School districts boycott EMU's student teachers, EAA affiliation

Some College of Education students at Eastern Michigan University have had their academic careers affected by nearby school districts’ boycotting of the university’s student teachers and pledging to not hire alumni teachers.

“I requested to be placed in Washtenaw County, but their schools said they aren’t taking many student teachers from EMU because of the EAA,” said EMU senior Caitlin Jaynes, an elementary education major.

“It’s frustrating when you’ve made it this far, and then you could possibly get hung up due to the politics of the situation,” she said.

Directors from the College of Education have discussed the possibility of placing student teachers in parochial and charter schools along with public schools.

“The student teacher directors have promised us we’ll get a placement,” Jaynes said, “Everyone at the college of education is very upset. Some professors have even said we should contact our government representatives.”

Northville, Taylor and most Washtenaw County school districts are not seeking alumni teachers or student teachers from EMU, and the fallout has been noticeable to students at EMU with teaching aspirations.

However, not every school in Washtenaw County is in agreement with the boycott.

“Milan Area Schools is still accepting student teachers from EMU,” Bryan Girbach, superintendent of Milan area schools, said. “We have continued our relations with Eastern, and right now I don’t have any reason to do otherwise.”

Girbach said he is aware of the boycott but still works with EMU student teachers on a regular basis.

“I know superintendents from other schools have made their own choices about whether or not to accept Eastern student teachers, and I understand why, but we continue to have good relations with EMU,” Girbach said.

Nora Martin taught at EMU for 37 years where she also received her B.S. and M.A. degrees. She retired from the College of Education and was hired back to be EMU’s interim director of student teaching for this school year. She said the education students at EMU are being used as a leveraging tool in the EAA debate.

“Some school districts are opposed to the concept of the EAA, and they’re upset and taking it out on the students,” Martin said.

Martin said despite the protests, the department has still been able to find placements for students within the boycotted schools.

“We have still been able to place some students in those districts through personal relationships with certain people within the school districts,” she said, “But, they are boycotting the majority of
EMU student teachers.”

Martin said the College of Education is still determined to allocate the student teachers.

“We are obligated to place our students, so we will find a place,” Martin said.

Steve Camron, a special education professor at EMU and Chair of the College of Education Council, said the effects of the boycott are apparent.

“EMU’s getting into a state of non-electability for our teachers and students,” he said. “I just had a student trying to do pre-clinicals at Lincoln schools, and she couldn’t get placed because of the boycott.”

Camron said the recent faculty cuts within the college of education haven’t helped the situation.

“The majority lecturers that were laid off helped make student teacher placements, and we relied on them to do so,” he said.

Camron said more schools are beginning to deny EMU student teacher applicants, and the results could become more detrimental for aspiring teachers and the college of education as a whole.

“It will have a dramatic impact in the fall when Ann Arbor begins their boycott, because it’s a district a lot of students try to get placed in,” he said.

Jan Joseph, college of education dean who just took a new job as executive vice chancellor for academic affairs at Indiana University South Bend, said there were some complications due to the boycott, according to MLive in fall 2013.

“In many ways, our students and future teachers are caught in the middle of this conversation,” Joseph said. “The result is we’re having some difficulty in placing them.”

Christine Stead, the vice president of the board of education for Ann Arbor public schools, said the
EAA is a political issue that doesn’t reflect EMU’s ability to create quality teachers.

“Eastern has a long reputation of providing high quality teachers that stretches throughout this region and beyond, and I don’t think the EAA is necessarily tarnishing that image,” she said. “The negative feedback is more centered towards the board of regents for signing the agreement and allowing the university to be the chartering agency for the EAA.”

Stead said the EAA needs to make changes in order to receive less opposition.

“Most people are looking for the EAA not to take away the voice of the local communities, and the EAA needs to come up with some kind of responsible budget,” Stead said.

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