Detroit Federation of Teachers (DFT) members rally and march outside the headquarters of the Emergency Manager on July 19, 2012. They are demonstrating against a bogus state-imposed contract. (Photo: Abayomi Azikiwe), a photo by Pan-African News Wire File Photos on Flickr.
August 9, 2012 at 7:42 pm
Schuette sues to oust 7 DPS board members
By Shawn D. Lewis and Maureen Feighan
The Detroit News
Detroit— Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette asked a Wayne County court Thursday to remove seven of the 11 members of the Detroit Board of Education, and to issue an injunction against future board action.
In a release issued by his office, Schuette said the Detroit Public Schools lost its status as a Class 1 district in September 2008. Schuette said that meant all 11 school board members should have been elected at-large in the most recent election in November 2011, instead of four at-large and seven from districts.
The seven elected by district, Schuette said, are holding office illegally.
"For far too long, the children of Detroit have received a second-class education," Schuette said in a release. "It's time to improve their quality of education, and that starts at the top. My job as Attorney General is to ensure state law is followed and that our children get the quality education they were promised by our Michigan Constitution."
In a statement Thursday evening, Gov. Rick Snyder praised Schuette's action.
"We applaud the Attorney General for his leadership and stand with him on this critical issue," Snyder said. "Under Roy Roberts, DPS has made significant strides with a strong turnaround plan underway."
George Washington, an attorney for the school board, argued Thursday that when those members were elected, the district did qualify as a Class 1 district, which is based on enrollment.
"These elections were held a year and a half ago, and nobody complained at that point," Washington said.
In one of its first moves since the law was suspended, the Detroit Board of Education on Thursday evening appointed John Telford, a Detroit activist, as interim superintendent.
Telford, 76, served briefly as interim superintendent of the Madison Heights schools in 2009. The school board fired him after he suggested the Oakland County district recruit students from Detroit to help close a $2.1 million deficit.
The month before being removed in April 2009, Telford called DPS a "wasteland" and urged Detroit parents to bring them to "safer schools and better education."
Roberts, emergency manager of DPS, meanwhile, sought late Wednesday to block the board from unraveling plans already in place for the coming school year. Attorneys for Roberts requested an injunction in Wayne County Circuit Court, saying plans, programs and budget are "firmly in place" for the 2012-13 school year, and the 11-member school board is poised to "take unprecedented action that would irreparably harm" Roberts and DPS.
"The new school year will start in less than four weeks," Roberts said Thursday. "The academic plan is in place, and principals and all staff are working diligently to ensure a smooth and successful opening of school. My goal will continue to be to protect the kids."
Roberts' lawsuit was initially assigned to Wayne Circuit Judge Wendy Baxter, who recused herself. The case was reassigned Thursday to Judge John Murphy. A hearing is scheduled for Tuesday.
An emergency manager has been in place in DPS 11 of the last 13 years, Washington said. He said the Board of Canvassers decision means the school board either has complete control over the district or power over academics.
"It's got to be one of those two," Washington said. "What Mr. Roberts wants to do is assume total control and continue having total control even though there's no legal basis for it. He is basically saying that he is Detroit Public Schools, and if he doesn't have complete power, there is no DPS. I think it's the height of arrogance."
Herman Davis, vice president of the Detroit school board, said he and his colleagues plan at Thursday's meeting to take back control of the 15 schools that were transferred July 1 to the EAA, the state's recovery district for failing schools.
"Our concern is that a lot of these things are done under a piracy umbrella," Herman Davis said. "It's like taking over a ship without authority and they'll keep at it until somebody stops them."
He said that following the Board of Canvassers' decision, he assumes the board is back in power.
"They're trying to dump the DPS system into the water and take away as much as they can to decrease enrollment and we're not going to stand by and let that happen."
District spokesman Steve Wasko said the EAA agreement would not be changed.
"The EAA was established by a legally binding Interlocal Agreement between Eastern Michigan University and Detroit Public Schools, and is not impacted by the change in law," he said.
