DETROIT -- Detroit Public Schools' newly appointed emergency financial manager said Monday he plans to reach out to and work with as many people as possible to understand the beleaguered district's financial straits.
But Robert C. Bobb, a financial consultant and former city manager from Kalamazoo, also said he won't be deterred from making tough decisions.
Gov. Jennifer Granholm on Monday announced the appointment of Bobb to serve in the spot for a one-year term at a salary of $260,000. Bobb will begin his new position in mid-February, only the second time in Michigan's history a school district's finances are being taken over.
"Robert has the ability to get the Detroit Public Schools' fiscal house in order so the district can devote its attention to ensuring that every student receives a quality education," Granholm said.
As the emergency manager, Bobb will control the district's financial decisions, including balancing the budget and spending. He can also hire and fire staff and negotiate contracts.
In an exclusive interview with The Detroit News, he said he plans immediately to assess past reports about the school system's structure and will soon begin examining contracts to determine whether the district is getting the best value.
While the one-year term can be renewed, Bobb said he plans to do the job for a year and leave with systems in place to correct the district's financial problems.
"At end of the year, we'd like to leave a five-year fiscal road map," he said before a conference call with media.
Bobb, a Louisiana native, said he took the job, in part, because he wants to ensure that taxpayers' hard-earned money "is being spent appropriately and, at end of the day, being sent to the classroom."
Bobb, the owner, president and CEO of LAPA, LLC, a private/public sector consulting firm, has served as city administrator and deputy mayor for Washington, D.C., and as the District of Columbia's homeland security adviser. He also served as the city manager of Oakland, Calif.; Richmond, Va.; and Kalamazoo, according to his biography.
Liz Boyd, Granholm's spokeswoman, said the governor chose Bobb for his "tremendous" leadership skills and passion about schools.
The appointment came as a result of State Superintendent of Public Instruction Mike Flanagan last year declaring that the Detroit Public Schools were in a financial emergency.
While most members of the Detroit school board have opposed a financial manager, some now say they are ready to work with Bobb.
"My position was that we were getting ourselves together and didn't need a financial manager," said board member Tyrone Winfrey. "Now that (the governor has) made her decision, I look forward to working cooperatively with Mr. Bobb to stabilize the district's finances and generate new revenue."