At least 50 DPS schools closed due to sick-outs

Posted at 2:35 PM, Jan 10, 2016

Over the weekend, Detroit Public Schools issued a special alert to parents, warning them of possible school sick-outs for Monday. 

This morning, at least 50 DPS schools are closed because of the sick-outs. 


Last week, at least five schools closed on different days because of the sick-outs.

The Detroit Federation of Teachers said it is not supporting the protests that force the closure of schools at this time.

“We haven’t sanctioned the sick-outs, but I want everyone to understand the frustration,” said Ivy Bailey, Interim President of the Detroit Federation of Teachers.

“It’s clear that teachers are feeling an overwhelming sense of frustration over the challenges that they and all DPS employees face as they do their jobs each day,” DPS Emergency Manager Darnell Earley said in a statement. “We understand and share their frustration. However, given the reality of the District’s financial distress, it is becoming clearer every day that the only way that we are going to be able to address these serious issues in any way is through an investment in DPS by the Michigan Legislature. Unfortunately, obtaining that support becomes more challenging with each closure of a school due to a teacher sick-out.”

The person behind the sick-outs is Steve Conn.  He introduces himself as “the elected DFT president.”  The DFT’s interim president said he was kicked out of power in August for misconduct.

Other teachers say he is not behind the sick-outs and that a group of teachers is responsible. They said he is taking credit for the sick-outs.

According to Earley, he and his team will "continue to share districtwide concerns with the Governor's administration as well as with legislators. We will continue to elevate that discussion because it too is critical to a long-term successful outcome for Detroit Public Schools and its students.”

Detroit Teachers Fight Back, a group that refers to itself as "A union Within a Union," released a statement Monday:

"Just as doctors take the Hippocratic Oath to uphold ethical standards, teachers also take a Loyalty Oath to serve, protect and allow no harm. Unfortunately, we have been unable to live up to that with the constant change of leadership, state control and 4 consecutive Emergency Managers."

The group said it was planning to participate in a solidarity rally at noon Monday at the Fisher Building.

The statement went on to say:

"We are not affiliated with BAMN, its' leadership, or any former DFT leadership. We are teachers united as it is time that we stand up and defend our students, our profession, and our rights! Our cornerstone issues are Academics, Fairness & Equity. Our goal is to ensure that Detroit students are no longer pay for the deficit created by state control, and to protect their civil rights and ability to receive an exemplary education."

The group said it believes Detroit teachers "deserve to be treated the same way teachers are treated in Livonia, Novi, West Bloomfield, Grosse Pointe, Troy and all other districts throughout the state of Michigan."

Detroit Public Schools Emergency Manager Darnell Early released this statement:

“Detroit Public Schools today was forced to close 64 of its 97 school buildings due to a large scale sick-out organized by many of the District’s teachers. This sick out resulted in more than 31,000 students missing a day of instruction, and potentially placing more than a million dollars in per pupil funding in jeopardy. We have no other choice but to close the schools when teachers do not come to work.

I understand and appreciate the level of concern that caused teachers to choose this course of action – whether I agree with it or not. However, I would add that in addition to students, in many ways, all District employees are adversely affected by today’s events – which in and of itself is no solution.
A solution can only be identified through the collective efforts of all parties involved – teachers, principals, administrators, parents and community stakeholders.

When I met with the leadership of the Detroit Federation of Teachers and the American Federation of Teachers in late December, we talked about a number of valid concerns raised by the union’s membership – some that can be reviewed and resolved in the short-term, and some that can only be addressed if we receive the investment that we are asking the Michigan Legislature to make in DPS.

Two important deliverables came out of this meeting: 1) to allow the DFT to send representatives into our school buildings to have one-on-one conversations with their members regarding to understand their concerns and how they may assist in positively moving the District forward, and 2) putting into place a plan to hold a series of joint meetings where teachers will be given an update on the current state of DPS and have an opportunity to dialogue with members of my leadership team. We expect these meetings to take place in the next two weeks.

We know that there are serious issues facing everyone who works for Detroit Public Schools. Working for an organization in distress, especially the level of distress facing DPS, is not easy. DPS employees have made a tremendous amount of sacrifices to move the District forward over the last eight years, and the efforts they put forth on a daily basis are to be commended. That is a part of the broader message that I have been sharing with the Governor’s administration and the Michigan Legislature.

It is counter intuitive to everyone’s efforts to move this District forward when we send the message to the rest of the state and the nation that was sent today. Everyone’s contributions are critical to the future of Detroit Public Schools. Our only way to ensure a strong future for the District is by working together and focusing on the students and their families.”

Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan released this statement on the sick-outs.

In May 2009, the State of Michigan displaced the elected Detroit School Board with an emergency manager and has been running DPS for nearly 6 years. In that time, the school district has lost nearly half of its student enrollment, has suffered declines in math and reading scores to the lowest level in the country, and has run up new deficits in excess of $700 million.

Thirty percent to 40% of all state funding for Detroit schools is now going to pay debt instead of going to teaching our children. This is an issue of critical importance to the future of Detroit’s children – students have no chance of learning when their education funding is diverted from the classroom. Lansing has complete control of Detroit Public Schools and must act with urgency to address the problem.

I understand the teachers’ frustration, but our children need our teachers in the classroom. I encourage the teachers to end the sick-outs and remain in the schools, and I encourage our state officials to move quickly to address these pressing educational problems.

As far as immediate action by the City of Detroit, I have been reports today from the Detroit Federation of Teachers on substandard conditions in school buildings. Tomorrow, I will be visiting a number of those schools along with the heads of the Detroit Health Department and the Detroit Buildings, Safety Engineering and Environmental Department (BSEED). Based on what we find, the City of Detroit will take whatever enforcement action is necessary to make sure all Detroit Public Schools are compliant with all health and building codes.