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EM’s failure shuts down DPS Head Start

Jack Martin (right) sits with Gov. Rick Snyder (center) and former DPS EM Roy Roberts (left) July 2013 at a press conference announcing Martin’s appointment as DPS EM.  STAFF PHOTO

Jack Martin (right) sits with Gov. Rick Snyder (center) and former DPS EM Roy Roberts (left) July 2013 at a press conference announcing Martin’s appointment as DPS EM. STAFF PHOTO

By T. Kelly
The Michigan Citizen

DETROIT — Because Detroit Public SchoolsEmergency Manager Jack Martin and his staff couldn’t get its application for Head Start funding to the federal government on time, there will be no Head Start in Detroit schools next year, according to elected board President Lamar Lemmons

“It is malice of intent or gross incompetence,” Lemmons said in a phone interview.  It is part of the “constant school closings and the program closings,” he said, that are part of the “deliberate and systematic dismantling of Detroit Public Schools.”

The loss affects approximately 900 four-year-old students in the nation’s poorest city.

Currently DPS offers three school readiness programs: Head Start, Great Start Readiness Program and Title I. Students selected for the Great Start Readiness Program must have at least two risk factors or meet the income guidelines. The selection process for Project Head Start is income-based, and the Title I students are selected based on the needs of the school community, according to DPS website.

District spokeswoman Michelle Zdrodowski  issued a press release explaining the problem.

“DPS completed its application, and on the day of the submission deadline the team encountered technical difficulties with uploading the information and sought assistance from a technical advisor at A trouble ticket was issued further documenting the challenge. However, due to this technical difficulty, the application was not able to be submitted on time,” Zdrodowski wrote.

In dealing with the press, EM Martin is stressing the additional $6 million coming to the district for Great Start Readiness Program. School officials say that program and Title I pre-school programs will accommodate any Head Start child, according to published reports.

Lemmons put responsibility for the loss at the governor’s door.

“This clearly falls at the feet of Gov. Rick Snyder. He actually operates the district, not the EM. Snyder is the man behind the curtain,” Lemmons said.

When this paper asked what the governor would do and what repercussions there could be for the EM’s failure, Gov. Snyder’s public relations staffer Dave Murray responded in an email.

“The governor’s office is reviewing the situation with Head Start in Detroit. But our primary concern, as always, is with the children and making sure their families have access to these important programs. Federal Head Start staff members on (June 10) said they are in the process of selecting an organization to provide these services. No child will miss out on Head Start programs,” Murray wrote.

Lemmons said he and the other elected board members found out there would be no Head Start when they received calls from journalists reporting the story.

“The board is not privy to any school information,” Lemmons said. The EM and his staff do not attend board meetings and supply no information or resources to the elected body.

Detroit Teachers Union President Keith Johnson called the loss, “a sin and a shame.”

Saying this failure was one of many under state control, Lemmons listed other “incompetencies” of school emergency managers that have hurt students and diminished the district:

n The closing of Oakman Orthopedic School which was at near capacity, well run, equipped for special needs and part of a vibrant school community.

n Closing of Southwestern High School after the district spent $5 million for a new roof and other improvements. The elected board opposed the closing and sale of the building. Now the governor wants to expand the failing Education Achievement Authority’s Phoenix Academy to a high school since the last high school in southwest Detroit, Western, is overcrowded.

n Closing the airport campus of the formerly successful Davis Aerospace Academy.

n Closing the Day School for the Deaf, forcing parents to drive students to Flint, while ignoring DPS’ audio enhancement equipment purchased to mainstream deaf students.

n Allowing the vandalization and destruction of hundreds of school buildings.

“It is the epitome of insanity to close a building and leave it empty. Everyone in Detroit knows you don’t leave your house empty,” Lemmons said.

Detroit’s pro-EM corporate media followed EM Martin’s lead and put a spin on the stories about the Head Start loss. Reports lead with headlines proclaiming that DPS received additional funding for early childhood education, according to Lemmons.

The Obama administration has made early childhood education a priority and increased federal spending for it. The press reported first that additional $6 million for DPS Great Start Readiness was coming and then included the news the Head Start money was lost.

Lemmons commented on Martin’s spin and how the press covered the loss. “It’s as if we couldn’t use all the help we can get,” he said.

The gain of $6 million when the district has lost $4 million is a gain of two, when it could have been a gain of six, for a total of $10 million.

The DPS elected board at its June 3 meeting voted to oppose the EM’s sale of Stark School, noting it could be used for Early Childhood Education. Martin has not applied successfully for federal funds available to five cities to create a birth to school program although $56 million is available for each of the next five years to a successful applicant.

Local agencies have received money for birth to school programs, but not DPS, Board member Juvette Hawkins-Williams said.

EM Martin projects that at the end of the current fiscal year, June 30, $120.3-million remains of the debt created by the state since its first takeover in 1999. At that time DPS had a $99 million surplus.

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