After A Rough Start, Situation Remains Shaky At Ypsilanti Middle School

038As reported in The Ann Arbor News Thursday, a Ypsilanti Middle School parent is very upset about an altercation her son was involved in at the middle school, which resulted in her son being taken to the hospital. Amanda Brown stated that her son suffered a concussion after being slammed into the wall numerous times in the school’s sixth grade hallway. According to The Ann Arbor News article, Brown’s son had exchanged words with the other student just prior to the physical altercation. Brown stated also that no adults were present during the incident. The incident, which occurred May 20th, was reported to the Washtenaw County Sheriff’s Office.

Unfortunately, it looks as if the school year at Ypsilanti Middle School is ending on the same note it started on back in September. On September 26, 2013 Purple Walrus Press was contacted by an anonymous teacher at Ypsilanti Middle School. Our anonymous source told PWP that there was much trouble at the new middle school and that teachers were essentially very concerned about the safety of students as well as staff. In a September 27, 2013 Purple Walrus Press article written after interviewing the anonymous teacher, I listed the concerns and complaints that our source shared with me. Here is the list of complaints the anonymous teacher shared at that time.

1. The Middle school is over crowded.

2. There is physical violence occurring in the school that is not being addressed by the school administration.

3. Students are sent to the office for bad behavior and then sent back to class.

4. Teacher morale is low and many are looking for other jobs. Teachers feel powerless.

5. A teacher received a concussion while breaking up a fight between students. The student came back to school the next day. After the teacher pressed, the student was suspended.

6. No discipline, no control, no consequences.

7. There is danger all the time and there is fear that, “Something bad is going to happen.”

8. Many students want the current conditions changed.

9. Some parents are withdrawing students.

10. Discipline problems have been brought up by teachers at staff meetings, but they have been brushed aside.

11. Due to over-crowding at the middle school many students were sent to the nearby high school building. The high school building has no working phones and no administrators. Teachers have to use cell phones to reach the main middle school. NOTE: Shortly after PWP published our initial article on the middle school issue last year the high building reportedly was equipped with phones.

After learning about the latest incident it is apparent that little has changed at the middle school since the beginning of the school year. How unfortunate for not only the faculty, but more importantly, for the students.

I do not want to blame the students for problems at the middle school. I’m sure that kids are no better and no worse than they ever were, no matter the location. I do think that it says a lot that one of the issues stated to PWP in September was that many students at Ypsilanti Middle School wanted conditions changed. No, I don’t think it is fair to place blame for all of the school issues on the kids. From the beginning of the Willow Run/Ypsilanti school merger last year, decisions seem to have been made in a ramshackle, and disorganized manner. From teachers being told they need to provide the administration parent/student references then only to find that references were not looked at, to over-crowding at the new middle school, there have been many missteps by the district.

In the end it is the students who suffer and that is a shame.

Jeff Brown

Editor in Chief

Purple Walrus Press

Source:Scott Menzel/Laura Lisiscki Meet With YCS Middle School Staff Thursday

038According to an anonymous source WISD/YCS Superintendent Scott Menzel and YCS Associate Superintendent Laura Lisiscki surprised the staff at the Ypsilanti Community School Middle School-Willow Run Campus Thursday by holding what was termed a questions and answers discussion with the teaching staff over the issue of overcrowding and concern for safety at the middle school. A confidential source told Purple Walrus Press Thursday evening that while some teachers were upset and frustrated by the meeting, other teachers, including our source, thought that the meeting was constructive and well intentioned. Our source did state however that some staff members did feel “ambushed” by the meeting since no advance notice had been given to teachers. It is the opinion of our source that Menzel and Lisiscki had good intentions and wanted to assure staff that they were empathetic to their concerns about overcrowding and safety, but that at times their statements seemed off the cuff, awkward, and left open to interpretation.  Our source gives Menzel credit for listening to the staff Thursday. However, it is clear that there were staff members who were frustrated and not appeased by the impromptu meeting. According to our source one teacher “stormed out of the meeting in tears.” There were many different interpretations of of today’s meeting among the staff according to our source.

