2 DPS schools closed due to sick-out

Posted at 6:35 AM, Jan 07, 2016
and last updated 2016-01-07 18:52:52-05

This morning schools in Detroit were again forced to close as teachers took part in a “sick-out.”  About half of the teachers at Renaissance High School and Martin Luther King Jr. High School called in today.

This week  the Detroit Federation of Teachers is sending a message to teachers. It is not supporting 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.

She says people need to know teachers have sacrificed enormously in pay and benefits, work in schools lacking classroom resources, in buildings in disrepair, have far too many students, and are tired of seeing kids in classes without certified teachers.

The protests are happening in desperation.

Still, the Detroit Federation of Teachers is not behind the sick-out.

This week about 20 organizers from the national American Federation of Teachers went school to school talking to teachers. They want to reassure them they are working on a plan with DFT to effectively protest the conditions in Detroit Public Schools.

“Those people who have been part of the sick-outs,  we want them to be part of the campaign too, but we believe we need to be very strategic,” said Ann Mitchell, an AFT administrator.

She says the goal is to protest in a way that doesn’t alienate parents, students and even lawmakers. She says the stakes are high.

“We’re very concerned about keeping public education in the city,” said Mitchell.

Detroit Emergency Manager Darnell Earley called for a press conference today to ask teachers to stop calling in sick to protest.

“Seven days lost since November 3rd,” said Earley. "These actions caused by a minority of DPS teachers serve no purpose, other than to harm and disrupt the efforts of those who can’t afford to lose time in classrooms. Our students.”

Earley said a lot is at stake and all who work for the district need to focus on one thing right now.  The state legislature is working on a plan that could infuse hundreds of millions of dollars into the district, helping it avoid running out of money by April.

Earley said if that investment doesn’t come to the district, the district will not be able to function, much less provide the improvements the teachers are asking for.

“So I want people on board. I don’t want to talk about sick-outs. I want to stand here and talk about improvements we have made. I don’t want people in Lansing to hear, ‘Oh this is still the old Detroit Public Schools,” said Earley.

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.

Conn said he will not stop organizing the sick-outs.

“It is the right thing to do. I am completely at peace.  What we are doing is for the future of the city,” said Conn.

He says DPS has been hurt by state control which accumulated the massive debt. He wants Gov. Rick Snyder to remove the emergency manager from power, pay the district for the debt accumulated under emergency management, and let elected school officials have power and control.

7 Action News reached out to the governor’s office.  We were told the governor is committed to finding solutions through the legislature that give Detroit Public Schools the financial ability to provide students a quality education. 

Sick-outs will not inspire the governor to give up.

The timeline keeps changing, but some lawmakers say legislation impacting the funding of Detroit Public Schools could be introduced as soon as next week.