As I mentioned yesterday, the ACLU discovered that the Education Achievement Authority had a job posting on their website for pre-school teachers that described the position at three different schools as being “teachers are responsible for implementing a developmentally appropriate early childhood education curriculum in a Christian setting”. As I wrote in my post about this, the job posting language was plagiarized from a job posting at St. Mary Child Development Center in Troy, Michigan. However, when the person who created the posting cut-and-pasted it from the St. Mary posting, they forgot to edit out the part about it being “in a Christian setting” which set of the ACLU’s alarm bells.
The ACLU sent a letter to Chancellor Covington and yesterday they received a response (PDF):
Thank you for your letter dated February 25, 2014, in which you brought to my attention the egregious error outlined in the job posting for preschool teachers in three Education Achievement Authority of Michigan (“EAA”) schools: Bethune, Law and Brenda Scott.
First, it is important to note that as a public school system we are very much aware of our Constitutional requirement to remain neutral in matters of religion and to foster an environment of inclusiveness for all of our students and teachers. Secondly, the EAA is, and will continue to be, and equal opportunity employer that complies with all applicable federal and state laws. Thus, we do not, and will not, discriminate with respect to employment or educational programs/activities on the basis of race, color, national origin, age, marital status, gender, sexual orientation, gender identity, gender expression, disability, religion, height, weight or veteran status.
Finally, please be advised that we have removed the preschool job posting that you referenced from our website and will repost a revised job description (which will be devoid of any religious reference). Moreover, going forward a strong, concerted effort will be made to ensure that this type of error does not occur again.
The EAA does not take matters such as this lightly, and again, we are committed to doing everything possible to ensure full compliance with all laws and to provide a welcoming environment for every staff member and student.
J. Wm. Covington
To be fair, I know for a fact that the EAA does hire people from all races and does not discriminate based on things like gender orientation. However, I (and others) do expect them to dot all the “i”s and cross all the “t”s in whatever they do. A CEO of a large airline company once told his employees about how critical it was that the seatback tables be spotlessly clean. Their passengers cannot look at a seatback table, he told them, and see if coffee ring or other stain. Because if they can’t even take care of the easy stuff, how can they be counted on to take care of the difficult stuff like engine maintenance.
This situation is like that and, as Chancellor Covington says, it was an “egregious error”. If the HR department can’t manage to write their own job descriptions and can’t be counted on to proofread a simple job posting, how are we to believe the EAA can handle educating Detroit students using an untested, experimental teaching model with inexperienced teachers?
This stuff matters.
Finally, I wanted to highlight this piece at WDET’s website titled “School’s Out for Summer… for Some EAA Students”. The piece talks about how the EAA has now gone to a semester system. The reason for this is because, according to statements made by Chancellor Covington in an interview with WKAR radio, is that the loss of nearly a quarter of their students at the beginning of the 2013-2014 school year was due to high school students wanting to work during the summer. Why this impacted the fall enrollment numbers isn’t clear, but they feel that going to a semester system is going to solve that.
The WDET piece details the changes that are being made. Essentially, they are adding a third trimester during the summer:
Students attending six Detroit high schools run by the state Educational Achievement Authority can choose to spend less time in the classroom this summer. The EAA is adopting a trimester program that provides students with more flexibility to work, complete internships, or earn course credit during the extended school year. The new third term begins June 22 and ends Aug. 6. Spokesperson Crystal Wilson says the EAA high schools adopted a trimester schedule based on student feedback.
“There was a lot of high school students who really did not appreciate the longer school year last year,” she said. “We know that they are our ultimate customer. We took time to listen to what sorts of things they didn’t like about it. We did not want to give kids the summer off who are already trying to catch up.”
A couple of things to point out here. First, I have been informed that this was not communicated to staff at the EAA in a formal way. Rather, it was posted on the EAA’s Facebook page. One teacher explained the situation to me in an email:
None of this has been communicated to teachers in an official capacity. No email from EAA offices, no site visit from an EAA district level person. I was told by another teacher that the three “learning options” were posted on Facebook a week or two ago. Interesting enough, I don’t have Facebook that I use anymore. Hard to believe, but not EVERYONE has access to Facebook. This, of course, is only happening at the high school level. What about the other schools? What does their summer look like? Do they keep teaching status quo? It would be nice if they informed EVERYONE of ALL their plans seeing as that it’s only a couple of months away.
We’re all getting sick and tired of finding out information through the media or Facebook. This just continues to fit the narrative that nothing this school district does is well planned or well thought out. Worse, none of it is done with the students learning in mind. Everyday in EAA school is mass confusion.
I couldn’t have put it better myself.
Second, one of the elements that the EAA sells itself on is that they run a year-round school. That, they say, is an improvement over traditional schools. Yet now they are changing to use the traditional model in terms of the school year with a summer school semester. It’s either better for the kids or it’s not. Letting the kids decide strikes me as haphazard.
Finally, I’m not entirely critical of the concept so much as I want to point out language used here that refers to students as “customers”. This echoes the language used by Governor Rick Snyder in referring to the residents of Michigan and it’s language that many of us find insulting. Snyder used this phrase most recently in a video he made for Bridge Magazine where he said “I want to know what the customers of Michigan want”.
We aren’t “customers”. People like Rick Snyder and John Covington are essentially “hired” by us to do a job, one they claim to be experts at. Use your expertise, make the right choices, and show leadership. We aren’t customers so much as we are employers and we expect you to do your job, not have us or our children make your decisions for you.
Drop the “customer” rhetoric. This isn’t a corporation or a business you are running. It’s a state. It’s a school district. Please act like it.