Jeff Brown  Editor in Chief

(Previous coverage of the situation at YCS Middle School can be found by selecting the Ypsilanti Community Schools link below this post)

 

Source:YCS Middle School Students In High School Building Since Second Week

038Let’s be clear. When a teacher contacted Purple Walrus Press last Thursday the source, who wishes to remain anonymous, stated that Ypsilanti Community School Middle School – Willow Run Campus students were already in the vacated Willow Run High School building. A follow up call from our source stated that middle school students have been in the old high school building since the second week of school. An article appearing Monday in The Ann Arbor News regarding overcrowding at the middle school seemed unclear on this situation.  Further, our source reported that while overflow middle school students were already in the old high school there were no working phones and no administrators in that building. Our source also revealed that there is no security provided at the high school building. Tuesday morning WISD Communication Specialist, Emma Jackson, contacted Purple Walrus in response to a phone message Purple Walrus left for WISD Superintendent, Scott Menzel Monday afternoon in an attempt to clarify facts in his statement to The Ann Arbor News. Emma Jackson stated that, “building principal, Natalie Turner, ensured that all teachers had access to telephone communications until phone lines were activated in that portion of the complex.” One can only speculate as to what is meant by that statement.  Oddly, when Purple Walrus Press attempted to contact Ms. Turner at the middle school on Monday afternoon a person identifying herself as Ms. Turner abruptly hung up after a question was asked. To be honest the voice on the other end of the line actually sounded like it could have belonged to a child. Was it a child answering the principal’s phone? Odd. Obviously, there are serious problems at the new middle school which hopefully will be addressed by the administration.

Jeff Brown

Editor in Chief

YCS Teacher Reports Trouble At Middle School

038An Ypsilanti Community Schools middle school teacher contacted Purple Walrus Press Thursday afternoon with allegations of trouble at the new YCS Middle School – Willow Run Campus.  According to the unnamed source, not only is the new middle school over-crowded, but it is also violent. Here is a list of the allegations made to Purple Walrus Press by the anonymous teacher.

1. The middle school is over-crowded

2. There is physical violence occurring in the school that is not being addressed by the school administration.

3. Students are sent to the office for bad behavior and then sent back to class.

4. Morale for teachers is low and many are looking for other jobs. Teachers feel powerless.

5. A teacher received a concussion while breaking up a fight between students. The student came back to school the next day. After the teacher pressed, the student was suspended.

6. Due to over-crowding at the middle school many students have been sent to the nearby high school building. The high school building has no working phones and no administrators. In order to reach the main middle school building teachers at the high school must text or call on cell phones. Our anonymous source estimated that there are roughly 120 students in the old high school building.

7. “There is no discipline, no control, no consequences.”

8. There is danger all the time and there is fear that, “something is going to happen.”

9. Many students want the current conditions to be changed.

10. Some parents are withdrawing their children.

11. Discipline problems have been brought up by teachers at staff meetings, but they have been “brushed” aside.

12. Students are crammed in hallways.

13. According to our source Friday, September 20th, a student was at the middle school with a knife or gun. According to our source the student had been suspended and then returned to school with either a knife or a gun. He was found roaming in the high school building.

All of the listed issues are alarming and of great concern. If student and staff safety are indeed at risk, as these allegations imply, what a great disservice and injustice students and staff are being subjected to. From the very inception of the Ypsilanti/Willow Run merger things have been handled in a disorganized manner.  It is no wonder multiple anonymous teachers have been moved to share information with PWP. It is important to note that YCS teachers are currently working without a collective bargaining agreement. With the consolidation layoffs, a shabbily handled re-hiring process and utter lack of support by the administration at the middle school, how much should teachers have to put up with?

Jeff Brown

Editor in Chief

 

Ann Arbor News Article About Ypsilanti Community Schools is Misleading

An article that appeared in the September 13th issue of The Ann Arbor News under the headline, “Ypsilanti Community Schools Exceeds Enrollment Target in Second Week“, is misleading. The number of students enrolled in Willow Run Schools last year was 1,460. The number of students enrolled in Ypsilanti Public Schools last year was 3,426. When you add the number of students who were enrolled in both districts last year you get a grand total of 4,886 students. According to the Ann Arbor News article, “Ypsilanti Community Schools has reached a population of 4,148 in the second week of its first-ever school year.” When one does the math it is clear that the truth is that the new Ypsilanti Community School district lost 738 students since the merger. That’s a 15% loss! It is unclear why an article appearing in the Ann Arbor News would skew the truth to imply that the news YCS district is healthy and on track when in actuality it lost hundreds of students.

Jeff Brown

Editor in Chief Purple Walrus Press

Ypsilanti Community Schools: Teachers Jilted/Can This Get Any Worse!

