Contents of this issue:
  • Detroit teachers oust union leader
  • Charlevoix battles union over long-term sub hire
  • Holland contracts for substitute teachers
  • Teachers in thumb agree to cheaper union health plan
  • Hart schools leave MESSA
  • Ewen-Trout Creek Schools uncovers deficit
  • Win an iPod

DETROIT — The Detroit Federation of Teachers union recently voted their president of six years out of office, according to the Detroit Free Press.

Teachers replaced President Janna Garrison with Executive Vice President Virginia Cantrell. Garrison believes that the change in power is a result of the recently negotiated contract, as well as the overall handling of the teacher's strike, according to the Free Press. The teachers union conducted an illegal strike that denied instruction to students for several days in September.

"If you betray the membership, you lose the job," DPS teacher Heather Miller told the Free Press.

Cantrell received 56 percent of the vote, while Garrison received 35 percent and math teacher Stephen Conn received 9 percent. Cantrell's two-year term will begin in January, according to the Free Press.

Detroit Free Press, "Detroit's teachers union ousts leader," Dec. 3, 2006

Michigan Education Digest, "DPS enrollment drop biggest in 20 years," Nov. 28, 2006

Michigan Education Digest, "DPS, DFT disagree on compulsory dues, legal fees," Nov. 21, 2006

Michigan Education Digest, "DPS teachers union strikes," Aug. 29, 2006

CHARLEVOIX, Mich. — The Charlevoix school district will save about $26,000 by hiring a substitute teacher through a private firm to fill a year-long vacancy, according to the Petoskey News-Review.

The Michigan Education Association school employees union, however, has filed a grievance over the matter, the News-Review reported. The district hired a long-term sub through PMP Personnel Services. In years past, the district hired a teacher to fill vacancies created by employee leaves of absence. Terry Cox, an MEA Uniserv director, believes the district is at fault for not notifying the union of a change in its practice, according to the News-Review.

Superintendent Jim Cooper believes that the district did not breach its contract because the Legislature amended the Michigan Revised School Code in 2002, allowing districts to contract with staffing agencies to fill vacancies created by leaves of absence, according to the News-Review.

"A lot of the areas of a contract are vague and open for interpretation," Cooper told the News-Review. "It comes down to the law and opinion."

Petoskey News-Review, "Teachers seek arbitration over permanent sub hiring," Nov. 29, 2006

Michigan Education Digest, "Substitute teachers privatized in Grand Rapids," May 9, 2006

Michigan Education Digest, "Privatized subs can save schools money," April 11, 2006

HOLLAND, Mich. — Holland Public Schools is the latest district to sign a competitive contract for its substitute teachers, according to The Grand Rapids Press.

Holland has joined the list of 26 school districts in Kent and Ottawa counties that now use Professional Employment Services Group to provide their substitute teachers. School officials are reporting savings of about 8.5 percent on substitute costs because of the switch, according to The Press.

PESG allows districts to set their own pay rate for subs, and some have reduced pay to increase savings. Holland, however, which uses between 30 and 50 subs a day, has promised to keep wages at $95 per day. The district is doing this to compete with two neighboring districts that do not contract with PESG, according to The Press.

PESG also is convenient for substitute teachers who work in multiple districts because they will receive one check per pay period and one W-2 in January. Moreover, unlike Kent ISD, PESG hires new substitutes throughout the year, The Press reported.

"This poses advantages to new teachers, especially if they graduate from college mid-year," Jon Felske, superintendent of Wyoming schools, which works with PESG, told The Press.

The Grand Rapids Press, "Districts find savings by privatizing sub teachers," Nov. 28, 2006

Michigan Education Digest, "West Michigan schools contract for substitute teachers," Nov. 21, 2006

Michigan Education Report, "Beyond brooms, burgers and buses," Nov. 21, 2006

BAD AXE, Mich. — Teachers in two Thumb-area school districts have settled contracts and opted to take a more cost-effective insurance plan, according to the Huron Daily Tribune.

