Bobb report: Detroit schools still in crisis

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Within the next few months, the emergency financial manager of Detroit Public Schools said on Wednesday, there will be announcements about new school design, new teaching strategies, more investigations and updates about the troubled district’s finances.

“Let’s make no mistake about it. This is a school district in crisis,” Robert Bobb told a crowd of a couple hundred at a Wayne State University Alumni Affairs-organized event.

Bobb reviewed his first year at the district, describing how he and his team reviewed thousands of documents before coming and the steps they’ve taken to audit, restructure and budget for the district since he’s been here.

Many in the crowd were supportive, applauding Bobb’s calls for better parental support and higher student achievement as well as his descriptions of how he revamped financial, personnel and other systems in the district.

But others did not applaud, even as he finished his hour-long speech.

Bobb took spontaneous questions from some of the two dozen people who lined up to ask about district issues ranging from why hasn’t he better engaged alums of some high schools to efforts at collaboration between the district and local businesses, universities and cultural institutions.

When asked what’s fun about his job, Bobb described meeting with two 5-year-old students he’s tutoring, putting his weekly time with them permanently on his calendar. “I’m sticking with those kids. Those children will be academic stars,” he said.

Brought in a year ago by Gov. Jennifer Granholm, his contract has been extended by one year; he says he’ll stay through February 2011. He said he intends to leave a plan for both finances and academics that future boards of education, superintendents and other district administrators can follow.

He also said he intended to pursue legislation that would have “trigger points” if the district has budgetary issues after he leaves. “There would be a return of an EFM,” he said. —Sandra Svoboda

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