Defend Public Education

Excerpts from Free Press chat with Robert Bobb

Posted in Uncategorized by Nicole Conaway on February 16, 2010

It looks like community and school board pressure regarding recent lay-offs has paid off. People asked many hard-hitting questions, some of which were answered.

Here are some of the more interesting questions and responses:

[Comment From Guest Guest: ] Is there anyway possible you can tell us what schools may close next year or in the future?

Robert Bobb: We are still evaluating the list of schools to be closed, and will bring those candidates for closure to the community in mid-March.

[Comment From Marie Marie: ]Will you rescind the recent lay-offs of music and art teachers?

Robert Bobb: That will probably be done later this week, but clearly that will create a larger short term deficit and the deficit will need to be addressed for the next fiscal year.

[Comment From Guest Guest: ] I realize the budget situation is dire (and appreciate your efforts so far) but most parents feel that music and art are something that their children should have the opportunity to have in school. If the following statistics are true how do plan to put music and art back in the schools? 74% of DPS schools have no Vocal music 70% of DPS schools have no Instrumental music 63% of DPS schools have no Visual Arts Tuesday

Robert Bobb: Art and music are a definite part of our academic plan which will be released within the next few weeks, and as we work thorugh our financial crisis there are tradeoffs. The DPS Foundation is an option for funding much of our arts and music programs, as well as other foundations.

[Comment From Scott Scott: ] Mr. Bobb, what are you hoping to accomplish with the No-Social promotions policy? What type of systemic changes are you hoping that this policy leads too. How will you ensure that the tests that will be necessary to promote the children are not tampered with by the adults, which is a concern because it is their jobs “on the line”?

Robert Bobb: In the system we’re creating, every child will be able to graduate from Detroit Public Schools either career ready or college ready. The systemic change we are striving for is to have a more literate community, and an opportunity to educate future generations of Detroiters. All of the tests will be audited. Adults will not tamper with the tests.

[Comment From Ddnise Ddnise: ] 1. The reading volunteers are focusing on preschoolers with hopes that our 2015 scores will reflect a change, however we still have the opportunity with our current fourth graders. These same children will test again in the eighth grade, why are we not focusing on them as well with the same due diligence?

Jennifer Mrozowski, DPS: As we wait for Mr. Bobb to type is response, I will remind that we are still seeking  volunteers for our Reading Corps program. Please go to http://www.detroit.k12.mi.us/readingcorps/

Robert Bobb: The focus on preschool is to get us to our 2015 goal;, that is, for all third graders to be reading at grade level by that date certain; however, we will still be focusing on fourth graders and at all grade levels who are falling behind in reading and as a result falling behind academically overall.

[Comment From april black april black: ] why are you trying to eliminate positions at Cass Tech? Cass Tech is the one good thing in Detroit.

Robert Bobb: What we are working toward is creating Centers of Excellence for Every Child at Every School, Every Day, in Every Neighborhood. Tuesday February 16, 2010 2:04 Robert Bobb 2:05

Robert Bobb: We are not focusing on Cass tech or eliminating positions solely at Cass tech. And in fact we just  restored some positions at Cass Tech. The matter of the orchestra teacher is caught up in a contractual situation relating to bumping and we are working to resolve that right now. The program is not being eliminated.

Robert Bobb: Despite tha fact that we’ve reduced our expenditures by millions of dollars, Detroit Public Schools is still swimming in red ink from a legacy deficit and current deficit. The challenge for us whether or not we can cut our way out of the budget. I will present a balanced budget option to the community, eliminating both the legacy and current deficits.

[Comment From Guest Guest: ] I haven’t seen much press on the actual Board lately. Has the relationship between you and the board improved?

Robert Bobb: It’s a work in progress. We are certainly open to more dialogue and less acrimony.

[Comment From Noel Noel: ] Will DPS be able to recruit and retain the brightest and best teachers in the future with the current budget issues?

Robert Bobb: Yes

Robert Bobb: I am convinced that we will be able to continue to attract and keep the best teachers.

[Comment From Robin Robin: ] When you pick contractors to do a job for the school district do you screen them or is this still the good old boy system. The reason for this question is I have witnessed first hand a company installing a system and walking a way with pay and another co hired to fix it, to me that is a waste of money.

Robert Bobb: Yes, we screen contractors. We have a contractor vetting process, and anytime that we have an  allegation regarding a contractor not performing to our agreement, those situations are inpected by both our  internal Office of Auditor General as well as our Inspector General’s Office. If you know of any situation, please contact our confidential hotline.

