Superintendent says “wrong” impression about staff political work results from “ill advised” classroom chatter
Grand Blanc Public Schools Superintendent Mike Newton says a summer school class was not shortened last week due to teacher union participation in a legislative recall campaign. He maintains that it was ill-advised talk about the recall that created a “wrong” impression that the recall was the reason a class was let out early.
Newton said that he does not blame any parents or students who might have gotten that “wrong” impression. Instead, he faults teachers for making remarks supporting the campaign to recall State Rep. Paul Scott, R-Grand Blanc, that shouldn't have been made in a classroom environment.
“They were opening up their mouths when they shouldn't have,” Newton said, referring to Grand Blanc teachers spouting off in front of their students about why they thought Scott should be recalled.
A spokesman for the Scott recall campaign told Capitol Confidential earlier this week that the recall was a “volunteer” effort. However, Newton said statewide unions outside of the school district appear to be playing a major role as organizers of the supposedly locally-inspired recall campaign.
“I'm not even seeing very many Grand Blanc teachers who seem to be working it (the recall),” Newton said. “Yes, some are involved, but . . . I'm not seeing many. It really seems to have basically been organized across the state. You have people from the AFL-CIO coming in. I don't know that first hand, but that's what I've been told. That's what seems to be taking place.”
The parent of a Grand Blanc student told Capitol Confidential that his daughter was let out of class early last Thursday so that teachers could participate in the Scott recall effort. That parent, Ken Jones, was particularly upset about his daughter being subjected in the classroom to the union’s side of the political argument about the recall.
Capitol Confidential posted the article Wednesday night. It posed three questions for Newton, who was not available for comment at that time. On Thursday morning Newton responded to those questions.
Q. 1) Have summer school teachers left their classes for periods of time to participate in the recall effort?
“Absolutely not,” Newton said. “I would be appalled if that had taken place.”
Q. 2) Have any students been let out of class, or missed any instruction time, because of the recall effort?
“That would be absolutely false,” Newton said. “No one has missed instruction time because of the recall.”
Q. 3) Are teachers participating in the recall while they're supposed to be on the job earning their taxpayer-supported salaries?
“Absolutely not,” Newton asserted. “We would never permit that to happen.”
As a follow up question, Newton was asked if he was claiming that the parent, Ken Jones, was presenting a false impression about his daughter being let out of class early due to the recall.
“No; I think the parent thought that's what happened,” Newton said. “I think things were said by teachers and others that shouldn't have been said.”
“We investigated this on Tuesday,” Newton continued. “I can assure our community that we (the school) did not participate in any kind of recall activities.”
The superintendent was also asked how a student could have made the mistake about the reason for the early dismissal.
“I don't think what the student told the parent was a lie,” Newton said. “The summer classes are very long and if the students work through the breaks of the day they can get out early. I think she heard a lot of the political talk that shouldn't have been said and . . . I think she believed what she told the parent.”
“But even when the students can leave early, the teacher still has the responsibility to stay in the class afterwards,” Newton added. “They have to remain available if a student needs extra help. We spent a lot of time Tuesday investigating all of this to make sure about this. Nobody leaves when they're supposed to be doing the work they are paid by the taxpayers to do. Nobody does that. We wouldn't allow it and neither would the MEA (Michigan Education Association).”