By Dr. John Telford
Recent legitimate, democratically elected Detroit Board of Education members LaMar Lemmons, Elena Herrada, Tawana Simpson, Juvette Hawklns-Williams, Rev. David Murray, Wanda Redmond, Patricia Johnson-Singleton, and Ida Short have filed, along with me and Victor Gibson and Yolanda Peoples, to run this fall on our ‘SPEED Slate’ for the state’s Lansing-engendered “new” Detroit Board of Education. This new state-created board, now to be reduced from the former eleven to only seven members, is the latest longterm machination of the unwarranted1999 state takeover of DPS and its disenfranchising followup emergency management law. (In1999, DPS had a surplus of $114 million and its students’ test scores were at the state midpoint and rising. After all those years under state mismanagement, DPS is a billion dollars in debt and its scores are the nation’s worst.) Our eleven SPEED candidates have committed to a platform and time-specific agenda that we call our ‘SPEED’ Agenda–‘Saving Public Education with Excellence in Detroit.’ Our Slate is also endorsed by longtime schools activist Helen Moore, and every DPS employee had better pray we get elected on November 8. It is our intent that at least FOUR of us MUST get elected. I am funding my individual Board campaign with my own money to avoid any appearance of being bought by and beholden to anyone who has interests contrary to the educational progress of our schoolchildren. I served as this recent and RIGHTFUL Board’s appointed pro bono Superintendent in 2012-2013, coming to work every day (except for three days when I was hospitaized with a heart attack), attending all of its meetings during the past five years, and sitting with it at its ‘Board-in-exile’ table as its ‘Superintendent-in-exile.’
I have drafted the following initial but essential positional Agenda items for our eleven SPEED Slate members (as well as for any of the 61 additional Board candidates who are prepared to discuss these Agenda items on my Sunday afternoon radio show at 3:00 on AM1200 and hopefully set forth a similar agenda, since if a Board candidate has articulated no coherent plan, that individual perforce cannot be a credible and effective candidate or a credible and effective Board member):
* Recognize that the current scenario is an existential threat to public education in our city.
* Immediately implement the research-based and proven strategies developed at WSU and pilot-tested and verified in some formerly low-performing DPS classrooms to upgrade grade-level reading proficiency in order to turn around all of our Priority (failing) schools within two years.
*Eradicate and terminate the looting of our schools by requiring that programs costing more than $500,000 be carried out on a pay-for-performance or social-investment-bond basis similar to that under way in the state of Utah and elsewhere.
* Interact closely with the DFT to ensure that its membership, along with the greater Detroit community, survives and prospers economically.
* Commit to total transparency at all Board meetings and agree to use technology so that all Board meetings appear live in real time on the Internet and local cable to be available for review by the public.
* Support a forensic audit so that previously stolen resources can be regained to further support the survival of Detroit’s public education.
* Develop a Detroit Promise to assure all high school graduates a community college associates degree with a marketable skill (plus several of the progressive precepts and specified goals and objectives for DPS in my twenty-page Superintendent Plan of 2012 whereof the above-named candidates are already familiar)
Public education in Detroit is at a crossroads. National, state, and local forces have converged and focused resources on our community to end public education here as we know it. Their end goal is the entire privatization of public education in our city. The prize they seek is the $1 billion annual revenue (federal, state, and local) associated with the 100,000 K-12 public-school students.in Detroit. The stakes are so high that the same forces that for the past decade-and-a-half of the state takeover of DPS have conspired to destroy our school district may possibly be running and financing some School Board candidates with the goal of distorting the real issues in the minds of voters, so that a new and predominately corporate-collusive School Board will ensure that within the next two or three years the NewCo model will inevitably fail, leaving an all-charter district that is unaccountable to the community as the only alternative for Detroit’s ongoingly cheated schoolchildren. The new federal ESSA rules empower the state to do anything it chooses to schools in the bottom five percent. DPS currently has over 30 schools in this category. If the District loses these schools in addition to the fifteen “EA”A schools, it cannot survive. Furthermore, ESSA empowers the state to implement its “remedy” for students who don’t achieve reading proficiency by the close of the third grade. Currently, 88% of DPS third-graders do not read proficiently. Thus, any non-SPEED Slate candidate who doesn’t or won’t concur publicly with the SPEED Agenda either doesn’t grasp what’s viscerally at stake here or is part of a corporate-subsidized disloyal opposition bent on turning our schoolchildren over entirely to the tender mercies of rapacious charter-school officials. Thus, what is or isn’t on these candidates’ agendas will clearly “flush the wolves out of the woods” and expose their true intentions to the public.
I owe my career and indeed my very life to the once nationally predominate DPS and its university-trained and CERTIFIED, highly effective teachers and athletic coaches of yesteryear. By word and by deed (and occasionally at both professional and physical risk), I have dedicated my entire long life and career to building and upholding a fair-and-equal education for ALL children. Now in my 81st year on this planet, I continue to fight for Detroit’s schoolchildren at this crucial and culminating point in our righteous war to overturn once again the unconstitutionally reinstated emergency management law that we Michiganians voted in 2012 to rescind–and to get it overturned this second time finally and for good.
Detroit author, poet, columnist, and radio and television host John Telford was Wayne State University’s Distinguished Educator of the Year in 2001 (for human-rights activism), a 1982 Fellow of the Kettering-sponsored IDEA (Institute for the Development of Educational Ideas), a Joe Louis Memorial Foundation Spirit-of-the-Champ awardee in 2011, and a WSU (1978) and DPS (2014) Sports Halls of Fame inductee. An occasional Adjunct Professor at Wayne State and Oakland universities, Dr. Telford was publicly educated in Detroit from kindergarten through graduate school. His website is A Life on the Run. Hear his shows Sunday afternoons at 3:00 on WCHB NewsTalk1200. Read the ‘Telford Telescope’ columns in the monthly ‘Detroit Native Sun’ and periodically in the ‘Michigan Chronicle’ and on this D-REM website. His crusading, Detroit-oriented books are available at Amazon Books (type in Dr. John Telford) or by ordering them through him at (313) 460-8272 or at DrJohnTelfordEdD@aol.com.