Much DPSCD work now needs to be done–transparently

By  Dr. John Telford

I have expressed a wide range of concerns in emails and stated remarks to the new Detroit Public Schools Community District Board of Education.  Those concerns include the Board’s failure to involve the community more fully and transparently in the superintendent-screening/review process, their cavalier reduction of citizens’ speaking-time at the March 14 meeting at King High School, and their making community members wait over an hour to speak while they went into closed session at that meeting.  In a later communication to them, I called them to account for their refusal to afford interim Superintendent Alycia Meriweather a well-earned public interview for the Superintendency.  I frankly don’t know whether the immediately previous and long-serving Board would have afforded the hard-working Meriweather her highly-deserved interview had they been elected to their former positions this past November instead of the new folks who got in, but as the old Board’s chosen pro bono interim Superintendent, I would at my now advanced age of 81 have been eager for them to get my permanent and far younger successor on board ASAP and then use me as an officially contracted pro bono advisor to the new Superintendent for as long as I am needed and able.

A Board member shared with me the opinion that one or two other Board members want no part of me in ANY capacity–paid or unpaid–but my well-known reputation for rebellious confrontation is valid only when such action is required and rightful (although many folks in Rochester and Madison Heights probably wouldn’t agree.) I have volunteered to serve pro bono again because this Board faces additional and mammoth fiscal challenges, including the oversight of a “financial review commission” unfairly imposed upon it by the state.  The Board already has insufficient funds to run DPSCD at an acceptable level.  I therefore wouldn’t be comfortable accepting any salary for my service and less comfortable bumping another administrator to make room for me.  Some folks are aware that I refused a substantial bribe to desert my non-paying DPS Superintendency for an EAA job in 2012.  This DPSCD Board can expect similar pressures to be forthcoming when the DeVos/Schuette machine and its corporate-collusive minions note that the Board is restoring excellence without resorting to closings and charterings.

All three of the final candidates whom the Board has selected to be publicly interviewed for the Superintendency possess impeccable credentials.  Nonetheless, all of us Detroiters must now put our full support behind River Rouge Superintendent Derrick Coleman, the best-suited finalist for the job.  During the ten months I served pro bono as the DPS Superintendent, I met with Dr. Coleman and the other Wayne County superintendents on a monthly basis at Wayne RESA, and I found him to be affable,articulate, and progressive.  I believe he is also aware of the science-and-research-based, field-proven, pay-only-for-success Two Sigma program that I and the recent Board tried in vain to get then-Emergency Financial Manager Roy Roberts and then-Deputy Superintendent Karen Ridgeway to implement–and which the current Board (thank God!) is  now wisely about to pilot in our two lowest-performing schools.  Had this program been implemented in 2012, the District’s Priority schools would all be out of Priority status now.

I am happy to see that the Board at least followed my advice to advance a finalist with a DPS background, as Dr. Coleman has–and him also being African-American in a 90% African-American school district will definitely benefit the children, too.  It remains now for the Board to hire him fast and then recommend to him–as I will–that he retain Ms. Meriweather as his Deputy.  That level of administrative continuity is crucial to our school district’s recovery from the long night of the ruinous 1999 state takeover.of our then-solvent and academically competitive school district, which is now mired in deep, state-imposed debt, with the lowest student test scores in America.

Dr. John Telford is a DPS alumnus, a former international track star, a retired suburban superintendent and deputy superintendent; a former college teacher and administrator, a former DPS teacher, athletic coach, counselor, building administrator, Executive Director of the Southwest Quadrant and of Community Affairs, and a recent pro bono Superintendent under state-imposed emergency financial management (for ten months in 2012-2013).  He has won multiple awards for his civil-rights activism.  Contact him at (313) 460-8272 or  His books are available at Barnes & Noble,, or by arrangement with the author.  His website is