Education, Emergency Managers, Teachers — December 7, 2011 at 10:32 pm

Muskegon Heights school board votes to ask for an Emergency Manager – UPDATED


Tonight, the school board of Muskegon Heights voted to ask the Snyder administration to assign an Emergency Manager to the district.

Muskegon Heights school officials will ask the state to appoint an emergency financial manager to take over operations of the district after Superintendent Dana Bryant retires at the end of this month.

The school board met Wednesday in a two-hour closed session with officials from the Muskegon Area Intermediate School District, including Deputy Superintendent Marios Demetriou, whom Muskegon Heights will ask be given emergency financial manager authority.

Bryant’s retirement was termed “one of several cuts” made by the district. MAISD Superintendent Dave Sipka will serve as the district’s interim superintendent.

The move comes after the district was unable to get the state’s approval of a deficit elimination plan, said board President Avery Burrell. […]

The benefit of having an emergency manager is the power that person has to make changes that the superintendent cannot, Muskegon Heights officials said. Bryant said the transition to the emergency financial manager would begin Monday, with full approval from the state Superintendent of Instruction Michael Flanagan by the end of next week.

Muskegon Heights is a city with just over 10,000 residents that is 78.3% African American. Like other school districts around the state, Muskegon Heights school district is using the threat of an Emergency Manager to secure concessions.

In nearby Oakridge public schools, a similar fight is going on where teachers who didn’t cause the district’s problems are now being asked to bear a major share of the burden for fixing it.

This is from an Eclectablog reader, Jennie Naffie, a retired teacher and MEA Uniserv, small business owner and journalism professor, who attended the meeting:

I just left a school board meeting tonight held at Oakridge Public schools–a district in eastern Muskegon County.

The teachers are in their second year of no contract–came close to a deal then the superintendent reneged. The teachers are willing to settle for a pay freeze and a 80/20 on their health insurance.

The school board –who listens to the superintendent–refuses to budge on a pay cut that ranges from $12,000 to $16,000 a year, depending on years of experience.

A former student of mine has taught there for many years and his wife teaches there as well. He told me if the school board gets its way, they will have a $30.000 decrease in their combined income each year.

Teachers, union members, parents and students showed up from all over the county.

Jennie, who is on the board of the Muskegon Salvation Army, tells me they have seen a 209% increase in the past year of people seeking assistance from the local food bank, the vast majority of whom are “first timers”, people who have never had to ask for help before but who have lost good jobs and have nowhere else to turn.

I’m not unsympathetic to the plight of Michigan schools and their need for draconian cuts or actions (like requesting an Emergency Manager.) I only worry that a mystique is being built up around the EMs — a belief that they will make the hard decisions that will solve all of the districts problems.

The problem with this way of thinking is that, like in the cities that have EMs, once they leave, the books may be balanced but most of the systemic problems that led them to the crisis will still be there. The depressed tax base, rampant unemployment, crushing poverty and crumbling infrastructure will remain. The $1 billion sucked out of our state’s schools by Michigan Republicans and Governor Rick Snyder to pay for an 86% tax cut for businesses will still be gone.

But, not only will all these challenges still exist after the EM departs, In the process, we will have weakened our school systems by vilifying and diminishing teachers, shopped out most of the services to the lowest, for-profit bidder, and moved several steps further toward the ultimate destruction of the public school system.

One wonders if this isn’t exactly what the GOP has had planned all along.