School duel? 

Last week, about 25 parents (with about 15 kids in tow) from southwest Detroit staged a protest where the Detroit Public School District is building a new Beard Elementary School. Some parents are leery because soil at the site is contaminated with lead, arsenic and other toxic material. The group carried signs that read “ABC’s or PCB’s?” and shouted “clean this site, clean it right,” according to environmental activist Kathy Milberg, who organized the protest.

The day of the rally, Milberg discovered that the principal of the old Beard Elementary, Ingrid Haywood, organized a protest of her own — at the same place and time. According to a letter Haywood sent to parents, she asked that they come out “to support” the new Beard school. Milberg says she feared that parents from the two demonstrations might clash and asked the 4th Precinct to send a squad car to stand ready, which it did.

As it turned out, according to Milberg, the parents didn’t rumble and the cops weren’t needed because not a single demonstrator showed as a result of Haywood’s letter — not even Haywood herself.

Haywood insists that about 60 demonstrators were there in support of the new Beard Elementary School, which she says is desperately needed because the old one is overcrowded and has no gym or cafeteria.

Haywood says she couldn’t attend the protest because she was interviewing a candidate for a fourth-grade teaching position. State Rep. Belda Garza, D-Detroit, who also attended the demonstration — and, by the way, said there were about 30 to 40 demonstrators, all of whom were asking that the soil be cleaned up — intends to make sure the site is free of contaminants. Garza sent a letter to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency last week asking that the feds oversee the cleanup. Currently, the Detroit Public Schools is working with the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality on the project.

“I don’t want to be perceived as not wanting a new school in our area. We want to have that, but we want to make sure it is being built in a safe environment for our kids,” says Garza.

Curt Guyette is Metro Times news editor. Contact him at 313-202-8004 or

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