Two candidates emerge to run Detroit schools after EM’s exit

In the wake of the recent resignation of the state-appointed emergency manager for the Detroit Public Schools, two people with long-time ties to Detroit have surfaced as candidates to run the troubled district.

Charlie Beckham, who manages the City of Detroit’s neighborhoods department, and Tonya Allen, president and CEO of the Skillman Foundation, a longtime philanthropist in efforts to improve the city's school system, are on the short list to be the transition leader for the district, sources have confirmed to Bridge.

Dave Murray, a spokesman for Gov. Rick Snyder, would not confirm that the governor is courting Beckham and Allen. Murray said a decision is expected within coming weeks.

“The governor is working with a number of people passionate about helping Detroit students get the education they need,” Murray said. “An announcement on a transitional leader is expected by the end of the month.”

Bridge was the first to report Beckham and Allen were on the state's short list in an appearance early Wednesday on WDET-FM (101.9), Detroit's public radio station.

On Tuesday, Gov. Snyder announced that current DPS DPS Emergency Manager Darnell Earley had resigned, effective Feb. 29. The resignation comes as both Snyder and Earley face mounting criticism for their roles in the unfolding water contamination crisis in Flint as well as the deepening financial crisis afflicting Detroit's struggling school system.

Earley was the state-appointed emergency manager responsible for implementing Flint’s 2014 switch from the Detroit water system to using water from the Flint River. The water proved to be corrosive, and failure to properly treat it caused lead to leach from the city's aging service pipes and exposed Flint residents to high levels of lead contamination and, later, a state-declared state of emergency. To date, the water is still not safe to drink in Flint.

Snyder appointed Earley emergency manager for DPS last January. In recent weeks, DPS teachers have staged “sick outs,” with so many calling in sick that dozens of schools had to be shut for several days. The teachers have demanded that Earley be fired and state emergency management end, due to the district’s growing deficit. The Detroit Federation of Teachers union filed a lawsuit last month asking that the court compel the district to fix health and safety problems within school buildings.

The next DPS leader will inherit a 46,000-student school system expected to run out of money by April. It is the subject of ongoing state legislative debate over a package of bills that seek to address a budget deficit of about $515 million, among other problems.

Chris White, a co-chair of the Coalition to Restore Hope, a grassroots education group based in Detroit, said that Beckham and Allen may have clout in political and community circles, but many residents want the schools to be run by someone with experience in education.

“We have had several emergency managers, none of which had academic experience and yielded no positive results,” White said. “We need someone that understands the community, that understands the academic challenges and also has a very good fiscal background.”

Beckham, 68, manages the Buildings, Safety Engineering & Environmental Department as well as seven directors stationed in each of the seven city council districts. He has a long history of working within city government, having worked for every mayor since Coleman Young. He also served time in prison for 1984 conviction for taking $16,000 in bribes in connection with a sludge-handling contract as the city's water and sewage department director.

Allen, 43, was a co-chair for the Coalition for the Future of Detroit Schoolchildren, a group of community, business and education leaders who released a report last year with recommendations to the governor and legislature for improving city schools.

Neither Beckham nor Allen could be reached immediately for comment.

Legislative fix needed

Bill Hanson, a spokesman for the coalition, called on the legislature to quickly approve the coalition’s recommended long-term fixes for the city’s schools.

“Emergency management of Detroit Public Schools has not worked. The media speculation on who might step in after Mr. Earley leaves is understandable, but the real story is whether the governor and legislature are going to make the necessary structural fixes,” he said.

Hanson also is chief of staff at Skillman.

He said the fixes needed include “a speedy return to local and democratic control of DPS, resolving the huge DPS debt the state rang up while controlling the district, and creation of a community education commission that would set high standards, close poor-performing schools, force charter and traditional schools to compete on a level playing field, and finally put Detroit schoolchildren and their families first."

State Rep. (and former DPS teacher) Sherry Gay-Dagnogo, D-Detroit, was a member of the coalition, and has in recent weeks led legislators on tours to see the conditions in DPS schools. She questioned whether either candidate has a track record for being a change agent who can garner public support.

“While both parties mentioned have impressive backgrounds, I’m not certain of how their leadership will help quell the concerns of the general population, DPS parents, teachers and administration, thus stabilizing the system,” Gay-Dagnogo said.

