EM neglect ruining Bates Academy, parents testify
By T. Kelly
The Michigan Citizen
DETROIT — Flooded hallways, falling ceiling tiles, growing mold, busted pipes, a leaky roof and 20 days of no classes — the parents at Bates Academy are angry their children’s education has been put on hold because of neglect and mismanagement under Detroit Public Schools Emergency Manager Jack Martin.
“What do we do?” asked one of the approximately 20 Bates parents who appeared before members of Detroit’s elected school board Feb. 13, to describe the conditions at the school located on the city’s west side, 19701 Wyoming St.
Bates, called by one parent the “gold standard” of DPS schools, is a pre-K-8 facility for the gifted and talented. It ranks 96th among all Michigan schools and second for attendance among all DPS schools.
But its tradition of excellence has a lot to survive in current conditions.
“We have not had a full week of school since before the Christmas break,” parent Jennifer McConico told the board.
“We support our school, but there is a leak in the ceiling in some rooms; some rooms have heat, some don’t,” Tamea Dooley told board members. “I’m concerned about the mold.”
More than one parent echoed that concern, saying not only mold was growing in some classrooms. “Mushrooms are growing in one classroom and it’s not the science room,” said one parent.
Another said when building officials use fans to dry out classrooms, “the fan is blowing on asbestos tiles, spreading asbestos all over the school.”
“I’m a taxpayer in this city who votes for elected boards,” said teacher Celeste Turner. “This is an application school that also attracts students from the suburbs. It is unhealthy, unsafe and rooms are uninhabitable because of flooding. There is standing water in the hallways. I appeal to you to find a building.
“We’ll take Mumford,” Turner said, noting how upset she gets when she thinks about the conditions of Bates and the bond money Detroit taxpayers are paying for Mumford that was taken by Gov. Rick Snyder for the Education Achievement Authority, a statewide district of low-achieving schools, made up currently of only Detroit students.
“The EAA cherry-picked what buildings it took,” said DPS Board President Lamar Lemmons.
Lemmons told parents the board is helpless, only the emergency manager has power to do anything.
“We have no power,” he said, urging parents to contact the media, to take what measures they could. Lemmons said the offenses at Bates were part of the history of destruction of DPS property under emergency management. The board was compiling testimony of the destruction since state control started.
“This governor has been over this district all three and half years of his term,” Lemmons said.
School activist Russ Bellant said in an interview that former EM Robert Bobb outsourced engineers — as he did security — and the private company is not keeping boilers running 16 hours a day as current weather conditions require, leaving the building subject to freezing-thawing.
Turner said EM Jack Martin said he could not do anything about moving the school to another facility “until enrollment has stabilized.”
DPS enrollment has been in flux since the state took over in 1999. As reported here last year, there are 50,000 students who live in the city but are enrolled in suburban districts because of the instability of the district.
“I’m a taxpayer, but not for long,” promised one parent.
After Fox2 reported the Bates story Feb. 14, DPS released this statement: “The educational environment of our students is of utmost importance to Detroit Public Schools. The district greatly appreciates the parents of students at Bates Academy for voicing their concerns and holding us accountable. We appreciate and share their urgency in this matter. An action plan is being developed regarding the Bates facility that will be shared with parents at a special meeting at which we will also seek their input. We expect this meeting to be scheduled before the end of the month,” said Michelle Zdrodowski, spokesperson for the district.