News Story

The West Bloomfield Teacher 'Sick Out'

About 40 percent of the West Bloomfield High School teachers didn’t show up for work on Feb. 15 in the midst of bitter contract negotiations.

Superintendent JoAnn Andrees said that 41 high school teachers didn’t show up and that 36 of those teachers were not within a normal “pattern” of absences. Andrees said as many as a dozen teachers could be out on a typical day. The Michigan Department of Education said there are about 100 teachers at the high school as of 2009-10.

“Nothing has happened to this degree before,” Andrees said.

The missing classes were filled with substitutes and administrators, as well as other support staff from other buildings, Andrees said.

“I was so impressed with Bloomfield students on this day,” Andrees said. “Classes went on.  … Kudos to my kids.”

Contract negotiations between the administration and unions began in October 2009. The teachers’ union contract expired Aug. 31, 2010.

West Bloomfield teachers do not do any premium sharing for health insurance and do not have a deductible in their plan, Andrees said.

“The district can no longer afford to pay for everything,” Andrees said. “The money is not there now. I can not continue that practice.”

The total compensation of a West Bloomfield teacher grew 173 percent over an 11-year period, going from $47,346 to $129,637, according to information that was presented at a school board meeting in December.

The teacher’s salary started at $31,881 in 1999-00 and grew to $85,836 in 2010-11. Meanwhile, insurance payments climbed from $9,309 to $19,304 per year, and retirement contributions jumped from $3,717 to $16,854 per year.

Cyndi Austin, the Michigan Education Association representative for West Bloomfield Public Schools didn’t return a message left at her office in Farmington Hills.

Kim Pilarski, the West Bloomfield Education Association President, didn’t return an e-mail seeking comment. But she did comment on negotiations in October to WXYZ TV.

"Because we're teachers, we will give the same service we've always given in the classroom," Pilarski said.

Andrees said she also sent an e-mail and mailed a letter to every teacher warning them of the consequences of an illegal strike. Andrees said the administration learned the union had been discussing with teachers the legal ramifications if teachers had gone on strike.

Michigan Capitol Confidential is the news source produced by the Mackinac Center for Public Policy. Michigan Capitol Confidential reports with a free-market news perspective.