Wins and losses in Detroit

DETROIT — In assorted power struggles, the Detroit school board, teachers union president and emergency financial manager counted various wins and losses this week and last.

A Wayne County judge ruled that Robert Bobb, the Detroit Public Schools emergency financial manager, overstepped his authority by taking academic control of the district in addition to financial control, the Detroit Free Press reported. Bobb said he will challenge the ruling as being too vague, while supporters on both sides told the Free Press they fear the ultimate result could be further academic decline.

Last week, Bobb issued an immediate hiring and spending freeze to address what he called a “serious financial crisis,” just as he is trying to convince the Michigan Legislature to give DPS and other deficit-laden districts additional money in exchange for certain reform measures, according to the Detroit News.

Detroit Federation of Teachers President Keith Johnson said he agreed with the judge’s ruling returning academic control to the school board, though he also said he agreed with some of Bobb’s academic reforms, the Free Press reported. Johnson faces his own struggles this month and next, as he did not earn enough votes to retain the union presidency in voting on Saturday, according to a separate Free Press report.

Johnson and challenger Steve Conn will face off in an election in January to decide the union presidency for the next two years, the Free Press reported.

The court ruling threatens the future of the Excellent Schools Detroit initiative, which calls for closing low-performing DPS or charter schools and replacing them with high-performers, Doug Ross, CEO of University Preparatory Academy, told the Free Press.

Detroit Free Press, “Incumbent challenger in runoff for Detroit Federation of Teachers presidency,” Dec. 5, 2010

The Detroit News, “Bobb freezes Detroit Schools’ hiring, spending,” Dec. 7, 2010

Detroit Free Press, “Judge:  Bobb’s efforts to fix DPS classrooms aren’t his job,” Dec. 7, 2010

Michigan Education Report, “No free lunch for failing schools,” Dec. 3, 2010