Welcome to Commie High

7 Cylinders Studio is producing an independent documentary about one of the longest-running alternative public schools in America – Community High School (aka, Commie High).

  • Check out our Kickstarter campaign to see how this project became community-powered into production!
  • You can follow Welcome to Commie High on Facebook to keep up-to-date on progress of the documentary.
  • Follow our Twitter to receive additional news about this project and other 7CS productions
  • AND, contribute with a tax-deductible donation (via our fiscal sponsor Artrain) to help us complete funding for the expansion into a feature-length film!

Community High School was started in 1972 with some radical ideas, enthusiastic teachers, and a reclaimed elementary school building in downtown Ann Arbor, Michigan. The concept was based on a “school without walls” approach where the city could serve as the classroom. Students were encouraged to design their own courses and take responsibility for their education. There was no cafeteria, no traditional sports teams, no annual prom and an anti-zebra anti-mascot. Students called teachers by their first names. Welcome to Commie High.

Through the 70s and 80s, enrollment was an ongoing challenge and recruiting students was critical to sustain Community High. By the early 90s, however, it became cool to go to Commie High school and demand to attend increased beyond its capacity. A waiting list led to a partial lottery and line-ups that grew longer each year, culminating in 1996 with a 2-week camp out by students (and their parents, siblings, friends, etc.) saving a place in line with the hope of gaining admission. This was the last line for Commie High, as the school system shifted to a complete lottery the following year. More than four decades since its inception, Community High serves as one of the longest-running alternative public high schools in America.

We are producing a feature-length documentary (expanded from the half hour project we initially launched on Kickstarter) to share the compelling story of Commie High. The film will focus on four decades of the school’s evolution, the factors that led hundreds of people to camp out for weeks with the hope of enrolling, and where Community High stands today in the pantheon of public education. We will share significant cultural finds by mining myriad Commie High archives. We will assemble an all-star CHS soundtrack encompassing a diverse range of musical styles. And we will give new life to art works by CHS alumni through animation and motion graphics. Welcome to Commie High (working title) will be professionally produced to broadcast quality by an experienced team, while drawing creative inspiration from the alternative, artistically expressive ethos of the school. Distribution outlets will focus on film festivals, public television, online platforms and educational organizations. Thanks to enthusiastic support for our Kickstarter campaign and additional funders, we involved eight Community High School students in our documentary project where they earned course credit through the CR (Community Resources) program.

Public education reform is a hot button issue in America. It’s a complicated, polarizing topic that affects the lives of millions. What can we learn by looking at alternative approaches? What conditions allowed for the creation and success of the Commie High experiment in public education? And what would motivate students to camp out in the cold for two weeks to attend a public school in a system with other excellent options?

“High school is often considered a definitive American experience, in two senses: an experience that nearly everyone shares, and one that can define who you are, for better or worse, for the rest of your life. I’m grateful I escaped the particular definition that high school would have imposed on me, and I wish everyone else who suffered could have escaped it, too.” – Rebecca Solnit from “Abolish High School” Harper’s Magazine, April 2015

Donald Harrison – Producer/Director/Camera
David Camlin – Co-Producer/Editor/Camera
Ingrid Racine – Music Director/Composer
Jay Sandweiss, D.O. – Executive Producer
Emma Hoffman – Assistant Editor

Rachel DeWoskin (class of 1991)
Linda Diane Feldt (CHS class of 1976)
Ken McGraw (CHS teacher since 1997)
Mike Mouradian (CHS teacher 1975 – 2006)
Sara Nodjoumi (filmmaker, The Iran Job)
Davy Rothbart (class of 1992)
Kelly Stupple (CHS class of 1987)
Neda Ulaby (CHS class of 1989)
Katherine Weider-Roos (media professional, Roos Roast Coffee)
Sebastian Wreford (aka, Nitro von Borax – CHS class of 1983)
Marci Woolson (class of 1976)

Executive Producers
Fred Collin
Rick Kaufman
Melanie-Riley Green

Thank you Backing Underwriters!

Michael Moore, Jay & Sue Sandweiss, Paul & Lori Saginaw, John Briere, Elizabeth Barick Fall & Jeffrey Fall, Spencer PriceNash, Ruth Facer & Anonymous

Thank you In-Kind Community Organization/Business Backers!

Zingerman’s, Roos Roast, Arbor Teas, Mindo Chocolate, The Brinery, UM Lloyd Hall Scholars Program, Elmo’s T-Shirts

And Thanks to the rest of our 450 Backers! Aaron Valdez, Ace Anbender, Adam & Gillian Gainsley, Adam Goodman, Adam Kasha, Adam Melis, Adrianna Jordan, Alan & Lisa Dengiz, Alan Botts, Alan Levy & Susan Pollans,  Alex Hencken, Alex Smoller, Alice Collins-Thompson, Alison K. Landau & Peter C. Tsangaris, Allan G. Feldt, Amanda Scotese, Amy McKibben Cormier, Amy Hughes, Amy Klinke, Amy Nesbitt, Amy Smith, Andra Artemova, Andreas L. Hug, Andrew Epstein, Andrew Thomas Kuster, Andrew Wilhelme, Anita Baker-Blocker, Ann Arbor Community Acupuncture, Anna Danziger Halperin, Anna Eley, Anna Goldman, Anna Sampson & Daniel Herbert, Anna Steinhoff, Anne Carr, Anonymous(x3), Ari Litman-Weinberg, Ari Weinzweig, Arthur & Nancy Brickman, Athena Anteau, Barbara & Ron Kramer, Barbara Simmons, Ben Evans, Ben Glass, Ben Jenkins & Brenna Reichman, Ben Mancell, Ben Mullins, Ben Nimkin, Ben Winter, Beth Barclay, Beth Farnham, Bill Emerson, Billie Ochberg & Sandro Cinti, Bob & Barb Dinan, Bob and Deb Merion, Bobbi Chase Wilding, Bobbie Tucker, Brad Jodoin, Brenda Reed, Brian Robb, Brian Tomsic, Brianna Kenyon, Brittanie Leibold, Bryan Beecher & Deborah Evans, Caitlin H., Caitlin Magee, Candace Roberts, Carolyn & Gioacchino Balducci, Cary McWilliam, Cassidy Durkee, Catherine Thursby, Cathy Bolton, Ce Ce Chin, Charlotte Pagni [Barak], Charo Ledón, Cheryl & Mike Grace, Chloe, Chris Dzombak, Chris Goosman, Chris Sandon, Christen Lien, Christina Morales Hemenway, Christina Hover (Tabaczka), Christina Richason, Christopher Pannier, Claire Mannle’s mom, Clint Wallace, Colleen Sherman, Collin McRae, Cynthia Nicely, Cyrus Morshidi, Daniel Mayman, Danny Plotnick, Dave Miller, Dave Morris, Dave Pekarek Krohn, David Bergman, David Gilbertson, David Heitler-Klevans, David Lamb, David Olson, David Santamaria, David Welgus, David Zinn, Davy Rothbart, Deborah Greer, Deborah Kraus, Deidre Santella, Devon Rose Atwood, Donna Eis, Doug Scott, Douglas Allen, Ela Greenberg, Eli Neiburger, Elise Fish, Ellen Lamphiear, Emilia Javanica & Sudandyo Aprilianto, Emily Brown, Eric Bradley, Erica Stephan, Erin A. 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