Darnell Earley resigned Tuesday as the emergency manager of Detroit Public Schools, effective Feb. 29.
Republican Gov. Rick Snyder brought Earley in a year ago to restructure Detroit’s long-embattled school system, which has debts estimated to be in the $3.5 billion range. To judge by his statement of resignation, Earley is leaving his $225,000-a-year post early not because the work was too daunting—but because he did such a fantastic job that he can now rest on his laurels:
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.
Mission accomplished, really?
Over the past several months, Detroit teachers, who are barred by Michigan law from striking, have staged more and more “sickouts” to protest their frozen wages and the disgusting conditions of their schools, which one teacher detailed in the Washington Post: water damage everywhere, destroyed gyms and playgrounds, “exposed wires … from missing ceiling tiles,” a “dripping ceiling … covered with toxic black mold.” (One school reported that “debris str[uck] a student in the head during testing.”) In some schools, there’s no heating; in others, indoor temperatures reach a suffocating 90 degrees. Oh, and let’s not forget to add rats and roaches to the list of grotesque environmental hazards blighting schools throughout the city.
Last week, the Detroit Federation of Teachers filed a lawsuit demanding that a judge remove Earley as emergency manager of Detroit Public Schools. “We are charging that the DPS and Darnell Earley have let the fiscal situation and the environmental conditions of the schools to deteriorate so severely that Detroit is not providing a minimally sufficient education,” American Federation of Teachers representative Ann Mitchell said at a press conference.
If the Detroit mess weren’t sufficiently dire, Earley is also dogged by Flint, where he was previously emergency manager. While the calamitous decision to leave the Detroit water system predated his tenure, Earley was in charge of Flint when the city made the switch from Lake Huron to the contaminated Flint River for the city’s water source.
The night before his resignation from DPS, Earley declined to testify before a congressional oversight committee on the Flint water crisis. The committee invited him and several other officials; so far, Earley has been the only one to refuse.