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Detroit Public Schools Testimony Opening Statement
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Detroit Public Schools Testimony Opening Statement

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Detroit Public Schools Testimony Opening Statement

Detroit Public Schools Testimony Opening Statement

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  • 1. Kenneth Stephen Burnley Chief Executive Office Detroit Public Schools July 1, 2000 – June 30- 2005 Good morning. I am Kenneth Stephen Burnley; I was CEO of the Detroit Public Schools (DPS) from July 1, 2000 to June 30, 2005. I voluntarily and enthusiastically join you this morning to answer the questions you raised in an article published by the Detroit News on Thursday, Sept. 24, 2009. The article was headlined “DPS Overspent Millions” in real estate deals. The truth is: “We saved the taxpayers of Detroit millions” through real estate transactions that were smart, diligent, effective, efficient, carefully constructed. They required numerous business clearances from attorneys and a series of other professionals prior to my providing business clearance. The millions lost occurred from 1994 to 1999 when the School Board did not begin spending the citizen- approved bond funds. It was much more expensive to do business in 2000 to 2005 dollars in an expanding economy. We estimate conservatively that DPS lost at least $120 million in purchasing power from 1994 to 2000. The opening statements you and your staff just read into the record remain incomplete, inaccurate and misleading. My former staff, Dr. Francis and Mr. Moore, provided you the answers to your questions. I understand you still feel there are discrepancies; I would like to know specifically what you believe those discrepancies are. During my tenure as CEO, I wanted the very best for the students, parents and taxpayers of Detroit. I collectively pursued that outcome with honestly, integrity and urgency. I was an efficient, effective and worthy steward of the taxpayer’s money. I am very proud of the work that my administration accomplished in general, and with the bond program, specifically. I continue to want the very best for Detroit schools today. What happens to the students of Detroit matters because it directly affects their future and the future of this city? It will be the ultimate test of our legacy. What challenges will we leave our children; what will be their quality of life? It is a daunting task when we consider the “savage inequities” suffered by the students of the Detroit Public Schools. I hope when we conclude today, you will agree we share the same goal: to provide the children, parents and taxpayers of the Detroit Public Schools with world class instruction, an administration that embraces honesty and integrity; and a healthy and safe school environment. Personal Background I was born, raised and educated in Detroit; I attended MacDowell Elementary and Mumford High School and I received an excellent education. I have three degrees from the University of Michigan: BS, MA and Ph.D. Detroit Public Schools and the University of Michigan are the two Institutions that prepared me well for life. I am a proud alumnus of both; however, it all began right here in DPS. This is my home, this is my city; I love Detroit.
  • 2. I have had a distinguished career in public education; the following is a brief synopsis: particularly my experience with bond programs: • Served as CEO in DPS from 2000 to 2005; oversaw a $1.56-billion bond program. Built 21 new schools, upgraded $400 million of schools and district buildings and wired and networked in excess of $250 million of schools and district buildings • Served as Superintendent of Schools in Colorado Springs, CO, an urban district of 35,000 students from 1987 to 2000; oversaw, in today’s dollars, a $300-million bond program. Built eight new schools, upgraded many others and wired and network the entire district. We passed the bond program and new millage after both had not been accomplished in 40 years. • Served as Superintendent of Schools in Fairbanks, Alaska from 1981 to 1987; oversaw a $200-million bond program; built eight schools, upgraded all other schools and the city auditorium; and installed technology. We passed an additional bond program of $60 million to add to a $120-million program so as not to cut back or poorly design new school buildings in the wake of a gas pipeline and very hot building boom resulting in rapidly rising prices. • Served as Assistant Superintendent for Curriculum and Instruction in the Waverly Public School District from 1978 to 1981. • Served Ypsilanti Public Schools as Director of the Title VII Program while desegregating the school district 1974 to 1978, principal of the first alternative school in Michigan and assistant principal of Ypsilanti High School; Served as a supervisor, coordinator and teacher. During my career, I was recognized as the 1993 National Superintendent of the Year. I have stayed in every leadership position for an average of eight years. I left on my own terms. I was the seventh superintendent in 11 years in all three positions; my predecessors lasted an average 1.5 years. The 2000-2005 Detroit Public School Story District Conditions July 1 