Teachers from both Unionville-Sebewaing Area Schools and Deckerville have agreed to switch from the Michigan Education Special Services Association Supercare I health plan to MESSA Choices II, according to the Tribune. MESSA is a third-party administrator affiliated with the Michigan Education Association school employees union.

Deckerville will save $17,936 on insurance for this school year and teachers will receive a 2 percent pay increase. Teachers in Unionville-Sebewaing will receive a 1.95 percent pay increase for this year and a 1.85 percent raise for the next two years, according to the Tribune.

"It's a win-win contract," Dr. Kip Walker, superintendent of Unionville-Sebewaing schools told the Tribune. "The teachers received a decent raise and agreed to take a cheaper insurance."

Huron Daily Tribune, "USA teacher contract approved," Nov. 22, 2006 PAG=461&dept_id=571474&rfi=6

Huron Daily Tribune, "District finalizes teacher contract," Nov. 29, 2006 dept_id=571474&rfi=6

Michigan Education Digest, "Pellston teachers choose less expensive health plan," Nov. 21, 2006

Michigan Education Digest, "Fruitport teachers flock to less expensive MESSA," Sept. 12, 2006

Michigan Education Digest, "Pinckney teachers voluntarily abandon MESSA," Feb. 7, 2006

HART, Mich. — The support staff for Hart Public Schools has agreed to abandon health insurance sold through the Michigan Education Special Services Association in exchange for a more cost-effective insurance offered by SET SEG, according to the Ludington Daily News.

The Hart board of education has recently required that teachers also take the less costly health plan, saving the district at least $250,000, the Daily News reported.

Members of the support staff were pleased with their decision, according to the Daily News.

"We were satisfied," support staff union representative Judy Herin told the Daily News. "We met a compromise and we felt we got something. By going with it we saved the district some money. We were pleased."

While many aspects of the teachers' contract are still on the table, the district and union already have decided on annual and step pay increases. The support staff contract also includes pay increases ranging from 2 to 2.5 percent over the three-year contract, according to the News.

Ludington Daily News, "Hart schools OK support staff contract," Nov. 30, 2006

Michigan Education Digest, "Madison contracts stall over health insurance," Nov. 21, 2006

Michigan Education Digest, "St. Johns board declares impasse," Sept. 19, 2006

Michigan Education Report, "Blue Cross and MESSA," Sept. 6, 2006

Mackinac Center for Public Policy, "MESSA Reference Page," March 10, 2006

Ewen, Mich. — The Ewen-Trout Creek school district's audit revealed a $1.2 million budget deficit, according to the Ironwood Daily Globe.

Auditor Diane Rostagno reported that the largest liability is owed to the Michigan Education Special Services Association, a third-party administrator affiliated with the Michigan Education Association school employees union. The district owes $600,000 in payments to MESSA, according to the Globe.

Rostagno told the board it is likely that financial reports from past years were incorrect and that the district has had the deficit for many years without realizing it.

"This did not just occur but is a culmination over several years," Rostagno told the board, according to the Globe.

The board speculates that notices about overdue payments to MESSA were not given to administrators by an office professional who is no longer employed by the district, the Globe reported.

Ironwood Daily Globe, "E-TC School District discovers $1.2 million deficit," Nov. 30, 2006

Michigan Education Digest, "Dowagiac schools crunched by teacher benefits," Nov. 28, 2006

Mackinac Center for Public Policy, "School Budgets: A Crisis of Management, Not Finance," Feb. 11, 2005

MIDLAND, Mich. — Michigan Education Report is offering readers a chance to win an iPod when they comment on articles in its Winter 2006 issue. Comments can be made via e-mail about stories on alternative teacher certification, successful public school reform and Michigan's cap on charter public schools. Please visit for more information.

MICHIGAN EDUCATION DIGEST is a service of Michigan Education Report (, a quarterly newspaper with a circulation of 150,000 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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