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The lawsuits and other tensions between Detroit Public Schools Emergency Financial Manager Robert Bobb, the elected board of education and the Detroit Federation of Teachers — or at least a faction of it — play out in courtrooms and headlines every week.
But supporters of one doomed elementary school pleaded their case in English and Spanish on Tuesday in a basement cafeteria largely outside the limelight. With a crackling microphone, sporadic fans drowning out speakers, no fancy presentations and just a few handouts, the group of about 40 parents and neighborhood residents responded to Bobb's plan to rebuild and reorganize some southwest Detroit schools as part of his recently revealed master facilities plan. As that plan's effects begin to be felt, more such meetings seem likely.
Particularly at issue was the planned closure of 600-student Maybury elementary, which is located on the west side of Clark Park, and the rebuilding of Earhart Middle School into a pre-K-through-8th-grade campus across the park.
"We don't want our babies there with the older kids," one mother said.
"No. 1, keep Maybury open," says Peter Landon, who lives next door to the school. "The message to Robert Bobb is to keep Maybury open. Then we'll sit down and work out [the grade configurations], but that's the No. 1 message we want coming from this meeting."
Robert Muha, who lives nearby and volunteers at Maybury, said the new location is a problem for parents who don't feel comfortable sending their youngsters across the park by themselves. "They want to be able to stay right here," he says.
Just one DPS administrator beyond the school principal was there to listen, but she did say she would urge Bobb to meet with a small, representative group from the neighborhood.
"I do not have the power to decide, but I have the power to sit next to Mr. Bobb and have a deep conversation with him," says Assistant Superintendent Rebeca Luna.
In the first wave of information about the districtwide project, Bobb had proposed tearing down homes in the historic Hubbard Farms neighborhood to make room for the schools, but has backed away from that. District spokesman Steve Wasko says any new buildings will be contained on the district's currently owned land.
At the end of the 90-minute meetings, organizers said they would put together letters and petitions to send to Bobb and would wait to hear from Luna about a possible meeting with the emergency financial manager.
"Parents will fight to keep this school open," says Maria Luna.
News Hits was written by Metro Times staff writer Sandra Svoboda. You can reach her at 313-202-8015 or firstname.lastname@example.org.