Dozens of DPS schools close due to sick-outs

Posted at 5:23 PM, Jan 11, 2016
and last updated 2016-01-11 17:23:47-05

Even in the bitter cold, the anger boiled over outside the Fisher Building where dozens of Detroit Public School teachers rallied during massive sick-outs that kept more than 60 schools across the district closed Monday.

“We’re sick and tired of being sick and tired," Derek Sale, a teacher a Gompers Elementary-Middle School, said.

During the noon rally, teachers cited "deplorable" conditions that include safety hazards in the classroom, a lack of supplies, and large class sizes teachers say make effective learning impossible.

“Leaking roofs and mold in the classrooms. Mushrooms growing in the classrooms. That’s not a science experiment, that’s unacceptable," Kimberly Jackson, a teacher at Paul Robeson Malcolm X Academy said.

Teachers have been criticized for demonstrating while students should be in school. DPS Emergency Manager said an estimated 31,000 students were forced to stay home because of the teachers'  absence. But some parents said witnessing this kind of civil action is just as important a lesson.

"It shows the students that when talks break down between reasonable people, that sometimes you have to do something in a non-violent way to get their attention," Carl Baxter said.

Much of the teachers' anger is directed toward Gov. Rick Snyder and his $715 million plan to overhaul DPS with more oversight and toward Earley, who put out a statement over the weekend saying in part:

“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.”

Earley said teacher sick-outs make getting that support more challenging.

Union leaders, while they said the sick-outs weren't sanctioned by the DFT, said they support teachers' concerns. Interim president Ivy Bailey said, “Whatever the consequences are, we’re going to have to deal with it. But we have to stop bashing teachers. Teachers are in the classrooms with students every day.

"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," Earley said Monday in a written statement. He said in the coming weeks he will hold a series of meetings where DPS teachers can openly discuss their concerns with members of his staff.

Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan also responded to Monday's sickouts and teacher protests. He said he will visit several schools beginning Tuesday, along with leaders from the Detroit Health Department and the Detroit Buildings, Safety Engineering and Environmental Department to see what they can do to ensure all DPS buildings are up to code.

Teachers protesting Monday said they plan to be back in school Tuesday.