DPS emergency manager criticizes 'sickout'

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The list of Detroit schools closed due to a teacher-organized "sickout" protest has grown to over 60, according to a post on the Detroit Public Schools' Facebook page. (Read the full list of closed schools over at the Detroit Free Press.)

Writing in The Guardianformer Metro Times investigative reporter Ryan Felton says teachers are protesting what they describe as the district's "abominable" working conditions. (More on those later.)

Darnell Earley, the emergency manager for Detroit Public Schools, held a press conference last week in which he criticized the sickouts that have closed schools, due to "the negative impact that this is having on our students and our families.” He urged the community to "stand together and be the voice for the children of this community."

Feeling a bit of whiplash? If so, it might be because you remember Darnell Earley's role as the emergency manager of Flint, where the decision to draw untreated water from the Flint River may have had some "negative impact" on students and families — higher rates of lead poisoning that will plague them for the rest of their lives.

That's right: Earley — one of several officials being sued by Flint Residents in a class action lawsuit brought in federal court, and a man the state Democratic Party has been demanding be fired for three months now — saw fit to urge people to stand up against irresponsible behavior that is hurting children.

Of course, the Detroit Federation of Teachers say that they're already in that fight, and that the EM is to blame, noting his role in Flint. DFT Interim President Ivy Bailey wasn't shy about bringing lead levels into the discussion, saying, “The children of Detroit, Flint or any other community should not be exposed to atrocious, environmental hazards.” At DPS schools, they can include "rat and other rodent infestations, crumbling walls, holes in ceilings, cracked sidewalks, dangerous broken boilers and no heat." Bailey stressed that "conditions have gotten worse over the six years of state emergency management control."

Of course, these environmental concerns are just one category of complaints, but a significant one, given Earley's connection to Flint. We're still looking to see if any local press made mention of Earley's tenure in Flint, but Felton did at The Guardian.

And it wasn't just a passing mention, it was a direct comparison drawn between DPS and Flint by a guy who knows a thing or two: Thomas C. Pedroni, a Wayne State professor who has followed the progression of EMs through DPS.

The close reader will find that Earley chooses his words carefully. He hasn't actually said anything like, "This irresponsible strike is damaging the young minds of DPS students, impairing their ability to learn for life, and making them more susceptible to crime and poverty. The people responsible for this strike should be fired and put in jail." After all, he must be aware it would be too easy to hurl his own role in Flint back in his face, or to have those words read back to him on the witness stand one day. So it's not surprising to see Earley avoid language that conjures memories of his days as Flint EM. 

And yet we wonder: Given that the Flint water crisis is such a hot national story right now, why isn't his role there mentioned every time he's quoted? Or at least why don't more people throw their shoes at him when he urges them to be "the voice for the children of this community"?

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The Strike to Win Committee program, adopted by unanimous vote at the Jan. 25, 2015, mass special DFT union membership meeting:

• Stop Snyder's plan "New Co/Old Co" plan to charterize all DPS schools
• Cancellation of the DPS debt, created by state mismanagement
• Reincorporate all EAA schools into DPS
• Lower class size
• Competitive teacher salaries and unfrozen pay steps
• Daily preparation period for all teachers
• Adequate books & supplies in every classroom
• Art, music & gym in every school; ROTC is no substitute for phys ed.
• Hire more DPS support staff, including bilingual instructors, school social workers, psychologists, counselors, hearing/speech therapists, librarians
• Eliminate 2-hour mandatory after-school staff meetings
• All school union reps to receive union preparation time
• Stop excessive & duplicate standardized testing




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