Education — February 20, 2014

EAA Teacher of the Year on why she quit: “I was compromising my moral integrity and I couldn’t live with myself”


NOTE: There are two comments at the bottom of this interview disparaging both me and the interviewee, former EAA Teacher of the Year Kim Jurczak. One goes by the name “Lyeyname” and the other by “Mypost”. Both comments came from the same IP address meaning that they were made by the same person masquerading as different people to make it look like more than one person is supporting the EAA and Nolan principal Angela Underwood.

As much as my previous interviews with Education Achievement Authority teachers have left me sad and outraged, today’s interview blew my mind. The interview is with Kim Jurczak. Kim was a teacher at Nolan elementary and middle school and by all accounts, perhaps the most talented teacher there. In yesterday’s interview, the teacher had this to say about Kim:

She is one of the most… she left a career in educational technology to work for the EAA. She moved home from another state for this and they shit on her so much…She brought in her own Promethean Smart Board. She brought in her own clickers. Her class was amazing, the way she organized everything. And she did this all on her own. She wrote her own curriculum in BUZZ because BUZZ is such a joke.

Kim was so well-respected, in fact, that she was elected by the other teachers in her school as Teacher of the Year in a landslide.

However, the story that she tells is of an administration, starting with EAA Chancellor John Covington all the way down to her principal Angela Underwood, who had complete and utter disdain for their teachers. While Covington was creating an environment of fear and intimidation among his staff, including the school principals, Underwood — who came to the EAA with Covington from their failure in the Kansas City schools — was creating an identical environment at Nolan. In the end, despite how much it broke her heart to do so, Kim Jurczak quit her teaching job at Nolan where she had been chosen as Teacher of the Year by her peers.

It’s worth noting that, like other teachers that have left EAA schools, Kim was initially reluctant to let me use her name for this interview. The culture of fear and intimidation that Covington has created in the EAA extends beyond the walls of its school buildings and beyond the borders of its district. Even teachers who now work in other non-EAA schools fear punishment and retribution from Covington and his team.

I’ve said before that one element you would expect in a “turnaround” district tasked with rapidly improving struggling schools is its leadership would hire the best, most experienced teachers they could find, compensate them well, and support them with whatever resources they need. When they hired Kim Jurczak, EAA administrators definitely found one of the best. And then, by treating her with no respect, as if she were just a useful trophy to show off to their financial benefactors when they toured the building to check on their investment, someone to be seen but not heard from, EAA administrators drove her away. Her new students are truly fortunate. But, like with so much else that is happening to them in their district, the EAA students are the losers in this situation. That’s not the fault of Kim Jurczak. That’s entirely the fault of the administration of the EAA from John Covington and Mary Esselman down to Angela Underwood and their damaging and offensive management style, a management style that has no place in Michigan public schools.

In the end, this is less a story about teachers being treated like dirt and more a story of kids losing out once again due to the failed model of the EAA.

Did you teach in the EAA from the beginning?

Yeah, I worked there from when school opened in the fall of 2012.

Did you work at Nolan the entire time?

Yes but last summer I was offered a job as a coach at another school and I was eager to take it.

To get out of the classroom?

No, not to get out of the classroom. To get out of Nolan.

That’s one of the interesting parts of the situation. The principal at Nolan, Angela Underwood, she came from Kansas City with Dr. Covington and she was kind of their “star child”. She seemed to be given unfair advantage in my eyes in terms of the resources that she had. She had all of these people that had come over from Kansas City who had already done things the way Covington wanted them to.

I learned a lot by talking to people at the other schools. The principals at other schools, they didn’t even know what they were supposed to be doing. The higher level, Dr. Covington’s team, wasn’t even helping the principals learn what was supposed to be going on in their schools.

How can you lead and help teachers to do things the right way if you’re never shown yourself?

But, at Nolan, there was no respect of the teachers from the administration. It was very much a dictatorship. Never in my life have I worked for someone who I couldn’t respect. Probably in the first month and a half I lost all respect for, first, my principal and then everyone in the hierarchy of the EAA organization — Covington, Esselman — I couldn’t respect them because they didn’t know what they were doing.

I couldn’t work for Angela Underwood for another year because I was afraid I’d be fired. I was having a harder and harder time as time went on keeping quiet and not challenging her every time she did something that just didn’t make sense.

The style of my principal was… well, we were cursed at, we were yelled at, we were belittled. And that seems to be the same way that Covington spoke to his principals and his administrative staff at his meetings. It was very much “my way or the highway” type of leadership. Even if principals had good intentions, they were being forced or coerced into doing things a certain way even if they didn’t think it was the best way.

So this — I’ve been referring to it as a culture of fear and intimidation as it relates to the teachers — but is sounds like that might have extended to some of these administrators, as well, and they were just sort of emulating what was happening to them when they dealt with their own staff.

Yes. That’s what I heard. For some people, if this job is your financial security and you’re using it to pay for your children, because a lot of the administrators are parents, as well, so they can’t just lose their jobs. So, they’re kind of forced into situations that, unfortunately, you personally don’t always agree with.