[Comment From Jim Jim: ] Art and music are important but what about the three “R’s”. I find it astounding and appalling that students receive a diploma they cannot read.

Robert Bobb: So do I. That’s why we’re making dramatic changes in ending automatic promotion of children from one grade to another without having completed the requisite requirements for their previous grade.

[Comment From Guest Guest: ] Why would anyone want to teach in Detroit the way you treat your teachers?

Robert Bobb: Our teachers have an excellent contract recently negotiated with the focus on children and rights which provide due process for grievances that teachers may have.

[Comment From Brian Brian: ] How do you assure teachers that they will get the support they need when they have increasing demands put on them while parents are not held accountable?

Robert Bobb: We have to hold parents accountable. Parents are a child’s first teacher. Here’s what we’re asking of every parent in DPS: Get your child to school on time, every day, and get your child to school well rested and after a full night’s sleep. Our team have said since Day One that a master plan for parent and community engagement will be one of the five major products we leave on March 1, 1011. We know that in addition to the financial and academic emergencies, one of the emergencies we are facing is a parental involvement.

[Comment From guest guest: ] Are there plans to lay off a large number of school social workers?

Robert Bobb: There will be another round of layoffs. The positions have yet to be determined as we develop the next year’s budget.

[Comment From jaf jaf: ] Are there any privitazation plans?

Robert Bobb: There are plans for managed competition wherein our employees are given the same opportunity to compete for certain work as the private sector.

[Comment From Tracey Tracey: ] If you are not given control over academics, do you believe you can still make an effective change with just control over finances?

Robert Bobb: Yes, but the two are inextricably linked, and without that link the tendency would be to only address the financial issues without any consideration to the academic programs that are required to prepare our children for 21st Century learning.

[Comment From marcus marcus: ] are furloughs and layoff of teachers part of your budget plans ?

Robert Bobb: For the 2010-11 budget as we stand today, all options are on the table and will be considered.

[Comment From guest guest: ] What are your future plans for getting students trained for career and technical education and the the CTE centers

Robert Bobb: As part of our academic plan, there will be an onging evaluation of the strengths and weaknesses of these centers, as well as potential partnerships with manufacturers to help us strengthen these programs.

[Comment From faye faye: ] How do you really plan to improve academics as you continually layoff teachers and have 30 to 40 kids in a classroom?

Robert Bobb: It is difficult. The research supports smaller classrooms at the pre K through 4th grade levels and we will continue to evaluate classroom sizes consistent with our finances.

[Comment From Jenny Jenny: ] How are you holding yourself accountable? Tuesday February 16, 2010 2:27

Robert Bobb: Everyone has a boss. My boss is the State Superintendent of Public Instruction and the Governor.

Robert Bobb: And I work also for the tens of thousands of students, their families, parents and guardians.

[Comment From Tom Tom: ] Mr. Bobb just for clarification will the 30 music and fine arts teachers recently laid-off be rescinded this week? Did I read that correctly?

Robert Bobb: Yes, you did. But again, I want everyone to recognize that each time we bring staff back it creates a deeper hole in our budget which we will address as we formulate our 2010-11 budget and evaluate staffing and program requirements for all schools.

[Comment From One Iam One Iam: ] Why is everything being developed, what have you done so far? Tuesday

Robert Bobb: Please go to our website. Also, plan a community meeting and we will come out to your community, or your organization, or your church group, to address the progress that we’ve made in 11 months in Detroit Public Schools.

[Comment From Guest Guest: ] Some schools still dont have all the materials they need, what happened to all the stuff in those closed buildings?

Robert Bobb: I’m in and out of schools weekly listening to the concerns of parents, teachers and administrators and, if you are aware of a school or another school that’s not been provided the supplies necessary to educate students, please reach out to me-ASAP.

Robert Bobb: And, have your principal sign off, since that’s the only way I can hold the school leadership accounatble for not being an advocate for having the supplies and materials necessary to educate children.

[Comment From Guest Guest: ] Could you explain State Superintendent Flanagan’s plan for taking over failing schools and how that might impact Detroit?

Robert Bobb: We are waiting to see his plan and will carefully review. We look forward to being a part of the conversation as it relates to DPS given the number of schools we have that have failed to make AYP-particularly high schools.

And notice the complete evasion of this question:

[Comment From Guest Guest: ] With all your “plans,” it sounds like DPS will be top-heavy in administration again. How will you keep that from happening?

Robert Bobb: I look forward to seeing everyone at the Basketball championship games tonight.

