A week before the Nov. 6 election Detroit Public Schools Emergency Financial Manager (EFM) Roy Roberts made a big statement: He warned that if Proposal 1 (the controversial legislation that gave him broad power over of the beleaguered school district) fell through, he may leave is post as EFM.
What would ultimately influence Roberts’ decision to stay or go? The Detroit Board of Education.
At the time of the announcement, it was unclear if the warning was just a pre-election threat to get people to vote "Yes on 1" or if jumping ship was something Roberts really planned to do in a time when the district has seen much restructuring under his leadership, and in at a crossroads.
Roberts said he would make a decision as to whether he would stick with DPS based on how the Board of Education received him in a post-election meeting on how to proceed without Public Act 4.
Proposal 1 asked voters if the State should uphold Public Act 4---a beefed up version of a Emergency Manager legislation enacted in 1990---which enabled the Governor to appoint financial managers with sweeping powers to municipalities and school districts undergoing financial crisis. The measure was defeated and now the old emergency manager law, Public Act 72 of 1990 holds, limiting the power of EFMs like Roberts strictly to finances. If the board members were willing to work with him and not against him as Roberts claims they have done in the past, Roberts said he would stay.
Ultimately, Roberts has put the future of his post in the hands of School Board members, the same Board whose president repeatedly called for Roberts and his predecessor, Robert Bobb, to step down.
It's an interesting tactic. If Roberts resigns, he's has positioned it so that it is the School Board's fault for not being willing to set aside politics and put the children first.
Roberts wrote in a letter to Gov. Rick Snyder one week before the election stating:
"In the absence of legislation empowering a single entity with the authority to operate the district, continued progress will be virtually impossible. Therefore, while my commitment to the children of Detroit remains as strong as it was when I began this journey, without the tools provided by (the law), I do not believe that my presence here can have any further impact."
One day after the Nov. 6 election defeated Proposal 1, Roberts wrote in a letter to DPS employees:
“I also reached out to the School Board to schedule a meeting to discuss how we can move forward in the best interest of educating Detroit's children. I am confident that as long as we can keep the focus on the children we can work together to make DPS a leader in public education once again.”
Roberts, it seems, isn’t giving up just yet. A day after the defeat of Proposal 1, Roberts sent a letter to DPS employees with an upbeat message about the passage of a school millage renewal.
Pending a meeting with the school board on how to move forward in a post-PA4 environment, Roberts said he was willing to stay at DPS for at least another 30 days. If he resigns, he has implied it will be the School Board’s fault for making his job too difficult.
Roberts has gained a reputation of a no-nonsense leader who is frank about the district's problems. One of Roberts’ biggest accomplishments during his two-year tenure has been to shrink the district’s deficit by from $327 million to $75 million, mostly in bond sales.
At events around the city Roberts made it clear that he didn’t like the prospect of having to work with the school board.
“You can’t have two masters in a home,” he said of having to battle with the School Board over every decision he makes that ‘s not strictly financial.
How school board members will receive Roberts in the upcoming meeting has yet to be seen, although the relationship between the two has been rocky. Will school board members and Roberts come to an agreement in the best interest of Children’s education?
They should. If Roberts and the school board truly have the children’s best interest at heart, they will find a way to put their differences aside and come to a compromise. And it’s not just up to the school board. Roberts will have to concede some of his power to the Board and do the work that Robert Bobb did before public act 4 was enacted. It's doable, it just takes more negotiating.
The question shouldn’t be whether or not the Board of Education will allow Roberts to do his work. The compromise has to come from both ends.
The question should be how they both will work together and best use all of their talents. At this point it really is a test, on both the School Board's and Robert’s part on who is willing to put pride and power aside in the name of one of the nation’s most important rights: public of education.
In 2011, DPS Financial manager Roberts was confident that Education Achievement Authority (EAA) would be a success. “I’ll make you a little bet,” he told Detroit City Councilman Andre Spivey. “Give us two years and people will ask us to be in EAA.”
The EAA is a new state-run school district, which is a public/private partnership between the state and Eastern Michigan University, is the first of a statewide effort to turn around schools that are underperforming. The creation of the EAA district was taken under Public Act 4, the controversial emergency manager law that’s now up for public vote in November.
If the people decide to toss PA4 on Election Day, Roberts won’t be able to see out his EAA bet—or anything else—as the Board of Education will regain power.
The question remains, if Roberts isn’t there to “undo 50 years of crap” as he puts it, who will? Certainly not the old systems that have been in place—or a superhero: “Superman ain’t comin’ is one of Robert’s favorite quips when referring to the DPS crisis.
Back in 2011 when Gov. Rick Snyder first appointed Roberts, he made it clear he was tough—and frank—enough for the job. And with the scope of EFM power increased under the new Public Act 4 legislation, Roberts had the ability to do things his predecessor, Robert Bobb, couldn’t.
Things like overseeing the new EAA district, offering take-home Netbooks for students in grades 8-12, individualized learning plans for each DPS student and new specialized schools including Medicine and Arts high schools and still slashing $75 million from the budget.
As Tuesday marked the first day of school for DPS, the advertisements ramping up to opening day have been aggressive—and good: Either the Detroit Public School district is doing a world-class PR job, or it really has taken great measures to improve the learning environment for the upcoming year. And while it may be a little of both, it seems that the district is starting off the academic year revamped and better organized.
With just over a year of what Roberts has called “the hardest job of his life” under his belt, he has accomplished much of what he said he would without being hamstrung by the Board of Education. Now, as November approaches, time is running out to prove that DPS is better off in the state’s hands.
