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Skillman CEO: Next DPS leader should come from "within the district"

Skillman Foundation

The next superintendent of the Detroit Public Schools should come from the district’s current ranks, according to a non-profit leader who turned the job down.

Tonya Allen leads the Skillman Foundation, which has been deeply involved in Detroit education reform efforts for years.She had been widely considered a front-runner for a leadership post

Allen said Friday that she was offered the job of DPS interim superintendent, but declined.

That’s in part because she thinks that person should come from within the district.

“There are some really amazing leaders there, and I think that we need to give them a shot to lead,” Allen said. “They have literally been shut out of the process.”

Right now, former Detroit bankruptcy judge Steven Rhodes is set to become the district’s fifth emergency manager in not quite seven years, though that’s yet to be officially announced.

Rhodes and Gov. Snyder’s office are in the process of building a “transition team,” as they push for a bankruptcy-style restructuring for the district in the state legislature.

Without some kind of state aid, DPS will likely run out of funds within the next few weeks.

Allen said she is still open to providing “external support” for Rhodes and the transition team.

But after a series of meetings with DPS teachers and administrators, Allen said she decided not to become part of what she calls a “dysfunctional cycle” of emergency management.

“It is critical that educators select their interim leader, and that those closest to children, teachers and parents, are deeply involved in the process,” she said.

Though Allen expressed hope that Lansing will pass legislation that restores local control of DPS, she bemoaned a situation where politicians are steering the district’s future and “staff have literally been stripped of leadership, dignity, and regard.”

“This disrespect has basically been extended to our students, our parents, our educators,” Allen said. “It breaks my heart.” 

Sarah Cwiek joined Michigan Public in October 2009. As our Detroit reporter, she is helping us expand our coverage of the economy, politics, and culture in and around the city of Detroit.
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