Leaders say EAA will persevere despite uncertainty
The Education Achievement Authority will continue its work in spite of the possibility that the turnaround school district could be disbanded as part of efforts to overhaul education in Detroit, officials said Tuesday during a board of directors meeting.
“We are very committed to our students, and for as long as the EAA is in existence, we are going to continue to do our work to the best of our abilities,” said Joyce Hayes Giles, chairwoman of both the district’s board of directors and its executive committee. “We owe that to the students and the family and the staff of the EAA.”
Chancellor Veronica Conforme added that she knows there is a lot of discussion and debate around the future of education in Detroit.
“We think that is a healthy discussion and we are active participants in it,” Conforme said. “What we have to do every day is work to ensure that each of our students are getting a high-quality education.”
Hayes Giles and Conforme made the statements a day after Gov. Rick Snyder said for the first time he would be “open” to ending the controversial recovery district, which he formed in 2011 to turn around the state’s lowest performing schools.
Lawmakers, especially Democrats, have been critical of the school reform district in the wake of declining enrollment and the indictment earlier this month of former EAA principal Kenyetta Wilbourn-Snapp on charges of accepting kickbacks from a vendor to whom she steered a contract.
Additionally, the EAA has come under fire from teacher unions and faculty, students and alumni at Eastern Michigan University, which the governor tapped to be part of an interlocal agreement with Detroit Public Schools that allows the EAA to operate. The recovery district has 12 direct-run and three charter schools, all former DPS schools.
Snyder proposed a $715 million plan months ago to create a new, debt-free Detroit school district and create a commission to oversee the opening and closing of city schools, including charters. The plan may be introduced in the Senate this week.
The EAA has been plagued by controversy, including the FBI corruption investigation of current and former district officials.
The district also faced scrutiny after The Detroit News reported in May 2014 that nearly $240,000 in travel, gas and IKEA furniture was charged on two credit cards of former EAA Chancellor John Covington in less than two years. He resigned soon after, departing with $74,000 in severance.
Hayes Giles acknowledged that it seems like the turnaround school district has been in the news almost every week lately, but she said the board would continue to support any FBI investigations.
“Anyone who has done anything fraudulently, using funds that should go to the education of our students, I am fully supportive of taking all of the necessary actions to make sure we don’t have people working with us in the EAA who would commit such heinous crimes,” Hayes Giles said. “Any time you take money that would otherwise go to educating our students, it’s unconscionable.”