Teacher Education Faculty at EMU Unanimously Vote “No Confidence” in Board of Regents

EAA_LOGOI don’t know that it’s made the news yet, but, on Friday afternoon, in response to the recent decision by Eastern Michigan University’s Board of Regents to continue their enablement of Governor Snyder’s controversial takeover of Detroit Public Schools, faculty within EMU’s Teacher Education department voted unanimously to condemn the actions of the board, all but one of of whom, it just so happens, are political appointees of the Governor. In addition to the unanimous “no confidence” vote against the Board of Regents, there was also a vote to censure Board Chairman Mike Morris, who just recently told the Ann Arbor News that, if he had to choose between staying the course with the school’s commitment to its interlocal agreement with the Education Achievement Authority, and having a happy faculty, staff and student body, he’d choose to keep the contract with the EAA. Apparently that didn’t sit so well with the staff of the Teacher Education department, who had made it clear to Morris and his fellow Republican appointees that, not only were Detroit students losing ground academically under the EAA, but that it was keeping EMU graduates from finding positions in many Michigan school districts. [It’s well known that school districts around the state are not extending offers to EMU teaching graduates as a way of pushing back against what they see as EMU’s active role in helping Snyder to destroy public education in Michigan and set the groundwork for privatization.]

Morris, for what it’s worth, told the Ann Arbor News that he based his decision to keep the EAA alive, not because he actually had evidence that it was working, but because of what he sees when he looks into the now hopeful eyes of Detroit’s children. “I see the eyes of those kids (in Detroit schools) who are having a chance to be successful and I hear their parents talk about ‘This is different and so much better. I really think my children have a chance to be successful.'”

[If you’re unfamiliar with the EAA, and just why people are so adamantly against it, I’d suggest reading my 2014 interview with EMU Education Associate Professor Steven Camron, which goes into the history of this bold gambit to dismantle public education, and why the Governor needed EMU’s participation in order to make it happen.]

Interestingly, on the same day that the EMU Regents decided to keep their sponsorship of the EAA in place, EAA principal K.C. Wilbur Snapp was indicted as a result of the still ongoing federal corruption probe into Snyder’s program. The following clip is from the Detroit Free Press.

The first time Kenyetta (K.C.) Wilbourn Snapp broke the law, she had been in a new job for less than a week.

It was 2009. She was in her first stint as a principal, and she was to run Denby High School, the city’s worst-performing school that year. The Detroit native was eager to achieve — and eager to please.

“I was the first person to make it in my family, so everybody started coming around,” she said. “My grandmother showed up and Food Services hired her… Then comes my uncle tagging along and, I’m like, ‘Do I have to give him a job?’”

She had no job available, so she asked her football coach to hire her uncle as an assistant. She paid him using funds from a DPS vendor. That vendor paid Snapp $750 every time she gave him the names of 20 students for a tutoring program. She said she doesn’t know whether the program actually existed.

The second time she broke the law, she buried a student’s mother. With school funds.
She knew it was illegal. But after the first few times, stealing became easy. Then it became routine. And Snapp, a beloved high school principal by day, became a savvy, well-connected crook around the clock.

“If you needed money, you could get money,” Snapp, 40, told the Free Press in a series of exclusive interviews.

She accepted my call because I wrote the story six years ago of how she turned Denby around in 2009. She said she wanted to try to explain why she did what she did.

“There’s a network,” she said. “It’s so deep.”

If Kwame Kilpatrick is Detroit’s greatest example of a municipal leader who forfeited a brilliant career to be a player, Snapp may become the poster child for a home-grown educator who squandered her career for money.

Snapp — who was indicted Thursday and recently told the Free Press that she agreed to plead guilty to charges of bribery and tax evasion in exchange for leniency — is at the heart of a federal corruption investigation into the Education Achievement Authority, the state reform district for the lowest-performing schools. The EAA oversees 15 schools in Detroit.

