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detroit public schools

Sarah Hulett / Michigan Radio

Update 11:15 a.m.:

Robert Bobb, the financial manager of Detroit Public Schools, has asked state lawmakers to borrow funds for the school district. The Associated Press reports:

Bobb said Wednesday during an appearance before a joint session of the state Senate and House education committees that draft legislation for his plan would be submitted within about a week.

The plan would include the state helping to guarantee the school district won't go into bankruptcy. Bobb said the district does not plan to file for bankruptcy.

Bobb said the plan would not cost the state "one dime."

Bobb said the district plans to borrow more than $200 million in March. He wants his legislation approved by April 1.

6:35 a.m.:

Robert Bobb, the emergency financial manager of the Detroit Public Schools, will testify today at the state Capitol. He'll appear before a joint session of the state Senate and House education committees.

The Associated Press reports:

He's expected to talk about the district's turnaround plan including finances and academics. Bobb was appointed as the Detroit district's emergency financial manager by then-Gov. Jennifer Granholm in early 2009. Bobb has feuded with the elected school board over control of the district.

Sarah Hulett / Michigan Radio

Detroit Public Schools officials have announced their biggest wave of outsourcing yet.

The district will eliminate more than 800 custodial and engineering jobs next month, and contract the work out to the facilities management giant Sodexo. Sodexo, in turn, will subcontract to seven local business.

The Detroit School Board has approved a settlement that could end a long-running lawsuit with the district’s Emergency Financial Manager, Robert Bobb.   The Board voted ten-to-one in favor of a settlement that would give them control over the district’s academics.

Governor Rick Snyder wants the Legislature to clarify the Emergency Financial Manager's Act.

There was a dispute over how much power state-appointed emergency financial managers have when the Detroit School Board sued the state's Emergency Financial Manager for Detroit Public Schools, Robert Bobb.

They said he was exercising too much power, and the court agreed.

Laura Weber, of the Michigan Public Radio Network, filed this report:

Snyder wants the Legislature to rework the Emergency Financial Manager’s Act to provide more clarity on the powers of an emergency manager.

Robert Bobb is the emergency financial manager of the Detroit Public Schools. He says many other school districts and municipal governments are in serious financial trouble.

"There could be more in the future that an emergency financial manager should have complete authority over the operations of a school district and/or a municipality, working with their elected leadership."

Bobb says the emergency financial manager of a school district should be allowed to take over the curriculum as well as finances because, he says, money is involved in all facets of school systems.  A judge denied Bobb that authority.

Bobb says he is encouraged by the governor acknowledging the issue in his State of the State speech, but Bobb says he is not clear what is being proposed, and he is anxious to hear details.

Sarah Hulett / Michigan Radio

Detroit Public Schools has a brand-new, state-of-the-art police headquarters.

It’s part of a $42 million initiative to improve security in the school district.

The facility includes a detention center, K-9 kennels, and an alarm system that will alert officers when doors to school buildings are opened when they shouldn’t be, said DPS Police Chief Roderick Grimes:

"We have a command center that will house state-of-the-art camera systems, which will allow us to look at the interior and the exterior of every school, 24 hours a day."

Money to pay for the building’s construction came from $500.5 billion bond initiative voters approved in 2009.

Sarah Hulett / Michigan Radio

The Detroit Board of Education will meet Tuesday to go over a proposed settlement with Robert Bobb, the district’s emergency financial manager.

A Wayne County judge ruled last month that the Detroit school board is in charge of academics for the district, not the district’s financial manager. But both sides have to come to an agreement on how to implement the ruling, since Bobb’s team implemented several classroom reforms while the lawsuit was pending.

Anthony Adams is the school board’s president. He says it’s in the district’s best interest to keep most of  Bobb’s reforms in place:

Empty classroom.
Motown31 / Flickr - http://j.mp/1SPGCl0

Update: 3:23 p.m.:

The Detroit News has changed the number of schools it reported in the DPS school closing plan -  going from 100 schools to 70 schools.

