detroit public schools

Roy Roberts, emergency manager of the Detroit Public schools for the last two years, is leaving. His contract ends in two weeks, and he says he isn’t interested in extending it.

You can hardly blame him. He is 74 and thanks to a successful career at General Motors, doesn‘t need the money. Roberts especially doesn‘t need more aggravation.

Being emergency manager of what is, in effect, a dying school system has meant 14 hour days and many angry people. There’s no way it could have meant anything else. His predecessor, Robert Bobb, was roundly hated, and whoever the governor appoints next will be too.

Detroit Public Schools

The state-appointed emergency manager for Detroit Public Schools announced his retirement today. 

Governor Rick Snyder appointed Roy Roberts to manage the state's largest school system in 2011.

User: Brother O'Mara / flickr

Lawmakers try to block referendum to wolf hunt

"The state Senate has approved legislation that would make a voter referendum on wolf-hunting in Michigan irrelevant – even before the question has been formally approved for the November ballot. The measure would name the wolf and 38 other animals as game species. That’s despite a looming voter challenge to a new state law that allows wolf hunting," Rick Pluta reports.

Education Achievement Authority in financial trouble, borrows $12 million from DPS

The state run school district meant to turn around the lowest performing schools has been found to borrow $12 million from Detroit Public Schools.  The Education Achievement Authority took over 15 former Detroit Public Schools this school year.

Unemployment rate down statewide

"Michigan says that the seasonally unadjusted unemployment rate is down statewide and in all 17 major labor markets. The lowest rate in the March report was for Ann Arbor at 5.1 percent. The highest was for the northeastern Lower Peninsula at 13.1 percent," the Associated Press reports.

User Motown31 / Creative Commons

There's a movement in Michigan to expand the Education Achievement Authority, a new school system for Michigan's lowest-performing public schools.

Since last fall, 15 Detroit schools have been run under the EAA. Now, there's movement to expand the EAA to include more under-performing schools.

The State House has already passed legislation that would expand the system, despite objections from Democrats who say the legislation is premature. Democrats say that there needs to be more research that suggests the EAA is really working before moving ahead with any sort of legislative expansion.

Sarah Cwiek / Michigan Radio

The Education Achievement Authority is up and running right now in 15 Detroit schools.

Michigan’s state-run “reform district” for the lowest-performing schools is already controversial.

In the eyes of Governor Snyder and its champions, the EAA is the best way to assure that schools don’t linger in failure for years on end.

In the eyes of critics, it’s already a failed experiment that threatens the very heart of public education in Michigan.

Ellen Cogen Lipton is a patent attorney who was born in Philadelphia, grew up in Alabama, and ended up in Michigan 20 years ago, after marrying a fellow law student from Southfield.

But she also comes from a family of educators, was a chemistry teacher herself, and has two kids in public schools in suburban Detroit. That’s a fairly interesting biography to begin with, but there’s more. She is also completing her third term in the state legislature.

Lipton wasn’t very political, until she was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis, and felt it was urgent that Michigan approve a constitutional amendment allowing embryonic stem cell research.

Five years ago she won that battle, and got herself elected to the legislature that same year. Learning is important to her, and she knows that the Detroit Public Schools have not been doing the job.

You might think then that she’d be supportive of the experiment Governor Rick Snyder launched to try to fix our lowest-performing schools, the Educational Achievement Authority, known as the EAA.

If there’s a school near you that’s been deemed “persistently low-achieving,” it could soon come under the control of a new regime.

Governor Snyder is leading a controversial effort to create a statewide district for those struggling schools. Right now, that district—formally known as the Education Achievement Authority, or EAA--is doing a kind of pilot year in Detroit.

How well is that working out?  The answer to that question depends very much on who you ask.

Debate is underway in Lansing on bills that would expand on an educational experiment now underway in Detroit.

It's called the Education Achievement Authority, and its aim is to turn the lowest-performing schools—with changes like a longer school year, and more online learning.

