By: Tom Greenwood and Marisa Schultz Source: DetNews
Detroit — Robert Bobb’s plans received a setback Wednesday when a judge upheld an injun ction that puts off his school closing strategy and halts his academic vision for Detroit Public Schools.
Wayne Circuit Judge Wendy Baxter set hearings starting May 7 to delineate the powers between Bobb, the district’s state-appointed emergency financial manager, and the elected school board. The two sides have tussled over control of the 85,000-student district.
"We have to figure out the limits of power which fall to the school board," Baxter said during the proceedings. "It’s clear that he (Bobb) has the power to make financial decisions … but will those decisions harm the children? Financial power cannot leap over into academics."
The school board members, emboldened that Baxter validated their academic influence, voted to restore extended day programs for more than 9,000 DPS students and reinstate the summer school program that 40,000 are expected to attend this summer. </p&g t;
Bobb canceled the extended day programs for students who have fallen behind after Baxter issued an injunction Friday that prevents him from moving forward with his academic goals and orders him to consult with the board.
Bobb is expected to attend a school board meeting April 30, said board vice president Anthony Adams.
In court Wednesday, Baxter said the hearings were needed to hear from experts about whether Bobb’s plans to close more than 40 schools, lay off teachers and cut back on selected classes would be harmful to students.
Special attorney John Clark — appearing on behalf of Michigan Attorney General Mike Cox — argued there was no need for further hearings on the case.
Baxter said the Attorney General’s Office may proceed with plans to appeal. Bobb and the school board have battled for academic control of the district since Gov. Jennifer Granholm appointed Bobb in March 2009.
Bobb has claimed that it’s impossible to separate financial management from academics, while the board members insist they have academic authority as the elected representatives of Detroit voters.
The Detroit Board of Education has alleged Bobb overstepped his authority by making academic decisions and failing to consult with the board.
In March, Bobb unveiled a $540 million plan to boost standards, offer college level courses and seek to reach graduation rates of 98 percent by 2015. The school board had passed its own academic plan during the summer, but Bobb hadn’t funded it.
"Bobb’s plans are radical at best and a failure at worst," said school board attorney Joyce Schon, in an impromptu press conference outside the court chambers. "We are not going to accept him using his authority to assault academic plans." </p& gt;
District spokesman Steven Wasko said he’s encouraged the board sees the merits of the extended day programs, but he believes the board had no authority to reinstate them Wednesday.
"You can’t separate academics from finance," Wasko said. "That’s the bottom line. Parents have removed their children from the Detroit school system because of academic failure from academic leaders."
A visibly upset Heather Miller condemned Bobb’s leadership.
"I’m a Detroit schoolteacher, and I’ve been pink slipped," Miller said. "How can you lay off 2,000 teachers and not harm the students? How can you run a school district with one-third of the teachers gone? The man has no authority in the city of Detroit.
"It’s good to see the school board finally standing up for the students."