MEMO:  January 25, 2016


FROM:  Ben Washburn


Based upon my life’s experience and a lot of basic sociological findings, none of the things being talked about in the Legislature, papers, talk shows, and other media these days will result in any real improvement in the educational outcomes for Detroit’s children.   In this paper, I will try to explain why, and also why you actually ought to read it to its end.

I am not a fan of calling together a small group of folks who are distressed about what appears to be the educational outcomes of our students, but who don’t know much more than they have read or heard in the media, and then having them try to decide what they can do about the issue.   The more that you actually go into these issues, the more complex you will find that they are.  Bottom Line:  You have to dig deeper, a whole lot deeper.

So, why should you waste any of your time listening to some obscure old white guy?  What am I likely to know that is worth knowing?   Well, my life experiences will probably stun you.    But, for now, you can just skip them and go on to page 13, and come back to this point, if you still wonder why I am able to say what I say.

I grew-up on the far lower ledge of polite society, but I was also just one of those millions of my generation who made it somewhat to the other side of the tracks.  It was not easy and it was rarely comfortable.   Even today, after 80 years, I am never really at ease in breaking bread with folks who grew up on the better side of the tracks.  But that particular discomfort also accounts in part for my success of identifying with, after knocking on tens of thousands of doors, with my constituents in Northwest Detroit, who four times elected me as their representative on the Detroit Board of Education between 1989 and 2003, even though I was “white” and 75% of them were “black”.

I grew up on a subsistence tobacco farm in north-central Kentucky.  My mother was the daughter of a mean-spirited, but “piss-poor” one-eyed, red-haired share-cropper, and a passive and always submissive mother.  My mother finished the 8th grade in a two-room school, but couldn’t go to high school because the Great Depression hit in 1929, and she and her 5 brothers and sisters had to work in the fields in order for the family to have just enough money to have pancakes for breakfast and “mush” and sometimes pork-belly for supper.  She was also socially ostracized for being epileptic, because that, then and there, was widely believed to be the result of the mortal sins of her parents.

At age 19 in 1934, she met my father at a barn dance.  My father was then 35 and one of a family of six Erskine Cauldwell misfits, who were by then on the far edge of polite society.  He was the kind of crackpot that people edged away from after exchanging just a few words.  But my father was a descendent of a family of early pioneers, who at one time had been at the top center of polite society.  And my mother was enamored by the Washburn family’s past reputation.  They were married in February 1935, and I was born exactly nine months later, delivered in the farmhouse by a Morman mid-wife who lived about a mile down the road.  Sometimes, when my wife is exasperated by some household mess that I have made, she will blurt-out:  “Were you born in a barn?”  And I will answer:  “Pretty close!”  It was by kerosene lamplight during the winter of 1935, in a house that had been built in just 7 days,  which had no closets to store anything, and in a bedroom heated by a coal stove, with no running water or electricity.  I still have that lamp.

My mother was not a brilliant woman, but she was a very capable person.  When she was in that final 8th grade, she won a county-wide prize in the 4-H Club.  In later years, she won the top homemaker prize for three years running at the Kentucky State Fair, for her baking, canning, and sewing.   She was even featured in 1950 in a national magazine advertising campaign by the Fleishman Yeast Company.  In later years, when she lived in Niagara Falls, New York with her second husband, she worked for 16 years in the lady’s apparel accessories section of the biggest department store in the city, Jansen’s.  She quickly rose from being a sale’s clerk to being in charge of this section, and was sent to New York City each year during Fashion Week, to buy her section’s inventory.   She had very good taste for what would sell, despite all the deficits in her education.

But, when I was growing-up, my mother was not invited into the existing networks of middle-class folks who lived around us, because she just “didn’t belong among more affluent folk”. Most of the neighborhood women were part of a group known as the Homemakers.  My mother was never invited to take part.   I guess that I knew about this disparity, but didn’t know what to make of it.  My father’s brothers and sisters were also not invited, because they were simply weird.

The summer that I was 5, I was invited to a birthday celebration a half-mile up the dirt road for the 6th birthday of a neighbor’s daughter.  They served chocolate ice cream cones, which I ended-up excitedly but accidentally, smearing across the resplendent white dress of the star of the event.  Her mother went spastic, and insisted that I “apologize” or go home.   Well, I went home crying all the way down the road, because I had no clue as to what “apologize” meant.  Of course, I knew what someone saying:  “I’m going to whip your sorry ass” meant, but I had no clue as what “apologize” meant.

That Fall, I started first grade at Cropper High School with the 57 other kids in my classroom.  I was the youngest and among the most unprepared in the class, because I was born on the day before the cut-off date to begin school.  Our teacher, Miss Wright was an elderly woman who was humorless and strict.  (With 58 kids to break-in, maybe that was the only way she could have been.)  One day early on, I needed to relieve my bladder, but had no idea as what to do, other than to try to wait for recess.  At home, I would just go out the back door and then out into the weeds and let go.   I had seen other kids raise their hand and ask to be “excused”.  But I had no clue as to what that was all about. Finally, I could hold it in no longer.  So the pee dribbled through my pants, ran and across the seat and puddled onto the floor next to my seat.  Miss Wright came ambling up the aisle until she encountered my puddle, at which point she was revolted and on the verge of gagging.  She yanked me out of my seat, took her heavy 3-sided ruler and whacked it across my knuckles, exclaiming “You nasty, nasty little creature”, and sent me bawling to the Principal’s office, where I sat for five hours on a bench in the hallway, while other kids walked by and laughed at me, until it was time to take the bus home.  Some things, you never forget.

I suspect that most of the folks reading this grew-up within families who had already achieved a middle-class status, and have absolutely no clue as to how to deal with these crucial class-relations issues.   But gut-responses and shallow understandings will not do diddily-dee to improve the economic and sociological prospects for people in this City.  It is not enough to just be well-meaning.

I’m writing a whole lot about myself here, because I think it is relevant to the bottom line of this paper.  I expect that you will need to know a lot about me if you are to take anything that I am going to say seriously.  I am extremely persistent at anything that I undertake.  This, I think, comes from two different sources.

Firstly, going back to my mother, from her childhood training, she was a taskmaster at getting done whatever work needed to get done, no matter how long it took.  From the time that I was 8 or 9, that meant going out into the tobacco fields in the summer and working from 8 AM until the sun finally went down at 8 or 9 PM in the evening.  Tobacco takes a lot of intensive labor.  It takes about 300 workhours between May and September to raise an acre.  Much of this work is actually easier for a child than it is for an adult, because you are closer to the ground, and don’t have to bend down so much.

You begin by weeding the plant beds in April and May after you get home from school.  Then, you transplant the seedlings into the growing fields at the end of May.  Some survive; and some die.  So, by June, school is out, and you come back along the rows with a sack full of transplants, and use a wooden peg to put them into the ground where the first transplant had died.  By July 4th, the plants are knee-high and the leaves begin to be assaulted and riddled by big fat green horned worms (You have probably seen some of these worms on your tomato vines.)  So, all day long, you have to go down the tobacco rows, check the bottom of every leaf, and squish these creatures dead in your hand.   Then in August, the tobacco plant begins to sprout a “sucker” at the joint between the main stalk and each leaf.  So, once again you have to work down each row all day long in hot and humid weather using your hands to snap these suckers off.  By now, the tobacco is 4-feet high and each plant has about 20 leaves. The ones at the very bottom mature first; they turn yellow and then a dried-up brown.  In September, the adults go through and whack down each plant at the point where its leaves are still yellow and spear it onto a 4-foot hardwood lathe.  These sticks are then taken to the barn and hung upside down to cure.   But the children come behind and gather-up the “trash” leaves which have already turned brown.  These leaves, because they contain a higher amount of sugars, are among the most prized by the tobacco buyers.  So, I’m sorry that it took so many words to make this point, but if you haven’t been there and done it, you can not possibly understand the point that I wanted to make.  This makes you persistent.

Secondly, I was also born with what today, folks would call a dyslexic disability.  But then and there, it meant that up until the fifth grade, I got a constant series of Ds and Fs, but was pushed forward to the next grade anyway.  In the Spring of my fourth grade, at the end of the day while waiting for the bus to come, my teacher, Ms. Leach, began to read from “Tom Sawyer”, and I became obsessively hooked on learning how to read.  I would go home every day and tell our hired hand, Gayle Owens, all that I had heard that day, and Gayle would laugh and encourage me to tell him more.   During the fifth grade, I finally bloomed and took home the prize for reading every one of the 126 books in the fifth grade library.  So my grades jumped from Ds. and Fs to solid As within just that one year.  But, I was still a very, very slow reader.  It took immense concentration for me to read.  I learned how to blot-out everything else that was going on anywhere around me and zero-in on just this one most important thing.  I had to do what is called “overlearning” everything.  But it became a life-long habit and asset.   I am always unsure of myself, and always over-learn all aspects of every situation before I make a decision.  This drives some folks around me nuts, because I totally blot them out when I am reading or thinking, but I am very, very seldom wrong about anything that I finally say or do.

My father was not much at parenting.   One Spring day, when I was six, I went out to where he had been trying unsuccessfully for hours to get the tractor fixed and started so that he could begin to plow the fields for the year’s tobacco crop.  So, he grabbed a broken triangular fan belt and beat me with it several times.  It took three weeks for the welts across my butt and legs to heal.  So, I quickly learned to stay well away from him whenever he was frustrated.

My father also was not much at partnering.  He had some pretty gross habits.  He never used a handkerchief.  When he got a cold, he would blow his snots into his hand and sling them against the nearest wall, to the consternation of my mother who tried to keep th0se walls decorated with wallpaper.  He seldom bathed, and would wear the same pairs of overalls and long-johns week-after-week until you could scrape the dirt off of them.  He seldom shaved, but kept his straight razor under his bedroom pillow, a fact which always kind of puzzled me.  In later years, my mother explained that from their first night after being married, he had warned her that he would slit her throat if she ever dared to deny his wants.   Based on my birthdate, I must have been conceived on that first night.

Once I began to do well in school, I got a lot of personal support from my teachers, and was encouraged to continue my education.  But, that also brought me into clear conflict with my father, who wanted me to work the farm and allow him to retire, because, as a “Washburn”, work was simply beneath him; he hated it.

Why?  Because the five generations before him had been slave-owners and slave-traders.   Benjamin the first, was born on November 30, 1752 in Culpepper County, Virginia.  He had at least 21 brothers and sisters that I have been able to trace.  (Curiously, of the 5 Ben Washburns, 3 of us were born on November 30th, and my father was a near miss on December 13th.)  Ben, the first, is noted in West Virginia local history books as one of the few Washburn brothers who escaped an Indian foray from Detroit in 1777, when he was 14.  He joined Washington’s Continental Army on his 15th birthday in 1778.  He spent two years guarding the 6,000 British soldiers captured at the Battle of Saratoga in western New York in 1777.

After marching them back to Boston in 1780 for a prisoner exchange, he was with the Continental Army at the final battle at Yorktown.   For this, he received a land grant from the State of Virginia to land in western Kentucky, which then was still a part of Virginia.  In 1784, he sold his rights to that land, and migrated instead to central Kentucky along with an uncle and two cousins, and 26 slaves.   He bought land in what is now Shelby County.  That is where I grew-up.  I still own a piece of that land.  Ben I is actually buried on the back of my farm, but his gravestone has long been stolen (as an historical collectible piece), and no one knows anymore the exact location of his grave.  And I’m not sure that I care much about that.

Going back a much longer ways, my distant ancestors were Vikings from Scandinavia who invaded northern France about 700 AD.   By 1066, they came  to England as invaders with William the Conqueror, and were awarded lands in middle western England near Wales.  For 500 years, they lived off the fat of the land, as soldiers of the King.  But in the 1640’s, they sided with the King against Oliver Cromwell’s parliamentary army in the English Civil War, and lost.   So, they had to find other ways to make a living, and many of them came to the then growing American colonies.

From 1704 until his death in 1789, Ben, the first’s father and uncle ran a slave-trading outpost at the upper navigable reaches of the Rappahannock River in Culpepper County, Virginia.  Curiously again, that plantation became the scene in June, 1863 of one of the more prominent civil war battles.  Three weeks before the crucial battle at Gettysburg, 9,500 horse-mounted forces of the Union Army accidentally confronted about 10,000 members of JEB Stuart’s cavalry, for a whole morning of indecisive battle, on what had once been the Washburn plantation, in the battle at Brandy Station.

I did not know much about the previous four paragraphs when I was growing-up, but was able to reconstruct it about ten years ago.  Because they were English gentry and landlords, actual records still exist which chart their history.

But early on, I did remember something about Elijah Smith.   Lidge was born as a slave to my ancestors in 1854, in the same year as my father’s father was born.  They grew up first as playmates, until Lidge was maybe 10 or ll.  Lidge was freed from slavery by the Kentucky Legislature in 1865 when he was 11, but stayed-on as a servant to the family until they died off in the 1930s.  His wife worked as a cook for my great uncle Ben until she died in 1925.   Lidge lived in a cabin about ½ mile up the hill from our house on the Truman farm.  The father of U.S. President Harry Truman was born in that cabin, before he moved away years later to Missouri.   So, when I started walking, and my mother needed to go and work in the tobacco patches, she would go get Lidge to watch after me, and keep me from falling into the open well in our back yard.  The well was 30 feet deep and had no cover.   So Lidge must have done a very good job.

I truly don’t remember that time, but I do remember that traumatic Saturday in 1940.  I was playing in behind the wood cook-stove in the kitchen, making little forts with the corncobs that my mother used to start the fire in the morning.  My mother was making breakfast, when suddenly she looked out the window and started screaming.  She had looked up the hill and saw that Lidge’s cabin was afire.  By the time anyone got there, Lidge had been burned alive.

In 1950, our farm had a 4-acre tobacco base, which was the maximum amount that was allowed, if the tobacco was to be sold on the federally controlled market.  When I was 15, my father allowed me to raise one acre for myself.  I went to a vocational agriculture high school, and was learning scientific farming techniques.  My father had always had his own crack-pot theories on raising tobacco, and he tried that summer to sabotage my crop in every way he could think.  It was a very dry summer that year and there was minimal water to grow the tobacco.  I had the soil for my acre tested by the County Agricultural Extension Service, so that I applied just the right amount of lime and fertilizer formula.  I hired my cousin to plow my field around the hill on a contour, which created hundreds of little dams, so that when it rained, the water would soak into the ground. For plants, I used the most recently developed, disease-resistant varieties recommended by the University of Kentucky Experimental Station.   On his three acres, my father planted a variety, which he had used since the 1920’s, but it was not resistant to tobacco viral diseases.   He was proud of running his rows of tobacco up and down the hill in a straight line, but this meant that when the few rains came, the water ran straight down the hill and into the creek without soaking-in.  He used his usual mix of fertilizers.  By the beginning of August, my crop was way ahead of his, so he went out into my field and snapped-off the tops of all of my plants, so that they could not grow any bigger.   But my one acre still out-produced his 3 acres that year, and I put $3,000 in my bank account, which was more than enough at that time to pay for a 4-year education at the University of Kentucky College of Agriculture.

This on-going conflict all came to a head on my 16th birthday that year, when my father had gone to the bank and realized that my mother had gambled away half of what he saw as his retirement fund. My mother paid all of the farm bills and wrote all of the checks.  When we finally got electric lights in 1948, she wanted an electric stove and a refrigerator.  All of the neighbors had gotten them.  But my father said no.   My father was infatuated with race horses and spent hours pouring over the daily results in the Louisville Courier Journal.  We had a cousin in the county seat who was a bookie.  My mother had placed bets with him and hoped to win enough to buy these things, but she had ended-up losing $3,000.

My father threw his breakfast against the wall that morning and went for his pistol with the obvious intent to kill us all.  I was frozen, with a toothbrush still in my mouth, knowing that I was about to be dead.  My father was a dead shot; I had seen him plunk-off ground-hogs with that pistol from the length of a football field.   There was no point in trying to run.  Fortunately, my mother had seen this coming, and had emptied the pistol and had hidden the bullets.  Once he realized that his gun had no bullets, he caved, and tried to sweet-talk my mother.  But she backed away into the corner of the kitchen holding a butcher knife and told him to stay away.  After a while, she told him to take his sorry ass and get up to the tobacco stripping room at the upper barn.  Not knowing what else to do, he put on his jacket and went there.  My mother, my younger brother and myself left the house that day, never to come back.  Because under Kentucky law at that time, all of a child’s wealth (under age 21)  belonged to the parent, my father seized my bank account so that I could not go to college.

But, fortunately in those days, you could still work your way through college.  I got a good, but dangerous, job that summer as a steeplejack’s apprentice, putting lightning rods up on houses, barns, water towers and silos.  With great luck, I survived four deadly fall episodes that summer.  And with the help of a $250 scholarship from the Kroger Company, plus a part-time job in the university library, I was able to finish my freshman year at the University of Kentucky College of Agriculture with a 4.0 GPA.   There was one nine-day period when I totally ran-out of money and had to go totally without food.  But, you find, that after the first 3 days, your body adjusts and you no longer feel hungry, so long as you avoid eating anything.  Sometime, mere survival is not as hard as you might think.

I also got a good Teamster’s Union job in a milk-processing plant the next summer in Cincinnati, which would pay enough to get through my sophomore year.   But in July, my younger brother got appendicitis, and all of my earnings had to go to pay for his hospital bills.  So, I then joined the Air Force in August, 1954 to get the GI Bill to pay for my college when I would get out 4 years later.

By the mere draw of a straw, I ended-up being assigned to a covert intelligence organization in Europe and the Middle East, where I was surrounded with people who had PhDs in economics, sociology, political history, and international law.  My life, my understandings, and my perspectives were changed forever.  My on-the-job experience over the next five years far exceeded anything that I could ever have learned by going to college.

I have also always been extremely lucky in being at the right place at just the right moment.

So, unlike the most of you, I am not a lifelong Detroiter, although as a result of intensive interactions over the past 52 years, it has become my hometown.  I finished my first degree in history and sociology at the University of Michigan in 1961, and came here in May, 1962 as a personnel specialist for the Detroit Civil Service Commission.  For three years, I specialized in testing, hiring and re-classifying employees in the fields of engineering, chemistry, architecture, forestry, skilled trades, construction equipment operation, bus and vehicle maintenance and repair, water and sewer system operation, maintenance and repair, print shop operation, etc.

After the Michigan Legislature passed the Public Employees Relations Act in 1966, I was assigned to facilitate the transition of City personnel management from a paternalistic system into collective bargaining.  At night, during all of those years, I also went to Law School at Wayne State University.  The head of Civil Service in 1962 was Donald Sublette, who had held that job for more than 20 years.  He hated all politicians, whom, he condemned all as venal, and he hated lawyers.  When he learned that I was in law school, he froze all future promotions for me and exiled me to a room in the Old County Building.   Fortunately, that enabled me to study law while on the job, and I ended-up second in my first year class.

On the quiet, I also assembled a handbook with which to advise applicants for a broad range of City jobs on exactly what their chances were to get a job.  I had observed that many applicants, once they were advised that they had passed a test, would sit on their hands and wait to be called, even though in reality, there was absolutely no chance that they would ever be called.   I felt that letting people think that they all but had a job, when they really didn’t, to not only be a disservice, but to be cruel and vindictive.

My engagement in the Detroit political scene began within 6 months after I first came to town. I worked to elect George Crockett as the second black man to the Detroit City Council.  Crockett was a brilliant black lawyer, who had been targeted in the 1950s for subversive anti-American activities because he had defended Communist activists.  Over the next ten years, I worked for the successful election of at least 10 far-Left candidates to local and judicial offices.

From 1967 until 1971, I was the head grant-finder/coordinator for the City.  These were the years of President Johnson’s Great Society initiatives.  Congress was authorizing at least one new program every month, and sometimes every week.   My job was to keep track of these emerging opportunities, to collaborate with folks in Washington who were drawing up the regulations to implement each program, and to make sure that Detroit was first in line when the grants became available.

My engagement to improve the lot of Detroit Public Schools goes all the way back 45 years ago to 1972 when I worked to create a State-wide Coalition dedicated to changing the funding formula for all public schools state-wide.  Kathryn, my first child was not born until a year later.  Today, I am the Treasurer of MOSES, a metropolitan coalition of churches, mosques and synagogues, which are dedicated to social justice.  But even way back then, I ran the finance committee for that effort.  It was made-up mostly of far-Left activists, including Presidential and Congressional candidates for the Communist Party.  But back then, Democrats Soapy Williams and then John Swainson, had been our Governors, and the most of the State leaned strongly leftwards.  Even the Republican Governor, George Romney, and his Lieutenant Governor, William Milliken, were more liberal than moderate.   State Representative George Montgomery from the University area of our City had been the chair of the Legislature’s Taxation Committee for more than 10 years, and I was working with his son by then, Alfred, as the Deputy Director of the Detroit/Wayne County Justice Coordinating Council.   Even so, our efforts fell short of changing the State law on school funding, but my engagement on educational issues began way back then.

In the mid-70s, I became active in my own neighborhood in Rosedale Park.  From 1954 until then, my work and academic focus had been upon applying sociological understandings to both work- and voluntary-organizations.  This was the time during which Judge Roth ordered the desegregation of the Detroit Public Schools.  I was married in April 1971 at age 36, and by July 1971, we had purchased a home in Rosedale Park.   I became deeply involved in the organization of the neighborhood within 3 years.  White homeowners in our area were taking flight in great numbers, because black inner-city children were being bussed into the local school (Vetal), and the local children were being bussed into inner-City schools.  Rosedale was a solid middle class area, and most of these parents were unwilling to allow their children to become “Guinea pigs” for what they saw as a sure-to-fail social engineering experiment.  The neighborhood organization of the time was dedicated to keeping the area the same as it had been for the previous thirty years, a place in which Jews, Catholics and Black folks were not welcome.

In 1975, I became part of a small group of young newcomers which aimed to reform the neighborhood improvement organization into what it needed to become.  My own task was to create a network of Block Captains, two families on each block to stabilize the neighborhood.  Because my wife and I only had one car, I rode the bus back and forth to work every day downtown, 40 minutes each way.  My first step over 6 months, while riding to and from work, was to write a manual for Block Captains.  I worked in the City-County Building, and during lunch, I checked the County Land Records to see who had moved into the neighborhood to replace the folks who had fled, to see what they paid, and how much they owed on their mortgages.  There were 59 blocks in Rosedale, which included 1582 homes.  I typed up the mimeograph originals for my manual after hours a work, and ran them off in my basement on a handcrank machine. The National Bank of Detroit donated 200 three-ring binders for it.  The former structure of the neighborhood organization was based upon old-timers who had lived there all their lives.  My concept was to approach these newcomers, with the message that by buying their home, they had committed themselves to the biggest personal investment that they would ever make, and that they had a paramount interest in making sure that that huge investment would be preserved.   I personally knocked on more than 140 doors of these folks and explained what I was asking of them.   95% agreed to buy-in.   Within 6 months, the new leadership of the neighborhood mirrored the racial and socio-economic make-up of our neighborhood.  And within 18 months, neighborhood support for our joint efforts rose from 30% to 85% for dues-paying members.

What do I take from that experience?  First of all, at least 95% of the black families who had moved into the neighborhood had strong middle-class values and aspirations.  They also clearly understood with reference to the “American Dream” of upward economic mobility, that their success was highly dependent upon whom you know as well as what you know.  Without those “personal networks”, you stand little chance of really getting ahead, no matter what you know.  A discouraging many of these folks have since moved onto what they saw as more promising venues in the “burbs”, and they might be right, except that most “burbs” do not have the same intensive interaction as we had created in Rosedale Park.  In most cases out there, you never have that chance to “know” new folks who can help you get farther ahead.

But, I was also aware, that as the black middle class became more and more concentrated in our neighborhoods, this left many other inner-city areas without any leadership, as the have’s and have-nots continuously sorted-out and became more isolated from one another.

When my children, who were born in 1973, 1977 and 1979 became of school age, beginning in 1978, my wife and I bought into what was then one of the Public School System’s Alternative Schools:  The Detroit Open School.  While it was based upon a model of what was called an English Nursery School, it’s main feature was that it strongly expected that parents would take an intensely active part in the operation of the school.  They would actually come in and help with the everyday class-work, whether or not they had any clue as to “how best to teach children”.  Just the fact your parents actually worked in the school and knew the parents and names of your classmates sends a strong positive message to a child that this place must be something special.  Kathryn, our oldest daughter, began in 1978, and by 1984, I became co-chair of the parent body, 260 families having 405 children in the school.  The school from it’s onset in 1972 required a 50/50 black/white mix of students, even when that part of the City was 70/30 white at that time.  Serious integration was a key part of the concept of this alternative choice.  Of the co-chairs of the parent body, one must be white and the other black.  But intense parental support and involvement was the critical requirement.  A commitment to true diversity and integration was required at the very onset, and both black and white parents lined-up to get admission to this school for weeks on end.  When my wife and I applied, we had to stand in line 24/7 for two weeks ahead of the application date on the street outside the area office.  The line set it’s own rules, but they made sense to everyone.  Someone from the family had to stay in line 24-hours a day to hold your place.  This was in early April, when you had to have a lawnchair and sleeping bags to keep warm overnight, and sometimes even in the cold, windy and sometimes wet mid-days.  We were just like today’s homeless.   But, while we waited in line with other applicants, we each came to know one another and we came to depend upon one another.  So, when the actual school year began, there was no problem at all to sign-up for whatever was requested in support of the school.  We were all seriously committed.

But there was also a problem with some folks, that once their children had gotten into the school, they became lax in their follow-thru.   So, when I was elected as co-chair of the parent council in 1984, it was my commitment to do what I had done in Rosedale Park ten years before.  I developed an outlay of what it would take in volunteer time to make our school the best of the best.  I went to the homes of each of our 260 families that summer, and laid this plan upon them and expressed a positive expectation that each of them commit to do their fair share to make it actually happen.  This took an average of at least one hour at each home.  I was able to do about 20 homes per week and to hit every home over the 13 weeks of that summer.   But, of course, my own family saw very little of me that summer.   Bottom Line:  While in education, it is important to have high expectations of students, and it is just as important to have high expectations of parents.

But those high expectations only result in extraordinary results when you have built very close connections in the first place between all of the folks who constitute the group.  The power to make things better only comes from folks who have very strong connections with and commitments to one another over several years of time.  So the true key question is:  How do we get the parents of school-age children today to come together to form these kinds of ties and bonds with one another?  And how do we keep these groups intact over several years?

For the past 30 years, I have been affiliated with a movement now called MOSES (Metropolitan Organizing Strategy Enabling Strength), of which I am currently the Treasurer.  It’s a coalition of metropolitan churches, mosques, and synagogues which address various public interest issues, using tactics developed in South Chicago in the 1960s by community activist Saul Alinsky.  Back in 1969, I attended a month-long residential workshop at the University of Wisconsin conducted by Alinsky.  While Alinsky promoted the use of confrontational tactics, he also advised that these tactics should only be used for initiatives which were politically winnable, because failure will always sap the strength and durability of any community movement.

I have had very serious reservations about the course which deliberations of the MOSES Task Force on Education have taken.  Unfortunately, in most cases, they have blindly followed the perspectives promoted by the City-Wide Coalition of Public Education.  But one of the brighter perspectives was provided by Rev. Dr. Jeffery Robinson.   I  have been out of that loop for 15 years, and am not intimately aware of the details of today’s situation.  But Rev. Robinson, who was also a member of the Coalition along with our own MOSES Executive Director, did a very good job of bringing many of these issues to our attention.  But these issues are complex and our newspapers do a very poor job of helping you to understand them.   Hopefully, some of the following pages will give you some sense of just how complex these things have been, and will continue to be.

The Malcolm X, Paul Roberson Academy, of which Rev. Robinson was the principal, is a very good example of what a good school must be.  The parents who are attracted to it mostly share an intense and common orientation as to their place in today’s world, which binds them together and which results in them being mutually supportive and pro-education. No one that I know has conducted a study on this, but my experience tells me that at least 20% of the parents in Detroit also share that African-centric orientation, and when you create a school to which they can gravitate, you will also get a much more positive educational result.  One core principle of African-centered education is to question and test authority, which is what it takes for a person to eventually stand on their own two feet, and to make waves in the real world.  I don’t worry about such folks somehow becoming terrorism risks.  If you get enough education to stand on your own two feet, sooner or later, you will gravitate to embracing the common good.

One of Rev. Robinson’s comments especially hit home with me, when he talked about how $1,200 of each student’s $7,200 stipend, is taken away today to repay a $60 Million debt.  My first reaction was, Oh, Lord, I was the guy who first came up with the proposal which has caused much of this debt.  But, I was wrong:  Rev. Robinson was talking about a debt that had been incurred by several Emergency Managers to pay off more than 10 years of successive deficits.

But, there is still another huge debt out there, about which no one is talking, and which in my mind, is a ticking time bomb.   I convinced all of my colleagues on the Board and the Superintendent to do it.  This is also a prime example of how even the most well-meaning intentions can sometimes run headlong into a political buzz-saw.

We, your Detroit Board of Education, had advocated in 1993 for a State-Wide ballot proposal called Proposal A to change the way that schools, state-wide were financed.  It shifted the main means of school support from using a local property tax, with State matching funds, instead to a 2% increase (from 4% to 6%) of the State sales tax.  In Detroit, we had hit the Constitutional ceiling on using the property tax, plus state match, to fund our schools.  This effort succeeded.  If it had not passed, our school system was financially in a tailspin downward.   With it, we have received a State Foundation Grant of about $7,500 for each of the past 10 years.  Without that change, we would now be getting less than $4,000 per student from our local tax millage.   In Detroit, it’s passage meant that a local property tax of 32 mills on a residence was reduced to just 6 mills.    This meant that most taxpayers would see a 24-mill drop in their property tax bill, which was an overall cut of about 40%.  The time was ripe, therefore, to ask the voters for a capital improvement millage increase, before they became used to a much small property tax bill, and became resistant to that increase.  For the previous 40 years, successive Boards had been reluctant to ask voters for more than a 6-Mill Capital Improvement Millage.  The total Detroit millage had been about double of the metropolitan average, that is about 80 mills vs. 40 mills in Oakland, Macomb and out-Wayne County.  The Detroit business community in particular had been dead-set for years against anything more than a 6-mill Capital Improvement Millage. And 6-mills did not come close to the amount needed to keep our schools in good repair.

Perhaps, we could be taken to task for “manipulating” public opinion in making our request.  But for a long list of reasons, the Detroit Public Schools had been deferring maintenance on our school buildings for some 65 years, ever since 1928.  Tax revenue fell sharply during the Depression of the 1930s, so building maintenance was put on the back burner.  Population doubled during WWII, and all available resources were deployed for the war effort.  When the war was over, all available funds went instead into new construction to relieve overcrowding; many schools were running on a day and late afternoon shift.   Teachers were authorized to organize and bargain in the mid-60s, and all available revenue went to increase teacher pay.  Another round of new buildings were constructed in the 1970s as the City boundaries grew.  By 1995, after 65 years of continuing deferral and neglect, our buildings were falling apart.  We had contracted a study with the Barton Malow Construction Company to see what was needed to bring us up to modern standards, and that price tag was estimated to be $5 Billion or more, for what was needed right then.  That did not include any money for what might be needed to keep those buildings in continuing good repair over the next 40 years.  For example, new roofs are needed about every 15 or 20 years.

Before going any further, let me explain a little about what “capital improvement bonds” are all about.   They mainly can only be used to construct or make major renovations on buildings.  They cannot be used for ongoing operating costs, for example, for teacher’s salaries, janitorial services, or for fuel to heat or electricity to light the buildings.  They also can not be used for ordinary building maintenance, such as plaster repair, broken doors, broken windows, repainting, wiring changes, and heating and plumbing system’s repair; these kinds of work must come from the operating budget, from which teacher’s pay is taken.

A capital improvement bond is a kind of loan.  But you cannot ask for a longer time than the estimated useful life of the improvement, which in most cases for school buildings is 40 years.  Each year, you take the money obtained from a property tax levy and pay for the interest then due on the bond, plus an additional 2% to 3% to repay a part of the principle originally borrowed.   It works pretty much like making payments on a home mortgage.   Based upon past experience, you estimate how much revenue that an authorized mill will raise, and you ask the voters to approve a millage rate that will produce the amount that will be needed each year to repay the bond interest and redemption as it becomes due.  Please note carefully the underlined words.  Back during the full employment flush of the middle 90’s, none of us foresaw the double whammy crash of the real estate market and national economy which hit us after the year 2K.   We had  overly optimistic expectations of our future economy back then.   Some of the problem is due to decisions made over the previous 65 years, by Board after Board, to defer building maintenance needs.

The most that we could raise, given then foreseeable property values in Detroit, was $1.5 Billion in bonds to be repaid over the next 40 years.  That was even less than one-fifth of the amount that Barton Malow had estimated that we needed.   We did not have a specific plan, but we did not need that to know, that we needed to take advantage of this transitional opportunity to do the best that we could, before Detroit taxpayers became used to paying much lower taxes.  And this $1.5 Billion millage request was passed by a large majority.

State law placed the limit upon local millages for school capital improvements at 13.75 mills.  When we began this program in 1995, we already had a levy of 6 mills for bonds which had been issued over the previous 40 years.  And most of these bonds would be paid-off in less than another 40 years.   The $1.5 Billion bond request was based upon levying the maximum 7.75 mill difference between the levy of the previous 6 Mills and the 13.75 Mill limit.  Most of those older bonds had been issued in the 1970s for the construction of several new buildings.  Most would be paid off by 2010, and after that, it would be possible to float a new series of bonds for about $800 Million, which could be used for those major repairs needed from 2035 through 2050.

It was our consensus on the Board of Education that we do as much as we could to alleviate distressful conditions in buildings within the District. We also wanted to assure that whatever work that was done, was done, as much as possible, by Detroit-based firms.

So, we chose, not just one but two. Detroit-based, black-owned firms to manage the overall renovation program over the next 20 years.  Our concept was, that these firms would coordinate all that could be reasonably be done over the next twenty years to keep our existing facilities in a reasonably useable condition.   We chose two firms, rather than just one, so that we could compare their results and keep them competing with one another.  That mainly meant, getting roofs in good condition, and getting windows, heating systems and lighting systems in good condition.  We knew going-in that these firms had little or no experience in renovating old buildings and none in managing renovations on such a large scale.  But neither did any of those other firms who had national credentials.   We figured that we had time in which to work all of this out in the future best interests of the City.  We were looking at least at a 20-year program and we were looking to develop a pool of tradesmen among those contractors, who were familiar and competent to keep our buildings in continuing good repair.

