Monday, June 10, 2013

Ypsilanti Community Schools: Meditations on Employment

Ypsilanti Public Schools and Willow Run Schools have had their last days of school. While teachers, administrators, and custodians finish up their end-of-year projects, the districts are literally winding down until, on June 30th, 2013, at midnight, they cease to exist. And magically (no, not really--it's a lot of hard work), a new district is born. 

[The magical thinking language kind of reminds me of a funny family story. My daughter and I were visiting my sister's family when baby #2 decided to grace the scene. The baby was born in the middle of the night, and my daughter, age 4 at the time, said "And in the morning Aunt Liz was really surprised that the baby had been born!" As if it took no effort at all...]

So here are a couple of thoughts. The Ypsilanti Courier reported on Saturday that the new school district will have a 190-day calendar. Most school districts in Michigan have a 180-day calendar. According to the article,

School days at the new district will be half-an-hour longer. The school year will be 14 days longer for students and 27 days longer for teachers. (Emphasis added.)
The district is going to explore a year-round school calendar (a.k.a. a "balanced calendar"), although for this year they will have a standard academic calendar, and Scott Menzel, WISD Superintendent, is quoted as saying,

"In order to raise the level of achievement for our students in Ypsilanti, we need more days," said Scott Menzel, superintendent of Washtenaw Intermediate School District, which has helped the districts with the consolidation process. 
I'm not convinced that this is what will raise the level of achievement for students. I'm not convinced that it won't, either.

But in this post, at least, I'm mostly interested in something else: employee compensation. The article says,
These changes will increase the district's expenses, due mostly to increased costs from hourly employees.  But Menzel said the joint board of education has budgeted for this.

Earlier in May, teacher and principal salaries were set by the board. According to a May 3, 2013 Ypsilanti Courier article, new teachers in the new district would be hired at $40,000 (at the lowest), as compared to starting salaries of $32,000-$33,000 in the current Ypsilanti and Willow Run districts.

In the future, teachers' salaries will be assessed through a combination of experience and performance/skills evaluation. It doesn't look like seniority will play a role. Remember, the YCS (officially, the "joint") board meetings, minutes, and information can be found here. The discussion of teacher compensation can be found in this board packet.

I really encourage you to go look at the teacher compensation discussion, but I thought I'd share this little snippet:

Teachers currently employed by Willow Run Community Schools and the Ypsilanti Public School District will start their employment with Ypsilanti Community Schools at the base salary they made during the 2012‐13 year. . . Their salary for 2013‐14 will be their salary for 2012‐13. . . If a teacher is placed in a classification and their current salary is less than the lowest salary of that classification, they will be placed at that lowest level of that classification and will earn that salary during 2012‐13.  If a teacher is placed in a classification and their salary is more than the highest salary of that classification, they will be placed at a sub‐level of the highest level in that classification but will earn their 2012‐13 salary.
And that sounds great, especially for teachers at the bottom of the pay scale. . . right? Until you realize that teachers who are getting $45,000 this year will get the same salary next year, AND they get to work 27 days longer. Hmmm. By my count, that's a significant pay cut.

Teachers at the new YCS do not have a union (yet). In fact, many of the union leaders were not hired back. I can't say if that's connected or not. I also don't think anyone knows what will happen if/when the teachers at YCS do form a union--at that point, they and the district will have to agree to terms and conditions. I don't know how much they will look like the terms and conditions under which YCS will begin operating.

As it happens, Krista Boyer, the head of the Ypsilanti Public Schools teachers' union, wrote a lovely piece on her (occasional) blog about the end of the Ypsilanti Public Schools, and she's given me permission to use it.

Krista writes,
This school year has kept me jumping.  Through hoops, through flames, through trials and tribulations that I never had imagined would come to pass, and now it's coming to an end.Normally at this time of year I am excited to see the end of the school year in sight, but this year every day that ticks off the calendar marks a "last event" for me, and it's earth shattering, poignant, and heart breaking all at the same time.My school district has merged with another, and I have found myself on the "maybe" list for being rehired.  While I had mentally prepared myself for the fall out of being union president, I wasn't prepared emotionally.  Even a little bit.  I am pretty sure my heart, and quite possibly my spirit is irreparably broken.I had been warned that the being laid off process is similar to the stages of grief, and in fact I have found that if is not just LIKE grief... it IS grief.
Read the rest of Krista's post here.


  1. If we really cared about achievement, wouldn't we make all schools boarding schools? As a teacher I cannot control many factors of my students' lives, but if we were to create boarding schools where students were there 24/7, there would be much more control.

    Then I could guarantee that test scores will rise significantly. So, what do you think, public? How much do you care about student test results?

  2. Today Ypsilanti Public Schools employees got this email from Dedrick Martin:

    From: Martin, Dedrick
    Date: Tue, Jun 11, 2013 at 11:00 AM
    Subject: Insurance Coverage
    To: YPSD-All

    Dear Staff,
    I’m writing to inform you of the current status of the district insurance coverage. At this time, MESSA has declined to provide COBRA coverage to employees once the insurance contracts are terminated for Ypsilanti Public Schools. We are currently in negotiations with MESSA as well as exploring other options for insurance coverage.
    The medical, dental and vision coverage will end as follows:
    YSSA: effective June, 30, 2013
    YPAA: effective June 30, 2013
    Non-Union: effective June 30, 2013
    YEA: effective August 31, 2013
    I understand the hardship this will have on many and please believe that we are doing everything we can to assist in this matter.
    D. Martin