AFT names administrator for Detroit teachers union

The Detroit News

The American Federation of Teachers has named an aide to President Randi Weingarten as administrator of the Detroit teachers union.

Ann Mitchell, the AFT’s assistant to the president for field coordination, will take over operation of the Detroit Federation of Teachers on Tuesday, the AFT said Thursday in a news release.

The AFT executive council voted Monday to accept a request from DFT leaders to put the local under voluntary administratorship.

“My appointment of Ann Mitchell comes at a time when the local and our members are facing internal divisions and external challenges such as austerity, benefit cuts and a threat of widespread charterization and layoffs,” said Weingarten. “The future of Detroit’s public schools is at stake, and our members — despite their tremendous and justified frustrations at the terrible way they have been treated — have been a lifeline for Detroit’s kids and parents.

Mitchell is a former elementary school teacher who directs programs to strengthen AFT locals and build community and political support for the union’s goals.

“This partnership is intended to rebuild the DFT and make it a stronger union for its members,” she said.

The local’s interim president, Ivy Bailey, wrote to Weingarten Oct. 14, asking for help fighting health care cuts and school closures in Detroit Public Schools and Gov. Rick Snyder’s plans to overhaul education in Detroit and split the financially troubled district in two.

The DFT also has faced internal division. The local’s executive board removed then-President Steve Conn and expelled him from the union in August after finding him guilty of internal charges of misconduct.

A group allied with Conn has staged two teacher sickouts this month, including one Thursday, leading to the closure of several DPS schools each time.