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Detroit School Leader Sends Wrong Message, Some Parents Say

 
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03/05/2010 09:56 PM
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Detroit School Leader Sends Wrong Message, Some Parents Say
As if Detroit doesn't have enough problems these days, the president of the city's school board offered the shocking admission that he can't pen a coherent sentence.

Otis Mathis, who oversees the academic future of 90,000 public school students, told the Detroit News that he's a "horrible writer" after reports surfaced that he sent a Feb. 29 e-mail to the financial manager of Detroit Public Schools that was rife with spelling, punctuation and usage errors.

"If you saw Sunday's Free Press that shown Robert Bobb the emergency financial manager for Detroit Public Schools, move Mark Twain to Boynton which have three times the number seats then students and was one of the reason's he gave for closing school to many empty seats," the e-mail read, according to the paper.

Mathis, 56, of Detroit, has had difficulties with language as early as fourth grade, when he was placed in special education classes. His college degree was also held up for more than a decade due to repeatedly failing English proficiency exams required for graduation from Wayne State University, the paper reported.

Some parents are now questioning whether Mathis is fit for his role.

"It's kind of scary to even talk about," Patrick Martin, 49, a Detroit contractor whose 12-year-old son is a student at Noble Middle School, told the paper. "If this is the leader, what does it say about the followers? It explains a lot about why there's so much confusion and infighting with the board and Robert Bobb."

Mathis has also worked as a substitute teacher in Detroit schools, which are ranked among the lowest-achieving metropolitan public school districts in the country. But he told the paper his story is about someone who has managed his limitations.

"Instead of telling them that they can't write and won't be anything, I show that cannot stop you," Mathis told the paper. "If Detroit Public Schools can allow kids to dream, with whatever weakness they have, that's something. ... It's not about what you don't have. It's what you can do."

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