers about educational practice.”

University-based training replaces the internship program

By 1973-74, the Foundation was investing $2.5 million annually in training and dissemination for community education. C.S. Mott and Manley had died. Leadership within the Foundation had changed. And federal legislation for the establishment, expansion and maintenance of community school programs (the Community Education Act of 1974) was on the horizon.

Ernest Oscar Melby
Ernest Oscar Melby, who began his career as a high school teacher and principal in Minnesota before serving for nine years as the superintendent of schools in Long Prairie, Black Duck and Brewster, Minnesota, was the original director of the Mott intern program.
As a faculty member of Michigan State University’s College of Education from 1956 through 1975, Melby worked with Charles Stewart Mott and Frank Manley to develop an educational program for urban communities that were dealing with low academic achievement and high dropout and unemployment rates. The result, the Mott Inter-University Clinical Preparation Program for Educational Leadership — also known as the Mott intern program — brought together Michigan’s seven public universities to educate master’s- and doctoral-level “fellows” through a year-long residential experience in Flint, Michigan.
“We went to a joint program in Flint to escape the rigidities of the campus, to involve ourselves and our students in the practical realities of urban life, to have a chance to learn by doing,” said Melby of the internship.
In 1975, Dr. Melby accepted a distinguished professorship at Florida Atlantic University, where he founded and served as consultant to the university’s Center for Community Education.

With a network of leadership centers in place nationally, and plans in the works to produce a multimedia training program examining community education’s principles and processes in detail, Foundation officials opted to discontinue the graduate training programs at NCCE (although yearlong graduate training continued through 1982 at other centers). Short-term training remains in place today at the NCCE through a Mott grant.

The decision to discontinue the Mott intern program was based in large part on cost issues and the loss of its original leadership, which led to a lack of cooperation among participating institutions.

“In the beginning we had a dream of a joint program participated in by the seven institutions. It seemed to me there has been a tendency for the various institutions to withdraw into their institutional concerns to talk about ‘our program’ in the sense that it is Michigan State or the University of Michigan rather than ‘our program’ referring to the total seven-university enterprise,” Melby wrote.

“The more the program is institutionalized, the smaller will be the benefits gained by the interns and the faculty representatives from the common enterprise.”

About one-third of the 1,000 interns trained have retained loose ties with the Foundation. In 1984, the Foundation made the first of several grants to WMU to create and maintain a “trained leader network” of long-and short-term recipients of community education training.

According to WMU’s research, Mott fellows can be found in all walks of life — they have become superintendents of schools, directors of neighborhood housing organizations, editors, industrial consultants and of course, community school directors.

* The seven Michigan public universities are: Central Michigan University, Eastern Michigan University, Michigan State University, Northern Michigan University, University of Michigan, Wayne State University and Western Michigan University.