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Detroit Students: 'Purr'fect Attendance To Bring A Surprise From Tigers

By Carol Cain 
Senior Producer and Host 
CBS62 "Michigan Matters
Saying students learn best when they are in the classroom, Detroit Public Schools Emergency Manager Roy Roberts announced during taping of "Michigan Matters" that he's teaming with Denise Ilitch to offer an award from the Detroit Tigers for students.

But to qualify-- DPS students must have perfect attendance for the school year.

"We simply need to acknowledge the accomplishments of young people who make it to class every day," said Roberts, who talked about the importance of attending school.

Roberts and Ilitch are keeping specific details of the special award under wraps for now.

Ilitch, daughter of Detroit Tigers owner Mike Ilitch, who appeared on the show with  Roberts and Charlie Beckham, chairman of the Michigan Black Chamber of Commerce, has been a huge champion, along with her family, of DPS.

Besides the Tigers, the Ilitch family owns  the Detroit Red Wings, Little Caesars, Fox Theatre, Motor City Casino and more.

"It's just so important for young people to know that their education matters and being in school every day  makes a difference," said Ilitch, oldest of Mike and Marian's seven children.

Steve Wasko, DPS spokesman, said as of  March 7 that 4,068 students, including 1,326 high school students, had 100-percent attendance for the school year.

Students who wish to qualify would need to have their principal contact the district, Wasko added.

Ilitch is also chairwoman of the University of Michigan regents, co-publisher of Ambassador Magazine, runs a jewelry design business and is busy  mom to three children.

Other issues were also discussed during the show.

Roberts – who was tapped by Republican Gov. Rick Snyder over 10 months ago to come out of a comfy retirement to take over the troubled district -- said changing the culture of the city and region was an issue in his  efforts to reinvent education.

"Culture trumps strategy," said Roberts, a former GM executive who has been involved in revamps of auto plants.

Ilitch agreed, saying even in the world of sports, culture plays a role.

"Years ago, the Red Wings had a losing record and it took us years to turn that mindset around, said Ilitch of the team, which won two Stanley Cup championships.

"It works but you have to be relentless," she added.

Roberts also discussed his action plan for the 2012-2013 school year announced this week where he laid out how he planned to turn the district around and help students improve.

He talked about turning the DPS central office into more of a business that sells services and supplies to schools and also transforming  10 existing high schools into charter schools.

The state's largest school district is still grappling with an $83.9 million deficit, which is down from $327 million before Roberts took over.

Snyder, who signed Roberts to another year on the job, described Roberts as "my hero" at a recent forum in Detroit for the way Roberts is tackling DPS' fiscal issues.

Meanwhile, Beckham, who has worked for every Detroit mayor since Coleman Young, said that the consent decree – which was agreed to last week by Mayor Dave Bing's office, city council and Gov. Rick Snyder to confront the Motor City's financial woes,  has many details  to be ironed out.

"This is just the beginning," Beckham said.  "There's a lot of hard work ahead."

Watch "Michigan Matters" at 11:30 a.m. on CBS62.

Michigan Matters Roy Roberts
Detroit Schools Emergency Manager Roy Roberts visits the "Michigan Matters" set on CBS 62.

(Carol Cain is the  Emmy winning Senior Producer and Host of "Michigan Matters." She writes a column on business and politics in Sunday's Detroit Free Press. She can be reached at or  248-355-7126. )

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