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detroit public schools

flickr user Motown31 / http://michrad.io/1LXrdJM

Last night, the Detroit Board of Education voted to break their contract and pull out of the Education Achievement Authority.

The Board’s decision will greatly affect the EAA, whose initial goal was to provide educational care to struggling schools throughout Michigan.

Don Heller, Dean of the College of Education at Michigan State University, insists the Detroit Schools’ exit will greatly disrupt the EAA.

“If the Detroit Public Schools pull out of the EAA it will be a major blow,” said Heller.

Michelle Richard, who specializes in Educational Policy at Public Sector Consultants, echoed Heller’s remarks.

“My biggest concern is in the short-term and in lending legitimacy to the EAA’s effort, this just causes more confusion. The legislature is currently looking at codifying the EAA and are looking at how they could continue to expand this effort state-wide,” said Richard.

Listen to the audio above or to our podcast to hear more about the state of the EAA.

There are two ways you can podcast "Stateside with Cynthia Canty"

Mercedes Mejia / Michigan Radio

Eighty percent of Detroit parents say they do not believe the city's public schools are the best choice for their child. But they’re split on the other options as well.

A new survey from the Detroit News and the Thompson Foundation asks Detroit parents how they feel about their school choices.

Only one in five parents picked DPS as the best for their kid. But even with the recent increase in school options - charter, private, public schools outside the city - none was a clear winner.

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

Detroit Public Schools’ leaders are united behind an effort to renew Proposal S.

That’s a millage that accounts for more than 20% of the district’s day-to-day expenses, or about $80 million.

It was a rare moment of unity for the various factions that run Detroit schools. But emergency financial manager Roy Roberts, school board President Lamar Lemmons, and Detroit Federation of Teachers President Keith Johnson all agree: the district would be "severely crippled" without Proposal S.

“We’ve put aside our differences on this critical issue," Lemmons said. "It’s not about politics. It’s about educating our students.”

Roberts emphasizes that it’s for basic operations costs, like paying teachers--and it’s for traditional Detroit Public schools, only.

“It will not be shared with EAA , charter schools, nor any other school on the face of this earth,” Roberts insisted.

The EAA is the Education Achievement Authority, a new state-run district for failing schools that now has 15 former Detroit Public Schools.

Detroit voters initially approved the 18-mill levy on industrial, commercial, and rental properties in 2005.

MyTudut / flickr http://j.mp/1SPGCl0

The Detroit Public School district has turned to an online site used mostly by federal contractors to get its school supplies.

Officials credit “FedBid” with helping the district save hundreds of thousands of dollars in just a few months.

Bidders announce their intent to buy a product. Suppliers then compete to offer the best price.

District spokesman Steve Wasko said it has helped fix some problems with getting supplies to classrooms.

“This has been, not only from a supply standpoint but from all standpoints, a very smooth start to the school year—at least by way of comparison with previous years,” said Wasko.

Wasko said it's also a good way to save money without compromising the quality of education.

The district’s current budget calls for cutting five million dollars from its procurement budget.

District officials estimate using FedBid alone could save up to three million.

Detroit Public Schools officials are happy with the district’s attendance figures so far this year.

Emergency Financial Manager Roy Roberts says the district averaged 85% attendance Wednesday, the second day of school for Detroit students.

Roberts says that’s much better than the past two years. The district didn’t reach a 75% attendance rate until later weeks, jeopardizing state funds.

“We think this is proof that Detroit Public Schools is making great strides to meet the needs of the students,” Roberts said.

Dorothy Chen and Sara Ma from Troy High School.
YouTube

Science experiments from two Michigan high school students and a young man from Egypt are expected to be performed next month aboard the International Space Station.

Organizers of the competition to have experiments done by astronauts 250 miles above Earth announced Wednesday that TV personality Bill Nye will host a live online video stream of the experiments Sept. 13.

Dorothy Chen and Sara Ma were named winners in March in the 14- to 16-year-old age group.

The Troy High School students' experiment asks the question: "Could alien superbugs cure disease on Earth?" Amr Mohamed from Egypt won the 17- to 18-year-old age group for an experiment about spiders.

They're expected to watch the online stream.

YouTube, Lenovo, and private space exploration company Space Adventures organized the competition.

