On Monday of this week, Gov. Rick Snyder formally appointed bankruptcy judge Steven Rhodes to be the fifth Emergency Manager for Detroit Public Schools (DPS). DPS got their first Emergency Manager (they were called Emergency Financial Managers back then) in 2009 when Robert Bobb was appointed by former governor Jennifer Granholm. The year before Bobb took over, DPS had a $139.7 million deficit. Today, with four Emergency Managers having come and gone, the district has a $515 million deficit and will be out of money in the next couple of months. In the 17 years in between, DPS has seen no improvement in the education outcomes of its students and the education infrastructure is in far worse shape now than ever before. Tragically so.
While Judge Rhodes has his critics, he was, in my opinion, a good actor in helping Detroit when he oversaw its bankruptcy proceedings. As a bankruptcy judge, he did his job and he did it reasonably fairly.
However, other than teaching law, Judge Rhodes has no experience in education. Here’s a brief overview of his career:
- U.S. bankruptcy judge, Eastern District of Michigan-Detroit, appointed 1985, reappointed 1999 and 2013; retired and on recall status for 2014.
- Chief judge, U.S. Bankruptcy Court, Eastern District of Michigan, 2002-09.
- Bankruptcy Appellate Panel of the Sixth Circuit, 1997-2004 and 2008-11.
- Chief Judge of the Bankruptcy Appellate Panel, 2002-04.
- Adjunct professor, University of Michigan Law School, teaching bankruptcy law, 1992-2003; 2013.
- Education: University of Michigan Law School, 1972; bachelor of science, mechanical engineering, Purdue University, 1970.
Since retiring, in addition to overseeing the Detroit bankruptcy case, Judge Rhodes has also been an advisor for Puerto Rico as they deal with monumental debt.
As I said, nothing in his past qualifies him to run any school district, much less one with the institutional challenges facing DPS.
Gov. Snyder assures us that Judge Rhodes is a “transitional manager” and will be the last DPS Emergency Manager. Given the track record of Emergency Management in Detroit, I will believe that when I see it.
[Photo/graphic by Anne C. Savage, special to Eclectablog]