In this first of a three-part series, Michigan Radio takes a look at the Education Achievement Authority - which could be coming soon to a school near you.

A new plan outlines a path for the Detroit Public Schools to grow again.

The “Neighborhood-Centered, Quality Schools” plan centers around the idea of “community schools” that offer a wide array of services to the community.

DPS emergency financial manager Roy Roberts says without Proposal S, the district would be severely crippled.
Sarah Hulett / Michigan Radio

Updated at 4:16 pm:

Roy Roberts has been waiting for this day for months. 

Michigan’s new emergency manager law takes effect today. And that means Roberts just got a lot more powerful.

He's the emergency manager for Detroit's public school system.

But for months, he’s been locked in a power struggle with the elected DPS school board.

That’s because nobody really knew how things were supposed to work, or who was running what, during the tumultuous period between the old EM law getting overturned, and the new EM law taking effect.

Sarah Cwiek / Michigan Radio

The US Department of Education is now investigating the state of Michigan over alleged civil rights violations.

The department’s civil rights office was already investigating two civil rights cases against the Detroit Public Schools.

Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio

The Michigan Court of Appeals has tossed a big jury award in a former Detroit school teacher's whistleblower lawsuit.

In 2004, Beverly Garvin claims a fourth grade student told her that two boys had forced her to perform oral sex. Garvin says she reported the alleged assault to her superiors and nothing happened. Garvin says when she persisted, including contacting police, she was transferred and eventually fired. 

A jury awarded Garvin $750 thousand in damages. 

DETROIT (AP) - The Detroit Public Schools is looking for more volunteer readers.

Reading Corps Week in Detroit begins Monday and runs through Friday. The district is planning a rally and training Saturday at Renaissance High School as part of its Reading Corps program.

Education, city and business leaders who have served as reading tutors will participate in the rally. Nearly 900 people have volunteered to help tutor Detroit students as part of the program.

New volunteers will be trained at the rally.

Kate Sumbler / Flickr

This week in review, Rina Miller and Jack Lessenberry discuss the second attempt to overhaul Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan, the great potential of Detroit getting an emergency manager, and debates over what control the Detroit Public School board has when they are under the control of an emergency financial manager.

via Detroit Board of Education

Detroit’s elected school board will have short-lived authority over some key decisions.

A Wayne County judge ruled Wednesday that the district’s emergency financial manager had exceeded his authority on some issues.

Judge Annette Berry said Roy Roberts must consult with the school board on school closings, security, and some other issues.

Roberts is supposed to share authority with the school board. He oversees finances, while the board supervises academics.

But the two are hard to separate, and both sides have brought court cases over how that should work in practice

Detroit school board President Lamar Lemmons says the ruling granting board members a partial injunction proves Roberts overstepped his authority.

"He’s used the fact that he’s had financial authority to, if you will, bully the staff into cooperating with him,” Lemmons said.  “And for all intents and purposes, ignoring the board and its designated superintendent.”

The arrangement will be short-lived, though. A new emergency manager law kicks into effect on March 28th, once again giving Roberts broad powers over the whole district.

Lemmons says the board plans a court challenge to the new law.

via Detroit Public Schools

There’s some good news for the Detroit Public Schools in newly-released Michigan Educational Assessment Program (MEAP) scores.

42% of the district’s 3rd-through-8th graders scored “proficient or advanced” in reading. That’s up more than 6% from the prior year.

Math scores jumped more than 4%, with fewer than 15% of students rated proficient.

In most subjects, Detroit students’ gains outpaced state averages. But the district’s scores still remain well below state averages.

Roy Roberts, the district’s emergency financial manager, says that’s exactly the sort of progress people should expect at this point.
 

“If I had walked in here and said we’ve improved every class by 25%, you oughta call the FBI,” Roberts said. “It doesn’t happen that way. It’s incremental improvement.”

The number of Detroit students tested did drop more than 20% this year, though, as the district’s enrollment shrunk significantly. 

The state-run Education Achievement Authority took over 15 of the district’s lowest-performing schools last fall, leaving fewer kids in DPS. The district also has a dramatic long-term enrollment decline.

