Message to teachers: Sit down and shut up.
NOTE: The location of Brooke Harris’s pretermination hearing, which is now closed to the public, has been changed. See update below.
In April of 2012, Brooke Harris, a teacher at the Pontiac Academy for Excellence charter school, was fired for attempting to assist her students hold a fundraiser for the family of Trayvon Martin. A Change.org petition demanding that she be reinstated gathered 233,009 signatures.
Brooke Harris (in red) at the Save Michigan’s Public Schools rally flanked by rally organizers Stephanie Keiles, Betsy Coffia, and Rochelle Noel. [Photo credit: Save Michigan's Public Schools]
After her firing, Harris took a job with the Michigan Education Achievement Authority, a special district comprised exclusively of “failing” schools, and began teaching at Mumford High School in Detroit.
Harris has been helping her students speak out about the poor conditions at their EAA schools and the inferior education they were receiving. In addition, she herself testified before the House Education Committee as well as the Education Achievement Authority Board meeting on May 9th, helping to expose the EAA’s failing of Detroit students.
Two weeks ago, Harris learned that she may very well be on her way to being fired again.
On the evening of Thursday, June 13, Harris received an email from her employer informing her that she was on paid leave pending an investigation. She was out of the state for an institute on mass incarceration (not related to her job) and just happened to check her email that evening before they deactivated her email account the following morning. Today, she found out by certified mail (that was sent to the wrong address on July 3) that she has a “pretermination hearing” on July 15th. Fortunately Harris had requested that all of her correspondence via mail be sent certified. This resulted in the U.S. Postal Service forwarding the mail that otherwise may never have reached her.
I asked Ms. Harris how she ended up at the EAA. “The honest answer is I needed a job after being fired from Pontiac Academy for Excellence charter school after filing paperwork on behalf of my students requesting a fundraiser in honor of Trayvon Martin,” she told me. “I’m from metro Detroit, always wanted to work in the city, and the EAA had a lot of open positions. I was offered the position at Mumford at a Starbucks in Southfield and took it immediately.”
“Did your new employer know about your firing from Pontiac?” I asked.
“I honestly don’t know if the EAA knew,” she said. “I checked the box on the application saying I’d been fired before and always answered that questions honestly in interviews. But the EAA hiring process was outsourced through Harvard and was so unorganized in the end (hence the interview and offer at a Starbucks).”
Brooke Harris’ experience with the EAA tells us a great deal about how poorly it’s being managed. Job offers in coffee shops, wrong addresses for critical, sensitive communications, and a hiring process that was outsourced. Harris says that her English students are now on their 4th substitute teacher this year. “Every class that was taught by a sub last quarter (and there were quite a few) was missing grades for students which messed up their GPAs,” she said.
What is happening to Harris is that she is being used as an example to frighten other teachers into keeping quiet and not speaking out about what’s happening in the EAA schools.
There is a Change.org petition that can be signed HERE. Wayne State University professor and education activist Thomas Pedroni has started a Facebook page titled “Save Our Teacher Brooke Harris!! Stop Eli Broad’s Vile Experimentation!!”
If you wish to attend Brooke Harris’ pretermination hearing, it is on July 15th at 9 a.m. at
the EAA headquarters at 3022 W. Grand Blvd. in Detroit.
EAA officials have made Brooke’s hearing closed to the public and moved the venue to:
2500 Fisher Building
3011 West Grand Boulevard
Detroit, Michigan 48202-3030
Read more about that HERE.