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DFT, elected board unite to fight EM

Keith Johnson, DFT president / COURTESY PHOTO

By Marcus Wright
The Michigan Citizen

DETROIT — With the first day of school only a week away, many Detroit Public School (DPS) teachers have not received their recall or assignment letters.

DPS Emergency Manager Roy Roberts laid off all teachers with the closing of last school year.

During a Board of Education meeting Aug. 27, Detroit Federation of Teachers President Keith Johnson told board members 800 teachers remain laid off. Johnson had previously informed board members that teachers were told they would have their assignments by June 30.

A new state law prevents the district from using seniority as the criteria for laying off teachers or calling them back to work, he said.

“However, new criteria has not been established,” Johnson told board members. “The district did what I refer to as a ‘drive by observation.’ There was no evaluation. How is an evaluation conducted in three minutes?”

Johnson said the union filed a request for information with the district asking for an explanation of the scoring system in teacher evaluations.

He also said the DFT has filed a class-action lawsuit against DPS to challenge the process the district is using to evaluate and call teachers back.

“I want you all to know I just left a meeting where we’re preparing a lawsuit against the district,” Johnson told board members.

In the past the district has said teachers are called back based on need — or student enrollment.

Johnson says DPS enrollment has declined even further because of the new statewide Educational Achievement Authority (EAA) school district, which absorbed 15 DPS schools.

The newly built schools in the EAA were constructed with a $500,000 DPS bond issue passed in 2010, for which city taxpayers are still solely responsible.

Under Public Act 4, which is suspended until Michigan residents vote it up or down in November, the office of the State Superintendent or the emergency manager of a school district may transfer a school from its district into the EAA.

The EAA is expected to enroll close to 12,000 students in Detroit, mostly from DPS.

The last public report indicated the EAA enrollment would be less than 7,000 students.

Board member Elena Herrada said she has received calls from parents who said they were told they had to send their children to EAA schools.

The board instructed Superintendent John Telford to send letters to parents informing them they were not required to send their children to EAA schools.

Karen Ridgeway, EM-hired superintendent of academics for DPS, who attended the meeting at Telford’s request, said if parents did not want to send their children to EAA schools they can send them to any eligible DPS school of their choice. However, in many areas DPS schools no longer exist. Several have been taken over by the EAA.

Board President LaMar Lemmons challenged Ridgeway’s commitment to DPS.

Ridgeway was unable to answer the board’s questions regarding teachers’ callback status.

“How can you serve both the DPS and EAA?” Lemmons asked Ridgeway. “They are two different districts.”

“I serve the children of the city of Detroit,” Ridgeway responded.

Lemmons contends Roberts and Ridgeway are in conflict of interest.

“They can’t serve two districts competing for the same students,” he said.

In other business, the board confirmed Sherry Gay-Dagnogo as assistant superintendent.

Contact Marcus Wright at marcuswright@michigancitizen.com

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