At-Risk Detroit Schools Dance Around School Reform Takeover

(Photo: Flickr, Creative Commons)

(Photo: Flickr, Creative Commons)

East Detroit Public Schools and Macomb Intermediate School District have won a reprieve from the installation of CEOs planned by the state School Reform Office. The schools are among the lowest 5% in Michigan, but the state takeover was stalled temporarily on Friday when a judge issued a restraining order.

"After months of cooperation with the SRO and requests to continue East Detroit Public Schools' academic improvement agreement with Macomb Intermediate School District, we have no other option but to seek legal relief and ask the court to restrain the SRO from taking over an of our schools," East Detroit Schools Board of Education President Craig Brozowski said in a prepared statement issued Saturday.

Michigan law supports a decision by legislators to install management to run schools that are on the Priority list. The list includes schools that are ranked in the lowest 5% based on the Top-to-Bottom metric.

"Our vision is to create the necessary conditions for a globally superior public education system," that state school reform website says. "We want schools in the bottom 5 percent to be in the top 25 percent of the schools statewide."

The CEO reform program began in 2010 when 331 schools were identified for a possible takeover. Since then, 73 of the schools have closed their doors and 74 have improved to meet acceptable rankings, according to Gus Burns reporting for MLive Media Group.

East Detroit Public Schools District has made unflagging efforts to get rid of their $8.5 million shortage. But before anything can be done about that, a court must decide if the District is within its legal grounds to reject the state takeover.

East Detroit Public Schools Superintendent Dr. Ryan A. McLeod said on Saturday that in spite of the SRO's statement that the decision would be collaborative, the CEO appointment has not been a process that was transparent and has not been subject to review by the community.

Circuit Judge Joseph Toia stated that a takeover could cause the school districts "irreparable harm." McLeod agreed with Toia.

One of the harmful results for the schools could be the potential loss of students, said McLeod. Another could be that the programs implemented by a CEO might come at an impossible cost, writes Mitch Hotts for The Macomb Daily.

It was February when the State School Reform Office (SRO) made it known that it would be appointing chief executive officers to manage the academics at four of the seven schools. The CEO would have complete control over all financial and instructional decisions. This move would put the district in financial receivership, but would focus on academics.

The takeover, said officials in a complaint filed on Wednesday in Macomb County Circuit Court, would result in parents taking their children out of the schools and teachers resigning. And since there was no legislation appropriating finances for a takeover, the costs would have to be paid by East Detroit taxpayers. Court documents said that the cost could be more than $5 million.

East Detroit School Board President Craig Brozowski noted that a CEO takeover would take away citizens' rights to have their vote counted in local school board elections, says the Associated Press.

The Detroit News reports that Judge Toia's order will be in effect until a hearing can occur on June 13.

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