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DPS aims to regain control

Board holds meetings to organize plan

By Victor Walker
Special to the Michigan Citizen

DETROIT — During a series of recent special meetings, the Detroit Public Schools (DPS) board, educators and students continued to organize a plan to salvage and take back control of the district despite opposition from the state.

“The children are suffering in the midst of politics,” DPS Board Chair LaMar Lemmons said during the meeting.

Board members say educating the children of Detroit has become difficult and they are up against unjust lawsuits, ignored Freedom of Information Act requests and opposition from DPS Emergency Financial Manager Roy Roberts, who refuses to relinquish authority.

“Roberts has no authority here,” says Lemmons. “We are under a coup d’état and have to get rid of the occupiers.”

Citizens statewide struck down Nov. 6 Public Act 4 (PA4), referred to as the Emergency Manager Law. Organizers say voters do not want state appointed, anti-democratic representatives making decisions in their communities.

Concerned community members expressed their confusion as to how the people struck down the Emergency Manager Law, but Gov. Rick Snyder and Roberts seem to have continued with business as usual.

“We’ve got fascists in Lansing. We voted to repeal Public Act 4 and it doesn’t seem to have any impact at all,” DPS interim superintendent Dr. John Telford said.

While the struggle for authority ensues, children in the district are being undereducated and face safety issues. During one of the meetings, a student from Martin Luther King High School shared how he was robbed at gunpoint after school and though there were cameras on site, they were not in working order.

Teachers from across the district expressed concern over self-governing schools, the Education Achievement Authority (EAA) and whether they will receive the necessary funding and resources to do their jobs. Some teachers also fear losing their jobs in retaliation for expressing their concerns.

Lemmons affirmed that “there are no more self-governing schools in the district” and appealed to the community to take action against a state takeover of the district and disregard of the people’s vote against Public Act 4 of 2011.

“If there are no more self-governing schools, we need something in writing,” said Calandra Gibson, math teacher at Detroit School of Arts (DSA). Gibson was concerned that the situation could prevent the allocation of funds, specifically $2.5 million from the Knight Foundation, that her students need. “We’re going to do what we need to do for our students, but it would help to have the funds.”

The school board has taken a number of actions to help strengthen the district. One change has been bringing on board Claude Tiller, Jr. as ombudsman, severing the districts inter-local agreement with Eastern Michigan University as it relates to the EAA and requesting a federal investigation of alleged misuse of funds allocated by the federal government.

Taking the district back requires a unified action between the school board and the community, noting that the state of Michigan has caused “irreparable harm to the district by appointing an Emergency Manager.”

As of late, Roberts has made no indication that he plans to acknowledge the voice of the people. The school board is forming an advisory council whose goal is to help form a plan to reduce administration size in the district and prepare for transition in the event it has to absorb the EAA.

The school board is also part of an effort to appeal to the international community for help in addressing issues that prevent them from effectively doing the jobs the people of Detroit has elected them to do.

Contact Victor Walker at victorwalker@gmail.com

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