Am I a geek or a nerd?

Detroit and Robert Bobb
March 16, 2010, 7:56 am
Filed under: Uncategorized

For those not in the know, Robert Bobb is the emergency financial manager of DPS, appointed by Governor Granholm to “fix it”.  On the surface one would question his success given the rising district deficits, but his efforts to clean up the books and made the financial situation transparent have exposed how poorly managed DPS was before; the deficits were under reported in the past.  The amount of fraud and out right theft going on in DPS was tremendous. Add in the declining enrollment (read less money coming in) and the bloated of state of affairs at DPS was even more outrageous. Just to give you sense of the Big D’s numbers: we have a housing stock for about 1.5 million people but less than 900,000 residents; one year ago DPS enrolled 95,000 but current school enrollment is 86,000 and it is predicted to be 56,000 within 5 years; graduation rate is 30-58% (depends on source and how you count!); only 3% of students were proficient on the 4th grade NAEP and 69% were below basic; only 4% were proficient at 8th grade and 77% were below basic; DPS averages 84% attendance rates while the rest of Michigan is at 94%.

So, we have this financial manager who is weeding out the double paychecks, closing buildings, laying off teachers, he even managed to get a contract pass that has teachers LOAN DPS MONEY! The big debate has been about academic control; he wants it and the school board doesn’t want him to have it.

I’m not a big fan of this school board, the remind of the city council; priority one is remaining in power.  The president of the board is an engaging man who most people like. But he’s not the sharpest knife in the drawer. Much has been made of his butchering of the language and his complete inability to write a complete, let alone a coherent, sentence. While likable is a quality I look for in friends, its not the top of my list when it comes to positions of power. In fact, I’d prefer to feel a little stupid after talking to the people in charge, I want to know that they are smarter than me, know more than me, and are more creative than me. I want to know that they can learn things quickly, make decisions based on evidence, and generally are thoughtful (so now you also know why I could not a million years vote for Palin…fun? yes, smarty pants? no).

So here we are today with Bobb having announced his plan to turn around DPS and the Board threatening to go to court to stop it. See, Michigan law says that you have to go through a board of ed to make the kind of changes Bobb talked about. But, Michigan law also says that in financial emergencies the appointed managers have a sweeping authority to make changes. 

As for his plan? Wow, ambitious is an understatement. He wants 98% graduation rate in 5 years (glad that he sees 100% as unrealistic, unlike NCLB proficiencies…), 100% of graduates applying to colleges, what can best be described as lots more magnet schools, a  new student tracking system, quarterly achievement testing, a parent academy, a k-14 system…

Part of me thinks that this will all happen when the Lions win the Super Bowl.  Part of me applauds his tremendous ambition. All of me thinks the push back from the board and the union will prevent large-scale, sweeping change. Lets go, let’s try it. The same old same old hasn’t done anything to change the broken system that is DPS.

On a completely different note, I had a great run this morning, an hour with 4×6 minutes at tempo pace with 2 minutes easy in between. The last two weeks have been big numbers and hard work, and everyday I think I ‘today is the day I crash and burn’ but it’s not here yet! Lonestar 70.3 better look out–I’m going to beat you senseless next month!


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