Substitute teacher provider says it checks certifications

Company declines comment on sub charged in East Detroit student’s death

By: Kevin Bunch | Roseville - Eastpointe Eastsider | Published February 26, 2014

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EASTPOINTE — The Professional Education Services Group (PESG), which contracted substitute teacher Johnathon Sails to East Detroit High School, issued a statement that said it performs full checks of teachers before making them available for work.

Sails is now charged with involuntary manslaughter in the drowning death of East Detroit High School freshman KeAir Swift.

According to County Prosecutor Eric Smith, Swift drowned in a remedial swim class that Sails was teaching in November. The investigation found that Sails allegedly was never certified by the Red Cross to teach a swim class.

“To be an instructor in a swim class, you need to be certified by the Red Cross, and he misrepresented his certification to the school,” Smith said.

Prospective PESG employees need to pass a criminal background check to exclude those with felonies and certain misdemeanors. The company also reviews potential employees’ work histories. Teaching certifications, licenses and permits also are verified when appropriate, the statement said, but the company declined to elaborate on Sails’ circumstances.

“It is PESG company policy to refrain from commenting on individual personnel status,” the statement from company representative Kristi Flietstra said. “PESG has not had an opportunity to review the details of the charges, so we have no comment at this time.”

During Sails’ arraignment Feb. 12 at the 38th District Court, Eastpointe police Detective Matt Merlo alleged that Sails was in the bleachers above the swimming pool during the class and was not dressed for an emergency. Reportedly several students had noticed Swift struggling, but Sails allegedly brushed off their concerns and said Swift was just fooling around in the pool.

When Sails did move to assist, Merlo said Sails went to the locker room to change into swimming attire and then was unable to rescue Swift from the pool. Sails does not have a criminal record, Merlo said, and has been cooperative with the investigators.

East Detroit Superintendent Joanne Lelekatch said the incident has not affected the school’s relationship with PESG at this time.

Sails’ preliminary exam is scheduled for March 19.

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