And so the sad saga of the Ypsilanti/Willow Run merger continues. I hate to keep being the bearer of bad news, but the bad news keeps on coming. On Monday, May 21st it was reported on the Ypsilanti Community School Supporters facebook page that there has been yet another blunder made by the Ypsilanti Community Schools teacher rehire committee. First, a brief history: Months ago it was decided by the district that all teachers and support staff would be pink slipped effective June 30th of this year. Teachers were then told they had to re-apply for the teaching positions they already had. Some teachers had been teaching for thirty years. Having to re-apply for a teaching position that one has held is humiliating enough, but there were, of course, more hoops teachers had to jump through. Teachers were informed by the district that not only would they have to re-apply for their jobs, but that as a part of the rehire process and evaluation they needed to ask parents and students for letters of recommendation. Talk about a lack of respect for teachers. Geez! Well, there is more. On the evening of May 3rd it was brought to light that indeed the district did not even bother  to contact references that teachers were told to supply. Hmmm. Weren’t letters of recommendation supposed to be a key part of the rehire evaluation? At the May 3rd press conference when I brought this recommendation issue up to Scott Menzell he in essence told me that there was not enough time to check references. Lets get back to the latest debacle on the part of the district rehire process. According to the YCSS facebook page there was an evaluation system that rated teacher experience on a scale of one through five. Apparently this area of evaluation was done in a very incompatible manner. There was a teacher with over thirty years of experience who received a three out of five score while a teacher with one year of experience received a score of five out of five. What the heck is going on here? This entire situation continues to be more and more mind boggling. There are many in the community, including yours truly, who would like to send our children to school in this district, but will not because the lack of transparency, vision and respect, as well as the utter chaos that continues in Ypsilanti Community Schools. What a shame.

Jeff Brown

Ypsilanti Community Schools: Staff Learns Fate/Teacher References Ignored

So here it is folks: The truth comes out and it’s not pretty. Today Ypsilanti and Willow Run school teachers received letters from their districts informing them whether they were being rehired for the next school year after both districts pink slipped all staff. Here is what has transpired in the last twenty-four hours. Late last night an anonymous source told the Ypsilanti Community Schools Supporters facebook page that references the teachers were requested to provide to WISD were not contacted during the selection process. Based on what I have witnessed while covering the Ypsilanti Community Schools issue, I’m not in the least surprised. First, a little background. Months ago the district announced that not only would all teachers and staff in Willow Run and Ypsilanti schools be pink-slipped by the end of the school year, but that they were required to ask parents and students for references as a part of the rehiring process. This in itself is humiliating and disrespectful. But this latest news that emerged late Thursday night is even more appalling. The statement put out on the YCSS facebook page said that “they had received positive confirmation of a troubling report by someone employed by the district who wished to be anonymous for fear of retaliation.” The source said that the references teachers were told to provide were not called during the teacher selection process. When I raised the issue of references not being contacted at the 4:30pm press conference at the administration building Friday, Scott Menzell replied by saying that, in essence, there was not enough time to check references. This was a poor response and shows at worst deceit on the part of the district since they violated their own re-hiring policy and at the very best shows neglect and disorganization on the part of WISD.  But here is the tragedy: Fifty-five teachers received letters informing them that they no longer have jobs and thirty-two teachers were told that they MAY have jobs for next year. This is how dedicated teachers in this district are being treated. They are being treated appallingly and they are and have every right to be angry. The lives of many, if not all of these teachers, are in chaos tonight and that’s a shame. But it is not only teachers and staff who have been badly treated, the community has been mistreated as well. The Board made it clear that part of the rehiring selection process included community input by giving references to teachers, which, as we know now, were never called or contacted. Did the district know all along that they were not really going to contact references? Did the district just say they were requiring references to appease the community? Maybe so. The fact that teachers had to ask  for references was demeaning anyway, but was the community duped into thinking they had more input into the matter than they really had? Again, maybe so. In the end it was a sad day for everyone employed by or connected to Ypsilanti & Willow Run Schools.

