The Spirit of Detroit

"Anything you've heard about Detroit was probably written by people who have never even been there."

A resurgence of Detroit pride has spread throughout the city with the Chrysler Super Bowl commercial that appeared featuring Eminem. In a city that has been on the receiving end of insults for far too long, Detroit had a moment in the spotlight.

We know things are tough. We are tired of hearing about it, especially from outsiders who have no vested interest in seeing our city shine again.

However, this pride will be short-lived if we do not continue to make necessary changes.
There is one particular area of concern that needs to be addressed immediately, the Detroit Public Schools system.

In the near future, Robert Bobb, the emergency financial manager of the district, will be leaving his position. As control will shift back to the Detroit school board, there will be one major position to fill. Detroit will need to find itself a superintendent to lead the district out of its tailspin.

The district finds itself with over a $300 million deficit and a mass exodus of students leaving the district. According to The Detroit News, the district has lost over 80,000 students in the last decade alone. Bobb has closed over 60 schools with more slated to close in his latest proposal. He has definitely acted with a sense of urgency.

It will now be the responsibility of the new superintendent to work with the school board in finding innovative ways to continue to lower the deficit while keeping the focus on the academic success of Detroit's children. Some say it is an impossible task and that it will continue to get worse before getting better.

There is hope.

What Robert Bobb did was expose the corruption in the district and cut the excess in the system. No one wants to see schools closed or teachers lose jobs, but with enrollment declining dramatically, it had to be done. Now someone can come in on the foundation laid by Bobb and begin to lead.

Cities like Pittsburgh and Baltimore showcase what a strong superintendent can do for the school system. Mark Roosevelt led Pittsburgh through tough economic times in 2006 and left the district recently in a position once thought unattainable.

Dr. Andres Alonso in Baltimore reversed the four-decade-long trend of declining enrollment with two consecutive years of increased enrollment while also reducing the dropout rate and increasing high school graduation rates.

The Detroit School Board's next move may be its most important decision ever made. The city needs to move forward in order to get back on its feet and begin fighting again. This will only be possible with a superintendent who can motivate the stakeholders to new heights.

Critics may argue that taking this job is career suicide. The Detroit School Board has never been known for its ability to operate efficiently. The enrollment is still dropping and a $300 million plus deficit is overbearing.

All these circumstances though might attract a qualified candidate looking for a challenge. Detroit needs someone who believes that the city can have its greatness restored through the education of its children.

In the song "Lose Yourself" by Eminem, he states: "You only get one shot, do not miss your chance to blow. This opportunity comes once in a lifetime."

The Detroit School Board only gets one shot to choose the right person for the job. More importantly, the students of Detroit only get one shot at an education.

This is a decision we cannot afford to blow.