Muskegon Heights has high hopes for 3rd high school principal in 6 months

Feb 7, 2013

The new Muskegon Heights charter school district is welcoming yet another principal at its high school. Carla Turner-Laws is the third principal so far this school year. Technically, her title is Interim Head of School/Instructional Specialist.

A couple dozen people sharing cookies and pink fruit punch welcomed Turner-Laws at a reception Wednesday night. Most were fellow co-workers, friends and family members.

The MHPS district’s state-appointed emergency manager turned the entire district over to a charter school company last June.

The first principal quit before school even started. It’s rumored the second high school principal, Renee Morehand, was fired last week. Morehand was hired in October.

But officials with the charter school company that’s running the district won't say what happened to her.

Asked if Morehand was fired or if she quit, Mosaica Education Regional VP Alena Zachery-Ross said she couldn’t comment at this time. She says Michigan Radio was the first to even ask. “I’m not telling a joke. I’m telling the truth,” Zachery-Ross said in response to a reporter's semi-doubtful glance.  

Zachery-Ross says people are more interested in the incoming principal. “Because she’s been so involved. The buzz around here with parents is, ‘is that really the Carla we know coming back home?'”

Carla Turner-Laws and her eight siblings all graduated from Muskegon Heights Public Schools. Her dad was on the school board for nearly thirty years. She’s involved in the district’s alumni association and worked in nearby Muskegon Public Schools prior to her move to the Heights.

“This is a community where generations have attended and so that’s been what the conversation has been about, ‘you finally got somebody to come back home,'” Zachery-Ross said with a smile.

Turner-Laws says that’s so important to parents that a few who transferred their kids to other schools re-enrolled them in Muskegon Heights this week.

Turner-Laws told the group her dad asked her years ago to consider working for the district, to help turn things around someday. She said she promised him, two days before he died, that she would return “when the time was right.”

“I said that time will be when things have become so chaotic that it seems like they can’t be fixed because that’s who I am. I like a challenge,” Turner-Laws said. “And people still don’t think it’s going to work, but it is.”

She got a little choked up talking about seeing her father’s name on a plaque in the relatively new high school building as she walked the halls her first day on the job Monday morning. “It just feels kind of surreal to be back,” she said.

Turner-Laws spoke nostalgically of her time at MHPS. She said her teachers were “no holds barred on us” and made students feel that they could compete “not locally but globally.”

“That climate and culture will be reignited between these walls,” Turner-Laws said.