We also knew at that time that the population of school-age children in the City was falling off, and that some modifications would be needed to respond to that.  The economy in 1994 was on an upswing, and we did not foresee the job crisis that would be coming in the new Century.  Our main notion, as the student population shrunk, was to close middle schools and move neighborhood schools back to a K-8 format and to a smaller student count.  The only reason that middle schools had been created in the first place was not because they were a great educational ideal, but to relieve overcrowding in the then existing K-8s.  We would use some funds to renovate many of those schools to mothball the excess space.  The next step was to create a series of small high schools in the closed middle school buildings; this mainly required changes in the rest rooms, such as bigger urinals, and the installation of science labs and computer rooms.   We would then get rid of most of our huge high-schools, which had already become massive disciplinary swamps. 

There is no way that teachers can gain any serious influence over thousands of students when they had no means of even knowing their names.  If you expect teachers to have any impact upon student discipline, you cannot have more than 500 students in a building, and those 500 must remain fairly constant, with little turnover.  

With just one exception, it was impossible within that $1.5 Billion to build any new schools.  That one exception was for a new High School of Fine Arts, which was to be done in partnership with the Detroit Symphony Orchestra, which at that time was renovating and expanding Orchestra Hall.  The proposed cost was to be $35 Million. This was a one-time and fleeting opportunity.  So, we went for it. 

It was clearly apparent to us that the bonds used to make these improvements would have to last us unto 2035, and that there would be very few funds available until then to make any other improvements.  So, even though many of our schools severely needed immediate attention, we meant to spread these repairs at least over a 20-year period and to limit ourselves to major repairs which absolutely had to be done, mainly meaning roofs, windows, lights, wiring for computer labs, and in some cases rest rooms.   This again was because once those repairs were made, it would take another 20 years before we could float another major series of maintenance bonds.  This was mainly the result of the previous 65 years of maintenance neglect and deferral. 

Basically, our conclusion was that we needed to have a building operator within every building who clearly understood the unique structural and maintenance needs of that building, and was capable of meeting the most of them.  These buildings had been constructed over the span of 75 years and each presented greatly different construction techniques and materials and maintenance challenges.   Unless carefully managed, steam heating systems can be dangerous.  If a steam boiler is allowed to overheat, it has the explosive power of a one-ton bomb.   We were therefore required by law to have a licensed Operating Engineer on station at any time that a building was open to students or the public.  It did not take a lot of time each day for an Operating Engineer to check the safety of these systems.  The Operating Engineers Union at that time was both willing and capable to have their members do whatever work was needed to maintain all of our buildings in safe, comfortable and useable shape.  

But, there were many other weevils in the woodwork, who wanted to get rid of all of our in-house staff, so that all construction and maintenance work would then have to be contracted outside, and in the end they prevailed.  This included many of our own in-house managers, who would much rather have outside contractors plying them for “favors”, rather than having to supervise and manage what they considered to be a rapscallion group of building tradesmen.  In many cases, Operating Engineers were paid more than their school principals, because they had the power to shut down the whole system by just walking off of the job until they got what they wanted.  They had in the past exercised this power, and this fact was widely used by the advocates for contracting everything out, to discredit them.  Also, most of them were white, and apprenticeships in their union were mainly limited to the families of their current members.  There was also therefore a strong racial undercurrent involved, which these managers exploited to have their way.  

School board members get no compensation; they are only reimbursed for their out-of-pocket expenses.  Too many of our school board members had a personal agenda for either themselves or to get their spouses or their children to become elected to well-paying offices as Legislators, judges, city council-people, and County Commissioners.  For past decades, those folks who stoke the inside corridors of local politics, have looked upon school board seats as just another stepping-stone to the big-time. This is just another insidious part of a corrupting political culture.  Over my 4 terms on the Board, at least 75% of my colleagues fell into this group, including those who were elected as a part of the HOPE Team.  So, while I am not a big fan of having the Mayor appoint the governing board, I also know, from experience, that simply having board members elected by the public bears no less risk.   Crafty scoundrels will always flock to fill both channels by whatever means necessary.   You cannot trust any of them. 

I make these points in some detail, because I know that almost none of you know how educational sausage is actually made. 

So, by 1996, we had settled upon choosing two black-owned firms to manage our building maintenance program.   That meant that these management groups would have a heavy hand in deciding which projects needed to be done, in what order, and by whom.   This choice greatly disturbed the folks at Barton Malow, who had done the original $5 Billion survey of our overall needs, probably at a deep discount because they had hoped to get the on-going control of the program.  They wanted that management contract, and in the end, they got it. The head of the company was then “just by coincidence” the head of Governor Engler’s campaign finance committee, and had an inside ear to the Governor.   They evidently also had the inside ear of the editorial folks at the Detroit Free Press and Detroit News, because there was a steady editorial drumbeat over the next two years to castigate everything that our program managers tried to do.   I cannot say that all of that criticism was misplaced, because we had a lot of feedback from the contracting community to the effect that our program managers were exploiting their favored relationship with us.  But in the real world, that is the inevitable upshot of any policy to favor Detroit-based firms, and you just have to take strong measures to keep it from getting out of control. 

From this, you might conclude that it would have been better if we had kept the management of the program in-house.   Except, our in-house staff had already shown themselves to be even more exploitive of their positions.  There was an overarching problem that you could not trust anyone to act in the best interests of our students. 

In the fall of 1998, the editorial drumbeat continued.  In October, the Board met with Governor John Engler at his Detroit offices.  During discussions at that meeting, Member Lonnie Bates called the Governor out as an unrepentant racist.  The rest of us shrunk back and made no effort to apologize or lighten the episode.   Engler took deep offense; he was a man who took no prisoners during his political life; and he went back to Lansing intent upon eliminating the Detroit Board of Education, and within 5 months, he succeeded in doing that.   Engler was recommending to the Legislature that the existing Board be made an advisory body, and that the Mayor appoint a new Reform Board to take over oversight of the District.  As of January, 1999, Engler for the first time had a Republican majority in both the Senate and House.

Rev. Darryl Redmond was then the President of the Board, and he had had several meetings with Mayor Dennis Archer, in which he reported back to the Board that the Mayor was totally opposed to the Governor’s proposal.  In January of 1999, I invited myself into Redmond’s next meeting with the Mayor.  It took me less than 5 minutes to realize that a deal had already been struck, and that the Mayor was just marking time until the Governor dropped the other shoe.  As Redmond talked on and on, Archer’s eyes glazed over; he could not avoid displaying his non-interest.   Redmond had just been seeing what he wanted to see.  Mayor Archer was simply between a rock and a hard place.  Even then, the City’s fiscal crisis was the Mayor’s first concern.  He hoped to cement a deal in which State Revenue Sharing would be continued.  This was crucial to the financial viability of the City.   Governor Engler had him over the barrel. 

So what happened?  The Board was shoved to the side in March, 1999, and a new Reform Board was appointed by the Mayor.   One of their first actions was to contract with Barton Malow to take over the $1.5 Billion construction management program.   Barton Malow took an entirely different approach to the task.  The contracting community does not like renovation work, because it is highly risky; you never really know what is behind those walls until you open them, and a contract commitment can often become a loss rather than a profit.  On the other hand, brand new construction is very much predictable, and your profit margin is fairly well secure.   So, instead of trying to repair 100% of our buildings over a 20-year period, they decided to use ALL of these funds to build a bunch of new schools and to spend ALL of the money quickly within a three- or four-year period.  These new buildings could only accommodate 10% of the existing student body.  The other 90% of our students were left to attend school in buildings, which had already been neglected for 65 years, and now could not be fixed for yet another 40 years.  And three of those new buildings ended-up costing twice as much as any other school building that had ever been built in this State, including the High School of Fine Arts, which ended-up costing more than twice the original estimate of $35 Million. 

Back when we proposed our $1.5 Billion effort to bring all of our schools up to what was the best that we could actually afford, that being a clean, safe, warm and well-lighted learning environment, 93% of Detroit homeowners were paying their taxes, and while tax values were slowly decreasing, that decrease was very slow.  But employment was then up, and home values normally move up and down with take-home pay levels.   We did not foresee this day when only 50% of Detroiters are paying their taxes, and more than a third of the City has lost all of its taxable value.  When such a situation occurs, and the total collected tax revenue from the capital improvement millage is not enough to pay off the aggregate bond interest and redemption sums, then the difference has be taken from the District’s operating funds, or bond-holders will be able  to sue the district for a Judgement Order, requiring all Detroit property-owners under the full faith and credit provision of the bonds, to pay into a deficiency fund, to pay-off the bond obligations. 

So, had the construction program been carried-out as originally intended, we would still have much of this unexpected debt to pay, but we would still have an array of reasonably useable school buildings, and many more of them would probably be in operation.   One big reason that parents have fled the Detroit Public Schools to Charter Schools and to other School Districts, was because so many of our buildings were in such a decrepit and increasing state of disrepair. 

Well, let me return now to my personal odyssey.  How in the world did a disheveled, fat, inarticulate white guy get on the Detroit School Board?  It was not easy for the Detroit Open School to survive, not because it was not producing outstanding results, but exactly because it was.  Administrators across the District, and union leaders, were embarrassed that their students could not do as well, so their solution to this was to eliminate the Open School, so that no further embarrassing comparisons could be made.   In 1982, I became a member of the Open School Liaison Committee; our job was to go to every regional and central Board meeting, and to read through every item on the agenda, and through all of its back-up materials, to scout-out items, which were being proposed to harm us, and there were many.  We would then have to alert the parent body and turn-out 200 to 300 angry parents at their next meeting and intimidate the Boards to back-off.   Sometimes, we even had to picket the District headquarters building downtown and demand a meeting with Superintendent Arthur Jefferson to staunch a plan to harm us.   Because of these frays, I was eventually asked by the Administration to become a member of the City-Wide School Community Organization, which supposedly promoted parent involvement in all of the District’s schools.   By and large, that was an effort by the administration to “look like” they were responsive to parent concerns, but not much truly came from any of these recommendations. 

But through this body, I did link-up with leaders from some of the other alternative schools, who shared some of our challenges, and out of that finally emerged by 1988 what you may remember as the HOPE Reform Campaign.  Just as today, the District school board was made up of 11 elected members, 4 who ran City-wide, and 7 who were elected by district. They each ran for 4-year terms, but the district and city-wide races were 2 years apart. These reform candidates, Hayden, Olmstead, Patrick and Blanding, swept all of the old city-wide members out the door in the November, 1988 elections on a wave of public disgust with the board.  I was the unofficial secretary to these four.  I wrote most of their position papers before the election and was a part of all of their think-sessions over the next year. 

Meanwhile the district board member from my district in Northwest Detroit did all he could to sandbag the reform effort, which resulted in a recall campaign that November.  It was the first successful recall campaign in anyone’s memory.  Other district board members were jarred by the recall, and agreed with the HOPE Team to appoint me to the board until a special election could be held.  Recall law required that after a recall, that candidates had to get over 1700 good signatures of registered voters from within the district on a petition within just a brief 10-day window in order to qualify for a special election.  This window occurred over the Thanksgiving holiday weekend during sub-zero weather.  Folks from the Open School went out that frigid weekend and obtained 3,300 signatures for me.   No one else qualified.  So I was the only person on the special election ballot come February, but that unexpired term ended at the end of the year, and I had to run for a full 4-year term that August and November. 

I had lots of help.  Two of my four campaign managers later became well known in Detroit and the State.  These were Jennifer Granholm and Freman Hendrix.  But, I was also opposed by Mayor Young.  I had been one of his appointees from 1973 until 1983, but I had left to become legal counsel and policy advisor to the Wayne County Commission in 1983.  The Mayor wanted someone in my board seat who was not independent, but beholden to his direction.  That is just the nature of hard-ball politics in the big city.    I focused my campaign upon the true grassroots and personally knocked on at least 10,000 of the 43,000 doors in my district that summer, and my supporters knocked on most of the rest.   The Mayor put more than 100 of his appointees out in the August primary on paid City-time to work the polls against me.  But I had more than 300 true volunteers out working for me.  We covered all 43 polling places for the entire 13 hours from 7 AM to 8 PM.  In November, he sent his paid troops elsewhere, and I prevailed over his hand-picked guy by a 58/42 margin.    So that’s how I ended-up on the Board, and how I gained an insider’s understanding of how education sausage is actually made in the big city. 


First, basically, change the reigning community orientation as to what has gone wrong, why, and what we can still do to fix much of it without any more dollars, because, state-wide, most taxpayers are no longer willing to chip-in even one more dollar, not even for their local school district. 

Then, strive to get folks all across the City on the same page as to how to really deal with it.  In this City, our churches provide about the only feasible means of embedding this word.   Politicians, school board members, and charter authorizers are too opportunistic with their personal career agendas to be of any help. 

Whenever you have a broad community problem, you can expect that a swarm of opportunists will scurry to the situation like roaches, with all manner of top-down solutions. 

As Mark Twain (Samuel Clements) was quoted:  For every complex problem, there is an obvious and simple, but also totally wrong solution! 

These days, that problem is popularly seen as a lack of accountability, and the simple solution is yet another top-down model for the “administration” of education; that’s what charter-authorizing institutions relish.  It is extremely gratifying to Legislators and others to be widely seen as the champion of progress, even when they aren’t. 

For politicians who are eager to respond to serious community concerns, this presents a sterling opportunity to plunder the problem for all manner of political payoffs.   Just as with all previous top-down ideas which have failed make things better, the next top-down panacea will just make things worse.  And foundation directors and newpaper editors are not very much better.  They all want to make their “mark” on our society, by coming-up with some magical solution, with the next “fresh idea”, when none is realistically to be had. 

You only need to go back and think seriously about what you should have learned in Sociology 101 to find your answers.  And these answers are just as complex as the problem.  Unfortunately, this college course is usually taught to Freshmen as a “memorization of definitions” exercise, and almost no one leaves the course with a true understanding of the human condition, its potential, and its limitations. 

To break the issue down into its most basic components, in at least 2/3s of the cases, getting a good education requires a series of caring and constant teachers, a caring and constant parent, a set of caring and constant school-mates, as well as a caring student.   Absent any or all of these components, the average outcomes are bound to be dismal.  There is truly no viable substitute.  There are “exceptional cases”, but statistically, these are true in less than 5% of the total array; they do not significantly change the average outcome.  While the effective education of children is not rocket-science, most concerned people seem to buy-into an array of seemingly rational, but counter-productive approaches. 

MENTORING:  One of the most commonplace “solutions” to this “problem” is to encourage well-meaning folks to volunteer as mentors to students, that is, to become a good-parent substitute.  But, the person who really needs mentoring in these situations, is not the student, but the parent.  The whole scenario of mentoring communicates to deficient parents that the education of their children is not really their obligation, but somehow that of “society”.  Instead of strengthening child/parent bonds, we unintentionally weaken and dissolve them.   But, no one seems to want to correct these “well-meaning” efforts to avoid addressing the missing or deficient parent. We do no one a favor by weakening our expectations of them.  The most of us actually do whatever it is that we do in response to what others expect of us.  We are who we are because of those mutual expectations, and not because we have some innate moral compass.  That’s a proven fact:  Deal with it! 

ADMINISTRATION:  There is a commonplace notion that all you need to do to improve educational outcomes is to have a strong and vigorous administration of the “system”.   There is in fact nothing “magical” about administration, and there is a lot about it which is totally “toxic” to such outcomes.  But, there are scores of candidates for such an “opportunity” to crack the whip, who are ready and willing to take-on that impossible, but “important” task. 

The one biggest reason that teacher’s unions are adamant and inflexible in their positions, is because teachers, for decades, have been abused and victimized by asshole administrators, by folks who have mainly been promoted into their positions by virtue of a network of whom they know, and whom they brownnose, rather than by a record of what they have been able to engender in their staff and students.   Good Principals are  rare.  But “top-down” “crackdowns” invariably reward the worst assholes in the system. 

FREQUENT CHANGES IN “ADMINISTRATION”:  Even the most caring and motivated teachers burn-out when they face wave after wave of “reform”.  It takes an extremely high level of collaboration over a long period of time between the members of a teaching staff for them to become the very best that they can be.  But, when those efforts are gutted every two or three years by a change in the oversight administration, or by a churning of staffing and students, they just quit trying.  If you can not promise at least a five-year duration and stability of any new effort, no one in the classroom will give it any serious attention.  Most teachers are really caring and concerned, but have been made cynical and unresponsive by frequent past waves of “administrative reform”. 

TURNOVER RATES:  The class turnover rate in most Detroit schools runs between 20% and 50% each year.  Even the charter schools have high turn-over rates, because even caring parents have been led to have unrealistic expectations of these schools.  The parents of children in our neighborhood schools which have high turn-over rates are usually especially poor, “unreliable”, and unreachable.    They can’t afford their rents; they are always on the move, wary of sharing their contact info, and trying to avoid their creditors.  So, the school staff tends to “write them off”, and be glad that they have gone somewhere else.   For an effective education, children need a high level of continuity with the same teachers and the same classmates.  If we are really serious about educating “hard-to-educate” children, we have to zero-in on this situation, and stop this endless churning.  But, this is not so much of an administrative problem, as it is one of parent education and a steadfast willingness to stay put. 

DELETERIOUS CLASS CONFLICT:   We expect our teachers in this State to be college-educated, with at least a bachelors degree, and a State Certificate.   Most folks who qualify on those measures also carry with them class values and antipathies which repel them from establishing positive personal relationships with the parents of most of their students.   This is truly one of the biggest problems in the education of “our” children.    This social gap is awesome, but no one deals with it “up-front”.  It can be done, but it often means a series of grueling and sometimes even hazardous encounters.  Our systems presently do very little to make these to be positive and mutually rewarding encounters. 

This is not to disparage either middle class nor anomie values.  But the bottom-line fact is that anomie values are not supportive of economic progress.  Over the past hundred years, about 70% of Americans have found their way out from those anomie values into the middle class, and that has been a very good thing.  This is not at all an easy transition.   Those material things which are highly valued by today’s anomie folk, have been largely enabled by the collective efforts of our country’s growing middle class.  We need some serious efforts to bridge this gap. 

I use the term “anomie”, carefully and advisedly for want in our language of a more precise term.  It has attached a trickbag of unintended meanings and sometimes counterproductive results. 

There is among most of the poorer people in our midst a much different way and style of life than there is among those of us who think of ourselves as middle-class.   Middle-class folks share a large array of common values and cooperative behaviors; most place a high value upon both their independence to make their own decisions, but also upon the need to cooperate and stand in solidarity, which often means curbing our need to be independent.  

Anomie folks also place a high value upon their independence, but do not place a high value upon their solidarity and dependence upon one another.  Their relations with one another are far more kinetic, like pool balls which bounce off of one another after the cue ball is hit.   They place a high value upon venting and “telling it like it is”, no matter what the consequences, even when it devolves into violent confrontations.  They do not exactly perceive themselves as “belonging to a class”, but rather of individually being excluded from the materialistic mainstream of the economy. 

At one time, before the advent of large industrialized cities, these poorer folks lived more closely among middle class folks, and most were absorbed into it.    Over time, these poorer folks have become more and more concentrated and isolated in our oldest urban centers, where there is less and less contact and less and less interaction or integration into the mainstream.  In this growing isolation, the social “anomie” which these folks embrace and to which they daily respond, only cements and aggravates the worst consequences of their personal orientation to this world.  These folks are not without “moral values”, but the values to which they do subscribe do not often lead to a positive economic result.  

TEACHER TURNOVER:  It helps greatly when teachers stay-put in the same school for many, many years.   Students, who also stay-put, actually look forward to the day when they have Ms. or Mr. So&So for a teacher.  In our current seniority system, whenever a school is closed, or some other series of  ”bumping” rights are triggered, teachers have a bargained contract right to transfer to some other more seemingly inviting situation at another school.  That can result in a long series of “bumpings” and transitions.   None of this helps sustain the stability that most students need to sustain their bonding with the aims of the school.   If there is one thing that our school systems need, however funded, to act on behalf of their students, it is to reward teachers for staying with the same student body, year-after-year. 

Incidentally, the dysfunction in our current system is not just a “black thing”.   This “system” was borne way back before 1960’s when the administration of the school system was a clearly “white thing”.  Teachers organized as soon as the law allowed in 1965, because they had already been abused by generations of white administrative “assholes”.   Once black folks became eligible for promotion, they unfortunately were absorbed-into this same “good ole boy” asshole system of administration.  And so it goes, on and on. 

THE BIGGEST LIE:  JUST LEAVE THE TEACHING UP TO US!   Both the Charter Schools and the Public Schools in their advertising for more students chant the same big lie:  Bring your children to us, and leave the teaching to us!   Education is presented as a huge public service, and not as an intensive long-term collaboration in effectively raising one’s children.  The crucial collaborative issue is left intentionally untouched because each of these schools is competing for your business, and none are willing to promise less than the competition.  Why do they do this?  Simply, because they are first of all competing for limited State dollars; actually educating children is totally a secondary concern.   Until the entire community and all school systems are ready to acknowledge that long-lasting parent collaboration is crucial to student success, there will be no serious improvement. 

Yes, there are some small differences which can be attributed to teacher training and effectiveness, but even the highest conceivable level of teacher preparedness can not compensate for a lack of long-lasting positive parent support.  The current system makes it seem to parents that all they have to do is to be a concerned consumer and an active critic of what the schools have to offer.  When a parent becomes simply a staunch consumer critic of the school system rather than an active and positive collaborator, the relationship and the underlying message to their children becomes totally negative.


Very, very few kids who do well in school, and who are well-bonded to the mores of our society become career criminals.  Fortunately, most juvenile delinquents grow out of their deviance within five years.  Our best bet to curb growing criminal justice system costs is to do a better job in making sure that our students are doing well in the first place.  While some of this may require more dollars up-front, most of it does not.  So, this argument is best totally ignored, so long as be place our efforts into really improving how we go about educating our children. (For an extensive expansion on this point, check-out the analysis which I wrote in 1980 on How Schools Can Preclude Delinquency, which is also on this web-site.)

Many years ago, I visited and evaluated the residential high school program at the Glen Mills Schools just South of Philadelphia.  Glenn Mills has been a place for troubled and orphaned youth for almost 200 years.  Since 1970, it has zeroed-in on gang leaders from Philadelphia, young folks in deep trouble with the law, but who have a lot of proven self-direction, meaning that the schools cherry-pick their students.  95% of their graduates go on to college; their athletic teams dominate the Delaware Valley Athletic Association; and student morale is similar to what you find at Detroit Catholic Central.  But the cost runs $75,000 per student/year, which is ten times more than Detroit gets from the State Foundation Grant per student.  Glenn Mills is impressive, but it also provides a sobering understanding of how much it takes to successfully educate a child from an inner-city who has no positive parental support.


For more than the past 30 years, State and local public revenues have been shrinking and shrinking along with the shrinkage of middle-class earnings.  Middle-class people are no longer willing to pay-out any more for any of these public services for which they have become accustomed to expecting, including public education.  Higher education has seen much bigger cut-backs than K-12 education, but almost no one is willing to increase taxation for either purpose.  That means that we must place our primary emphasis upon those very few things which can be done WITHIN what little revenue remains.  And frankly, that just requires the plain guts to do what is necessary, and not more revenue.  Obviously, this rules out any role for those venal politicians who have exploited this issue and left our school systems in their currently pathetic state, to ride-in once again with another glorious “administrative” miracle.

If the array of issues outlined above have not been seriously addressed by our whole communities, any increase in State funding for education will become a total waste and will produce absolutely nothing better, and we will have delayed doing anything serious about this crisis for another ten or twenty years.  That is the sad, but inevitable fact, and there is no point in ignoring or denying it.

So, let’s take a clearer look at three of those ideas which are being widely pitched these days:

  1.  Because it is “unfair” for some folks to not have equal access to all available educational options, we need to develop a bussing system which provides equal access to everyone.

Bussing is extremely expensive, and the cost has to come in today’s compressed financing out of the State Foundation Grant, meaning at the expense of class size, teacher pay or further neglect of building maintenance needs.  Bussing costs somewhere between $1,500 and $2,000 per rider, out of an overall $7,550 State stipend.  That means something like a 30% increase in class size, or a 20% cut in teacher pay.  At the bottom line, this proposal is nothing more than irresponsible class warfare.  (I’m not necessarily opposed to class warfare when the issue is winnable.)  But this issue is both unwinnable and irresponsible.

2.  There has to be some overarching control group as to where charter schools are allowed to exist, because far too many are located in the center of the City, which denies access to many folks in the outlying neighborhoods.

There is only one key reason why so many charter schools are located in the center of the City, and that is because these are the only locations which are most accessible to the most of their consumers.  If they were located anywhere else, they would become economic failures, because they would be too inaccessible.  This complaint is simply a strategy to hamstring charter schools and make them fail economically.  I can understand why advocates who support a central school district would pursue this argument.  But at the bottom line, it does nothing to actually improve the education of Detroit’s children. This argument is all about providing continuing good compensation to the folks employed by the existing, but highly dysfunctional, public school system.  Yes, very few of these folks are personally responsible for this sorry situation, and should therefore be held accountable for it.  But life is not necessarily fair, and that is how the cookie crumbles.

3.  There has to be some overarching standards of accountability for all charter and conventional public schools. 

This seems on the surface to be a reasonable expectation.  But the devil is in the details.  Overall, this comes down as to how well students do on the State standardized tests, and the drill across the board is to teach to these tests.  I went through this exercise at the Detroit Open School, where teachers were encouraged to totally ignore these tests, and were asked instead to nurture kids to learn how to learn, from their classmates, their friend, their families, and their neighbors.  At the bottom end, those kids always smashed those tests, because doing well was simply the outcome of having had a good education, of learning how to learn.  Teaching to the test is the absolute worst way to teach kids how to learn and to become competent thinking adults.

Yes, I do think that charter schools could do a much better job than they have thus far.  But, I also think that charter schools have a much bigger potential for improving educational outcomes than a huge, but highly dysfunctional educational bureaucracy, like the DPSCD.  But that also depends upon both the general public and the parents of school-age children clearly understanding what is actually the best for this next generation.  If they instead want to proceed down this losing spiral of trying to hold the “system” accountable for these outcomes, then it doesn’t make much difference which poison they choose.

It also all depends largely upon who has the capacity and willingness to take-on the risk of establishing new charter schools, schools which actually meet the needs of students and our emerging society.  This has to come from folks who are not just looking for a way to milk the educational cow for their own economic benefit.  And that in turn depends upon what guidelines that a competent Legislature lays down regarding the authorization of charter schools.  Many of the current criteria may seem to be justified, but are totally counterproductive to a desirable outcome.

4.  We just need to copy the Tennessee reform model.  Within 5 years, Tennessee rocketed from the lowest 25% of schools in the nation to the top 25%.

Some of that is true, but the reforms made no difference in the inner-cities of Tennessee’s major cities.  There, they are still struggling with the same model that has been used in Michigan for the bottom performing 5% of their schools.  And it has had the same dismal result.  Bottom-line:  Tennessee has successfully increased the gap between the most of its schools and those in its inner-cities.





Letter to Legislature, March 8, 1999

Ben Washburn

14600 Glastonbury

Detroit, Michigan  48223

Phone:  (313) 838-5049 (H)

             (313) 224-0913 (W)

             1-800-380-7736 (P)

              (313) 272-3043 (Fax)



Representative Bruce Patterson

42479 Redfern

Canton, Michigan  48187 

Dear Bruce: 

          I=ve been intending to trade thoughts with you about the impending school board confusion, and hope that this message opens the pipeline.   As a Speaker Pro Tempore, you are in the catbird=s seat on some of this question.   As the Representative from the 21st District, you also have to make the decision which best serves the people of your district.   I have no problem in laying all of the cards of which I am aware on the table and leaving it to you to make the best call.   As you are aware from past experience, it is hard to get accurate inside facts from the news media or any other trustworthy source.  As one insider, I hope I can illuminate some issues. 

          I=ve been on this Board for almost ten years, and have seen some of its possibilities and too many of its shortcomings.   I think that most of the faults can be fixed with appropriate legislation.  I do not have the same confidence in the alternative which has thus far been set forth.  It is simply cavalier to swap one dysfunctional and unaccountable board for another which may be even more insulated, more patronage prone, and less accountable.  Whichever way the Legislature goes, there are some critical conditions which must be established. 

          The Detroit Free Press has quoted me as proposing Atoo little, too late@.   Enclosed is a copy of my responses to the Detroit Free Press questionnaire last Spring and a copy of my campaign literature.  Except for implementation details, there is nothing in the School Board=s current initiative which was not set forth as an objective in these two documents.  What has changed, and dramatically, is the attention of the community and the willingness of the Board.   A lot of people who simply couldn=t be bothered a year ago, are now leaning in with keen interest and hopefully with a willingness to do something positive and specific. 

          If I was somewhat cynical about the possibilities of significant transformation a year ago, the Governor=s wake-up call has had a more positive impact than I would have ever imagined upon the sitting Board members.   I have taken full advantage of this situation to press the points which I have pressed for the past several years, and they are finally falling on ears which listen.  This suggests to me that the best bet lies in devising ways by which this pressure to do the right thing can be maintained day-to-day, year-in and year-out.  On this, I have some specific suggestions, whether they be applied to the current board or to a future board.   And these standards should really be applied to all school boards wherever they sit 

          Enclosed is the most recent draft of a work in progress, which we call: A Village Call to Action and Accountability.  In this, we set forth the proposed next step in our transformation plan, which essentially is: 

1.   To move final disciplinary decisions back to each school. That is a lot more complicated and fraught with more landmines than anyone seems to imagine. 

2.   To establish a firm fixed parental obligation to help at the school with the education of their children. 

3.      To undertake a blitz transformation of our 110 lowest performing schools.   For the first time in five years, we actually have some spare funds with which to undertake some reform initiatives. 

          Unlike the Mayor=s proposal, we are not calling for any new funds.   With progressive tax cuts already in place, we don=t believe that any more state aid can or will materialize.  When you read between all of the lines, the Mayor has simply placed the responsibility for success back on the Governor. 

          We are not big fans of the Governor, but as we see it, the great mass of people of this State are not willing to shell out big bucks to improve our school system, and the Governor legitimately represents those people.   If it=s going to be done, Detroiters must face-up to the fact that we must do it ourselves, and that we can, in fact, do it ourselves, if we follow through on a well-devised effort.   The Board sees this as its civic duty.         

          Contrast this to the Mayor=s response.   This Board has three very significant political advantages.  First, we don=t depend on this for our livelihood; we can call it the way that we see it.   (That may well mean that we will get voted-out at the next election in favor of people who make impossible promises, but that=s life in the fast lane.)   Second, we have no need to defend our shortcomings in providing snow and garbage removal, police protection, street lighting and paving, economic revival, etc.    Third, none of the currently sitting board members have served long enough to have established a compromising set of patronage commitments as has occurred in so many other districts around the country which have triggered State takeovers.   But if this district is turned over to the Mayor without severe and seamless sanctions against patronage, we can guarantee that that will become the hallmark and downfall of the new proposed Areforms@, support from well-intentioned but naïve people notwithstanding.          

          Detroit is a city in which 70% of the people fall below the poverty line.   That=s totally the obverse of  Canton and the rest of your District.   An appointed Blue Ribbon School Board might  be well received in Canton.   But the social distances and antipathies are far greater in the City of Detroit.   The clash in class values was the main impetus for taking disciplinary discretion away from the local schools in the 1970s.   It will be the main impediment to bringing it back and in elevating the level of parental involvement at each school.         

          The success of real school reform depends upon establishing respect across the whole spectrum.   The Mayor does not command that kind of respect.   Blue Ribbon Boards will never command that kind of respect, and will simply become the axis of social conflict and political dissonance, none of which bodes well for real school improvement.   The folks who have disrupted the Senate are the same folks who have disrupted school board proceedings and local school operations, and they will not simply fade away.   They are the same people who now seek to recall the Mayor (Hello!).   You either have them with you or they will dog your way at every step.   But they do at least have a fair measure of respect for a Board which has been elected by the people.          

          To be effective, we also need a Board, which is squeaky clean in the eyes of our employees and parents.   Also enclosed is a copy of our currently proposed procurement policy, which includes a hard-nosed and detailed code of ethics, with real teeth.   Add to this my proposal for a State-authorized Accountability Board, a copy of which is also enclosed, and which makes a violation of the Code of Ethics grounds for removal of a board member for cause, and you have the makings of a real reform board.  We need to elevate the accountability of all stakeholders, day-after-day, and year-after- year, and this needs to begin with the Board itself.         

          How does all of this impact your district?   I think that the success of the Detroit public schools affects the residents of Wayne County more than the rest of the state.  In October, the County takes over responsibility for juvenile delinquency treatment and preclusion.   There is no more effective way to do this than to assure that kids do well in school.   In addition, there are several other school districts in Wayne County which need the same reinforcement that Detroit needs.  These do not include Plymouth-Canton, but it does include Inkster, Melvindale, River Rouge, Lincoln Park, Taylor, Romulus, Allen Park, and Southgate,          

          You will note that we have taken the basic concept set forth in your 1997 Parental Responsibility Ordinance and expanded its reach to create and enable at each local school a disciplinary authority which has direct power to engage the district court in an appropriate case.   This expansion is based upon the fact that our current law holds a parent accountable for supporting the education of their children.  Helping in this manner is NOT a voluntary act.  A parent can not be regarded and applauded as a volunteer until they have first discharged their basic obligation to provide their fair share of what it takes to properly educate their children.   And they may be properly regarded as neglecting their duty when they fail to hold-up their end of the work that needs to be done.           

          You may have to chew on this concept for a while; it lies at the bottom of what we mean when we talk about calling for a revolution in basic values.   As we see it, the measure of what is a fair share depends directly upon the environment in which a child is being raised.   It may well take more effort in an impoverished area than in a more affluent one, simply because the circumstances are more challenging.  This is the direct opposite of the currently popular expectations of impoverished parents, that is, that you can=t expect too much from people who have limited resources.   In fact, the less you expect of students or any other person, the less they will accomplish.   Low expectations invariably yield poor results.         

          I hope that this letter demonstrates that this Board is indeed serious about improving our schools.  We know what needs to be done.  We are ready and willing to do it, and to do it under intense and rigorous scrutiny.   Contrast this with what the Mayor has to offer.   And if it still has to be the Mayor, make sure that you raise the bar, set uncompromising standards, and build-in day-to-day, year-to-year accountability that=s at least equal to what we are proposing here.         

          With regard to what the Board is presently proposing, here are the highlights:         

          Firstly:  We invite the Governor to appoint a monitor to undertake the day-to-day management and reform of nearly all support operations, including budget and finance, personnel, purchasing and supply, food service, transportation, security, information processing, and building maintenance.   The sitting Board has no vested interest in these operations and has had no significant control over what happens in them.    We invited New Detroit to come in and help, and New Detroit advises that the staff resisted their recommendations.   Staff have had a fair chance, and they have blown it.   We clearly recognize that the State pays for 88% of these operating costs, and has a very legitimate interest in seeing that they are performed cost-effectively.   If the Governor=s appointee can straighten them out, then alleluia and amen.   He will need the authority to treat all positions down to the level of director as at-will.   Please note that this is a fixed invitation from the legitimately elected school board, not a take-over.   That is an important difference to a lot of our stakeholders. 

