Archives for category: Detroit

Rep. Sherry Gay-Dagnono was previously a science teacher in Detroit Public Schools. She is now a member of the Michigan legislature. Here she addresses the “savage inequalities” that Detroit’s children and teachers suffer daily.

 

Watch her powerful testimony at a state senate committee meeting about the destruction of public education in that city. She points out that Detroit has had four consecutive emergency managers, who have caused the district’s budget to ballon and solved no problems. Detroit is celebrating a renaissance of business and cultural life, yet Governor Snyder–who controls the Detroit public schools–continues to use their students as guinea pigs in his free-market laboratory instead of doing what works: small classes, experienced teachers, a rich curriculum, plenty of arts, social workers, guidance counselors, psychologists, librarians, and school nurses.

 

The Network for Public Education was proud to endorse Rep. Gay-Dagnono as a candidate for office. Her voice in the Michigan legislature is necessary and important.

Eclectablog reports that the Educational Achievement Authority will finally close–but not for 18 months. EAA was Governor Rick Snyder’s experiment on Detroit’s children. Broadie John Covington was hired to run it, and he ran it into the ground.

Detroit schools are under state control and so far the state has failed to improve anything.

Emily Talmadge, who teaches and blogs in Maine, noticed that her blog was being followed by a private investigator firm.

She had written two columns about high-powered consultant Robert Marzano. She received a letter from him, warning that she had slandered him. She said he had never taught; he had, for a few years. She said he had a $6 million contract with the Detroit Public Schools. He denied it. She then obtained a copy of the contract from a reporter in Detroit.

Her point? Why is a district that has no money paying $6 million for professional development?

She writes:

“Across the country, parents and teachers are growing angrier at the disconnect between the real needs of school districts and how funds are being spent. In the case above, the money would have been enough to pay at least 22 teachers for five full years.

“Instead, students in Detroit are now attending classes with 40-50 students, while teachers are wrestling with a development program that many feel is interfering with their ability to teach.”

Kudos to Emily for her investigative work.

The fabulously wealthy DeVos family of Michigan bankrolls vouchers and hates unions. Now they are promoting legislation to punish the teachers of Detroit for their sickout action, which brought national attention to the abysmal physical conditions in the Detroit schools.

This message was distributed by the Michigan Education Association:

“Member Call to Action

“Urgent MEA member activism is needed to stop a package of anti-strike bills that passed the Senate Education Committee today — in even more extreme versions than originally proposed.

“Members are urged to call their state senators and representatives to fight back against this latest attack on school employees and their unions.
The bills were introduced to stifle the voices of Detroit teachers participating in alleged “sick-outs” to call attention to unsafe, unhealthy, and unacceptable conditions in Detroit Public Schools. The provisions would affect school employees statewide.

“Among the more far-reaching provisions in the substitute versions of Senate Bills 713, 714, and 715:

+ Teachers involved in alleged “strike activities” would face fines and loss of their certification.

+ To be considered a strike action, only one school employee must be found to be engaging in the activity.

+ Once a strike is declared, the school’s bargaining unit would be dissolved and prohibited from representing the unit for five years, whether or not it agreed to the strike and regardless of whether the school employee(s) involved in the action belong to the unit.

+ School districts that fail to enforce strike-related sanctions against employees would face a fine of 5 percent of their total state school aid.

“The bills’ sponsor, Sen. Phil Pavlov (R-St. Clair) tried to say in a press conference after the committee vote that the bills have nothing to do with the situation in Detroit. However, it’s clear this is an attempt to muzzle educators and their representatives at the bargaining table.

“The full Senate may vote on the measures this week, so urgent action is needed. Contact your legislators today!”

###

BILL LINKS:

SB713
http://www.legislature.mi.gov/%28S%28amvv05vynhqspffzjidgeuoa%29%29/mileg.aspx?page=BillStatus&objectname=2016-SB-0713

SB714
http://www.legislature.mi.gov/%28S%28fr0hrd2mcwpjvff4zt4ntcbc%29%29/mileg.aspx?page=GetObject&objectname=2016-SB-0714

SB715
http://www.legislature.mi.gov/%28S%28vxp43pe521p1fkxchrqobzjl%29%29/mileg.aspx?page=getObject&objectname=2016-SB-0715

Darnell Earley, emergency manager of Detroit’s public schools resigned
Most recently, he was emergency manager of Flint when the water source was switched from safe to polluted. 

