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Citing "great progress," East Detroit schools CEO steps down after 9 months

East Detroit school and community officials blasted Jensen's appointment in June. They eventually settled on a power-sharing arrangment that limited Jensen's authority.
Kate Wells
Michigan Radio
East Detroit school and community officials blasted Jensen's appointment in June. They eventually settled on a power-sharing arrangement that limited Jensen's authority.

An experimental and contentious turnaround effort in the East Detroit Public Schools is coming to an end, as state-appointed CEO Gary Jensen announced Monday he will step down early next month.

The state school reform office appointed Jensen, a former Michigan Principal of the Year, as CEO of four low-performing East Detroit schools last June. The school system is located in Eastpointe, a small suburb just north of Detroit.

He was supposed to have broad powers to make sweeping changes to boost academic performance.

But things didn't go exactly as planned, as the school district and the community fought the appointment in court. The two sides eventually settled on a power-sharing agreement giving Jensen limited authority.

Now, Jensen has announced he’s stepping down from the job April 7th, after only nine months on the job.

In a written statement from the School Reform Office, Jensen said he “was able to witness the work that had begun to take place at EDPS to improve the overall academic achievement and performance of the schools involved.” He expressed confidence that the district’s efforts would yield results “in the near future.”

School Reform Officer Natasha Baker credited Jensen and Superintendent Ryan McLeod for a collaborative effort. “EDPS has made great progress, after a steady decline in academic achievement for almost a decade," Baker said.

During Jensen’s tenure, the SSRO released three EDPS elementary schools from the state’s priority schools list for the lowest-performing schools. The district’s Kelly Middle School remains on the list.

Kelly was one of 38 Michigan schools facing potential closure for chronic low test scores this year, before the SSRO backed off that threat. The Michigan Department of Education is now working with priority school districts on potential “partnership models” for school turnaround.

SSRO spokesman Chris De Witt said Jensen made the decision to end his contract. He says it’s possible the state could use the CEO model in future turnaround efforts, but that’s “not anticipated” at this point.

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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