          Secondly:  We propose exempting the Capital Improvement Program from the Monitor=s management for three compelling reasons:         

1.     Unlike school operating funds, all of these funds are raised locally.  A very large and adamant segment of our voters oppose and strongly resent any outside control over these funds. 

2.      Unlike our operating funds, the State already has strong and detailed oversight over the expenditure of these funds.  It can stop the program dead in its tracks whenever it wants.   It already has plenty of leverage, short of running the program.   Further, the Monitor is invited to manage the selection of district personnel who will conduct the program.  He or she will have up-close and inside insight on what is happening day-to-day. 

3.  If you read the details of our proposed and about-to-be- adopted Code of Ethics, a Board member who accepts more than $200 collectively and cumulatively from persons affiliated with a vendor during a 4-year cycle, which includes the CIP, must disclose that fact and refrain from voting on a contract with that vendor.  If a Board member violates that policy, he or she is subject to removal from office by a vote of eight members of the Board.  Under my proposal for an Accountability Board, he or she is also subject to removal for cause by the Mayor.  In addition, a vendor who colludes to subvert this provision is subject to debarment from any further contracts with the district.  This policy has the reach of an octopus and the teeth of a crocodile.    It has been devised to put an end to a lot of past abuses once and for all.  There is no particular reason why the Legislature should not build it into the School Code, so that it can not be retracted.

Incidentally, if the Code of Ethics seems to be a bit convoluted, you must understand that case law holds that individuals can not be prohibited from expressing their constitutional rights to free speech by making political contributions.  But that does not mean that public officers can not be held accountable for accepting excessive contributions which have no obvious purpose than to buy their vote.  How many contributions over $200 would you expect that a vendor=s principals and employees would make to a board member, if it means that that board member is disqualified from voting in favor of their contract? 

(Actually, I personally favor turning the CIP over to the Mayor or a separate authority.   The program is a total political liability.  There is no way that you can cure 65 years of neglect with $1.5 Billion over a 15-year period when it takes $5 Billion to do the job, while doubling property taxes, and still please anyone.   Because, we=re overcrowded, most work has to be done while school is in session, and that creates hazards and disruptions.  The constant dissention will always be a drag on real reform efforts in the classroom.   I say, let someone else bear the brunt of that frustration.)   

          Thirdly, we propose that Dr. Eddie Green continue to serve as the District=s Chief Academic Officer to continue and to perfect the initiatives already undertaken to reform what actually happens in our classrooms.   He is trusted by the Board.  He is trusted by the people in the trenches.  He is a people person.   He has a clear vision of what Site-Based Management is all about.   He was in charge of the first Site-Based Management pilot program in 1985. He was the only area superintendent who actually practiced the concept.   He can maintain the continuity of the reform efforts already underway, and can enhance these better than any outsider who is likely to become available.   He supports the vision, which the Board has set forth in its paper: A Village Call to Action and Accountability.    We are asking that the rights of principals as established by State law and labor contract be set-aside, and that principals also serve at-will.   We do not believe that Dr. Green is a person who would abuse this power, but that he is a person who would use it effectively to assure that Site-Based Management is a resounding success and not an abject failure. 

          Fourthly,  I propose that the presently elected Board be left in place, subject to removal by the Mayor for any of some fifteen specified causes.   Details are attached. 

          I believe that this proposal is imminently sensible and is the best concrete proposal for school improvement, which anyone has yet brought to the table.   Rather than Atoo little, too late@, I think that it is exactly what the doctor ordered.   Is it shot through with a potential for conflict?   Maybe, but nowhere near the level of conflict that is implicit in the other proposals which have been set forth.   It most probably depends upon who the Governor would appoint and how competent and how well-versed that person is in the dynamics of radical social change.   This is not simply an administrative and institutional challenge, but one of how best to proceed with a basic shift in the entire mind-set of a community and a State.         

          Real systemic change calls for much more than simply calling the community together to brainstorm and come-up with a new plan, which is all that the Mayor proposes to do, after he is handed the system.   As any competent sociologist will confirm, that is a sure-fire process for half-baked and warmed-over programs which simply maintain the status-quo or pass the buck.         

          So there you have it.         


INCLS:                                             Ben Washburn

     A Village Call to Action          Board Member

          and Accountability.               District Four

      Proposal for an

Accountability Board.

Proposed Procurement

          Policy & Code of Ethics.

July 98 Answers to Free Press.

Copy of campaign literature.

Letter to Free Press JAN 30, 2015


I am asking to be seriously considered as a regular contributor to your editorial page regarding educational issues, because I am immensely under-whelmed by most of the commentary that you do choose to publish.

I served on the Detroit School Board as a “reformer” from 1989 until 1999 (actually until 2003 as a so-called advisory board).  I have looked at “reform” from the-inside-out for all of that time.  At least 95% of your commentators simply have no clue.

I will be 80 this year, and my background experience is extremely varied and also extremely Serendipitous.   But, my on-the-job experience for sixty years has been grounded in the very best sociological understandings of the past 120 years.  I do not think that you will find me to be some kind of off-the-wall crank.

Yes, I have some “skeletons-in-my-closet” which I have shared with many, but not necessarily with the whole community.  But I also have no reservations about sharing this with whomever.  Over the past 12 years, I have done extensive research  into my ancestry.  They were Vikings who invaded northern France around 700 AD.  They were among the norsemen who came to England with William the Conquer in 1066, and were awarded lands in West England, which they enjoyed until the English Civil Wars in the 1640’s.  But along with most warlords of Middle England, they supported King Charles, lost that war to Cromwell, and then had to find other ways to make a living.  So they came to the colonies.  My particular branch came to Virginia, where by 1700 they were running a slave-trading enterprise in what is now Culpepper County.  Slaves fresh off of the ships from Africa in the Chesapeake Bay were brought up the Rappahannock River to the Washburn Plantation, where they were “broken-in” to growing tobacco and rice, and then sold at Saturday auctions.  I have been to that location, and was gratified to find that in 1864, it became the site of the biggest confrontation of cavalry during the Civil War, a stalemate between Federal cavalry and the forces of JEB Stuart in the battle of Brandy Station.  That was just three weeks before Lee’s forces reached Gettysburg.  But, by 1864, the Washburns of 1700 had already dispersed in more than a hundred different directions.

I am the fifth Ben Washburn in my specific lineage.  Ben, the first, had at least 21 siblings.  He is mentioned in the history books of West Virginia as one of the few Washburn brothers who escaped the British-spawned Indian incursions of the Monongahela Valley from Detroit in 1777. He joined Washington’s Continental Army as soon as he could, on his 15th birthdate in 1778, and as teenager, spent two years guarding British prisoners from General Gates victory at Saratoga in 1777.  But after escorting those prisoners to Boston to go back to England in 1780, he was with Washington at the close of the war at Yorktown.

After the war, Ben, the first, was granted land rights in Western Kentucky.  He was married in 1784 and set-out for Kentucky County, Virginia, where he traded his rights in western Kentucky for some land in central Kentucky in what is now Shelby County, about 30 miles Southeast of Louisville.  That is where I grew-up.  I still own part of that land; Ben, the first, is buried on the back of my farm, but his tombstone has long since been stolen.  With the aid of 26 slaves, he erected the first Federal-style mansion West of the Alleghenies in 1789-91.  It endured as the oldest standing monument in Kentucky until the 1980’s, when it was sold by the county historical society to a contractor who tore it down and converted into to series of commercially sellable historical mementos:  grand entranceways made from the limestone, cherry ashtrays, etc.  Well, that’s OK.  I’m not sure that I would want to protest that as a part of my heritage; maybe it is better that it just fade away.

I was born on that farm in 1935 with the help of a neighboring midwife who was a Mormon. Her grandson is the Sheriff of Shelby County today.   I still have today in our bedroom the kerosene lamp by which I was born.  Before I could remember things, one of those former family slaves used to babysit me and keep me from falling into the open well in our back yard while my mother went to work in the tobacco patches.   Elijah Smith was born in 1854 in the same year as my paternal grandfather.  They grew up as playmates, but Lidge was destined to be a slave, until he was freed in 1865 at age 11.   He stayed with my grandfather’s brothers as a servant until they died out in the 1930s.  So, my mother turned to him when she needed help.    I really don’t remember Lidge well, until that Saturday morning in 1941 when he perished.  I was building little forts behind the coal-burning kitchen stove with corncobs.  My mother used these corncobs soaked in kerosene to start the fire in the stove in the morning.  She was cooking breakfast at the stove when suddenly she screamed, as she looked out the kitchen window up the hill to where Lidge lived in a cabin about a half-mile away.  It was ablaze.   By the time anyone got there to help, Lidge had been burned alive at age 88.  So, slaves and slave-mindedness is far more real to me than to most people that I know.

You may also find it curious that both Nolan Finley and I grew-up on Kentucky tobacco farms, but could not be more different in our social and political orientations.  Actually, several of the Washburns and Finleys intermarried in the early 1800’s.

Also, when I think about some prominent turning-points in my life, one somewhat ties-in with the Detroit Free Press.  As a country high school senior in 1953, I took part in a speech competition sponsored by the Kentucky American Legion.    The speech had to address the preservation of “American values”.   I made it into the State finals in Louisville, where one of the three judges was the editor of the Louisville Courier Journal:  Mark Etheridge.   I made my speech spot-on exactly at the 12-minute mark.  They subtracted points for each second under or over 12-minutes.   Then Etheridge asked me for a concrete example of an “American value”, and I was simply clueless.  This was way beyond my comprehension at the time.   Fortunately, it was also well beyond the comprehension of the other two judges, and I still came in as the runner-up.  But that was a turning-point in my self-critical understanding of the complexities of this world we live in.  When I landed in Detroit in 1962, I was surprised to find that the editor of the Detroit Free Press was Mark Etheridge, Jr.   It was only years later that I found that this was Etheridge’s son and not himself.

But, that was then and this is now:  let me try to get back to the original point of this message!

I cannot support any of the more popular “answers” being batted around by either side of the Legislature or by any of your commentators.

My insights are guided by the best-founded and most fundamental concepts of sociology.  Most of us are introduced to these concepts in Sociology 101, but, unfortunately, that course is usually taught to Freshmen as an exercise in memorizing the definitions of terminology, rather than of exploring the meat of the discipline.

Our colleges of education make a big deal of promoting “advanced teaching techniques”, which are offered as the solution to all of our problems.  But these can never do anymore than produce a difference between a poorly educated person, and one with a mediocre education.  Without the truly intensive and pro-active collaboration of the biological or substitute parent, it is almost impossible to bring about a high-quality result for the great bulk of any student body.  The normal 3% to 5% exceptional cases do not disprove this fact.  But neither our colleges nor anyone else seems to have a clue as to how to bring this about.

So, what are “we” doing wrong?  For one, we promote many mythes that “we” can make a top-down difference in these outcomes, by getting “hard-nosed” about passing students on to the next grade, or by getting rid of “bad teachers”, or by sending in emergency financial managers, or by selling education as just another consumer product, or by leaving it up to parent choice, or by depending upon marketplace providers to produce the results that parents want, or by pouring in more and more tax dollars.   The fact is that all of these endeavors fail and are self-defeating, because they all write-off any ability to get parents to take a more active role in the education of their children.

Day after day, “we” tell parents in one way or another that a free public education is a public service to which they have a Constitutional right, despite the fact that there is no sociological grounds upon which to found any such claim.  “We” rationalize that it is simply unfair to expect anything more from parents, when world-wide economic shifts require that they work longer and longer hours at less and less pay, and often in more than one job, just to keep their heads about water.

Well, if this is all that we choose to expect of them, then we also need to reconcile ourselves to the fact that “we” and they will be slipping farther and farther behind the rest of the industrialized world.

The hard fact is, that “we” must clearly understand that “we” must learn how to get more and more out of less and less resources, because in this world, we are competing with 7 Billion other persons on this planet just to make a day-to-day go of it.  There is no magical answer.  Politicians are not magicians.  They cannot spin gold out of straw, even though they act, talk, and fantasize as if they can.

So, where can you start to begin to make a real difference?  What I am proposing is that you start small, but methodically to demonstrate to emerging waves of parents that there is only one way to make a real difference, and that it depends primarily upon themselves and their own extraordinary efforts.   They cannot depend upon ignorant and misguided political promises.  This proposal is not based upon some unproven theory; it is based upon my actual experience in educating my own children during the 1980s.   To some extent, it expands upon the growing movement toward “home-schooling”.

As just one facet, it calls for amending the Public Education Act to authorize a very specific kind of charter school or public school choice, one which mandates that a parent (or parent substitute) buy-in to a binding commitment and contract with the school and with all of the other parents in that school to provide at least 40 hours per year of direct and pro-active support to the school.  They cannot just pay some kind of tuition.  They have to put themselves first-most on the line.

First-most, this kind of pro-active involvement sends a clear message to one’s children that Mom and/or Dad, or whomever is their sponsor, truly believes that their education is really important.  It also creates a large network of personal relationships between all of the parents, and also with their children’s teachers.   These pro-active relationships build a pro-learning climate within the school, and constructively resolve most issues of deleterious and disruptive behavior.   With this kind of climate and support, extraordinary achievement results are predictable.  And this sends a clear message to all other parents, that this is the only way by which they can reasonably assure that their own children can also succeed.

To make this approach work well, there are also several additional requirements, which will need to also be built into the pact:

Exceptional educational outcomes require that the total student and parent body be small enough that everyone (parents, student and teachers) comes to know everyone in an intensely personal way, and that they all develop lasting bonds and ties to one another.  In a K-8 school, this means that the total student body cannot exceed 400.

Once a parent signs-on, the agreement must be a long-term one.  You cannot jerk your child out of the school and just chose to go somewhere else when you run into a disappointment or conflict.  You have to do the very best that you can to resolve it within the confines of your commitment.  Your only other choice at that point is to send your child to your local neighborhood school, or to a totally private school.  The current legal and political basis for “unlimited school choice” is sociologically and educationally self-destructive.

The teachers in the school must make a iron-clad commitment to stay with the school for as long as their health permits. (They should also be compensated for making good on that commitment.)  If they can’t promise to do that, then they should never be hired in the first place.  The “growing-up” process is challenging for a child.  It makes a big difference when they are able to look forward to the day when they can finally be in Ms. So-and-so’s class.  These bonds and ties are also critical to long-term success.

Schools of this kind must also reach-out to the employers of the parents of their children, and assure that those employers do all that they can to enable their employees to act in the best interests of their children.  From my own experience, most employers do and will cooperate to find very low cost ways to enable their employees to fulfill their obligations to their children’s school.  Forty hours a year breaks down to just 4 hours a month for most parents.  Can the employer find other ways by which their employee can make-up that time?  I think that most employers of today are mindful of low cost opportunities to improve the education of our coming workforce, and would find ways to accommodate this kind of arrangement.  It should not be at any great cost to the employer, but it is reasonable to ask for and to expect any potential break-even accommodations.

So what about well-intentioned volunteers?  If you are a concerned and willing volunteer, to truly be helpful, you must engage the family of your target student not only critically, but lovingly and patiently.  It is not enough to just be a critic; that does little to foment real change for the better.  You must go a long ways out of your way to cement new, strong, and pro-active relationship.  You should almost never volunteer to directly tutor a failing student.  That just further under-cuts that student’s relationship with their parent(s).   You should instead voluntarily strike-up a supportive relationship with that student’s parent(s), and do whatever it takes to enable her, him or them to attend to the needs of their child.  You may need to help clean house, cook meals, or attend to a younger child, so that at least one of the parents is free to help their child with their homework.  The focus of any voluntary effort must be upon strengthening, and never upon undercutting a positive parent/child relationship.

It is not at all easy for a person in the “underclass” to actually accept your help, or to make the “hard climb” into the middle-class.  This is a truly difficult endeavor, and no movie has ever even attempted to deal with these difficulties.  A good part of popular English literature since the  late 1800s focused upon these travails, mainly in the works of Charles Dickens and Thomas Hardy, and Theodore Dreisser in the 1930s.   But add-in the enduring complications of the compressed and cultivated relationships between house-help and field-help, and also between different kinds of field-help under 300 years of slavery, and you have something at least triply difficult to improve upon.  Not even the works of Richard Wright or Ralph Ellison deal effectively with this transition.  It’s complicated, and it takes enduring patience and understanding.

To do things the right way will not be easy.  A large cadre of folks make their living these days and have done so for the past 40 years by recruiting and matching witless volunteers with needy students.  The jobs of some of these folks will be threatened by this message, and they can be expected to howl accordingly.  Fortunately, many others have always had reservations about what they were doing and will be only too happy to change their focus.    And, a lot of volunteers who believe in the good they think that they have experienced, will be hard challenged to understand that that good was largely offset by the damage which they did by undercutting parental involvement in the education of their children.  This is some tricky stuff.







Sec. 1.101  Purposes.

In their general order of importance, the purposes of this policy are:

(1) to provide schools and offices with a procurement system which is prompt, dependable, and responsive to both their routine and more urgent needs;

(2) to get the most value for each dollar spent;

(3) to delegate to the Superintendent final contracting authority for those contracts which are routine, foreseen, budgeted and competitively awarded, and to establish objective criteria by which to review those remaining contracts which involve the exercise of discretion;

(4) to treat all vendors and potential vendors fairly;

(5) to establish policies and self-policing procedures which promote and safeguard the quality and integrity of the procurement system;

(6) to provide for the suspension or debarment of a vendor who subverts or willfully breaches these safeguards;

(7) to enable any interested person to review the public record and satisfy themselves that schools purchasing agents have complied with the requirements of this policy;

(8) to prefer firms which are located within the City of Detroit; and which contribute to its tax and job base; and

(9) to prefer those vendors who are undertaking assertive and voluntary affirmative action commitments to remedy the continuing effects of past discrimination within their firms.


COMMENT:  It is best to state the purposes in their relative order of importance.  This helps decision-makers to sort out what to do when they can not reconcile and satisfy all objectives, which so often happens.   Purposes 1 & 2 are the most important.  Purpose 3 both expedites the process and takes the School Board out of that 90% of the contracting activity in which competitive pressures leave little room for abuse.  Purposes 4 to 7 address issues which assure the integrity of the procurement process.  Purposes 8 & 9 are important to the community whenever they can be accommodated without significant expense to the schools and the children.  


 Sec. 1.102  Application.

This policy applies to all contracts for the procurement of supplies, services, and construction, entered into by the district, whatever the source of the funds.  This policy shall not, however, prevent any school or office from complying with more stringent terms and conditions of any grant, gift, or bequest made to the district.


COMMENT:  The current bid policy applies only to some categories of procurement, not to all.  Competition is not required except in certain cases.  This policy prescribes that competition of a specific kind is required in all but certain defined situations, and even then, that optimum feasible competition is  requiredThe terms supplies, services, and construction are defined  in Article 13 to include every  possible object of procurement.



Sec. 1.201  Public Access to Procurement Information.

            Procurement records shall be available to the public at least as provided in the Freedom of Information Act, being Michigan Compiled Laws section 15.231 and its following.  In addition; if a record is readily available, it shall be promptly provided – by a person who is responsible for its day-to-day custody – for visual inspection by the requestor.  Unless the requestor is a person who is specifically known to have previously altered or destroyed school records to which he or she has been given access, if a custodian of a readily available record fails or refuses to promptly produce it for inspection, he or she shall be subject to a ten-day suspension without pay upon the first infraction and discharged from employment upon the second infraction.  If a record is not readily available, or if a copy is requested, the request shall be satisfied as soon as the requestor has paid for the cost of search labor and copy-making as provided by law.  A search or copy shall be made free of charge when requested by a reporter for a newspaper of general circulation within the City of Detroit,  or for a television or radio news program which is broadcast to an audience in the City of Detroit.  A search or copy shall not otherwise be made free of charge unless authorized by the Purchasing Director, or the Superintendent, or his/her designee.


If a vendor is required to provide information of a proprietary or confidential nature in order to document that the vendor is a responsible bidder, that information shall be reviewed by and shall be retained in a separate file by the General Counsel, and that information shall not be disclosed without the permission of the providing vendor or under court order.  (See Sec 3.301)

Information which is provided in response to a request for proposals shall not be disclosed to other persons before the review of the proposals has been completed. (See Sec. 3.203)


COMMENT:  Free access to public procurement records shall be provided to all persons but those known to have  destroyed or altered records to which they have been given access. Free copies are to be promptly provided to the media and to any person who may use them in a manner that ultimately protects the integrity of the procurement process.  There should be no opportunity for any person to prune, purge, alter, conceal, or delay access to these records, before they are made available, except in the two cases identified.  Copies should not be provided free of cost to persons who may realize an economic benefit from them or to persons who have a known history of making frivolous requests, or unfounded and libelous or slanderous accusations of vendors or staff.  The district must beware of  lending support to libel and slander for which it might then also be held liable.


Sec. 1.202  District Procurement Records.

(1)  Contract File.  The Purchasing Director shall assure that all determinations and other written records pertaining to the solicitation, award, or performance of every contract are maintained for the district in a contract file which is accessible for public inspection, with the exceptions noted in section 1.201.  If procurement authority is delegated by this policy or by the Purchasing Director to another executive officer, the required public files shall be maintained either centrally or at the delegated office as the Purchasing Director may direct.

(2)  Retention of Procurement Records.  The Purchasing Director shall assure that all procurement records are retained and disposed of by the district in accordance with records retention guidelines and schedules approved by the School Board.


COMMENTThe District does not presently have well-defined records retention guidelines, but the past  event in which 30 boxes of bond-issue records were misplaced has clearly indicated that  guidelines are needed and that responsibility must be clearly fixed.  This section assumes that such guidelines will be developed and implemented.


(3)  Place Required to Inspect Records.  At each location at which public procurement records are kept, a desk or counter space shall be provided at which members of the public may inspect those records.  A copy of this policy shall also be made prominently available at that space. 

Sec. 1.203  Vendor’s Manual.

The Purchasing Director shall develop and provide at cost to all potential vendors a booklet which explains the following:

(1)  What kinds of services, supplies and construction are purchased by the district.

(2)  How a vendor may be pre-qualified as responsible and placed on bid mailing lists.

(3)  How to prepare and submit a bid.

(4) The standard contractual, bonding, equal opportunity, and performance requirements of vendors.

(5)  How payments are handled.

(6)  How to appeal from a contract manager’s decision. 


COMMENT:  Sections 1.201 and 1.202 set-up a key feature of this policy.   Later in Article 3, we spell-out the competitive bidding requirements and their exceptions in sharp detail.  Here we use the concern of the public (and of competitors more specifically) to police compliance with those requirements.  As a member of the public, a Board member can of course also check the record. 

            The procedural requirements of this policy are set forth in great detail because honest and successful competitive bidding absolutely requires such a detailed structure.  Once these policies and procedures are established by the Board, however, the execution of the policy is largely delegated to the Superintendent, the Deputy Superintendent for Fiscal Integrity, and the Purchasing Director.  This serves both to expedite the procurement process and to focus the time of the School Board upon more significant issues. 

             If anything goes awry in these routine contracts, the Board can be reasonably assured that it will soon hear about it from other affected parties, because they have an easy and open means of uncovering errors or wrongdoing.  The Board also has at its disposal an audit staff who have as their prime duty the discovery of deviations from Board policy, whether deliberate or  neglectful. 

            If vendors are to be treated fairly,  each must be enabled to know the ground rules and the manner in which those rules are implemented and enforced.  Experience has shown that when vendors are not informed of the procedures for approval and prompt payment, timely service to schools and students is disrupted.  The State of Michigan publishes a model handbook of the kind envisioned in Section 1.203. 

            A large part of this policy is spelled-out in detail in order to eliminate certain ambiguities and conflicts in the case law which deals with procurement issues .  Different courts have come to differing conclusions on some issues, because many of these matters are amenable to more than one reasonable conclusion.  By choosing one particular approach as a matter of policy, the district can avoid delay and controversy in its own procurement operations.  When a purchaser has adopted a specific policy on a matter, and has made it known to the vending community as well as a part of the contract, courts will enforce it, even though the case law may follow a different track.  The Model Procurement Code, upon which this policy is based, was developed by several professional associations of public purchasing officers, who selected those options which in their opinion had the greatest practical merit. 

Contrary to general public expectations, it is not easy to prosecute unethical conduct as criminal wrong-doing, unless the perpetrator has been given a clear and specific warning that any such conduct rises to be a criminal offense. This is a clear Constitutionally protected right.  It is incumbent, therefore, upon the School Board to fire a clear and specific warning across the bows of anyone who may be inclined to take such advantage.  In the contracting context, there are hundreds of ways in which contracting trustees could abuse their discretion.   It, therefore, takes an extremely complex and lengthy set of policies and procedures to staunch unethical and detrimental conduct.



Sec. 2.101  Authority and Duties.

(1)  Duties.  In accordance with this policy, and subject to the supervision of the General Superintendent and the Chief Operating Officer, the Purchasing Director shall:

(a) procure or supervise the procurement of all supplies, services, and construction needed by the district.

(b) exercise direct supervision over the district’s central stores and coordinate supervision over all other inventories of supplies belonging to the district;

(c)  coordinate the identification of, and sell, trade, or otherwise dispose of surplus supplies belonging to the district; and

(d)  establish and maintain programs to develop quality specifications, to effectively administer contracts, and to inspect and accept performance, in cooperation with the schools and offices using the supplies, services, and construction.


COMMENT:  This policy establishes the Purchasing Director as the key figure in a unified procurement system. 

            Under Sec. 2.102, with the permission of the General Superintendent and the Chief Operating Officer, the Purchasing Director may (and should) delegate a good deal of purchasing activity to individual schools and offices, but retain the power and obligation to immediately retract any delegated authority which is neglected or abused.   Some later provisions of the policy, such as those for small purchases authority, have been written with such a general delegation in mind.


(2)  Rules and Regulations.  To implement this policy, the Purchasing Director may issue rules and regulations.  If a proposed rule or regulation will affect the rights of any person who is not an employee of the district, it shall be issued only after persons, who are reasonably representative of each class of persons affected, have had reasonable opportunity to review and comment upon the proposed rule or regulation at an advertised public hearing, and only after its approval by the School Board.


COMMENT:   If courts are to hold rules and regulations to be valid and enforceable against vendors and other persons who are not district employees,  then the School Board must expressly and specifically approve each of those rules after a public hearing in which persons who are representative of each class of persons affected are given reasonable notice and an opportunity to be heard.  This is required by principles of due process and equal protection.


Sec. 2.102  Delegations to Other District Officials.

With the approval of the General Superintendent or the Chief Operating Officer, the Purchasing Director may delegate procurement authority which has been vested by this policy in his or her office to other district officials and to subordinate staff in the Purchasing Division.  A delegation shall be written as to  specified aspects of the procurement of specified supplies, services, or construction.  A copy of each written delegation of authority shall be kept on file for public inspection at the office of the purchasing director.


COMMENT:  The next article (Article 3) is the core of this policy.  It sets-up the standard requirements for competitive bidding, which are: 

  1.   An invitation for bids which includes all relevant specifications and requirements.     
  2. Enough public notice and response time to solicit adequate competition. 
  3. Sealed bids, which are opened with witnesses present and read aloud in public by the Secretary of the School Board. The documents must be immediately available for public review.  There is no opportunity to alter or tamper with bids.  
  4. A registry for interested bidders so that all who are interested have a chance to bid. 
  5. A defined  preference for Detroit-based vendors. 
  6. Strictly defined criteria for correcting or canceling bids.  Bidders are held fully accountable.  There is no opportunity for bidders to make backroom deals. 
  7. Objective criteria for bid evaluation. 
  8. Prompt award to the lowest responsive and responsible bidder.   Bidders can rely upon the time schedule provided in the bid announcement. 
  9. A two-step bid process when the available specifications are inadequate to describe and pinpoint district needs. 
  10. An open public means to cancel all bids, when in the best interests of the district.




Sec. 3.101  Competitive Sealed Bidding Generally Required.

(1)  General Requirement and Exceptions.  All procurements of the district shall be awarded by competitive sealed bidding, as set forth in paragraphs (2) through (11), except as is otherwise provided in the following sections of this policy:

3.201   (Small Purchases),

3.202   (Sole Source and Single Response Procurements),

3.203   (Competitive Sealed Proposals),

3.204   (Contracting for Designated Professional Services),

3.205   (Exigent or Emergency Procurements), and

5.401   (Public Announcement and Selection Process for Architect-Engineering and Surveying Services). 


COMMENT:  There are only six (6) special exceptions to the standard requirements for competitive sealed bidding.  They are: 

  1. Small purchases, where standard procedures are likely to cost more in staff time than they can save.  
  2. Requests for Proposals, where it is not practical to write specifications which are good enough to enable an effective bid process.  But you still do the best you can. 
  3. Designated professional services,  for which schools and support offices contract instead of using in-house staff.  Again, schools must do the best that they can to get the best person for the job that needs to be done. 
  4. Sole source and single response procurements, where there is only one available vendor, or where time does not permit rebid,  or where the price bid is known to be a low and reasonable one and does not justify the cost and delay of a second round of bidding. 
  5. Exigent or emergency purchases, where the situation does not permit the time needed for a formal award. But managers must still do all they can to foresee and avoid such situations. 
  6. An added option for procuring architectural and engineering services (other than #2 above).  This option was developed by the federal government to hire such services for grant projects. It favors professional experience over immediate cost as the most important selection factor because expert front-end services often produce lower long-term costs in  building, electrical, heating plant, cafeteria, and other design.


(2)  Invitation for Bids.  An invitation for bids shall be issued which shall include specifications, and all contractual terms and conditions applicable to the procurement.

(3)  Public Notice.  Enough public notice of the invitation for bids shall be given to reasonably assure an optimal level of competition.  Notice shall be given within a reasonable time, preferably fourteen (14) days but not less than ten (10) calendar days, before the date set forth therein for the opening of bids.  This notice may include publication in a newspaper of general circulation, or on the Internet, or in professional and trade bulletins, if those kinds of notice are in fact likely to produce more effective competition.  The public notice shall state the place, date, and time of bid opening.

(4)  Register of Interested Vendors.

(a)  The Purchasing Director shall maintain a register of vendors who have asked to be notified of specified kinds of  invitation for bids, and subject to the exception in Section 3.101(5), shall make good faith but not guaranteed efforts to honor those requests.  Vendors who request to be added to the register shall be advised in writing that the district makes no warranties, and that failure to provide such a notice or the opportunity to make a bid shall not provide the basis to either invalidate an award to another vendor, nor for a claim for a loss of profits.  New listings shall be added without charge.

(b)  In order to improve bidding efficiency, the Purchasing Director shall annually review the registry, identify vendors who have not made cost-competitive responses after a reasonable number of bid opportunities, and offer these vendors the option of being removed from the registry, or of making an advance payment of a service fee of $2.00 per notice.  There shall be no charge for email notices.

(c)    To enhance competition, the Purchasing Director shall annually review the registry and identify those types of supplies, services, and construction for which there are less than ten responsive vendors on the registry, and take those steps needed to increase the number of potential bidders of those types on the registry.


COMMENT:  This overall policy is based upon a Model Procurement Ordinance which was developed about 1980 in a $5 million dollar joint effort of the American Bar Association, several associations of state and local purchasing officials, and the federal Departments of Justice, and Health and Human Services. 

            The Model Procurement Ordinance  is based upon a lot of hard-gained experience and costly litigation over the decades.  It may seem easy to adopt a policy which simply declares that all purchasing shall be done by sealed competitive bids.  But over time, cunning persons have devised dozens of ways to circumvent and subvert such policies.  In fact, it takes a lengthy and sophisticated policy to successfully protect the integrity of a procurement process. 

            Why couldn’t this be done by administrative rule and regulation?  It can, but that’s like putting the fox in care of the henhouse.  There is a great deal of discretion involved in purchasing some $200 Million of supplies, services and construction each year.  There are literally thousands of opportunists “out there” who are ready, willing, and able to corrupt the purchasing process and its agents.  Hardly a day goes by when the newspapers do not report a new instance of procurement misconduct somewhere.  It is OK for the School Board to set broad policies and to leave the detail to be set by administrative rule and regulation, if  that’s the best that can be done.  But this is not the case in governmental purchasing.  Literally thousands have gone before us and have shared their collective experience in devising an optimal Model Procurement Ordinance to guide us.

            There was also another good reason for developing a Model Procurement Code, to  standardize procurement practices, so that it would be easier for auditors and procurement managers everywhere to detect questionable practices and purchases.  By adopting this policy, we join a national effort to make all governmental spending more effective and honorable.  We contribute to efforts to restore public confidence in government itself.


(5)  Detroit-based preference.  If a procurement is to be paid wholly from sources other than federal funds, and if the past experience of the Purchasing Division demonstrates that there are at least four Detroit-based vendors who have been competitive in providing that specific kind of service, supply, or construction, then the Purchasing Director may limit notice of the invitation for bids to all known Detroit-based vendors of that kind.  The Purchasing Director shall not, however, advise vendors of that limitation on invitations until after bids have been opened.

(6)  Bid Opening.  Bids shall be opened publicly by the Secretary of the School Board in the presence of one or more independent witnesses at the time and place set forth in the invitation for bids.  The amount of each bid, and such other relevant information as the Board Secretary deems appropriate, together with the name of each bidder shall be read clearly aloud and recorded.  This record and each bid shall be open to immediate public inspection in accordance with Section 1.201 (Public Access to Procurement Information) and the Freedom of Information Act.

(7)  Bid Acceptance and Bid Evaluation.  Bids shall be unconditionally accepted without alteration or correction, except as authorized in this policy.  Bids shall be evaluated based only upon those requirements set forth in the invitation for bids, which may include criteria to determine acceptability such as inspection, testing, quality, workmanship, delivery, and suitability for a particular purpose.  Those criteria which will affect the bid price and which will be considered in evaluation for award, shall be objectively measurable, such as discounts, transportation costs or savings, and total or life cycle costs.

(8)  Correction or Withdrawal of Bids; Cancellation of Awards.

(a)  When appropriate, a bidder may be permitted to correct or withdraw a bid, which contains inadvertent errors, both before and after bid opening. An award or contract may also be canceled based upon such bid mistakes.  A notice of this correction policy and procedures shall be included in all invitations for bids.

(b)  Mistakes discovered before bid opening may be corrected or withdrawn by written, faxed or other telegraphic notice received in the office designated in the invitation for bids at any time before the time set for bid opening.

(c)  After bid opening, no changes shall be permitted in bid prices or in other provisions of bids, which are prejudicial to the interest of the district or to fair competition.  After bid opening, a bid may be corrected only if and to the extent that the bidder can show by clear and convincing evidence:

(i)  the nature of the mistake,

(ii)  that the mistake was not one of business judgement, and

(iii)  what bid price had actually been intended.

