Friday, November 2, 2012

Roy Roberts says he will take his marbles and go home if he doesn't get his way. My response.

I'm sure many of you have been trying to follow what has been going on with all this Emergency Manager mess, and most recently you may have seen the widely publicized letter where Emergency Financial Manager Roy Roberts essentially threatened to take all his marbles and go home if the voters of Michigan don't allow him to remain as absolute and imperial dictator over all Detroit Public Schools. This is an obvious ploy, and many of the statements Mr. Roberts has made are simply not true. 

I do my best to address these distortions in the following communications. Please spread the word to everyone you can about what is really happening here. The lives of our children - and our right to vote for who we want to represent the interests of our children - is at stake. 

Communication to: Governor Rick Snyder

Nov. 1, 2012

from: Dr. John Telford
Superintendent (interim)
Detroit Public Schools

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Governor Snyder, I am in receipt of a lavishly-publicized letter that Detroit Public Schools Emergency Financial Manager Roy Roberts wrote to you in which he implied that by my asking top DPS staff to report to the DPS Board concerning the progress of their respective departments, I was thereby "bullying" them, as he had asserted in an earlier letter to me and to Board President LaMar Lemmons.  I am attaching  my response to that earlier letter (see below)with the intent of demonstrating to you that--far from "bullying" anyone--I was merely and very tactfully requesting these top staff members' presence to carry out their professional duties of reportage to the elected Board, yet Mr. Roberts has blocked their attendance at every turn. 

Throughout the past months, Board President Lemmons and I have been trying very hard to follow Wayne County Judge John Murphy's directive to Mr. Roberts and me to govern DPS jointly and collaboratively until after the Nov. 6 election, but Mr. Roberts has consistently rendered my own earnest efforts in that regard extremely difficult, as my attached letter to him  amply illustrates.  Not only have I been trying to cooperate with him in running the district, but I would also be most happy to continue to do so after Proposal 1 goes down to defeat, at which time I will invite him to be my top Deputy over Finance, in order for the district's students to benefit from his fiscal expertise and experience--and I so advised him in a one-on-one meeting today after I read in today's newspapers that he intends to resign if Prop. 1 goes down.    It is my well-considered belief that in this dire time of long-term state-induced fiscal and curricular crisis, our schoolchildren  desperately continue to need us both.

What follows is my earlier Oct. 19, 2012 response to Roy Roberts

                          DETROIT PUBLIC SCHOOLS
                           Office of the Superintendent

Fisher Building                                            Phone: (313) 873-3292
3011 W. Grand Blvd., 6th Floor                       Cell: (313) 460-8272
Detroit, MI 38202                                            Fax: (313) 873-3284     

Memo to: Mr. Roy S. Roberts, Emergency Financial Manager 

From: Dr. John Telford, Superintendent (interim)

Date: Friday, October 19, 2012

Subject: Response to Your Letter of Oct. 8, 2012

At the direction of the Hon. LaMar Lemmons III, President of the Detroit Board of Education, I am writing this response to your letter to him and to me that was dated Oct. 8, 2012.  Your letter was itself a response to an Oct. 3 memorandum that I had written to three of our top administrators: Chief Operating Officer Mark Schrupp, Chief Information Officer Diane Jones, and Chief Human Resources Officer Vickie Hall. 

As you know, on the day after I wrote the October 3 memo to those three top administrators, I had a severe heart attack and resultant heart operation—so I am just now resuming some of my Superintendent duties, and therefore I am in only very recent possession of your October 8 letter.  In that October 8 letter which you wrote to Mr. Lemmons and me in response to my Oct. 3 memo to the three administrators, you accused me of “admonishing” these three cited administrators in that memo for not attending certain meetings of our Board of Education as directed, and you implied that my memo to them was in fact “warning” them not to “disobey” my directives in the future.  

Actually, I never used the word “warn” or the word “disobey.” 

