Darnell Earley was only a symptom

Darnell Earley Andre Smith Photo
Darnell Earley
Andre Smith Photo

The clock has been ticking for Darnell Earley for awhile now. You’d have to be deaf not to hear anything that loud.
It would have been hard enough for the departing Detroit Public Schools Emergency Manager to survive his very prominent role in the Flint water disaster that he has repeatedly tried to deny despite much evidence to the contrary. And it would have been more than enough baggage for any one troubled administrator to juggle as the Detroit Public Schools, the institution that he was supposed to rescue (despite the combined failure of the three previous emergency managers who preceded him), continued to crash and burn around him.
But to survive both of those scandals? At the same time?
The announcement was made early Tuesday morning. According to a press release quoted in The Detroit Free Press, Gov. Rick Snyder, who appointed Earley to both positions, said the following:
“Darnell has done a very good job under some very difficult circumstances. I want to thank him for his professionalism and his service to the people of Michigan,” Snyder said in a news release. “He restructured a heavily bureaucratic central office, set in place operating and cost-containment measures, and has taken steps to stabilize enrollment. These factors should all set the course for a sustainable, new Detroit Community Schools, as I have proposed.”
And then there was Earley’s press release, which said, in part:
“When I was appointed to this position, Gov. Snyder and I agreed that our goal was for me to be the last emergency manager appointed to DPS. I have completed the comprehensive restructuring necessary to downsizing the central office, and the development of a network structure that empowers the educational leadership of our schools to direct more resources toward classroom instruction. This and other initiatives implemented over the past year were completed ahead of my 18-month schedule…”
If these two statements could be considered a room, then there would be an elephant sitting in the middle of it. A big fat one with huge tusks. But neither the Governor nor Earley seem to notice anything at all out of the ordinary in this room.
Nothing at all to see here, folks. Well, except for maybe the recently (very recently) publicized results of the DPS building inspections that have been conducted, the ones where dead rats, buckling floors, freezing/overheated classrooms, etc. were found in numerous school buildings. One might think that some acknowledgment of this rather massive failure from at least one of these guys might be appropriate at this time. Because now that we know that hundreds of children have been forced to ‘learn’ under conditions like this for years, the restructuring of a “heavily bureaucratic central office” or the “development of a network structure that empowers the educational leadership of our schools” just doesn’t seem like something to cheer about anymore. Especially since the kids and the teachers have been out in the streets protesting, and it’s safe to say they were not protesting to draw attention to how empowered they felt.
And so bragging about these sorts of accomplishments that were achieved at DPS at this particular date makes about as much sense as bragging about how much money was saved in Flint by poisoning the population.
Some things just don’t sound quite right when you say them out loud.
But now that Darnell Earley is departing at the end of this month, Gov. Snyder has said that he plans to appoint a ‘transition leader’ to replace Earley once he is gone. Transition to what, though? Another emergency manager? Because of the tremendous success record left behind by the Big Four who have served in that capacity since EM Numero Uno Robert Bobb began his tenure on March 2, 2009?
Darnell Earley was a symptom. Emergency management was – and is – the problem.


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