2000 I have a rather astounding story to share about DPS, it includes but is not limited to: Being asked, in fact begged for several months to come home to serve as the CEO of DPS. I thought long and hard about it: The governor had dismissed the elected urban school board for reasons that are well chronicled. For some this meant the perceived loss of the right to vote – a major issue: 1. As soon as I was appointed, a vocal minority of the disenfranchised group approached me and said “We really wanted you to get the job; we were pleased you did. You were the best candidate. However, you know we cannot give you credit for doing anything good or right. If we do, that would send a message the takeover is OK with us --it is not.” A few years prior, the citizens and leaders of Cleveland, Ohio, upset with their school board, developed a five-year plan requiring the removal and replacement of the Board with a CEO. They took it to a vote of the people with the caveat to return in five years to vote an additional five years or return to the former 2
  • 3. structure. It passed; the public rancor Detroit felt, I do not believe occurred in Cleveland. 2. I graduated from Mumford High School in 1960: I came back to interview for the position of CEO of the Detroit Public Schools in 2000, exactly 40 years from the date of my graduation. Here is some of what I found. While not true, it was as if the district had stood still since my graduation 40 years earlier. a. The grass at Murray Wright High School was above my knees, the fences were busted off their mounts, rusted out and lying on the ground. The tennis court grass was growing through the asphalt; the nets were sagging or lying on the ground. The basketball rims were rusted and bent with no nets on them; most of the schools throughout the district looked the same. b. The athletic fields were replete with glass, rocks and bottles; our kids were still trying to play on them. Bleachers were crumbling: One, in fact, at M. L. King High School, was on the verge of collapse; I condemned it immediately. Many schools were dirty, and it would have been worse if not due to an $80-million cleanup effort led in 1999 led by Michael Duggan. c. There were 28,000 backed-up work orders; it took one week to complete a work order. There were no trades vehicles, the trades worked out of their cars. d. The buses were red tagged; the fleet was about to be shut down by the state for violating state safety rules. e. The schools either were not wired, or they were wired with different, incompatible or poor cabling. f. There were fictitious names on the payroll. g. People were milking the system for workers compensation claims. h. There was a need to start and complete over 300 audits. i. Because the payroll system was broken, 1,000 to 2,000 employees were wrapped around the SCB each payday because their checks were non- existent or inaccurate. j. The BHRIS systems were on the verge of collapse, $14 million was invested but poorly, requiring a decision to scrap it and start over, or fix the new People Soft System. k. There was no data warehouse. l. We were a self-insured district but not a single building was insured. m. We were not reserved in areas of normally required accounting practices. n. There were unhoused students on the east side of the district while schools for less than 100 students were open on the west side. o. There were 20 different reading programs in place, a lack of a systemic approach to literacy, the need for professional development, the need for 3
  • 4. quality control and the need to professionally develop faculty, principals’ staff and administrators on how to use data to improve instruction. p. There were 22 whole school reforms models in place. q. There was no plan for software programs to support curriculum and instruction, the mission of the district. r. Countless roofs, boilers, parking lots, swimming pools, windows, doors, playscapes, were in complete disrepair or not functioning. s. Power upgrades were needed to prevent constant power outages and prepare buildings for new equipment. t. Lunches were cold; the district worked from old central kitchens, there were no warming ovens in the schools. u. Shockingly, here was no strategic plan and no plan for bond program expenditures. v. There was a pool of money ($103 million) called a fund balance; however, when we reserved properly, the free fund balance was less than $22 million. w. There was a need to substantially reduce the number of faculty and staff. x. Charter School organizations were salivating to take Detroit Public School students, even though research indicated that charters as a whole do not perform as well as public schools; y. DPS was under a federal asbestos removal lawsuit z. Audit reports and budget documents were substandard. We summarized the above findings and more in a 100-day report; the report was presented to our Advisory Board and the House and Senate Education Committees. During our tenure, we addressed the issues listed above and many others by the appropriate use of capital and operating funds. It was clear, however, there would be plenty of challenges for the next administration. Bond Program Role My role in the bond program oversight was as follows: 1. Chaired numerous meetings of the of the Program Management Team 2. Chaired meetings between the PMT and DPS Divisions 3. Participated in meetings of the Community, Civic and Corporate Committee 4. Hired experienced, talented and ethical people to oversee the bond program 5. Required lively discussions between all the advisory experts; legal, procurement, PMT, District Leadership, Bond Council, Executive Director Bond program 6. Sought constant due diligence 7. Sought recommendations with alternatives 4
