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East Detroit Schools rallies with local leaders against state takeover

Posted: 5:47 PM, Jun 27, 2016
Updated: 2016-06-27 18:11:09-04

There is a battle over who should control schools in Eastpointe. The state wants to take over several schools in the city’s East Detroit School District.

Teachers, students, and local leaders gathered at a rally on Monday with the message that putting a CEO in charge of academics at these schools won’t help kids.

This comes after the State Reform Office announced it planned to appoint long time educator and former principal of the year Gary Jensen to oversee Bellview and Pleasantview Elementary, Kelly Middle and East Detroit High schools. The reason? Academic Performance.

Macomb County Executive Mark Hackel says he believes the state is trying to show that it will take over schools in the suburbs, as it has been criticized for only taking over inner city schools. He says the Macomb County ISD and the district have implemented a plan and it is working.

“We think we can resolve this. We have a plan moving forward. Why not let them move forward with that plan?” asked Hackel.

East Detroit School District leaders say what is happening in the district is connected to the state allowing school of choice. If you look at the class of 2011, there were 94 students. The district then decided that it needed to take part in school of choice in order to maintain enrollment. By 2013 there were 240 kids in the graduating class.  Many students are transferring into the district from failing districts looking for a better opportunity. 

“Our transciency is massive,” said Lincoln Stocks, a high school history teacher.

"One third. Every year,” said Superintendent Ryan McLeod when asked what percentage of the district’s students have been in the district for a year or less. He says the district is being punished because they aren’t at grade level due to the failures of their previous school.

"It is a very difficult situation when you have someone come into the high school that isn’t reading at a 2nd or 3rd grade level. That isn’t the student's fault. Some other system failed them. However, now they are our concern,” said Craig Brozowski, School Board President.

School leaders say they wanted to hold themselves accountable, but knew looking at whether kids were at grade level or meeting proficiency standards wasn’t necessarily reasonable in a short period of time with kids far behind. They turned to a national test that measures progress or growth. It found on average kids are improving by 1.75 grade levels each school year.

“We really have to focus on where they are when they start and end when they are with us,” said Stocks.

The state doesn’t necessarily agree.

“Growth is great, except when kids don’t have basic skills,” said Natasha Baker, School Reform Officer.

Baker says the four schools that will be taken over have been in the lowest performing 5% of all Michigan schools.

“It is our responsibility to give kids what they need in life,” said Baker.  “I don’t want to litigate this publicly and am not going to.”

The district has sued the state, so whether a CEO is put in or remains in control of failing schools could be decided in court.