Police jailed and pepper-sprayed students as young as this fourth-grader during a rally against school closings outside Northern High School May 1, 2007; DFT opposition teachers organized this and numerous other battles against destruction of DPS

From Defend Public Education/Save Our Students

(Note from VOD editor: Due to time constraints, the reports below are directly from the Defend Public Education/Save Our Students coalition. This editor has covered Detroit Public Schools activities for 10 years, watching as DPS has crumbled under assaults by state-appointed managers like Robert Bobb, with massive school closings and cutbacks, while DFT leadership has failed to mobilize its members to stop the attacks.

An updated story on those assaults will be published this week. But meanwhile, the DFT “board” under the leadership of alleged DFT president Keith Johnson voted to expel opposition leaders Steve Conn, Heather Miller, and Tracy Arneau from the union Feb. 28. The daily media is reporting on this primarily from the standpoint of Keith Johnson; if you want to read that side of the story, go there. Meanwhile, go to http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=y6Z6mqjVO1o&NR=1 to watch the video Johnson claims shows Conn assaulting him; it does not, in fact it shows mass opposition from the membership to the swearing in of Johnson and the DFT “board.” Also go to http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=L256NTSufUo&NR=1 to watch Johnson shove Tracy Arneau and be restrained by the police. WHERE ARE THE CHARGES AGAINST JOHNSON?)

At a meeting held Sat. Feb. 26, first hand reports were given about the Lansing protests against proposed takeovers of cities and school districts across Michigan, as well as the current policies of DPS czar Robert Bobb. Also reported on were the March 4 National Day of Action in Defense of Public Education, and the April 13 National Strike called by AFSCME, the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees.

Keith Johnson, current  DFT  “manager” has told Steve Conn that he plans to seek a vote of his Executive Board next Monday, Feb. 28 after school to expel Conn from the DFT.  Conn would not be allowed to attend union meetings, run for union office, serve as DFT Building Rep, or even enter the DFT Building.  Johnson is also bringing internal union charges against Heather Miller and two other DFT members.

DPS teacher Heather Miller was arrested at May 1, 2007 demonstration outside Northern; after which she and her husband Steve Conn were fired by DPS, only to win their jobs back months later with $300,000 in back pay; in photo, she is asking fellow teacher to take care of her young daughter, one of students at the rally

This can only mean that Johnson wants to silence opposition before agreeing to a new set of TIP Priority School concessions and doing nothing about Bobb and Flanagan’s plans for more school closings and teacher layoffs.

We demand that the DFT Election Committee carry out the vote of the last DFT general membership meeting and hold a new DFT officers election now!

For more information, call 313.645.9340


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Northern students take the streets during school walk-out in 2007; they are carrying the Jayhawk banner for their team; Northern and dozens of other schools are now closed, with more on the way; DFT leadership has done NOTHING to stop this assault on Detroit's children



Detroit Federation of Teachers (DFT) nominal president Keith Johnson has brought internal union charges against union activists Steve Conn, Heather Miller and Tracy Arneau in a desperate attempt to bureaucratically eliminate opposition to his illegal efforts to reinstall himself as president of the union through a fraudulent ballot count, and to protect his continuing policies of collaboration with DPS EFM Robert Bobb.

In the recent run-off elections for DFT President, Johnson claims to have received 40 more votes than challenger Steve Conn. However, 718 of the 4,625 votes cast were not counted. The election committee refused to follow the bylaws and carry out a hand recount, which would have revealed Steve Conn to be the actual winner of the election. Instead, Johnson hurriedly took the oath of office at the last union meeting, before DFT members could even vote to accept or reject the election committee’s report. Johnson then fled the meeting, after which the members took an overwhelming vote of “no confidence” in Keith Johnson and demanded a new election.

DPS Czar Robert Bobb and DFT President Keith Johnson

“The charges are completely baseless. They are a cover for Johnson’s desperate bid to seize and hold union power dictatorially and thereby assist Rob Bobb in destroying public education in Detroit,” said Steve Conn. “Teachers are united with students, parents and the community to stop Bobb’s ‘search and destroy’ mission against public education in Detroit. We are fighting to restore democracy in our union and to save our students’ right to a public education,” Conn stated.

Johnson’s cooperation has been key to enabling EFM Robert Bobb to implement destructive academic policies which serve only to create chaos in DPS, thereby paving the road for privatization through the expansion of charters.

Last Friday, Bobb ordered a large number of teachers to be removed from the classroom effective today, reassigning them to the classification of “Math Coach” or “Technology Coach.” When Conn and his caucus, Defend Public Education/Save Our Students, organized teachers to resist the removal of teachers from the classroom, Bobb threatened an equal number of layoffs instead.  Whether through reassignment or layoffs, thousands of students will have their education disrupted mid-year, undermining continuity for the students and creating such overwhelming conditions of over-crowding in the remaining classrooms that teaching is impossible.

DPS Teacher Kimberly Porter wears Black to mourn loss of public education for children as teachers fought against contract agreed to by Keith Johnson

“These are untenable conditions. The overwhelmingly black and Latino/a students of Detroit are being denied access to education. The billionaires and their corporations must be forced to pay more taxes so that the government can provide the funds to maintain a functional school system in Detroit. Anything less is the plain racism of a New Jim Crow,” said Joyce Schon, attorney for the Detroit School Board.

Many Detroit teachers will be attending the DFT Executive Board meeting this Thursday after school to demand that the false charges against Conn, Miller and Arneau be dropped, to demand a new election and to demand that the union take action against Bobb’s latest attack on Detroit students and teachers.

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