The Detroit Federation of Teachers issued the following statement:

“Detroit Federation of Teachers on Resignation of Detroit Public Schools Emergency Manager Darnell Earley

 

DETROIT—A statement from Ivy Bailey, interim president of the Detroit Federation of Teachers, on Darnell Earley’s decision to step down as emergency manager of the Detroit Public Schools.

“Emergency Manager Darnell Earley has abdicated his role and responsibilities as overseer of the Detroit Public Schools. As emergency manager, Earley has shown a willful and deliberate indifference to our schools’ increasingly unsafe and unhealthy conditions, and a blatant disrespect for the teachers, school employees, parents and students of our city.
“His departure, which the Detroit Federation of Teachers, parents and the community have called for, is a step in the right direction. For nearly seven years, DPS has been controlled by four state-appointed emergency managers. They have created both a fiscal and a moral crisis, running up a $515 million debt, running down the physical conditions of our schools, and forcing educators to bear the brunt of the problems with fewer resources and more benefit cuts.
“Earley’s resignation presents a perfect opportunity for state officials in Lansing to pay off the debt their appointed managers have created and return the Detroit Public Schools to local control. Appointing another emergency manager won’t fix Detroit’s education crisis. Now is the time for DPS to have an elected school board that answers to the people of this great city.”

# # #

The Detroit Federation of Teachers, the AFT, parents, and students filed a lawsuit against Detroit Public Schools and state-appointed Emergency Manager Darnell Earley.

 

Earley was the Emergency Manager in Flint, when the decision was made to change the source of the town’s safe water supply to the polluted water in the Flint a River.

 

“According to the lawsuit, DPS “has not performed its duty to its students, parents, teachers and community to provide a minimally adequate education and to properly maintain the schools.”

 

 

“The lawsuit said DPS and Earley have allowed the condition of some schools to “deteriorate to the point of crisis” and “forced Detroit’s school-age children to spend their young lives in deplorable surroundings risking their health and safety in the process.”

 

 

“The lawsuit also said, “It is not a surprise that due to this, and other reasons, including budget cuts and mismanagement, that DPS is in dead last in academic performance with a majority of its students being left behind the rest of the country.”

 

“Last week, the city of Detroit posted the inspection reports from 11 schools from Jan. 12 to Jan. 17.

 

“Each school inspected was found to have multiple violations. Nine schools had damaged or falling ceiling tiles while five schools had a rodent problem. Four had leaky roofs and three had heating issues….

 

 

“At Carleton Elementary, Teachers posted pictures showing water damage and pieces of tile coming loose and falling off the ceiling,” the complaint states. “One teacher reported the debris striking a student in the head during testing.”

 

“Other examples include pictures of rodent droppings at Dossin and bathroom equipment that doesn’t work at Osborn….”

 

“With the lawsuit, DFT is hoping that the court will remove Earley from his duty as emergency manager and restore local control over DPS. Also, they want the court to force DPS to perform periodic inspections, investigate complaints filed by parents and teachers and fix all code violations found by the city of Detroit.

 

“On top of that, the plaintiffs also want DPS to “develop and institute a capital plan that provides the students of Detroit 21st century schools in which parents would want to send their children and educators would want to teach.”

Chris Savage at Eclectablog has been following the fortunes and misfortunes of the Michigan Education Achievement Authority since its inception in 2011.

 

Savage was thinking of writing a summary of the serial scandals, corruption, incompetence, and educational disaster, but decided the best way to show it was to post a list of the headlines of the stories he has written about the EAA.

 

This was Governor Rick Snyder’s pet program for “saving” the poor children of Detroit from their failing public schools. Instead of helping the public schools, Snyder decided to create this special district, in which all the lowest-performing schools were clustered. There, they would be under the control of a single administrator, selected by the Governor. The first EAA leader was John Covington, a graduate of the unaccredited Broad Superintendents Academy. He swiftly left his job in Kansas City (which lost its accreditation after he departed) to take the higher-paying job in Detroit. He left the EAA under a cloud.

 

This should be a documentary about the failure of corporate reform. Maybe someone who sees Chris Savage’s stories will start thinking of making that documentary. It is a very sad story, because the children of Detroit need a good education, and they are not getting it under Governor Snyder’s rule.

Detroit teacher Shalon Miller wonders why separate and unequal is okay in Michigan in 2016. She describes the horrendous conditions in the schools. How can children learn in such conditions?