You know, I talked to another teacher at Nolan and she said that the teachers there loved you and that they encouraged you to — she explained to me that you had to nominate YOURSELF for Teacher of the Year which seems kind of weird — but, she said that they had encouraged YOU to do that and then they really came out for you big time and you won by a landslide. And I thought that was neat. It wasn’t like the administrators picked one of their pet teachers. It was actually voted on by the other teachers. Am I right about that?

Yeah. You were supposed to nominate yourself but they asked people to encourage other people to submit themselves and I had like five people that emailed me or came up to me and said, “You should submit yourself.” When I found out that not that many people were doing it, I thought, “What the hell?” and I decided to go ahead and throw my name in the hat and see what happened.

I found out later that two first year Teach for America teachers were told by the principal that they should submit themselves. I was never told that by her, despite the fact that I was obviously doing well. I mean every time they had visitors, they were coming into my classroom. I was being asked to help with curriculum writing by the district. But I wasn’t asked by the principal to consider doing Teacher of the Year because I don’t think she thought I’d be a good representation for the EAA because I was honest. I was going to do right by the kids but I wasn’t going to lie and stretch the truth. I wasn’t going to put on a dog and pony show and I think the two people she asked would. This was their first year out of college and they were trying to impress her.

I taught for five years before I came to Nolan and I also worked in the corporate world training educators. So, I’ve had lots of different bosses in my life and I’ve had lots of different jobs in my life. I have a pretty solid background in terms of going and getting another job. I didn’t need the EAA on my resumé.

Not like a TFA teacher would.

Right. For them, it’s their first job and they have nothing to compare it to. I could see myself being much like them at that age. You want your boss to like you, you want to do what your boss thinks is right. I could have seen myself being like that.

So, you were looking to leave the EAA before you actually quit?

Yeah, I would go in spurts. It broke my heart to leave. I loved my students. I had lived out of state for awhile but I had grown up in Michigan and wanted to come back. In a previous job I had trained teachers and I worked a lot with people who had worked in urban schools. I had never worked in one myself. I had worked in more suburbanish schools or lightly urban but not high poverty areas. So, I had never worked in those schools myself but I had met a lot of teachers and principals who were working in more struggling schools and it really touched me what they were doing and I wanted to go back and try to make that difference. So, when I saw what the EAA was trying to do, when I was looking online, it really fit in with my teaching style and what I’m trying to do. So, I really wanted to work for the EAA.

When I got there, I fell in love with my students as much as they drove me crazy on certain days. They needed people like us to be there for them. The thought of leaving them broke my heart. I really did struggle over the decision to actually take the job that I have now because I felt like I was giving up on the kids. As much as the frustrations that I had with the EAA made it difficult, I wanted to be there for the students. I really did care about them.

But, I got to the point where I felt like I was giving up something in myself to stay with them. By staying with the EAA I was compromising my moral integrity and I couldn’t live with myself.

The reason that I came to the decision to leave was because I tried several times to talk to them. I had a meeting in the fall with my principal about some of the things that I saw going on. I just wanted to have a talk with her, person-to-person, and just say, “Here’s what’s going on behind the scenes. Here’s how the teachers are feeling. People are frustrated, people want to leave, and this is not sustainable. We know that, if you want this to be successful, you need people to stick around and right now people are unhappy and they don’t feel supported and they don’t feel respected.”

I had that conversation with her and I felt like it went pretty well. But then, after that, I felt like I had a target on my back for the rest of the year because I spoke up. So, I felt like I tried to help them to see what they could change to make things better and they didn’t want to hear it. They only wanted to hear it from the Kansas City people. They had an idea in their heads about how it should go and, even if their way wasn’t working, they didn’t care. They were going to make their way work. It was more about “my way or the highway” than what was best for the students and how they were going to keep the teachers that are doing things the right way.

At my school, it seemed like there was a favoritism thing going on. I can admit that, during the first few months, I was favored. I was given opportunities and I was given treatment that other teachers were not given because they thought I was doing a good job. For example, I had worked for Promethean and I had my own Promethean Board which is an interactive white board. Most people know them as “smart boards”. I had one in my personal possession that I brought into my classroom. So, I already had one piece of technology in my classroom. Then my assistant principal came and asked me if I wanted a smart board. And I was like, “I already have one in my room! There are teachers who have nothing and you’re offering me a second thing to put in my classroom? You’re offering me something new when there are people who have nothing? That doesn’t make sense. Why can’t we make it fair? We can’t have it where some people have access to resources and others don’t.”

So, I was part of the favored group at the beginning. There were a few of us that were. Dr. Esselman — I’m sure you know who she is, she’s one of the higher ups — she would come to the school and whenever she was there she would stop by my classroom and see how things were going. Then, after I spoke to Angela, that all seemed to stop. She didn’t come in and talk to me at all. The only time they came into my room after that was when we had people visiting the school so they could do the dog and pony show because they knew that they could come into my room and kind of show off. That became the only time they ever asked me for anything anymore. They started having the two TFA teachers I mentioned go to present at weekend events and to speak on behalf of the EAA. They never asked me to do any of that stuff. I think it was, again, because they knew I had an opinion of my own and I think they knew I could back up my opinion because I had a little bit more experience and I know what I’m talking about a little bit more than a first-year teacher.