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Paul Martinsky
Wed, 02/03/2016 - 3:33pm
The Department of Neighborhoods has done nothing for my neighborhood and block of well-traveled Ryan Road, south of E.McNichols, north of E.Davison in NED(Northeast Detroit 48212,City Council District 3). Dangerous,abandoned,open-to-tresspass DLBA houses waiting for demolition for too long, one for nine years at 13635 Ryan(currently boarded with wrong address on it, 13641 is painted on it). 13641 is the house next to it, north side of house. Workers came to board both(13635 & 13641) last year. They only boarded one, painted wrong address on it(changed 13635 to 13641), and also painted the address 13635 on sidewalk in front of vacant lot(real address is 13629)next to it. I told workers they made an error. I reported to city. Ignored, as usual. Many years ago(when there were fewer abandoned houses), I reported property stripping in action. Police never came!! DLBA house at 13622 Ryan is now very dangerous to residents. Large,overgrown tree in yard is a hazard in many ways. House caught fire on 7-23-15. Luckily, the fire did not spread to tree which is near DTE,Comcast,& AT&T alley wires. Sadly, a neighbor's house caught fire. The house at 13622 remains open-to-tresspass,more dangerous than ever. Students walk by these houses daily walking to the park or library down the block, and to nearby schools, or bus-stops,Route 32-McNichols, and Route 12-Conant. People of all ages walk on Ryan as it is a central block to many amenities(stores,doctros office,bus stops,restaurants,etc..) Some walk their pets down the block to nearby parks(Jayne Field,Lasky Park). Finally,after two years, someone came to check on growing sinkhole in back of DLBA house at 13640 Ryan. The Department of Neighborhoods needs to be renamed the Department of Some Neighborhoods.
Paul Martinsky
Wed, 02/03/2016 - 3:40pm
Correction --"House caught fire, etc....)" should read "House at 13622 Ryan caught fire etc...".
Paul Martinsky
Wed, 02/03/2016 - 8:18pm
CORRECTION-Property at 13640 Ryan is occupied & not a DLBA property. The growing sinkhole is in back of house next to it,a DLBA house at 13646 Ryan.
Mitchell Robinson
Wed, 02/03/2016 - 3:36pm
“Chris White, a co-chair of the Coalition to Restore Hope, a grassroots education group based in Detroit, said that Beckham and Allen may have clout in political and community circles, but many residents want the schools to be run by someone with experience in education.” This is where we are in our current political and educational rhetoric—“many residents want the schools to be run by someone with experience in education.” Really? You think? Because the last couple of EMs have done so well, let’s keep hiring folks who have no education background to run the schools—into the ground.
Wed, 02/03/2016 - 4:00pm
Health and safety problems are a local building problem. Janitorial staff is hired by each school to clean and repair the buildings. School care needs to be at the school level. Why is this not being done? Lots of community old schools look like these but we hired reliable janitors to clean them up! Kids can learn anywhere so stop using the condition of the schools to get more money for the teacher's union. If the buildings are too old, and dangerous, then they should be closed. Other wise, sweep of the mice when you get into school--have the kids remove the mushrooms and clean the halls. How is not turning on the heat? Hire some good people. Having the schools run by people with experience in "education" hasn't really worked for you all in the past, has it. Not to be harsh, but the Citizen's of Detroit for millages that they could not afford and is about to go bankrupt. You hired the school leadership and elected the school board officials that drove this system into the ground. So, if the citizens of the state need to fund your educational system and bail you out of debt, it needs to be "our way" and not include any of the current players. You are interested in playing with my tax money now so the kids better get educated. Love Charter Schools!
A. Brother
Wed, 02/03/2016 - 6:46pm
Sue keep your idiotic statements to yourself please. The state is nothing without a healthy Detroit. "Be done our way" again highlights the lack of empathy, creativity, and perhaps low intelligence with folk who think like you. Cities generate money that is main functiom of what they do. Detroit has not been thriving for a while now. Folks from other states laugh us. All of us. Including you! Home rule. Mileages. "Detroit is a nice piece of real estate" said a former 60's mayor that certain folks regardless of race desire to gentrify or turn over. So let it all fall down the implications are. You can contend all you want but you are not sync with the times. White folks are actually mellowing out on racial issues. But it is perhaps the faithful few who want to keep the tired dialgoue going regarding why Detroit is messed up. In a few years you will be mad at the robots.. Oh wait Detroit went through that first in auto industry.. Gtfoh! With love, A. Brother
Sat, 02/06/2016 - 5:23pm
I beg to differ, Chuck. The city of Detroit has been an albatross around the neck of MI taxpayers for decades. There are many Michiganders who never set foot in that town, but are forced to subsidize everything from schools to utilities to roads and sports stadiums. When was the last time the state billed the taxpayers of Detroit to fix potholes in the UP? The money that the city of Detroit brings in doesn't even pay their own bills and legacy costs. There is nothing left for Detroit to spend on anything.
Sat, 02/06/2016 - 5:25pm
Sorry, my mistake. This comment should be addressed to A. Brother
Wed, 02/03/2016 - 5:31pm
