With a new superintendent getting a (generous) contract as soon as tonight and school closings off the table for now, Detroit schools are starting to feel a bit more stable. But with just weeks to go before the end of the school year, teachers in the state-run Education Achievement Authority still don’t know what their salaries will be next year or who will be running their buildings. That has some fearing a mass teacher exodus that could hurt academic progress and create new challenges for children whose lives are already tumultuous.
“These children have very little stability in their lives. The people in this building are the only stable people they have.”
— Stefanie Kovaleski, kindergarten teacher, Bethune Elementary-Middle School
Read on for more on this story and the rest of the week’s Detroit schools news. Plus, our series on Detroiters telling their school stories this week features a Detroit student who says her school helped make her the active, successful student she’s become. If you have a story to tell, or know someone who does, please let us know. Thanks!
- EAA teachers are bracing for pay cuts when their district returns to the main Detroit school district this summer. They’re so frustrated by the slow pace of negotiations, they’re looking for other jobs.
- This Detroit student credits her success to her Detroit public school. “DPS has expanded my horizon for me to see a whole new world,” she said, adding that her school has “given me opportunities to express myself and be who I am.”
- Nikolai Vitti, the man selected to lead Detroit schools is reportedly close to signing a $295,000 contract, which will be the subject of a special school board meeting tonight.
- Vitti, who could start work in Detroit as soon as this month, will be one of the first speakers at a major business conference that will be held on Mackinac Island after Memorial Day.
- A plan to move Durfee Elementary school into nearby Central High School has produced mixed reactions among parents and community members but a board member’s effort to stop the move was not successful at this week’s meeting.
- As the Detroit teachers union negotiates its first contract with a district run by the new school board, its leaders penned an op/ed urging the district to “understand the important role that we play and negotiate with us accordingly.”
- Detroit schools advocates will gather this weekend for the screening of a new documentary about school closings in Detroit and a discussion on the history and future of Detroit public schools.
- This great Detroit teacher is proof that not all great teachers leave, a parent advocate and blogger writes.
- Detroit teachers who were laid off in 2011 and not properly recalled will share in a $400,000 settlement approved this week by the Detroit school board.
Across the state
- The partnership agreements that were signed to spare 38 struggling schools from being closed by the state look different in the nine districts that signed them. Here’s a breakdown.
- Gov. Rick Snyder weighed in on the agreements, saying the schools are now “on a path to increased academic achievement” and calling for lawmakers to update the state’s school accountability law to set the stage for more such agreements.
- The agreements “hold promise” if done right, but the “constantly changing target” of Michigan school reform is counter productive, a News columnist writes. “While these blueprints are crafted with good intentions by smart people, the churn has created a culture of “this too shall pass.”
- State reports written on the 38 schools reveal a sober picture of the work that will need to be done to improve them. Among challenges: chronic absences, poor curriculums, insufficient resources and a lack of parental involvement. One of the Detroit schools lacked a certified English teacher for two years.
- The state had conducted “hardship reviews” that could have spared schools from closures even without the partnership agreement but hid the details from a reporter who paid $2,160 to request the documents under the state’s Freedom of Information Act.
- A Michigan radio station is polling teachers to get a better idea of how much educators make in different parts of the state.
- The state’s controversial school reform officer is up for a job in Tennessee (and is competing against another local school leader).
- As lawmakers debate teacher pensions and 401k’s, teachers worry about the consequences.
- The Kellogg Foundation awarded an “unprecedented” $51 million grant to Battle Creek Public Schools. The grant represents the foundation’s first effort to turn around a district from top to bottom. “This is monumental,” a New York University researcher said. “I haven’t seen anything like this – a philanthropy investing so much with a belief they can actually turn a system around.”
- The head of a virtual school disputes claims from critics who think cyber schools should get less state funding than brick-and-mortar schools.
- The state education department has established “transformation zones” in three counties to “improve instructional and innovation practices” in schools.
- The state received a $10,000 grant to help create a Michigan Teacher Leadership Advisory Council to support the state’s implementation of new federal accountability rules.
In other news
- A local bank is spending $5 million to help create a way for donors around the country to support pre-K and Head Start teachers.
- A west side middle school was evacuated after a maintenance worker discovered Vietnam-era explosives at the school.
- Three Michigan teens have been named U.S. Presidential scholars.
- Twelve Michigan students have won the state’s Letters about Literature contest.
- A writing program aims to bridge cultural divides among students including, recently, Muslim students from the suburbs and African-American and Latino kids from Detroit.
- A student at a suburban high school has been disciplined for bringing a noose to school.
- A suburban administrator says she was transferred to another school in retaliation for complaints about her supervisor’s conduct.
- A suburban charter school will be closed today after an “unknown airborne inhalant” sickened students and staff members.
- A Hamtramck high school is holding an all-girls prom to accommodate Muslim students who can’t attend a traditional co-ed prom for religious reasons.