I think they were afraid that someone would actually not just go out there and sing the song of the EAA; that someone would go out and say, “Well, actually, here’s what’s really going on…”

Tell me about why you chose to go to the EAA. What did you know about them and what was it that interested you in what they told.

As I told you, through my training experiences I totally fell in love with the thought of working in an urban school and working with those students who didn’t have every advantage growing up. That was part of it.

The second part was that, when I was in Florida where I lived before, I was lucky enough to teach in a district that I think was one of the leaders in the nation in terms of technology integration and project-based learning. That was one of the things that they were touting in the EAA. I don’t know how familiar you are with project-based learning…

I’m not familiar with it. Could you explain?

Project-based learning is authentic learning where you’re teaching students through real-life projects. It’s not just a project where the kids are doing something and then making a poster. They might go out to the Everglades and collect samples on a field trip because they’re trying to find out something about water pollution. It’s multi-disciplinary, multi-subject, and it’s usually a several month-long project where they solve real-world problems. They’re utilizing technology and their creating a presentation at the end to share it, like a video that they created or something like that.

So the kids are using math and writing and science and all of these different things in the course of the project.

Yeah exactly. Also, the EAA had a video up on their website that showed this. There was an example, I think it was robotics, and the idea was that they would have these project-based classrooms. To me, that was exactly what I wanted to get to, to get away from a lecture-based model.

It’s funny, when I read through some of the other interviews that you’ve done and see what they say… like about the BUZZ system. What they ended up using the technology for was not at all what they told me. The commercial that I was sold on was not what was actually happening and I felt like even the leaders of the EAA didn’t know what project-based learning really was. They were trying to do this new, innovative technology, project-based learning and that never even took place in the classroom.

So they sold you on something that never really actually existed.

No, it never existed. One of the big things with project-based learning is 21st century skills — collaboration, communication, cooperation, and students working in teams together. I thought that was really important because these kids need these skills to work together and get along. That was one of the things we really struggled with at the beginning of the year, was getting them to work together in teams. And the way that, at least my school, SCL (student centered learning) was being pushed was “each kid for himself”. Each had their own individual plan. To me that completely disregards the whole 21st century skills that we’re supposed to be instilling in these kids. They shouldn’t be just working on their own. They need to be working together.

That’s exactly what people in business want: people who can work together and collaborate and get along with others.

When did the Teacher of the Year election happen? What time frame are we talking about?

I was actually looking that up because I actually forwarded myself the email that told me I was Teacher of the Year. I missed the Teacher of the Year dinner because I had my rehearsal dinner that night and I was made to feel like there was something wrong with that because God forbid I get married. So, I missed the actual dinner and never got anything like a certificate to say I was the Teacher of the Year so, before I left, I forwarded myself the email just in case they tried to say that it didn’t happen.

That was how you found out about it? An email? That was how they awarded it to you? Are you kidding me?

Yup. I believe the voting took place around April. I got an email on Thursday, May 30th from Dr. Prince who was in charge of HR for the district congratulating me for being chosen as the Teacher of the Year for Nolan. “As such, you are now eligible to apply for the EAA District Teacher of the Year”. It was funny to me because, as I was talking to teachers in other schools, the Teachers of the Year of the school were actually informed that they got it before the email from Dr. Prince came.

I was not even informed that I was the person who won. My principal didn’t even make an effort to tell me, “Oh, by the way, we voted a month ago and you were the winner.” Which I thought was kind of funny in and of itself. I was thinking, “Was she hoping that something would happen where I wouldn’t get it anymore and so she wasn’t telling me because she didn’t want to take it back?”

But that’s how I found out, from an email from the district telling me that now I could apply for the district Teacher of the Year. There wasn’t a staff meeting, I just got this email and then after that I got an email from my principal congratulating me. She sent me an email after. And I was like, “Really? That’s kind of cold that you couldn’t even tell the school beforehand that I had won this. It shows me what you really think.”

So it was a full month after the voting that I was informed. I had almost forgotten about it because it has been so long.

Were there Teachers of the Year at other schools, too? I hadn’t heard anything about that.

Yeah, and that’s the thing, they never announced it until they picked the district Teacher of the Year. I didn’t even bother running for that because the things you would have had to do I wouldn’t be able to do with a straight face. Like representing the EAA at different meetings, I couldn’t have done that. And I knew they never would have chosen me, either. That wouldn’t have happened. I don’t think that many of the other winners did either, probably for the same reasons I didn’t.

One of the things that I suspect will happen is that once the TFA teachers’ two-year obligation is up, there is going to be a mass exodus as they head for the door. Do you think that will happen?

Yeah and that’s biggest concern with the EAA to begin with because, yes, they have these TFA teachers that are coming in. But if you look at the school were I was, if you go to the website that’s up for Nolan elementary, it lists the names of the teachers who were hired at the beginning of last year. There are even teachers on that list that never even worked at Nolan. They left before school even started because the PD [professional development] was so ridiculous. But, if you look through that list at those people, I don’t remember the number anymore but it was only like five people that weren’t TFAers that are actually still at that school. The only other ones that are still at that school are the ones from TFA.