Federal authorities are examining relationships between school officials and vendors who appear to have been paid for work not done or work billed at rates much higher than contracted. Investigators have spent more than a year sifting through thousands of documents that portray a “family business” with employees helping vendors, vendors helping employees and everyone helping themselves…

And, in spite of knowing all of this, EMU’s Board of Regents chose last week to continue their relationship with the EAA… It’s absolutely unconscionable.

Without EMU’s support, Snyder never would have been able to take over Detroit’s public schools, fire experienced teachers, replace them with inexpensive Teach for America students, and set the groundwork for the corrupt, private sector-led system that is now being investigated by the FBI.

As for the departmental “no confidence” vote at EMU, I’m hearing that other departments within the university are planning to follow suit. I’m also hearing that we may see a “no confidence” vote from the Faculty Senate in the very near future. I can’t believe it’s taken this long, but I’m glad to see it’s finally starting to happen. These Regents have turned Eastern Michigan University into a political weapon of the Governor, and, in the process, they have done irreparable harm to the institution. [Is it any wonder that EMU can’t keep a President?]

I know it would take a constitutional amendment to change the current paradigm, and make the Regents of EMU accountable to the people of Michigan at the ballot box, instead of to the Governor who placed them at EMU, but maybe it’s a fight worth having. Clearly we’ve gotten to a point where something has to change.

[Still want more? Check out my recent interview with EMU College of Education Associate Professor Stephen Wellinski.]

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14 Comments

  1. Kat
    Posted December 14, 2015 at 7:41 am | Permalink

    Is there any legal recourse? What does it take to have a regent removed? Is there a legal precedent? Have others been successfully removed from office?

  2. Meta
    Posted December 14, 2015 at 8:19 am | Permalink

    According to an EAA audit made public through a Freedom of Information Act request earlier winter, there is evidence of a “misuse of public funds intended for Detroit students.” In spite of this, the EMU board of regents voted to keep the entity in operation.

    From the Detroit News:

    The state-created Education Achievement Authority suffered from a “consistent lack of controls” in information technology that resulted in poorly maintained budgets, vendors being paid without contracts and a lack of oversight in purchasing, a state audit concluded.

    The 34-page audit, filed by the state on Jan. 10, 2014, is among the documents that EAA officials say led to an FBI investigation into the troubled school system created by Gov. Rick Snyder in 2011 to turn around failing schools in Detroit. The Detroit News obtained the audit through a Freedom of Information Act request.

    “We have concluded that the EAA doesn’t appear to employ a comprehensive departmental budgeting, forecasting and spending tracking methodology,” the audit reads. “For example, until recently EAA finance was unclear as to how and when grant funds needed to be planned and used across EAA departments.”

    “… Our observation found that multiple individuals within each school (are) performing their own purchasing function, and that the schools are not coordinating with each other for maximum potential savings through volume purchasing. We observed no process for standard checking, security checks or strategic sourcing prior to purchase … Additionally, we have seen no information that provides for penalties/deterrents for deviating from the purchasing handbook.”

    No civil or criminal charges have been filed as part of the federal investigation, but The News learned in October that the FBI and Justice Department subpoenaed personnel files and bank records or email account information for more than a dozen current and former EAA officials as part of a wide-ranging corruption investigation.

    The subpoenas are part of an investigation into whether officials at the EAA and Detroit Public Schools received bribes or kickbacks from contractors.

    In a statement Wednesday, EAA spokesman Robert Guttersohn said the audit covered a period when John Covington was chancellor of the state-run recovery district. Covington resigned in June 2014, five months after the audit was filed.

    “The financial irregularities and loose controls noted in the state IT audit occurred under the leadership of a previous chancellor and his management team,” Guttersohn said. “The report led to the internal review of all contracts, which eventually uncovered the misuse of public funds intended for Detroit students.”

    Read more:
    http://www.detroitnews.com/story/news/education/2015/12/02/michigan-audit-faults-eaa-poor-budget-controls/76704438/

  3. Anonymous
    Posted December 14, 2015 at 8:24 am | Permalink

    Can someone tell me why this didn’t happen years ago?

