Students rely on educators and support staff

Ivy Bailey, Donna Jackson and Ruby Newbold

Each school day, we represent thousands of men and women who strive to provide an environment where learning can occur.

In fact, student achievement is American Federation of Teachers Detroit’s primary focus. We are comprised of the Detroit Federation of Teachers; Detroit Federation of Para-Professionals; and the Detroit Association of Educational Office Employees. Our organizations have decades of history in our great city. We’ve helped to educate a wide range of people, from factory workers, doctors, lawyers and small business owners to Motown greats Diana Ross, the Four Tops and Smokey Robinson as well as hip-hop star Big Sean.

After enduring an often hostile set of emergency managers and having emerged from state control, 2017 marks a new beginning for Detroit Public Schools Community District. Fact is, most of the decisions made by Lansing appointees have had little or nothing to do with student achievement and performance. We will have a new superintendent, Nikolai Vitti, and it will be necessary for him to hit the ground running when he arrives from Duval County, Florida.

It’s important to us that our students are in the best possible environment to achieve success. It’s also important that the current DPSCD administration understand that we deserve wage restoration as well as and equity. We represent teachers, office staff, paraprofessionals, noon-hour aides, and food service staff. Student success, in large part, is predicated on the nurturing and learning environment that we help to create.

AFT Detroit members are everyday people who live in your neighborhood, attend your home of worship, and shop for groceries where you do. Together, we’ve rallied on the state Capitol for fundamental fairness and against ugly, us-versus-them policies and funding formulas.

Together, we brought to light unacceptable building conditions at schools that were harmful to educators and students. Together, we endorsed a county-wide millage to provide necessary school funding. Together, we spoke with one voice respectfully requesting that the Board of Education extend to Interim Superintendent Alycia Meriweather an interview for the permanent leadership position. Together, we rallied and pushed back against the slash-and-burn Trump administration budget and clueless DeVos education department policies.

To be sure, we represent men and women who have dedicated their lives to helping educate our most precious resource: our children.

Our members are teachers, who at times, use their own money to purchase facial tissue, hand sanitizer and crayons. Our members are food service workers and noon-hour aides who dutifully see to it that our children get the nutrition that they need to grow and learn; we’ve partnered, for example, with the district’s Office of School Nutrition to design, implement and provide staff professional development.

Our members are paraprofessionals who have lovingly developed family reading nights for the community to foster unity, extend fellowship and build skills. Our members are secretaries who are the backbone of our school offices, and who routinely remain at the school until the last child is picked up by a parent or guardian.

AFT Detroit calls on the DPSCD administration to understand the important role that we play and negotiate with us accordingly. We’ve been team players. We’ve sacrificed a significant portion of our salaries in recent years. Now, we say with one voice: What’s best for educators and support staff is best for students.

Ivy Bailey is president of the Detroit Federation of Teachers; Donna Jackson is president of the Detroit Federation of Para-Professionals; and Ruby Newbold is president of the Detroit Association of Educational Office Employees.