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Posted on Mon, Aug 10, 2009 : 5:14 a.m.

Ann Arbor teachers' union president promises 'new ideas'

By David Jesse

For the first time in almost two decades, the Ann Arbor teachers’ union will start the school year with a new leader.

Brit Satchwell, a teacher at Forsythe Middle School, takes over as president from Linda Carter, who becomes vice-president.

Satchwell will leave the classroom to head the union of 1,200 members.

The union and district administration are discussing a teacher contract, which expired June 30 Satchwell declined to discuss the contract talks in detail.

He sat down with me recently to talk about the move and the upcoming year. An edited transcript follows:

Brit Satchwell

Q: Why run for president?

A: “It was a hard choice to leave the classroom. As you know, I got into teaching late. I taught for 12 years and loved it.

“All the time I was teaching, I had ideas about what the union should be doing. (Plus) after you have the same leadership for 18 years, it was time for some new ideas.”

Q: What are some of those new ideas?

A: "I want to working to break down barriers between parents and staff and management. I’m building a Web site that I hope will help to do that, with discussions between everyone.

“I have a lot of ideas floating around and this will let me take them out for a test drive.

“The old image of a teachers’ union being entrenched against change needs to change. Everything is on the table.”

Q: From the teachers’ perspective, what are some of the big issues facing the Ann Arbor school district this year?

A: “There’s one huge issue. It’s the (enhancement) millage (which voters will vote on this fall). Everything else is secondary."

Q: What are some of the other issues?

A: “Electronic reporting , through Powerschool, will be smoother.

“The foreign languages instruction in elementary school. That’s pretty exciting.”

Q: What will make it a good year?

A: “The millage passes. We reach an equitable contract for both sides.”

David Jesse covers K-12 education for He can be reached at 734-623-2534 or