DETROIT – Teachers at two Metro Detroit charter schools are out thousands of dollars after the schools promised to pay them for the full year and didn't follow through.
Matchbook Learning charter schools in Redford and Detroit proclaimed to be special different and better. They company, whose logo was bright and cheerful, said the schools had good financial backing.
But an email sent out to teachers contained some bad news. The teachers are not getting their last three paychecks, even though they taught classes until the end of the year.
The Michigan Technical Academy in Redford is closed after parent company Matchbook Learning, of New Jersey, shuttered the place in June. It failed to do what its website promised to courageously turn around America's lowest-performing school.
Teachers, including Susan Nolfe, said they lost thousands of dollars after the school came up three paychecks short.
"About $7,300," Nolfe said.
She has the paperwork the school sent her, promising to pay her for a full year's work through August. But the message in an email sent Wednesday was: "We're sorry, but you're not getting your cash now."
"That's my livelihood," Nolfe said. "It's what I live off of. Now I'll be living off my savings."
Fellow veteran teacher Leslie Disterheft is angry about her missing checks and feels the school lied to the teachers.
"They just took their fee and they just left," Disterheft said. "That left the teachers and the students out to dry."
The teachers were left to file for unemployment, something they could have done last month if they had known this was coming.
The roughly 30 teachers, who together are owed more than $150,000, said they're not going away quietly.
"We've all put in our time, we've all put in our energy," Nolfe said. "We've bought into this new, innovative way of teaching these children, and now we are suffering the consequences. The children have suffered the consequences."
Matchbook Learning gave Local 4 a letter that is being sent to the teachers, saying the Michigan Department of Treasury diverted the money to bond holders, who were the lenders for the building and operations.
Matchbook Learning said it will fight the decision, to get the teachers their money.