By Dr. John Telford
The recent democratically elected but undemocratically dissolved School Board’s SPEED Slate running for the new Board includes six of the former Board, along with me. Those six former (and rightful) Board members are Tawana Simpson, LaMar Lemmons, Ida Short, Wanda Redmond, Elena Herrada, and Herman Davis. These individuals are running this fall for the state’s new and Lansing-engendered Detroit Public Schools Community District Board of Education. This impending new state-created Board, now to be reduced from the former eleven to only seven members, is the latest far-reaching effectuation of the unwarranted1999 state takeover of DPS and its disenfranchising followup emergency management law. (To repeat: 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 $3.5 billion in debt, and except for the “Educational Achievement” Authority (EAA) scores, DPS scores are the nation’s worst.) Our SPEED Slate is also endorsed by longtime schools activist Helen Moore, and every DPS employee had better pray that at least four of us get elected on November 8. 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 chosen Superintendent pro bono in 2012-2013, driving myself to work in my own car every day, 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 these eight initial but essential positional Agenda Items for our SPEED Slate (as well as for any of the numerous additional Board candidates who are prepared to discuss these Items on my Sunday afternoon radio show at3:00 on WCHB AM1200 and hopefully set forth a similar agenda, since if a 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 unwarranted “new”-district 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 raise grade-level reading proficiency beyond national norms 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 associate degree with a marketable skill.
* Be prepared to sign a letter to Governor Snyder from ALL of us candidates and hopefully from the “new” Detroit Public Schools “Community” District’s Emergency (“Transitional”) Manager calling upon the Governor to forbid his Michigan School Reform Office or any other state entity from closing any former DPS school or any current or former EAA school before 2020 (…plus several of the progressive precepts and specified goals and objectives for DPS in my twenty-page Superintendent’s 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 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 130,000 K-12 public-school-age students.residing in Detroit. The stakes are so high that the same actors who for the past decade-and-a-half of the state takeover of DPS have conspired to destroy our school district have now recruited and are 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-backed 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. These imposter candidates are corporate-collusively supported by the major media; e.g., the ‘Detroit News’ has already gone on record as opposing my Board candidacy, while deliberately misrepresenting my Agenda. 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 EAA schools that Michigan’s governor removed from DPS in 2012 to create that failed experimental quasi-district, the new Detroit Public Schools Community District 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 candidates who don’t or won’t publicly endorse the SPEED Agenda either don’t grasp what’s viscerally at stake here or are part of the 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 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, so it can devastate our children’s future no longer.
Detroit author, poet, columnist, radio/television host, former international track star, and SPEED Slate school board candidate John Telford was Wayne State University’s Distinguished Alumnus 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 websites are A Life on the Run email@example.com. Hear his shows Sunday afternoons at 3:00 on WCHB NewsTalk1200. Read his columns in the monthly ‘Detroit Native Sun’ and periodically in the ‘Michigan Chronicle’ and on the website D-REM (Detroiters Resisting Emergency Management). 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.