The Detroit public schools reform board ended its nearly year-long search for a permanent CEO May 11 when members voted unanimously to replace outgoing interim CEO David Adamany with Kenneth Burnley, Detroit native and current superintendent of Colorado Springs, Colo., schools.
"I think it's of great benefit for us to have a graduate of Detroit schools," board member and State Treasurer Mark Murray told The Detroit News. "[Burnley] knows the issues of education up front. But he also knows the Detroit situation."
Burnley graduated from Detroit's Mumford High School in 1960. He has led Colorado Springs schools since 1987.
Board members were impressed with Burnley's reform ideas, which focus on increasing parental involvement, encouraging the use of technology in the classroom, and tying teachers' raises to their performance.
But some parents are skeptical that Burnley can turn around the struggling Detroit district.
"His district cannot compare to what we go through here," Abby Phelps, whose 16-year-old daughter attends King High School, told the Detroit Free Press. "There's just too many issues for one man to address."
Colorado Springs is a 33,500-student district with an annual budget of $175.7 million. Detroit has 180,000 students and a $1.2-billion budget.
At press time, Detroit Deputy Mayor and school board President Freman Hendrix was negotiating a contract with Burnley, who could receive up to $250,000 per year. Outgoing CEO David Adamany earns $193,000.
Meanwhile, Adamany has begun his own reform program by assembling a team of corporate executives to help Detroit contract with private companies to cut red tape, reduce costs, and improve quality.
Most district officials have backgrounds in education, rather than business, and this lack of corporate experience has led to waste and mismanagement in the district, according to Adamany.
"Many people in the district didn't know what to do," Adamany told the Detroit Free Press. "They were not sophisticated in what was happening in the private sector."
The executives-from companies including DaimlerChrysler, Ford, and Detroit Edison-are acting "on loan" to the district, which means in most cases the companies will continue to pay their salaries.