Now that we’ve started a new year, the new Detroit school board is officially in charge of the state’s largest district. After spending the last two months in intensive orientation workshops, the seven members of the new board will be sworn in during a ceremony at Cass Tech on Wednesday. Then it’s time to get to work. In interviews with Chalkbeat, board members said their top priorities include a national search for a permanent superintendent — and possibly going to court to prevent the state from shuttering low-performing schools.
“I’m a community developer. I spend my day job fighting for investments in and across Detroit and what I’ve learned is that the closing of a neighborhood school is incredibly destabilizing, not just for children but for the entire community… I think we can do a lot better than shuttering schools without a plan.”
— Sonya Mays, member, new Detroit school board
Read on for more about the new board, the rest of the week’s education news, plus a few headlines that you might have missed over the holiday.
New year, new board
- Detroit’s school board hopes to raise money to hire a search firm to find the best permanent superintendent.
- Other board priorities include making sure students have access to textbooks and that teachers feel appreciated.
- The Detroit News says the one member is the youngest in Detroit school board history.
- State education leaders say they want to be a resource for the board. “I’m going to have high hopes until the board proves me wrong,” said state Superintendent Brian Whiston. “We can’t allow the district to move backward.”
- The board officially took over this week from Transition Manager Steven Rhodes who leaves office with mixed reviews.
- In his final days, Rhodes issued a final statement, signing off “with a great sense of gratitude for the staff of DPSCD and for the Detroit community that supports DPSCD.”
- Rhodes reflected on his time helming district and noted several deals he made in recent weeks that could raise $12 million for the district.
- Among deals in the works is a plan to close a Detroit elementary/middle school and move students to a nearby high school.
- The U.S. Senate is scheduled to hold its first hearing next week on the Betsy DeVos nomination for education secretary. It’s one of several controversial hearings that critics say were scheduled for the same day to reduce public scrutiny.
- One of Michigan’s senators has already decided to vote no.
- DeVos has been the subject of sharp debate since her nomination. The Christian Science Monitor writes that Michigan’s schools story “offers perhaps the best preview of the free-market style education policies that could soon be getting a wider roll-out across America.”
- In dueling op/eds in the News, a Republican state lawmaker says DeVos will free local schools from burdensome federal and state mandates, while a former Democratic party and Detroit schools spokesman says DeVos is “scary on steroids.”
- A local activist recalls decades of fighting DeVos.
In other news:
- Experts say a substitute teacher shortage, related to fewer people becoming teachers, is causing turmoil in schools across the state.
- Two Hispanic girls told CNN that they experienced fear and trauma when their classmates started chanting ‘build the wall’ at a suburban middle school. One has transferred to a private school.
- Michigan earned a C-minus in a new report examining the nation’s schools.
- Gov. Rick Snyder vetoed a bill that would have allowed highway billboards on public school property.
- One advocate called on Detroit schools to beef up career and vocational training programs.
- All Michigan high school students will now learn CPR.
- Michigan schools can no longer restrain students or punish them using seclusion except in emergencies.
- New rules are designed to move civics to the front burner in schools.
- Advocates for charter schools and vouchers are planning a local celebration for national school choice week.
- A Michigan high school band could go to Washington to play the inauguration – if it can raise $36,000.
- A former Michigan teacher is going to prison for having sex with a student.