  4. K.
    Posted December 14, 2015 at 11:33 am | Permalink

    Crain’s Detroit Business says people should not be focusing on the EMU regents. (http://www.crainsdetroit.com/article/20151213/BLOG018/312139991/target-other-school-districts-in-state-not-the-eaa):

    “Protesters recently stormed a meeting of Eastern Michigan University’s Board of Regents, demanding that the board sever ties to the Education Achievement Authority for failing to serve its mostly black urban students.

    They were loud, they were angry. And they probably had the wrong target.

    When it comes to failing African-American students, Grand Rapids, Lansing, Muskegon, Saginaw and Ypsilanti schools are all worse — yes, worse — in performance than Detroit Public Schools. Detroit’s worst schools were spun into the EAA. So where are the protests in those cities?

    A report released last week puts Michigan at nearly the bottom in the nation in the academic performance of African-American students. Just 10 percent of Michigan’s African-American students taking the test were hitting proficiency marks in fourth-grade math, 9 percent in fourth-grade reading, 5 percent in eighth-grade math and 9 percent in eighth-grade reading.

    Detroit is the worst big city in the country, but the other Michigan districts are worse yet, according to an analysis by Education Trust-Midwest.”

  5. Camelot
    Posted December 14, 2015 at 3:56 pm | Permalink

    No one gives a fuck about the EAA. The voters don’t care. They care about their local schools, not the ones in Detroit. Maybe if the parents of Detroit drove into Southfield to riot, or went to visit Rick Snyder at his home, things would be different, but the people hurt by this are too beaten down to fight back.

  6. Kira Berman
    Posted December 14, 2015 at 4:31 pm | Permalink

    Well done EMU faculty and nice article Mark! Let’s hope this event makes waves.

  7. EMU
    Posted December 14, 2015 at 7:49 pm | Permalink

    Here’s the letter sent out today explaining the No Confidence vote.

    December 14, 2015
    To the Eastern Michigan University Community:

    At the December 11, 2015 meeting of the Department of Teacher Education at Eastern Michigan University (EMU), the faculty and Department Head passed a unanimous vote of no confidence in the leadership of the EMU Board of Regents. Given the Board of Regents’ gross violation of its own Code of Ethics, the Teacher Education Faculty and Department Head have no confidence in the Board members’ ability to be faithful stewards of Eastern Michigan University.

    On December 5, 2014, in the face of strong calls from students, faculty, staff, community members, and the President of the University to withdraw from the interlocal agreement between the School District for the City of Detroit and Eastern Michigan University that was required to establish the Education Achievement Authority (EAA), the Board of Regents agreed to review the interlocal agreement during its December 2015 meeting. In a December 2014 memorandum, the EMU Board of Regents outlined four criteria to evaluate the EAA; if substantial progress was not made in these four areas, the Board would notify the EAA of its intent to withdraw from the agreement. The Faculty Senate presented the Board of Regents a document evaluating the EAA according to the criteria established in the Board’s 2014 memorandum and found the EAA failed in all four areas and called for the Board of Regents to immediately withdraw from the agreement. In addition, students, staff, faculty, and community members spoke in unison calling for the EMU Board of Regents to immediately withdraw from the interlocal agreement. In response, the Board refused to review the interlocal agreement at its December 8, 2015 meeting. The Board of Regents, in the face of empirical evidence and stakeholder voices, has not adhered to the Code of Ethics pledge each member has taken when appointed to the Board. As such, we, the members of the Department of Teacher Education, no longer have confidence in the Board’s intent and actions to serve the best interest of Eastern Michigan University.

    The Board’s actions of December 8, 2015 violated multiple provisions of the Code of Ethics, which each member of the board signs annually. Below are the following elements and provisions that have been violated as a result of the Board’s actions of December 5, 2014 and December 8, 2015:

    Preamble
    “We will consider the interests of all of its constituents in decision making, including students, administration, faculty, staff and other stakeholders.” By repeatedly ignoring the voices of students, staff, faculty, the University President, alumni, and community members, the Board has failed in its responsibility of considering the interests of all of its constituents in decision-making.