So, I worry about, like you say, they’re going to leave. This isn’t a sustainable model. If trying to help these kids and helping the lowest five percent is what they’re trying to do, then what they are doing to support the teachers is not going to make them want to stay. There are some who will stay because they really, really want to do this. There are some that won’t stay at all because they never intended to stay. But there are some that are on the fence about it and I think if there was the right support there through professional development and mentorship and all of that, then they might have more people who would say, “Yeah, you know, maybe I’ll stick around for a few years” and maybe they’ll turn teaching into a career or at least do it for more than just the two years that they need to for TFA.

Last year, there was talk of joining a union and we talked with AFT. And, for awhile, I was thinking about it so I went around and talked to some of the other teachers. And what I found out is that the majority of them weren’t planning on staying because a lot of the teachers, even the TFAers, they have issues with what’s being done in the EAA. As much as they believe in the kids, they don’t believe in the way the organization is being run. So, what I found out was that there were so few people that were planning on staying long term that I wasn’t willing to put myself on the line if people weren’t going to stay around. I would have done it if I felt like even half of us that were wanting to stay here for five years or more. But, what it looked like to me was that there were five people who were willing to stay for that long.

What was your experience with BUZZ?

Ah, my best friend BUZZ. I stopped using BUZZ as it was supposed to be used. Before BUZZ was up and running and functional, I had started my own website. My Masters degree is in instructional technology and, as I told you, I trained teachers in integrating technology for four years so it’s somewhat of a strength of mine. So, I knew of a lot of resources I could use with the computers and I didn’t need to rely on BUZZ to be able to use the computers in ways that I thought were useful and helpful.

I did try to make it work. I did try to have BUZZ running the way it was supposed to. I was actually one of the few teachers that was using it in the way they wanted us to use it in the beginning. The way it was set up was that there were units — Unit 1, Unit 2, whatever — and the students would have access to a single unit and then, once they had mastered everything in that unit, they were supposed to be able to go on to the next unit.

What we found, those of us who had started using it early, was that, once the student had finished Unit 1, it wouldn’t bump them up to Unit 2. So we had kids who couldn’t access the next set of instructional materials. And we’re talking here about three to four weeks that that kid couldn’t move on with the computer system so we were having to fall back to other resources. And then we were, of course, yelled at because we were using worksheets or using paper and pencil and not using BUZZ. But BUZZ wasn’t functioning.

I actually found a workaround and solved that problem for the district. Of course I wasn’t really given credit for it. BUZZ is based on a platform called Brain Honey. I discovered that the kids could login through a Brain Honey link and access the same material and it would still save their progress and all of that. I found that out by accident one day as I was trying to help out a student. I realized that when I went to the homepage for Brain Honey, oh my goodness, you could still login, and now the student could access the Unit 2 materials.

So, I had started using Brain Honey at that point. It wasn’t the cutesy set up that BUZZ was but I ended up enjoying that more than BUZZ and so did my students so I actually ended up using that for the remainder of the year. I got reprimanded a time or two because, “Why aren’t you using BUZZ?” But there were so many glitches in the BUZZ system, I’m sorry, I’m not going to use a system that isn’t working just for the sake of that system when there’s another system that has the exact same materials and it actually works.

Look, I worked in the corporate world and I know about selling a product and I wasn’t there to sell BUZZ. I was there to teach my students.

The thing is that, when I thought about SCL, I never saw it as, “Okay, the kids are going to learn off the computer.” It was, to me, just one of the resources that were there for their learning. I used the computers a lot but I didn’t use them as Brain Honey or BUZZ being the focus of it. I would bookmark things and put things on my personal website and students would know how to navigate to where we were supposed to be, whether it was researching the state of Michigan which is part of the 3rd grade curriculum or whatever it would be, my students knew how to navigate a computer. So we were able to work around the technology glitches.

How would you contrast your current teaching job with your experience with the EAA? Are you in a happy place now?

I would say it’s completely different. One of the things that bothered me about the EAA was that we had a coach and a Dean at our school that were supposedly there to assist us and help us grow as teachers and we didn’t feel like that support was there. You know, I had five years experience teaching but I didn’t feel in any way, shape, or form that I was done learning. I was looking for my own mentor, somebody to help me to continue to grow. But I didn’t feel like that was happening there. I mean we helped each other out but there wasn’t, for example, a really strong reading teacher who could help me improve my reading strategies or a really strong math teacher. Everyone has their strengths. Mine was technology. I was hoping to find those other teachers so that we could all continue to help each other grow and that wasn’t happening in the EAA.

Here, where I am now, I have so many resources here and I sit in meetings here and I feel like an idiot because the teachers that I’m teaching with are so good at what they’re doing, they’re so strong and I’m learning so much here.

That’s what the teachers at the EAA needed. Instead of someone kind of going around being the SCL coach, they needed someone who was leading reading workshops and math workshops and modeling those lessons. I did not feel like that support was there.

When you talk about how a lot of the principals feel intimidated by Covington, I thought it was interesting how after my first post he went around and asked all of them if they were doing anything wrong. No surprise, nobody said they were.

