Jack Martin a good choice to lead DPS

Jul 16, 2013 by

report cardDetroit Public Schools Emergency Manager Roy Roberts has made it pretty clear in recent months that after two years on the job he’s ready to spend more time on the golf course and enjoy retirement. Now he can. And his replacement Jack Martin is a competent choice to take the reins of the troubled district.

Gov. Rick Snyder made the announcement Monday in Detroit. The change takes place immediately. The estimated 50,000 students who still attend district schools deserve a leader who will help improve their education and chances at life. Roberts did his best by eliminating waste and mismanagement and directing more attention to quality of learning. Martin brings plenty of business experience and credibility to the role. And he’s no stranger to Detroit or Detroit Public Schools. But he still expects the job to challenge him.

Until now, Martin served as Detroit’s chief financial officer, a job he got after the state agreed to a financial consent agreement with the city in 2012. The failure of that agreement, which led to the appointment of Emergency Manager Kevyn Orr in March, does not reflect poorly on Martin. The consent agreement was doomed to fail from the beginning — with too many players involved, including a dysfunctional City Council unwilling to work with the mayor’s office.

Martin, who attended Detroit schools, was previously emergency manager of Highland Park Schools and a member of the Detroit financial review team in 2012 that recommended a state takeover. A certified public accountant, Martin is definitely Snyder’s kind of numbers guy. He previously served as chief financial officer of the U.S. Department of Education and chairman and CEO of Home Federal Savings Bank of Detroit. And he’s chairman and founder of an area accounting firm.

Martin says he has every confidence in what Roberts has done and doesn’t plan any major shakeups in policy or personnel. That’s a good decision, as Roberts strove to put in place a strategic plan that would ensure continuity after he left. On the academic front, Martin will have an advocate in district Superintendent of Academics Karen Ridgeway. Plus, he says he plans to solicit advice for best academic practices from area university experts.

Jack Martin has the business experience and credibility to help Detroit Public Schools.

Jack Martin has the business experience and credibility to help Detroit Public Schools. – Dale G. Young/Detroit News

Roberts announced in May that he would be stepping down when his contract expired but agreed to stay on a few more months until a suitable replacement was found. During his tenure, Roberts accomplished much. He also encountered more struggles than he’d anticipated. The former General Motors executive fought with the Detroit school board for months when the state’s former emergency manager law was put on hold last year. Once the law was in question, the board made his life miserable with constant petty court battles over academic control. Luckily for DPS, Roberts stayed the course, working to stem enrollment declines, keep kids in school every day, improve test scores — and substantially reduce the deficit.

He’s made progress on most fronts, although Martin is inheriting a district that still needs a lot of help. Under Roberts’ leadership, the $327 million deficit has shrunk by $251 million; and he’s offered balanced budgets and even operating surpluses, according to the governor’s office. Graduation rates have increased by 5 percent and test scores improved slightly.

Treasury Department spokesman Terry Stanton says Martin will have 18 months under the state’s new emergency manager law, Public Act 436, before the school board can vote to oust him in lieu of another agreement with the state. There’s no question the board will take that opportunity, so Martin is working under a limited time frame. Yet he says he’s confident he can “move the dial” during that time. With a fresh EM law in place, Martin should be able to avoid the school board bickering Roberts faced. Substantial challenges, however, still lie ahead.

via Jack Martin a good choice to lead DPS.

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