(d)  Instead of bid correction, a low bidder who alleges a material mistake of fact may be permitted to withdraw its bid if:

(i)  the mistake is clearly evident on the face of the bid document but the intended correct bid is not similarly evident; or

(ii)  the bidder submits evidence which clearly and convincingly demonstrates that a mistake was made.

(e)  All decisions to permit the correction or withdrawal of bids, or to cancel awards or contracts based on bid mistakes, shall be supported by a written file determination made by the Purchasing Director.

(f)   An invitation for bids shall provide a prominent notice that all bidders shall be held strictly accountable for their bid.  If there are no acceptable grounds upon which to correct or withdraw a bid, a low responsive and responsible bidder shall be held strictly responsible to fully perform the contract by it terms or to pay to the district the difference in cost between the low bid and the next lowest bidder, whether or not that will result in a loss to or the bankruptcy of the low bidder.


COMMENT:  The bid withdrawal and cancellation process bears extra special scrutiny, because it is so easily used as a means of undermining the competitive bid process when a buyer is known to go easy on bid withdrawals.  After bids are opened and known, a low bidder, for example, can go to the next higher bidder and strike a backroom deal to withdraw in exchange for a share of the profits on the higher bid.  Or some people who are not really qualified bidders will parasite on the process by making a low bid and then approaching the next lowest bidder with such an offer or a threat to hold up the process.  Purchasing agents may then be approached and “encouraged” to look the other way.  That’s why a strict and detailed policy is needed and justified on both withdrawals and on evaluations of a bidder’s responsibleness.   It should not cause any capable business a hardship if they are given fair notice up-front that they will be held strictly accountable for their promises (bids).


(9)  Award.

(a)  The contract shall be awarded with reasonable promptness by appropriate written notice to the lowest responsive and responsible bidder whose bid meets the requirements and criteria set forth in the invitation for bids.


COMMENT:  It is important that bidders be able to rely upon the delivery schedule that is set forth in the invitation for bids.  Wholesale and supplier prices are subject to change, but most of that change is predictable.  There have been cases in which a vendor has submitted a low bid, but in which the previous supplier is allowed to keep on performing month-after-month, sometimes at an even higher price, while the new contract is being “processed”, raising questions as to why?  These practices tend to drive the general level of all bids up as vendors seek to protect themselves.  It is much better for the district when bidders have confidence that the bid system is honest and that the performance schedule is dependable.


(b)  If the lowest responsive and responsible bid for a  construction project exceeds available funds as certified by the Deputy Superintendent for Fiscal Integrity, and such bid does not exceed such funds by more than ten percent (10%), the Purchasing Director is authorized, when time or economic considerations preclude re-solicitation of work of a reduced scope, to negotiate an adjustment of the bid price with the lowest responsive and  responsible bidder, in order to bring the bid within the amount of available funds.  Any such negotiated adjustment shall be based only upon eliminating independent deductive items which have been specified in the invitation for bids.

(10)  Multi-Step Sealed Bidding.  If it is not practical at the onset to prepare a specification which is good enough to obtain a bid based on price, an invitation for bids may be issued requesting that unpriced offers be submitted, to be followed by an invitation for bids which will be limited to those first-round respondents whose offers are found to be technically acceptable under the criteria set forth in the first solicitation.


COMMENT:  It is not easy to draft specifications which result in limiting competition to products which really meet district needs on the one hand, while getting the best price on the other, especially for items which are seldom purchased.  In many cases, the two-step bidding procedure provides a workable answer to these situations.  The rationale for limiting second- round competition to those who respond to the first round, is to motivate more vendors to take part in the first round, which calls for more involvement (and thus cost to the vendor).


(11)  Cancellation of Solicitations.  An invitation for bids, a request for proposals, or other solicitation may be canceled, or any or all bids or proposals may be rejected in whole or in part.  Each solicitation issued by the district shall so state.  The written reasons as to why cancellation or rejection is in the best interests of the district shall be made part of the contract file.  Notice of cancellation or rejection of all bids shall be sent to all businesses solicited. The notice shall identify the solicitation, explain the reason for cancellation or rejection, and, where appropriate, advise that an opportunity will be given to compete on any re-solicitation or any future procurements of similar items.


COMMENT:  One key reason to set forth policies in great detail, is because courts tend to enforce them to the letter.  They often refuse to recognize circumstances which clearly and reasonably justify an exception, on the theory that it opens the floodgates for both litigation and abuse.  Exceptions to a general policy must therefore be expressly granted and clearly defined.  

            If, for example, the Purchasing Director is to be permitted to omit a newspaper advertisement when it’s not likely to enhance competition, that discretion must be expressly provided. 

            If the Purchasing Director is to be given discretion to limit competition to Detroit-based firms, that discretion must be expressly provided. 

            On some points, the case law goes several ways, and it helps avoid contention to spell out how bids are to be handled, for example, in the case of bid correction or withdrawal.  These processes have oftentimes become a backdoor for circumventing competitive requirements. 

            In other cases, the details need to be specified to assure that there is compliance with the spirit of a policy, for example, it’s not enough to just open bids in a public place.  They need to be read aloud in front of witnesses.  And those in attendance need to be able to immediately inspect the bid documentation.  These details have good reason behind them based upon hard experience in the field.




Sec. 3.201  Small Purchases.

(1)  General.  A procurement of twenty thousand dollars ($20,000) or less, is not subject to the several requirements of Section 3.101.  These small purchases are, however, subject to all of the public record requirements of Sections 1.201 and 1.202.  The Purchasing Director shall develop a system for making small purchases which is quick, simple, flexible, and sensible. Users shall define their needs in terms of performance. Competition shall be sought to the extent that it promises to generate greater buying savings than the cost of the search.   Schools and offices shall requisition and purchasing agents shall solicit procurements in amounts which are based upon their reasonable and foreseeable needs and storage capacities, and upon other relevant factors, such as, economies of scale in purchasing, shipping and handling, or the shelf-life or seasonal availability of a product.  A  procurement shall not be divided merely to qualify it as a small purchase.  The Purchasing Director shall delegate small purchase authority to schools and offices to whatever extent it is practicable, and shall advise and assist those schools and offices with prospective vendor listings, tried and proven performance-based specifications, quotation analysis, and standard contractual terms.

(2)  Minimum Standards for Small Purchases Over $2,000.  Insofar as it is practicable for small purchases in excess of two thousand dollars ($2,000), quotations shall be solicited from a responsible salesperson, at least by telephone, at each of at least three businesses, which are likely to be competitive for the kind of supplies, service or construction desired.  Award shall be made to the business offering the lowest acceptable quotation.  The name, address, phone number and contact person of each business submitting quotations, and the date and amount of each quotation for each item, shall be recorded and maintained as a public record. The Purchasing Director shall not delegate authority for small purchases over $2,000. to a school or office which neglects or fails to faithfully comply with these record-keeping requirements.

(3)  Small Purchases Under $2,000.  The Purchasing Director shall establish guidelines for making small purchases of two thousand dollars ($2,000) or less.  These guidelines shall seek to obtain reasonable competition for all such supplies, services, or construction being purchased, and for maintaining written records adequate to document the competition obtained, properly account for the funds expended, and facilitate an audit of each small purchase made.  In general, the total cost of procurement and documentation efforts should not exceed 10% of the anticipated cost of the item being procured.


COMMENT:  Buyers must be encouraged to be practical when making small purchases;  it is easy to expend more in purchasing effort than can be recaptured by competitive savings.   As a rule of  thumb, comparative shopping can save 10% to 15% in price.  When comparison shopping efforts cost more than 10% of  the ballpark cost of the item, it is time to stop shopping and buy.  For example, if a ream of paper is guesstimated to cost $5, then one should not put in more than 50 cents of effort to find the best price.  Go to the nearest discount office supply store and  let it be.  On a $1,000 purchase, however, you could afford to expend $100 in effort to find a better price, and probably come out money ahead.  The bottom line is to be sensible and to briefly log the reasons for your purchasing decisions.


Sec. 3.202  Sole Source and Single Response Procurements.

(1)  Conditions for Use.  A contract of five thousand  ($5,000) or more may be awarded without competition when the Purchasing Director determines in writing, after conducting a good faith review of available sources, that:

(a)  there is only one source for the required supply, service, or construction item, or

(b)  that at least three businesses have been solicited, which were likely to be competitive for the proposed procurement; only one conforming response has been received; based upon prior experience, that response is cost-competitive; and time does not reasonably permit either an extension of the due date to enable more bids to be received, or for a renewal of the invitation.

(2) Delegated Authority.   The Purchasing Director shall develop guidelines which schools and offices shall use to make similar procurements of less than five thousand dollars ($5,000).  Those over five thousand dollars ($5,000) shall require approval of the Purchasing Director.

(3)  Records and Requirements.  The Purchasing Director shall conduct negotiations, as appropriate, as to price, terms, and delivery. Cost or pricing data shall be provided if required by Section 3.302.  A written analysis of cost or pricing data shall be conducted and placed in the public file when required under Section 3.303.  A register of sole source or single response procurements shall be maintained as a public record and shall list each contractor’s name, the amount and type of each  contract, a listing of the item(s) procured under each contract, and the identification number of each contract file.

(3)  Textbook Selection.  When possible, in order to generate reasonable price competition among textbook publishers, textbook review and selection committees shall recommend at least two preferred textbooks for each curriculum need.

(4)  School Board Approval.  Pursuant to Section 7.101, a sole source or a single response contract for supplies or services which exceeds twenty thousand dollars ($20,000) or  for construction which exceeds twenty-five thousand dollars ($25,000) shall be submitted for School Board approval. 


 Sec. 3.203  Competitive Sealed Proposals.

(1)  Conditions for Use.  When the Purchasing Director finds that it is not practicable or that it is not advantageous to the district to use competitive sealed bids, a contract may be awarded by use of competitive sealed proposals.  This finding and its supporting rationale shall be made in writing and filed in the public record of the contract.

(2)  Public Notice.  Adequate public notice of the request for proposals shall be given in the same manner as provided in Section 3.101(3) (Competitive Sealed Bidding, Public Notice); except, the minimum time shall be twenty-one (21) calendar days.

(3)  Receipt of Proposals.  Proposals shall be handled so as not to permit disclosure of the identity of any offeror or the contents of any proposal to competing offerors during the process of negotiation.  A register of proposals shall be prepared containing the name of each offeror, the number of modifications received, if any, and a description sufficient to identify the item offered.  The register of proposals shall be open for public inspection only after contract award.

(4)  Evaluation Factors.  The request for proposals shall state the relative importance of price and other evaluation factors to the full extent that those relationships can be reasonably quantified.   Cost or pricing data shall also be provided when required under Section 3.302.

(5)  Discussion with Responsible Offerors and Revisions to Proposals.  If so provided in the request for proposals, discussions may be conducted with responsible offerors, in order to clarify and assure full understanding of, and conformance to, the solicitation requirements.  Offerors shall be accorded fair and equal treatment with respect to any opportunity for discussion and revision of proposals and such revisions may be permitted after submissions and prior to award for the purpose of obtaining best and final offers.  Discussions shall be scheduled and conducted in a manner which avoids disclosure of the identify of competing offerors, and of any specific ideas, information, or solutions which are derived from proposals submitted by competing offerors.  A written cost or pricing analysis shall be prepared when required by Section 3.303,  and placed in the public contract file.

(6)  Award.  Award shall be made to the responsible offeror whose proposal is determined in writing to be the most advantageous to the district, taking into consideration price and the evaluation factors set forth in the request for proposals.  No other factors or criteria shall be used in the evaluation.  A copy of the written evaluation which states the basis of award shall be filed in the public contract file.


Sec. 3.204  Contracting for Designated Professional Services.

(1) Authority.

(a)  Conditions of Use.  The Purchasing Director may provide a school or office with specific written authority to procure the services of accountants, physicians, dentists, nurses, lawyers for routine defense and labor arbitration work, teacher consultants, computer programmers, psychologists, engineers, athletic coaches, special education consultants, or psychiatrists, in accordance with the selection procedures specified in this Section.  A school or office needing such services shall first consult with and obtain the approval of the Purchasing Director for both its request for proposals and its proposed contracts.

(b)  Exception.  Architect-engineering and land surveyor services shall be procured by using the selection procedures set forth in Section 5.401.

(2)  Selection Procedure.

(a)  Conditions for Use.  Except as provided under Section 3.202 (Sole Source and Single Response Procurement) or Section 3.205 (Exigent or Emergency Procurements), the professional services designated in Subsection (1)(a) of this Section shall be procured in accord with this Subsection.

(b)  Statement of Qualifications.  A person who provides designated types of professional services may at any time submit or amend their resume.  A school or office may specify a uniform format for resumes, subject to review and approval of the form by the General Counsel.

(c)  Public Announcement and Form of Request for Proposals.  Adequate notice of the need for such services shall be given by the school or office through a request for resumes approved by the Purchasing Director. The request for resumes shall describe the services required, list the types of information and data required of each offeror, and state the relative importance of particular qualifications.  Notice is deemed adequate if advertised in an appropriate and widely circulated local trade or professional magazine or newsletter.  Schools may group together to solicit resumes, and to share the responses.

(d)  Discussions.  The head of a school or office may conduct discussions with any offeror to determine that offeror’s qualifications for further consideration, but need not speak with more potential providers than those needed to secure a reasonable level of competition. Information derived from proposals shall not be disclosed to other offerors.

(e)  Award.  Award shall be made to the offeror determined in writing by the head of the school or office procuring the required professional services or a designee of such officer to be best qualified among those actually considered, based upon the evaluation factors set forth in the request for proposals, and based upon negotiation of compensation determined to be fair and reasonable.  If compensation cannot be agreed upon with the best qualified offeror being considered, then negotiations will be formally terminated with the selected offeror.  If proposals were submitted by one or more offerors determined to be qualified, negotiations may be conducted with such other offeror or offerors, in the order of their respective qualification ranking, and the contract may be awarded to the offeror then ranked best qualified if the amount of compensation is determined to be fair and reasonable.

Sec. 3.205   Exigent or Emergency Procurements.

Notwithstanding any other provisions of this policy, and subject to the approval of the President of the School Board as provided in Article 7, the Purchasing Director may make or authorize others to make exigent or emergency procurements of supplies, services, or construction when it is clearly to the district’s financial advantage as defined in section 7.108 or when there exists a threat to public health, welfare, or safety.  Such exigent or emergency procurements shall be made with as much competition as is practicable under the circumstances.  A written determination of the basis for the exigency or emergency and for the selection of the particular contractor shall be included in the contract file.  As soon as practicable, a record of each exigent or emergency procurement shall be made and maintained as a public register, which register shall set forth the contractor’s name, the amount and type of the contract, a listing of the item(s) procured under the contract, and the identification number of the  contract file.


COMMENT:   Our foremost objective is to provide each of our schools and offices with what they need when they need it.  Emergencies and other urgent and hard-to-foresee needs are bound to occur.  Price is  important, but not at the expense of wasting substantial teaching and learning time and of sapping school morale and autonomy.



Sec. 3.301  Responsibility of Bidders and Offerors.

(1)  Determination of Non-responsibility.  If a bidder or offeror who otherwise would have been awarded a contract is found non-responsible, the Purchasing Director shall prepare a written determination of non-responsibility, setting forth the basis of finding, and shall promptly send a copy to the non-responsible party.  The unreasonable failure of a bidder or offeror to promptly supply information in connection with an inquiry with respect to responsibility shall be sufficient grounds for a determination of non-responsibility.  The final determination shall be made part of the contract file and shall be a public record.

(2)  Right of Non-disclosure.  Information furnished by a bidder or offeror pursuant to this Section shall be reviewed by the General Counsel and kept in a confidential file and shall not be disclosed to any person except necessary staff of the office of the Purchasing Director or the using school or office, without prior written consent by the bidder or offeror, or pursuant to a court order.

(3)  Pre-qualification of Vendors as Responsible Bidders.  Prospective vendors may be pre-qualified as responsible bidders or offerors for particular types of supplies, services, and construction.  Solicitation registers of potential contractors shall include but shall not be limited to pre-qualified vendors.


COMMENT:   The disqualification of a bidder is a touchy matter.  It can easily disrupt the flow of crucial supplies, services and construction.  It can also generate law suits which sap the limited resources of the district.  One of the common drawbacks of competitive bidding is that some persons will bid and bid low even when they have little or no ability to follow through.  It is important that these bids be screened-out up-front before they foul-up our operations.  The Freedom of Information Act allows us to obtain certain sensitive information from bidders and to shield it from the view of both the public and competitors.  We must protect this information, or bidders will not be willing to share it, and that will make it impossible to judge the ability of a bidder to carry through. 


Sec. 3.302  Cost or Pricing Data.

(1)  Required Submissions Relating to the Award of Contracts.  A prospective contractor shall submit cost or pricing data when the contract is expected to exceed one hundred thousand dollars ($100,000) and is to be awarded by sole source or single response procurement authority (Section 3.202) or by competitive sealed proposals (Section 3.203).

(2)  Exceptions.  The submission of cost or pricing data relating to the award of a contract is not required when:

(a)  the contract price is based on adequate price competition;

(b)  the contract price is based on established catalogue prices or market prices;

(c)  the contract price is set by law or regulation; or

(d)  the Purchasing Director determines that the requirements of Section 3.302(1) (Cost or Pricing Data; Required Submissions Relating to the Award of Contracts) may be waived and states the reasons in writing.

(3)  Required Submissions Relating to Change Orders or Contract Modifications.  A contractor shall submit cost or pricing data prior to the pricing of any change order or contract modification, including adjustments to contracts awarded by competitive sealed bidding, whether or not cost or pricing data was required in connection with the initial pricing of the  contract, when the change or modification involves aggregate increases or aggregate decreases in costs plus applicable profits that are expected to exceed one hundred thousand dollars ($100,000).

(4)  Exceptions.  The submission of cost or pricing data relating to the pricing of a change order or contract modification is not required when:

(a)  unrelated and separately priced adjustments for which cost or pricing data would not be required are consolidated for administrative convenience;

(b)  appropriate unit prices have been established in the initial contract; or

(c)  the Purchasing Director determines that the requirements of Section 3.302(3) (Cost or Pricing Data; Required Submissions Relating to Change Orders or Contract Modifications) may be waived, and states the reasons in writing.

(5)  Certification Required.  If a contractor, actual or prospective, is required to submit cost or pricing data in accordance with this Section, the contractor shall certify that, to the best of its knowledge and belief, the cost or pricing data submitted was accurate, complete, and current as of a mutually specified date, which is prior to the award of the contract or prior to the pricing of the change order or contract modification.

(6)  Price Adjustment Provision Required.  Any contract award, change order, or contract modification under which the submission and certification of cost or pricing data are required shall contain a provision stating that the price to the district, including profit or fee, shall be adjusted to exclude any significant sums by which the district finds that such price was increased because the contractor furnished cost or pricing data which was inaccurate, incomplete, or not current as of the date agreed upon between the district and the contractor.


COMMENT:  When there is little or no competition for a product, the district may find itself  at the mercy of the contractor.  On larger contracts, cost or pricing data can often help avoid overcharges.  The next section requires that a written cost or pricing analysis be done and kept in the contract file.  Vendors are less likely to press their advantage when they know that their customers are taking a long hard look at the contract.


Sec. 3.303  Cost or Price Analysis

If cost data or pricing data is required to be submitted, a cost analysis or a price analysis, as appropriate, shall be conducted prior to award of the contract other than one awarded under Section 3.101 (Competitive Sealed Bidding).  The written analysis shall be kept in the contract file.

 Sec. 3.304  Bid and Performance Bonds on Supply or Service Contracts.

Bid and performance bonds or other security may be requested for supply contracts or service contracts as the Purchasing Director or head of a school or office deems prudent to protect the district’s interests.  Any such bonding requirements shall be set forth in the solicitation.  Bid or performance bonds shall not be used as a substitute for a determination of a bidder or offeror’s responsibility.  A bonding requirement may be waived in the case of a certified minority-owned or women-owned enterprise if its imposition would tend to deny that firm an opportunity to compete for a contract.



Sec. 3.401  Types of Contracts.

(1)  General Authority.  Subject to the limitations of this Section, any type of contract which is appropriate to the procurement and which will promote the best interests of the district may be used, provided that the use of a cost-plus-a-percentage-of-cost contract is prohibited.  A cost reimbursement contract may be used only when a determination is made in writing that such contract is likely to be less costly to the district than any other type or that it is impracticable to obtain the supply, service, or construction item required except under such a contract.

(2)  Multi-Term Contracts.

(a)  Specified Period.  Unless otherwise provided by law, a contract for supplies or services may be entered into for any period of time up to five years which is deemed by the Purchasing Director to be in the best interests of the district,  provided the term of the contract and conditions of renewal or extension, if any, are included in the solicitation and funds are available for the first fiscal period at the time of contracting. Payment and performance obligations for succeeding fiscal periods shall be subject to the availability and appropriation of funds therefor.  A contract for supplies or services for more than two years shall require prior School Board approval pursuant to Section 7.101.

(b)  Determination Prior to Use.  Prior to the utilization of a multi-term contract, it shall be determined in writing:

(i)  that estimated requirements cover the period of the contract and are reasonably firm and continuing; and

(ii)  that such a contract will serve the best interests of the district by encouraging effective competition or otherwise promoting economies in district procurement.

(c)  Cancellation Due to Unavailability of Funds in Succeeding Fiscal Periods.  When funds are not appropriated or otherwise made available to support continuation of performance in a subsequent fiscal period, the contract shall be canceled and the contractor shall be reimbursed for the reasonable value of any non-recurring costs incurred but not amortized in the price of the supplies or services delivered under the contract. The cost of cancellation may be paid from any appropriations available for such purposes.

(3)  Multiple Source Contracting.             

(a)  General.  A multiple source award is an award of an indefinite quantity contract for one or more similar supplies or services to more than one bidder or offeror.  The obligation to order the district’s actual requirements is limited by the provision of Uniform Commercial Code Section 2.306(1).


COMMENT: Michigan Compiled Laws, section 440.2306 (the Uniform Commercial Code) addresses exclusive buying, selling and dealing arrangements.  It provides: 

“Sec. 2306.  (1) Output, requirements.  A term (of a contract) which measures the quantity by the output of the seller or the requirements of the buyer means such actual output or requirements as may occur in good faith, except that no quantity unreasonably disproportionate to any stated estimate or in the absence of a stated estimate to any normal or otherwise comparable prior output or requirements may be tendered or demanded. 

            “(2) Exclusive dealing.  A lawful agreement by either the seller or the buyer for exclusive dealing in the kind of goods concerned imposes unless otherwise agreed an obligation by the seller to use best efforts to supply the goods and by the buyer to use best efforts to promote their sale.”


(b)  Limitations on Use.  An award may be made to two or more bidders or offerors for similar products when it is necessary for adequate delivery, service, or product compatibility. A multiple source award shall comply with the provisions of Section 3.101 (Competitive Sealed Bidding), Section 3.201 (Small Purchases), Section 3.203 (Competitive Sealed Proposals), and Section 3.205 (Exigent or Emergency Procurements), as pertinent.  Multiple source awards shall not be made when a single award will meet the district’s needs without sacrifice of economy or service.  Awards shall not be made to simply spread the business, to make available product or supplier selection to allow users to make a preference unrelated to utility or economy, or to avoid resolving a tie bid.  Awards shall be limited to the least number of suppliers needed to meet the district’s valid requirements. Multiple-source awards may be made to help achieve remedial program goals.

(c)  Contract and Solicitation Provisions.  All eligible users of the contract shall be named in the solicitation, and it shall be mandatory that the actual requirements of such users that can be met under the contract be obtained in accordance with the contract, provided that the district shall reserve the right to take bids separately:

(i)  if a particular quantity requirement arises which exceeds its normal requirement or an amount specified in the contract; and

(ii) if the Purchasing Director finds that the supply or service available under the contract will not meet a nonrecurring special need of the district.

(d)  Intent to Use.  If a multiple source award is anticipated prior to issuing a solicitation, the district shall reserve the right to make such an award and the criteria for award shall be stated in the solicitation.

(e) Determination Required.  The Purchasing Director shall make a written determination setting forth the reasons for a multiple source award, which shall be made a part of the procurement file.

Sec. 3.402  Contract Clauses and Their Administration.

(1)  Contract Clauses.  All district contracts for supplies, services, and construction shall include provisions necessary to define the responsibilities and rights of the parties to the contract.  The Purchasing Director, after consultation with the General Counsel, may issue clauses appropriate for supply or service contracts, addressing among others the following subjects.  The Assistant Superintendent for Physical Plant or his/her designated agent, may do likewise with respect to construction contracts.

(a)  the unilateral right of the district to order in writing changes in the work within the scope of the contract;

(b)  the unilateral right of the district to order in writing temporary stopping of the work or delaying performance that does not alter the scope of the contract;

(c)  variations occurring between estimated quantities of work in the contract and actual quantities;

(d)  defective pricing;

(e)  liquidated damages;

(f)  specified excuses for delay or nonperformance;

(g)  termination of the contract for default;

(h)  termination of the contract in whole or in part for the convenience of the district;

(i)  suspension of work ordered by the district on a construction project;

(j)  site conditions differing from those indicated in the contract, or ordinarily encountered, except that a differing site conditions clause need not be included in a contract:

(i)  when the contract is negotiated rather than bid;

(ii)  when the contractor provides the site or design; or

(iii)  when the parties have otherwise agreed with respect to the          risk of differing site conditions;

(k)  the ethics and anti-kickback provisions required by Article 12; and

(l)  when appropriate, the accounting, plant and book inspection provisions set forth in Sections 3.405, 3.406 and 3.407.

(2)  Price Adjustments:

(a)  Adjustments in price resulting from the use of contract clauses required by Subsection (1) of this Section shall be computed in one or more of the following ways:

(i)  by agreement on a fixed price adjustment before commencement of the pertinent performance or as soon thereafter as practicable;

(ii)  by unit prices specified in the contract or subsequently agreed upon;

(iii)  by the costs attributable to the events or situations under those clauses with adjustment of profit or fee, all as specified in the contract or subsequently agreed upon;

(iv)  in such other manner as the contracting parties may mutually agree; or

(v)  in the absence of agreement by the parties, by a unilateral determination by the district of the costs attributable to the events or situations under those clauses with adjustment of profit or fee as computed by the district, and subject to the provisions of Article 9 (Appeals and Remedies).

(b)  A contractor shall be required to submit cost or pricing data if any adjustment in contract price is subject to the provisions of Section 3.302 (Cost or Pricing Data).

(3)  Standard Clauses and Their Modification.  The Purchasing Director, after consultation with the General Counsel, may establish standard contract clauses for use in district contracts.  If the Purchasing Director establishes any standard clauses addressing the subjects set forth in Subsection (1) of this Section, such clauses may be varied if those variations are supported by a written determination that states the circumstances justifying those variations, and if a notice of that material variation is stated in the invitation for bids or request for proposals.


Sec. 3.403  Contract Administration.

The Chief Operating Officer shall establish and maintain a contract administration system designed to insure that a contractor is performing in accordance with the solicitation under which the contract was awarded and the terms and conditions of the contract.  Construction contract administration may be delegated to the Assistant Superintendent of Physical Plant or to his/her designated agent.

Sec. 3.404  Performance Certification and Past Due Payment.

(1)  The Chief Operating Officer shall establish a system to assure that the satisfactory performance of each procurement contract is promptly determined and certified, and that payment is promptly ordered.

(2)  Unless otherwise agreed in writing, a requisitioning school or office shall take all steps necessary to assure that payment for services, supplies and construction is mailed to the vendor within 45 days after delivery and satisfaction of a contract, or receipt of a complete invoice for the same, whichever is later.

(3)  If an invoice received by the requisitioning school or office is filled out incorrectly, or contains a defect or impropriety, the school or office shall notify the vendor within ten days after the invoice is received. The 45-day period shall be extended by each day over five days which the vendor takes to make a correction.

(4)  Except as provided in subsection (5), if payment owed by the requisitioning school or office to a vendor is past due, the school or office shall pay to the vendor an additional amount equal to the current annual prime line-of-credit-rate of the time that the payment remains past due.  The vendor shall not be required to submit a past due notice to collect the additional amount due.

(5)  Subsection (4) shall not apply:

(a)  if payment is delayed because of a good faith disagreement between the school or office and the vendor regarding contract performance, unless the dispute is resolved in favor of the vendor, or

(b)  if the vendor’s bid or the contract contains an alternate provision for late payment, and that amount is paid instead.


COMMENT:  The chronic late payment of vendors ends-up disrupting the flow of supplies and services  to  schools.   When vendors are compensated for late payment at current prime rates of interest and when the budgets of responsible offices and schools are charged directly for those late payments, the problem of late payment can be expected to evaporate.  It’s only when someone else pays that the paperflow delay persists.  It also become problematic to empower ech school to take charge of its programs, when purchasing delinquencies at some schools impact vendor response to all schools.


(6)  The Chief Operating Officer shall also assure that every contract which is awarded to a vendor who may in turn sub-contract a part of the performance to a Detroit-based firm shall include third-party beneficiary provisions which extend to that firm the same kind of prompt payment protection which is provided by this section to the prime contractor.


COMMENT: This section helps assure that Detroit-based suppliers and sub-contractors have an added legal means of being timely paid for their performance.  They are thereby enabled to sue for payment and interest based upon these third-party contractual rights.  Past experience and complaints have shown that sub-contractors have often been abused by their primes.  The only cost to the district is that of sending a witness to authenticate the contract document.   


 Sec. 3.405  Approval of Accounting System.*

If a proposed contract does not have a firm fixed-price, it shall not be awarded and executed unless it has been determined in writing by the Purchasing Director that the proposed contractor’s accounting system:

(a)  will permit timely development of all necessary cost data in the form required by the specific contract type contemplated; and

(b)  is adequate to allocate costs in accordance with generally accepted cost accounting principles.

Sec. 3.406  Right to Inspect Plant.

When appropriate, a solicitation shall provide that the district may inspect the part of the plant, place of business, or work site of a contractor or subcontractor at any tier which is pertinent to the performance of any contract awarded or to be awarded by the district.

Sec. 3.407  Right to Audit Records.

When appropriate, a solicitation shall provide that the district shall be entitled to audit the books and records of a contractor or a subcontractor at any tier under any contract or subcontract other than a firm fixed-price contract for which cost or pricing data was not required, to the extent that such documents are pertinent to the performance of that contract or subcontract.  The solicitation shall further provide that those documents shall be maintained by the contractor for a period of three years from the date of final payment under the prime contract and by the subcontractor for a period of three years from the date of final payment under the subcontract.


Comment:  The School District has no right or power to audit the books of a contractor unless that contractor has agreed in their contract to be subject to such an audit.   This provision is an absolute must in all significant contracts.


Sec. 3.408  Reporting of Anti-competitive Practices.

When for any reason, a person suspects collusion or other anti-competitive practices among any bidders or offerors, that person shall transmit the relevant facts to the Michigan Attorney General and to the Wayne County Prosecuting Attorney.


Comment:  This provision asserts and requires that any person, and especially any employee who has serious suspicions of wrong-going has an affirmative duty to report it.  Failure to report what you know or suspect, can become a cause for discipline and even dismissal. 



Sec. 4.101  Maximum Practicable Competition.

(1)  The Purchasing Director shall compile a comprehensive set of standard specifications for use in district procurementSpecifications may be adapted from models which have been developed by large public- and private-sector organizations.  Specifications shall be performance-oriented, shall promote overall economy, and shall encourage maximum practicable competition.  Generally, the cost of the effort taken to draft a specification shall not exceed 5% of the cost of the district’s estimated needs for that product for the next two-years.  The policy enunciated in this Section applies to all specifications including but not limited to, those prepared for the district by architects or engineers.


COMMENT: The original research needed to draft an adequate and effective specification can be costly.  If you spend more on this one aspect of competitive buying than you can save over the next two years, then you can easily defeat your initial purpose of saving on overall costs.  You can often save a lot of effort by adapting from models used by other large purchasers.


(2)  The Purchasing Director shall include a statement at the end of each specification, which identifies by name all significant models and sources for and contributors to its development, such as,  manufacturers product descriptions, salespersons, consultants, and staff members.  If a vendor has taken substantial part in determining the content and evaluation factors of a bid specification or request for proposals, that vendor shall be disqualified from award of a contract. 


COMMENT: One of the most alluring sources of model specifications is from product suppliers.  Using these models often has the practical effect of restricting competition to products of that particular vendor.  One of the better ways to flush out such problems is to publish the names of all significant persons and sources which were used in drafting a specification.  If the specification restricts fair competition, this disclosure is more likely to spur a corrective complaint.  A vendor which has had a significant role in determining the content of bid specifications or evaluation criteria, should not be allowed to bid on that contract. 


Sec. 4.102  Qualified Products List.

The Purchasing Director may augment a specification with a listing of those specific brand name products described by model or catalog numbers which have previously been determined to satisfy the specification.  This listing shall however be preceded by the following notice:

“Any of the following products will satisfy this specification.  Bidding  or quotation is also welcomed for any other equivalent product.”

Sec. 4.103  Brand Name or Equivalent Specification.

(1)  Use. Brand name or equivalent specifications may be used when the Purchasing Director determines in writing:

(a)  that a brand name or equivalent specification is the most cost-effective specification available; and

(b)  time does not permit the preparation a better form of purchase description.

(2)  Designation of Several Brand Names.  A brand name or equivalent specification shall seek to name three, or as many different brands as are practicable, as “equivalents”.  It shall explain that the brand names are for the purpose of describing the standard of quality, performance, and characteristics desired, and are not intended to limit competition.  It shall further state that substantially equivalent products to those designated will be considered for award.

(3)  Required Characteristics.  Unless the Purchasing Director determines in writing that the essential characteristics of the brand names included in the specifications are commonly known in the industry or trade, brand name or equivalent specifications shall also include a description of the particular design, functional, or performance characteristics which are required.

Sec. 4.104  Brand Name Specification.

(1)  Use.  Because use of a brand name specification restricts product competition, it may be used only when the Purchasing Director makes a written determination that only the identified brand name item or items will satisfy district needs.

(2)  Competition.  The Purchasing Director shall seek to identify sources from which the designated brand name item or items can be obtained and shall solicit those sources to achieve whatever degree of price competition is practicable.  If only one source can supply the requirement, the procurement shall be made under Section 3.202 (Sole Source Procurement).





Sec. 5.101  Responsibility for Selection of Methods of

            Construction Contracting Management.

The Assistant Superintendent of Physical Plant or his/her designated agent shall select the appropriate method of construction contracting management for a particular project, based on the district’s requirements, its resources, and the potential contractor’s capabilities.  The Assistant Superintendent of Physical Plant shall execute, and include in the contract file a written statement setting forth the facts which led to the selection of a particular method of construction contracting management for each project.  These methods may include, among others:

(1)  a single prime contractor, including a turnkey or design-build contractor; or

(2)  multiple prime contractors managed by:

(a)  a designated general contractor;

(b)  a construction manager; or

(c)  a purchasing agent.



