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EAA gets mixed reviews

By Marcus Wright

Special to the Michigan Citizen

DETROIT — Education Achievement Authority (EAA) administrators say the new district is doing fine. Parents and public education advocates say otherwise.

In the last month, photos emerged of students, congregated in the auditorium at Mumford High Schoo,l because they didn’t have an assigned teacher for their classes. EAA Chief of Staff Tyrone Winfrey characterized the incident as a minor glitch. He said too many students enrolled in particular classes and administrators decided to move teachers and students to the auditorium to accommodate all the students.

“We’re going through a leveling process; matching students to teachers to supplies to rooms,” Winfrey said. “Districts do that at the start of the school year. We (EAA) are an entirely new district and it is a little bit more difficult for us.”

Shashana Shakoor, who retired from Mumford in July, says one of the problems with the EAA is Teach for America (TFA) teachers. According to Shakoor, there are no former Detroit Public Schools (DPS) teachers at Mumford. All of the teachers are from TFA or former charter schools.

“They are uncertified,” Shakoor said. “They have provisional certification with a promise their student loans will be excused if they teach in Detroit.”

Shakoor said high school teachers who were called back to work were sent to elementary or middle schools. They are presently teaching out of their classification.

Barry Sherrell, 14, is a freshman at Southeastern High School of Technology and Law. According to Barry, the EAA school is better than DPS. “Students learn more because they are in school longer,” Barry said. “DPS students are out for more summer months.”

Barry says he is taking algebra, physics, band, ROTC, English Language Arts and civics.

Shanika Thomas also prefers EAA to DPS. Shanika said EAA teachers push students to learn, not just for high school, but for college. “DPS teachers didn’t care. They sent you home if you didn’t have on your uniform,” Shanika said. “EAA gives you a warning so you don’t miss class.”

Winfrey said parents who enroll their children in EAA are generally satisfied. He said teachers and administrators respond immediately to parents who have concerns. “We’re about good customer service,” Winfrey said. “We promised a classroom ratio of 25-1 for elementary/middle school and 30-1 high school. We’re working on that.”

Public School Activist Helen Moore says the EAA is not the answer to failing schools. She said the alternative district is not meant to fix the system but is a corporate takeover of the DPS system.

“Corporations, through their foundations, are running the schools,” Moore said. “Skillman, Broad, Gates are involved and none do anything for nothing.”

Roy Roberts is DPS’s emergency financial manager and EAA’s executive committee chair. Roberts has closed DPS neighborhood schools and sold them to EAA for $1, leaving many neighborhoods without a high school.

Moore said students have to cross traditional neighborhood boundaries to attend high school. “Parents have no choice but to enroll their children in an EAA school,” Moore said. “There is no parental control, no consideration of parents. It’s all about the corporations taking over to help themselves.”

Roberts has repeatedly said EAA is not competing with DPS. However, he uses the analogy of Ford, Chrysler and GM doing a better job because Honda, Hyundai and British Motor Works exist. Also a brochure published by the EAA reads: “A different system, for a better outcome.”

Moore is succinct. “The EAA takes resources from the DPS, not to help our children but to pay the salaries of corporate executives, Roberts, Covington, Ross and Winfrey,” she said.

Juana Torres is a volunteer coach at an EAA Elementary School. She also has frequent conversations with students who attend Southeastern High School of Technology and Law. Torres said enrollment has dropped tremendously at Southeastern. “The students are treated like prisoners,” Torres said. “They aren’t allowed to walk to the bathroom by themselves.”

Torres said the students are outraged because schedules are changed often and there are no supplies. “Teachers keep coming and going, saying they can’t handle the pressure,” Torres said. “Ninety-nine percent of teachers are white, 100 percent of students are Black.”

Torres said students are ordered to shake the hand of the teacher when they enter the classroom. If they don’t, they’re given strikes. Strikes add up to detention.

A parent who wishes to remain anonymous said she is considering taking her child out of the school. She said she does not want to snatch her child out but leave behind other students.

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