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As Detroit Summer Schools Close Due to Lack of Air Conditioning, Officials Focus on Pursuing Teachers Responsible for Sick-Outs

As Detroit Summer Schools Close Due to Lack of Air Conditioning, Officials Focus on Pursuing Teachers Responsible for Sick-Outs

About 50 buildings in Detroit Public Schools do not have air conditioning this summer, meaning that many have been forced to dismiss students early as summer temperatures rise.

But instead of focusing on how to better these summer school students’ education, Detroit officials are busy pursuing two teachers they are holding responsible for the rash of teacher sick-outs that closed most of the district’s schools last year.

Ironically, the teachers used the sick-outs to protest poor working conditions, like buildings in disrepair and the threat of not being paid earned salary over summer months.

The Detroit News has obtained records that indicate Detroit officials have spent upward of $285,000 in legal fees during their legal pursuit of former Detroit Federation of Teachers president Steve Conn and East English Village Academy High School teacher Nicole Conaway for their roles in organizing the sick-outs.

According to The Detroit News, DPS officials opted to go outside of the in-house lawyers available to them, instead paying a premium to ensure legal persecution of Conn and Conaway.

Given DPS’ continual financial woes, many are speaking out against the news.

“The district could hire at least five teachers with benefits and reduce class size,” said disputed school board president LaMar Lemmons to The Detroit News.

“I don’t like to see students out of the classroom, but some teachers may have coordinated their sick days in an effort to bring attention to deplorable conditions, and that is in keeping with historical civil nonviolent disobedience.”

“They’re broke when they need to help kids, but they’re rich when they want to fight against those trying to help kids,” said DPS special education Marie Taylor, according to the article.

This upcoming school year should be an interesting one for DPS teachers and unfortunately, students as well.

Yesterday, "Michigan's Emergency Loan Board on Monday approved measures to implement a $617-million financial rescue and restructuring plan for Detroit’s public schools,” said the Detroit Free Press. The move was made while the elected school board members objected, enraged that DPS students will be the only students in the state able to be taught by uncertified teachers.

Rampant shortages and a difficult task of convincing teachers to accept jobs in the beleaguered district has left officials with their hands tied and has resulted in the quick fix of allowing uncertified teachers to accept positions.

Read the full story here.

Nicole Gorman, Senior Education World Contributor

7/19/2016

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