Judge extends restraining order in East Detroit schools
A Macomb County judge extended a restraining order that bars appointment of a CEO for four East Detroit Public Schools but agreed to let the state’s choice for the job enter the buildings to meet staff with approval from the superintendent.
Judge Joseph Toia’s order bars Gary Jensen from taking academic control of the schools until at least July 28, when Toia scheduled another hearing for 10 a.m. in Macomb County Circuit Court.
Earlier this month, the district obtained a second temporary restraining order that temporarily blocked the state from appointing the CEO for four of the district’s seven schools.
There was disagreement between George Butler of Dickinson Wright, representing the school district, and Jonathan Myers, who said he was Jensen’s private lawyer, on whether the court was the proper jurisdiction in which to make a determination.
Jensen is represented by outside counsel since the CEO is not considered a state official, according to Caleb Buhs, spokesman for the Michigan Department of Technology, Management and Budget, which runs the state school reform office.
“This is the proper forum for us to be here,” said Butler. “He wants to take certain unilateral actions instead of working with the school board and others in the district.”
“He wants to work with the staff and teachers, and wants to get in there yesterday so he can start making a difference,” he said.
Toia originally granted the restraining order July 6.
In June, state school reform officer Natasha Baker announced that Jensen, a former Montcalm County high school principal, would be appointed to oversee the schools and work to improve education.
The affected schools would be Bellview and Pleasantview elementaries, Kelly Middle and East Detroit High, all of which are in the lowest performing 5 percent of schools in Michigan.
State officials say a CEO would have complete authority over all operations at the schools and must improve academic performance.
The difference between a CEO and an emergency manager is that an emergency manager focuses on finances while the CEO zeros in on academics.
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.
Jensen was initially set to start his job in East Detroit on July 11. He is represented by outside counsel since the CEO is not considered a state official, said Caleb Buhs, spokesman for the Michigan Department of technology, Management and Budget, which runs the state school reform office.
The district was initially granted a temporary restraining order to halt the CEO’s appointment in May, but that expired June 13.