4 Macomb districts join East Detroit schools’ lawsuit against Michigan

MACOMB COUNTY — Four Macomb County school districts have requested to join a lawsuit filed by East Detroit Public Schools against the State of Michigan — a lawsuit that seeks to block the appointment of a CEO to take over the academics at four East Detroit schools.

The school districts wanting to join the suit: Mt. Clemens Community Schools, Roseville Community Schools, Van Dyke Public Schools and Warren Consolidated Schools.

The Eastpointe district filed a lawsuit in May against the State School Reform Office. The state office had announced earlier in the year that it planned to appoint a CEO to take over the academics at Bellview Elementary, Pleasantview Elementary, Kelly Middle and East Detroit High School.

The four schools were targeted because they are considered priority schools, so called because they fall in the bottom 5% academically. The four school districts seeking to be involved in the lawsuit also have schools on the state’s priority list.

“We regret having to take this action but we are very concerned by the state’s takeover threats and we fear we are in danger of losing local control of our school district,” said Theresa Genest, president of the Roseville Board of Education.

The move comes ahead of the expected release Thursday of the 2015 list of priority schools by the school reform office. A 2016 priority list will be issued in the fall.

The school reform office has said in recent weeks that it will seek to close chronically low-performing schools that show up on the list in 2014, 2015 and 2016. However, final details about which schools might close, or if the office would even close schools, won’t come until later this year.

In a news release issued this week, officials from the four Macomb districts say closing schools “is a failed strategy and ignores what works.”

Robert Livernois, superintendent in Warren, said his community values the local control it has over its schools.

“The thought of a state takeover is simply unacceptable,” he said.

Collectively, the four districts have 10 schools on the current priority list:

• Mt. Clemens: Seminole Academy and Mt. Clemens High School

• Roseville: John R. Kment Elementary School

• Van Dyke: Lincoln Elementary, Lincoln High, Lincoln Middle, McKinley Elementary

• Warren: Cromie Elementary, Harwood Elementary, Willow Woods Elementary

The East Detroit lawsuit is currently before the Michigan Court of Claims. However, a separate lawsuit was filed shortly after the school reform office hired Gary Jensen, a former principal who turned around a high school in Lakeview Public Schools in Montcalm County, to be the CEO. In that second lawsuit, a Macomb County judge first issued a temporary restraining order that barred Jensen from beginning work, but then amended it to give Jensen some authority, allowing him to meet with staff.

Results of Phi Delta Kappa International’s annual poll on public attitudes toward public schools, released earlier this week, found most of those polled — 84% — believe that when a public school has been failing for several years, the best response is to keep the school open but replace the teachers or administrators in the building.

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Posted by Tribune News Services

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