NO STAFF, BILINGUAL TEACHERS, SPACE FOR SPECIAL NEEDS STUDENTS
From School Board Member Elena Herrada
As a new member of the school board, I like my fellow board members went to school today for the first day back. I spoke with students at Western High School who were sitting in the auditorium waiting. When I approached a large group of students, one of them said to me, are you Miss Vacancy? When the rest of them stopped laughing, they explained to me that next to their class schedule where a teacher’s name should be listed, the word “vacancy” appeared. There were rows of students sitting in the auditorium because their busses had not arrived to take them to VocTech, or because there was no teacher in the classroom.
In a meeting two weeks ago with the interim assistant superintendent over bilingual education, I learned that there were 151 vacancies for bilingual teachers. Indeed, when I spoke to students today, I translated for myself because many of the students I talked to did not speak English. The union president, Keith Johnson insisted that there are no bilingual teachers on layoff. I have met several in the last few weeks who are laid off, and many who took jobs in other places. Many more have retired.
How is it that Western High School, with an overwhelming majority of Latino students, does not have sufficient biligual instruction? Small wonder the school did not meet AYP. The bilingual teachers who retired are very concerned about the future of bilingual education in Detroit, as are many of those who ushered it in. It was not a cultural offering; it was a Federal mandate. But the State does not have to offer bilingual education. It can fail students at will for not passing proficiency exams in English.
The new security guards stopped me at the door. As a a former Western High School parent and a community person who has been inside Western countless times, I was accustomed to being greeted as a welcome neighbor in my neighborhood high school. It was quite daunting to be greeted by strangers who are replacing familiar, beloved and decently paid security officers. With the economy being so bad here, no one is to be blamed for taking whatever jobs are out there. But the message we send to students is that no matter how long you work, or how hard you work, there is no guarantee that your job will be secure. Some of Western’s finest teachers are gone, due to the testing foisted on the students. And if there is someone who can come in and do your job for less money and no benefits, they can replace you. It makes one wonder why anyone would strive for excellence or longevity.
From Russ Bellant, DPS board transition team
This is sent to give you some additional reports on the chaos going on throughout the district. The Jerry White [school] referenced below was supposed to take the special needs kids from Cooley North; no one saw how the space at Jerry White could allow it and no plan was presented that explained how it would work, unless it was very recent. If you spend time in the special needs community, you will understand how distraught their parents were to see their children being neglected.
I found the same indifference to planning in a meeting with Bobb and his aides a month ago, when basic transition questions could not be answered and no date was offered as to when they could be answered. There is a basic incompetence at so many levels, but Bobb believes his own image of competence and does not seem to think he needs to work really hard to figure these things out. He has bitten off way more than he can chew.
Comment from a parent
I am so glad the truth is coming out. I hope the media really show what is going on inside the schools. At JL White there were over 100 students dropped off not knowing where they should be. Parents were crying and one fell out. This is sad, sad, sad. Maybe now Mr. Bobb will be exposed.