Kenneth Stephen Burnley, Ph.D.
Friday, December 11, 2009
Mr. Bobb thank you for providing time for me to set the record straight regarding
real state transactions, during my administration, about which you have raised questions.
As I have pointed out, the approach we took saved the taxpayers of Detroit millions. You
certainly have the right to ask questions about matters which are not clear to you.
However, performing an audit and not engaging the entity being audited to request
answers to your questions, documentation and rationale, prior to placing your audit in the
newspaper is irregular, rushing to judgment or has some other ulterior motive behind it.
It comes across as guilty until proven innocent.
We conducted hundreds of audits then met with the entity being audited and
sought answers to our questions, documentation and rationale. We provided substantial
time for this process (30-45 days), prior to releasing the audits to the newspaper. The
results were varied; at times answers to our questions, documentation or rationale cleared
the matter up. At other times consequences resulted.
Lack of Leadership Continuity since June 30, 2005
I was CEO four 4 years; the Board ask to me remain 5 years; the take over
legislation lacked transition features should the vote return the district to the board. My
intent was never to go beyond the fifth; this was a family agreement. Since I left the
district June 30, 2005, 41/2 years ago, there have been 4 superintendents and 1 financial
manager. The lack of leadership continuity has contributed to rapid demise and
destruction of some of the great work we accomplished. An indicator is the results
published Tuesday, December 8 on the national test the TUDA. Detroit is in the midst of
two regimes of leaderships. This to seldom works
Since I left DPS the following major successes have been unimaginably eliminated or
discontinued here are four examples;
1. The McGraw Hill Open Court Reading Program – This highly successful program
which produced record “closing the achievement gap” gain scores on the 4th grade
MEAP of 22 points the first year; 9 points the second year; and 7 points the third
year. The program included: five days of professional development for teachers,
substitute teachers, principals, central office leadership including me; systemic
approach (district wide); a pacing guide; quality control (hundreds of hours more
of training for select master teachers who went throughout the district ensuring
quality, fidelity and providing assistance to classroom teachers); training in how
to use data to improve instruction; national Open Court staff moved to Detroit to
direct implementation; on time delivery of tractor trailer semi truck loads of books
and materials delivered directly to the schools. The President of the Detroit
Federation of Teachers said, “This is the best work we have done in the Detroit
Public Schools in 50 years”
2. The Algebraic Thinking Program – This program is for struggling middle school
students in mathematics; it is designed to help them pass algebra by the 9 grade.
DPS students who were in the program for three years quadrupled the state gain
on the MEAP; thus closing the mathematics achievement gap. The program came
with a full time coach for every ten schools; five days of professional
development up front and on going PD through out the year and more.
3. Deficit elimination plan – The plan utilized the state mechanism to assist in
addressing a projected deficit. The reason for the projected deficit was well
chronicled; as predicted by our administration spreading rapidly. The point is the
plan was worked out between the state superintendent’s office and the treasurer’s
office. It was left for the incoming board; we paid the first two year of the bond
repayment plan to give the board time to address issues. The plan was thrown in
the waste basket with the statement “I had nothing to do with this”. The plan
required the closing of 20 schools per year to stay ahead of the projected decline
in student enrollment and further deficits. We warmed this would happen to
Detroit and many other districts in the future. Today 41 Michigan districts are in
deficit with more to come. Our administration closed 71 schools and built 21 were
they were need for a net closing of 51 schools.
Compared to the per student dollars receive by surrounding metro Detroit
districts, if DPS received the average of surrounding districts, we would have had
$132 million dollars more to spent per year.
4. Detroit School of the Arts – We designed and built into the Detroit School of the
Arts two state of the art television studios and a radio studio. We negotiated with
Detroit Public Television‘s engineers to run the studios; we did not think our
engineers had the skills sets. Detroit students would have had state of the art
experiences and training that would have prepared them for college or the world
of work. The contract was eliminated; I understand the studios and equipment
“The Urban Superintendent” – Messiah or Scapegoat by Hugh Scott
Hugh Scott is prophetic in his book describing the realities of the Urban
Superintendent. There is only one Messiah; therefore, if an urban superintendent stays
long enough, attempts will be made to make them the scapegoat. This is exactly what the
revisionist historians are attempting to do with our work. Instead DPS would have been
much better off having built on our successes. Instead we drive more residents and their
children out of Detroit as they listen to all that is wrong instead of much that is right.
“Savage Inequities” – By Jonathan Kozol
In America, some but not enough say, we care about urban students; our behavior
contradicts. There is nothing wrong with urban students that nurture, resources and a true
commitment can not correct. Kozol pointed this out years ago; our progress since has
been minimal, compared to what an all out commitment could have produced.
Our Administration’s Efforts made Our Predecessors Job’s Easier
Mr. Bobb your job is easier because the state learned that the take over structure
under which we worked caused too much consternation. You do not have to attend board
meetings that are out of control. The initial Reform Board removed disorderly people
and prosecuted them. The Reform Board under the next mayor allowed the meetings to
become disorderly again to the point of the inability to meet, the board being rushed from
the stage and escorted out to the building. Currently you are only the Emergency
Financial Manger however, with out a board or a mayor to report to you would be the
sole recipient all anger. We accomplished so in DPS that the Detroit News Editorial
Board said, “Dr. Burnley you have accomplished so much in such a short period of time
it is amazing.
How much of this do you think you would have accomplished under the former board?
We eliminated 4400 positions closed 71 schools, reduced the salaries and benefits of
administrators. For these and many other tough decisions we made, the back windows of
my home received pellet gun holes, my car were damaged, my home address was
published on radio, protest marches occurred around my house. These are just a few
issues I hope you never have to experience.
As The You Move Forward
Mr. Bobb I do not have to tell you your task is daunting. However, there remains
wonderful, talented and well trained teachers, staff and administrators to help you. The
metro districts know this; they always recruited our best employees and took as many of
our students as they could to address their resource problems.
The minority population of Detroit: Hispanic, Arab, Chaldean, Hmong, Bangladeshi and
others deserve to be treated better than we were as African Americans growing up in
Detroit. We started a Diversity Office with great success.
The mission of the district is what happens behind the blue door. I wish you the greatest
success for the benefit of the students, parents and taxpayers of DPS.