Detroit Public Schools / detroitk12.org

The Detroit school district has kicked off its fall enrollment drive in a big way, draping a 300-square-foot T-shirt over the Spirit of Detroit statue in front of city hall.

Leaders of the Detroit Public Schools are working to attract families to the district's new buildings and stabilize attendance that has seen losses to charter and suburban schools.

The T-shirt with the slogan "I'm in" was unveiled this morning and will decorate the statue through Sept. 4.

A Wayne County judge ruled Tuesday that the Education Achievement Authority can launch as scheduled.

That statewide district for the lowest-achieving schools is set to open with 15 former Detroit Public schools next month. The elected Detroit school board had voted to reverse that decision.

via Detroit Public Schools

With Detroit Public Schools students set to head back to class in less than a month, serious questions linger regarding the district’s teachers.

The district’s emergency manager, Roy Roberts, imposed new contract terms on teachers last month.

That infuriated teachers and their union leaders, who said the district never even collectively bargained with them.

But those new terms are now null and void, argues Keith Johnson, President of the Detroit Federation of Teachers. He says now that the law has been suspended, Roberts’ “authority” is suspended, too.

School districts with emergency managers have been plunged into uncertainty, now that the state’s emergency manager law has been suspended.

In Detroit, the Michigan Attorney General is suing to make sure the elected school board doesn’t take power back there.

Detroit’s elected school board went from having very little power, to no power whatsoever when the state broadened the powers of emergency managers under Public Act 4.

Sometimes I think Detroit should adopt a new motto, something like: “Be careful what you wish for, because you just might get it."

This time, the focus is on the Detroit Public Schools, which for years have been famous for incompetence, corruption, and the squandering of money. There were almost two hundred thousand kids in the schools at the turn of the century, a dozen years ago.

This fall, there may be fewer than fifty thousand left. In recent years, the schools have been under state control much of the time. Most recently, they’ve been run by an Emergency Financial Manager with sweeping powers over the system’s finances and academics. But this week, the Emergency Manager law was suspended until after a referendum in November that may repeal it.

In the meantime, the state believes that means that the old Emergency Financial Manager law is back in place.  According to a judge’s ruling, when Emergency Financial Managers were named to run school districts, they had power over finances - but not  academics. The stronger Emergency Manager law gave them both.

But with that gone, at least temporarily, the Detroit School Board moved to reassert itself. You might think they would move slowly and sensibly, reviewing Emergency Manager Roy Roberts’ academic plan and keeping it, as far as possible.

But instead, the board is acting as if they were terribly afraid someone might accuse them of common sense.

Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette says he will ask a circuit court judge to order the removal of seven members of the Detroit Public Schools Board of Education, because they were illegally elected - and seek an injunction to halt future Board action.

From the state's press release:                                             

"Standing up for Detroit school children
A.G. takes legal action to remove seven Detroit School Board members who were elected in violation of state law, halt future board actions

Sarah Cwiek / Michigan Radio

The state of Michigan, the city of Detroit and the Detroit Public Schools have launched an intensive effort to stabilize some city neighborhoods.

The targeted interventions focus on three major areas around a total of nine schools across the city.

The effort officially kicked off Thursday afternoon outside Clark Preparatory Academy in Detroit’s Morningside neighborhood, on the city’s east side. Other targeted areas include the communities around Bagley and Bates schools in northwest Detroit, and several schools including the Roberto Clemente Academy in southwest Detroit.

Sarah Cwiek / Michigan Radio

The American Federation of Teachers is in Detroit for the group’s annual convention.

And they’re taking it to the streets—and to Detroit Public Schools’ officials—on behalf of the district’s teachers.

Earlier this month, Detroit Public Schools’ emergency manager Roy Roberts imposed new contract terms on the district’s teachers.

Those terms include a pay cut, larger class sizes, and less prep time for teachers.

The head of the Detroit Federation of Teachers has sent a memo to members saying union leadership wants the public school district's emergency manager to present a contract - imposed without negotiations - to the rank and file.

The memo by union president Keith Johnson calls the agreement "a farce" and that it makes deeper cuts into benefits and working conditions.

Emergency manager Roy Roberts announced the new deal on Sunday.

Johnson says Roberts used "the full power" of the state's year-old emergency manager law in crafting the deal.

