Contents of this issue:
  • Ex-DPS superintendent pleads guilty, board wants answers
  • Holly schools move toward food service contracting
  • Alma schools consider competitive contracting
  • Comstock Park custodian charged in eBay scheme
  • Missed deadline equals higher union fees

DETROIT — The former superintendent of Detroit Public Schools pleaded guilty to attempting to influence a grand jury while on trial for an assortment of charges, including money laundering and bribery, according to The Detroit News.

The charges date back to William F. Coleman III's tenure as deputy superintendent and COO of the Dallas Independent School District. Coleman was accused of taking hundreds of thousands of dollars in bribes for contracts, and was also tied to a $39 million bribery and conspiracy case, The News reported.

Detroit Public Schools board member Marie Thornton wishes to use the board's power of subpoena to bring Coleman to testify regarding major budget problems stemming from his time as DPS superintendent, The News reported. Current Superintendent Connie Calloway uncovered that the district was paying millions of dollars in salaries and benefits for teachers who were not included in the budget. This helped contribute to the district's $45 million deficit.

"In order to balance our budget, we as a board for the school district need to know about the unbudgeted accounts," Thornton told The News. She also wants a copy of the independent review by The Council of the Great City Schools, which led to the discovery of the deficit, The News reported. "There are a lot of unanswered questions related to budget that we need to know before we move forth. We need to have the public have confidence that we are doing our job and being responsible for their tax dollars."

The Detroit News, "Detroit school board member wants Coleman inquiry," May 29, 2008 805290458/1020/NATION

Mackinac Center for Public Policy, "Parents Should Have More Options When Schools Commit Academic Fraud," Feb. 2, 2008

HOLLY, Mich. — Holly Public Schools is examining the possibility of contracting for its food services, according to The Flint Journal.

The district currently contracts with Chartwells for the management of its food services and is examining the possibility of having the company provide the labor, too. The move would save the district an estimated $200,000, according to The Journal.

The Flint Journal, "Holly schools expect $200K savings with privatization plan," June 2, 2008

Mackinac Center for Public Policy, "Food Service Privatization," in "Survey 2007: More Growth in School Support Service Privatization," Aug. 16, 2007

ALMA, Mich. — Alma Public Schools is considering competitively contracting for custodial services, according to the Mt. Pleasant Morning Sun.

The district will overspend its budget by $176,000 this year and an estimated $400,000 next year without cuts. The board has sought bids for custodial services and expects to receive estimates from between five and seven companies. The district is following the suit of nearby Midland and Bullock Creek, according to the Morning Sun.

"We have certainly expressed the possibility but it's all part of our budget review," Superintendent Don Pavlik told the Morning Sun. "We are looking at all different ways (of cutting costs)."

The Alma Education Support Personnel Association union has planned rallies and has also purchased a billboard in town which reads, "Don't Privatize. Do you really want a stranger cleaning Alma Public Schools? Call a school board member today," The Morning Sun reported.

Pavlik told the Morning Sun that when the district outsourced lawn mowing three years ago it also looked into doing the same with custodial services.

"When we looked at it before, (privatization) was substantially cheaper," he said.

Mt. Pleasant Morning Sun, "Alma schools may privatize custodial services," May 29, 2008

Mackinac Center for Public Policy, "A School Privatization Primer," June 26, 2007

COMSTOCK PARK, Mich. — A custodian at Comstock Park High School is facing charges for allegedly stealing items from the school and selling them on eBay, according to WOOD TV.

Ricky Wright, 43, of Sparta was arrested after he was caught on surveillance tapes, stealing a teacher's calculator and seven students' baseball gloves. Wright admitted to selling stolen goods for about two years, WOOD TV reported.

Wright was fired by the district, and his preliminary hearing was set for June 6. He faces up to 10 years in prison if convicted, according to WOOD TV.

WOOD TV, "Stolen ball glove found on eBay; school custodian arrested," May 21, 2008

WOOD TV, "Accused eBay thief faces charges," May 28, 2008

Michigan School Databases, "Contract Agreement between the Comstock Park School Board and the Comstock Park Educational Employees Association," March 3, 2008

Michigan Education Digest, "Comstock Park teacher still teaching; suspended but not fired," May 27, 2008

HILLSDALE, Mich. — An English teacher in the Reading Community Schools in Hillsdale County is unhappily paying $200 more to the Michigan Education Association and National Education Association unions than she expected to this year.

Corrie Caldwell has not been a member of either association for more than a year, electing instead to become a fee-payer, someone who works in a bargaining unit represented by the MEA but who chooses not to join the union. Caldwell said she filled out paperwork in December 2007 to renew her fee-payer status for 2007-2008, and mailed it through her school district, but the items missed the Jan. 3, 2008, postmark deadline.

Now Caldwell is paying about $620 to the MEA and $150 to the NEA in 2007-2008. Her reduced service fees would have been about $491 and $80, respectively.

"I am definitely interested in getting the word out so this doesn't happen to others," Caldwell told Michigan Education Report. "It's an expensive lesson."

Michigan Education Report, "Missed deadline costs teacher more in union fees," June 2, 2008

Mackinac Center for Public Policy, "Compulsory Union Membership Issues: Fee-Payers," in "A Collective Bargaining Primer," Feb. 28, 2007

Mackinac Center for Public Policy, "Workers' Paychecks Need Further Protection," Aug. 6, 2007

MICHIGAN EDUCATION DIGEST is a service of Michigan Education Report (, an online newspaper 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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