School & District Management

Snyder: Detroit Public Schools a ‘Failing Format,’ Needs Big Overhaul

By Chris Christoff, Detroit Free Press (MCT) — June 02, 2011 2 min read
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Detroit Public Schools might be better off as “a system of schools” rather than a single, large entity run by top-down management, Gov. Rick Snyder said today.

Snyder, who recently appointed former auto executive Roy Roberts as the DPS emergency manager, said the district needs radical overhaul, though he said it’s up to Roberts to enact reforms they discuss.

“The nature of the district need to change,” Snyder said. “Structurally it’s a failing format.”

Snyder spoke to the Free Press at the governor’s summer residence during the Detroit Regional Chamber’s annual policy conference.

He said under a new format, Detroit schools would not necessarily be converted to charter schools, but rather be managed like charter schools with more autonomy. He said the school board could then focus on measuring academic results instead of dictating curriculum and school-by-school management.

He added, “You need to empower the schools more rather than having a command and control structure of the district. How do you give the administrator in that school and the teachers a team? You make it more entrepreneurial and innovative.

“It’s like they’re a business unit and they’re there to help their kids grow. Give them the resources to succeed, and then, how do you hold them accountable.”

Snyder also said he’s focusing on the City of Detroit’s deficit reduction plan as the key to the city’s long term solvency, and shepherding legislation to restore the city’s ability to levy an income tax and a tax on gas and electric bills.

He said the city has a history of drafting financial recovery plans, and then ignoring them.

“That’s not our operating model,” he said, adding that his administration will play a behind-the-scenes role with Mayor Dave Bing in aiding the city, which is in a downward spiral of population loss and financial difficulties.

On business matters, Snyder said he wants to do more to dispel what he called a perception around the U.S. that Michigan is hampered by labor unions.

He said proposed right-to-work legislation—anathema to unions—is “not on my agenda. I think there are more important issues that need to be addressed in our state and are higher priorities.”

Asked if he’d veto a right to work bill, he replied, “I don’t deal with hypotheticals. Nice try.”

Asked about the resignation of Ohio State football head coach Jim Tressel, Snyder, an University of Michigan graduate and a resident of the Ann Arbor area, answered wryly “It’s good to see continual improvement at other education institutions.

“I’m looking forward to a good fall.”

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Copyright (c) 2011, Detroit Free Press. Distributed by McClatchy-Tribune Information Services.

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