Contents of this issue:
  • Detroit Public Schools spends $1.3 million on travel
  • Ypsilanti schools look at competitive contracts for busing
  • Dowagiac schools consider contracting custodial services
  • DPS caterer operates without food license
  • Essexville-Hampton high school considers trimesters

DETROIT — Detroit Public Schools last year spent more than $1.3 million in travel, hotel and workshop expenses, according to the Detroit Free Press.

"We're not doing anything here that is unethical, illegal or a disservice to the taxpayers," DPS spokesman Lekan Oguntoyinbo said. "We're spending these funds judiciously."

Over the past year, the district spent $240,000 on catering, $430,000 at hotels for business meetings, and $700,000 on travel to conferences all over the country, the Free Press reported.

The district said most of the costs were paid for by local, state and federal grants. Former State Superintendent Tom Watkins referred to this as the "game that people use — 'The grant made me do it,'" the Free Press reported.

DPS math teacher Heather Miller objects to the spending.

"They're taking some pretty lavish vacations that the students, parents and teachers can't afford to take on their own," she told the Free Press.

Superintendent William F. Coleman III declined to comment, but signed a memo on Jan. 17 halting all discretionary spending by the district's central office, the Free Press reported.

Detroit Free Press, "As Detroit student did without, district spent $1.3 million on trips," Feb. 9, 2007

Michigan Education Digest, "Detroit Public Schools announces school closings," Jan. 9, 2007

Michigan Education Digest, "Detroit Public Schools enrollment drops again," Nov. 29, 2005

Mackinac Center for Public Policy, "School Budgets: A Crisis of Management, Not Finance," Feb. 11, 2005

ANN ARBOR, Mich. — The Ypsilanti Public Schools are looking to alleviate a $4.2 million deficit as well as make up $547,000 in anticipated state funding cuts. The district could save $500,000 a year by contracting for busing service, according to the Ypsilanti Courier. That savings is effectively a $123 per-student increase in funding, according to the Mackinac Center for Public Policy.

Durham School Services of Downers Grove, Ill., is looking to sign a combined contract with the Ypsilanti and Lincoln school districts, but will contract separately if needed. Currently, the company does not serve any Michigan schools but has more than 14,000 buses nationwide, The Ann Arbor News reported.

The company usually hires about 80 percent of districts' drivers and said it will employ as many Ypsilanti bus drivers as possible. Durham said it would pay as much or more than the district does now and will also offer a health package and a 401(k) plan, according to The News.

The Ann Arbor News, "Board eyes privatized busing," Feb. 4, 2007

Ypsilanti Courier, "Officials look at district's future," Feb. 8, 2007

Mackinac Center for Public Policy, "Effective funding increases from competitive contracting in selected Michigan school districts," Feb. 12, 2007

Michigan Education Digest, "Kalamazoo-area schools utilize competitive contracting," Jan. 23, 2007

Michigan Education Report, "Beyond brooms, burgers and buses," Nov. 21, 2006

DOWAGIAC, Mich. — Dowagiac Union Schools received six bids on competitive contracting for custodial services and could save between $101,566 and $242,435, according to The Dowagiac Daily News — up to a $91 per-student effective funding increase, according to the Mackinac Center for Public Policy.

This year, the district is looking at a budget deficit of about $566,000 and is still in the preliminary steps of contracting. The next step is examining contracted custodial services in other districts, The Daily News reported.

"So far, the K-12 references I've contacted, they're very satisfied," Assistant Superintendent for Business and Operations Hal Davis told The Daily News.

The Dowagiac Daily News, "Privatizing savings weighed," Feb. 7, 2007

Mackinac Center for Public Policy, "Effective funding increases from competitive contracting in selected Michigan school districts," Feb. 12, 2007

Michigan Education Digest, "Brandywine schools pleased with new janitorial service," Jan. 16, 2007

Michigan Privatization Report, "Survey 2006: School Outsourcing Continues to Grow," Dec. 21, 2006

Michigan Education Digest, "Dowagiac crunched by teacher benefits," Nov. 28, 2006

DETROIT — The Detroit Public Schools paid more than $100,000 to an unlicensed catering company, according to the Detroit Free Press.

The company, which is run out of DPS Principal Karen Doneghy's Eastpointe home, was ticketed after complaints of rats and garbage made their way to officials, according to the Free Press. The Free Press also reported that the company provided food for student field trips, parent workshops and teacher meetings. It is illegal to operate a catering service without a food license in Michigan, the Free Press said.

The company, Executive Catering, is owned by Robert Horrington II, who has a license to operate an office out of Doneghy's home, but is not certified to provide food for the public, the Free Press reported.

"We deal with thousands of vendors," district spokesman Lekan Oguntoyinbo told the Free Press. "We're not aware of all of the violations that some of these businesses might have."

Annie Carter, a member of DPS' board of education, questions the spending because the schools already have a $21 million contract with Aramark Corp., and have culinary arts students who could prepare food for workshops and receptions, according to the Free Press.

Detroit Free Press, "District caterer didn't have food license," Feb. 9, 2007

Michigan Education Digest, "DPS limits 'excessive' retreat spending," May 23, 2006

Michigan Education Digest, "DPS administrators to get raises," Jan. 10, 2006

BAY CITY, Mich. — Garber High School in the Essexville-Hampton school district is looking to switch from its two-semester block schedule to 12-week trimesters, according to The Bay City Times.

The potential switch is a result of the state's new high school graduation requirements, The Times reported.

"Given the situation that we're facing, I think (trimesters) are a viable solution," Principal Doug Trombley told The Times.

Essexville-Hampton has noted the experience of the Spring Lake school district, which has seen its MEAP scores continually increase since it instituted trimesters in 2000, The Times reported.

"We moved from good to great when we went to this schedule," Spring Lake Assistant Superintendent Mark Westerburg told The Times.

The Bay City Times, "At Garber High, school officials consider switch to trimesters," Feb. 5, 2007

Michigan Education Digest, "Grand Rapids area schools move to trimesters," Jan. 16, 2007

Michigan Education Digest, "Lapeer may switch to trimester system," Nov. 28, 2006

Michigan Education Digest, "Hamilton looking at trimesters," June 20, 2006

Michigan Education Report, "Hope in state graduation standards misplaced," Mar. 7, 2006

MICHIGAN EDUCATION DIGEST is a service of Michigan Education Report (, a quarterly newspaper with a circulation of approximately 150,000 published by the Mackinac Center for Public Policy (, a private, nonprofit, nonpartisan research and educational institute.

Contact Managing Editor Sarah Grether at

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