1 in 4 teachers at Muskegon Heights schools quit during first 3 months of school year

Dec 3, 2012

Over the summer Muskegon Heights schools’ then emergency manager laid off everybody who worked at the district and hired Mosaica Education to run operations for 5 years.

Muskegon Heights has some of the lowest performing schools in Michigan and is dealing with a multi-million dollar deficit. The state appointed manager says he had no other option but to privatize operations.

Three months in, one in four (20 of 80 total) of the newly hired teachers has quit.

“It’s confusing because I go from this learning process to this learning process to that learning process and it’s just ridiculous how some teachers leave and we have to start all over and learn something new,” Muskegon Heights High School senior Tony Harris said, “It’s just, it’s crazy.”

Harris says he’s had two math teachers leave and a number of substitute teachers in between. Other students confirmed his account and expressed frustration over a lack of consistency this school year.  Another high school senior told me her math teacher burst into tears in class one day and quit shortly after.

“We’ve had a turnover of staff that we did not anticipate,” said Alena Zachery-Ross, Mosaica’s Regional Vice President.

She says some of the teachers were leaving in the beginning of the school year because there was no discipline policy in place yet. Since then, she says other teachers have left for jobs at traditional public schools with better pay and benefits.

“I do understand their concern for their own family. I just want the stability for our own students,” Zachery-Ross said.

The high school principal quit before the first week of class. Zachery-Ross had to cover that position until a new principal was hired in October.

“I do I feel like we would be making more progress and would see more gains if we’d had the same teachers in the classes that we’ve had the turnover,” Zachery-Ross said.  

“We’ve hired the best (teachers) we could find but some people were just not expecting how tough it’s going to be,” Mosaica Education co-founder and President Gene Eidelman said. He says it was a challenge to hire a staff of 140 people between the time the charter contract with Muskegon Heights schools was signed in July until the start of school in September.

“We tried to hire the best we can, tried to give (staff) as much information as we can, but also we didn’t know what we we’re going to be facing. (The turnover rate) really has come down. The teachers are much more comfortable,” Eidelman said.

"Our staff has been through a lot; working all kinds of hours. They're really heroes," Eidelman said.

Teachers I spoke with were nervous to speak on the record about working conditions at their schools and declined to be interviewed for this story. Check back for a more in-depth update on how things are going at Muskegon Heights schools later this month.