detroit public schools

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.

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.

 

Robert Bobb with a student
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.

- 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.

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:

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.

 

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