Sec. 5.201  Bid Security.

(1)  Requirement for Bid Security.  Bid security shall be required for all competitive sealed bidding for construction contracts.  Bid security shall be a bond provided by a surety company authorized to do business in Michigan, or the equivalent in cash, or supplied in another form satisfactory to the district.

(2)  Amount of Bid Security.  Bid security shall be in an amount to be determined by the Purchasing Director. 

            (3)  Rejection of Bids for Noncompliance with Bid Security Requirements.  If the invitation for bids requires security, and a bidder does not comply in all respects, the bid shall be rejected unless the Purchasing Director determines in writing that the failure is a non-substantial one.

(4)  Withdrawal of Bids.  If a bidder is permitted to withdraw its bid before award as provided in Section 3.101(8) (Competitive Sealed Bidding; Correction or Withdrawal of Bids; Cancellation of Awards), no action shall be had against the bidder or the bid security.

Sec. 5.202  Contract Performance and Payment Bonds.

(1)  When Required-Amounts.  When a construction contract is awarded in excess of twenty-five thousand dollars ($25,000), the following bonds or security shall be delivered to the district and shall become binding on the parties upon the execution of the  contract:

(a) a performance bond satisfactory to the district, executed by a surety company authorized to do business in Michigan or otherwise secured in a manner satisfactory to the district, in an amount equal to one hundred percent (100%) of the price specified in the contract; and

(b)  a payment bond satisfactory to the district, executed by a surety company authorized to do business in Michigan or otherwise secured in a manner satisfactory to the district, for the protection of all persons supplying labor and material to the contractor or its subcontractors for the performance of the work provided for in the contract.  The bond shall be in an amount equal to one hundred percent (100%) of the price specified in the contract.


COMMENT: Michigan law requires that construction contractors who do public works provide a performance bond, which is a guarantee that the work will be done for the price bid and more or less within the time specified.  Although the law does not require a payment bond, which is a guarantee that subcontractors will be promptly paid, it is only prudent to require one, because the law provides unpaid subcontractors with a lien against the property being improved.  The construction industry is a hard field in which to succeed.  Not more than ten percent of the firms now in existence will still be around five years from now.  Bankruptcy and failure are common.  The district must protect itself as best it can, or it will suffer from contractors who push their problems on other contracts off on to those with the district.


(2)  Guaranteed or Incremental Bonding:  Surety bonds guaranteed by the Federal Small Business Administration or by incremental bonding may be accepted as security for a construction award under this policy.  Instead of a surety bond, the guarantee of a mutual-aid trade association may, within the sole discretion of the Purchasing Director, be accepted, if the association has reasonable capabilities of performing, and has had no prior default upon its guarantees.

(3)  Reduction of Bond Amounts.  After making a written determination that it is permitted by State law and, is in the best interest of the district to do so, and after providing notice to the School Board, the Purchasing Director may reduce the amount of performance and payment bonds up to fifty percent (50%) of the contract price for each bond.

(4)  Authority to Require Additional Bonds.  Nothing in this Section shall be construed to limit the authority of the district or of the Purchasing Director to require a performance bond or other security in addition to those bonds, or in circumstances other than specified in Subsection (1) of this Section.

(5)  Suits on Payment Bonds – Right to Institute.  When a contract is let which envisions that a part will be sub-contracted, it shall contain a provision that, any person who has furnished labor or material to the contractor or subcontractors for the work provided in the contract, for which a payment bond is furnished under this Section, and who has not been paid in full within ninety (90) days from the date on which that person performed the last of the labor or supplied the material, shall have the right to sue on the payment bond for any amount unpaid at the time the suit is instituted and to prosecute the action for the amount due that person.  However, any person having a contract with a subcontractor of the contractor, but no express or implied contract with the contractor furnishing the payment bond, shall have a right of action upon the payment bond upon giving written notice to the contractor within ninety (90) days from the date on which that person performed the last of the labor or supplied the material.  That person shall state in the notice the amount claimed and the name of the party to whom the material was supplied or for whom the labor was performed.  The notice shall be served personally or by registered or certified mail, postage prepaid, in an envelope addressed to the contractor at any place the contractor maintains an office or conducts business.

Sec. 5.203  Copies of Bond Forms.

Any person may request and obtain from the district a certified copy of a bond upon payment of the cost of reproduction of the bond and postage, if any.  A certified copy of a bond shall be prima facie evidence of the contents, execution, and delivery of the original.



Sec. 5.301  Fiscal Responsibility.

Every modification or price adjustment on a construction contract which is in excess of twenty-five thousand dollars ($25,000), and which lacks prior approval of a state or federal grantor agency, shall be submitted for prior approval by the School Board.  The appropriate fiscal officer shall report to the School Board as to the effect of the contract modification, or contract price adjustment on the total project budget or the total contract budget.  Each modification or adjustment shall be signed and approved by the Assistant Superintendent of Physical Plant.



Sec. 5.401  Public Announcement and Selection Process.

(1)  Public Announcement.  It is the policy of the district to announce publicly all requirements for architect-engineer and land surveying services and to negotiate those contracts on the basis of demonstrated competence and qualifications at fair and reasonable prices.  In the procurement of architect-engineer and land surveying services, the Purchasing Director shall request firms to submit a statement of qualifications and performance data.

(2)  Selection Process.  A selection committee composed of five members, including the Purchasing Director, the Chief Operating Officer, the Assistant Superintendent of Physical Plant, the Director of Architectural Services, and the head of the school or office in need of the architect-engineer or land surveying services, shall conduct discussions with no less than three firms regarding the proposed contract and the relative utility of alternative methods of approach for furnishing the required services and shall select from among them no less than three of the firms deemed most qualified to provide the required services.  The selection shall be made in order of preference, based on criteria established and published by the selection committee.

(3)  Negotiation.  The Assistant Superintendent for Physical Plant shall, with the advice and consent of the Purchasing Director, negotiate a contract with that firm considered to be the most qualified for architect-engineer or land surveying services at compensation which they determine in writing to be fair and reasonable to the district.  In making this decision, they shall take into account the estimated value, the scope, the complexity, and the professional nature of the services to be rendered. Should they be unable to negotiate a satisfactory contract with the firm considered to be the most qualified at a price which they determine to be fair and reasonable to the district, negotiations with that firm shall be formally terminated.  They shall then undertake negotiations with the second most qualified firm.  Failing accord with the second most qualified firm, they shall formally terminate negotiations.  They shall then undertake negotiations with the third most qualified firm.  Should they be unable to negotiate a contract at a fair and reasonable price with any of the selected firms, the selection committee shall select additional firms in order of their competence and qualifications, and negotiations shall continue in accordance with this Section until an agreement is reached.



Sec. 6.101  Authority to Debar or Suspend.

After reasonable notice to the person involved and reasonable opportunity for that person to be heard, the Purchasing Director, after consulting with the General Counsel, is authorized to debar a person for cause from consideration for award of contracts.  The debarment shall be for a period of not more than three years.  After consultation with the General Counsel, the Purchasing Director is authorized to suspend a person from consideration for award of contracts if there is probable cause to believe that the person has engaged in any activity which might lead to debarment.  The suspension shall be for a period not to exceed three months.  The causes for debarment include:

(a) conviction for commission of a criminal offense as an incident to obtaining or attempting to obtain a public or private contract or subcontract, or in the performance of such contract or subcontract;

(b)  conviction under state or federal statutes of embezzlement, theft, forgery, bribery, falsification or destruction of records, receiving stolen property, or any other offense indicating a lack of business integrity or business honesty which currently, seriously, and directly affects responsibility as a district contractor;

(c)  conviction under state or federal antitrust statutes arising out of the submission of bids or proposals;

(d)  violation of contract provisions, as set forth below, of a character which is regarded by the Purchasing Director to be so serious as to justify debarment action:

(i)  deliberate failure without good cause to perform in accordance with the specifications or within time limit provided in the contract; or

(ii)  if not beyond the control of the contractor, a recent record of failure to perform or of unsatisfactory performance in accord with the terms of one or more contracts;

(e)  violation of contract terms related to district equal opportunity or lack of follow-through on an affirmative action commitment for which a preference was initially extended;

(f)  any other cause the Purchasing Director determines to be so serious and compelling as to affect responsibility as a district contractor, such as, debarment by another governmental entity for any cause listed in this policy; and

(g)  violation of the ethical standards set forth in Article 12 (Ethics in Public Contracting). 

Sec. 6.102  Decision to Debar or Suspend.

The Purchasing Director shall issue a written decision to debar or suspend.  The decision shall state the reasons for the action taken and inform the debarred or suspended person involved of its rights to judicial or administrative review.  A suspension or debarment by the Purchasing Director shall not take effect before the twenty-one day appeal period to the School Board or to an appropriate court has elapsed.

Sec. 6.103  Notice of Decision.

The Purchasing Director shall mail or otherwise immediately furnish the debarred or suspended person with a copy of the decision required by Section 6.102 (Decision to Debar or Suspend).  He or she shall also immediately furnish a copy to the School Board President. 

Sec. 6.104  Finality of Decision.

A decision under Section 6.102 (Decision to Debar or Suspend) shall be final and conclusive, unless fraudulent, or unless the debarred or suspended person within twenty-one (21) days after receipt of the decision takes an appeal to the School Board or commences a timely action in court in accordance with applicable law, pursuant to Article 8. 


COMMENT:  Courts have held that a governmental entity may not debar a firm from responding to its bid solicitations unless it has formally adopted an express debarment policy and has provided notice of this policy to its vendors.  It must also provide for an appeals process of the kind provided in Article 9.  The district must also allow for a reasonable time in which to make an appeal.  Note that a purchase is usually placed on hold until the protest or appeal has been decided.  This policy therefore places a twenty-one day limit on appeals.  This limit must be made clear to vendors during bid solicitation and in the response to a protest.  When this is done, the courts will usually uphold tight time limits.  This formal process enables the district to get on with its work within a workable time frame.  Without such provisions, a procurement may be held up for months.  This places undue pressure on the Purchasing Director to pay-off a vendor to settle a pending dispute, just to get the work done. 

Note that a vendor may be debarred not only for a violation of the ethical standards set forth in Article 12, but also for collusion with a district employee to violate those standards.  Debarment is one of the more effective ways to enforce ethical standards.  It is much more effective than waiting upon law enforcement agencies to intercede.  It is also far more effective that just firing an offending employee.




COMMENT:   Article 7 is another key part of this total proposal.  If the main objective of procurement is to provide schools and offices with what they need, when they need it and at a reasonable cost, then the process requires close and constant day-to-day attention.  State law provides for school board approval of contracts for supplies or construction over $23,000 (but does not address contracts for services).  The Board approval process typically extends the purchasing process by four to six weeks.

            There is a large body of case law which holds that a public body may delegate its governmental contracting authority when there is good reason to do so, so long as reasonable standards and guidelines have been provided by which to limit administrative discretion, or so long as other reasonable oversight measures are also being taken to compensate for the lack of direct decision-making.  This policy provides those necessary guidelines, and also provides for an open record-keeping system by which compliance can be assured. 

            It is the design of Article 7 to delegate to the Superintendent and Purchasing Director contract-making authority over those areas of purchasing where the actual decision-making is driven by the competitive marketplace, and which comply in all respects with established School Board policies.  Decisions which involve the application of significant amounts of discretion, or which require waiver of an established School Board policy, must still be brought back to the School Board for prior approval.  In terms of volume, Article 7 would delegate about 70% of the total contracting activity in terms of aggregate dollar amount and 90% in terms of specific transactions.   (Lots of transactions are for fairly small amounts.) 

It is also assumed that the Board will also institute a highly professional and independent Audit General function to assure compliance with Board and procurement policy. 

Sec. 7.101  Contract Approval Authority Retained by School Board.

Except for such final approval authority as is hereinafter delegated to the General Superintendent, all contracts for the  procurement of supplies, services, and construction, shall be submitted to the School Board for approval, pursuant to Michigan Compiled Laws, Section 380.1274.   Approval authority is expressly retained in the School Board for the following specific kinds of contracts:

(1)  Contracts to purchase supplies or services from or to provide supplies or services to other units of government.

(2)  Contracts to purchase supplies or services for a period of more than two years, including contract modifications, options to renew, or change orders which extend the original contract beyond two years.

(3)  Contracts for the sale or lease of district-owned real property, or for the purchase or lease of real property for district use.

(4)  Contracts in excess of fifty thousand dollars ($50,000) for the construction, re-construction, renovation or other improvement of district property or property under the jurisdiction of the district or within a district right-of-way, if not included within an approved Annual Capital Outlay Plan.

(5)  A sole source procurement or a single response procurement for supplies or services, which exceeds a total cost of twenty thousand dollars ($20,000) or for construction which exceeds twenty-five thousand dollars ($25,000) and which lacks prior approval of a state or federal grantor agency.   A single response  procurement is one for which competitive solicitation was possible and was made, but for which only one conforming response is received, and compelling reasons exist for not re-soliciting bids.  A sole source procurement is one in which the Purchasing Director has positively established by convincing evidence that the item is available from only one source, and that the price is a reasonable one under the circumstances.

(6)  A professional services contract for more than twenty thousand dollars ($20,000) within any one-year period, to provide any of the following services:

(a)  outside legal counsel for any purpose other than defense of routine negligence suits or labor arbitration proceedings against the district.

(b)  general management consultation, and financial analysis and advice.

(c)  external auditing.

(d)  architectural schematics or preliminary engineering feasibility studies for construction, which is not part of an annual capital outlay plan.

(e)  public education or government or media relations.

(7)  A personal services contract for other than professional services which exceeds a compensation rate of ten dollars ($10) per hour.

(8)  Contracts in which more than fifty percent (50%) of the performance is to be subcontracted, unless the sub-contracting is part of an approved set-aside program.  The General Superintendent shall identify all proposed sub-contractors at the time that a contract over fifty percent (50%) is submitted for School Board approval.

(9)  Labor contracts made pursuant to the Public Employees Relations Act (PERA).

(10) Contracts to grant a concession to operate a business on district-owned or operated property.

(11) A settlement of any bid protest or procurement contract claim, which settlement has a value in excess of two hundred thousand dollars ($200,000).

(12) A settlement of any other disputed claim or litigated claim made against the district or on behalf of the district, except to the extent delegated by resolution to the General Counsel.

(13) A contract to purchase services which have previously and routinely been performed by regular district employees.

(14) A construction contract under which a contractor does not commit to comply with the district Prevailing Wage Policy.

Sec. 7.102  Delegation of General Power to Contract to the General Superintendent.

With the exception of the approval authority reserved in Sec. 7.101, and subject to the conditions set forth below, the General Superintendent may approve and execute contracts or contract amendments to procure supplies, services or construction.  If all of the following conditions have not been fulfilled, a proposed contract shall not be executed nor implemented until approved by the School Board.  If all of the following conditions have been fulfilled, the Purchasing Director, subject to the supervision of the General Superintendent shall have complete and final authority to approve and execute a contract.  The General Superintendent shall develop a contract processing checklist on which compliance with each condition and approval is documented, that is, that:

(1)  Funds have been appropriated for the specified function, activity and object; the object caption, the allocation plan or budget footnotes clearly indicate that the item is to be contracted or purchased; and sufficient unencumbered and allotted balances remain for the purpose.

(2)  The expenditure is still necessary and will fulfill the purpose for which that specified appropriation was made.

(3)  The contract, including the cumulative time period for any contract modification or change order, is for a period of two years or less.

(4)  The competitive solicitation requirements of this Procurement Policy have been satisfied.

(5)  The ethics requirements of Article 12 have been satisfied.

(6)  The contract is in substantial compliance with the requirements of any grant or third-party payor which has provided or will provide a part or all of the funding for the contract.

(7)  No substantial part of the contracted performance is to be sub-contracted, except to satisfy a set-aside requirement, or except as is permitted by a rule which has been approved by the School Board.

(8)  The contract has been approved by each of the following executive officers:

(a)  The Associate Superintendent for Fiscal Integrity, or his/her designee, with respect to the availability of budgeted funds.

(b)  The General Counsel, as to legal form and as to compliance with established district policies relating to liability, to risk management and risk mitigation, and to payment of prevailing wages on construction contracts.

(c)  The Director of Equal Opportunity, as to compliance with the requirements of Article 11 of this policy.

(d)  The Associate Superintendent for Personnel/Human Resources, if the contract involves direct retention of personal services or the outsourcing of work protected by an existing labor contract.

(e)  The Purchasing Director, as to compliance with all competitive solicitation requirements of this Procurement Policy and that the City Treasurer has certified that the proposed contractor has no delinquent tax obligations to the district.

(f)  The Assistant Superintendent of Information Systems, if the contract involves the purchase or lease of computer hardware or software, computer programming or consulting services, photocopiers, typewriters, microfilm or microfiche machines, telephones, or facsimile machines.

Sec. 7.103  Delegation of Power to Execute Grant Contracts to the General Superintendent.

With the exception of the approval authority reserved in Sec. 7.101, and subject to the conditions hereinafter set forth, the General Superintendent may approve and execute contracts or contract modifications to accept and expend grant or other third party payor funds.  If all of the following conditions have not been fulfilled, a proposed grant contract shall not be implemented until approved by the School Board.  If all of the following conditions have been fulfilled, the General Superintendent shall have complete and final authority to approve and execute a grant contract:

(1)  The funds to be received, and any district funds to be expended as a matching condition of the grant, have been specifically identified and estimated within ten percent (10%) of the sum offered, as an anticipated revenue and contingent appropriation in the current year’s budget.

(2)  The expenditure will serve a purpose which is within the express operating authority of the district as provided by statute or by School Board policy resolution.

(3)  The contract is for a period of one year or less.

(4)  The contract has been approved by each of the following executive officers:

(a)  The Associate Superintendent for Fiscal Integrity, as to financial planning authority and compatibility.

(b)  The General Counsel, as to legal form and as to compliance with established district policies relating to liability and to risk management and risk mitigation.

(c)  The Director of Equal Opportunity as to compliance with district policies relating to equal opportunity or affirmative action. 

Sec. 7.104  Delegation of Contracting Powers Deemed to be Budget Execution Instructions.

Sections 7.102, 7.103, 7.105, 7.108 and 7.109 are deemed to be budget execution instructions, which are administrative in character and which involve no substantial delegation of the fiduciary obligations and discretion of the School Board.

Sec. 7.105  Renewal of Contracts.

The General Superintendent may approve and execute a renewal of a contract to procure supplies, services or construction, or to accept and expend grant or other third-party funds for additional periods of one year or less, if all of the following additional conditions are first fulfilled:

(1)  The option or probability of one or more extensions or renewals formed an express and prominent provision of the original solicitation or third-party offer.

(2)  The renewal contract does not vary more than ten percent (10%) from the service and staffing levels of the preceding contract.

(3)  The renewal contract fulfills all requirements of Section 7.102 or 7.103, as pertinent, at the time of renewal.

(4)  The School Board has not adopted a resolution at least sixty (60) days before the expiration of the current  contract, which requires express approval of the renewal of the specific contract.

Sec. 7.106  Retroactive Contracts Require School Board Approval.

A contract or lease may not be executed under the provisions of Sections 7.102, 7.103, or 7.105 which would have retroactive effect, unless expressly provided for in the budget execution instructions of the Annual Budget resolution.  Payment shall not otherwise be made on a retroactive contract or lease before it has been approved by the School Board.

Sec. 7.107  Personal Services Contracts.


Sec. 7.108  Contracts Requiring Emergency Approval.

(1)  For periods not to exceed thirty (30) days, the President of the School Board may grant to the General Superintendent the authority to execute exigent or emergency contracts.  Such exigent or emergency authority shall apply to all contracts which could be executed under the terms of Sections 7.102, 7.103 or 7.105.

(2)  A grant of authority by the General Superintendent under subsection 7.108(1) may include a waiver of the requirements of:

(i)   Section 7.106 (Retroactive effect),

(ii)  Section 7.102(4) (Competitive Solicitation)

(iii)  Section 7.102(8)(e) (Delinquent Tax Certificate), and

(iv)  Section 7.103(1) (10% limit on grant deviation).

Each grant of authority shall be specific and in writing, stating the reason, as set forth in sub-section 7.108(3), and noting any waivers.  A notice of the grant of authority shall be filed with the School Board Secretary, and placed by the Secretary as an information item on the agenda of the next meeting of the School Board.

(3)  Exigencies or emergencies for purposes of this section and Section 3.106 shall include:

(a)  death, disability, or resignation of key personnel.

(b)  bankruptcy, fire, or any other incapacitation of a current service provider.

(c)  transport or industrial disasters, or damage to any district property which may endanger the life, safety, or health of any person, resulting from any causal factor, including natural disaster.

(d)  reasonably unforeseeable changes in service demand for essential services.

(e)  delays in processing which are beyond the control of the district and which may jeopardize the receipt of grant or other funds.

(f)  availability of grant or other funding with less than sixty (60) days notice of an application deadline.

(g)  failure or incapacitation of electrical, power, structural, heating, communications, or mechanical systems which either threatens to shut-down a facility or operation or which presents a serious safety threat to employees students, or citizens, or which will result in a serious violation of local, state, or federal laws, rules or regulations.

(h)  an unforeseeable and fleeting opportunity arises to purchase needed supplies, services, or construction at a price or on terms which are exceptionally favorable to the district.

Sec. 7.109  Annual Capital Plan.

(1) The General Superintendent shall submit for approval of the School Board, as part of the comprehensive annual budget, an annual Capital Outlay Plan.  Capital outlays shall include construction, re-construction, renovation or other capital improvement of district property, or property under district jurisdiction or within a district right-of-way.

(2) A capital outlay plan shall:

(a) provide an informational summary of projected revenues and expenditure for each special purpose capital outlay fund of the district;

(b) state the estimated cost of each project upon completion;

(c) state appropriations to date for the project;

(d) indicate the estimated annual operating cost for the project and the program utilizing the project, if any;

(e) indicate the source of operating funding for the project and any program utilizing the project for the current year and the next three fiscal years; and

(f) contain a five-year forecast of capital outlay needs.

(3) With the following exceptions, the General Superintendent may execute contracts pursuant to Sections 7.102, 7.103 or 7.105, for construction, re-construction and renovation projects which are contained within the approved Capital Outlay Plan, if those contracts do not vary by more than ten percent (10%) from the estimated amount set forth in the approved Capital Outlay Plan:


(a) professional services contracts over $200,000 for architectural, landscape, civil, mechanical, electrical and environmental engineering; bond and financial management; land survey and appraisal; master planning and environmental impact study; legal and technical advice; and program and construction management services; and

(b) construction contracts in excess of two million dollars ($2,000,000).

Sec. 7.110  Rules and Regulations.

The General Superintendent shall issue regulations and procedural instructions to implement the provisions of this article.

Sec. 7.111 Reports and Access to Documents.

(1) The Chief Operating Officer shall include as a part of a quarterly report to the Board a listing of all contracts in excess of $5,000 which have been executed under the delegated authority and the terms of this policy.

(2) The Director of Audit and audit staff shall have immediate and unquestioned access to files for all contracts executed under the terms of this policy and all supporting documentation which is relevant to determining compliance with the requirements of this policy.

Sec.  7.112   General Limit on Delegated Authority.

(1) When a dollar limit is specified upon the authority delegated by this policy, it shall be construed to apply to the cumulative amount of contracts awarded to a specific vendor for a kind of supplies, service or construction within the same fiscal year.  Schools and offices shall requisition and purchasing agents shall solicit procurements in amounts which are based upon their reasonable and foreseeable needs and storage capacities, and upon other relevant factors such as, economies of scale in purchasing, shipping and handling; or the shelf-life, useful life, or seasonal availability of a product.  Contracts shall not be divided into smaller parts to circumvent the need for School Board approval.

(2) Separate contracts may however be used if:

(a) there is a need to document expenditures as against various restricted funding sources;

(b) it is not economically practical to store a one-year requirement of a given supply, because of shelf-life, or storage costs and capacities;

(c) supply or service price often changes, and more often than not in a downward trend;

(d) different school and office users have significant differences in the timing of their needs for a service or supply; or

(e) the initial or continuing need for a supply or service is not readily foreseeable so as to enable consolidated purchasing; or

(f) the cost of coordinating consolidated purchasing will exceed any savings which are likely to be realized.



Sec. 8.101  Disposal of Surplus Personal Property.

(1)  The Purchasing Director, in cooperation with school and office heads, shall establish a systematic means of identifying and disposing of surplus and obsolescent personal property.

(2)  An item or a lot of similar items of personal property, which has an estimated current fair market value of less than two thousand ($2,000), may be disposed of by a negotiated sale, provided that a public record memorandum is maintained which sets forth the name and address of the buyer and the basis of each such transaction and disposition, and provided further that the purchaser is not an  employee, nor a member of the immediate family of an employee of the district, nor an agent of an employee.  A person who misrepresents his or her relation to or status as an employee or who colludes in negotiating a sale to such a person shall be subject to serious disciplinary action.

(3)  An item or a lot of similar items of personal property with an estimated fair market value of two thousand dollars ($2,000) or more, and items of less than that value which are also offered to district employees and their families, shall be disposed of only by means of well advertised competitive sealed bids or by public auction, following procedures which are the equivalent of those used for procurement under this policy.

(4)  All dispositions shall be made for cash, or an equivalent of cash only.  No credit shall be extended.

(5)  If a disposition conforms in full with the requirements of this article, the Purchasing Director may execute a bill of sale for personal property, without the express approval of the School Board.  Prior School Board approval is required for all other dispositions.



Sec. 9.101  Bid Protests.

(1)  Right to Protest.  Any actual or prospective bidder, offeror, or contractor who has a complaint about the solicitation or award of a contract may protest to the General Superintendent.  Complainants are urged to first seek resolution of their protest with the Purchasing Director.  A protest with respect to an invitation for bids or request for  proposals shall be submitted in writing prior to the opening of bids or the closing date of proposals, unless the aggrieved  person did not know and should not have known of the facts giving rise to such protest prior to bid opening or the closing date for proposals.  The protest shall be submitted within twenty-one (21) calendar days after such aggrieved person knows or should have known of the facts giving rise thereto.

(2)  Stay of Procurements During Protests.  In the event of a timely protest under Subsection (1) of this Section, the Purchasing Director shall not proceed further with the solicitation or award of the contract until all administrative and judicial remedies have been exhausted or until the General Superintendent makes a determination on the record that the award of a contract without delay is necessary to protect substantial interests of the district.

(3)  Entitlement to Costs.  In addition to any other relief, when a protest is sustained and the protesting bidder or offeror should have been awarded the contract under the solicitation but is not, then the protesting bidder or offeror shall be entitled to the reasonable costs incurred in connection with the solicitation, including bid preparation costs other than attorney’s fees. 

Sec. 9.102  Contract Claims.

(1)  Decision of the Purchasing Director.  All claims by a contractor against the district relating to a contract, except bid protests, shall be submitted in writing to the Purchasing Director for a decision.  The contractor may request a conference with the Purchasing Director on the claim.  Claims include, without limitation, disputes arising under a contract, and those based upon breach of contract, mistake, misrepresentation, or other cause for contract modification or rescission.

(2)  Notice to the Contractor of the Purchasing Director’s Decision.  The decision of the Purchasing Director shall be issued promptly and in writing, and shall be immediately mailed or otherwise furnished to the contractor.  The decision shall state the reasons for the decision reached, and shall inform the  contractor of its appeal rights under Subsection (3) of this Section.

(3)  Finality of Purchasing Director’s Decision; Contractor’s Right to Appeal.  The Purchasing Director’s decision shall be final and conclusive unless, within twenty-one (21) calendar days from the date of receipt of the decision, the  contractor mails or otherwise delivers a written appeal to the School Board or commences an action in a court of competent jurisdiction.

(4)  Failure to Render Timely Decision.  If the Purchasing Director does not issue a written decision regarding any contract controversy within twenty-one (21) after written request for a final decision, or within such longer period as may be agreed upon between the parties, then the aggrieved party may proceed as if an adverse decision had been received.

Sec. 9.103  Authority of the Purchasing Director to Settle Bid

            Protests and Contract Claims.

The Purchasing Director is authorized to settle any protest regarding the solicitation or award of a district contract, or any claim arising out of the performance of a district contract, which protest or claim is valued at two hundred thousand dollars ($200,000) or less, prior to an appeal to the School Board or to the commencement of an action in a court of competent jurisdiction.  A settlement shall be in writing, shall be signed by the Purchasing Director and the vendor, and shall be filed in the public contract file.  The Purchasing Director shall maintain a separate log in which all bid and claim settlements are listed and cross referenced by file number.

Sec. 9.104  Remedies for Solicitations or Awards in Violation of Law.

(1)  Prior to Bid Opening or Closing Date for Receipt of Proposals.  If prior to the bid opening or the closing date for receipt of proposals, the Purchasing Director, after consultation with the General Counsel, determines that a solicitation is in violation of federal, state, or municipal law, then the solicitation shall be canceled or revised to comply with applicable law.

(2)  After Bid Opening But Prior to Award.  If after bid opening or the closing date for receipt of proposals, but before an award, the Purchasing Director, after consultation with the General Counsel, determines that a solicitation or a proposed award of a contract is in violation of federal, state, or municipal law, then the solicitation or proposed award shall be canceled.

(3)  After Award.  If, after an award, the Purchasing Director, after consultation with the General Counsel, determines that a solicitation or award of a contract was in violation of applicable law then:

(a)  if the person awarded the contract has not acted fraudulently or in bad faith,

(i)   the contract may be ratified and affirmed, provided it is determined that doing so is in the best interests of the district; or

(ii)  the contract may be terminated and the person awarded the contract shall be compensated for the actual costs reasonably incurred under the contract, plus a reasonable profit, prior to the termination; or

(b)  if the person awarded the contract has acted fraudulently or in bad faith, the contract may be declared null and void or voidable, if such action is in the best interests of the district.




             (To adopt by reference the current policies on this subject



Sec. 12.101  Purpose of Code of Ethics and Policy 

(1) The purposes of this article are:

(a) to establish practical and workable ways to maintain the integrity of the district’s contracting and purchasing processes, and thus to assure the teachers and parents of this district that no stone is left unturned to get the last ounce of value out of every dollar which is expended on purchased goods and services;

(b) to ensure the fair and open award of all district contracts and to choke-out both the opportunity and incentive for vendors to seek unfair advantage in competing for district contracts for services, goods, and construction;

(c) to establish contract terms and procedures, employee work rules, and a board member code of conduct which reinforce sanctions provided by law;

(d) to shield the buying power of the district from being misapplied to impact elections or to influence in other city, state and national political issues, and

(e) to clarify and reconcile the political rights of the individual employee with the procurement needs of the district.

(2)  This policy applies to all purchase orders and other contracts of the district and also to leases, concessions and real estate transactions. 

Sec. 12.102   Statement of Basic Contract Code of Ethics and Policy 

            (1)  Every dollar, building, person-hour, and item of equipment or supplies, which belongs to the Detroit Public Schools, must be kept, handled and used with a full due regard that it is important if not crucial to the successful education of all of our children.

(2)  Each person who controls, handles, or uses school resources is a SCHOOL TRUSTEE.  This Code of Ethics applies to each School Board member, non-union employee, student, parent, contractor, or volunteer who controls, handles, or uses school resources.  It also applies to bargaining unit employees except when there are contrary terms in their contract.  When there are exceptions, the Superintendent shall bargain for changes in those terms in future contracts to make them consistent with this Code of Ethics.



COMMENT:   It is the premise of this section that the general public and more particularly the staff and parents of this district expect a much higher standard of ethical conduct from school board members, district administrators, and all district staff, than they expect from other public officers and employees.  When it comes to the education of the next generation, most people are intensely idealistic, and this is reflected in their expectations and their reactions when actual conduct falls short of those expectations.  That fallout has a more devastating impact upon the district and the education of our children than any direct loss from unethical conduct.  It provokes a profound cynicism and negativism throughout the ranks, and waves of dismay in the community.  School improvement takes an uncommon common effort by a large number of people with very limited resources.  This is especially hard, if not impossible, to muster when the media and the internal grapevine carries frequent stories of self dealing and resource mismanagement.  It also undermines efforts to secure more adequate financing and resources from the State legislature.  Successful school reform calls for squeeky clean conduct on the part of both the board and all key administrators as well as an intensive collaboration by a broad array of stakeholders.   It does not take a lot of negative publicity to discourage the most of these stakeholders from helping out.

            This district expends more than $100 Million each year on contractual services, equipment and construction.  This poses expansive  opportunities for unethical gain, and calls for establishing and communicating very specific guidelines on the procurement process and also on the conduct expected of school board members, administrators, staff, and even vendors.  In order for most misconduct to occur, it takes collusion of persons on both sides of the contract.  Not only staff, therefore, but vendors themselves must be held strictly accountable for unethical conduct.  The buck stops with the Board itself.  Only the Board can change this overall environment by establishing the detailed policy and penalty structure set forth in this proposed procurement policy. 

Sec. 12.103   Unfair Disclosure of Information to Some Vendors

A School Trustee shall not disclose information to an unauthorized person nor release information before the time of its authorized release, when that disclosure may give one vendor a competitive advantage over others.  If it becomes necessary to release additional information on a pending bid or Request for Proposals, the person authorized to release it shall assure that it is released at the same time and by the same means to all other potential competitors who are known to exist.


COMMENT:  The integrity of a Request for Proposals procedure is sapped when a preferred vendor is fed insider information, and more particularly when one proponent’s proposal is shared with a competitor, so that he has the opportunity to alter or fine tune his proposal in midstream.  This discourages the more competent providers from even making a proposal, and makes it much harder to distinguish the more competent proponents from the pretenders.   


Sec. 12.104   Disclosure of Confidential Information Prohibited

(1)  A School Trustee shall not disclose to any person information which is provided as confidential information in response to a Request for Proposals, prior to the public disclosure of that information from all respondents.


COMMENT:   Before the decision to award, the Freedom of Information Act allows the responses to a Request for Proposals to be kept confidential.  Once a decision is made to award a contract, the responses from all proposers must be made available to the public.


(2)  A School Trustee shall not disclose to any person competitively sensitive information which is provided by a vendor to document their financial or operational qualifications for award of a contract, whether or not that vendor has been or may be disqualified based on that response.


COMMENT:   In order to encourage vendors to disclose facts which are needed to evaluate their level of responsibility, but which might damage their financial reputation or competitive position if made known to competitors, the Freedom of Information Act allows such information to be kept confidential without limit.


Sec. 12.105   Unfair Use of Certain Confidential Information 

            A present or former district employee shall not knowingly use confidential information for actual of anticipated personal gain, or for the actual or anticipated gain of any other person.  Confidential information is that insider information which pertains to a specific parcel of real estate, or a particular case, bid or contract which is available to or derived from a district employee only because of that employee’s work as a district employee, and which is not generally available to other members of the public.  It does not include general knowledge of or expertise about district procedures, processes, practices, and methods which an employee may gain from his or her work or service.  This subsection does not preclude award of a professional services contract to a former district employee. 


