DETROIT—Members of the Detroit Board of Education voted in a special meeting Tuesday night to cancel the Detroit Public Schools contract with Eastern Michigan University (EMU) and withdraw from the Education Achievement Authority (EAA) pending the certification of the Nov. 6 election results and judicial approval.
“The dictator put us in this [EMU] contract, one that we did not enter into,” School Board President LaMar Lemmons said, referring to DPS emergency financial manager Roy Roberts. “If we do choose to enter a contract with a university it will be with a school with elected trustees. They chose a school whose trustees serve at the will of the governor.”
The EAA is a new statewide district created this fall as a public/private partnership with EMU. The goal of the EAA is to turnaround Michigan’s lowest performing schools into the highest. Detroit schools were the first to be put in the State’s new EAA district.
Board member Carol Banks said she was not impressed after visiting EAA schools, which have been operating less than four months. “I’ve been to some of these schools. They are supposed to be for the purpose of children getting educated but that’s not what’s happening there.”
“To say we’re not here for the children is ridiculous. We’re volunteers. I have 200 relatives who are products of DPS, I served as a state rep. and I came back to serve this community,” Lemmon said.
State officials argue that the DPS board does not have the power to cancel the EMU contract. A spokesperson for Gov. Rick Snyder said neither party could withdraw from the contract without approval from the EAA’s executive committee. Snyder’s office has said that the EAA issue is separate from PA4.
Public Act 4, legislation that gave the State authority to appoint powerful Emergency Financial Mangers failing school districts was repealed with the Nov. 6 vote.
Lemmons said he was concerned about a conflict of interest with Roberts serving as a decision-maker for both DPS and EAA districts. “He cannot serve two masters—two school districts. How can you bee the contractor and the contractee?” Lemons asked.
The School Board also voted to make deep cuts non-instructional positions ranking anywhere between principal and superintendant.
“I’ve been in education a long time and never have I seen a school district as bloated as this one,” superintendent John Telford said. “I’m not going to say at this point who or what will be reduced.”
At Tuesday night’s meeting held at the Detroit Public Library, board members also voted to bring back laid off teachers by 2013 and end the DPS contract with the Detroit Parent Teacher Network.
All of the Board’s decisions are expected to be disputed by state officials and are contingent on judge’s decision and the certification of the Nov. 6 election.
Meanwhile, Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette is trying to get seven on the eleven school board members removed. Schuette filed a lawsuit in Wayne County Circuit Court this summer seeking the removal seven board members, arguing that the district is not large enough to have such a large school board.
Roberts has said if the Board refuses to work with him, he may step down from his post as EFM.
With the repeal of Public Act 4, the law reverts to the original emergency manager legislation, Public Act 72, which limits an EFM’s power strictly to finances. Lemmons said the board does not plan on working with Roberts on academic decisions and that he hopes the financial manager steps down. “If [Roberts] does the right thing, he’ll leave,” Lemmons said.