Crowd Lambastes Detroit School Closure Plan (MI)
April 13, 2011
Detroit—During a contentious meeting interrupted by chants and catcalls Tuesday, students, parents and teachers lambasted a plan to close 14 Detroit schools and convert 45 others to charter schools.
The irate crowd of 300 also objected to the meeting itself, including a one-minute limit on speakers and the announcement that school officials planned only to listen to audience comments and not respond to them.
But their most venomous wrath was directed at Emergency Manager Robert Bobb, the plan architect who mostly listened to the criticism in silence during the meeting at Kettering High School.
“I have never seen anything so evil as this plan by that man,” teacher Steve Conn said about Bobb.
“Let’s unite against that evil man.”
Others called Bobb a coward and dictator.
The Renaissance 2012 plan will tighten the shrinking district by closing eight schools in the next two years and turning 45 into charters. If charter operators do not come forward for 18 of the 45 schools by June, the buildings will be closed.
The audience even turned against school board President Anthony Adams, who had garnered support as he fought changes by Bobb. Adams said the school system wouldn’t be i n its current predicament if past school boards had made tough budget-cutting decisions.
But the crowd drowned him out. “Sit down,” an audience member yelled and was joined by a dozen others.
Tristan Taylor, 27, a former student, said opponents needed to organize against the plan.
“We should be as mad as hell,” he exhorted the crowd. “These schools mean the world to us.”
The hourlong meeting threatened to dissolve in confusion several times as speakers ignored the one-minute limit or didn’t wait to be called by the moderator.
School board members had their own disagreements.
Despite board member Juvette Hawkins’ original announcement that school officials were there only to listen, several board members proceeded to make speeches.
When the meeting was suddenly adjourned by Adams, fellow board member LaMar Lemmons told him he should listen to many audience members who still wanted to speak.
“This meeting is over,” Adams said in response.
As Bobb quickly left the auditorium, Conn and several other members of the crowd chanted: “Hey, ho, hey, ho, Bobb has got to go.”