COMMENT: This section applies not only to current employees but to former employees as well.  While the district may not be able to discipline an individual because they are no longer an employee, this does not preclude it from levying penalties against a vendor who may have colluded in such a breach of trust.  In some cases, the establishment of this post employment duty may still be court enforceable or court significant.  This may arise where the former employee has left to work for a vendor to the district.


Sec. 12.106   Gratuities Strictly Limited

(1)  A School Trustee shall not solicit, accept, nor agree to accept from:

(a) a vendor,

(b) an applicant for a contract, employment or service, or

(c) a person with a claim against the school district,

a gift, favor or offer of employment for themselves or for a member of his or her immediate family, in exchange for some ACTION which may be beneficial to the vendor, applicant, or claimant, or which may look that way to the public whether or not done in exchange.

(2) Those ACTIONS include, among others: a decision, approval, disapproval,

recommendation, draft of bid specifications, drafting of a bid solicitation mailing list, rendering of advice, audit, investigation, claim allowance, performance evaluation or compliance inspection.

(3)  The following transactions, however, are not prohibited:

(a) an occasional unsolicited non-money complimentary business gift of less than twenty-five dollars ($25) in value; such as flowers, a thank-you or get-well card, small fruit basket, calendar book, photograph, picture frame, vase, coffee cup, paper weight, pen, desk nameplate, tee shirt, sweat shirt, 3-ring binder, basic pocket calculator, ruler, sports event tickets, etc.  If the value of a business gift exceeds twenty-five dollars ($25), a Trustee shall decline or return the offer.

(b) an occasional unsolicited business meal or golf outing of moderate value, which is focused upon specific business (hard-sell promotion) with the District, but only if the Trustee’s immediate supervisor or fellow board members is/are promptly informed of the fact and of the details of any attempt by the giver to assert undue influence regarding that business;

(c) an annual or holiday dinner or dance of less than lavish character, which is sponsored by a vendor as a soft-sell promotion to which many business clients and their spouses are invited, and which is not focused upon any specific business with the District;

(d) an award which is publicly presented in recognition of outstanding public service;

(e) any gift which would have been offered or given for compelling reasons independent of the recipient’s status as a School Trustee;  or

(f) a commercially reasonable loan made in the ordinary course of business, and at rates generally available to customers of similar financial credit ratings, by an institution authorized by the laws of Michigan to engage in making such loans.


Comment: Complimentary business gifts are a routine private sector practice which are recognized in IRS regulations as a legitimate business expense if not more than $25.    Meals and golf which exceed the $25 value are also recognized by IRS guidelines as a legitimate business expense and practice, as is an invitation to an annual holiday celebration of less than lavish character.  The recommendation in these cases is to go with the flow.

Regarding exception (d), while public flattery may be used to gain undue influence over a person, it is at least done in public, and there are some clear downsides to prohibiting public recognition of exceptional public service.

Exception (e) simply recognizes that there are occasionally unique circumstances where there are  “compelling reasons independent of the recipient’s status as a School Trustee” for offering or making a gift..  The burden is upon the recipient to establish that such unusual circumstances do indeed exist. 

Exception (f) is fashioned to prohibit  loans which are not generally available to members of the public, but to allow those which are.

Sec. 12.107   Conflict of Duties to a District Vendor

Unless granted a waiver by both the Superintendent and School Board, a district employee who is on the contract managers list shall not be nor agree to become, while still a district employee, the paid employee of or independent consultant/contractor to a district vendor.  In addition, unless granted a waiver by both the Superintendent and School Board, a current vendor shall not make an offer of employment to a School Board member or to a district employee who is on the contract manager’s list.


COMMENT:  There have been cases where district administrators have recommended lucrative contracts to a vendor, and have shortly afterwards resigned from the district to take a more lucrative position with the vendor.   These transactions incite suspicions and speculation, and merit close scrutiny and control. 


Sec. 12.108  Contract Managers List – Annual Disclosure Required

(1)  The Superintendent shall prepare and submit for approval of the Board of Education by February 1 of each year a list of all district employees who have a significant role in the award or administration of contracts.  Each employee on that Contract Managers List and each School Board Member shall make an annual disclosure on or before April 15th to the Superintendent to enable a review for possible or actual conflicts.  Each Trustee shall disclose to the best of his or her knowledge all of the following information:

(a) Any district vendor in which he or she or a member of his or her immediate family has currently or has had a substantial financial interest within the previous twelve (12) months.  Disclosure of an interest shall consist of the name and address of the firm, and the kind and owner of the substantial financial interest.

(b) The name and address of all sources of current employment for himself or herself, and his or her immediate family, including self-employment and consulting work, if that employment is with or for a district vendor, and if award of a district contract to that vendor may have a beneficial effect upon the employment, promotion, or remuneration of the Trustee or member of his or her immediate family.

(c) Any current debt owed to or loans obtained within the previous twelve (12) months from a district vendor by the Trustee or by a member of his or her immediate family, except loans obtained at market-rate terms from a commercial bank, mortgage or auto financier.

(2)  A Trustee shall file an amended disclosure with the Superintendent within thirty (30) days after becoming aware of a potential conflict which has not yet been disclosed. 

(3)  Trustee disclosures and amendments are public documents which shall be kept on file in the office of the Superintendent. The Superintendent shall make them immediately available for inspection and copy-making by any person who asks to see them.


COMMENT: This provision is modeled upon a Wayne County practice which has worked very well to bring focus upon those positions which have a significant impact upon decisions made about the award and performance of contracts.  It is estimated that about 700 of the district’s 7,000 employees frequently make such decisions and might become the subject of efforts to assert undue influence which is not in the best interests of our students and district.  This annual disclosure elevates concrete awareness of the code of ethics and provides managers with a practical means to avoid placing subordinates in conflict situations.  The basic idea is to disclose possible conflicts and to refrain from making such decisions.

The federal income tax due date is used to simplify the reporting of potential conflicts, because a person must review many of these same questions in making out their income tax return.


(4)  “Substantial financial interest” as used in this article means:

(a) Ownership of any interest or involvement in any relationship from which, or as a result of which, a person within the past 12 months has received, or is presently or in the future entitled to receive, more than five hundred dollars ($500) per year, or its in-kind value; except: 

(i) a person who deposits personal funds in a financial institution and earns interest on those funds or who has a loan, at a rate and on terms available to the general public, is not deemed to have a substantial financial interest in that institution; and

(ii) that ownership of stocks and bonds of a firm which is listed and traded on the American or New York Stock Exchanges, NASDAQ, or foreign stock exchanges, which have a current value of less than $10,000, and which constitute less than one percent (1%) of the total outstanding shares of a specific firm, or ownership of any amount of a publicly traded mutual fund, is not deemed to be a substantial financial interest.

(b) Ownership of five percent (5%) or more of a property or business; or

(c) Holding a key position in a business, such as an officer, director, trustee, partner, sales manager, or the like, or holding any position in management, but not including a person who serves without compensation on the board of directors of a vendor which has recognized status under section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code.

(5) “Vendor” as used in this article means:

any business which or person who, has taken part in a district procurement as a contractor or as a district-approved sub-contractor within the previous twenty-four (24) months, or is expected to take part within the next twelve (12) months.  “Expected to take part” means that some specific action has already taken place which shows an intent to compete for district work, such as, the active solicitation of work, a response to a bid or request for proposals, or a written request to be added to the bidder’s notification list.   

Sec. 12.109  Prohibited Interest of Trustee in Contracts or Transactions

(1)  A School Trustee, who has the power or duty to make any decision or recommendation relating to a contract or transaction with the Detroit Public Schools, shall not knowingly:

(a)  have nor thereafter acquire an undisclosed money interest in that contract or transaction.

(b)  have a money interest in any business which represents or advises any person who has a money interest in such a contract or transaction.

(c)  solicit a present or future gift, favor, service, or thing of any value, nor accept an unsolicited business gift of more than twenty-five dollars ($25) in value from a person involved in a contract or transaction.

(d)  solicit nor accept present or future employment, of oneself, nor solicit present or future employment for an immediate family member, from a person or business which is involved in such a contract or transaction.

(e)  represent either party in a transaction, or take any part in negotiations for such a contract or renegotiation or modification of the contract, or approval of the contract, if he or she has a money interest in that contract.

(f)  solicit, directly or indirectly, any contract between the district and:

(i)  Himself or herself.

(ii)  Any firm of which he or she is a partner, member or employee.

(iii)  any corporation in which he or she is a stockholder owning more than one percent (1%) of the total outstanding stock, or stock with a total market value in excess of twenty-five thousand dollars ($25,000) if the stock is listed on a stock exchange, or of which he or she is a director, officer or employee.

(g)  acquire an interest in a property, the value of which, the Trustee knows or believes, may be enhanced by a pending or proposed, but publicly unannounced, action of the Detroit School District.

(h)  “Interest” as used in this article, means any direct or indirect money or material benefit which may accrue to the Trustee or to any person who is an immediate family member.

(j)  “Immediate family” as used in this article means a spouse, children, parents, brothers, sisters, uncles, aunts and first cousins.  “Immediate family” also includes unrelated persons who reside in the Trustee’s household.  For the purposes of this policy, divorce or separation shall not terminate a relationship once established by marriage.

(2)  If a School Trustee becomes aware of a present or potential conflict with the prohibitions of this section, he or she shall immediately report that conflict to his or her superior and shall refrain from any further involvement in the management of the matter.

He or she shall also disclose the conflict on the record to the school board. The minutes of the board shall contain all of the following information:

(a) The name of each party involved in the contract.

(b) The terms of the contract, including duration, financial consideration between parties, facilities or services of the school district included in the contract, and the nature and degree of assignment of employees of the district to fulfill the contract.

(c) The nature of any interest which the School Trustee has in the contract.

Such a contract shall not be adopted by the school board unless approved by at least five (5) of the seven (7) members serving, not counting a board member who has a conflict.

(3)  An employee who fails to disclose and refrain is subject to progressive discipline including discharge.  A school board member who fails to disclose and refrain is subject to penalties from censure to removal from office by a vote of five members of the Board.  A School Trustee who fails to disclose and refrain as required by sub-sections (a), (e) or (f) of this section may also be subject to State misdemeanor penalties of up to six (6) months in jail, up to one thousand dollars ($1,000) in fines, or both.


COMMENT:   Most of this section is a concise restatement of state law with regard to prohibited interests and actions regarding the award of contracts.  It is amplified by a restatement of some of the companion provisions in this policy, so as to provide a clear cut statement of the several requirements of the law and this policy.  The procurement of more than $100 Million of supplies, services and construction each year is a complex and confusing enterprise.  People need clear detailed guidance on what they can do and not do.   The penalty for violation also needs to be clearly stated, if it is to be fairly imposed.  This section is written achieve those ends.  With regard to the removal penalty for School Board members, the current law is in fact ambiguous and untested as to what constitutes just cause.  This code is written in such concrete terms as to give constitutionally clear and fair notice of what conduct is expected.  I believe a Board member would be ill advised to become the test case.  When in doubt, the obvious best response is to disclose and refrain. 

Sec. 12.110  Prohibition of Trustee Taking Part In Contract Management

(1)  There is a conflict of interest and a School Trustee shall not take part in the award, management, or modification of a contract or transaction, if the Trustee knows that:

(a)  An immediate family member has a substantial financial interest in the contract or transaction; or

(b)  The business or organization involved either employs an immediate family member of the School Trustee, or is currently negotiating or has an arrangement for future employment of an immediate family member; or

(c)  Owners or key employees of a contractor collectively have made political contributions or have pledged future contributions valued at more than two hundred dollars ($200) per election cycle, to the Trustee’s political committee, or to any political committee which has in turn provided support to the Trustee’s political campaign or that of an immediate family member.

(2)  “Take part” as used in this article means:  Involvement through negotiation, decision, approval, disapproval, recommendation, preparation of any part of a purchase order or influencing the content of a specification or procurement standard; rendering of advice, investigation, or auditing; inspecting, scheduling, managing, or accepting performance; or in any other advisory capacity, but excluding clerical support to these transactions.

(3)  A School Trustee shall also immediately advise his or her superior or fellow board members of any such conflict of interestSchool board members shall disclose any such interest on the record to the full board, and shall refrain from soliciting support for the matter or voting upon it.  Approval of such a matter shall require at least five (5) votes from among the remaining members of the board.  An employee who fails to disclose and refrain is subject to progressive discipline including discharge.  A school board member is subject to penalties ranging from censure to removal from office by a vote of five (5) members of the board. 


COMMENT:  No good purpose is served when either Board members or administrators take part in decisions which may give even the appearance of impropriety.   It simply undercuts public and staff confidence in the integrity of the procurement system.  The rule is simple: If you have an obvious conflict, and the listed situations are just that, then you have a civic duty to disclose and refrain.  It should not be taken personally.  It is simply done in the best long term interests of achieving the best education possible for all of our students.  


Sec. 12.111  Solicitation of Political Contributions and Campaign Workers

(1)  A school board member shall not solicit political contributions from persons associated with vendors who do business or who seek to do business with the Board of Education, nor permit their campaign workers from doing so, unless:

(a) the solicitation clearly states that a contribution, or lack thereof, shall have no bearing upon management decisions made by the District in the award and administration of contracts; and

(b) the public documents from which the mailing list is compiled are made available under the Freedom of Information Act to all persons who may wish to run for election to the Board of Education.

(2)  If a School Trustee is in possession of a listing of the names, addresses, or telephone numbers of parents, active members of local school community organizations or affiliated organizations, and if that list was prepared for school improvement use, then he or she shall not use that information in a political campaign nor release that information to any other person for the purpose of political campaigning for a candidate for any public office or to promote any ballot issue. 


COMMENT:   The politicization of school community organizations is a sure fire means of dividing them and turning them away from their firstmost objective of helping better educate all of our children.  Candidates for the school board and other public office have many other approaches available to them than resorting to this one.  Section 257 of the Campaign Finance Act makes it a misdemeanor to use any school property, staff time, or resources to advance the cause of a ballot issue or political candidate.  The district is subject to a $20,000 fine and possibly more if it condones such use.  Other School Boards have already been hauled into court for violating this law.   There should be a clear policy which calls for strict compliance with these requirements. 


Sec. 12.112  Permitted Political Activities of School Trustees

Pursuant to Michigan Compiled Laws, Section 15.403, a School Trustee may:

(1) Become a member of a political party committee formed or authorized under the election laws of the State of Michigan.

(2) Be a delegate to a state convention, or a district or county convention held by a political party of the State of Michigan.

(3) Become a candidate for nomination and election to any state elective office, or any district, county, city, village, township, school district, or other local office without first obtaining a leave of absence from his or her employment.

However, pursuant to law, if a District employee becomes a candidate for the Detroit Board of Education, the District may require the person to request and take a leave of absence without pay after he or she qualifies with the candidacy filing requirements, or sixty (60) days before any election relating to that position, whichever date is closer to the election. (If elected, a District employee must take a long term leave of absence for the duration of the term of office.)

(4) Engage in other political activities on behalf of a candidate or issue in connection with partisan or nonpartisan elections.


COMMENT:   While some political activities are strictly prohibited and carry severe penalties, the law does also clearly recognize that Board members and employees have certain constitutional political rights, and those are articulated in this section to assure that none of these rights are trampled upon while striving to assure compliance with the prohibitions on certain political activities.  Those guidelines are set forth completely in this and the next section so that one need not look further for definitive guidance.


Sec. 12.113  Active Participation in Political Activities is Prohibited During Regular or Extended Working Hours.

(1)  Pursuant to Michigan Compiled Laws, Section 15.404, a School Trustee shall not be actively engaged in any of the activities permitted in Section 12.112 during those hours when that employee is being compensated for the performance of that person’s duties as a district employee, or purports to be, or would reasonably be perceived to be, acting on behalf of the school district.

(2)  Pursuant to Michigan Compiled Laws, Section 15.405, a School Trustee shall not personally, nor through an agent, coerce, attempt to coerce, command, or direct another district employee or vendor to the district to pay, lend, or contribute anything of value to a political party, committee, organization, agency or person for the benefit of a person seeking or holding elected office, or for the purpose of furthering or defeating a proposed law, ballot issue, or other measure that may be submitted to a vote of the electors.

(3)  Pursuant to Michigan Compiled Laws, Section 169.257, a School Trustee shall not make any contribution or expenditure, and shall not use an item, parcel, or article of district-owned property nor the paid time of a district employee, including one’s own paid time, to manage or promote a campaign for a political candidate or issue.  Paid time does not include the paid vacation or paid holiday time of an employee, but does include paid time which is charged to sick leave, personal business, professional development, or mental health leave.

These items, parcels or articles include, among others:  automobiles and other vehicles, signs on district-owned real estate, copy-makers, printing machines, fax machines, telephones, meeting rooms, storage space, office space and equipment, typewriters, paper-cutters, letter- folding and envelop-stuffing machines, postage meters, stamps, copy paper, staplers, envelops, message machines and services, computers and computer peripherals and software.

(4)  Under Michigan Compiled Laws, section 169.257, a School Trustee who violates the prohibitions of this section is guilty of a State misdemeanor, and may be sentenced to a term of up to one (1) year in prison, or up to a fine of one thousand dollars ($1,000), or both.

(5) If the District allows or condones such conduct, it is subject to a fine of up to twenty thousand dollars ($20,000) or the amount of the improper expenditure, whichever is greater.  Accordingly, any such employee shall also be subject to progressive discipline which may include discharge.  If a district employee observes or becomes aware of a violation of this law by another district employee and fails to report it, that employee shall also be subject to discipline. A school board member who violates these prohibitions is subject to removal from office by a vote of five (5) members of the Board.

(6)  Pursuant to Michigan Compiled Laws, section 15.407, if all or part of a district employee’s compensation is paid from federal grant funds, that employee shall comply with all applicable federal restrictions on political activity including those which are in conflict with the statutory rights recognized in section 12.112.

(7)  A School Trustee does, however, enjoy certain passive legal rights to express their individual political opinions while on school property or time.  The following acts are permitted and protected by law:

(a) Wearing a candidate or public issue button.

(b) Expressing one’s opinion to others about a political candidate or issue, but without soliciting their support or involvement in campaigning.

(c) The possession of political campaign literature while on school property, so long as no effort is made to distribute it on school property, through school channels, or on school-paid time.  A School Trustee when not on school-paid time, or other person, may distribute political campaign literature on a public sidewalk and at public meetings held on school property.

(d) Display of political bumper stickers or signs on an employee’s own vehicle.

(e) Circulation of newspaper articles about political candidates or issues, including editorial opinions and editorial endorsements on political candidates and issues.

(f) Circulation of materials which qualify as public education materials under Section 501(c)(4) of the Internal Revenue Code, such as those published by the League of Women Voters or by the Citizens Research Council of Michigan.

(g) Circulation of a newsletter from an employee’s own particular union which addresses among other subjects political opinions and endorsements.

Sec. 12.114   Purchase of Used School District Property

A School Trustee shall not purchase nor obtain the use of used school district property or surplus equipment and supplies at less than fair market value.  A School Trustee shall not salvage from trash bins that property which has been declared to be useless and valueless.  Property of marginal salvage value shall be disposed by donation to a licensed charitable organization.  All other surplus property shall be disposed of only after reasonably wide public notice, by sealed competitive bid, pursuant to the requirements of Article 8.       

Sec. 12.115   Prohibition of Contingent Fees 

(1)  A person shall not be retained to solicit or secure a school district contract upon an agreement or understanding for a commission, percentage, brokerage fee, or contingent fee, except where such fees are the commercially established means of securing such contracts.

(2)  A contract shall not be let to a person who shall in turn sub-contract substantially the complete performance, except where a brokerage arrangement is the commercially established means of securing such contracts.

Sec. 12.116  Ethics Provisions Required in All Contracts

Each contract let by the District for more than twenty thousand dollars ($20,000) shall contain the following provisions, the breach of any one of which shall constitute a material breach of the contract sufficient to warrant rescission of the contract, payment of liquidated damages, and debarment from any further business from the District for a period of up to three (3) years:

(1) require disclosure by the contractor of any immediate family relationship between a key member of the contracting organization and any District employee who is listed on the Contract Managers List.

(2) require disclosure by the contractor of any shared business venture which exists between a principal beneficiary of the business enterprise and a district employee who is on the contract manager’s list, if the district employee has a substantial financial interest in the venture.  A person is a principal beneficiary when he or she owns ten percent (10%) or more of any real property or business equity, or holds a key position in the business such as, an officer, director, trustee, partner, senior engineer, or sales manager.

(3) make knowing participation by a vendor in any breach by a District employee of this Code of Ethics, a material breach of the contract.

(4) expressly prohibit the owners or key employees of a contractor from soliciting political contributions for candidates for any public office from sub-contractors, consultants, and other contractors who do business with the District on the implicit understanding that cooperation will result in favored treatment on this or future business.

(5) expressly prohibit contractors with the District from assigning personnel or making in-kind contributions to the campaign efforts of any candidate for public office, such as:  telephone banks, mailings, mailing labels, postal meters, office space, copy-makers, and data processing services. 


COMMENT:   This and the next are key sections of this policy.  The means by which this policy is applied to vendors is as a term of their contract.  If they do not agree to comply, they simply get no work from us.  If they breach this code, they breach a term of their contract and are subject to payment of liquidated damages and possible debarment from any further contracts.  It usually takes two parties to corrupt the contracting process.  This section addresses that other half.


Sec. 12.117  Kickbacks Between Contractors and Sub-contractors Prohibited

(1) Each bid specification issued and each purchase order or contract awarded shall contain a provision which expressly prohibits gratuities and kickbacks, and which makes any such transaction a material breach of the contract for which liquidated damages are therein provided.

(2) A sub-contractor shall not make any payment, political contribution, gratuity, or offer of employment under a contract with a prime or higher tier contractor or with any person associated therewith, as an inducement for the award of a sub-contract.

Sec. 12.118  Ethics Board Established

An Ethics Board is created, which shall consist of:

(1)            the Director of the Ethics Institute, University of Detroit/Mercy.

(2)            The Wayne County Prosecuting Attorney.

(3)            The City of Detroit Ombudsman.

(4)            The Chair of a Local School Community Organization.

(5)            The President of the Detroit Chapter of the League of Women Voters.

(6)            A member selected by the Consolidated Bargaining Unit of School System Employees.

(7)            The Auditor General of the City of Detroit.

(8)            A professor of professional ethics appointed by the Dean of the Wayne State University Law School.

(9)            The Chairperson of the Education Committee of the Detroit Area Council of Baptist Ministers.

(10)            A minister appointed by the Detroit Area Bishop of the Church of God in Christ.

(11)            The Director of Common Cause of Michigan, or his or her designee.

Sec. 12.119  Organization and Duties of the Ethics Board

(1)  The City of Detroit Ombudsman shall chair the Ethics Board.  Matters requiring the attention of the Board shall be referred to the Chair, who shall convene meetings of the Board as needed.  Operational support shall be provided by the Secretary to the Board of Education.

(2)  The Ethics Board may within its discretion hear appeals from the Superintendent’s decisions denying permission of employees to hold other employment which may be in conflict with their duties to the School District.   Ethics Board decisions on appeals shall be final and binding on both the appellant and the School District.

(3)  The Ethics Board may hear complaints of specific violations of this Policy, make inquiries and render a public statement of its findings and recommendations, including censure or recommendation for removal of a Member of the Board of Education who is found to be in violation of this Code of Ethics.

(4)  The Ethics Board shall review the experience of the Detroit Public Schools under this Ethics Policy, and shall recommend those refinements and improvements which it deems desirable.

(5)  The Ethics Board may hear cases raised by persons in doubt of their status relative to this Ethics Policy, and render advisory opinions to help resolve those doubts.

(6)  Meetings of the Ethics Board shall be held in compliance with the Open Meetings Act.

Sec. 12.120  Fair Notice and Strict Enforcement of State Laws

(1)  The Superintendent shall annually provide each employee with a copy of this policy, as well as a clear statement of the requirements and misdemeanor penalties of the Michigan Conflict of Interest Act and the felony penalties of the Campaign Finance Act.  Each employee shall also be clearly advised of their rights, liabilities, and protections under the Michigan Whistle-blowers Act beginning at section 15.361, Michigan Compiled Laws.

(2)  Under the Whistle-blowers Act, an employee who knows that another School Trustee has violated this Code of Ethics, or a federal, state, or local law may report the violation to a supervisor or another person, agency or organization, including the media.  An employee who makes or is about to make such a report shall not be subject to any of the following actions for doing so:

(a) Dismissal from employment.

(b) Withholding of salary increases that are ordinarily forthcoming.

(c) Withholding of promotions that are ordinarily forthcoming.

(d) Demotion in employment status.

(e) Transfer of employment location.

(3)  A supervisor shall not take nor recommend that any of the actions set forth in subsection 12.120(2) be taken, unless he or she can establish by a preponderance of evidence that the action was taken or recommended for sound managerial reasons and not in retaliation for whistle-blowing.  A supervisor who takes such actions in violation of the Whistle-blowers Act shall be severely disciplined, in addition to the five hundred dollar ($500) civil fine provided by the Act and in addition to payment of the victim’s actual damages and attorney fees.

(4)  If a School Trustee, who is found to be in violation of this Code, may also be in violation of the State Conflict of Interest Act or the Campaign Finance Act, disciplinary measures shall not be suspended pending the outcome of the State case, but shall be taken expeditiously, whether or not it may affect the outcome of the State case.  All other School Trustees shall provide the Prosecuting Attorney with their  full cooperation in pursuing the criminal charge. 

(5)  All disciplinary decisions made under this Code, other than oral and written reprimands, shall be based upon clear and convincing evidence.  Oral and written reprimands may be based upon evidence that a violation is more-probable-than-not.

(6)  If violations of the ethical standards set forth in this Article are also violations of Michigan criminal laws, those violations shall be punishable as provided by those laws, in addition to the contractual and work rule sanctions set forth in this Article.

Criminal, civil and administrative sanctions against employees or non-employees which are in existence on the effective date of this policy shall not be impaired nor replaced by this policy.

Sec. 12.121   Reckless and Unfounded Accusations are Discouraged 

A School Trustee shall not abuse the purpose and intent of this Code by making reckless and unfounded accusations of violations.  If a person has clear and convincing proof of a violation, he or she is encouraged to report it to whomever they wish.  If a person is merely aware of suspicious circumstances, he or she should instead report the matter to an appropriate person such as an immediate supervisor, the Superintendent, the Auditor General or Prosecuting Attorney for follow-up.   Severe disciplinary measures shall be taken for false and malicious public accusations.  Appropriate disciplinary measures shall be taken for making reckless and unfounded public accusations.

Sec. 12.122  New Requirements Are Not Retroactive

The new requirements and penalties of this Code of ethics shall not apply to actions taken by a School Trustee before the date that this Code is adopted.



Sec. 13.201  Definitions of Terms Which Appear in Boldface in This Policy:

(1)  Architect-Engineer and Land Surveying Services.  Those professional services within the scope of the practice of architecture, professional engineering, or land surveying, as defined by the laws of the State of Michigan.

(2)  Brand Name or Equivalent Specification.  A  specification limited to one or more items by manufacturer’s names or catalogue numbers to describe the standard of quality, performance, and other salient characteristics needed to meet district requirements, and which provides for the submission of equivalent products.

(3)  Brand Name Specification.  A specification limited to one or more items by manufacturers’ names or catalogue numbers.

(4)  Business.  Any corporation, partnership, individual, sole proprietorship, joint stock company, joint venture, or any other private legal entity.

(5)  Change Order.  A written order signed and issued by the Purchasing Director and also by any other officer authorized to sign and issue the original contract, directing the contractor to make changes which the “Changes” clause of the contract authorizes the district to order without the consent of the contractor.

(6)  Contract Modification (bilateral change).  Any written alteration in specifications, delivery point, rate of delivery, period of performance, price, quantity, or other provisions of any contract accomplished by mutual action of the parties to the contract.

(7)  Construction.  The process of building, altering, repairing, improving, or demolishing any district structure or building, or other public improvements of any kind to any public real property.  It does not include the routine operation, routine repair, or routine maintenance of existing structures, buildings, or real property.

(8)  Contract.  All types of district agreements and orders, regardless of what they may be called, for the procurement of supplies, services, or construction.

(9)  Contractor.  Any person having a contract with the district.

(10)  Cost Analysis.  The evaluation of cost data for the purpose of arriving at costs actually incurred or estimates of costs to be incurred, prices to be paid, and costs to be reimbursed.

(11)  Cost Data.  Factual information concerning the cost of labor, material, overhead, and other cost elements which are expected to be incurred or which have been actually incurred by the contractor in performing the contract.

(12)  Cost-Reimbursement Contract.  A contract under which a contractor is reimbursed for costs which are allowable and allocable in accordance with the contract terms and the provisions of this policy, plus a fee or profit, if provided.

(13)  Established Catalogue Price.  The price included in a catalogue, price list, schedule, or other form that:

(a)  is regularly maintained by a manufacturer or contractor;

(b)  is either published or otherwise available for inspection by customers; and

(c)  states prices at which sales are currently or were last made to a significant number of any category of buyers or buyers constituting the general buying public, for the supplies or services involved.

(14)  Invitation for Bids.  All documents, whether attached or incorporated by reference, used for soliciting sealed bids.

(15)  Person.  Any business, individual, union, committee, club, other organization, or group of individuals.

(16)  Price Analysis.  The evaluation of price data, without analysis of the separate cost components and profit as in cost analysis, which may assist in arriving at prices to be paid and costs to be reimbursed.

(17)  Pricing Data.  Factual information concerning prices for items substantially similar to those being procured.  Prices in this definition refer to offered or proposed selling prices, historical selling prices and current selling prices.  The definition refers to data relevant to both prime and subcontract prices.

(18)  Procurement.  The buying, purchasing, renting, leasing, or otherwise acquiring of any supplies, services, or construction.  It also includes all functions that pertain to the obtaining of any supply, service, or construction, including description of requirements, selection, and solicitation of sources, preparation and award of contract, and all phases of contract administration.

(19)  Purchasing Director.  The officer who is appointed by the General Superintendent and approved by the School Board to head the Purchasing Division.

(20)  Qualified Products List.  An approved list of supplies, services, or construction items described by model or catalogue numbers, which, prior to competitive solicitation, the district has determined will meet its requirements.

(21)  Request for Proposals.  All documents, whether attached or incorporated by reference, utilized for soliciting proposals.

(22)  Responsible Bidder or Offeror.  A person who has the capability in all respects to fully perform the contract  requirements, and the tenacity, perseverance, experience, integrity, reliability, capacity, facilities, equipment, and credit which will assure good faith performance.

(23)  Responsive Bidder.  A person who has submitted a bid within the time frame specified in the invitation for bids, and which conforms in all material respects to the requirements set forth in the invitation for bids.

(24)  Services.  The furnishing of labor, time, or effort by a contractor, not involving the delivery of a specific end product other than reports which are merely incidental to the required performance.  This term shall not include employment agreements or collective bargaining agreements.

(25)  Specification.  Any description of the physical or functional characteristics of or the nature of a supply, service, or construction item.  It may include a description of any requirement for inspecting, testing, or preparing a supply, service, or construction item for delivery.

(26)  Supplies.  All property, including but not limited to equipment, materials, printing, insurance, and leases of real property, excluding land or a permanent interest in land.


Sec. 14.101  Repeal and Amendment of Inconsistent Policies

Other policies or parts of policies which are inconsistent with the provisions of this policy are hereby superceded and amended.

Sec. 14.102  Validity of Whole If Part is Held Invalid

If any provision of this policy or any section, sentence, clause, phrase or word or application thereof, is in any circumstances held by a court of law to be invalid, the remainder of this policy and the application of any section, sentence, clause, phrase or word, shall not be affected.

Sec. 14.103  Effective Date

This policy is effective January 1, 2017.












































Sec. 10.101  Authority to Participate in Michigan Extended Purchasing Program.


The Purchasing Director may satisfy any district need for supplies, services, or construction by placing an order pursuant to a membership in the Extended Purchasing Program offered by the State of Michigan, Department of Management and Budget, Office of Purchasing.  A contract which has been awarded by the State of Michigan under that program is deemed to satisfy all requirements of this policy.


The Purchasing Director may also satisfy the competitive solicitation publishing requirements of this policy for supplies and services for contracts of two hundred thousand dollars ($200,000)  or less by posting a requirement on the internet procurement bulletin board used by the County of Wayne.


































Letter to Editor re Our 1999 Reform Plan

Letter to the Editor: 

          I have been on the Board of Education for almost ten years, and have seen a lot of reform effort, conflict, and frustration come and go.  I am grateful that most people have considered my opinion to be reasoned and insightful.   Please consider these comments in the same light.         

          There are no easy answers to our problems, but that just means that we all have to work much harder.  Neither money nor high-handed intervention will solve our problems, but will only make them worse, however well-intentioned.   Schools are professional organizations, not chain-gangs, and successful management calls for collaboration, not meat-axe supervision.  Trading one dysfunctional governing board for another will not improve matters, except for a privileged few.   We must instead fix our eyes on what it takes to get us all where we need to be.          

          I wear at least two hats in this matter (and there is no conflict between them), first as a school board member and transformer, but also as a policy advisor to the Wayne County Commission.  In October, the County will take- over from the State full responsibility for juvenile delinquency treatment and prevention.   There is no better way to prevent delinquency and crime than for students to succeed in school.   The County has a vested interest in seeing a real solution to our educational riddles, and it has a new and big leadership role to play (in which the State has shown very little true interest over the last fifty years).  If the economic and social well-being of the City is at stake, so too is that of the whole County.         

          About 2000 years ago and at about this time of year, a teacher known as Jesus of Nazareth was nailed to a cross for asking the privileged to set aside their contempt for the poor and powerless.   It is discouraging to see that that lesson has still gone unheeded in the current controversy.  It is even more ironic that the anniversary of that event has become the target date to wrap-up the take-over.   As I read it, the current effort is driven mostly by a fear of and contempt for the underprivileged.   It is mainly an effort to give the power elite an iron and stable grip on the future politics and economics of the City.            

          How is that done?   Look to the nuts and bolts of political campaigning.   Campaigns are won and lost based upon one-on-one contact; you must have something that motivates supporters to do that door-to-door and poll work.   Most polling places are in schools; people listen when a principal or teacher urges them to vote one way or another. Many will work on a campaign when it means a privileged spot for their children or grandchildren on school admissions.          

          Jobs, promotions, trading favors, and privileges are the glue that would give the power elite an iron grip on not just the mayor=s office, but also upon the City Council, County Commission, judicial, and State legislative offices.  Right now, nervous politicians are testing the wind and trying to line-up on the winning side.   On the up-side, stable politics makes for a stable and friendly investment climate.   On the down-side, the power elite would have to make sure that school organizations are kept weak and ineffective, because strong school organizations pose a very high-risk springboard for an opposition movement to the powers-that-be.   That=s the rub, because exceptionally strong school organizations are exactly what are needed to turn our educational system around.         