But that’s not the case at Dixon Elementary-Middle school on thecity’s far west side. That school has actually increased
enrollment—and posted some of the biggest gains citywide on this
year’s MEAP scores.

Principal Ora Beard took over the school three years ago. She says boosting student achievement in a school takes time—and lots of reaching out to students and parents to build trust.

“Our first year was totally building relationships,” said Beard. “And trying to get them to understand that we’re not here to fight you…we’re here to help you. And that’s what school’s got to be about.”

Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette.
Bill Schuette / Facebook.com

Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette has been arguing that seven of the eleven school board members on the Detroit school board are holding office illegally and he wants them removed.

He lost a challenge in court early this week.

Chastity Pratt Dawsey reports for the Detroit Free Press that "Wayne Circuit Court Judge John Gillis Jr. denied State Attorney General Bill Schuette’s motion for summary disposition and granted the school board’s motion, effectively allowing the school board to continue to hold office."

In a statement released today, the attorney for the school board, George Washington, called the lawsuit bogus:

George B. Washington, attorney for the Detroit School Board, said “We are glad that this lawsuit has been exposed as the bogus claim that it always was. Attorney General Schuette and Governor Snider [sic] filed this lawsuit to prevent the largely black and Latino citizens of Detroit from having any say over their own schools. The Attorney General should not appeal this decision and he and the Governor should stop trying to destroy elected government in the City of Detroit."

Schuette has argued that the Detroit school board members cannot be elected by district, because state law requires that a school district have 100,000 students or more to elect board members that way.

It's the difference between a "first class" school district, and a "general powers" school district.

He's argued that Detroit hasn’t met that threshold since 2008.

In his decision, Judge Gillis Jr. wrote that the state code does not address what should happen in a district where student enrollment has declined.

User: Brother O'Mara / flickr

Michigan Attorney General questions Hathaway's fitness as a lawyer

Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette asked the Attorney Grievance Commission to investigate former Supreme Court Justice Diane Hathaway’s “fitness to practice law.” As the Detroit Free Press reports,

"Schuette requested the investigation as Hathaway, who officially retired Monday amid an ethics scandal, awaits a Tuesday appearance in federal court in Ann Arbor on a felony charge of bank fraud. She is expected to plead guilty. The federal charge relates to property transfers Hathaway made while seeking a short sale on a home in Grosse Pointe Park. But Schuette said in his letter to Attorney Grievance Commission administrator  that the allegations against Hathaway raise questions about her fitness to hold a law license, not just to be a judge."

Obama administration to address Detroit's abandoned buildings

"US Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar, Senator Carl Levin and Michigan officials will host a meeting in Detroit today to talk about how tax breaks for historic preservation projects can help distressed cities. In a statement, Secretary Salazar says the Federal Historic Preservation Tax Incentives program has been used for 70 projects in Detroit since 2000. He says he wants to talk about how that program can help revitalize the city," Sarah Hulett reports.

Detroit Public Schools expect more cuts

"The Detroit Public Schools plans to shrink even more to wipe out its deficit by 2016. The district’s latest deficit elimination plan projects that enrollment will dip below 40,000 students. In order to 'stay ahead of the cost curve,' emergency financial manager Roy Roberts proposes some drastic cuts—including closing as many as 28 more schools," Sarah Cwiek reports.

The Detroit Public Schools plans to shrink even more to wipe out its deficit by 2016.

The district’s latest deficit elimination plan projects that enrollment will dip below 40,000 by then.
And in order to “stay ahead of the cost curve,” emergency financial manager Roy Roberts proposes some drastic cuts—including closing as many as 28 more schools, and cutting more than 1000 employees.

Detroit Public Schools worked to draw district alumni back to their
old schools for this Martin Luther King Day.

Thirty schools across the city are participating in the national day
of service, and former students are invited to join in.

Spokesman Steve Wasko said the district was searching for a way to
draw DPS alumni back to their former schools.

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