He says teachers have to pay more for dental coverage and generic prescription co-pays. Life insurance has been cut by $5,000, and teachers now only get unemployment compensation for time off of work as a result of assaults from students or parents.

A day after the Detroit Public Schools’ Emergency Manager imposed a new contract on the district’s teachers, both sides are staying mum on its terms.

But teacher’s union officials are escalating their war of words against the district.

Detroit Public Schools officials won’t divulge details of the new, imposed contract terms. Emergency manager Roy Roberts is empowered to impose contract terms under the state's emergency manager law.

Detroit Public Schools

The state-appointed emergency manager for the Detroit Public Schools has imposed a new contract on the district’s teachers.

Roy Roberts is empowered to impose new contract terms on teachers under the state’s emergency manager law.

The district’s previous contract with the Detroit Federation of Teachers expired June 30.

In a written statement, Roberts says the decision to impose a new contract came after “a series of meet and confer sessions” with union leadership prior to June 30.

The Detroit Public Schools budget is taking a huge hit next year. But the district’s emergency manager says it’s part of a painful, but necessary restructuring to get the system back on track.

Roy Roberts presented what he admits is a “draconian” budget at a community meeting Wednesday night.

It shaves about 25%, or $250 million, off the previous year’s budget.

kconnors / morguefile

Detroit Public Schools officials say they expect to end this fiscal year with a $12 million surplus. Meanwhile, the district's proposed budget for next year projects the loss of about 15,000 students, and about 1,900 jobs.

Detroit Public Schools is preparing to shrink next year as 15 schools become part of the Educational Achievement Authority. That's the new statewide system for failing schools.

Steve Wasko is a spokesman for Detroit Public Schools. He says the job cuts are not as alarming as they might sound.

"It's not necessarily a net loss of education jobs, public education jobs, public teacher jobs in the city of Detroit - in public schools in the city of Detroit, but a shift that we knew was coming for some time," said Wasko.

A public hearing on the budget is scheduled for next Wednesday.

A year after students rallied and, in some cases, got arrested to save their school from closure, the Catherine Ferguson Academy for pregnant and parenting teens recently celebrated the graduation of its senior class, capped off with some national media attention.

Rachel Maddow featured the graduates in her "Best New Thing in the World Today" segment (see below).

As Michigan Radio's Sarah Hulett reported last June, the Catherine Ferguson Academy was one of several Detroit public schools slated to close due to budgetary concerns, but it was saved at the eleventh hour when education officials agreed to turn it over to a charter organization.

-John Klein Wilson, Michigan Radio Newsroom

John Bennett Elementary
user Notorious4life / Wikipedia commons

Despite last year’s Detroit Public School campaign entitled “Attendance … Every Day, All Day,” the district’s 2010-2011 attendance numbers failed to meet state requirements and will face the loss of $4.2 million in state aid, according to the Detroit News.

Though the lost money will further hurt the state-controlled school district, the Detroit News reports that the damage could have been worse:

In its amended 2011-12 budget, DPS said it expected to pay $21 million to the state for dropping below 75 percent attendance and had budgeted for the expense.

The state informed DPS in March the amount would be closer to $4 million, giving DPS $17 million more money, which was returned to the general fund.

According to its 2011-2012 budget, the district received about $497 million in state funding over the school year, up three percent from the expected amount.

According to the DPS website, each student enrolled above the budgeted number on count days brings $7,550 in state funding.  In order to encourage count day attendance in its 137 schools in the past through ice cream and pizza parties, “dress down” days for schools that require uniforms, and even a 2009 Radio One-sponsored contest in which students attending school could win a plasma TV, laptop computer, iPod nanos, or an American Express gift card.

- Elaine Ezekiel, Michigan Radio Newsroom

After a four-year absence, the Detroit Grand Prix returns to Belle Isle this weekend.

The event officially kicked off Friday—despite steady rainfall--with a “free day” open to the public. It featured practice laps, some qualifying races, and other events away from the racetrack.

Races continue over the weekend, culminating with the Chevrolet Indy Grand Prix race on Sunday.

Grand Prix Chairman Bud Denker says he had “goosebumps” when he threw the green flag to kick off racing Friday morning.

WzrdsRule / flickr

The Detroit Federation of Teachers is threatening a lawsuit that could force a legal showdown over Michigan's new teacher tenure law.