 

Miller writes:

 

“Since I have been at Cody, I have taught in horrible conditions. Classrooms have old, drafty windows that are poorly insulated. In some rooms, we have to wear winter coats in class until lunch time. In other rooms, it can be ridiculously hot. Both temperature conditions are extremely distracting to the educational process. It’s hard for kids to concentrate when their hands are freezing or they’re sweating profusely. When it rains, water leaks into the classrooms from the roof. We have had to place buckets under the leaks and pray for dry weather. Unfixed structural damage causes water-soaked tiles to frequently fall from the ceiling of classrooms. The carpet has an ever-present moldy smell.

 

“These conditions are a slap to each and every student, teacher and other school employee. Combined with the other dilapidated school buildings and inferior learning conditions, they are a slap to the entire city of Detroit.”

 

Last year, community partners stepped in to ameliorate the worst of the problems. Yet there is high teach her turnover as teachers leave for suburban schools with greater resources and stability.

 

 

Miller writes:

 

“Sometimes I feel hopeless. I wonder why people who have the power over our schools don’t care about my students. I wonder why my students are left in the worst conditions possible. I wonder why it’s the same problem in urban communities across America. Why is separate and unequal okay in 2016?

 

“Gov. Rick Snyder and the governor-appointed emergency manager for Detroit schools can say they understand our frustration, but simply saying they understand and then throwing their hands up in air isn’t good enough.

 

“I say, enough is enough. It’s not okay to tell 47,000 kids that they’re not important enough to warrant decent educational environments. It’s not okay to have beautiful suburban schools in the state of Michigan and let Detroit schools rot. It’s not okay to ignore the community’s plea for help. It’s not okay to disrespect teachers by refusing to give them a pay raise in over a decade. It’s not okay to take control of Detroit schools and let things go from bad to worse.”

 

Governor Snyder controls the public schools of Detroit. He likes accountability. When will he be held accountable?

 

 

 

Nancy Flanagan is a veteran NBCT teacher in Michigan, now retired an blogging. She shared the following posts about what is happening in Detroit. Let me add that in my view the public school teachers of Detroit are heroes. Despite the vilification heaped on them by politicians and the media, despite being blamed for the poverty of the children and the state’s persistent neglect, they serve. They are first responders. I name them heroes of American education and add them to the blog’s honor roll.

Flanagan writes:
“Here’s some commentary directly from Detroit PS teachers–the situation is much more complex than crumbling buildings and overstuffed classrooms. The entire system has been taken over by an Emergency Manager:
<br />
<br />http://blogs.edweek.org/teachers/teacher_in_a_strange_land/2016/01/teacher_protests_unethical_and_union-led–or_evidence_of_professional_courage.html
<br />
<br />ANd here are more teacher voices–both from those who were protesting via sickout and those who went in to work:
<br />
<br />http://blogs.edweek.org/teachers/teacher_in_a_strange_land/2016/01/whats_going_down_in_detroit_today.html
<br />
<br />What has happened in Detroit is now a template for the rest of the nation–witness the IL governor’s call for an Emergency Manager system there.”

This post was written by Lakia Wilson, a guidance counselor at Spain Elementary School in Detroit.

She describes the horrifying physical conditions in the school, experienced daily by 500 students and the staff.

The predominant smell in the school is mold and mildew.

“The gym is closed because half of the floor is buckled and the other half suffered so much rainwater damage from the dripping ceiling that it became covered with toxic black mold. Instead of professionally addressing the problem, a black tarp simply was placed over the entire area like a Band-Aid. That area of the school has been condemned.

“The once beautiful pool sits empty because no one has come to fix it. The playground is off-limits because a geyser of searing hot steam explodes out of the ground. What do our kids do for exercise with no gym, playground or pool? They walk or run in the halls. Seriously. Our pre-K through eighth graders move like mall walkers.
Exposed wires hang from missing ceiling tiles. Watermarks from leaks abound. Kids either sit in freezing classrooms with their coats on or strip off layers because of stifling heat.”

Blame it on the kids? No. Blame it on the parents? No. Blame it on the teachers? No.

No, this falls into Governor Rick Snyder’s lap. Detroit is under state control.

Governor Snyder, tell your Emergency Manager to fix the schools so they are in tip-top shape. You will be judged by what you do–or fail to do–for the children.

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