State official: Detroit district to close schools

Holly Fournier, and Michael Gerstein

Detroit school officials plan to voluntarily shutter some of the 24 city schools targeted for closure by the state in January, according to the Michigan Department of Education.

State Superintendent Brian Whiston made the comment Wednesday at a State Board of Education meeting, said William DiSessa, spokesman for the Michigan Department of Education.

“Superintendent Whiston doesn’t know which schools, how many schools or when they may close, but said yesterday that they are among the 38 schools threatened for closure by the State Reform Office earlier this year,” DiSessa said in a statement Thursday.

He added that “the decision to close any schools is DPSCD’s to make” and referred further questions to the Detroit school district. Officials there were not immediately available for comment Thursday morning.

The two dozen city schools were included in a list of 38 from 10 districts targeted by the state in January for closure. All the schools have performed in the bottom 5 percent of the state for at least three consecutive years, according to the education department.

Detroit Federation of Teachers President Ivy Bailey confirmed Thursday that some schools are expected to be closed.

“I’m not sure about which ones or how many,” Bailey said. “I don’t think final decisions have been made, but probably some of the schools within a school.”

Cody and Osborn high schools are each home to a cluster of three specialized academies, also known as schools within a school.

The Detroit Institute of Technology at Cody is among the 24 schools previously targeted by the state, as well as all three Osborn schools — the Academy of Mathematics, the College Preparatory Academy and the Evergreen Academy of Design and Alternative Energy.

Detroit looked to avoid forced closures by entering last month into partnership talks with the state superintendent’s office.

The plan involved Eastern Michigan University, the University of Michigan, Michigan State University and Wayne State University, according to the Michigan Department of Education.

The four institutions would help set “high but attainable” goals at the 24 Detroit schools, improve academic achievement and decrease chronic absenteeism and teacher vacancies.

Goals would be evaluated after 18 months and again in 36 months, state officials said.

The 14th District Democrats Political Action Committee is scheduled to hold a 6 p.m. Thursday town hall meeting at Chosen Generations Community Center for those worried about schools closures.

David Hecker, president of the American Federation of Teachers Michigan, said he is not aware of which schools might be closing or how many. But he said what happens to the teachers of the closing schools would be subject to the collective bargaining agreement with the Detroit Federation of Teachers.

“If any schools close, it would absolutely be a labor issue that would be governed by the collective bargaining agreement as to how that will work ... (and) where they will go,” Hecker said. “We very strongly are opposed to any school closing for performance reasons.”