The union says Detroit Public Schools' process for re-hiring teachers this fall violates the union's contract.

The district has issued layoff notices to all its teachers. It will re-hire them based in part on performance evaluations.

Union President Keith Johnson says under its 2009 contract, the district and the union were supposed to come up with an evaluation tool together.

But Johnson says instead, district officials are now conducting what he calls "drive-by evaluations."

"It pretty much involves principals or even retired principals going into a teacher's classroom, staying for as little as four minutes, and then determining whether or not that teacher was effective, ineffective, minimally effective or whatever the case may have been."

Under Michigan's new tenure law, teachers are rated on a scale from highly effective to ineffective.

But Johnson says seniority can still be considered. He says if the district ignores that, he'll go to court.

A district spokesman says it's complying with the law and current collective bargaining agreements.

 

Sarah Cwiek / Michigan Radio

Some Detroit Public Schools students involved in the Urban Forest Stewardship Program showed off their work this past weekend.

Eight Detroit middle and high schools participated in the program on Belle Isle this year.

Their projects included beach clean-ups, water quality testing, invasive species control, and clearing a new nature trail.

Tracy Ortiz, a sixth-grade science teacher at Detroit’s Clippert Academy, says the projects have introduced many of her students many of her students to natural world—and taught them science in a way that sticks.

(courtesy of the DIA)

DETROIT (AP) — Paintings, prints, drawings, photography, ceramics and other pieces of art created by Detroit Public Schools students are on display in an exhibit at the Detroit Institute of Arts.

The 75th annual exhibition began Saturday. It runs through June 3. Viewing is free with regular museum admission.

The artists and their parents attended an opening reception Saturday afternoon.

Detroit Public Schools emergency manager Roy Roberts said at the reception it was "incredible" to "see these young people express themselves and find their voices."

via ourvoicessouthwestdetroit.tumblr.com

More than 100 students were suspended from Detroit’s Western International High School this week.

Those students were part of a group that walked out of school to protest district policies, and what they say is a poor-quality education.

Now, some of the students are setting up what they’re calling a “freedom school” to attend while they’re suspended.

via detroitgp.com

About 600 Detroit Public Schools students will visit the Detroit Grand Prix in June.

Before their visit, they’ll spend a few weeks learning about racing-related science and math concepts. They’ll then get a chance to apply those skills at the real racetrack, during events at the Grand Prix.

Grand Prix’s event chairman Bud Denker says this won’t just be a “field trip” for the students.

Monday was the last day for parents of Detroit Public Schools students to pick schools for their children.

The district has a citywide open enrollment policy this year.

Parents who want to send their kids to schools outside their neighborhood can rank their preferred schools. The district takes that into consideration when placing kids.

Sonya Smith, a DPS parent who also works at the Parent Resource Center at Osborn High School, says the district has made the whole process easier for parents this year.

According to Bowens, the report "does not adequately reflect the realities of today."
morgueFile user kconnors / http://j.mp/1SPGCl0

Around 4,100 Detroit Public Schools teachers received layoff notices and will have to reapply for their jobs next month if they wish to continue to work for the district.

The Detroit News reports the layoffs are effective just days ahead of the next school year on August 24.

School district spokesman Steve Wasko said the letters were mailed on Tuesday.

"This was done previously; what's different and what parents should be aware of is the process to call staff back," Wasko said. "Based on new state law, all school districts are precluded from making hiring decisions based solely on seniority; thus decisions will be made based on evaluations."

Wasko said this will help ensure that the district brings back "the right number of teachers given its need to downsize andplaces only teachers in the top categories based on objective evaluations" in front of children.

The News reports DPS did the same thing last year "and spent the summer calling back teachers for positions."

The district experienced an attendance spike in September and after many classrooms became overcrowded had to call back additional teachers. All but about 400 teachers were eventually called back.

President of the Detroit Federation of Teachers Keith Johnson said "they are doing this again like they did last year and it's going to be chaos again in September... I'm preparing for battle."

Mercedes Mejia / Michigan Radio

Detroit Public Schools Emergency Manager Roy Roberts laid out his latest plan for how to turn the cash-strapped district around and help students improve.

Here are the three main components of the turnaround:

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