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Is DPS really trying to hire teachers?

Posted at 6:36 PM, Feb 18, 2016

There are thousands of kid in classes in Detroit Public Schools without teachers.  So why is the district allegedly not calling teachers who apply for jobs back?

Paul Yakaitis called 7 Action News to tell us he saw our stories about the teacher shortage, saw legislation had passed in reaction to those stories allowing retired teachers to teach without losing their pensions, and so he applied to return to work in Detroit Public Schools. 

“I can start today. Why haven’t you contacted me?” Yakaitis told us is his question for the district.

He is a man who worked for decades as an English teacher at several schools including Southeastern and Denby High School in Detroit. He was named “Teacher of the Year” at his schools  numerous times.

He retired four years ago, enjoyed Florida and travel, but misses making a difference.

He showed us the messages he gets from former students. One is working as an English teacher in Japan. Another is in college. Another, Johnathan Hankins, plays for the New York Giants.

Their success is his success.

On social media, as others say the same thing happened to them, it is leading to conspiracy theories. 

Teachers see that House Republicans proposed a plan to take away some union negotiation rights in the district and lower standards for who qualifies as a certified teacher in Detroit. They ask, is the district deliberately not hiring experienced teachers? Is the goal to bring in less expensive teachers later?

Detroit Public Schools did not provide an updated number on how many teaching vacancies there are. Several months ago the district said it had about 170 vacancies. The Detroit Federation of Teachers says there are now approximately 220 unfilled positions.

Detroit Public Schools did not provide information on just how many teachers were hired this school year. The Detroit Federation of Teachers says it has only had about 100 new members, mostly teachers.  Compare that to Pontiac, a district 1/10th the size where this school year 46 teachers were hired.

Detroit Public Schools Executive Director of Communications Michelle Zdrodowski says the district is trying.

"Just three weeks ago, our Talent Division called approximately 700 applicants who have applied for various positions, inviting them to come in and interview,” she said. “They heard back from/spoke with/scheduled interviews for 25.”

She said there have been times when applicants make a technical mistake, or there is a system error that results in their resume not being submitted.

In the meantime, school leaders and community leaders appeared in a video that aims to recruit teachers from around the country.  Skillman Foundation President Tonya Allen says her foundation took part in the video  because the need for qualified teachers committed to Detroit is real.

“The message we are trying to send is Detroit is a place where you can make a difference,” said Allen. "I think the thing we have to put forward is this, we have great educators in Detroit and we are losing them every day. They are leaving for other districts outside Detroit because the benefits and wages are better. We have to figure out how we strengthen our wages and benefits.”

Paul Yakaitis says the district also needs to fix its process for applying.

“Its incompetency."