The school board, known formally as the Detroit Board of Education, is the 11-member governing body of the Detroit Public Schools system. Four of the members are elected at large. The others are elected by District. The members of the current board come from all walks of life. They receive a $30 stipend per meeting.
The board president and other board officials are elected by their peers. Voters do not have a say in the selection of the board president.
The board attempts to reach a consensus on most issues. Using Robert Rules of Order and employing collegiality during public meetings, board members may debate, question or advocate for certain positions. These discussions are guided by the board president or his designee. When the discussions end, the president may ask the board members to vote on the matter. Most subjects that end up on the board’s agenda reach there by way of committees. The board is made up of many committees including finance, human resources, audit, parent, academics, safety, contract and procurement, and expulsion. Small groups of board members serve on these committees which meet one or twice a month or as needed. It is at these public committee meetings that many items for the full board agenda are first introduced. Unlike full board meetings, decisions made at committee meetings are not binding. The committees make recommendations, which are then forwarded to the full board for a vote. All decisions made by the board must be made in public at a meeting of the full body.
The superintendent is the board’s sole employee, its chief agent. He is empowered by the board to implement its policies and agenda, particularly as they pertain to academics, curriculum, facilities, public safety and other matters relating to the District. He serves at the pleasure of the board.
The board president is not a chief executive. He is not a first among equals. Rather, he is a board member who has been selected by his peers to preside over meetings, set the agenda for the board, and to serve as the public voice of the board. He also has an ex-officio role on all committees. Like the other board members, the board president gets only one vote.
At the end of the 2005-06 school year, the board determined that in order to close a $105 million budget gap, it had to obtain concessions from all employees, including the teachers, whose salaries and benefits make up 60 percent of the budget. By law, school districts must present a balanced budget at the beginning of a new fiscal year. Board members did not directly participate in the labor negotiations. They did empower the superintendent and the labor negotiating team to act on behalf of the District. The powers conferred on the superintendent by the board included imposing a settlement on the teachers union if necessary. The superintendent and his team regularly briefed board members, particularly those on the finance committee, on the negotiations. Board members were not authorized to attend the negotiations.
At no time did Board President Rev. Jimmy Womack disrupt or participate in the labor negotiations. He was not authorized to do so. As board president, he along with Jonathan Cleveland Kinloch, chair of the board’s human resource committee, were regularly briefed each day on the status of the negotiations by the superintendent. In turn, he disseminated that information to members of the board’s finance committee. In general, board members were well informed of the progress of the negotiations. Given their fiduciary responsibility to the District, no board member could be kept in the dark.
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3011 W. Grand Boulevard
Detroit, Michigan 48202
Phone: (313) 873-7860
For Detroit Public Schools' General Information Line Please Call (313) 873-3111