As former president of the now-defunct D.C. Board of Education--and its reincarnated version, the D.C. State Board of Education--Robert Bobb has first-hand knowledge of life inside a struggling urban school district.
Rather than move on, Bobb has elected to go back, accepting an appointment from Michigan Gov. Jennifer Granholm Monday as financial "czar" of the Detroit Public School system. The 60,000-student district, which faces a $100 million deficit, was declared to be in a state of fiscal emergency last month. The one-year appointment, which begins in about three weeks, gives Bobb complete financial authority.
"It's a very challenging position," Bobb said Monday. "The school system has been unable to get its financial books in order. It's also the kind of assignment I like. It has a beginning date and an ending date."
Bobb faces a school system in serious straits. One school caused a furor last month by making a public appeal for toilet paper. Superintendent Connie Calloway was fired by the school board last month after 18 months on the job, and a permanent successor has yet to be named.
Bobb, who also served as city administrator under Mayor Anthony Williams, has sometimes been mentioned as a prospect for elected office here. He said he intends to remain based in D.C. and is by no means finished with politics or policymaking here.
"Not at all," he said.