Let me tell you a story about that. At the very beginning of the year, one of the other teachers had gone to Underwood and tried to have the same sort of conversation with her that I had and asked if we could have a meeting. Our intention with that meeting was to talk about what was going on and try to come to some solutions. The meeting turned out to be the principal saying, “There are problems and you guys need to speak up.” Then she went around the circle and pointed to someone and said, “Okay, what are YOUR problems. Do you have any frustrations?” and then she’d point to the next one and ask them. It was very intimidating. Nobody felt comfortable speaking up because she was putting them on the spot. People were afraid to speak up and say what was happening and there were people who were actually in tears in that meeting because they felt so uncomfortable. We wanted to have a discussion about how we could fix things and it seems like she was taking it as a personal attack on her as an administrator. But she wasn’t there to try to help us. She was trying to figure out who was speaking out against anything going on. We almost felt like it was her way of putting targets on our backs, finding out who the people were that she needed to have an eye on.

Which is exactly what Covington did at the principal level.

Exactly. Exactly. When I saw that, that he was asking them if they were doing anything wrong, well they’re too afraid to say the truth so they’re going to go ahead and lie about it. In Terry Abbott’s response where he was talking about the staff incidents, there was nothing written about how the two times at Nolan where a teacher was written up. I was one of the people who had to report it one of the times for student who said one of the teachers put his hands on them. That wasn’t in the response. He only talked about what happened this year. So, what, you’re hiding all this stuff and selecting what information you’re putting out there just to put on the dog and pony show? Trying to make things look a certain way?

And that’s what this comes down to when it comes to expanding the EAA: if you’re going to expand, do it because you’re doing great things, not because you’re lying about what’s going on.

Here’s another example: before the school year actually started, this was during our PD at the beginning of the year, a teacher had put something in a survey following up our PD that the principal found inappropriate. She told us that she had found out who it was, that she had the autonomy to hire and fire who she pleased, and she’ll gladly “hold the door open as Dr. Covington kicks their ass out of the room.” We were also called “jackasses” in that meeting. That was my first experience thinking, “Who in the world am I working for? I’ve never been spoken to like this before!”

School hadn’t even started yet, right?

Right. I guess she was trying to assert her authority. “I have the power, it’s MY decision if you have a job or not.”

Another situation I think was directed at me personally. School Improvement Network, the company that owns BUZZ and Brain Honey, had come to our school many times. Some of the times were to film lessons that were going on so that they could use them to show the ideal teaching situations. I was told they were coming into my class to film a math lesson. Of course, I was told that at lunch so I had to try to get some stuff ready. Well, we waited and waited and they didn’t show up. Then, about 20 minutes before the end of the school day, they finally showed up in my room to film this lesson that we had already finished at that point. The computers were packed up because they had to go with the tech person.

They said, “Well, we’ll just film whatever it is you were going to do.” So, I’m like, “Okay, let me pull something out of my ass now…” So, I’m trying to do a science lesson and, I’ll be honest, I wasn’t prepared for it and it was almost the end of the day, my kids and I are almost ready to pack up and leave and, by the way, you told me you were going to come in an hour and half ago.

The lesson wasn’t going well, and at one point I said, “I’m sorry, I’m going to have to ask you to leave” because I knew my students were getting anything out of it and I wasn’t going to be putting on a show.

We had a staff meeting a day or two later and during that staff meeting, Underwood brought up a situation and basically said, “If someone is coming to your room to film and you disagree, you better just grit your teeth and bear it. I was so embarrassed that you weren’t prepared…” She never said my name but it was clear that she was talking about me. She said she had a stack of resumés at her desk and that we were all replaceable.

My third story happened later in the year and this was one of my breaking points where I thought, “I might have to leave this place.” We always had visitors visiting our classroom and it was typically a disruption to the learning process. We had a group of visitors that came in on this particular day who were very loud and didn’t seem to understand that when you go into a classroom, you should probably not interrupt what is going on. The students that I was working with, and it was a small group, maybe seven or eight, I could barely hear them when they were sitting five feet from me because these adults were in my room and being so loud and disruptive.

Like they were at the zoo watching animals or something.

Yes. So, the next day we had a staff meeting for nothing related to that but I brought it up. I raised my hand and said, “Is it possible that when we have visitors come in, that we can ask them to try not to interrupt the learning process because it was really difficult to get my kids back on track after they left the classroom.”

Her response was that she couldn’t tell Dr. Covington and Dr. Esselman to have these people be quiet and if I didn’t think I could handle that, that maybe this was not the right place for me to be working. To me, I thought that was hilarious. I mean I would have had the balls, I would have stood up to him. I’m sorry but you need to ask the question. You can do it politely, in a respectful way, but say to them, “Would you please respect the learning process and try to keep your voices down when you’re in the classroom?” I didn’t think that was such a big thing but she turned it into, “You can’t do that and maybe this isn’t the right place for you to be working.” And that was, of course, in front of the entire staff that she does this stuff.

That goes along with this environment of fear that they had created. I wasn’t afraid to speak up but there were a lot of people who were.

How many times did visitors come through?

The year that I was there, it started in December and we had something like 20 visitors by the end of the spring. They didn’t usually come in the summer because in the summer there weren’t that many students there and they really didn’t want people to see that.

Another thing is that every time we had visitors, our schedule completely changed. So we had kids eating lunch at 10 in the morning or super late in the afternoon so that the visitors wouldn’t be there to see the kids at lunchtime because they were afraid that the students would be themselves.

