CEO again blocked from leading 4 East Detroit schools

Nicquel Terry
The Detroit News

East Detroit Schools has obtained another temporary restraining order to block the state from appointing a CEO to oversee four of the district’s schools.

District officials say Macomb County Circuit Court Judge Joseph Toia granted the restraining order Wednesday. A court hearing is set for July 18.

“The East Detroit Board of Education both in the past and present, has unequivocally stated we are not accepting a CEO for four of our seven schools,” board president Craig Brozowski said in a statement. “We continue to have a successful partnership with the Macomb Intermediate School District that maintains local control and input from the East Detroit Public Schools community.”

In June, state school reform officer Natasha Baker announced that Gary Jensen, a former Montcalm County high school principal, would be appointed to oversee the schools and work to improve education.

The targeted schools — Bellview and Pleasantview elementaries, Kelly Middle and East Detroit High — were ranked in the lowest performing 5 percent of all Michigan schools.

A CEO would have complete authority over all operations at the schools and be charged with turning around academic performance, state officials say.

The role is similar to an emergency manager in that both are powerful figures, but an emergency manager focuses on finances while the CEO focuses on academics.

Caleb Buhs, spokesman for the Michigan Department of Technology, Management and Budget, which runs the state school reform office, said officials are reviewing the restraining order with the state Attorney General’s Office “to determine what our next appropriate steps would be.”

The decision to place a CEO in the school district was met with opposition from the school community, with officials saying the district was making progress before the state stepped in.

“We have said from the beginning that our district team, in partnership with the MISD, will continue to make positive changes that have already begun to increase achievement in the district,” Superintendent Ryan McLeod said. “The East Detroit Public schools staff and leadership are in the best position to turn around our schools.”

Jensen was initially set to start his job in East Detroit on July 11. He will be represented by outside counsel since the CEO is not considered a state official, Buhs said.

East Detroit Schools attorney George Butler took issue with the fact that the state Attorney General’s office could not represent Jensen.

“It is alarming that the state of Michigan assumes no liability for the CEO,” Butler said.

The district was also granted a temporary restraining order to halt the CEO’s appointment in May, but that expired June 13.

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Twitter: @NicquelTerry