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Classes Finally Begin in Detroit

September 9, 1999

DETROIT (AP) _ Detroit’s teachers ended a nine-day strike and finally welcomed back 180,000 students from summer vacation Thursday, starting the first school year under a board appointed to turn the struggling district around.

The students lost six days of school to the strike by the 11,500-member union.

The teachers agreed on Wednesday to go back to work after the union and the school board reached a tentative contract over the Labor Day weekend. The teachers defeated, for the time being at least, such reform measures proposed by the board as merit pay and a longer school day.

Parents were relieved to have their children back in class.

Alice Martin, a 42-year-old mother of nine, had been relying on her 18-year-old daughter to baby sit while Ms. Martin was at work.

``She’s been a lifesaver for me, actually, because I was trying to get my other kids into day care. I don’t know what I would’ve done without her,″ she said as she dropped off some of her children at a spruced-up Joy Middle School.

The clean-up was among reforms sought by district chief executive David Adamany, who pushed through $80 million worth of renovations to most of the district’s 270 school buildings over the summer.

``The paint was chipping outside. They didn’t have the flowers or the shrubs, the tennis court was overgrown, the toilets didn’t work and some of the toilets didn’t have doors,″ said administrative unit head Barbara Pitts. ``Now, all the plumbing works. Everything looks great.″

Renaissance High School teacher Jacob Ishakis said he had hoped to return to school because he didn’t like picketing. ``It’s not what a teacher is supposed to do,″ he said. ``It’s degrading, and it’s demeaning.″

Adamany was named to his post by Mayor Dennis Archer, who took over the school styem this spring and replaced the elected board with an appointed one to help turn around a district plagued by low test scores, graduation rates and attendance.

Teachers still must ratify the contract. Ballots will be mailed out later this month.

Keith Johnson, the union’s chief negotiator, said that rejection of the contract could send teachers back to picket lines, but that he doesn’t think that is likely.

Adamany said he still intends to create a merit pay system. ``We’re going to implement it this year,″ he said. ``It’ll be up to the union to challenge it.″

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