Seriously! Can this be any more jacked up? The college dropout chair of the Senate Education Committee, Phil Pavlov, is zealously going after the teachers who brought attention to the heinous conditions instead sitting down and coming up with immediate fixes and now this? No one with any successful experience in education and a felon who took bribes? Snyder and his gang sure want Detroit to succeed.
Lewis M. Dicken...
Wed, 02/03/2016 - 6:06pm
Through a series of political machinations and corrupt characters the Architectural Department of the DPS was wiped out and so Lawyers and other amateurs are and have been running around making catastrophic and ignorant decisions running the debt into the sky. The effort to restore the schools requires a combined Planning and Architectural Response in conjunction with the Staff and no more political idiots please. Sherry Gay-Dagnago is the one person in the legislature who is clear, balanced and decent enough to be listened to. Time to grow up and quit the damned idiotic nonsense!
Madison Paige
Wed, 02/03/2016 - 6:39pm
Sue, It seems quite the racist statement to request that DPS students don hazmat suits to clean black mold from the buildings and fix ceilings leaking with toilet water. Not only does your statement sound racist, but your suggestion is also illegal. Moreover, your statement is filled with grammatical errors. I am not the grammar police myself, but when typing about education, I am trying to clearly communicate my statement in English. I hope that we are all first clear that it is unlawful and should not be recommended by anyone that untrained persons especially minors, use personal resources to purchase industrial chemicals to rectify what amounts to Occupational Safety Hazards and code violations. The problem is that many so want to push their own agenda, they ignore the democracy of the citizens and the tax dollars those citizens spend. To represent Charter schools while looking past that democracy to suggest that the children of those tax payers, must handle the chemicals and machinery to make the repairs necessary, does not lead me to the conclusion you are a reliable, caring, thoughtful or lawful person. It is very unfortunate, that you have used this to spew your hateful sentiments at Detroit school children all while advertising your wares. Regards ~ MP
LaMar Lemmons
Wed, 02/03/2016 - 6:54pm
Among the various information shared here, I see there is a focus on Detroit Public School children doing the job of the contracted janitorial service and other maintenance workers. While the students are overwhelmingly minority, in our country, despite the comments here, it is still illegal based on child labor laws, OSHA, and several other standards including the Boards own standards for untrained persons to handle chemicals for the purpose of removing hazardous waste, and contamination. Every school district will have similar laws, and black students, whose parents are tax payers should not be treated differently by anyone, whether by the Governor, an emergency manager or a charter representative who seems not to respect our community, looking for ways to get their hands on Federal funds through the further abuse of our children.
John Q. Public
Wed, 02/03/2016 - 7:16pm
Rick Snyder is everything I thought he'd be--when I voted for Mark Schaurer. Whomever he appoints won't fix anything, because he'll appoint the same type of political sycophant he always does.
Greg Thrasher
Wed, 02/03/2016 - 7:23pm
Both of these potential candidates are not worthy of being associated with DPS even under the yet to be constitutionally validated EM legislation . Both have zero educational credentials one is a former criminal the other is a corporate fund raiser. They simply have academic credentials. This is tragic outcome of inept leadership with Snyder at the helm of Michigan State Government
Wed, 02/03/2016 - 9:28pm
Education needs to use the same mindset as the military. First we must decide what is needed to produce world class results and then get the resources to do it. Instead, we tend to first set a budget for education and then decide how to spend it. If this country wishes to remain the top country in the world we need to adust our thinking.
Wed, 02/03/2016 - 10:38pm
I would vote for Sherry Gay-Daynago. I've been following her for awhile and she really seems like she would put the children first. That's what DPS needs. They don't need someone to put on a show for the media and make people believe they are doing something when in reality they are just trying to see how much money they can pocket before the train stops.
Thu, 02/04/2016 - 5:31am
Does anyone here honestly believe that Lansing is going allocate anything even remotely close to what DPS needs to pay down its debt? Until that elephant in the room gets addressed (and if outstate Taxpayers have their way...that'll most likely be never), it doesn't matter who gets tapped on to run DPS.
Thu, 02/04/2016 - 11:57am
Sorry KG-1, but money has been flowing, .. no more like gushing from the west half of the state (not to mention Fed money) to the east half for the last 40 years, which explains a lot of why there's little left for any other priorities. What have we gotten except more and deeper problems?
Chuck Fellows
Sat, 02/06/2016 - 10:36am
Matt, money flows west to east? I beg to differ since there appears to be an enormous amount of wealth accumulated on the west side of Michigan to the detriment of the eastern and northern parts of the state. But that is only my personal opinion from traveling throughout the state, a rather thin source for drawing a conclusion. Urban centers are suffering for many reasons - "The Death and Life of Great American Cities" by Jane Jacobs is a pretty good read and explains in depth why urban centers such as Detroit are failing.