  • 5. 8. Required business clearances and recommendations from PMT, Procurement, Legal, the Executive Director of the bond program and the deputy CEO prior to my signing final business clearance to start contract development 9. Relied, in the final analysis, on the advice of bond program leaders. Capital Improvement Program Accomplishments Building Facilities to Improve Student Achievement School facilities affect learning. Spatial configurations, equipment, noise, heat, cold, light and air quality bear on students’ and teachers’ ability to perform. In 2000, Detroit Public Schools had 270 facilities with an average age of 62, (20 years older than the national average). More significant than the age of the facilities was the physical improvement needs resulting from the lack of regular maintenance. In addition, many of the schools didn’t conform to modern educational needs in the areas of technology, classroom size, science and art rooms or computer labs. In 1994, the citizens of Detroit recognized the critical need to address the challenges of improving the district’s facilities and approved a $1.5 billion bond to fund a capital improvement program, (CIP). New Leadership Following six years of slower-than-desired progress, the capital improvement program was reshaped under my leadership. The primary goal set forth in 2000 was to improve student achievement. To support that goal, a new team of professionals managing the CIP began aggressively designing and building new facilities where demographics demonstrated need and by making sweeping district-wide upgrades to address critical facility needs. New Construction This aggressive approach has resulted in over 1.5 million square feet of new school space being built and district-wide improvements benefiting most DPS students and staff. Under the Capital Improvement Program new facilities opened across the District including: • Eight (8) new elementary schools • Six (6) elementary/middle schools received major freestanding additions • Two (2) new middle schools • Three new (3) citywide high schools • Two (2) historic high schools are being completely remodeled CIP District-Wide Improvements District-wide improvements were prioritized to address the most critical deficiencies in existing facilities. 5
  • 6. The number of schools and planned improvements included the following: • Information technology (wiring and computers/equipment) 128 • Fire alarm and security systems 81 • Energy efficient steam boilers and/or burners 23 • Roofing Projects 103 • Exterior door projects 77 • Window replacements 82 • Power upgrades 152 • Bathroom upgrades 31 • Kitchen upgrades 118 • Swimming pool upgrades 8 • Exterior bleachers 2 • Playgrounds or Playscapes 67 • Athletic fields 19 Non-Instructional Improvements Maintenance Consolidations The overall goal of non-instructional facility improvements was to make district business operations more efficient and effective. A major project was the conversion of the old Thorn Apple Valley processing plant and warehouse into the Site Maintenance Service Center. The existing operations that were centralized and consolidated into the Thorn Apple site were the Central Warehouse Distribution Hub, Food Services, Environmental Health and Safety Division, Information Technology, and Audio Visual, Printing and Transportation Services. Maintenance Hubs were created on the east and west sides of Detroit. The consolidation made the district more streamlined and responsive to area schools. Maintenance facilities include: • Thorn Apple Central Maintenance Hub $25.9 million • Westside Maintenance Hub $ 3.3 million • Eastside Maintenance Hub $ 4.3 million School Center Building Relocation Another major project was the district headquarters relocation. The district sold the Schools Center Building (SCB) on Woodward and moved its offices to the New Center Area, buying and leasing space in the Fisher, New Center One, Albert Khan and the Lothrop Landing buildings. The annual operating budget for the SCB was an estimated $3.5 to $4 million and its renovation would cost an estimated $11 million. The building had extensive code violations and limited parking and costs associated with security, utilities and cleaning. 6