Jennifer Mrozowski, DPS: The 2010 Detroit Public Schools Basketball Championship will take place on Tuesday, February 16, 2010 at Calihan Hall on U of D Mercy Campus. The girls of Renaissance and Pershing will play at 5:00 p.m. and the boys of Cody and Pershing will square off at 7:30 p.m.

[Comment From Jim Jim: ] How can parents be made accountable?

[Comment From Felice Felice: ] I would like to address you answer about how teachers are treated. With all due respect, the question asked about teacher treatment, not about their contract. As the daughter of a teacher, I personally know that teachers are often treated as test teachers and not as teachers who are expected to teach academics. When will the focus in Detroit schools return to teaching academics and intellectual development, instead of purely being focused on test results?

And how JenniferMrozowski steps in to stall and distract from that one:

Jennifer Mrozowski, DPS: As Mr. Bobb responds, please go here — http://www.detroit.k12.mi.us/news/ — to read more about our many initiatives, announcements on our cost savings, new programs and much more.

Robert Bobb: What are the other ways in which we can measure your performance. I would encourage you to show me another process. If academic rigor and teaching is taking place, then we shouldn’t have to worry about test results.

Robert Bobb: What are the other ways in which we can measure your performance. I would encourage you to show me another process. If academic rigor and teaching is taking place, then we shouldn’t have to worry about test results.

[Comment From Thrasher Thrasher: ] What are your academic and educational credentials?? 2:37

Robert Bobb: See my website.http://www.detroit.k12.mi.us/admin/finance/manager/(If you go to this site, you will see nothing about credentials as an educator-NC)

[Comment From Guest Guest: ] Are you going to request your internal audit department to perform an audit on the text book process – recording, ordering, stocking, and delievery – to assure that internal controls are functioning adequately over that process. Thanks!

Robert Bobb: We will very definitely audit that process. We have begun to assign staff and the Auditor General will begin that process. AnAnd to review the warehouse functions.

[Comment From Lillian B. Cooper Lillian B. Cooper: ] How when you reduce the drop out rate in DPS schools across the board? As a parent of 3 DPS children, I am extremely concerned about the drop out rate as reported by the national media outlets.

Robert Bobb: I too am very concerned with the dropout rate which is at 27 percent when the national average is less tha nine percent. We’ve identified approximately 25,000 students who are over age and under credit hours. The potential of those children to drop out of school is fairly significant and therefore we are putting in place a system of intervention to help those students receive their hs diplomas.

[Comment from Guest:] Are you working with the mayor in trying to bring financial support, like the recent request the mayor made of the President, so that Detroit families will be able to support the children in their education?

Robert Bobb: Yes, we will join the Mayor and others in the community in seeking whatever funding may be available to support DPS directly or the community programs that assist DPS in educating children.

[Comment From Noel Noel: ] do you need more time than 3/2011 to get the job done?

Robert Bobb: It will take longer, but what’s more important is that we have a very strong transition plan with measurable performance results and outcomes that will be memorialized in a way in which it cannot be undone at the whim of the political process.

[Comment From jocelyn jocelyn: ] Has the City paid the school district its property tax dollars yet?

Robert Bobb: No, the issue is still in dispute between the City’s Director of Finance and our Director of Finance. There are ongoing discussions between the parties.

Robert Bobb: I want to thank everyone who joined in today.

[Comment From Guest Guest: ] Why should DPS not be consolidated with other school districts to save money and create a uniform educational structure for all students in the state

Robert Bobb: By it will take years before the political stars are aligned for that to happen. DPS must focus on the best inner urban education that it can provide to all of Detroit’s children.

[Comment From Guest Guest: ] Is it true that you have invited Walmart into 4 DPS schools? What is their role?

Robert Bobb: Walmart was not invited in. Walmart is offering internships for our young students.

I sense some outrage from the questioner on that one, and some irritation from Bobb. Maybe a sign that we can fight this initiative. The chat closed after this so there was no time to ask about details on those internships.

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2 Responses

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  1. Danny Weil said, on February 23, 2010 at 5:53 AM

    This Friday, the 26th of February I will be speaking directly with some of the students involved in the fight against child lbor under the auspices of internships in school.

    Please look for an article this weekend at http://www.dailycensored.com. Help get the word out and help out students get a real education in struggle.

    You can read all my articles at http://www.dailycensored.com. Just go to writer’s post, find my name (if my articles are not front page) and you will find articles on everything from Raceto the Top, to charter schools, to privatization, mayoral control, and city by city forensics regarding the crime scene that is now education.

    Best

    Danny Weil


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