After nearly two years as the state-appointed emergency manager of the Detroit Public Schools, Roy S. Roberts announced that he will step down from the position when his contract expires on May 16.
Roberts, a 74-year-old former executive with the General Motors Corporation, said that there have been notable improvements in the troubled school system, but there's still work to be accomplished.
“I’m really excited about what we have accomplished in the last two years,” Roberts said, in an interview with BET.com.
“We have balanced two budgets – which hasn’t been done in 14 years. We have a staff of committee Detroiters who are committed to turning this thing around,” he added. “And the test scores from kindergarten to eighth grade have improved for every level except the fifth grade.”
Roberts said that being in charge of the school system represented “the most gratifying and most taxing thing I’ve ever done.”
The public schools of Michigan’s largest city have been under state control since 2009. And Roberts was appointed by Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder, a Republican, in 2011.
At that time, the school system had a budget deficit of more than $300 million. Since then, there have been dramatic cuts in teacher and administrative staff with several schools being shut down to reduce the deficit.
Roberts is considered a pioneer for African-Americans in the auto industry. And as he leaves, the deficit has been reduced to $76 million and a number of the school system’s poor performing schools were transferred into a new school system, with a completely different administration.
Since 2009, the school system has lost more than 100,000 students, with many children attending charter schools and private schools in Detroit. Today, there are roughly 53,000 students enrolled in the school system, a number that is expected to decline to 40,000 by 2016, school officials said.
Roberts said he expects the Detroit school system to operate without a deficit within three years.
Gov. Snyder said he is determined to find a highly qualified person to succeed Roberts at the helm of the school system.
“He has been successful in restoring fiscal responsibility, including reducing spending, saving money and balancing budgets," Snyder said. "The plan that Roy and his team have implemented is working and it is making a difference in students' lives. Today, more resources are being directed in the classroom so teachers can focus on teaching. Schools are safer, more parents are involved, attendance is up, test scores are improving across the board, and more seniors are graduating."
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(Photo: Detroit Free Press/MCT /Landov)