Contents of this issue:

  • Wayne-Westland teachers vote to take "job action"
  • Willow Run superintendent on Illinois school board
  • Zeeland pays teacher to leave
  • Salaries, benefits outpace state aid increase
  • Madison teachers take pay freeze
  • Report shows fewer special ed teachers "highly qualified"


WESTLAND, Mich. - The teachers union and district in the Wayne- Westland Community Schools have agreed to a 30-day contract that allowed classes to begin as planned while contract talks continue, according to the Detroit Free Press.

The 800-member union had voted to authorize a "job action"

because teachers were unhappy with the lack of bargaining progress, the Royal Oak Mirror reported.

Teacher strikes are illegal in Michigan, the Free Press reported, and both teachers and their union face penalties and fines should one occur.

The district had sent teachers a letter stating "whether the WWEA leadership calls an illegal strike, the board will expect all employees to report for work as scheduled," according to the Mirror.

A state mediator has been called in to assist with negotiations, the Mirror reported.

Detroit Free Press, "Wayne-Westland teachers call off strike threat," Sept. 2, 2008 NEWS02/809020321

Royal Oak Mirror, "Wayne-Westland braces for possible teachers' 'job action,'" Aug. 27, 2008 NEWS24/80827016

Royal Oak Mirror, "Wayne-Westland teachers call in mediator to help with contract talks," Aug. 29, 2008 NEWS24/80829014

Mackinac Center for Public Policy, "Teachers Strikes, Court Orders and Michigan Law," Sept. 11, 2006


YPSILANTI, Mich. - The superintendent of Willow Run schools said she recently submitted her resignation by e-mail from an elected position on the board of education in Harvey, Ill., according to The Ann Arbor News.

Doris Hope-Jackson, named Willow Run superintendent in June 2007, was serving on the Harvey Public School District 152 board at the time. The four-year term ends in 2009, The News reported.

Hope-Jackson said she has attended only a few meetings in Harvey since taking the Willow Run job. The information was met with mixed reactions from the Willow Run school board.

"She gave the impression that she had the tools and experience to do this job and understand our needs and would execute a plan (for Willow Run)," Sheri Washington, board vice president, recently said at a town hall meeting, according to The News.

"It has not impacted her performance here," board President Claudette Braxton told The News. "I haven't seen a lack of work or shortage of man-hours from her."

The Ann Arbor News, "Willow Run superintendent still on Illinois board," Aug. 20, 2008 superintendent_stil.html

Michigan Education Digest, "Willow Run teachers agree to contract, drop grievances," Jan. 22, 2008


ZEELAND, Mich. - A separation agreement will cost Zeeland Public Schools nearly $80,000 to avoid a tenure hearing over a teacher the district wanted to fire, according to The Grand Rapids Press.

The district reached an agreement with Timothy S. Oonk that will pay him more than $59,000 in salary through December and more than $19,000 in health insurance benefits through May 2009, both dating back to March, The Press reported.

Oonk was put on paid leave after a report based on a police investigation recommended he be fired. The report said Oonk "was not competent to function as a teacher" because of his relationship and treatment of female students, The Press reported.

"No matter how strong a tenure case is, it's in the best interest of the district to settle before it goes to a hearing,"

Craig Mutch, Zeeland's attorney, told The Press. "The law requires the district to continue paying the teacher until there's a decision, and there's never any certainty of outcome if you go through the whole process."

Fil Iorio, hired by the Michigan Education Association school employees union to represent Oonk, said Oonk "denies in full that anything inappropriate happened," according to The Press.

The separation agreement does not prohibit Oonk from teaching again.

The Grand Rapids Press, "Zeeland, fired choir teacher reach deal to avert tenure hearing," Aug. 26, 2008 choir_teacher_re.html

Michigan Education Digest, "Saginaw pays to get rid of teacher," Aug. 26, 2008


MONROE, Mich. - An increase of up to $112 per student won't be enough to pay for increases in employee salaries and benefits for several Monroe County school districts, according to the Monroe News.

"It's not even enough to pay for the increase in employee health care costs," Dundee Community Schools Superintendent Ron Tarrant told the News. "That money is gone already."

The state budget calls for about $13.4 billion in school funding, according to the News.

Jefferson Schools will receive $56 more per student, which equals about $118,000.

"Just the step increase for the teachers is $145,000," Michael Zopf, director of business and finance at Jefferson, told the News. "It doesn't even cover the added costs for step raises."

Monroe News, "Schools wary about future as state aid fails to exceed costs," Aug. 27, 2008 NEWS01/108279970

Mackinac Center for Public Policy, "The Six Habits of Fiscally Responsible Public School Districts," Dec. 3, 2002

Mackinac Center for Public Policy, "School Funding: Lack of Money or Lack of Money Management?" Aug. 30, 2001


MADISON HEIGHTS, Mich. - Teachers in the Madison schools agreed to a one-year contract with a pay freeze and changes in health insurance, according to the Royal Oak Daily Tribune.

The district also will lower the amount it contributes monthly to employee health insurance while eliminating a cash-stipend for those who opt out of the union-backed Michigan Education Special Services Association, the Daily Tribune reported. MESSA is a third-party administrator affiliated with the Michigan Education Association that outsources insurance underwriting to Blue Cross Blue Shield, then resells policies to school districts.

The changes will save the district about $246,000, according to the Daily Tribune.

Royal Oak Daily Tribune, "Madison teachers ratify one-year contract in time for school," Aug. 29, 2008

Mackinac Center for Public Policy, "How MESSA and the MEA Work," Feb. 2, 2008


LANSING, Mich. - Nearly half of the special education teachers assigned to teach core academic classes in Michigan were not considered "highly qualified" for those positions as of December 2007.

Ordered by the U.S. Department of Education to reassess the qualifications of its special education teachers, the Michigan Department of Education reported in June that 46.5 percent of those who teach core content like English and math did not meet highly qualified requirements according to guidelines set by the federal No Child Left Behind Act.

Earlier, Michigan had reported that 99 percent of all its core classes, including special education courses, were taught by highly qualified teachers. But the state was required to conduct a recount after the federal department learned that Michigan considered special education high school teachers "highly qualified" if they had passed an elementary-level content examination. That's not enough to demonstrate their knowledge of the subjects they teach, federal officials said.

Michigan now has until June 2009 to comply with federal standards or face potential loss of funding through the Elementary and Secondary Education Act.

Michigan Education Report, "Half of special ed teachers not qualified for core assignments," Sept. 2, 2008

Michigan Education Report, "Parents push for changes in special ed waiver system," Feb. 29, 2008

Michigan Education Report, "Panel OKs new special education rules," Aug. 19, 2008

MICHIGAN EDUCATION DIGEST is a service of Michigan Education Report (, an online newspaper published by the Mackinac Center for Public Policy (, a private, nonprofit, nonpartisan research and educational institute.

Contact Managing Editor Sarah Grether at

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