Keith Johnson, Detroit Federation of Teachers president, said he hand-delivered a letter to Roberts' office Wednesday, demanding he renegotiate the contract the emergency manager imposed on the district's teachers last month. Johnson disputed Wasko's contention about the EAA.
"He's absolutely wrong," said Johnson. "The decision as to the agreement with the emergency manager and turning over the 15 schools is an academic decision, and under PA 72, academic decisions are the domain of the elected school board."
Regarding the letter he sent Roberts, Johnson said he has not yet received a response.
"It's clear that once PA 4 is put on the ballot for voters to decide whether to appeal that the authority of emergency managers is suspended," he said. "We're just going by the law."
In Highland Park, school board secretary Robert Davis sent a letter to Parker, asking her to step down immediately.
"I respectfully request that you vacate the office of Emergency Manager by 9 a.m. August 9, 2012," he wrote. "Failure to vacate said office will lead to possible legal action seeking your immediate removal. I thank you for the service you provided to the Highland Park School District during your limited tenure as the Emergency Manager."
According to the state Attorney General's Office, the move effectively reinstated a previous but weaker emergency manager law, Public Act 72. Citing the 1990 law, Snyder on Wednesday reappointed Parker to head the Highland Park schools, Roberts to lead the Detroit Public Schools and Donald Weatherspoon to manage the Muskegon Heights schools.
Davis is considering encouraging the entire board to meet.
"I'm sending a formal letter to the board president to convene a meeting to rescind the charter contract today," he said. "I want to meet as soon as possible. A lot of these matters need to be resolved expeditiously because school starts Sept. 4."
Parker said Thursday she received the letter from Davis asking that she step down.
"I have not submitted a response, but one is forthcoming," she said. "I plan to continue to work to finish the job I started."
State plans to sue to remove Detroit school board in wake of ruling on emergency manager law
3:13 PM, August 9, 2012
By Chastity Pratt Dawsey
Detroit Free Press Education Writer
The state attorney general is expected to head to court today to file a lawsuit to remove most of the Detroit school board, which would make it the second lawsuit filed in two days against the elected officials.
Bill Schuette, the state attorney general, told the Free Press he is considering filing an action to remove seven of the 11 school board members because of the district’s declining enrollment.
“Are we considering it? Yes. Have I talked to the governor, his office? Yes. Do I think that the Detroit Public School board has failed the students of the city of Detroit? Yes.”
Detroit Public Schools is projected to enroll about 49,000 students in the fall. The district has lost students and no longer fits the definition of a first-class school district (60,000 students) and therefore would not get to have seven board members elected by districts, the state is expected to argue.
The other four board members are elected at-large, or citywide.
Schuette said he could file a lawsuit by 5 p.m. today.
The legal wrangling comes after Wednesday’s decision by the Board of Canvassers to place the emergency manager law on the Nov. 6 ballot for voters to decide whether to keep or toss it.
As a result of the measure being placed on the ballot, the school board regains authority over academic decisions in the Detroit Public Schools.
Also, Roy Roberts became the emergency financial manager with diminished powers over the school system’s finances as a result of the ballot issue. His attorneys filed a request for an injunction on Wednesday in Wayne County Circuit Court arguing that the school board should not be allowed to make decisions because it would cause irreparable harm to the district.
Judge Wendy Baxter asked to be removed from the case because she has socialized with Roberts and school board members. The case was assigned to Judge John Murphy and is tentatively scheduled to be heard at 10 a.m. on Aug. 14.
During a press availability today about Roberts’ lawsuit, George Washington, attorney for the school board, said he got a call from the attorney general’s office warning him that a lawsuit will be filed.
Washington said DPS’ problems are the fault of the state because the state has controlled the district for 10 of past 13 years -- through chief executive officers, emergency financial managers and emergency managers -- and now doesn’t want to yield any authority to Detroiters.
“I think it’s clear that the Attorney General and the governor and Roy Roberts don’t like black people voting and they want to end it,” Washington said.
The school board also has public meetings scheduled starting at 5 p.m. at Frederick Douglass Academy, 2001 W. Warren Ave.