2:38 p.m.:

Facing a deficit in the hundreds of millions of dollars, a new plan calls for closing more schools in Detroit.

The Detroit News reports:

A proposed deficit-elimination plan for Detroit Public Schools calls for shuttering 100 additional schools by 2013 and increasing class sizes from 35 to 62 for high school students by 2014.

The plan was submitted to state education officials by the Detroit Public Schools Emergency Financial Manager, Robert Bobb.

DPS and Robert Bobb are in the midst of a current school closing plan. It calls for closing 45 schools over three years. Here's a map of the current closing plan:


View Michigan School Closures in a larger map

Detroit Public Schools officials are getting ready to submit their latest plan for shoveling the troubled district out from under a crippling deficit.

The plan could include a proposal to split the district in two. It’s an idea Michigan Radio first reported last April, and the concept is similar to the way General Motors restructured.

Emergency Financial Manager Robert Bobb says he’s reduced expenses by more than $500 million in the last several months, but there’s still a “legacy” deficit that tops $300 million:

"We’re whittling away at it, but we have to create a long-term plan so that we’re not in this situation 12 months from now or two years from now."

 DPS officials say another option is a New Orleans-style overhaul that would convert many schools to charters. A third option is to use the state’s tobacco settlement money to erase the district’s debt, or the state could opt for some combination of all the above options. Lawmakers rejected a proposal last month to use the state's tobacco settlement to pay off the district's debt.

Detroit Public Schools is recruiting businesses to adopt schools for academic and beautification projects. Angela Hoston heads the program:

"The goal is to have every school have a partner, and not just one partner but multiple partners. We want to raise the academic achievement levels of the bottom one-third of every classroom, and get them to the highest achievement level possible."

Hoston says each business can work with a principal to craft a unique program based on what the school needs and what the business can offer.

The initiative was announced at Gompers Elementary, where staff from the Doubletree Fort Shelby Hotel have built a garden and mentor students.

jimmiehomeschoolmom / flickr

An experimental school in Detroit is trying something new with its seventh and eighth graders.

Palmer Park Preparatory Academy is the first “teacher-led” school in Michigan. It’s instituted a program that puts students into customized reading and math classes based on their abilities instead of their grade level.

Ann Crowley is one of the school’s founders.

"We had to get the schedule set up so that the three teachers in those subject areas taught side-by-side at the same time, and also have a common planning period together," said Ann Crowley, one of the school's founders. She added:

"The logistics of it, with over 250 kids, was pretty intense."

Crowley says students are constantly monitored for improvement so they don’t get stuck in an instructional track for low-performing students.

An official with the school district says the program could be a model for other schools in Detroit.

Detroit Public Schools classrooms will be getting almost $50 million worth of technological upgrades through federal stimulus funds.

 

The district’s Emergency Financial Manager, Robert Bobb, calls the effort an “unprecedented” technological “infusion.”

 

Every Detroit middle and high school-student will get netbooks to use in the classroom.

 

District spokeswoman Kisha Verdusco says teachers will also get netbooks, and an array of other technologies to facilitate learning.

 

Sarah Hulett / Michigan Radio

Detroit Public Schools Emergency Financial Manager Robert Bobb “has a busy few months” ahead.   Bobb’s contract with the schools expires in March. Governor-elect Rick Snyder has said he’ll extend it through June.   Bobb was dealt a defeat last month when a Wayne County Circuit Court Judge ruled Bobb overstepped his duties by implementing academic plans.

Sarah Hulett / Michigan Radio

Robert Bobb, the state appointed Emergency Financial Manager of Detroit Public Schools, will stay on the job through the end of the school year.  Bobb was appointed to the position by outgoing Democratic Governor Jennifer Granholm.  Bobb's one-year contract ends in March.

According to a spokesman for Governor-elect Rick Snyder, a deal has been worked out to keep Bobb on the job through June.

The Associated Press reports:

Detroit Public Schools spokesman Steve Wasko says the extra 120 days gives Bobb more time to work out a "fully smooth transition" to the next emergency manager or a new superintendent.