Parents have to decide for themselves if their children are better off now than they were two years ago. But both Roberts and his counterpart, EAA chancellor John Covington, both agree that the future is not just up to them—or superman. And while two years is hardly enough to judge long term progress, so far they have made huge strides in changing the landscape of public education in the city.
“This is something we can’t do by ourselves,” Covington said, calling on people to get involved in the process. “We need the general community to get actively involved. There aught to be someone out there holding us accountable.”
With the fist day of school approaching fast, Michigan’s newest school district—the Education Achievement Authority (EAA)— is pushing to enroll as many students possible by any means necessary, or so it seems.
As the fate of Public Act 4—the legislation that made the EAA possible—now hangs in the balance of a public vote come Nov. 6, it’s crucial to keep the momentum, and enrollment, rolling at full speed according to district officials.
Despite the uncertain outcome of the Nov. 6 vote on the controversial emergency manager law, the district is charging “full steam ahead” according to Roy Roberts, emergency manager for Detroit Public Schools and director of the EAA.
In order to fill the classrooms on time and overthrow any doubts or uncertainty about the new EAA schools, The EAA, which is a public/private partnership between the State of Michigan and Eastern Mcihgian University, got popular bad boy rapper T.I. to urge youngsters via a radio advertisement on a local hip-hop station to enroll in an EAA school.
A Radio ad airing on The New Hot 107.5 FM on Sunday, dubbed the EAA “ the hottest new schools” featuring T.I’s voice asking kids to tell their parents to get them in an EAA school.
This choice of spokesperson raises the some questions: What’s the message here? Obviously kids listen to T.I., but should the EAA district be using a rapper whose reputation is smeared by frequent stints in prison for illegal gun charges as the pied piper leading students their doors?
The enrollment numbers aren’t that bad: Last week The Detroit News reported that the district had 6,660 students signed up and ready to start. The goal is 11,000 students total to fill all 15 EAA schools. That’s about more than half of the final goal and enrollment will continue through September.
While T.I. is popular, and could get student’s attention, it’s the parents who ought to be making these decisions of where to place their child, not kids who want to go to a school because their favorite rapper—who brags about shooting people in his songs—thinks it’s “hot.”
If anyone forgot why Public Act 4 (the Emergency Manager Law) was created, yesterday’s DPS ruling should jog their jog your memory.
Wayne County Circuit Court Judge John Murphy ruled Tuesday that the DPS School Board has control over academic decisions and Emergency Financial Manager (EFM) Roy Roberts has control of the purse strings. That's until Nov. 6th, when voters get to decide the fate of PA4.
Meanwhile, the ongoing battle between DPS emergency manager Roy Roberts and the Detroit School Board is anything but over. It's a taste of things to come if PA4 is repealed in November.
People can expect lawsuits to fly like rotten tomatoes between the two camps.
According to the Detroit News, Judge Murphy said Tuesday he expects the two groups to battle it out in the courthouse quite often:
“Murphy said if the school board and Roberts can't agree on what is financial and what is academic, he will decide on a case by case basis who has authority.
'The burden of proof is on the plaintiff that his policies fit within Public Act 72,' Murphy said."
Murphy should prepare to see Roberts and the Board frequent his courtroom:
Roberts told The Detroit News:
“If we have a disagreement and I say it's financial and they say it's academics — we are back
before Judge Murphy."
But really, Who wins in a situation like this? Certainly not the kids who need leaderhsip, not lawsuits.
Watch This! Why Public Education Needs Major Reform
This video is a GREAT starting point for further investigation into the bankruptcy of modern education. It’s well worth 10 minutes of your precious time.
Right not in Detroit, public education is being reformed with the new Education Achievement System (EAA) district and other measures. That’s why it’s more important now than ever for people to know what education of the future look like; and demand it.
It’s not just in Detroit that education needs reform. This is a global issue. Kids are being taught in a system that was created during the industrial revolution. All you have to do is look around to know that times have changed since then. But school systems have not.
Kenneth Robinson, an English author, speaker, and international advisor on education, argues in this video breaks down the fundamental flaws in the current global education system.
A must-watch for parents and students:
Click HERE to watch video.
Detroit Public Schools announced yesterday that it is selling 200 abandonded buildings and properties racked up from school closures. DPS teamed up with the Detroit Works project and other groups to help sell buildings and properties for repurposing. DPS Emergency Manager Roy Roberts called the reuse of the old schools "critically important” and urged businesses to buy the closed school buildings to help revive the economy in the city as well as generate revenue for DPS through property sales.
Roberts told potetnial buyers at a conference Wednesday: “School buildings last longer than most businesses. If you can find other uses for these facilities, it’s a great help to the community where they are located.”
The buildings may be good enough for businesses, but apparently not for schools. DPS will be building eight new "state of the art" schools with federal bond funds. Half of those will be built this year, DPS reports:
Detroit Public Schools will open four new schools in 2012 totaling $150 million of voter-approved investment that will provide some 4,500 students brand new learning environments that will replace older facilities.
Voters chose to support controversail Proposal S funding in 2009, bonds that will be re-paid by Detroit residents over the next 20 years:
Detroit Public Schools plans to build eight new schools and modernize 10 schools thanks to the passage of Proposal S, a bond referendum voters approved on Nov. 3 to take advantage of $500.5 million in stimulus dollars that President Barack Obama made available to build new schools and modernize existing schools. Under Proposal S, $246 million — nearly half of the bonds — will be re-paid at a 0% interest rate.
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