East Detroit Teachers “Depressed and Angry,” Union Boss Says

Mitch Hotts, Macomb Daily, November 25, 2012

On the surface, officials at East Detroit Public Schools say their marketing efforts to bring in new students – and associated revenue – has been a success, with about 180 new pupils enrolling this fall.

But the district’s teachers and unions say the influx has resulted in overcrowded classrooms and some students with disruptive behavioral issues that are leaving educators “depressed and angry,” according to a union document obtained by The Macomb Daily.

In an Oct. 31 memo to the district’s 250 teachers and 450 paraprofessionals, Lincoln Stock, president of East Detroit Federation of Teachers Local 698, acknowledged the difficulties teachers are facing with larger class sizes and students unaccustomed to structure and discipline.

“The net result of these facts is that we feel depressed and angry,” Stocks wrote in the memo. “There doesn’t seem to be anyone looking out for us and we feel isolated and vulnerable. This vulnerability involves physical security as well as financial and professional stability.”

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In a controversial move, the East Detroit Board of Education last year voted to open the district’s boundaries to neighboring counties including Wayne, Oakland, and St. Clair, under the Schools of Choice program.

The move was one-half of the thrust of a plan aimed at decreasing a $7.8 million budget deficit. {snip}

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In his message to union members, Stocks said East Detroit has become home to academically-challenged students who also present disciplinary problems during classroom presentations. Historically, East Detroit has had “very high educational standards” that some of the newer students have trouble grasping, he said.

“Certainly we have brilliant students in pockets across the district, but the general trend has been that we are servicing more struggling kids. Behavior goes hand in hand with many of these struggles,” he wrote.

Stocks told teachers in the letter that he has been seeking advice from other districts, including Detroit and other inner-ring communities, on how teachers are making the transition from suburban to urban education. He noted some districts have “simply thrown in the towel and surrendered their schools to the kids, failing the children and themselves.”

School officials say the students posing the most problems are not those coming from Wayne County, but in many cases are new residents in the Eastpointe community. {snip}

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