East Detroit Schools fights state takeover

Posted at 6:36 PM, Jun 06, 2016
and last updated 2016-06-06 18:36:28-04

East Detroit Schools has seen financial and academic progress. So why is the state looking to take over the district’s schools? That is the question the district says it hopes is answered in court.

The district is preparing to fight a takeover during a hearing next Monday. This comes after a judge last month issued a temporary restraining order forcing the state to halt plans to appoint a CEO to lead four of the district’s seven schools.

7 Action News sat down with East Detroit Superintendent Ryan McLeod, who has lead the district for 11 months. He says district leaders have implemented discipline and academic interventions that have helped students succeed. The graduation rate is now 84%, about the same as the state average. The school district that in 2009 had an $8.2 million deficit, this year ended the school with a surplus. Standardized tests show students are improving.

“It felt like we were making a comeback,”  said McLeod.

A complaint filed in court says the School Reform Office is supposed to share a school rankings list every year, but hasn’t for the past two years. The district’s leaders question how they would be ranked if new data were shared. McLeod says he isn’t sure why the School Reform Office has called for a takeover.

McLeod say the state may be only looking at whether kids are at grade level.  He says that is not a good way to assess this district.  The East Detroit School District has a lot of students who are transient.  They only recently moved to Eastpointe and started going to the school district. Only 27 kids in this years graduating class of about 270  went to the school district for their entire K-12 education. Due to this, the state should be looking at whether or not they are improving. 

“We can’t account for what kind of education they had before they came here,” said Laura Byrne, a multi-tiered system support coordinator in the district, with the responsibility of helping get services to struggling kids.

The district gave kids  the NWEA standardized test.  it is a test that looks not only at grade level, but progress. Many kids improved by more than one grade level during the course of one school year.

“Compared to the national average of students taking that test, our students are scoring 98 percent better,” said Byrne.

If you are wondering what a state-appointed school CEO does, so are the leaders of East Detroit Schools.  No school district has ever had one.

“They are supposed to focus on academics, but they also have control over money and employees,” said McLeod. “So it is hard not to see this as this is just an emergency manager by another name."

7 Action News reached out to the Governor's office and School Reform Office.

We received a statement saying, "The School Reform Office is disappointed in Judge Joseph Toia's ruling and the potential negative impact it can have on real progress being made for the students of East Detroit Schools. We are in consultation with the Attorney General to consider the next appropriate steps. It is our policy not to publicly comment on the specifics of pending litigation."