    Article 1, Paragraph 1 (Public Trust)
    “Regents are expected to carry out their governance responsibilities in an honest, ethical and diligent manner.” This provision was violated when the Board did not follow through with its actions outlined in the December 2014 memorandum stating it would send notice of a withdrawal unless substantial progress was made by the EAA in four areas. When the Board was notified of the EAA’s failure in all four areas it changed the EAA discussion from an action to a non-action item on its agenda and would not discuss the agreement with the public on December 8, 2015. The Board has failed in its responsibility to carry out the governance responsibilities in an honest, ethical, and diligent manner.

    Article 1, Paragraph 2 (Welfare of Eastern Michigan University)
    “In carrying out their duties, however, Regents must keep the welfare of the entire University paramount over any parochial interests. Regents should refrain from actions and involvements that might prove embarrassing to the institution.” The EMU-EAA agreement was established at the behest of the Governor’s office, and the Board of Regents did not consult with EMU faculty experts during or after the process. The agreement has generated a great deal of negative and embarrassing articles in the popular press and in the scholarly literature; the agreement also has had a negative impact on EMU students. The Board’s stubborn adherence to the agreement in the face of opposition from all areas within and outside of the University demonstrates the Board has failed in its responsibility to keep the welfare of the entire University paramount over any parochial interests.

    Article 1, Paragraph 3 (Duty of Care).
    “Consistent with their responsibilities as members of the Governing Board, Regents will discharge their duties, including any duties as a member of a committee, in good faith, with the care an ordinarily prudent person in a like position would exercise under similar circumstances, in a manner the Regent reasonably believes is in the best interest of the University, and with the level of decorum appropriate to the office of Regent.” An ordinarily prudent person, in the face of multiple voices explaining the negative impact of the EMU-EAA agreement—including the University President—would NOT have exercised the decision making the Board followed at its December 8, 2015 meeting. The Board has failed to follow the care an ordinarily prudent person would exercise under similar circumstances and failed to serve the best interests of the University.

    Article 1, Paragraph 5 (Due Diligence).
    “Each Regent shall undertake with due diligence a critical analysis of the risks and benefits of any matter coming before the Board for action. Regents shall promote a culture of constructive debate about major information necessary to carry out the Regents’ duty of care to act in the best interest of the University.” As noted above, the Board entered into the agreement without consulting faculty experts on the subject. Subsequently, the Board, on December 8, 2015, failed to consider the analysis presented by the Faculty Senate and the perspectives of many in attendance when it decided to not take action on the EAA agreement; the Board’s lack of response on the issue was antithetical to promoting a culture of constructive debate. The Board of Regents has failed in its duty to critically analyze the risks and benefits of any matter coming before the Board for action with due diligence.

  8. Denise Heberle
    Posted December 15, 2015 at 11:09 am | Permalink

    It’s been astonishing to me that the powers can withstand such concerted pushback – in so many areas.

  9. Mr. X
    Posted December 15, 2015 at 11:11 am | Permalink

    There are no ramifications for them.

  10. Denise Heberle
    Posted December 15, 2015 at 11:12 am | Permalink

    Time to ramify, baby.

  11. Mr. X
    Posted December 15, 2015 at 12:27 pm | Permalink

    Word is that the EMU Faculty Senate will be following the lead of the Teacher Education department and voting “no confidence” against the EMU Regents today at 2:00.

  12. Mr. X
    Posted December 15, 2015 at 12:27 pm | Permalink

    Let the ramifying begin.

  13. Professor Andrew
    Posted December 15, 2015 at 12:54 pm | Permalink

    Bravo. I’m going to urge my department to do the same.

  14. site admin
    Posted January 7, 2016 at 12:32 pm | Permalink

    The Department of Special Education has also voted no confidence.

    Yesterday, Special Education faculty unanimously voted no confidence in the EMU Board of Regents, and to censure Regent Morris, regarding their actions and participation with the EAA.

    D r. P h i l S m i t h
    Professor, Special Education
    Director, Brehm Center for Special Education Scholarship and Research
    Eastern Michigan University, 109 Porter, Ypsilanti, MI 48197

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