Emergency Manager challenged staff, stakeholders, parents, partners and the media to join in and spotlight the district’s strategic initiatives and enrollment campaign to secure long-term district stability
As part of Detroit Public Schools’ commitment to making decisions that create a top quality educational experience, Emergency Manager Jack Martin on Tuesday, August 26 announced that he will not implement proposed student class size increases, will cancel a planned 10 percent employee wage reduction that had been included in the district’s Deficit Elimination Plan and will continue strategic implementation of programs that families desire.
“Detroit Public Schools’ sole focus is and must remain providing the highest quality education possible to the children of Detroit,” he said during today’s announcement and saluted the passionate and dedicated teams of educators and caring adults that exist within the district’s 97 schools.
To assist the District in covering the costs of rolling back these two strategies, DPS is proposing the extension of its Deficit Elimination Plan through 2021. At that time, not only will the deficit be eliminated, but the District will also be free of its legacy debt, which is currently at $53 million a year.
Prior to the recent announcements of planned wage cuts and class size increases, Martin had been working around-the-clock with Chief Financial and Administrative Officer Bill Aldridge and his team to identify alternate strategies to address the continued challenge to eliminate Detroit Public Schools’ $127 million projected deficit and meet the legal requirement that DPS and other school districts and cities must have balanced budgets — at the same time district revenues continue to be significantly reduced.
The District’s most recent Deficit Elimination Plan, which was required to be submitted on Aug. 15, 2014, included the revenue reduction and the particularly difficult decision to cut employee compensation by an additional 10 percent, assuming those strategies would facilitate an expedited approval of the Deficit Elimination Plan, which was needed for the District’s annual State Aid borrowing, Martin said.
Some of the alternate strategies that are now being considered are: not filling budgeted vacant positions based on current vacancies and those that will come from attrition; further staff reductions through restructuring and process re-engineering efficiencies; potential additional layoffs of non-school-based employees; additional surplus real estate sales; continued, responsible expense reductions; and, the pursuit of additional grant funds. Teacher service will, however, be consistent with per-school student enrollment, Martin said.
To bring needed stability to the District, Martin reiterated the need for all employees to participate in the district’s comprehensive student retain and gain campaign.
“As I have said numerous times before, maintaining and growing our student base is the only way to ensure that the district is sustainable into the future,” he said, thanking the volunteers and staff members who have participated in the school-based and district enrollment campaign. “The retention and attraction of students is absolutely critical to our future, and this year’s and future enrollment will be a key determinant in not only the reduction of our deficit, but more importantly growing the district.”
He also the reiterated the school system’s commitment to providing academic programs and initiatives that families desire, and making strategic decisions to attract and retain families.
To that end, Martin said that he heard the concerns of families and staff about the proposed increase in class size in grades 4-12 and, therefore, that change will also not be implemented.
Class sizes will remain at 25 for grades K-3 (which would not have been altered even under the previous plan), 33 for grades 4 and 5, and 38 for grades 6-12. Martin also noted that based on average daily attendance, DPS’ class size across the district last year averaged only 16 students.
“While we developed strategies to mitigate any potential negative impact, the only sure way to avoid impacting students’ learning environment is to keep class levels the same as last year,” Martin said. “It is my hope that any parent that was considering taking their child out of a DPS school will reconsider and have them remain with their teachers and classmates for another year.”
Martin also underscored the many positive developments in the school district, such as new strategic initiatives designed to bolster enrollment being offered this year, and challenged the public to spotlight those. They include:
- No school closings for the 2014-15 School Year: For the first time in six years, the budget does not call for the closure of any schools for the 2014-15 school year, which the district has come to understand can have an extremely adverse impact on enrollment, recruitment, retention and revenues;
- A renewed commitment to working with all partners on ensuring safe and healthy environments for all students, including on the routes to and from school;
- Creation of a new gifted and talented school program;
- Extension of successful dual immersion bilingual programs into a 9th grade collegiate prep setting;
- Expansion of Career Academy and adult educational regional center programming;
- Support for a K-12 International Baccalaureate program and new International Baccalaureate program at Cass Technical High School;
- Addition of a prep period for K-8 teachers;
- Expansion of programs for early childhood families, through reorganizing current programs and securing private and foundation support;
- Art/Music expansion for elementary and middle schools. Across the district, DPS provides robust instrumental music, choral music, general music and visual arts instruction to help every student reach their full academic and creative potential.
Martin also encouraged the media to focus on the District’s tangible progress, including that the number of newly enrolled high school students reached a three-year high, and increased by more than 50 percent from the 2012-13 school year; Detroit Public Schools continues an upward academic trajectory, having closed the gap with state peers in all five subjects on the Michigan Educational Assessment Program (MEAP) since 2011; DPS’ 2014 seniors earned nearly $138 million in scholarships and grants; DPS this year had five Gates Millennium Scholars; and Renaissance High School was named the best high school in Detroit by U.S. News and World Report.
The district also announced today that it will expand the number of Pre-Kindergarten opportunities, bringing to 205 the total number of classrooms. The programs include additional Great Start Readiness Program seats, new Title I classrooms, two of which will hold ribbon cuttings today, and partnerships with two non-profit agencies to bring 0-5 programs into schools this school year.
“We appreciate the support of our parents, partners, stakeholders and the media in rallying around Detroit Public Schools at this critical time to ensure the greater community is aware – and that they “see” and “believe” in — the great things happening at our schools,” Martin said.