Every Wednesday, Morning Edition Host Christina Shockley sits down with Michigan Radio Senior Political Analyst Jack Lessenberry to get his take on recent political news from across the state. Today, the conversation begins by focusing on Governor Granholm's expression of support for President Obama's recent compromise with Republicans. On Tuesday, Obama agreed to extend Bush-era tax cuts for all taxpayers in exchange for an extension of unemployment benefits.

- Jack Lessenberry, Michigan Radio's Political Analyst

This is the season when Charles Dickens is again in style, or at least his Christmas Carol. We’ve all been grappling with our own versions of Mr. Scrooge all year, and we all need a happy ending.

But I’ve been thinking of a different Dickens character this week: Mr. Bumble in Oliver Twist, who said in response to some idiotic legal ruling: “If the law supposes that, then the law is an ass.”

What made me think of that was the Wayne County Circuit Court ruling Monday. Judge Wendy Baxter ruled that Robert Bobb, the emergency financial manager of the Detroit Schools, had no right or power to make academic decisions.

Robert Bobb
Sarah Hulett / Michigan Radio

Update: 5:13 pm:

Emergency financial manager Robert Bobb and his team have already put in place several classroom reforms. Some of the reforms include two hours of math and reading instruction every day for elementary students, requiring all 7th graders to take pre-Algebra, and conducting "quarterly assessments" of students' skills.

Robert Bobb with a student
Sarah Hulett / Michigan Radio

Update: 5:15 pm:

Anthony Adams, president of the Detroit Board of Education, spoke with Michigan Radio about Judge Baxter's ruling. Adams says the ruling "isn't a victory per se":

"The only victory that we’ll have in the city of Detroit is when every child can read, can write, can learn to the best of their abilities, and we as adults have to sit at the table and make sure that we work together in a cooperative fashion."

The Detroit Public Schools system has filed an unfair labor practice against the district's teachers' union over a substitute teacher dispute.

The president of the Detroit Federation of Teachers issued a letter to some substitutes last month telling them to stop drafting lesson plans, grading students, and holding parent-teacher conferences.

Cooley High School Detroit
user chuckjav / Creative Commons

Detroit Public Schools officials are working to educate developers on strategies for purchasing and re-using closed school buildings.

The school system will host a workshop later this month in collaboration with an historic preservation non-profit. Potential buyers will get information about possible uses for the buildings, as well as information about tax credits, codes and the purchase process.

Karen Nagher heads Preservation Wayne. She says school buildings can be a great buy:

Out of the 38 under-performing schools that could be closed in Michigan, 25 of them are located in Metro Detroit.
Motown31 / Flickr - http://j.mp/1SPGCl0

Students are saying their classrooms are overcrowded this year. WDIV reports of some advanced placement classes with 60 students in them. 

It's like a race to get up there, and if you don't have a seat, you're just standing there for the whole hour. It's just tough. It's hard to see the board because everybody is in the way and I can't really focus on my work.

Says Mumford High School senior Glen Miller.

There’s a lot of change happening in Detroit. And city leaders face a lot of challenges – like what to do with vacant land and dilapidated building and a lack of basic amenities in many parts of the city. School leaders have their own challenges.

Even though Detroit Public Schools (DPS) is shrinking, it’s expected that there will still be a huge need for new teachers in the coming years.

The Teacher Education Initiative at the University of Michigan is helping new teachers get hands on experience.

Michigan Radio’s Sarah Hulett talks to a student teacher at Western International High School in Detroit.

 

The Knowledge is Power Program, known as KIPP, is a national network of charter schools. There are over 80 KIPP Schools across the country, and Detroit leaders are in talks with KIPP to open charters in the city. Michigan Radios Jennifer Guerra and Mercedes Mejia visited a KIPP school in New Orleans and have this look at the experience.

Academics are important in any school. But some school leaders say the idea of school culture is perhaps just as important. Michigan Radio producer Mercedes Mejia visited schools in Detroit and New Orleans to see what school culture is all about.

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