Wednesday, March 10, 2010

The Sad State of Detroit Public Schools

This is my 50th blog post and I wanted it to be about something a little more serious than the usual Movie/Tech posts. I've been thinking about this editorial I read last week about the President of the Detroit Public Schools (DPS) and I decided this would be a great place to share my thoughts. In an article in the Detroit News, Laura Berman shines a light on a very interesting aspect of DPS. It turns out that Otis Mathis, the President of DPS, cannot form a coherent written sentence. Click here to read the full article, but here is a snippet of an actual email that Mathis sent out to supporters. This is not corrected for spelling or grammar errors. This is exactly as it was mailed out.

“If you saw Sunday's Free Press that shown Robert Bobb the emergency financial manager for Detroit Public Schools, move Mark Twain to Boynton which have three times the number seats then students and was one of the reason's he gave for closing school to many empty seats.”

This is the man that was elected to run the failing school system. He was selected in a 10-1 vote to be named President of the School Board. Otis admits that he does not have a strong command of the English Language when it comes to writing, but he is a strong leader. He graduated from Detroit’s Southwestern High School with a .98 or a 1.8 depending on who you ask. After serving time in the Navy, he went to Wayne State University. For the next 15 years he failed the English Proficiency Exam. He actually sued the school to remove it in the early 90’s. In 2007 Wayne State dropped the exam and he filed for a diploma and finally graduated. These facts are not contested by Otis. These are not rumors. Here is another snippet of an email Otis sent. Again, no corrections have been made.

“Do DPS control the Foundation or outside group? If an outside group control the foundation, then what is DPS Board row with selection of is director? Our we mixing DPS and None DPS row's, and who is the watch dog?”

Before I rail on DPS and how they have failed the children of Detroit, I will give full disclosure. I went to Private Catholic School from Kindergarten until my Junior year of College. I finished my Undergrad work at Wayne State University and passed the English Proficiency Exam on my first try. I currently live and teach in the Suburbs of Detroit. I did spend the first 10 years of my life living in Detroit and lived there when I finished up my teaching degree. I’m a huge supporter of Detroit and think it can become great again. Now, on to my thoughts.

You have to be kidding me Detroit. Yes, I’m talking to the city as a whole. What other city would tolerate a person running their School Board that cannot put two sentences together in the written form. You need to expect better things from your leaders if students are supposed to follow. No wonder the system is in such a mess. How dare you sue Robert Bobb (The Emergency Finial Manager appointed by Gov. Granholm) because he is not qualified to make educational decisions for the School District. Are you serious? You placed Otis in charge over Tyrone Winfrey, a University of Michigan academic officer. Do you seriously wonder why parents are fleeing your district?

I would do anything at this point to get my kids out of there if I found out the School Board President communicated like this. I do not believe that he is an example of how a special education student can pull themselves up a be a success. It shows the glaring failures of an educational system that allowed a student with that poor of a track record graduate high school on time. Not only that, what does his writing ability say about Wayne State University. He went to school before computers were all over the place. Are you telling me that he never had to write a paper for any of his classes? Sign me up for that program then. Maybe that is why he was a counselor for Wayne State. That’s right, according to the article, he was a counselor there. He couldn’t even pass a simple test, how can he be hired as a counselor?

As teachers, we are expected to go above and beyond to reach each and every student that walks into our classroom. Shouldn’t we all expect more from the leaders at the top? As a student, are you going to listen to the School Board President tell you about the importance of going to class when you know he skipped HS regularly and was still elected to an important position? Parents, is this the guy you want driving the car as he attempts to turn around the lowest performing big city in the country? I feel sad for those students who are stuck in DPS. It’s not their fault their school system is terrible. I hope Robert Bobb keeps working to get rid of the scams and bad people to create a functioning educational system again. It’s not an easy job, but it might be easier if he had the right leaders in place.

From The Detroit News:


  1. Sounds like this guy 'overcame' his struggles by hiding them - not really a victory if you ask me. I hope that's not what he advocates for the students of Detroit. That being said, I'm all for second chances. If he really wants to be a role model for the youth, he should go back to school and learn to read and write.

  2. I am with you, are you kidding us Detroit? I applaud those parents who are taking a stand and taking their kids out of the district. But, I also know that there are families for who that isn't an option. We (the collective we) need to get loud about what we expect in our school, political leadership. And we can't settle for second best because our children aren't directly affected.


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