Detroit teachers and education employees picket at the School Center Building where a state-appointed corporate executive make decisions about public education. Thousands of members of the DFT and other unions participated. (Photo: Abayomi Azikiwe), a photo by Pan-African News Wire File Photos on Flickr.
May 24, 2012
Teachers union to announce suit against DPS over layoffs, evaluations
By LAUREN ABDEL-RAZZAQ / The Detroit News
Detroit — The Detroit Federation of Teachers plans Friday to announce a lawsuit against the Detroit Public Schools that could challenge the state's new teacher tenure law.
The union, which represents more than 5,000 DPS employees, including 4,100 teachers, will hold a news conference at 11 a.m. at the DFT Hall, 2875 W. Grand Blvd.
"This will be the biggest lawsuit the DFT has ever filed against the district," Johnson said in a statement Thursday. He declined to comment further Thursday night.
The union says DPS has violated the 2009-12 contract by laying off all of the district's teachers and in its handling of interviews and evaluations for rehiring.
Under the state's new teacher tenure law, all classroom instructors undergo annual evaluations in all districts starting this school year. It's a practice that hasn't occurred in some schools for decades.
The law bars Michigan schools from using seniority as the sole basis for determining which employees are affected by layoffs.
Until the Michigan Council on Teacher Effectiveness can develop a recommendation for a statewide evaluation tool, officials in individual districts have been sitting in on classes and rating teachers on how they manage their lessons. They have to categorize teachers as either highly effective, effective, minimally effective and ineffective.
DPS received a waiver for this year, but will be subject to the new system this fall.
Last month, DPS laid off all teachers effective Aug. 24 and will interview teachers for the upcoming school year. District officials say the process will help ensure the district brings back the right number of teachers and only those who place in the top of the evaluation category.
Johnson has said the district violated the collective bargaining agreement by imposing the tool without union consent. He also has said some teachers are not receiving adequate notice before they have to interview for their jobs, and some performance evaluations were too short to get an adequate assessment.
"Our goal is to have teachers not only where they should be, but where they have a right to be at the start of the new school year," he wrote in a letter this month to Vickie Hall, DPS chief human resources officer.
In an emailed statement, DPS spokesman Steve Wasko said the district continues to engage with the union to keep members informed.
"We regret the adversarial stance that the DFT is taking publicly and understand the high level of emotions surrounding the changes mandated by law," Wasko said in the statement.