Detroit Public Schools Emergency Manager

May 11 [Sat], 2013, 11:31
Detroit Public Schools has been controlled by an emergency financial manager for four years, first under Robert Bobb, then Roy Roberts. The school system had a $327 million deficit. Enrollment in Detroit schools is down to 53,000 students, only 42 percent of kids in the area. Roberts announced he's stepping down as emergency manager, says . May 16 will be Roberts' last day in office.

Changes Under Roberts

Roberts, 74, a Muskegon, Michigan, native, came toin 2011 from years in management at Lear-Siegler, General Motors, and an investment firm. Roberts highlighted his accomplishments in his tenure in the district in his retirement message: improved school culture, staff, and internal operations. Additionally,says he was able to keep open 24 of the 28 schools slated to close. The emergency manager made other changes that weren't so well-received. A few months after he took office, Roberts was faulted for using district funds to buy a new $40,000 Chevy Tahoe, says . There were concerns that a district deep in debt couldn't afford the EM's $250,000 salary, let alone a new car. A mandatory 10-percent pay cut had been imposed on teachers, and the vehicle purchase was faulted for diverting educational funding from student needs.

DPS Emergency Management Impact

Rev. David Alexander Bullock, via his group Change Agent Consortium, has long worked against emergency management. I asked him about Roberts' career in retrospect. As one of the first entities placed under an EM, DPS's history lends historical perspective. Rev. Bullock said the fact that DPS still needs an EM after having had one for four years "opens the question of whether emergency management works." He added, "It demonstrates unprecedented experimentation in impoverished areas among those vulnerable."

What's Next for DPS?

In December 2012,released its annual financial report, showing that it was both in the black and in the red. For the second year in a row, the fiscal term closed with a $10.9-million operating surplus. The General Fund deficit was $76.3 million, down from $283.9 million. Since Detroit Public Schools still owes, a new emergency manager will be hired to replace Roberts. ABC 7 WXYZ reports that Roberts has a nominee in mind for the new EM but hasn't said who it is. Roberts predicted that DPS will be debt-free in the 2015-2016 school year. Leadership, he said, will then revert to the school board, but the board will be under a supervisory team that will judge each action made or planned by the board.

Michigan Emergency Management

Roberts was appointed by Gov. Rick Snyder under-- the Local Government and School District Fiscal Accountability Act -- Michigan's emergency manager law. Emergency managers have far-reaching powers in entities they control. The law has had a topsy-turvy history in the state. It was stricken down by voters in the November 2012 election. Then, in the December lame-duck session, a tweaked version of it was passed, says the . There are currently emergency managers in nine , including Detroit. Cities of Inkster and Allen Park are operating under consent agreement with the state, and Hamtramck's finances are under review.

A Michigan-certified teacher and education writer and blogger, Marilisa Sachteleben writes about school issues in her state's most pivotal city of Detroit.



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