Contact Chastity Pratt Dawsey: 313-223-4537 or firstname.lastname@example.org or on Facebook. Follow @cprattdawsey on Twitter.
August 7, 2012 at 11:12 am
Detroit school board seizes on suspension of EM law
DPS officials plan to take over academics, hire superintendent
By Chad Livengood and Shawn D. Lewis
The Detroit News
Hoping to quell fears of chaos erupting in cities and schools run by state-appointed managers, Attorney General Bill Schuette said Monday the state can revert to an old emergency manager law once the existing statute is suspended.
But members of the Detroit Board of Education were preparing Monday to wrest back some control of Detroit Public Schools from Emergency Manager Roy Roberts.
The board said it plans to hire a new superintendent once the Board of State Canvassers certifies a repeal of the emergency manager law and the statute is suspended until voters decide its fate.
"We're looking to take control of academics, and restore the people's trust in our system, by doing the things we've been elected to do, including providing accountability and transparency," DPS board vice president Herman Davis said Monday.
DPS board members also have threatened to halt Roberts' plan to transfer 15 DPS schools to Michigan's newly-formed Educational Achievement Authority — a statewide school district that includes the state's worst-performing schools.
"I think that would be unfortunate," said Sara Wurfel, spokeswoman for Gov. Rick Snyder.
State Treasurer Andy Dillon asked for Schuette's official opinion after the Michigan Supreme Court ruled Friday in a 4-3 decision that a repeal of the controversial emergency manager law should be placed on the Nov. 6 general election ballot.
Schuette said the previous emergency manager law, Public Act 72 of 1990, would be "permanently revived" if voters repeal Public Act 4 in November.
Opinions by the state attorney general are binding until tested in court. Opponents of state intervention in financially distressed communities and schools are contemplating legal action to stop Snyder from re-appointing emergency managers under the old law.
"As they continue to march down this road of obstinance in the face of what has clearly been an expressed will of the people to have their say on this matter, it doesn't do anybody any good," said Greg Bowens, spokesman for Stand Up for Democracy, the union-financed group that gathered more than 200,000 signatures to get a repeal of the EM law on the ballot.
Last year, the Legislature approved the new law giving state-appointed managers sweeping powers to suspend labor contracts and sell off assets.
The state has installed emergency managers in Benton Harbor, Ecorse, Flint and Pontiac, and the school districts of Detroit, Highland Park and Muskegon Heights. Financial consent agreements were reached in Detroit, Inkster and River Rouge to avoid an emergency manager, giving the state closer, more financial oversight of those cities.
A meeting of the Board of State Canvassers could be held this week, though nothing had been scheduled as of late Monday because election officials had not received the Supreme Court's order that the issue be certified for the ballot, state elections director Chris Thomas said.
Emergency managers over Highland Park schools and Detroit Public Schools said the measures they put in place will remain, including the hiring of a charter firm to operate the three Highland Park public schools.
"We've already signed an agreement with the Leona Group, so the contract is in place for five years," said Joyce Parker, the Hyde Park School District emergency manager. "Because the contract is in place, all actions taken before the Board of Canvassers remain the same and nothing changes."
But that does not allay the concerns of parent Dewonna Green. She still has not yet decided if she will enroll her 8-year-old son in the charter school system.
"I don't like the idea that there will be all new teachers for my son," she said. Highland Park School District board secretary Robert Davis said even though the emergency manager actions before the ruling will remain, they're not final.
"Nobody is trying to seek legal action to void out all actions taken by emergency managers," said Davis, an AFSCME activist who has filed countless lawsuits challenging the emergency manager law.
"But what can happen is that if the previous boards of education resume power, they can exercise their discretion and cancel out contracts dealing with charter schools if they choose."
Detroit Public Schools spokesman Steve Wasko said the decisions made by Emergency Manager Roy Roberts will not change, including the contract he imposed on the district's unionized teachers last month.
Staff Writer Karen Bouffard contributed.
From The Detroit News: http://www.detroitnews.com/article/20120807/SCHOOLS/208070355#ixzz2371fUuDM