          When you have a problem, it is best to address it face-on.  When the problem is school board accountability, then set firm concrete standards of conduct for board members, and provide a means in addition to recall to prune-out those who fail to meet the standard.   When transformation is clearly needed, that bar should be set at a very high level.  ASting@ operations should be used  weed-out the weak of spirit.  Only a squeaky-clean board can command the respect that=s needed to provide the civic leadership to really transform our schools.   

          We must raise the accountability of every stakeholder in the public schools, including the City and County, principals, staff, parents, students, employers, churches, community organizations, and each and every member of the village.  And that change must start with the School Board itself!   But it is not done by creating a board which is insulated from the people and which is placed above the law (immune from liability for its actions).  That will just turn our schools into a war zone for control of the Mayor=s office.  Enclosed is my answer to the problem: an accountability board appointed by the Mayor, and confirmed by the City Council, with the power to remove and replace an elected school board member for falling short on any one of fifteen specified measures of performance.  The appointee would have to stand for election at the very next chance.         

          This is hardly a new concept.  The Governor is authorized right now to remove local officials from office for cause.   You don=t really have to swap one dysfunctional board for another; you don=t have to suffer a dysfunctional board; and you don=t have to cut the Mayor and Governor out of the picture.   Not even the most avid defenders of the people=s right to elect could oppose the surgical removal of those who abuse and neglect their oath of office.           

          Real transformation depends upon cultivating a mutual respect among all stakeholders, which is the point that Jesus tried to make so long ago, and which Africa-centered advocates currently try to make.  All Detroiters must clearly understand and appreciate that the financial support for the Detroit Public Schools comes from State-wide taxes, and that the State has a very legitimate interest in seeing that its funds are wisely expended for the benefit of all.   That said, the people of this State also have a vested interest in seeing that the solution chosen is indeed in the best interests of the whole State and not just that of a privileged set of investors.         

          Editorial opinion suggests that a school board is no different than a business sector board of directors.   To paraphrase another message:  Kick the undeserving out the door, and reserve the schools for those who know on which side their bread is buttered.   I really don=t think that those who write these opinions are really aware of their bottom-line implications.   There are more than 3,000 school board members in this State who would rise to take issue with them.  

          Education is not just a business.   School boards have a fundamental responsibility to advocate for the poor and the powerless, and to bridge and mend the social gaps in our society.   But we also need tough love.  We need to express a very specific and concrete set of expectations of what it means to be a good parent, a teacher, an employer, a student, the Mayor, a County Commissioner, or the Governor.   Contrary to popular perception, this School Board is not a collection of power-happy sissies spread in disarray. It will not stand idly aside and be abused by people who have other agendas.         

          There is sound historical reason for establishing school boards as independent from other governmental units.  Education is too important to be mixed with and subordinated to the politics of other endless civic interests.   It already has more than its share of conflicts without further complication.         

          That said, I do appreciate the fact that the Governor=s initiative has fixed and focused public attention upon our schools.   We have often despaired that we could ever marshal such intensive attention, but we have not backed-down from the opportunity, now that it has been presented.   Those who have normally opposed us, the loyal opposition, are now leaning-in with a willingness to help us.   We, the whole village, have an opportunity right now to make a real dent in meeting this challenge, but it too will soon vanish if, together, we fail to seize it right now.         

          As a School Board, we have set forth a vision and a challenge of what we need to do together.  It does not take more money than we already have; but it does call for a massive and collective resolve to uplift ourselves in some very specific ways.  It calls for a revolutionary, but reasoned, shift in our attitudes and specific expectations about parents, employers, students, and all other members of the village, including the Board.   We have set this picture forth in our Village Call to Action.  Mother never said life would be easy. 

          The nay-sayers retort that our Village Call to Action is far too specific, that it micro-manages.  I say that you don=t get real change unless you express some very specific, concrete, and clearly measurable expectations for each member of the village.   And it must also be clear that there is no other feasible option.  There are many, many  things which are best left for local school decision, but there are also some things which call for a district-wide consistency and back-up, and these can not be achieved when each local school acts independently and alone.  This is not an administrative issue.  It is a community leadership issue, and that is why we have school boards.   Get a copy and wrap your mind and heart around it.                  

                                                          Most sincerely, 

INCL:                                                Ben Washburn, District Four

– Proposal for an Accountability Board     

Our 1999 Board Reform Plan

The following proposal had 20 some public hearings in the Fall  and Winter of 1998-99, and had the support of 8 of the 11 School Board members for adoption when Governor Engler pushed the Board aside and took over control of the District.

                                                   A   VILLAGE                       

                                              CALL TO ACTION 

                                        AND ACCOUNTABILITY 


                    Introduction . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .    2 

                    Action No. 1:   The Board Itself. . . . . .   5  

                    Action No. 2:   School Improvement. .   7  

                    Action No. 3:   Parent Expectations. . . 18  

                    Action No. 4:   New Detroit Wrap-up . 29 

                    Attach. No. 1:  County Ordinance. . . . . 32 

                    Attach. No. 2:   25 Reasons to do it. . .  40



There is currently a frenetic  push for a political solution to the lack of academic progress by our students.   There is no evidence anywhere that political “take-overs” offer any hope for significant improvement in anything other than political approval ratings.   This  “take-over” push has, however, created a crisis situation which has engaged the attention of most of the people whose collaboration could make a significant difference in both student achievement and crime preclusion, and consequently in the economic comeback of our City 

Your School Board is seizing this fleeting opportunity for a true revolutionary change in the learning climate in our schools and in the living climate in our neighborhoods.   There are more than 20 key elements in what we are asking and proposing, and everyone in this City has a key role to play.   While many of these elements involve governmental agencies, it is actually the people in each school community who will make the real difference.  This initiative calls for a quantum leap in our mutual expectations of one another and in our mutual respect for one another.  It will not happen if we only point fingers or rely on someone else like the School Board, or the City, or the County, or the courts, or the State, or New Detroit, or the Detroit Free Press or News editors, to get the deed done.

In order to achieve real school improvement, everyone must step up to the plate and change their own behavior.  This begins with the School Board itself, and embraces, school administrators, teachers, and support staff, as well as parents, students and a broad array of community institutions.   It will not happen unless everyone puts their shoulder to the challenge at the same time, and keeps-up that effort until a new and higher level is achieved.



This document is a work in progress.  It is being shared with the community in order to solicit input by which this initiative can be improved and more sharply focused. 

We already have a comprehensive five-year plan, which is called Achieving Excellence.   That plan was improved last year to include the four cornerstone initiatives.  These are: 

  1. Organizing school communities into twenty feeder school constellations.
  2. Establishing firm curriculum expectations of what each student must attain before promotion to the next grade. We call this Exit Skills.   There will be no more social promotions.   Similar expectations are being developed for special needs students. 
  3. Organizing classroom support services, such as, health and social work, counseling, and special needs consulting, into Resource Coordination Teams.
  4. Site-based management: Delegating to each school substantial authority over its curriculum, staffing, At-Risk funds, federal Title I funds, and budget.

This Call for Action is an additional initiative which builds upon each and all four cornerstones.  It is not a substitute for those plans already in place and underway.  It goes outside the public schools and calls upon all sectors of the community to lean-in and to elevate their mutual expectations and mutual accountability.

This Call for Action has been devised with at least six of the defining principles of African-Centered Education in mind:

  1. Unity; striving for a principled and harmonious togetherness in the family and community.
  2. Self-Determination; defining ourselves, speaking for ourselves, creating for ourselves, naming ourselves, instead of being defined, spoken for, created, or named by others.
  3. Collective Work and Responsibilities; building and maintaining our community together and making our brothers and sisters problems ours to work out together.
  4. Cooperative Economics; Building our own businesses, controlling the economics of our community, and sharing in all of its work and wealth.
  5. Purpose; Making it our collective goal to build-up and develop the community.
  6. Creativity. Leaving the community more vibrant, more vital, and more beautiful than we found it.



  1. We will adopt a national model procurement code, and delegate to the administration final authority to let most contracts, subject to the policies set forth in the code. The review of the exceptions will be limited to whether administrative discretion has been exercised in compliance with the policies set forth in the code.  Questions which go beyond those policy issues will be called out of order.   This code includes a very extensive and stringent set of ethics and conflict-of-interest provisions.  Serious infractions can trigger the expulsion of a board member from his or her seat.  Serious infractions by an administrator call for dismissal for cause.  Collusion by a vendor would result in liquidated damages and debarment from any further business with the district.  These policies have already been drafted and are ready for adoption.
  2. We will reorganize the Board committee structure in a manner which places the focus upon policy development and which precludes the opportunity for individual board members to micro-manage some part of the district. All committees except Educational Quality and Community Confidence will be eliminated, and all other business will be conducted at the Committee of the Whole, using a monthly rotation of the chair.  The needed By-law amendments have already been introduced for first reading and will be adopted at the next regular board meeting.  Most of the current action items on the board agenda will evaporate once the Model Procurement Policy has been adopted and final contracting authority has been delegated to the General Superintendent and Chief Operating Officer.
  3. We will consult with nationally recognized experts in the field of effective boardsmanship and policy development, and turn our day-to-day focus onto policy development. We have already identified two such persons who have been used extensively on the western side of the State.
  4. We have directed that the Board’s policy manual be completely updated, and propose to make a methodical review of all existing policies. To do this, we may retain expert help from local and regional sources, including colleges of educational administration.  The aim is to simplify the manual, reduce paperwork, and make it available to every principal and school community.
  5. We will take a more pro-active role in engaging, coordinating and galvanizing the civic leadership of this community behind making real improvements in student achievement. This is clearly the duty and responsibility of an elected Board, and can not be left simply to school principals and administrators.
  6. The elimination of multiple committees will reduce the stipends paid to board members by more than half. We have already eliminated exclusive office space for the Board President and Vice-President.  The office previously used exclusively by the President is now a general use meeting room.
  7. All future travel requests will be submitted to the CityWide Constellation Council for review and approval that the trip is indeed made in the best interests of our 180,000 children.  There is not much point in going elsewhere when it only discloses that our reform initiatives are ahead of almost everyone else in the country.



  1. Our main focus is upon improving student achievement IN EVERY SCHOOL, and upon zeroing-in on the most cost-effective way of doing that.

In November, the outside audit for the school year ending last June showed that we had a budget surplus of $93 Million.   $46 Million has been placed in a Rainy Day Fund to be used only in the event of a major economic downturn.  This is smart, because damaging budget cutbacks always come with downturns in the economy.  This will cushion us against those times.  Days lost during the snow emergency will probably result in some extra unbudgeted costs for this year.  That leaves no more than $40 Million with which to work.

This must be a one-time effort.  When this money is gone, there will be none to carry-on any continuing programs.  That greatly limits our options.

The Comer model schools, for example, have worked well, but they have a continuing cost of about $250,000 per year per school.  We would need an added $75 Million per year to expand that kind of initiative to all schools.

Everyone knows that our buildings are greatly in need of repair and technology improvements.  We have recently committed an additional $59 Million which was obtained from the Durant lawsuit to make such improvements.   The cost of meeting all of our building needs is estimated to be more than $4 Billion.   That’s 100 times more than the $40 Million that we have to work with.  We have to consider the extent to which these expenditures actually impact student learning.

This is the only extra money that we have and we must get the absolute most mileage out of it.  We are therefore placing our foremost focus upon those 70 elementary and 40 middle schools whose students are performing below the 40 percentile mark, and which have shown little improvement in the recent past.   We will begin with those who show the poorest performance.   (We will by-pass those which have other immediate improvement prospects, such as those which have been invited into the final competition for grants from the Schools of the 21st Century.)

We expect this intervention to cost about $275. per student.  That is an average of about $200,000 per school, or about $20 Million for 100 schools.  We expect that self-help implementation at our other 170 schools will cost $150 per student, for an average of  $100,000 per school, or about another $17 Million.  These one-time expenditures will virtually exhaust all funds which the District has in reserve.

  1. We are asking the State to provide waivers so that we can form Transformation Teams using retired teachers. These teams will intervene in a school for six weeks and relieve school staff from their regular duties so that they can plan and begin a crash effort to:
    1. engage all parents;instill fast, firm, fair and effective staff and student discipline;
    2. improve staff and student attendance;
    3. improve school cleanliness and safety;
    4. tune-up their class management skills;
    5. review the individual needs and learning styles of each student, including special needs students;
    6. diagnose the MEAP, MAT and Exit Skills shortcomings of each student; and
    7. get their school back on-track.
  2. The aim of Transformation Teams is help a school take a quantum leap forward as with a grand slam home run.
  3. If Team intervention does not make a marked and immediate improvement in school safety, decorum, and learning climate; parent participation; staff and student attendance; grade point average; and other quick-read outcomes, the school staff will be dissolved and a new staff will assembled over the summer.


For decades, the two biggest obstacles to pulling a low performing school out of their rut have been:

  1. The perception that many principals have been promoted into their positions based more upon who they knew, or who they had stroked or impressed, than upon their innate and sustained leadership capabilities.
  2. Very low parent involvement and negative relations between the school and neighborhood. Many teachers and active parents feel that their best efforts and intentions are hopeless in the face of so many disruptive students and non-supportive parents.   Many parents and community members feel that some teachers are ill prepared, intimidating, or arbitrary.  These negative relationships have been in many cases polarized and frozen in place by class-based discord.  Changing the entire mind-set of the staff and neighborhood has been such a daunting challenge, that most  caring persons have despaired that the day could ever come.   Only the current crisis, which has been triggered by the Governor’s ultimatum, has produced the conditions under which all sectors of the community have been constrained to lay all other matters aside and to lean into the challenge of making a quantum leap forward in firm, fair expectations of principals, teachers, support staff, parents and students.

This initiative addresses both obstacles head-on:

  1. Principals will be evaluated based strictly upon written objective performance standards.  The extent to which a principal has pro-actively engaged the entire parent body and neighborhood will be a key performance standard.  If the Superintendent becomes aware of significant problems and deficiencies of a Principal,  that Principal shall be made subject to an intensive on-site review team, during which time the Principal may be relieved of duty with pay.

This review will include a survey and evaluation by all parents.  If the complaints or concerns are substantiated, the Principal will be removed or transferred, and demoted where warranted, consistent with the labor contract.

  1. The Board is establishing a firm fixed minimum standard of direct parent support for their child’s school.  It will also negotiate a similar set of firm fair expectations of all teachers and support staff support for the mutual undertakings of the school.

Under an amendment to the County Parental Responsibility Ordinance, each school would be enabled to create a School  Discipline Board, and  to undertake a hands-on initiative to establish a pro-learning environment within the school, with the sure knowledge that its efforts will be supported by an array of formal authorities, provided that its efforts are respectful, documented, positive, and reasonable.   These authorities include the District Court, the Family Court, the Family Independence Agency, the Wayne County Prosecuting Attorney, the City Attorney, the Michigan Attorney General, and an array of other community resources.   If  extensive pro-active efforts to engage the parent and to correct the disruptive behavior of a student fail, a disruptive child may be transferred to a small special school, which is more capable of addressing his or her special needs.

We propose to address more than 100 lower performing schools with a Transformation Team intervention.  Before a team is deployed, a preliminary on-site assessment of school problems and potential will be made.  The  team will be assembled with these problems and possibilities in mind.   The aim is to recruit on a short-term emergency basis retired teachers who have exceptionally strong coaching abilities.   This may take a change in State law.

We will not use Team intervention at a school which has been identified by the Schools of the 21st Century as a recipient of an Annenberg grant or is a Comer participant.   Those are independent initiatives and the District will not interfere with these strategies for school reform, although we do expect to match their efforts in both results and cost-effectiveness, because we are taking a broad community approach rather than create little islands of hope.

The first step will be to make an inventory of parents and students who have experienced the Head Start Program, homeroom-by- homeroom.  On average, this will comprise more than one-third of each class.   With the assistance of the City of Detroit Head Start Program, a special one-one-one effort could be made to engage these parents in organizing  a homeroom parent network and a parenting support group.   These parents have already experienced the value of such a support group, and will be engaged to extend  this network to all parents within each homeroom grouping.   An inventory shall be made of those talents, skills, and interests of each parent which may be of value to the school.  Telephonic chains will be established.  Cooperative child care efforts shall be encouraged and supported.

When the Team arrives, the school will undertake an energetic six-week effort to directly engage each parent in supporting the school and classroom needs of their child, and to cement a firm commitment on the part of each parent to spend at least one-half day per month assisting the homeroom teacher and school in specific ways, either in class or out as circumstances and abilities may best indicate.   There are at least 25 reasons why parents need to collaborate with the school;  24 are about love, and the last is about tough love (See attachment 1).  Where work commitments limit this ability, the employer will be contacted directly by a parent/staff committee to urge them to rearrange working hours to enable the parent to come into the school at least one-half day each month, without a loss of work hours.

When we say “parent” in this paper, we mean a mother, father, guardian or custodian who has responsibility for the health, care, welfare, maintenance and supervision of a student.

Team teachers will relieve classroom teachers  from their normal duties so that they may conduct planning sessions together and develop cooperative learning and team-teaching arrangements. These arrangements will also be reinforced by identifying and addressing additional professional development needs.

Specific efforts will be made to identify cases in which classroom teachers need additional training on how best to teach the special needs students assigned to their classroom.

Specific efforts will be made to clearly understand the specific educational objectives of the Michigan Educational Assessment Program and of district Exit Skills objectives, and of how best to use test score results to zero-in on those objectives which are not being achieved by the students at this particular school.

Specific attention will be focused upon both staff and student attendance patterns, and measures will be devised to improve upon these histories.

Specific safety and disciplinary problems will be identified, and where appropriate, teachers shall make home visits and take other face-to-face actions to directly engage parents in resolving the problems.  Each parent will be informed in detail of the progression of attention that will be addressed to disruptive students, and of the part that the parent must play in correcting this conduct, and in helping  maintain a safe and highly positive learning environment at the school.

The Team will coach  teachers  one-on-one, on classroom management practices which help gain the attention and focus of students, and which preclude most discipline problems.   Training research shows that a teacher is not likely to change the way that they do their work unless they have practiced a new technique at least twenty times.  One-day workshops are useless other than to reinforce techniques which are already being practiced.  Research also shows that new techniques will not be used unless there is a pervasive reinforcement from one’s close colleagues.   The efforts of exceptional individuals are soon lost in the forest.   This means that the whole school must practice the changes at once.

On an interim basis, and as a second line of learning environment control, each school will be provided with funds to establish an in-school and an after-school time-out hall (and academic probation hall for students who are deficient in meeting Exit Skill goals.)  If there is no room within the school,  the school may use a part of its funds to rent space in a suitable nearby building.   The time-out hall manager will be assisted by parents performing their commitments to the fullest extent possible in order to provide at least one adult tutor for each 10 students.  The objective, however,  will be to phase-out the paid manager within six months, and to operate the time-out hall completely by parent commitments.  As we said at the on-set, this is a one-time effort and there are no funds to continue the effort (unless the school uses its own funds).

If a high school or middle school currently has security officers posted on duty, and if the discipline and safety levels improve to the point that these officers are no longer needed, the school may convert the funds used for this purpose to other pressing needs at their school.  Our goal is eliminate the need for such officers at any school.

As a third line of control, if a student is sent to a time-out hall for breaking school rules more than twice within a month, the parent will be contacted and required to come into the school and work with their child while in the time-out hall.  Discipline is not effective unless it is fast, as well as firm and fair.   While it may be inconvenient for a parent to drop everything and get to the school, there are few if any excuses for not doing so.

If a parent fails to respond, the Principal or Classroom teacher will make a witnessed direct and respectful effort to engage the help of the parent in correcting the disruptive conduct.  If the parent fails to  respond, the Principal will take the matter to the School  Discipline Board, which again will make a witnessed and respectful effort to gain the active collaboration of the parent in correcting the disruptive conduct.   If there is no collaborative response to the request of the School Discipline Board, the Board may issue a court citation.   If court intervention is not promptly successful, the School Discipline Board may have the student transferred to an alternative education program.

The School Discipline Board would be coached by the Resource Coordination Team.  The Board will undertake efforts to engage the help of all local churches, block clubs, and community-based organizations.  Once established, the Board should seek a review and certification by a credible and independent social services agency that its efforts are positive, pro-active, cordial, respectful, and worthy of reinforcement by the courts and others.

A School Discipline Board would be composed of:

  1. The Principal (or an assistant principal).
  2. A school counselor.
  3. A classroom teacher, and three alternates, elected by their peers.
  4. Two parents, and six alternates, elected by the Local School Organization of Record.
  5. An active neighborhood leader, and three alternates, elected by the Local School Organization of Record.
  6. A volunteer who is professional social worker, and three alternates, who may be a local religious leader with social work credentials or expertise, appointed by the Local School Organization of Record.

The purpose of having several alternates is to make sure that a full panel can be assembled on short notice.  Disciplinary decisions must be made quickly to be corrective.

Volunteer student advocates will be encouraged to participate in the meetings of the School Discipline Board and the hearings of the District Court to help assure that these efforts are focused and fair.   Middle and High Schools are encouraged to establish a Peer Court in which students elected by their peers hear infractions of school rules and determine the consequences, except for those weapon and drug offenses for which the law requires immediate expulsion.

Proceedings which involve special needs students will be conducted in full compliance with the law.

There are no appeals from in-school disciplinary dispositions, although a student who feels aggrieved may complain to the School Discipline Board, and the Board may express its opinion to the student and person who made the disciplinary decision, so that the next decision is more consistent with school standards.  Appeals of administrative suspensions and expulsions may be made to a Constellation arbitrator, whose decision is final.  There is no appeal from a decision to issue an appearance ticket, except to the District Judge at the time of the hearing.  An appeal from a decision of a District Court judge is to the Third Circuit Court Family Division.

The main roles of the District Court are:

  1. reinforce that elevated level of community expectations which underlies the entire educational institution, and
  2. to  assure that School Discipline Boards remain a positive tool for real school reform and improvement, and do not become a tool of persons who have other agendas, such as, personal vendettas, power games, reducing class size or overcrowding by forced transfers, push-outs, class or race-based antipathies, etc.

In the real world, the imposition of fines and punishment, usually has little impact upon changing or correcting the conduct of individuals who are not well plugged-into mainstream institutions and community activities.   Deterrence works, but only upon those who are well plugged-in.  Failure, however, to impose fines or punishment simply because they do not work on the person being fined or punished, tends to lead to a breakdown of firm mutual expectations among those people who are plugged-in.   The main function, therefore, of court reinforcement is to encourage, energize, and sustain  the efforts of those who are about the business of elevating positive community expectations and of actively engaging all parents into the helping networks of the school.

Under the previous organization of our schools and courts, these relationships have been totally indirect and at best coincidental.  By giving each school a hands-on means of engaging the court in an appropriate case, and by having one District Judge relate to each Constellation of School Discipline Boards and hold their hearings at the anchor high school, these mutually reinforcing relationships become more discernible as well as firm and much more effective.




First, if we expect students to achieve a higher level, we must elevate our expectations not only of them but of their parents as well.    We are calling upon every parent to make two specific and firm, time and effort commitments to their child’s school:

  1. In a one-parent household, to come to the school on a regular scheduled basis for at least one-half day (4 hours) per month (40 hours per year) to help do such things as:
    1. Tutor in your child’s classroom.
    2. Help grade homework.
    3. Take attendance; call parents of absent students to specifically determine why they are not in school.
    4. Help organize a parenting and helping network among homeroom parents.
    5. Help organize and train parents to be more helpful in the school. Student achievement is directly related to student time-on-task.  Parent support commitments must be organized by parents so that teachers are free to put more time into individual student attention.  It must not add to the duties, stress and time demands of teachers.
    6. Staff an in-school and after-school time-out hall.
    7. Help with the school breakfast program.
    8. Help organize a Latchkey Program.
    9. Help assemble and publish a regular homeroom newsletter.
    10. Help organize plays, celebrations, academic competitions, and special events.
    11. Help organize student teams into school clean-up crews and maintain hallway/lunchroom decorum.
    12. Help supervise playground and recess activities.
    13. Help keep careful records of each parent’s fulfillment of this specific expectation.
    14. Call employers to facilitate the release of parents from work to fulfill their commitment and to verify to employers that those parents who have been released for this purpose have indeed done so.
    15. With the consent of the custodial parent in a single parent home, to engage the non-custodial parent in also helping at the school.
    16. Help develop equivalent alternative arrangements for those parents whose employer refuses to enable them to fulfill this commitment.
    17. If skilled, help with school building and playground maintenance and fix-up.
    18. With training from the Resource Coordination Team, make home visits, help parents establish a homework study center, and help parents sharpen-up their parenting skills.
    19. At the high school level, help parents focus-in on how to qualify and apply for college scholarships and financial aid.

If a parent has more than one child in school, the commitment is reduced to:

30 hours per child for 2 students (60 hours total).

23 hours per child for 3 students (70 hours total).

80 hours total for 4 or more students in school.

In the case of a two-parent household, the commitment is 150% of the above to be shared between the two parents.

This commitment is equal to two percent of a person’s work year, or one-half percent of a person’s waking hours.  Considering the payback in educational improvement, it is probably the best investment parents will ever make.

The commitment  has many other important parenting benefits.  It means that the school can be opened early and kept open late to accommodate a cooperative Latchkey Program for working parents.  Children will be safer walking to and from school, because there will be some parents walking with them.  There will be someone to watch children who come to school early on cold days; they won’t have to wait outside in the cold until the first bell rings.  It means that parents are plugged into helping networks to which they can more readily turn when they feel lost.

The commitment also has important payoffs in the workplace and neighborhood.   Parents who have up-graded their people skills while keeping the parent body organized and on-track can fill in the depleted ranks of block and neighborhood leadership.  This experience will also serve them well in the cooperative workplace arrangements of the present and near future.   For employers, it means having employees who are pleased with their school and with their children’s progress, and who are less distracted by worry as to what’s happening at home before they get off work.

The size of the commitment is based upon the time needed for a teacher to work with a parent and become fully familiar with the strengths, skills and needs that a parent brings to the teacher/student/parent triangle.   Hurried parent/teacher conferences are totally insufficient to establish these understandings.  It’s the time needed for a parent to come to really appreciate the difficulty of a teacher’s job.   It is the time needed to create the critical mass of parent/parent/school ties and bonds, which are in turn needed to truly elevate the learning climate and potential of the school.   It is the minimum time that it takes for a parent to get to know all of the other children in their child’s classroom (and their parents).  There is no substitute.   There are no shortcuts.

  1. Parents must also get to the school immediately, no matter how often, when notified that one’s child has broken a school rule which threatens the safety of other students or staff, or which is disruptive to the learning climate of the school. Children have a short span of attention.  Discipline is not effective unless it is imparted swiftly, firmly, and fairly.  It may not be convenient for a parent to get to the school post haste, but it is essential if the response is to have a corrective impact.

Second, we are calling upon every employer in this metropolitan region to reorganize their work schedules so that a parent may be regularly released for one-half day per month ( and more often if they have more than one child in school) to go work at their child’s school, and to release a parent immediately when notified by the school of an immediate disciplinary problem.  Work should be rearranged so that the parent can switch-off and not lose paid working time.  We can no longer accept the excuse that working parents have no time to come into the school.  They will have to give education the priority that it deserves and make time by whatever means necessary.   And employers will have to help.

Third, we are calling upon every union in the metropolitan region to make enablement of this new standard of parental commitment a part of their labor contract.   Unions must be willing to allow such things as swing shifts and Saturday work to be done by a switch-off by parents fulfilling their commitments, and not reserved as over-time opportunities for senior workers.  Everyone has a role to play in turning our schools around, and it means that everyone in the village must be willing to clear away the obstacles to real improvement.

Fourth, we are asking all of the religious leaders of this City to devote at least one sermon each month to reinforce and elevate the specific social expectations which are implicit in this mutual undertaking.  We are asking every church to establish a parent responsibility support group to work with the parents in their membership and with their local schools.   We are asking the good organizers in every church congregation to lend a hand at their local school in coaching parents on how to successfully engage and organize the other parents in their school.

Fifth, we are calling upon the Wayne County Commission to amend its Parent Responsibility Ordinance to directly address three significant obstacles to local school improvement:

(a)  students who bully and intimidate their classmates going to and from school;

(b)   students who repeatedly disrupt classroom decorum and trash the efforts of our teachers to increase student time-on-task; and

(c)    parents who refuse or neglect to proactively collaborate with our schools in correcting the behavior of these students.

Both the students and their parents must be held firmly, fairly and legally accountable for their delinquency.   School Discipline Boards must also be authorized by ordinance to issue appearance tickets to parents who refuse or neglect to collaborate with cordial, respectful overtures from the school.   A copy of the proposed ordinance amendment is attached on page 32.

Sixth,  consistent with site-based management, we are delegating to each school full authority, subject to certain guidelines and structures,  to impart fast, fair, firm and therefore effective discipline at their school.   Classroom teachers are to be granted substantial authority to cope with the disruptive students in their classroom.   On an interim basis, until a new pro-social and pro-learning climate is established, each school will be granted funds to hire extra help to run an in-school time-out hall and an after-school disciplinary and academic probation class.   With the help of our Resource Coordinating Teams and pursuant to the Wayne County Parent Responsibility Ordinance, each school is expected to establish a School Discipline Board to review and moderate efforts of staff to keep disciplinary actions fair, and to help follow-up on cases of parents who fail or refuse to pro-actively collaborate with the teacher and school to correct the behavior of bullies and repeatedly disruptive students.   We are calling upon neighborhood ministers and block leaders to work on and with the Discipline Board, along side with staff, parents and student representatives,  to engage the collaboration of these parents, and when that fails, to testify in court.

Seventh, we are calling upon the 31 judges of the 36th District Court and the 11 judges of the Family Division of the Third Circuit court to work with us in creating a climate of mutually respectful relationships among school staff, parents, and students, and in reinforcing our common efforts with sanctions against those delinquent parents who refuse or neglect to collaborate.  We are asking that 20 of District Judges step forward to work with the Disciplinary Boards in each of our 20 Constellations, and to hold court and hear witnesses at the anchor high school in each constellation.  We are also asking that 10 of the Family Division judges each relate with 2 of our 20 Constellations.   We are also asking the Family Division to establish the duty to collaborate with a child’s school a specific condition of every divorce decree and visitation order.Eighth,  we are asking the Wayne County Prosecutor and the Detroit City Attorney (Law Department) to staff their offices with additional law student assistants to charge and prosecute delinquent parents under the Parent Responsibility Ordinance.

In the Prosecutor’s Office, the Neglect/Abuse Division might best do this.

Ninth, we recognize that it will be impossible to gain the proactive collaboration of every parent,  and – even with that – to correct the behavior of every bully or disruptive student.   We are asking the Michigan Attorney General and the State Family Independence Agency to take notice of those cases in which a parent has been documented as being non-responsive and when appropriate, to intervene on grounds of neglect/abuse.   We are asking the State Legislature to build the participation standards which are set forth in this Call for Action into the statutory standards of child neglect/abuse, and into the participation conditions for Aid to Families of Dependent Children.

Tenth,  we are asking the Wayne County Department of Community Justice to give priority attention to complaints involving students who have bullied their school mates or have repeatedly disrupted their classrooms.   We are also asking our Resource Coordinating Teams to collaborate with the Department of Community Justice on the educational elements of delinquency cases pending before the Family Court.

Eleventh,  we are asking that the Youth Division of the Detroit Police Department coordinate its efforts with those of each School Discipline Board and with the Wayne County Department of Community Justice.

Twelfth,  we are asking the Third Circuit judges who administer Personal Protection Orders to give special attention to cases in which parents and relatives of disruptive students have threatened, assaulted, or battered school staff, with an intent not only of protecting school staff from harm, but also if at all possible of turning these encounters into a supportive and constructive relationship.  We are also asking that the judges consider issuing protective orders in the cases of students who bully other students or who threaten teachers and staff.

Thirteenth, we are asking Wayne County to acquire and renovate or construct Twenty 400-student alternative charter schools on a crash basis to address the needs of students in grades 4 to 12 who must be transferred from their present school.  We are asking the County to undertake this unique role because:

(a)    The whole county has a stake in our success.

(b)   The county has the power of imminent domain  and  has previously displayed a good capacity for getting construction projects done quickly, witness the Hamtramck Jail, the County Morgue, and the new Youth Detention Facility, each done in less than 18 months.

(c)   The County Department of Community Justice has recently undertaken a major role in juvenile delinquency preclusion and nothing serves better to preclude delinquent conduct than success in school.

  1. d) The County has existing authority to sell revenue bonds to quickly raise capital improvement money to undertake such an effort.  It is proposed that the County contract with an array of charter schools to provide the needed revenue from future operating funds (state aid payments).  We are asking that the schools be charter schools, because these alternative schools need maximum latitude to recruit staff who are particularly qualified and dedicated with working with students who present a difficult challenge, and who have little if any parental reinforcement.   We recommend that the schools be kept small and personal in order to maximize effective social interaction.   We are authorized by law to charter such schools and we invite all proposals.

(e)  Our own plant maintenance operations are overloaded, and       the district is in a space shortage gridlock.  We can not do this quickly by ourselves.

We are not asking the County to bear the cost of these schools, but only to facilitate and expedite getting them started.   The costs will have to be borne out of funds already being made available for schools from state, federal and local taxes. 

Fourteenth,  although it may be somewhat inconsistent with site-based management, we are directing that by April 15, 1999, that every school, including every high school implement a dress  code requiring a school uniform, unless within 30 days, at a called meeting of the Local School Community Organization,  the parents of more than 50% of the students registered at the school actually appear and vote to not establish such a dress code.   School uniforms are only a small part of the answer, but every little bit helps.  As a School Board, we will not flat-out mandate such a code, but we will get the issue off the dime, and take local school staff off the hook for initiating such a policy.   We recognize that this policy may impose a burden upon some parents, but it will relieve most from rampant designer clothing competition.  We ask those parents who will reap savings from this dress code to chip-in and help those parents who can not afford it.  We are also calling upon all local churches to provide aid to parents who are hard-pressed to clothe their children.  And we ask all major retailers to run break-even specials on uniform items to help us make this change rapidly.   This may put a major dent in your sales of teenage designer clothing, but it will help you obtain better-educated employees down the line. 

Fifteenth,  we must also raise our expectations of students for the maintenance of our school buildings as clean and orderly places to study.   Under the leadership of our staff and committed parents,  students must take an active part in cleaning their classrooms, the hallways, lunchroom, and gymnasium, and also in picking-up litter and debris on school grounds.   We simply can not afford to squander scarce resources cleaning-up behind students, when we don’t have enough to keep our buildings up to par.   By the beginning of the next school year, shoes with aggressive treads which pick-up and track-in excessive dirt will also be prohibited. 

