Meet Darnell Earley, DPS' new emergency manager

darnell_early_optDarnell Earley calmly answered the media’s tough questions at a recent press conference held at the city’s Burton International Academy to introduce him as Detroit Public Schools’ (DPS) new emergency manager (EM).
While the rapid questions about his plans to rescue DPS from its nearly $170 million deficit, and his ideas on how to improve educational opportunities for students and teachers were non-stop, Earley appeared well prepared for not only the barrage of questions, but the tough road ahead as DPS’ new EM, the fourth since 2009. He replaces outgoing EM Jack Martin.
Earley takes over as EM after serving as the city of Flint’s EM since September 2013. Flint is expected to transition back to local control in April, 2015. He also served as Flint’s city administrator from 2001 to 2004, where he successfully developed and implemented three fiscal-year city budgets, all of which represented a reduction of more than $19 million as part of an overall retrenchment management plan.
Additionally, Earley has served as Saginaw’s city manager and chief administrative officer. He is credited with reorganizing the city’s financial management structure and redeveloping the budget process to implement a performance-based focus.
Over the last 35-plus years, Earley has held many other high-profile professional positions, including deputy county controller for administrative services and budget (Ingham County, Michigan); director of research and public policy staff (Michigan House of Representatives); township manager (Buena Vista Charter Township, Michigan); administrative assistant to the county administrator/EEO (Muskegon, Michigan) and director of community development (Urban League in Muskegon).
Additionally, he was an adjunct faculty member at Grand Valley State University for 12 years, where he taught such undergraduate and graduate courses as public budgeting, financial administration, workplace diversity and human service organization development. He is also the past president of the International City/County Management Association (ICMA), which has almost 10,000 members in 31 countries across the globe.
“Darnell brings to our international organization the right combination of strong leadership skills,” said Robert J. O’Neill, Jr., ICMA executive director at the time of Earley’s presidency. “He is strongly committed to demonstrating the value of professional management.”
A native of Muskegon, Earley, after graduating from Muskegon Heights High School, went on to earn a bachelor’s degree from Grand Valley State University and a master’s degree in public administration from Western Michigan University. He has always been a strong advocate for quality education and feels that DPS’ students are extremely important to the future of Detroit.
“I’m convinced that the final draft of the story of Detroit’s rebirth won’t be completed until the chapter on Detroit Public Schools be rewritten,’ said Earley, who is also an ordained Baptist deacon. “That revision is some six years in the drafting, with at least another 18 months of editing yet to be done. So education must and will be the focal point of all of our efforts. It must be a cornerstone of a strong, revitalized Detroit.
“We will be looking for innovative and bold initiatives that offer positive outcomes throughout the DPS organization, academically and organizationally. It’s going to take all of us pulling together to move that needle to financial solvency, educational competitiveness and community sustainability.”
He continued, “It takes a team to manage a city, a school district, a business, a church, because one person cannot do it by him or herself. However, every team must have a leader who has the capacity to get things done in the face of what many deem insurmountable odds. Every team must also have a vision that will make a place much better than when the team got there.
“That’s my goal to leave Detroit Public Schools in much better shape than it was when I got here. I ask your help, and I solicit your prayers as we move forward to the next phase of DPS.”
“Darnell Earley has a legacy of success in dealing with municipal challenges in the state of Michigan,” said Gov. Rick Snyder. “He has done outstanding work in Flint, Saginaw and wherever he has gone. We now have the opportunity for Darnell to come join us here at DPS and bring his special expertise and skillset. He has my full support and backing to make sure that we follow through to help our kids in DPS be more successful.”


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