New board takes reins at Detroit schools
Detroit— A new era officially began Wednesday for the Detroit Public Schools Community District.
Seven new school board members took an oath to serve the state’s largest school district’s children before an auditorium of parents, students, faculty and community members.
It is the first elected body in seven years to oversee academic affairs for the 45,150-student district. The community fought hard to restore local control after being under emergency management since 2009. The reinvented district, which struggled with finances and student performance for years, received a $617 million in state aid that wiped out $467 million of the district’s debt and gave $150 million in startup money for the renamed district.
“I just think this is an incredible day in the city of Detroit and everyone should be celebrating,” interim Superintendent Alycia Meriweather said.
Meriweather described the new school board as “extremely intelligent, committed, passionate, compassionate, creative.”
The new board members include a retired hospital CEO, a former Wall Street investor, a former superintendent and the community relations director for UAW Ford, among others. They all have strong ties to the city, and most are graduates of the school district.
The board members — Iris Taylor, Angelique Peterson-Mayberry, LaMar Lemmons, Georgia Lemmons, Misha Stallworth, Sonya Mays and Deborah Hunter-Harvill — say they spent 50 hours preparing for their roles since the election.
One of the board’s first orders of business will be to select a new superintendent. Meriweather said Wednesday night that she wants the job.
The district will use a search firm to find a schools chief. Stallworth said the board also has a subcommittee working on the search.
“I feel good, I’m excited about the work,” said Stallworth, who was appointed board secretary.
Taylor, who was appointed board president, said the board needs to build trust with the community.
“Our job is to continually demonstrate that we are worth trusting and that we are accountable, we’re transparent, we have integrity, we are responsible and that we are committed to the goals to facilitate excellence,” Taylor said.
The board is working with transition teams to assess the state of the district and determine what its priorities will be, Taylor said.
Board members also will decide what changes should be made to the district to boost enrollment, she said.
This group replaces an 11-member board appointed by the state during oversight by emergency managers.
The seven new members were chosen by voters in November from a field of 63 candidates. Only one of them, Lemmons, is an incumbent.
District finances, however, will still be watched by the state through a Financial Review Commission.