Snyder touts ‘partnership’ plan to keep schools open

Michael Gerstein
The Detroit News

Lansing — Gov. Rick Snyder and State Superintendent Brian Whiston on Monday touted a partnership between nine districts with the lowest-performing schools in Michigan and local groups such as businesses and nonprofits for helping the schools avert school closures.

Snyder and Whiston celebrated the new partnerships as a way fix the state’s worst under-performing schools. The plan gives each district entering into such “partnerships” 36 months to reform the poorly performing schools before state officials begin considering other options to turn around the schools.

The districts have 18 months to implement their reform plan and another 18 months before the state takes other, unspecified actions to turn them around, Whiston said.

Snyder promoted partnerships between local businesses, nonprofits, colleges and universities and the Department of Health and Human Services as a novel method for bettering academic performance at the Pontiac School District, Detroit Public School Community District, Benton Harbor, Saginaw, River Rouge, Kalamazoo, Muskegon Heights, Bridgeport/Spaulding and East Detroit.

“We have schools that have faced challenges for some time,” Snyder said Monday. “I think it was a really good opportunity to step back and say ‘how do we help the kids?’ ”

The plan leaves it to school districts and their local partners – rather than state intervention – to come up with what Snyder called the “least disruptive” option for students and their parents.

The Republican governor said it’s meant to “essentially create a new environment for these young people and hopefully get them on a path to success.”

The new “partnership model” leaves to local school district officials to figure out how to improve their own schools. It saves 37 under-performing schools from state closure for the next 36 months, Whiston said.

“The partnership model is really to say to local districts: You own the issue, you own the problem,” Whiston said.

Detroit’s two dozen schools were among 38 from 10 districts targeted by the state in January for closure.

Detroit school board members unanimously approved the agreement last month. Detroit schools will work with Wayne RESA, the county’s intermediate school district, as well as four universities: Eastern Michigan, Michigan, Michigan State and Wayne State.

Ryan McLeod, superintendent for East Detroit schools, said the district was already working on such a plan for the past two years.