  • Rob

    Many thanks and much respect to Ms. Jurczak for having the courage to speak out publicly.

    Thanks also to all the other teachers who have come forward, anonymous or not. Clearly the EAA has created a culture where people who raise concerns are punished rather than rewarded as problem-solvers. In that climate it takes a lot of courage even to come forward anonymously.

  • Mypost

    Hey Chris maybe you should try to do something useful for the Detroit school system rather than post spineless articles. Ms. Underwood is an incredible individual and has tried to CHANGE the system for the better. Screw you and your union loving people. THEY ARE THE PROBLEM. You are a worm Chris….I hope the worms of the world won’t be offended by that.

    • You’re adorable. I have yet to hear anything about Angela Underwood that would qualify her as “an incredible individual” in any positive way.

      If “worm” is the best you can do, you have a lot to learn about being an insulting troll on the internet.

    • Supporter of Truth

      You are the worm, and you are the spineless one! I worked for Angel Underwood and I can promise you she is far from incredible. I have been the victim of her ridicule, lies and backstabbing. She as well as the others care nothing about those amazing students and Detroit deserves much better than the lying, cheating, stealing and illegal actions being done throughout the administration of the EAA!

      • Ang

        If you are a supporter of her, why won’t you give your name? Embarrassed?

        • Supporter of Truth

          I don’t see your name!

          • Ang

            The names of those people that have told the truth about Angela have been disclosed in articles – Kim and Delbert. They have the courage to come forward. Many other teachers have also been brave enough to share their stories but because of intimidation by the EAA and people like you with the nasty comments, they do not feel comfortable sharing their names. If you know that you are in the right and are telling the truth, you should feel comfortable sharing.

          • Ang

            Sorry, this should have been a reply to “Mypost”, not you. :)

    • Ang

      If you are a supporter of her, why won’t you give your name? Embarrassed?

  • Lyeyname

    Angela Underwood only has “disdain” for those teachers who do not pack the discipline and core values to teach the children in the Detroit inner schools. Let Kim Jurczak go work in an environment where kids are not first, but her union pension is. Angela is a no nonsense principal that expects her teachers to teach her kids. Some like Jurczak can’t handle that and if she can’t handle being disciplined herself she she will be weak in the tough classrooms in Detroit. These kids in Detroit are coming from tough home environments. These EEA schools are providing a safe and nurturing environment for kids who otherwise would be thrown into a Detroit inner city schools with union teachers who don’t give a damn about the kids but about their union paycheck.

    • Thank you. I have updated this post to indicate that you have posted two comments under different names to make it look like there is more than one person supporting Angela Underwood when there is not.

    • Jason Garcia

      Riiiight, she took over a $30K a year pay cut to leave the private sector to teach in Detroit because she is so money hungry and is only worried about a pension. Get a clue! There is only one “spineless” person on this thread hiding in anonymity.

    • Chris Hansen

      Way to express yourself, Ms. Underwood.

    • Ang

      Actually most of the teachers in these articles are all still in urban schools but now they have principals that treat them in a professional manner. The kids may have reasons for their poor behavior but someone in Angela’s position should be held accountable for her behavior.

    • Evan

      “Handle being disciplined?” I think Mrs Jurczak is handling it just fine..or did you mean she should acquiesce and submit to the authority of someone she doesn’t agree with? If you consider standing up for your beliefs as being “weak”, then I am afraid of your vision of the perfect classroom and of the values you hope to impart to the children of Detroit.

    • Supporter of Truth

      You people are hilarious! I can guarantee that these replies are being done by the sheep that follow her and Covington. Angela Underwood and all who support her are not one bit concerned for the well fare or education of those amazing students. She is an unprofessional, backstabbing liar who is out for her self. She has no idea what it takes to be an effective leader or educator. She is “no-nonsense” alright, meaning if you do not do what she says you will be punitively punished. Being part of a union is of no importance to any self respecting teacher, especially Kim Jurczac or any of the other amazing teachers who have left the EAA. It only becomes the issue when there are abusive and unfair working conditions which IS the case with Nolan and many of the other EAA INSTITUTIONS!!!!! I dare not refer to them as schools because that would imply there is actual learning going on! The test scores are lies just like everything else. I hope the parents of that district are awakened to the reality of the destruction of their children’s education!

    • Supporter of Truth

      That is really funny because I have been in a room full of every teacher in the building where she called us all “Jackasses” and would belittle every teacher in the building over the loud speaker! Maybe you should get your facts straight!

  • Lisa

    I had the immense pleasure of working both with Kim and under Angela. Kim was a teacher I aspired to be like and who had the incredible drive and passion that was admirable for what she was put through. Angela had severe issues separating her feelings from her professionalism and it hurt her in our eyes. We did not have a strong leader to look up to but rather hold in disdain as we were constantly marginalized. I find the comments of the poster who holds her in such regards as hilarious. Working for a union has nothing to do with the quality of the education that Kim provides. Anyone would be lucky to work with someone so dedicated to their craft. Working in the EAA is like doing time in the service. Mazel to those who can make it out.

