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No Deal in Detroit Teacher’s Strike

September 3, 1999

DETROIT (AP) _ Officials in the state’s largest school district and the teachers striking against it dug in their heels over merit pay and class sizes as negotiators tried to end the walkout.

``We talked a lot but we agreed on nothing,″ said John Elliott, president of the Detroit Federation of Teachers, the union representing 9,200 teachers. ``There’s no movement, no momentum.″

Classes in the 172,000-student district were canceled for a fourth day Thursday as negotiations went on throughout the day before breaking off shortly before midnight. Talks were scheduled to resume today.

``We still have issues that haven’t been resolved,″ said Jim Amar, a state mediator appointed Aug. 24 to sit in on the talks between the board and union.

Teachers won at least one concession from the reform-minded school administration _ a district proposal to extend the school day by 2 hours, to 8 1/2 hours, was withdrawn.

In return, teachers would not oppose having aides and other non-teaching personnel work longer days so the district could offer after-school programs.

David Adamany, the district’s chief executive, remained committed to his proposal to reward schools meeting test score and attendance targets by granting ``merit bonuses″ to every employee in that school _ including custodians and secretaries.

But Paul Danic, an English teacher at Osborn High School, said the plan would reward teachers at what he called ``showcase schools″ without recognizing competent teachers at other schools.

``The inequity of the worst teacher in a good school receiving a bonus, but not a good teacher in a bad school, is totally unfair,″ he said.

Other contentious issues included salary, class size and sick days.

The previous contract between the teachers and the school system expired June 30, and an extension ran out Monday. Teachers then voted to reject negotiators’ recommendation for another extension.

The strike has put at least a temporary halt to reform efforts led by Adamany since he took the job in May.

Gov. John Engler, who signed legislation shifting control of the district from the elected board to an appointed board that hired Adamany, said the change was necessary to shore up lagging test scores, chronically low attendance and graduation rates in the nation’s 10th-largest city.

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