Friday, April 29, 2011

East Detroit Public Schools

This picture is from my diploma, East Detroit High School Class of 1969. The 1970 census for East Detroit showed 45,920 souls in E.D. The 1970 population peak declined steadily to 34,530 residents in 2000. Fewer residents, less tax revenue; fewer students, less matching funds. The largest Eastpointe employer is, and has been, East Detroit Public Schools. EDPS has had troubles for years. Superintendent John F. Gardiner was indicted on several counts of fraud in 2002, along with other school officials; Gardiner's appeal was denied in 2006. EDPS Superintendent Bruce Kefgen was hired in 2004. For the next years, the bickering about budget issues continued. The school board seems to have failed miserably in their oversight duties. An audit of EDPS by an independent firm, paid for by the board, revealed financial oversight nonsense. The board approved a deficit budget, violating state law. The board fired Kefgen January, 2010, still without accurate budget information in hand. Seems Kefgen's projected $800,000 budget shortfall was actually $3,000,000.00 and now is about $11 million. Kefgen blamed the school board for the district's financial woes. EDPS school board president Jeff Allen resigned in November, 2010. East Detroit Public Schools made Governor Snyder's hit list for an emergency financial manager. Now I'm wondering why either an EFM or a ringmaster wasn't assigned 10 years ago. But what is the core issue in this little troubled school district? Gardiner abused his authority, and he dishonored the students he was hired to serve. Was Kefgen incompetent? The school board met for a couple of years without insisting on having school district budget information; and were so clueless, they paid $20,000 to have an independent auditor expose this embarrassing dereliction of duty to the parents and children of Eastpointe. Does tiny EDPS represent a microcosm of education in the U.S.A. today?

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