    • Supporter of Truth

      The truth shall set us free…you go Lisa!!!!

  • Chris Hansen

    Chris, your interviews with EAA teachers are greatly appreciated and invaluable.

  • Otherone

    Oh you can’t post that Chris is a Worm? So much for your liberal progressive open minded free speaking kind of people. And I was being kind with the worm thing…..but didn’t want to offend the amoeba…or sponges…..or other low life things of the world…

    • Please continue, governor.

    • Supporter of Truth

      This must be the wonderful Ms. Underwood, I mean us amoeba all know she loves to resort to name calling! That is her “discipline” and “honorable integrity” showing up…

  • Chelonda

    I find it disgusting that individuals will post such horrible comments about a school, its administration, and the hard work of teachers when the important leaders of Detroit are doing nothing, but to continue to suppress their own people. I personally have worked for Principal Underwood and have known her to be the most honest, hard working individual I have ever met. Her goal is to constantly provide children of low socioeconomic status the best education that she can possibly provide. She has had such great academic success and all of the people who are writing on this blog are lying and for what? Because you lost your job? It is much easier to shift blame, point a finger then to look at yourself and reflect on your inadequacies as a teacher and your inability to provide explicit instruction. If Ms. Underwood is such a horrible person why does she have over 100 volunteers who come to support her students? Were you aware that prior to Ms. Underwood taking over Nolan the students were working with rodent feces among them? No toilet paper or paper towel in the restroom and tons of trash? The students were treated like animals! Before you allow people to speak negatively of her, why don’t you take the time to go to her school and see for yourself the success she and her staff that are willing to work hard have created?

    • The teachers that I have interviewed from Nolan either still work there or they quit. They were not fired.
      Nice try, though.

      • Chelonda

        What proof do you have that they quit and that their contracts were not renewed? I know of one that you just interviewed that was fired and I know the exact reason why she was terminated. Also, you failed to answer my final question which proves that this blog is being used to only hurt the EAA, but in the end good and the truth always trumps evil. P.S. Now you have 2 people who support Ms. Underwood and the success of the EAA!

        • Ang

          If you are so in love with Mrs. Underwood, why are you posting anonymously? Who are you?

        • Supporter of Truth

          Proof is in the fact that there are people admitting they were fired! And I can attest that those who were fired were fired wrongfully but of course that is a lie to right. Everyone who has left, been fired, or their contracts not renewed were handed to the wolves because of a corrupt group of administrators. The proof is in the fact that there are so many teachers willing to speak out against the EAA! If you are supporting Angela or Covington or Prince or anyone else in charge of that organization it can mean only one thing, you are one of the people responsible for taking advantage of the beautiful and amazing students, and teachers in that already struggling area. The children’s best interest is not what is on the minds of those running that place! They are corrupt, liars who got themselves in way over their heads. Why dont you ask your precious leaders how Covington actually took hold of the EAA…oh yeah I forgot he would probably feed you a load of crap just like he does to the parents and students! You should all be ASHAMED of yourselves for the set back you have created for those students who deserve much better than what you are so proud of!

      • GoBlue

        Nolan has so many volunteers because of the efforts of its parent involvement coordinator reaching out to the community. Nothing that the principal or her administration did.

        • Chelonda

          Really? Because I saw the principal go from business to business soliciting help. Maybe you should go get yourself a donut and ask the owner of the local donut shop.

          • Chelonda, my post below was meant to be in reply to yours. If you are an employee at Nolan, you know that what was said here about treatment of staff is true. And if you think that treatment is okay, I am sad for you. I have had the amazing opportunity to work for and with outstanding principals, including my current one, who treat their staff with respect. Maybe you didn’t have that opportunity. I would love to hear your response regarding the comments made about my lack of ability to provide instruction.

    • Mgoblue

      Because if he decided to go there they would change the schedule to paint a false picture and provide one hell of a dog and pony show. And no one was fired. I quit. I had a new job in July and left in August because of the fear the EAA wouldn’t pay me for a full year.

    • Just to clarify, I chose to leave the EAA, not the other way around. And every story in this article is true regarding her treatment of staff. I would find it hard to believe even current staff could say that these are lies. Also, I was approached by both Mrs. Underwood and Dr. Esselman in August to take a position as the SCL coach at Bethune for the 2013-2014 school year, so please explain to me again my shortcomings as a teacher. Please help me understand why Governor Snyder, Eli Broad, and numerous others came into my classroom to see my instruction if I was so inadequate. There is a difference between pushing your employees to work through tough circumstances and being a bully. If having too much respect for myself to allow someone to treat her staff the way we were treated last year makes me weak in your eyes, I guess that’s a difference of opinion. The only reason I was able to stick it out through the year was the love I had for my students and the support my coworkers and I shared. Until you have walked in those shoes, you really have no say. And if you have walked in those shoes next to me last year, please stop hiding behind your anonymity and share your true identity. And please help me understand the long-term plan for the EAA to continue on their “successful” path. Show me the list of teachers willing to commit beyond 3 more years with the organization. If you can muster up a list even close to 50%, I would be shocked.

