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Snyder recycles Jack Martin for EM of DPS

 Gov. Rick Snyder (center) has replaced Roy Roberts (left) with the city's CFO Jack Martin (right) as the new emergency manager of Detroit Public schools.

Gov. Rick Snyder (center) has replaced Roy Roberts (left) with the city’s CFO Jack Martin (right) as the new emergency manager of Detroit Public schools.

By Zenobia Jeffries and T. Kelly
The Michigan Citizen

DETROIT — Gov. Rick Snyder announced July 15 that the city’s current chief financial officer, Jack Martin, will replace Roy Roberts as the emergency manager of Detroit Public Schools, effective immediately.

Roberts, whose term was extended in May, is retiring from the position after more than two years in the post.

At a press conference held at Davison Elementary School, Snyder noted it was “cool” and “awesome” to be there. He continued his promotion of emergency management saying there’s been progress from “the financial point.”

“We’re seeing good progress in terms of the budget.” He did not mention that Roberts had issued $250 million in bonds to bring down the short-term deficit, while adding to the long-term debt.

Snyder said students’ performance in graduation rates and test scores have increased. But, he says, “It’s not there yet.”

“There is still work to be done, and Jack Martin’s problem-solving skills, expertise, and strong management and leadership abilities will help continue the positive transformation of Detroit Public Schools,” Snyder announced. Martin has served as EM of Highland Park schools and as a state-mandated financial consultant for the cities of Benton Harbor and Highland Park from as early as the 1980s when he earned $6,000 a month from Benton Harbor, then the nation’s poorest city.

The governor’s praise of the benefits of emergency management over DPS in the past four years is in stark contrast to some educators’ analyses, who have been researching the impact of emergency management in the city’s shrinking public school district.

Wayne State Associate Professor of Education Tom Pedroni was present for the press conference and challenged Snyder from the audience.

“Since 2009, DPS students have actually declined on the MEAP in relation to what the state averages in almost every category since the emergency manager took over. Why do you feel now, after almost four years, the emergency manager will be able to make some progress?”

Pedroni went on to remind Snyder that when U.S. Department of Education Secretary Arne Duncan visited Detroit in 2009, he called it “ground zero.”

“We’ve only lost ground since then, relative to the state,” Pedroni said.

Snyder responded that the schools were making “good progress” and terminated the press conference.

Earlier this year, Pedroni issued a report giving emergency management in DPS a failing grade.

“(The numbers) show that Detroit’s third- through eighth-graders continue to lose ground in reading and math proficiency in most categories.”

The worst impact has been on the younger students who’ve spent most of their school years under emergency  management, according to Pedroni, referring to students in the third, fourth and fifth grades.

Pedroni also wrote in his report that Robert Bobb had come in as emergency financial manager in 2009 to reduce a $218-million operating deficit but instead increased it to $327 million. The first state takeover in 1999, when DPS had nearly a $100 million surplus, created the district’s debt that has only grown under more than a decade of state control. DPS had over 173,000 students in 1999.

Detroit Public Schools has been under emergency management since 2009.

Following the meeting, Detroit Federation of Teachers President Keith Johnson had more bad news for the city’s school system under emergency management. He told reporters that Detroit is now a K-8 district.

“We don’t have any neighborhood high schools. It is a K-8 district,” Johnson said. Students have to qualify for any DPS-operated school with grade point averages. “If a kid at Dexter and Grand Boulevard doesn’t qualify for the application schools, and that’s all the high schools now, where does he attend?”

Johnson said the union will address the lack of post K-8 education in the city.

Snyder and Roberts created the Education Achievement Authority (EAA), a separate state-run district, by taking DPS schools and students, including two high schools, Mumford and Southeastern. The governor has said the EAA is for failing schools.

Over two million Michigan voters rejected emergency management in the November 2012 election. Snyder and the state Republican legislators rammed through a new EM law, Public Act 436, in a lame-duck session in December 2012. It went into effect in March 2013.

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