Sixteenth,  we are establishing a new CityWide Constellation Council (CCC)  made-up of representatives from each Constellation to improve cross-communications as these School Discipline Boards are established.   There is, however, a predominant need to move promptly and energetically on reform efforts and these can not await the prior review and comment of the CCC.     The main role  of the CCC will be to provide feedback and corrective advice on actions already undertaken.

Seventeenth,  we are asking the Mayor to engage our Neighborhood City Halls and his entire staff in marshaling, reinforcing and nurturing the efforts of block clubs, neighborhood associations, churches, and other self-help networks to join with us in promoting and reinforcing our efforts to make our streets safe and to accelerate the academic achievement of our students.  We are also asking the Mayor to establish a continuing relationship with parents who have gone through its Head Start centers and to build a pervasive matrix of parenting support groups based upon this nucleus.   This is a massive undertaking; we all need the best that he can muster.   The current WorkFirst guidelines must be amended to require that parents fulfill their school commitment, and that participating employers facilitate that commitment.  They must also be amended to assure that Head Start parents complete their parenting obligations.  Again, workplace requirements can not be permitted to come before parenting obligations.




  1. A new Chief Operating Officer will be hired by February 9th to begin work within the month.
  2. The Superintendent has been directed to set aggressive deadlines and to move briskly ahead in implementing the several Task Force recommendations which have been made and approved by the Implementation Team. It has been the Board’s impression that the recommendations of the Implementation Team have been administrative in character and fully within the power of the Superintendent, and that they did not require any policy changes by the Board.   The Board was dismayed to read that implementation has been thwarted because it had not approved the recommendations.   The Board finds itself in the awkward position of being criticized by some for micro-managing the administration, and by some of the same people and others for not micro-managing.  The Board will, however,  re-review the recommendations thoroughly, and determine whether any policy changes are required to facilitate their completion.
  3. In particular, the Board has directed the General Superintendent to continue to explore and analyze the feasibility of contracting out certain services for which there are many vendors in the marketplace, such as, food service management, security, janitorial services, building maintenance services, and transportation.  A review of other large school districts which have contracted out such services has already raised a red flag about the advisability of contracting out all of such services.  Once a district loses its ability to expand and provide a service in-house, vendors typically jack-up their prices (and profits) above the previous in-house cost.  In other cases, we lose important flexibility.  For example, we intend to ask our custodians to take a more active role in leading crews of students on clean-up duty.  It is difficult to find an outside vendor who screens and coaches their custodians to undertake these kinds of duties.  It is difficult to find outsourcing vendors who meet our precise needs, but every effort will be made to see who is out there.
  4. New Detroit made certain recommendations regarding the expansion of security services. Most of these positions have been recently filled.
  5. New Detroit recommended a separation of the Bond Program from the Physical Facilities Program. The Superintendent has been directed to determine the feasibility of this separation and its pros and cons.  The Superintendent has also been directed to complete a five-year plan for in-house and contracted building repairs and maintenance, including estimated time-lines.
  6. The General Superintendent has been directed to explore the feasibility of leasing smaller amounts of supplemental classroom space (3 to 5 rooms) from nearby churches and other organizations, as a means of providing needed detention halls and overflow class space to relieve overcrowded schools.
  7. The District has insufficient funds to meet all of its real needs and must request and accept help from whatever quarter it can obtain it. The District has entered into a commitment with New Detroit, Inc. and will continue to live-up to that commitment for the best interest of its students.  We need all of the help that we can get from whatever source.


No. 99-___ 





Ordinance 97-289 is amended to read as follows: 


This ordinance may be cited as the County Parental Responsibility Ordinance. 


For the purposes of this ordinance, the following definitions apply:

(a)     DELINQUENT ACT:  An act by a minor which violates a law of the United States, the State of Michigan or an ordinance of the County or a city within the County, OR WHICH IS A REPEATED VIOLATION OF THE RULES AND REGULATIONS OF A SCHOOL OR OTHER LEARNING PROGRAM, if that act is sufficient cause to bring that minor within the jurisdiction of the FAMILY DIVISION OF THE CIRCUIT COURT as defined by Michigan Compiled Laws, section 712A.2(a); or an act by which a minor intentionally causes physical harm to another or deliberately creates an unreasonable risk of physical harm to himself or herself or to others.  “Delinquent act” does not include a traffic violation which is classified as a civil infraction.

(b)  ILLEGAL DRUG:  A controlled substance as defined now or hereafter under Part 72 of the Public Health Code of the State of Michigan, being Michigan Compiled Laws, section 333.7201 et seq, for which a person does not have a legal prescription from a licensed physician or other authorized medical professional.

(c)  MINOR:  An non-emancipated person under seventeen (17) years of age.

(d)  PARENT:  A mother, father, guardian or custodian of a minor who has the responsibility for the health, welfare, care, maintenance, control or supervision of a minor at the time that a delinquent act is alleged to have been committed by the minor. 


(a)  The parent of a minor has a continuous responsibility to exercise reasonable control and supervision over the minor to prevent the minor from committing or participating in the commission of a delinquent act.

(b)  The responsibility of a parent to exercise reasonable control and supervision includes the following duties, which are set forth for the purpose of illustration and not limitation:

(1)  To keep illegal drugs out of the home and out of the possession of a minor.

(2)  To keep firearms and dangerous weapons out of the possession of a minor, except in connection with hunting or another lawful recreational purpose.

(3)  To require a minor to observe the curfew laws of the State of Michigan and the municipality within which he or she is found.

(4)  To require the minor to regularly attend school and to prevent the minor from being absent from school without medical or school permission until age 17 or until the completion of high school, whichever occurs first.


(6)  To prevent the minor from maliciously or willfully damaging, defacing, or destroying real or personal property belonging to other persons, including a public entity.

(7)  To prevent a minor from engaging in theft of property or from keeping in his or her possession property which is known to the parent to be stolen or which is known by the parent to be beyond the financial means of the minor.  A parent has an affirmative duty to reasonably verify a claim that property possessed by their minor has been borrowed or rented. 


(a)     Whenever a minor is arrested or detained by a probation officer, caseworker, or law enforcement agency for the commission of a delinquent act, the parent of the minor shall be notified as soon as reasonably possible by the arresting or detaining agency, of the minor’s arrest or detention and the reason therefor, and of the parent’s responsibility under this ordinance.

(b)  The arresting or detaining agency shall keep a permanent record of the exact time and circumstances of this notification. 


If a minor commits a delinquent act within the County of Wayne, the parent shall be responsible for a municipal civil infraction if:

(a)  It is proven by clear and convincing evidence that the parent:

(1)  encouraged or caused, or knowingly allowed the act to occur; or

(2)  had ample notice of suspicious circumstances and neglected to take reasonable action to prevent a delinquent act from occurring; OR


(b)  It is proven by clear and convincing evidence that the parent knew or reasonably should have known that the minor was likely to commit a delinquent act, but failed to take timely and appropriate action to prevent the commission of the act. 


(a)  If a person is found to be in violation of this ordinance, he or she shall be responsible for a municipal civil infraction, and upon admission or a finding of responsibility shall be subject to a fine not to exceed $500, as well as court costs as may be determined by a court of competent jurisdiction.  Court costs may include reimbursement to the County and to the detaining municipality for the full actual costs of prosecution and of police witnesses, based upon an itemized statement of costs from those agencies.

(b)  In lieu of a fine, a court may sentence a respondent to perform appropriate community service that is specifically designed to strengthen the relationship between home and school, or a parent and minor.  In addition to community service, a court may require a respondent to pay costs of up to $500 to take part in parenting skills training and support groups.

(c)     In addition to a municipal civil infraction charge and proceeding against a parent, upon the complaint of the victim of a delinquent act, a court may conduct a concurrent civil action against that parent pursuant to Michigan Compiled Laws, section 600.2913, and render judgment up to $2,500 for maliciously or willfully destroying real, personal or mixed property, or for maliciously or willfully causing bodily harm or injury to a person.

(d)  In addition to a municipal civil infraction charge and proceeding against a parent, a court may conduct a concurrent civil action against the minor pursuant to Michigan common laws, and render judgment up to $10,000 for maliciously or willfully destroying real, personal or mixed property, or for maliciously or willfully causing bodily harm or injury to a person. 























This ordinance is enacted under the general home rule powers set forth in the Charter of the County of Wayne.  It sets forth standards which are supplemental to any concurrent with the laws of the State of Michigan and the ordinance of municipalities within Wayne County.  In keeping with the paramount home rule authority of cities and townships, a municipality within Wayne County may elect by ordinance to opt out of this ordinance.




If any part of this ordinance shall be held to be void, illegal or otherwise unenforceable, that part shall be deemed to be severable, and the remaining parts shall be valid. 


This ordinance is effective immediately.



  1. It is hard fact that the family and the home is the biggest factor in the development and achievement of a child. Every study ever done has come to that same conclusion.  Schools run a distant second no matter where you go.
  2. If a parent has a low opinion of their child’s school or teacher, then their child also has that same low opinion and that compounds the problem. Actions speak louder than words.  When a parent goes to the school and pitches-in, it sends a very clear message to the child that school is really important.
  3. It is in fact possible for a school to educate a child independent of a family, but it costs a lot more than most people would ever imagine. There is at least one school in the country (The Glenn Mills School near Philadelphia) which takes bright troubled inner-city teenagers into a live-in program and does as good a job as the best high schools in the country.   Glenn Mills costs $35,000 per student per year.  To comply with Michigan standards and do it on a mass basis, the cost would about $50,000.  That’s between 5X and 7X the money that we now have to spend. There is not even the slightest chance that the taxpayers of this State are ready to double the income tax to give Detroit an extra $5 Billion per year to properly educate its children.   In fact, Lansing is committed to reduce the income tax.   If we don’t do it ourselves, no one else will.
  4. The talk about small class size is just another political pipe dream. If it’s done in Detroit, it would have to be done everywhere in the State.  That’s the nature of the politics.  That means at least a 50% increase in classrooms and teachers.   Even if the money were there, it would take five to ten years to gear-up to that level of operation.  By that time, your children will be out of school.  And the money is simply  not there.  We now spend $12 Billion of State funds on education.  It would take almost double that amount to implement small class size, state-wide.  Again, the voters of this State have shown no interest in supporting a huge tax hike.Worse yet, the small class size talk goes to reinforce the common notion that the schools can (and therefore should) educate our children with no help from the village.  In many of those places where it has been tested, it has had the counter-productive impact of reducing parent participation, because parents were led to think that they were no longer needed.  There is no cheap or easy substitute for intensive parent involvement.
  5. The talk about training teachers to be more capable of controlling their classrooms is also deceptively misleading. It is true that some teachers are capable of doing a better job than others.  But neither are in a good position, without strong reinforcement from the home.  Even the best classroom control techniques free-up very little time for individualized instruction.  During the course of a day, most teachers have less than two minutes per child to provide any individualized attention, and that is nowhere near enough. There are many things that a regularly, scheduled and dependable parent can do in the classroom to free-up teachers to put more time-in with individual students.  Individualized instruction plus more time-on-task are proven ways to make a huge difference in student achievement.  You don’t have to wait five or ten years in the hope that someone else will make that possible.   You and the village can make it happen this month.
  6. Some parents ask:

“Why should I come in and help take attendance, or call parents of absent students, or lead student clean-up crews, or keep the halls clear and quiet, or keep the lunch rooms friendly and orderly?  I’m a taxpayer and I pay teachers, custodians and others to do these things?  Why should I help when they are not doing their job?”

The simple answer is:   Teachers and other staff are now so busying doing these things which parents could help do, that there is no serious time left to teach, or keep the building really clean.  A person who asks these kinds of questions is usually more a part of the problem than a part of the solution.  Every member of the village needs to get out of their comfort zone, and do some constructive thinking and helping.  We expect more from parents, but that given, we also expect a lot more from staff.  This effort is not intended to make life easier for staff; it is intended to help students achieve a lot more.   This will make your life more complicated, but also more satisfying.

  1. Some parents say:

“Why does my help have to be regular and scheduled?   Why can’t I drop in when it is convenient or necessary?”

A good teacher makes advance lesson plans which zero-in on the identified needs of his or her students.  These plans must be made days and weeks ahead.  It’s hard to make good use of parent help when it appears unexpected, and it is hard to make good plans which depend upon a parent’s help, when that parent fails to show when needed.  Everyone winds-up frustrated and angry with one another, and that takes mutual efforts down the drain.  We need parent help which is as reliable as we expect our teachers and staff to be, which means that you are there at least 19 out of each 20 times that you are scheduled.   Once you have fulfilled your monthly minimum and regular commitment, you are always welcome to drop-in and help some more at your convenience, and we are sure that many parents will do just that.

  1. Some parents say:

“How can you legally make me volunteer my time?”

We are not asking for volunteers.  We are asking each parent to do their fair share as a parent, of the work that it takes to turn our schools into first-class places of learning.   The experience of the last thirty years clearly shows that the job can not be done without your intense involvement.  A parent has a special obligation to the community to do what it takes to educate their child.  Only after they have satisfied their fair share of that obligation can their help be considered to be volunteer help.  At the front end, this Call for Action is about building community, and love for and empowerment of our children.   At the far back end. a few persons may have to confront their personal shortcomings.   We don’t propose to make you volunteer your time.  But we do want to challenge you to seriously rethink your obligations to your children and to the village.

A parent does have a legal obligation under the law to make  reasonable provision for the education of their children.   That effort which is reasonable must be weighed with a view of the circumstances.   Difficult circumstances call for a higher level of effort.  A parent must face-up to the fact that a failure or refusal to provide that effort borders on legal neglect.

  1. Why don’t we just ask for more volunteers to come into the schools?

We have called for more volunteers for years, and their numbers have failed to grow much.  What happens in most cases is that the volunteers who do show-up are soon discouraged by the lack of parental support, and go away wondering if they are not making the situation worse rather than better.   Their work is simply depressing.  Mentors are helpful, but they are no substitute for an involved parent.

Paradoxically, when most parents are intensively involved in a school, more people are willing to volunteer to work there.  It’s far more up-lifting and engaging.   By holding-up your fair share of the parent work needs of the school, you actually help create the conditions which draw in more real volunteers.  Your efforts have a snowballing impact.

  1. Why don’t we just hire more social workers to deal with this problem?

Social workers are the most expensive way to address village problems.  There are few things that a social worker can do which does not depend upon intensive reinforcement from the village.   And the village can do most of these things on its own, depending upon how it goes about organizing them.  Community organization underlies most of the real solution.

We most of all need to concentrate upon things that directly impact individualized instruction and expanded time-on-task.

  1. What about the parents who are crack-heads and alcoholics? Do we really want all of these persons in our schools?

This undertaking is not without its problems, but it is a bigger problem to pick and choose, or to continue to let the matter slide.  Social isolation compounds the problems of persons who abuse alcohol and drugs.  Intentional isolation is not lost on their children.  This is an occasion when the village must step-up to an array of challenges, but not be side-tracked by them.

  1. Why haven’t school principals and teachers already organized this kind of effort?

This is not an effort that a single school can successfully undertake in isolation.  It calls for a concerted effort from the whole village.  Everyone needs to have high, firm, fair, fixed expectations of one another.   There is presently a great deal of ambiguity and confusion in these expectations.   We are asking that everyone focus-in and come to a common understanding of the problem and its self-help solution.

  1. What are we going to do about high-handed principals and teachers?

We fully understand that in many places, there are well established tensions between school staff and many persons in the neighborhood.  Some of these are aggravated by a contemptuous display of middle class judgements.  There is nothing wrong with middle class values.  They are the cornerstone of most economic progress over the past three centuries.  But as Jesus of Nazareth was quick to observe, they should not be applied with arrogance and disdain, but rather with respect and love.   We have high expectations of the manner in which our principals, teachers, and staff relate to our students, parents and neighborhoods.  This undertaking is mainly about both mutual respect and accountability, with an ultimate eye on student achievement.  We need all stakeholders to trade evaluations as to how well each is contributing to the mutual effort.

  1. Doesn’t this proposal focus a great deal more upon the obligations of parents than upon the obligations of principals, teachers, support staff and the School Board? Is that fair?

This proposal does indeed focus more upon parent obligations than upon those of the other key stakeholders, and for very good reason.  Principals, teachers, and staff are already bound by very specific contractual obligations, and are subject to work rules and disciplinary action for refusal or failure to perform their duties.  There is no similar structure for holding parents accountable.  There are no specific expectations of parents.  In the past, we have simply been grateful for those who stepped forward and pitched-in.  This proposal therefore concentrates upon the creation of a new standard for gaining essential parent accountability.  It needs to be read in the context of our overall five-year plan, Achieving Excellence, which focuses upon staff accountability.

  1. How are we as parents expected to hold principals, teachers, and support staff accountable?

Although it may not at first be evident, accountability first of all depends upon expressing high expectations, and secondly upon being in an everyday position to judge whether or not those expectations are being reasonably fulfilled.  When parents become intricately involved in the everyday work of the school, they also occupy an inside view of what is going-on in the school day-to-day.  School staff is acutely aware of this fact.  This situation has a positive impact.  Nearly all people naturally respond to the expectations of those who surround them and those whose opinion they value.  The natural result is an elevated level of mutual accountability.

  1. It appears that you propose to crack down on parents and students, but on no one else???

The objective of the first cornerstone is to create caring learner-centered communities (constellations).  That can not be accomplished with a heavy hand.  We have to engage parents, one-by-one, and persuade them, by whatever means necessary, that the very best move that they will ever make is to pick-up their fair share of the common need.  That may indeed include crowding a person, pressing them beyond their comfort zone.  This effort is about both mutual respect and high expectations.  Most human beings, of whatever origin, normally have a positive response to that kind of challenge.  That’s a fact of life, and we have to move ahead in reliance upon it.

  1. Who wrote this “proposal”? Is it the brain-child of the General Superintendent or other people in central administration?  Is this one more effort to dictate a top-down solution?

This “proposal” is the result of some ruminations by school board members.  We do indeed listen to what people in all quarters have to say, and we try to make sense of these many conflicting perceptions.  We also use some common sense, and elementary sociological truth.  We have laid this matter out in an unfinished and provocative format, precisely to generate constructive feedback.  All throughout the District, we hear extreme frustration from well-meaning people.  But we have been extremely pleased with the positive tenor of this feedback.  Most people recognize that we have been doing a less than adequate job, and are ready to lean-in and make a significant difference.  This proposal is never done.  There is always room for improvement, even as we move forward to implement certain parts.  All that we ask is that you give it your best shot.  Think about the questions that we are asking.  Realize that the undertaking calls for big changes in the way that we relate to our schools, and to each other.  Try to envision a whole different way of educating our children.  Think big.  Think outside of the usual boxes that narrow our options.

  1. Who came-up with the idea that each parent must put in a least 40 hours per year? Shouldn’t each school have the right to set its own standard, such as, 20 hours a year?

The 40-hour standard is a key to success.  When you look at the funds that we have available, and at what they can buy, there are a lot of needs which go unmet.  We don’t have the money to buy those things, and there are very slim prospects of getting them during this generation.  If we are going to give out children a first-rate education, then we are each going to have to step-up and pick-up a fair share of the work that is needed to make our schools a first-rate place for our children.  On average, this turns-out to be 40 hours a year for a one-parent household with one child.  If you set the standard at less than 40 hours, it simply means that your child is attending a second-rate school.  Isn’t it best that everyone and especially employers have a common understanding as to what the minimum standard needs to be?  For that reason, we think that it is best that there be a widely-shared standard rather than a wide array of standards as set by each school.  Don’t you agree?

  1. How will all of this impact on the performance of principals, teachers and other school staff? Why don’t we spell-out specific concrete expectations for them as we have for parents?

In fact, we already do.  There are literally volumes of written directives, work rules, and disciplinary procedures, which are far too much to put into this paper.  There is so much in fact, that it needs to be simplified, not amplified.  We expect this initiative to change the way that staff relate to one another and to parents.  Once large numbers of parents are actually working every day in the school, and get a close-up picture of what is going-on, it will become much easier for principals to take firm control in order to meet parent expectations, and get a solid response from staff, because they too will be under closer observation.  We are also proposing that parents make an annual evaluation of their principal.  As we set forth in Achieving Excellence, we expect staff to have an attendance record of 96% or better.  Last year, half of our schools and offices met that standard and half did not.  Staff attendance and parent involvement go hand-in-hand.  The schools which have high parent involvement have high staff attendance, and that is no accident.  A high level of parent involvement creates an upbeat working climate.  Staff want to come to work and they want to work when they get there.  And the few who do not soon find themselves called to account.

  1. What are we going to do about teachers who can not control their classrooms?

We presently have some super-teachers, people who can take control of a classroom and engage students in real learning.  But, like every organization, we have a staff with a wide range of capabilities, and some are not able to contend with these conditions.  When there are extra helping hands in every classroom, and when parents respond promptly when their children break the rules, most of the classroom disruption fades away, and teachers who are stressed-out in trying to control a classroom presently are better able to manage under those changed conditions.  The focus of discontent at that point is more likely to shift to how well staff relates to a wide range of parents.  Many staff who are good at relating to children are much less able to relate to adults.  Like most changes, this initiative will solve some problems, and create a new set.  Overall, however, it will be a big change for the better for the students.

It should also be noted that while classroom control techniques can help improve the learning climate, that there is no substitute for intensive parent involvement.  Even in well-disciplined schools, there is a sharp drop-off in student achievement beginning in the 4th grade.  Our youngsters do as well as anyone else in the State through the third grade.  The turning point begins at about age 10 or 11.  In most schools, this downturn occurs at the same time that there is a fall-off in parent support.  This is the point at which children become more attuned to what their peers think, than what the teacher thinks.  This is the point at which grownups need to take a more active hand in establishing the learning climate of the school.

It is paradoxical that most talk about small class size is focused upon the K-3 groupings, based upon the fallacious assumption that if a child gets a good start, that it will carry them a long way.  The fact is that humans are social beings; most of our behavior is driven by cues and responses from the people who surround us each day, and not from inspirational role models and the like.  These responses become more acute beginning at age 10.  That’s when we need more and more adult presence in the classrooms, hallways, and lunchroom, and on the play fields.

  1. Why is there so much in this proposal about neglect/abuse?

When you take assertive action to engage all parents into the school, and open closer lines of communications including home visits, those taking that action will without doubt run into obvious cases of child neglect and abuse, which presently go unnoticed.  And schools have a legal duty to report those instances.  The home engagement teams will need to fully understand these issues and what they can do to help improve the home situation for the children at risk.  In most cases, the best medicine for parents who neglect or abuse their children is to become tied into the kinds of helping networks that we propose that each school develop.

  1. Will intensive parent involvement turn every school into one big happy family?

It takes a lot of excellent leadership and guidance (or luck) to create a big happy family.  Not every school will have it, and intensive involvement can easily lead to big time conflicts within the parent body.  Our Resource Coordination Teams will receive special training in problem-solving techniques which effectively reduces conflict.  One big problem of the neighborhood school is that different parents want a different kind of educational experience for their child, and that always leads to conflict.  That’s why we still have choice schools and encourage parents who are not pleased with their neighborhood school to check them out for a better match with their particular expectations.   In the past, the waiting lines at most choice schools have been crowded with parents who wanted a higher achieving school.  As neighborhood schools begin to compete with the best choice schools, this picture will change, and those who apply to choice schools are more likely to be those who actually want a different kind of educational experience than is offered in the neighborhood.  That’s good, because it reduces the level of conflicting expectations at the neighborhood school.

Choice also helps relieve overcrowding in some schools and underuse in others.  Schools with extra space should be encouraged to become schools of choice which actively recruit kindergarten children from overcrowded areas.  We say kindergarten because it is important that children stick with the same school from kindergarten on.  The decision to attend a choice school should generally be made early-on.

  1. Won’t this effort result in pushing more students out of one school into another?

One of our goals is to decrease student and staff turnover and to improve the stability of staff/student/parent bonds and ties.  It must be impressed upon every parent and school staff member that the continuity of ties and bonds at a school are very important.  If a family moves out of the school zone, they should make every reasonable effort to keep their child in their present school.  When a child grows-up in a stable situation, they become more rooted in it.  Not every teacher is an inspirational character in a child’s life, but some are, and children look forward to the day when they can have that special teacher in their homeroom.  For optimum intellectual and social development, it helps to grow-up with the same stable group of peers.  With this fact in mind, a School Discipline Board should think twice and three times before they decide that a student must be transferred elsewhere.  Likewise, if a parent is dissatisfied with their current school and is thinking of going elsewhere, they should be given work credit for going to that school and doing some work there in order to get the feel of it from the inside.  They should not leap before they have taken a long hard look.

  1. Why can’t each school establish its own minimum standard for parent commitment?

We need to establish a firm and concrete expectation of every parent, and this is hard to do when there are a dozen different standards.  The minimum standard proposed is based upon the added number of hearts and hands that it takes to provide an adequate learning climate.  If some schools miss the point and set a lower expectation based upon what the average parent at the school considers a reasonable burden, it first of all will not fulfill`their needs, and second of all would spur some parents to change schools, when that is probably the worst thing that they can do to their child.  Thirdly, it confuses not only the village standard, but makes it harder to schedule employer release time.  Regularly scheduled half-days once a month (every 4 weeks) also gives the best fit for work trade-off for most employers.  There are therefore several reasons why we need the same basic commitment across the district.

  1. What do we propose to do at the high schools?

The biggest problem at our present high schools is their size.  They are too big for every teacher to know every student and for all students to know one another.  Our most successful high schools have 600 to 800 students each, and that is no accident.  The best move that high schools can make is to break-up into several self-contained schools within the school, each with a stable group of students, parents and staff.  Such moves meet with firm resistance under current supervisors’ contracts, especially among department heads.

As the units are downsized, the number of promotional opportunities also shrinks, which defeats a lot of well established staff expectations regarding their career ladder.  It may take intense parent involvement and first-hand pressure to make the critical difference.


First, basically, change the reigning community orientation as to what has gone wrong, why, and what we can still do to fix it without any more dollars. 

Then, strive to get folks all across the City on the same page as to how to really deal with it.  In this City, our churches provide about the only feasible means of embedding this word.    

Whenever there is a broad community problem, you can expect that a swarm of opportunists will scurry like roaches to the situation, with all manner of top-down solutions. 

As Mark Twain (Samuel Clements) was quoted:  For every complex problem, there is an obvious and simple, but also totally wrong solution! 

These days, that problem is seen as a lack of accountability, and the simple solution is yet another top-down model for the “administration” of education. 

For politicians who are eager to respond to serious community concerns, this presents a sterling opportunity to plunder the problem for all manner of political payoffs.   Just as with all previous top-down ideas which have failed make things better, the next top-down panacea will just make things worse.  And foundation directors and newpaper editors are not very much better.  All want to make their “mark” on our society, by coming-up with some magical solution, with the next “big idea”, when none is realistically to be had. 

You only need to go back and think seriously about what you should have learned in Sociology 101 to find your answers.  And these answers are just as complex as the problem.  Unfortunately, this college course is usually taught to Freshmen as a “memorization of definitions” exercise, and almost no one leaves the course with a true understanding of the human condition, its potential, and its limitations.   

To break the issue down into its most basic components, in at least 2/3s of the cases, getting a good education requires a series of caring and constant teachers, a caring and constant parent, a set of caring and constant school-mates, as well as a caring and constant student.   Absent any or all of these components, the average outcomes are bound to be dismal.  There is truly no viable substitute.  There are “exceptional cases”, but statistically, these are true in less than 5% of the total array; they do not significantly change the average outcome.  While the effective education of children is not rocket-science, most concerned people seem to buy-into an array of seemingly rational, but counter-productive approaches. 

MENTORING:  One of the most commonplace “solutions” to this “problem” is to encourage well-meaning folks to volunteer as mentors to students, that is, to become a good-parent substitute.  But, the person who really needs mentoring in these situations, is not the student, but the parent.  The whole scenario of mentoring communicates to deficient parents that the education of their children is not really their obligation, but somehow that of “society”.  Instead of strengthening child/parent bonds, we unintentionally weaken and dissolve them.   But, no one seems to want to correct these “well-meaning” efforts to avoid addressing the missing or deficient parent. We do no one a favor by weakening our expectations of them.  The most of us actually do most of what we do in response to what others expect of us.  We are who we are because of those mutual expectations, and not because we have some innate moral compass.  That’s a proven fact:  Deal with it!   

ADMINISTRATION:  There is a commonplace notion that all you need to do to improve educational outcomes is to have a strong and vigorous administration of the “system”.   There is in fact nothing “magical” about administration, and there is a lot about it which is totally “toxic” to such outcomes.  But, there are scores of candidates for such an “opportunity” to crack the whip, who are ready and willing to take-on that impossible task. 

The one biggest reason that teacher’s unions are adamant and inflexible in their positions, is because teachers, for decades, have been abused and victimized by asshole administrators, by folks who have mainly been promoted into their positions by virtue of a network of whom they know, rather than by a record of what they are able to engender in their staff and students.   Good Principals are extremely rare.  But “top-down” “crackdowns” invariably reward the worst assholes in the system. 

FREQUENT CHANGES IN “ADMINISTRATION”:  Even the most caring and motivated teachers burn-out when they face wave after wave of reform.  It takes an extremely high level of collaboration over a long period of time between the members of a teaching staff for them to become the very best that they can be.  But, when those efforts are gutted every two or three years by a change in the oversight administration, or by a churning of staffing and students, they just quit trying.  If you can not promise at least a five-year duration and stability of any new effort, no one in the classroom will give it any serious attention.  Most teachers are really caring and concerned, but have been made cynical and unresponsive by frequent past waves of “administrative reform”.    

TURNOVER RATES:  The class turnover rate in most Detroit schools runs between 20% and 50% each year.  Even the charter schools have high turn-over rates, because even caring parents have been led to have unrealistic expectations of these schools.  The parents of children in our neighborhood schools which have high turn-over rates are usually especially poor, “unreliable”, and unreachable.    They can’t afford their rents; they are always on the move, and trying to avoid their creditors.  So, the school staff tends to “write them off”, and be glad that they have gone somewhere else.   For an effective education, children need a high level of continuity with the same teachers and the same classmates.  If we are really serious about educating “hard-to-educate” children, we have to zero-in on this situation, and stop this endless churning.  But, this is not so much of an administrative problem, as it is one of parent education and a steadfast willingness to stay put. 

DELETERIOUS CLASS CONFLICT:   We expect our teachers in this State to be college-educated, with at least a bachelors degree, and a State Certificate.   Most folks who qualify on those measures also carry with them  class values and antipathies which repel them for establishing positive personal relationships with the parents of most of their students.   This is truly one of the biggest problems in the education of “our” children.    This social gap is awesome, but no one deals with it “up-front”.  It can be done, but it often means a series of grueling and sometimes even hazardous encounters.  Our systems presently do very little to make these to be positive and mutually rewarding encounters.   

This is not to disparage either middle class nor “underclass” values.  But the bottom-line fact is that “underclass” values are not supportive of economical progress.  In a middle-class setting, you can not insist upon “telling it like you see it”, and expect to excel.  Over the past hundred years, about 70% of Americans have found their way up from those underclass values into the middle class, and that has been a very good thing.  But, this is not at all an easy transition.  I personally grew-up in a squalid and crude situation.  And it was education which mainly got me out of it.  I’ve been there and I’ve survived it.   We need to take some serious efforts to bridge this gap.  

TEACHER TURNOVER:  It helps greatly when teachers stay put in the same school for many, many years.   Students, who also stay put, actually look forward to the day when they have Ms. or Mr. So&So for a teacher.  In our current seniority system, whenever a school is closed, or some other series of  ”bumping” rights are triggered; teachers have a bargained contract right to transfer to some other more seemingly inviting situation at another school.  That can result in a long series of “bumpings” and transitions.   None of this helps sustain the durability that most students need to sustain their bonding with the aims of the school.   If there is one thing that our school systems need, however funded, to act on behalf of their students, it is to reward teachers for staying with the same student body, year-after-year.     

THE BIGGEST LIE:  JUST LEAVE THE TEACHING UP TO US!   Both the Charter Schools and the Public Schools in their advertising for more students chant the same big lie:  Bring your children to us, and leave the teaching to us!   Education is presented as a huge public service, and not as an intensive collaboration in effectively raising one’s children.  The crucial collaborative issue is left intentionally untouched because each of these schools is competing for parent’s business, and none are willing to promise less than the competition.  Why do they do this?  Simply, because they are first of all competing for limited State dollars; actually educating children is totally a secondary concern.   Until all school systems are ready to acknowledge that parent collaboration is crucial to student success, there will be no serious improvement.   

Yes, there are some small differences which can be attributed to teacher training and effectiveness in “classroom management”, but even the highest conceivable level of teacher preparedness can not compensate for a lack of positive parent support.  The current system makes it seem to parents that all they have to do is to be a concerned consumer and an active critic of what the schools have to offer.  When a parent becomes simply a staunch consumer critic of the school system rather than an active collaborator, the relationship and the underlying message to their children becomes totally negative.


Kids who do well in school, and who are well bonded to the mores of our society do not become career criminals.  Fortunately, most juvenile delinquents grow out of their deviance within five years .  Our best bet to curb growing criminal justice costs is to do a better job of making sure our students are doing well in the first place.  While some of this may require more dollars up-front, most of it does not.  So, this argument is best totally ignored, so long as we place our efforts into really improving how we go about educating our children.


For more than the past 30 years, State and local public revenues have been shrinking and shrinking along with the shrinkage of middle-class and lower class earnings.  Most people are no longer willing to pay-out anymore for those public services to which they have become accustomed, including public and higher education.  Higher education has seen much bigger cut-backs than K-12, but almost no one is willing to increase taxes for either purpose.  I voted for Bernie, but only 1 out of 5 voters were with me.  Some folks castigate the Tea Party folks for being behind this, but it is clear to me that more than 75% of voters support the Tea Party on that particular part of their platform.  Why?  Well, just consider how the middle-class, which pays the most of our taxes, has fared for the past 30 years to maintain their former standard of living and spending.  First, the wives nearly all went to work.  Then, they each worked more and more hours each week.  Then, they raided the equity in their homes for a loan, which often had a killer escalator interest rate.  Finally, they are running-up higher and higher credit card and student loan liabilities.  They have come to the end of the economic road.   Anyone who thinks that they would now support higher taxes for education is simply delusional.

BOTTOM LINE:  This means that you and I must place our primary emphasis upon those few things which can be done within what little revenue remains.  And frankly, that takes the guts to do whatever is necessary, and not more revenue.  Obviously, this rules out any role for those venal politicians, whose inaction and grandstanding have left our school systems in their currently pathetic status, to ride-in with another top-down “administrative miracle” to cure all that ails us.

If the array of issues outlined above have not been seriously addressed by our whole communities, any increase in State funding for education will become a total waste and will produce absolutely nothing better.  That is a sad, but inevitable fact, and there is no point in denying it.