May 17, 2004
More than 800 middle school students in Hamtramck, Michigan walked out of classes April 29 to protest the firing of their principal and assistant principal.
On April 28, the Hamtramck school board had voted not to renew the contracts of Thomas Trawick and Michael Zygmontowicz of Kosciuszko Middle School.
The next day, about half the school's 55 teachers called in sick to protest the move. The students took that ball and ran with it, walking out of classes and calling for the school board's recall.
The school board explained its move saying that the school is "failing" under Bush's "No Child Left Behind Act," and receives low scores on state tests.
It's no surprise that Hamtramck schools are doing poorly. Hamtramck, a small city completely surrounded by Detroit, has been stripped of any tax base. Years ago, its largest employer, Chrysler, closed down its plants and offices in the city and moved to the far northern suburbs. Then General Motors built a new plant on the Hamtramck-Detroit border – in exchange for huge tax breaks and free land. A whole neighborhood was torn down to make way for the factory.
The city government itself has been in debt for years. The State of Michigan recently put it into receivership.
The school board knows what the situation is in the schools, and why they are in such trouble. But instead of speaking about this clearly, they looked to make scapegoats out of Trawick and Zygmontowicz.
But the students also know the situation: They know that their schools are in much worse shape than the schools in the wealthy suburbs of Detroit. And they see that it's because of money, and NOT any individual administrators.
They also know what to do about it: to refuse to go along with the lies that are told.