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Teachers at Detroit charter school want contract by June 1

Sarah Cwiek
Michigan Radio

Teachers at a Detroit charter school are demanding a new contract by the start of next month.

Teaching staff at Southwest Detroit Community School have been bargaining with charter management since the fall. Teachers, parents and union leaders made the case for a June 1 deadline at a school board meeting Wednesday night.

They say a teacher contract will help stabilize the school, which has seen high administrative turnover, including multiple principals in the past several years.

Third grade teacher Jacob Robinson says that high turnover and a lack of communication from the charter’s management company, EAS, are concerns.

“We believe as a community that a teacher contract would help provide stability to the school, will help make sure teachers stay, and will also hold accountability to the administration to ensure principals stay as well,” Robinson said.

Michelle Villa has two children at the school, and came out to support the teachers’ effort at a rally before the school board meeting.  That event was part of a larger series of nationwide school "walk-ins" to support teachers and public education.

Villa loves the school’s diversity and its “supportive, loving community,” but she’s frustrated that principals keep cycling in and out.

“Every year,” Villa said. “And it’s frustrating because I feel like we’re not giving chances for our staff to get familiar with their principal, and for them to be able to work together to make sure our school goes up.”

The American Federation of Teachers, which has represented teachers at the school since the fall, set the June first deadline to finalize a contract. Teachers could vote to strike if that doesn’t happen, though Robinson says talks have made substantial progress in recent days.

Charter management company EAS could not be reached for comment on Thursday.

Southwest Detroit Community School is one of just three unionized charter schools in the city of Detroit.

Sarah Cwiek joined Michigan Public in October 2009. As our Detroit reporter, she is helping us expand our coverage of the economy, politics, and culture in and around the city of Detroit.