By Diane Bukowski
PART I – Board meeting Oct. 14
DETROIT – At the Detroit Board of Education’s monthly meeting Oct. 14, Robert Bobb, state-appointed czar of the Detroit Public Schools, announced his Plan A-Plan B for the district’s post-Bobb era next year, which proposes to complete the destruction of the district begun in 1999 by state government. He said he will present it to the state Nov. 15, while he still has exclusive control of the district.
(See analysis of Bobb’s plan in PART TWO. Also see VOD story, “DPS Caught in Devil’s Triangle,” (9/13). That story explained that the banks take 90 percent of every DPS per-pupil school aid dollar, that there will soon be more charter schools than public schools in Detroit, and that Detroit students are treated as 3/5 of person under state funding formulas, a throwback to slavery times. All of this has been ignored by the board, city and state leadership.)
During the meeting, Board president Anthony Adams and other board leaders evidently had mended fences with Bobb since the community’s defeat of a proposed mayoral takeover of DPS, during which board leaders were temporarily viewed as heroes.
This time, however, Bobb and most of the board appeared ready and raring to finish off DPS on their own together, Katrina-style.
Bobb and Adams paid little attention to parent Rico Villareal’s 10-minute pre-scheduled presentation at the beginning of the meeting. Villareal denounced the district’s mistreatment of bilingual children and teachers, among other matters.
“Bilingual child are being left behind,” Villareal said. “But we are fighting not only for them, but for all the children that have been left behind in DPS. Nothing has changed. At the beginning of the year, my child’s school was short 15 teachers, and no books had been delivered. There are no bilingual teachers; my child, who is bilingual, has to sit in class and translate for another child who understands no English. There was a Parent Resource Center at Southwestern High School, now it’s gone.
“Every morning at Clippert Elementary, there are 600 kids standing outside in line waiting to go through the metal detectors because there is only one guard. I go to work at 8 a.m. I drop my child off there at 7:40 a.m. but he has been marked tardy 10 times because it takes him so long to get into the school. Where has all the money gone?”
The next speaker was Wayne County Prosecutor Kym Worthy.
Worthy was loudly booed by the audience and berated by board member Elena Herrada when she revealed that she has appointed prosecutors to actually take up shop in 17 Wayne County schools, 10 of them in DPS.
Worthy then announced her “Jail parents” initiative, which she is now shopping around to the City Council and the state legislature.
“I want to hold the parents responsible through ordinance for coming to parent-teacher conferences at least once a year,” Worthy declared. “We will hold the conferences morning, noon and evenings to accommodate their work schedules.”
If parents don’t comply, said Worthy they will be subject to jail time. Detroit is the poorest city in the country, with families devastated by foreclosures, lay-offs, social service cutbacks, high rates of incarceration, and CIA-sponsored drug trafficking. Now Worthy is targeting parents instead of the banks, mortgage companies and government at all levels which have caused this situation.
Worthy also issued dire threats to students about truancy, despite the fact that there are few schools left for them to attend, with severe overcrowding and staff shortages in the ones that remain.
Worthy has testified in favor of juvenile life without parole laws to the State House judiciary committee. At one session, she even had her minions play the infamous video of three Detroit teenagers beating a Coney Island patron to death several years ago, for the edification of committee members, to show just what Detroit teenagers are like.
The United Nations condemns the practice of sending juveniles to die in prison for whatever reason. The U.S., which refused to sign the Geneva Convention Declaration on the Rights of the Child, is one of only two countries in the world that allows this practice. Currently, over 300 individuals languish in Michigan’s prisons, sent there until they die for crimes allegedly committed when they were 14, 15, 16 or 17.
At that point, most of the audience decided it was fed up.
Many rose to their feet, chanting, “Bobb must go” repeatedly, forcing the board to beat a hasty retreat backstage for a time. Students, teachers and parents meanwhile held their own rally against the destruction of the city’s public school district.
“These are both plans to make Detroit into another New Orleans,” said Joyce Schon, who led the rally. “They are plans to re-segregate our schools to put poor and desperate people in an inferior system.”
After the board returned, Adams berated the angry audience. He announced, “Before I call this meeting back to order, I want to remind the audience that this is all about getting information on how to better understand how to educate our children. This level of disrespect will not be tolerated. We’ve worked too hard to restore the credibility of the board.” He also said that board meetings are not “public forums.”
Adams then proceeded to “educate” the audience with presentations from two former leaders of the first state-appointed reform board, Bill Brooks and Glenda Price.
Brooks, a former top GM executive (was he laid-off like most of GM’s workers despite the company’s taxpayer bailout?) is now CEO of the private United American Health Care Corporation. He heads the leadership committee of Adams’ appointed “transition team.” Price, head of the private Catholic Marygrove College, heads the academic committee.
Brooks, with his administrative assistant Sherry Gay-Dagnogo, (see VOD Devil’s Triangle story for details on her) opined chiefly about finding a DPS superintendent that is well-educated regarding both academics and financial matters. Price supported President Barack Obama’s “Race to the Top” initiative, which hoodwinked Michigan into establishing numerous anti-union and pro-charter laws, before it refused to give the state any money.
Bobb has yet to set a date for that meeting. One thing wrong—any board member or member of the public can find all they need to know about DPS finances on DPS’ own website—see Sept. VOD story, Bank of Mellon New York controls DPS. That story pointed to reports published on the DPS website detailing the 90 percent of per-pupil state funding that will be set aside for the banks come the end of this school year.
During board discussion of his report, Bobb announced that he had appointed the DPS Inspector General, Auditor General and the Chief Financial Officer for terms of three years, so they will continue on beyond his departure in March, 2011.
Board members Annie Carter and Lamar Lemmons III expressed outrage. Carter demanded a list of all the consultants that Bobb has hired during his tenure, many of them friends of his from his previous jobs, who receive high salaries.”
“How long are we going to be burdened by these officials and consultants?” Lemmons III asked. “The Board must be able to terminate their contracts. In 1999, this district had a $99 million surplus before the first state takeover, but now we have a $323 million deficit resulting from both de facto dictatorships. Come 3/11, I want Freedom Day to be here. I don’t want to be tied down to decisions we did not agree to, with finances that are not transparent. Our schools and classrooms are now severely overcrowded—how are we going to remedy this situation?”
However, Lemmons forgot that the board WILL be tied down to Plan A or Plan B, which the state will approve by the end of the year. The board or DPS unions have yet to propose mobilizing DPS children, parents and workers to prevent the district’s final destruction by the banks and Wall Street, using Governor Jennifer Granholm and Bobb as their puppets. (See Sept. VOD story, Chicago Parents School Sit-in.)
(PART TWO on Plan A/Plan B coming soon)