Robert Bobb's name was floated around a couple of weeks ago as a candidate for the soon to be vacant position of School Chancellor for the D.C. public school system. Mr. Bobb is currently the Emergency Financial Officer of the Detroit Public School System.
I could see this as a possibility, Robert Bobb becoming D.C.'s School Chancellor, not because he deserves it, but because Eli Broad owes him a favor.
Robert Bobb was the City Manager of Oakland, California until he completed the Broad Superintendent's training in 2005. That led soon after to Bobb becoming president of the school board in Washington, D.C. In 2007 Eli Broad backed a mayoral takeover of D.C. schools which took Robert Bob out of the picture. See: Eli's Experiment.
Under Mayor Fenty and School Chancellor Michelle Rhee's control, the school board was rendered powerless. At that time Robert Bobb moved on to Detroit where he was anointed Emergency Financial Officer of the Detroit Schools System by the governor of Michigan. Eli Broad and others have been paying a portion of his salary ever since.
Early in his tenure is was discovered and publicized that Robert Bobb was receiving additional funds from the Broad and Kellogg Foundations. On Monday, March 8, the Detroit Public School Board unanimously voted to file a lawsuit against the district's emergency financial manager, Robert Bobb, saying that money he receives from a private foundation under his contract is unlawful and represents a conflict of interest.
From a statement by the school board,
"The Broad Foundation, which supports charter schools, has been identified as one of the philanthropic donors, causing controversy among members of the Detroit Public School community."
The school board also contended that Bobb, as Emergency Financial Manager, over stepped his bounds by closing schools and firing principals. The worst of it is that the school board members found out that he was firing the principals after the fact -- by reading it in the newspaper.
Meanwhile, other actions that Bobb has taken have not made people in the communities of Detroit happy. According to an article in the Michigan Citizen, Money Talks, Detroit Silenced,
"... Anger and frustration. That's the mood of hundreds of bloc club officials, Citizen District Council members, volunteer community groups, regular citizens -- many with decades of community service and some just recently organized -- they can't get the ear of the mayor or the city council and they are angry."
This has been due to the corporate money that has been funneled into the city, rendering the citizens of Detroit without much voice in how their schools are managed.
In June of this year, he pink-slipped all of the fine-art teachers and a third of the music teachers. According to Michigan radio,
"Under his proposed academic plan, arts would be deemed extracurricular activities. There would be one citywide chorus, one band, and one dance ensemble, among others, and only students with good grades could participate."
In June of this year he was challenged in the court by some neighborhood groups. According to In These Times,
"State-appointed schools manager Robert Bobb has run up against a legal challenge and neighborhood resistance to his plan to shutter 45 district schools next year. He's stood shoulder-to-shoulder with a foundation-funded plan to "replace, not reform" the public schools by opening 70 new charter schools by 2020 and handing control to Mayor Bing much sooner."
Is this what the citizens of Detroit wanted? Apparently not.
Portions of his testimony can be read in The Daily Censored.
And how did Robert Bobb get this power? He took it. According to Attorney Washington who represented the school board in his closing remarks,
"He seized power in the city of Detroit over all aspects of the schools and he doesn't have the authority to do that. There is a clear legal duty to consult with the board."
And the beat goes on. The schools in Detroit opened this fall, but not as smoothly as planned, under the auspices of Bob Bobb. There are lack of buses for Detroit Public Schools neediest. Special needs of students are unmet, according to one parent. And then there is the overcrowding in the classrooms and not enough teachers.
Can it get any worse? I hope not for the sake of the parents and students in Detroit. And what does it mean for the families of D.C. if Bobb is tapped to bring his brand of questionable management to that school district?
Is Robert Bobb worried about his future? Apparently not. He was on Meet the Press with the outgoing D.C. Schools' Chancellor Michelle Rhee and others as an introduction to the NBC Education Nation extravaganza that followed that week.
And anyway, Eli Broad owes him a favor, remember?
Update, October 21, 2010
On the other hand, Eli Broad might not want to touch Robert Bobb right now. He's getting more toxic by the day.
See: "State Hits Detroit Public Schools for $5M Over Disabled" in The Detroit News.
Update, October 23, 2010
It looks like the Detroit Public School district is ready to cut their losses.