Jeff Brown

Editor in Chief

 

Ypsilanti Community Schools Forum: Same Spiel, Different Night

I attended the Ypsilanti Community Schools Public Forum at the Ypsilanti Senior/Community Center Tuesday night and got what I expected: Blah, blah, blah: Same old spiel, different night. Washtenaw Intermediate School District president, Scott Menzel, gave the typical song and dance routine about the district’s commitment to having “effective leaders at all levels”, commitment to students from the cradle to career, and other trite gung ho language about effective education. Menzel also told the audience of roughly twenty-seven people from the community that teachers in the district, who by the way, received their pink slips a couple weeks ago, will be notified at the end of the day on May 3rd as to whether they are re-hired or not. Menzel said that teachers will receive the news in a sealed envelope. I found what Menzel said next most distasteful. Menzel, referring to the notification letters said,”either we really like you, or unfortunately, you are being terminated.” Geez. That language sounds rather demeaning to my ears. Menzel also made it a point to mention yet a third letter teachers may receive on May 3rd. This letter will inform teachers that they do meet the criteria for being re-hired, but the WISD is NOT SURE if they will be re-hired. Boy, how would you like to get a letter like that if you were a teacher. Talk about living in limbo! Again, and I have said this many times in articles the past few months, how much crap do teachers have to take around here?! It is irritating to hear the WISD talk about morale, high standards, raising the bar and the other trite corporate speak when the very fabric of the schools, the teachers, are being treated so insignificantly: Teachers who may have taught and proven themselves as quality teachers for years. Teachers who are committed to students in a state that is still reeling from the great recession of 2008. A working, or for that matter, non working person can’t buy a break these days around here. Oh yeah, when Menzel spoke about re-hiring only the teachers who were effective he added, “We have to know about the outliers.” which sounded like the name of some movie for crying out loud. Anyway, he defined “outliers as teachers who have retired in place.” Lovely. That is demeaning language in my book. No wonder hardly anyone shows up for these meetings. Not very inspiring.

Jeff Brown

Editor in Chief

Purple Walrus Press

So It Begins:Teachers Receive Pink Slips – Lose All Accrued Sick/Personal Days Source Says

Three-hundred and fifty teachers and support staff in the Ypsilanti and Willow Run school districts received letters today informing them that they will be laid off as of June 30, 2013. Three-hundred local families have been thrown into chaos and uncertainty. But, that is not all. An anonymous source who identified themselves only as “a teacher” informed Purple Walrus Press Friday evening that Ypsilanti Public Schools teachers will not be paid out accrued sick and personal days. The only way they will be compensated for sick and personal days is if they retire. This is a truly horrible move on the part of the district. How’s that for appreciation! Teachers, support staff and the community as a whole have been treated shabbily by the WISD and people are fed up. Let’s see, where to begin in summarizing the Ypsilanti/Willow Run school merger debacle? Well, on February 25th the joint board announced that instead of hiring one new Ypsilanti Community Schools Superintendent, indeed they were hiring, in essence, three superintendents, retaining Dedric Martin and Laura Lisiscki with WISD President, Scott Menzel acting as interim superintendent. Next, teachers were instructed to grovel for their jobs as they had to not only reapply for their teaching positions after being pink slipped but had to ask parents and students to recommend them for re-hire. Talk about humiliating! This brings us to Friday, April 12th. Alas, the day teachers and support staff received their layoff notices. It is a disgrace the way teachers and staff have been treated. It’s a wonder anyone would want to be a teacher these days.

Jeff Brown

Editor in Chief

Purple Walrus Press

Straight Dope: Ypsilanti Community Schools Board Meeting: Morale? Teachers Living in Culture of Fear!

There was an awful lot of talk about district pride, school morale, commitment and moving forward at last night’s joint Ypsilanti/Willow Run School Board meeting, but teachers were forgotten, which, by the way, is no surprise. Let me say that I arrived home from covering the school board meeting to another anonymous comment,
Purple Walrus has received many, from a teacher in the district. The comment read as follows:

“We have been informed that one of the school board members is passing along any negative comments or e-mails from teachers directly to Dedrick Martin so that he can see who is speaking out. It is not a FEAR that people will be permanently let go if they speak out…It is a certainty. Teachers have also been told t(via e-mail from admin.)That if we do not re-apply for a job with this district that we will not be able to collect unemployment when we are laid off!”

The fact that teachers in the district are being treated this way is truly appalling. It is very evident that there exists a powerful culture of fear for teachers. How can the board and its supporters blather on about morale and moving forward when teachers will permanently lose their jobs for speaking out and voicing concerns? This is disgraceful and unacceptable.  I cannot begin to describe how appalling it is that, as the above comment states, if teachers do not re-apply for a job in the district they will not be able to collect unemployment. It is outrageous that teachers in the district are being treated so cruelly.

3/16 UPDATE: PWP was just advised that an email was sent out from Sharon Irvine, HR Director for Ypsilanti Public Schools, on Friday March 15th advising employees that they WILL be able to claim unemployment benefits if they choose not to apply for a position in the new district.

Jeff Brown

Editor in Chief, Purple Walrus Press