In your Oct. 8 letter, you further implied that my Oct. 3 memo represented an attempt to “intimidate” these three DPS staff members, and you incorrectly accused me and the Board of being “bullying” and even “threatening.”   I have never been a bully, except in certain instances throughout my life when I bullied arrogant individuals who were themselves bullying others.  I loathe arrogance, I loathe bullying, and I loathe bullies.   You will note that I stated plainly in that Oct. 3 memo to those three administrators that while I was trying to mitigate any discomfort on their part in this unprecedented and unavoidably conflictive situation that involved an unnecessary 1999 state takeover and then a subsequent 2009 state imposition of an emergency manager on an initially well-functioning school district which the state has itself resultantly, misguidedly, and grossly diminished over this decade past, I still expected those three administrators (and I continue to expect them) to follow any reasonable directive from their Superintendent.  My asking them to report on their respective DPS departments to the elected DPS Board was unquestionably an eminently reasonable and most appropriate request. 

You suggest in your Oct. 8 letter to President Lemmons and me that I should report to the Board on top administrators’ behalf and in their place after having garnered information from them at Cabinet meetings, rather than ask them to report on issues within their departments regarding which I’m sure you will agree they are far more definitively conversant.  Frankly, I regard that suggestion as pure effrontery on your part, as well as being ridiculously out-of-place on the face of it.  Allow me to point out that when we finally got you to come and report at a Board meeting, you as Emergency Financial Manager had Mr. William Aldridge deliver the bulk of your report—yet you would deny me as Superintendent a similar resort? 

Let me also point out that if you will re-visit my Oct. 3 memo to those three administrators, you will surely note that far from being overbearing, my memo to them was gently tactful and tempered, rather than being arbitrarily directive and highhanded. 

Your mistaken missive of Oct. 8 calling my October 3 memo into question is an errant misrepresentation of both the letter and the spirit of Judge John Murphy’s Aug. 8 ruling.  That ruling put me in charge of academics and you in charge of finance—with the charge to us that you and I were to administrate the district jointly and collaboratively, remember?

You also mention a “protocol” that Mr. Lemmons and I discussed with Chief of Staff Kevin Smith—but while we discussed it, we never agreed to it.  This is because it was in clear and direct contradiction to the Judge’s ruling. 

In addition, you mention that you have invited me to attend “your” Administrative Cabinet meetings, which incidentally have included all of DPS’ current top administrators—including academic administrators.  Let me remind you again that according to the Judge’s ruling, most of those administrators are supposed to be reporting to you and me jointly, because DPS is a school district—not a storm-door factory.  In the case of the purely academic administrators, I doubt that any objective observer of this entire unfortunate political contretemps would disagree that those administrators therefore should be reporting to me exclusively. 

Given the imminent possibility that the voters will overturn PA 4 on Nov. 6 and I might then have to undertake your former duties administrating DPS immediately, you should have extended this invitation to me on June 15 after the Board first appointed me interim Superintendent-elect.  You should have done that for the good of the district and the well-being of our children, so that I could receive the appropriate briefing from top administrators early-on, and on an ongoing basis.  Instead, you have virtually ignored my presence just about every step of the way, with the full and shameful collusion of most of the politically-biased courts, the board of canvassers, and the state legislature—as well as most of the corporately bought-and-sold major media. 

Further, you have kept key members of our top administration—including those who are charged with disseminating information to DPS staff and community—from carrying out any of my directives.  You also stalled and delayed for many months before finally “allowing” me to attend “your” Cabinet meeting in September for the very first time.  Yesterday, while I was out of the office investigating some irregularities over at Bates Academy (which the very capable principal there has since partially ameliorated), you even had our Inspector General improperly and illegally remove a Detroit educator who had kindly agreed to assist me with some job-related “administrivia” pro bono while I recuperate on the job from my recent heart attack.   Hopefully, for the scant time that remains between now and Nov. 6, you and I can finally work collaboratively together toward a common purpose—that purpose being to provide the children of our Detroit Public Schools with the quality education they so rightly deserve and historically enjoyed. 

Cc: The Hon. LaMar Lemmons, President, the Detroit Board of Education; Mr. Kevin Smith, Esq., Chief of Staff to the Emergency Financial Manager; Dr. Michael Flanagan, Michigan Superintendent of Public Instruction         

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