  • 7. The benefits of the move to the New Center area include: • The creation of the Detroit Public Welcome Center, a meeting and resource center for parents on the first floor of the New Center One building • The $37 million in construction, renovation and moving costs were financed with Capital Improvement Program dollars, not general operating dollars. • The $9.2 million sale of the SCB helped the District close a budget shortfall for 2002-2003 • The SCB had 25 parking spaces; my administration negotiated 100 parking spot from Wayne State; the New Center complex provided 700 parking spots in perpetuity. • The District saved more than $3.5 to $4 million of operating expenses annually in perpetuity (net). Industry Education Opportunities for Students The CIP provided tremendous real work experiences for DPS students through the creation of the Workforce and Career Development (WACE) program. WACE was a comprehensive program designed to introduce students to the array of professions and trades in the construction industry. At the close of the 2003 school year, the program had nearly 100 students working for 22 different companies. There were ten academic majors represented by these students including Architecture; Business; Computer Aided Design (CAD); Carpentry; Civil Engineering; Electricity Construction; Electronics; Heating, Ventilation, and Air Conditioning; Painting and Decorating; Plumbing; and Pipefitting. The students matriculated into the program from 16 different Detroit public “home” high schools, one career and technical center and 3 universities. For two consecutive years, the WACE program was recognized with the GARDE award by the Great Lakes Construction Alliance for outstanding accomplishment as a pre-apprenticeship program and for a 30 percent level of female participation in the program. Economic Impact of the Capital Improvement Program Under my leadership, the CIP provided opportunities for minority and Detroit based businesses to participate in the design and building of the district’s facilities. The CIP processed nearly $20 million in payments on a monthly basis. Since 2001, nearly all of the $1.5 billion was spent, $1,263,675,266. Certified Minority Owned Businesses (MBE) received 44 percent of those dollars. Detroit Based Businesses (DBBE) received 70 percent of those dollars. In essence, the CIP resulted in schools being built by minority and Detroit businesses for Detroit students. 7
  • 8. Continuing the Momentum The $1.5 billion CIP was projected to conclude in 2006. This capital improvement program resulted in more new construction and renovations than any other program in the history of the Detroit Public Schools. When these funds are depleted, a substantial amount of work will remain outstanding to bring all facilities up to standard. As national studies have proven, the condition of school facilities does affect academic outcome. While it takes time to conduct empirical studies, interviews with Detroit educators, parents and students located in the newly constructed, equipped and renovated facilities provided testimony that strongly supports the position that the current Detroit Public Schools Capital Improvement Program built facilities to improve academic outcome for the families in the district. Capital Planning In my other two superintendent positions, I not only had a written plan but a detailed written assessment of every building. We accomplished the same planning and building assessments here in DPS. We blended outside personnel with many outstanding district personnel and built a wonderful program management team. Then we found and hired the right person as executive director to oversee the program, Dr. Robert Francis. He had a wealth of experience and background, is of high integrity and loves cities. He is now the Vice President for Facilities for Drexel University in Philadelphia; just as he lives in Philadelphia, he lived in downtown Detroit. Dr. Francis is a wonderfully talented man. He works to save resources and create opportunities for students like the apprenticeship programs for students in the bond program. Robert Moore was my deputy CEO a DPS; he is now deputy superintendent of Oakland Schools (County). He worked with me for eight years in Colorado Springs on the highly successful bond program. He knows how to run bond programs and get the best results for the students and taxpayers. He is a highly ethical military man having graduated from the Coast Guard Academy and served as a Coast Guard Commander. In 1996 we started a comparable bond program in Colorado Springs: By 2000, four years later, we completed the program and closed the books. DPS passed the bond in 1994; by 2000 they had nothing to show the taxpayers. Public Relations Regarding getting our messages out, we engaged the best PR firms to communicate information to people the way they liked to receive messages. Some of our internal efforts included internal public relations campaigns, newsletters, knocking on doors, going to the churches, working with all groups, appearing on radio, television, quarterly editorial board meetings each at least four times per year at our own invitation and many other times to address media issues. We used our own radio station; we worked closely with parents, ministers, NAACP, Urban League, the Chamber, and Detroit Renaissance, PTAs, Hispanic, Hmong, 8
  • 9. Chaldean, Arab and Bangladeshi groups. We held parent seminars in the Welcome Center complete with homework support and dinner. It was challenging to get our positive messages through the noise of the anger and chaos caused by those opposed to the takeover. As we know, the media does not do stories on planes that land safely – likewise, many of our good stories went uncovered despite our aggressive efforts to promote them. Thank you for the opportunity to provide my opening statement; I will now address your questions. Kenneth Stephen Burnley 9