    • Supporter of Truth

      It amazes me that people are trying to make it sound as if Angela Underwood has been the one to create any success in that building. It was all of the amazing teachers and volunteers who came to help that delivered that school from the squander. Oh, and by trash do you mean the thousands of pounds of books and brand new technology she literally threw in the trash promising that there would be better resources to replace them. Oh and by the way never showed up. Does the honesty you are talking about have anything to do with the altered test scores she delivered. Oh and wait lets talk about the amazing way she used her, oh I am sorry abused her position of authority to threaten peoples jobs so they would do what she wanted. What about her wonderful way of scripting what the staff and students were aloud to say when the people promising money (that the students would never see) were visiting. Or wait what about the fact that the special ed department is so out of compliance that the students would probably not even recognize the person who was supposed to be helping them. Oh and the way they would rig classrooms to look amazing and perfect before the visitors come. I am sorry but you must be confusing honesty and integrity with lying and cheating. Before January of last year more than 11 teachers LEFT of their own will some without jobs to replace them because of your precious Angela Underwood! I beg to differ with who the liars are here. As stated before I believe that all of the posts trying to offer support to Angela Underwood are no one more than her Sheep whom are just as ridiculous as her!

      • Supporter of Truth

        Oh and PS. The volunteers are not there for Angela Underwood they are there for the students!

  • David

    For us in Kansas City that had experience with Covey and his ‘team’; your blog and interviews are spot on. Anyone that argues otherwise is either in on it, extremely naive or just plain unintelligent.

    • Supporter of Truth

      Thank you for your post David! We were all lied to about that as well.

  • kirk

    and, thats why we have unions, for all she speaks of went on in schools before unions created a fair and equal work place.

  • sink44

    I worked with Ms. Jurczak and Mr. Glaze for one month at Nolan. It was heart breaking for me to leave the students I was finally connecting with. I could no longer withstand Ms. Underwood breaking down my moral integrity as well. She is a evil as what Ms. Jurczak are saying. As a teacher who has had 6 years of experience working in an urban school setting, I too was never ever treated so horribly by a principal. She showed absolutely no support and never had anything positive to say. She could barely smile when you said good morning to her. She is cold and evil like all these money hungry EAA snakes! I applaud you Mr. Savage for getting these interviews out! I was waiting for this karma train to happen! You can’t treat human beings like this! I can only imagine how much of Ms. Underwood’s heart is really there for the students? I feel so much pain for these students that these EAA snakes care nothing about! I can move on and find a better environment for myself, these kids don’t have much of a choice! Plus, they are losing incredible and dedicated teachers like Ms. Jurczak and Mr. Glaze! Shame on these heartless and money grubbing snakes like Underwood and Covington! I hope they pack up all their broken computers, broken SCL idea, and broken misconceptions on how to educate a human being, and go get Wal-mart jobs back in Kansas City so they can’t destroy another child’s future!

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  • MGoBlue

    . also, her son goes there because she said and i quote “i’m tired of paying for after school care” and she pulls her son out in the summer and sends her to her sister so he doesn’t have to be in school during the summer. how convenient! Angela, please tell me how it feels to sink so low you are hiding behind anonymous comments and having people do your dirty work. According to teachers still there, you haven’t left your office in days and have said you cant wait to “leave the school because people in Michigan are crazy”

    • Chelonda

      Her son goes to that school because she believes in the system and so that he can be at the academic level he needs to be on to be successful. He wasn’t being challenged in the suburban schools! Also, she sent him to her sister over the summer because her sister and sister’s children are VERY, VERY close to her son and wanted to spend time with him. Let’s talk about EVIL now! WHO BRINGS AN INNOCENT CHILD INTO A VERBAL DISAGREEMENT ABOUT EDUCATION! That is TRULY SICK!
      P.S. This is NOT MS. Underwood. Have your leader check the IP address.

      • What’s weird is that you’re from Kansas. Why are you involved in Michigan education conversations like this?

        • Chelond

          Because I have worked in inner city schools for many years and I have worked for Ms. Underwood. Since she has left the Kansas City area I followed her through the media because of the great work I personally feel she is accomplishing. I have worked at a SCL school. She is a respectable, honest and hardworking person and I think it is terrible her son was brought into the conversation. With the current state of your city you would think that your focus and efforts would be in rebuilding what once a metropolis and it is going to take those children to fix what your leaders have destroyed. Hmm. Weren’t unions apart of that? P.S. Kansas and Missouri are neighboring states.

          • Just so we’re clear that you are judging multiple teachers who are reporting first hand how they are being treated by Angela Underwood based on your experience with her in the past in a different state, a different school district, and a completely different relaxing environment.
            In other words you have almost zero credibility in this conversation.

          • Thomas C. Pedroni

            When people try to blame teacher unions, as Chelond does, I like to remind them that almost every top performing district in the country has a teachers union. And all the highest performing states, educationally speaking, have strong teacher unions. What is clear to me from having been a teacher is that one of the ONLY strong defenders of children’s interests in our cities are the teachers unions.

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  • Brian

    Hey all, I’m a teacher who quit mid year too. I’ve turned my struggles in the process into a business to help other teachers: is an emerging start-up with one mission: to give support and advice to teachers transitioning out of the education field.

    Check it out if you want to switch out of teaching but have no idea how or don’t know how to get the life you want after teaching.