Swishing the dirt around

Detroit's schools are in a pickle and state-appointed emergency financial manager Robert Bobb is ready to extricate them from the brine. Two weeks ago, he announced that the district would hire four outside firms to take over seventeen failing high schools. Now, 2,600 teachers and staff at 41 more failing schools will have to reapply for their positions. He's using the NCLB clause stating that (Title I) schools that have been failing for five or more years must face sweeping changes. At first glance, this move seems promising; principals will be able to pick their own staff and low-performing teachers and administrators will face termination. And kudos to Governor Jennifer Granholm for appointing a tough-hitting manager who's not afraid to upset the status quo. But we're doubtful the shake-up will prove itself worth the commotion. See, the newly vacated positions can only be filled by current district employees. There will be no new hires. And teachers who are not rehired will be asked to attend a "Reconstituted Schools Selection Fair" in early August; in fact, a District letter to teachers in the 41 specifically says they "have not been noticed for lay-off." What's this all mean? That this attempt to clean house is just churning the water. We can only hope that these jobless-but-not-fired teachers don't wind up twiddling their thumbs on full pay in a Detroit version of New York City's "rubber rooms." Bobb, take note: Agitating the system is not the same as fixing it.

"DPS vacates 2,600 jobs at 41 schools," by Marisa Schultz, The Detroit News, July 22, 2009

"No Child act allows DPS school changes," by Marisa Schultz and Santiago Esparza, The Detroit News, July 23, 2009

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