Fri, 02/12/2016 - 12:04pm
TO WHOM are they in debt too? need to see the Nr.!how much money is there ? and How is it spend and by whom? who writes the checks? The Michigan lottery takes in Money every day? please paint US taxpayer a clear picture!
Thu, 02/04/2016 - 12:18pm
Fix Detroit Schools? Why not charter the whole thing? No confidence that the parents and students can decide what and which would work for them? With all the complaints about the EM taking away local control, what could be better? A great opportunity for the experts at AFT and MEA to open their own schools and show how it should be done. Sounds like a perfect opportunity to redo and modernize our educational system. Maybe even year round schools?. With the piles of money the charter operators are accused of making, they should be all over it!
Valerie Glenn
Fri, 02/05/2016 - 6:53am
Why not allow the elected school board run the district. Charter schools use public schools money. They lack real monitoring and accountability - just another experiment. I say bring Democracy back!
Chuck Fellows
Sat, 02/06/2016 - 10:40am
Your comment regarding charter schools is incorrect. All education law and regulation in Michigan is applied to traditional and public charter schools. what happened to DPS is the consequence of poor management accelerating an already serious problem within DPS that took over fifty years to create.
Sat, 02/06/2016 - 5:48am
One has to define "Fix." In my opinion, it means to bring Fiscal Responsibility to the School District, it means to bring a defined long term academic curriculum that lays out responsibilities of the Student, it means employing competent teachers (not just a body with a teaching degree/certificate, it means a strong disciplinarian environment in the classroom, and it means a strong process for clean and well functioning buildings and equipment. This type of framework plan will provide opportunity for students. However, with that said, in my opinion, there isn't an educational model anywhere that can successfully educate mass quantities of children living in generational poverty. It just doesn't happen. It is very difficult to transform a School District or a Residential Area when for decades ~80% of children are born to unwed mothers with the vast majority in generational poverty. Again, it just doesn't happen. Parent Teacher Conferences have a very low participation rate in Detroit, the vast majority of children in Detroit have illiterate parents, and as indicated by an informal survey of DPS students by WJR radio when asked if they had the power to change DPS - the majority answered is to get rid of the violence in the classroom. Tough job ahead to just bring Stability to Detroit Schools.
Chuck Fellows
Sat, 02/06/2016 - 10:58am
Detroit schools do not need another manager. They need a leader, one that leads by following the lead of teachers, students and the local community and a budget focused on the learning needs of the individual student not counts of heads and seat time assessments. That budget for learning must be developed one classroom at a time - not in Lansing or a Finance department. Per pupil allocations cannot address the needs of children who, through no fault of their own, have need of learning supports unnecessary in the wealthy enclaves of Grand Rapids, Oakland County and the smaller rural districts with effective community support networks (although there are other areas within Michigan where we have abandoned our children due to 'efficiency") The facilities issues should be dealt with separately and immediately. Dan Gilbert probably has an entity within his organization, or knows of such an entity, that released from over 100 years of educators' rules created while pretending to be school designers, could implement a feasible and effective plan to restore the viability of Detroit's school infrastructure. Along the way his organization may be able to re purpose many of the no longer necessary structures. Teachers need the opportunity to collaborate and be released of all the administrative tasks (defined and undefined) that prohibit actual learning. Charters and traditional schools must have the opportunity to share their experience and practices. Question every administrative task as to purpose and if the purpose does not directly support classroom learning - end that administrative task immediately or source its' accomplishment to the agency that demands it, not to the classroom. Teachers know what is necessary. Listen to them, really listen, and empower them to do the work they have a passion to do, guiding children on a life long learning journey.
Fri, 02/12/2016 - 11:59am
5 year ago in Washington D>C Michelle LEE was hired to get all school in D.C up to a STANDARD and she did a geart and very succesful JOB. PBS here story. time to lookinto this and HIRE here for exccelance s in our schools. NOW ..NO more CEO or.....
Fri, 02/12/2016 - 12:17pm
FROM Now on the classroom will have a 20X20 TV sceen the lesson will be held from University professor on each subject and Doctors in education. All student will have laptop .. the testing will be done by machines (like the used for voting)so the teacher no longer have HOMEWORK..and no teacher pets problems. THE cleaning of the building will be done by OUR VETREAN they need jobs and are willing and trained to follow orders. The building inspector will train Vetreans for items to look for.and have the fixed pronto. The Health Department will inspected the building and the children for health iusses.monthsly.Also teachers! the kitchen will be opened f from 8AM to 3Pm so children have plenty of time to eat before going home.\good food growing in there school HOT HOUSES,or outside.