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East Detroit blocks having CEO named for 4 schools

The Detroit News

East Detroit Schools has obtained a temporary restraining order to stop the state School Reform Office from appointing a CEO to lead four of the district’s schools.

Macomb Circuit Judge Joseph Toia ruled there is a risk the school district could “suffer irreparable harm” if a CEO is appointed.

“The School Reform Office is disappointed in Judge Joseph Toia’s ruling and the potential negative impact it can have on real progress being made for the students of East Detroit Schools,” spokesman Caleb Buhs wrote in an email Monday to The Detroit News. “We will consult with the attorney general to consider the next appropriate steps.”

As part of his ruling, Toia ordered the School Reform Office to refrain from placing any school in the East Detroit district in the state School Reform District, appointing a CEO for any school in the district and exercising any authority over the district.

His ruling Friday came after East Detroit school officials argued in a complaint filed Wednesday in Macomb Circuit Court that the move to appoint a CEO could financially ruin the district and would deprive citizens of their right to vote in local school board elections.

“The loss of student enrollment, the corresponding loss of state school aid and the loss of (East Detroit) teachers, all of which have continued to worsen since the (state’s) announcement constitute irreparable harm to (the district),” East Detroit Superintendent Ryan McLeod said in a court deposition.

Toia’s order will remain in place until a hearing can take place at 10 a.m. June 13.

McLeod said in his deposition officials with the School Reform Office have indicated the district will have to pay for the CEO’s salary and other staffers out of the district’s budget. This school year the district began the year without a deficit, the first in six years. But officials said it does not have a surplus available for “unexpected expenses.”

“The Legislature has not yet approved any funding to offset the expenses but despite this the SRO has stated she intends to fund the East Detroit Group takeover out of (East Detroit) funds,” McLeod said.

Natasha Baker is the State School Reform Officer. The program is under the auspices of the Department of Technology, Management and Budget.

Funding for the School Reform Office is expected to be debated Tuesday at the School Aid Conference Committee in Lansing, said State Rep. Sarah Roberts, D-St. Clair Shores.

She said the district needs a specific academic turnaround plan, not just a new face as CEO.

“You can put in a CEO or Superman but it’s not going to work until you put in resources,” Roberts said.

In February, Gov. Rick Snyder announced the state would name a CEO for four schools in the Macomb County district after years of chronically low student achievement: Bellview Elementary, Pleasantview Elementary, Kelly Middle and East Detroit High schools.

That would leave only three schools in the district under the current superintendent: Crescentwood and Forest Park elementaries and Kellwood Center alternative high school.