Don Weatherspoon

Education
11:27 pm
Tue October 15, 2013

New state consultant to work with struggling Pontiac Schools

The former emergency manager of two Michigan school districts is moving onto help Pontiac schools.

Donald Weatherspoon was the emergency manager of the Highland Park and Muskegon Heights schools.

Now, he’s a consent agreement consultant for the Pontiac schools. The Pontiac school board chose to enter a consent agreement after a state review found the district was in "fiscal stress."

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Education
1:20 pm
Fri July 12, 2013

Books at Highland Park high school get tossed out - How could they have done it differently?

Some of the books found thrown away
Courtesy Paul Lee

There has been public outrage ever since a collection of African-American history materials were found in a dumpster outside Highland Park's high school. The ACLU of Michigan was one of the first to report the incident.

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Stateside
5:58 pm
Tue July 9, 2013

Outrage after Highland Park high school's library material gets dumped in the trash

Hundreds of books were retrieved from the high school dumpster, but thousands more were lost.
Courtesy Paul Lee

An interview with historian Paul Lee.

There has been a firestorm of protest in Highland Park after the discovery that a large collection of history books, film and tapes from the city's high school was tossed in the trash.

Some 50 protestors gathered outside the high school in Highland Park, a member of the school board quit, and several people climbed into dumpsters to retrieve what they could.

The protests focused not only on the discarded books but on the way Highland Park's emergency manager Donald Weatherspoon is running the district.

One of those people who searched through the dumpsters to retrieve as many books as possible is Paul Lee. He is a Highland Park resident and an historian who helped build the collection of black history books, videos and movies.

Here is a video he shot while looking through the dumpster:

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Education
10:47 pm
Mon June 24, 2013

Muskegon Heights schools emergency manager: 1 year to local control, 28 to pay off debt

EM Don Weatherspoon at a meeting in May 2012.
Lindsey Smith Michigan Radio

With a little luck and another loan from the state, Muskegon Heights Public Schools’ Emergency Manager Don Weatherspoon is predicting the district will pay of its debt the year 2041.

Don Weatherspoon told a small crowd gathered in the high school auditorium Monday night he hopes to hand local control back to the district’s elected school board in one year.

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Education
9:12 am
Mon June 24, 2013

Muskegon Heights schools' emergency manager to update community tonight

MHPS Emergency Manager Don Weatherspoon at a town hall meeting in May 2012.
Lindsey Smith Michigan Radio

Muskegon Heights Public  Schools had nearly a $12 million deficit at the end of last school year. That's when the district’s newly appointed Emergency Manager Don Weatherspoon said the district couldn't afford to open school in the fall. He laid off most all the staff and hired charter school company Mosaica Education to run the schools for five years.

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Education
10:21 am
Fri June 7, 2013

State fines Muskegon Heights schools for hiring teachers without proper certification

The Muskegon Heights school system has been fined nearly $100,000 by the Michigan Department of Education. The department launched the investigation after Michigan Radio reported the new Muskegon Heights charter school district had about 10% of teachers working without a valid teaching certificate or permit. It’s against state law to do that.

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Education
8:00 am
Mon January 7, 2013

Patience please, Muskegon Heights school leaders “building the airplane as we fly it”

Don Weatherspoon answers questions from Mary Valentine (top right) after a school board meeting following the repeal of Public Act 4.
Lindsey Smith Michigan Radio

This story is the fourth in a four-part series about how things are going so far in Michigan's first fully privatized public school district. Find part one here, part two here, and part three here.

The on-air version of the story. An expanded online version is below.

Students in Muskegon Heights are going through a lot of changes this year, because the entire school district was converted to a charter school system. After tackling some tough issues in the first half of the school year, the operators of the charter school system want the public to give them a full school year to put the changes in place.

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Education
8:00 am
Wed January 2, 2013

Muskegon Heights students hope for less "chaos" as they return to class today

Muskegon Heights schools emergency financial manager Don Weatherspoon (right) talks to Muskegon Area Intermediate School Board members. Without the MAISD's help, Weatherspoon said “we would be probably still be fighting our way out of the mud."
Lindsey Smith Michigan Radio

Muskegon Heights students are heading back to class today to begin the second half of what’s been a very turbulent school year.

This story is the first in a four-part series about how things are going so far in Michigan's first fully privatized public school district. Find part two here, part three here, and part four here.  

Muskegon Heights Public School Academy mini series. Feature 1 of 4.

Old district “implodes” after years-long financial problems

The school board in Muskegon Heights battled a budget deficit for at least six years in a row. They gave up the fight a year ago and asked the state to just take over. 

“The system that was in place imploded,” said Don Weatherspoon, the guy the state eventually sent in late April to be the emergency manager.

"Enrollment went down, costs went up, they borrowed more than they could pay back; you’re on a collision course with disaster and that’s what happened," Weatherspoon explained. Student enrollment is a big factor in how much money a school district receives from the state.

“Everything that you can think of basically broke down. Discipline, learning, record-keeping, financial accounting, etc,” Weatherspoon said.

By May, Weatherspoon discovered the district is more than $16 million dollars in debt; so much debt it couldn’t afford to open school in the fall.

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Politics & Government
7:45 pm
Thu October 25, 2012

Allen Park gets emergency financial manager; prompts EFM shuffle in other communities

Joyce Parker will start as the emergency financial manager of the City of Allen Park on Monday.
Joyce Parker

The City of Allen Park is the latest to get a state appointed emergency financial manager. The move affects who’s in charge in some other communities who already have emergency managers.

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Education
7:53 pm
Thu October 11, 2012

Muskegon Heights will vote on renewing millage for privatized public schools

Emergency financial manager Don Weatherspoon speaks to parents at a public forum in May 2012.
Lindsey Smith Michigan Radio

The emergency financial manager of Muskegon Heights Public Schools is asking voters to renew an operating millage for the next 16 years.

“The outcome of this millage will change the future of Muskegon Heights forever,” says a letter the school district’s emergency financial manager Don Weatherspoon sent home to parents this week.

Weatherspoon privatized the school district so he could focus on paying off its $16 million debt. That debt is mostly owed to the State of Michigan.

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Education
3:07 pm
Tue July 17, 2012

Check out the details of Michigan’s first privatized public school system

From left to right; Mosaica Regional Vice President Alena Zachery Ross, Mosaica founder and President Gene Eidelman, and Emergency Manager Don Weatherspoon during a budget hearing Monday afternoon.
Lindsey Smith Michigan Radio

Parents in the Muskegon Heights Public School district are just starting to get an idea of what to expect for their children this fall.

The district is having major financial problems and is under the control of a state appointed emergency manager, Donald Weatherspoon.

Weatherspoon said turning over the entire district to a charter school operator was his only option to keep school open this year.

Last week, the three-member school board (appointed by the Weatherspoon) hired Mosaica Education Inc. to operate the schools in Muskegon Heights.

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Education
4:28 pm
Sun July 15, 2012

Muskegon Heights charter school budget assumes more students and state money

Officials will host a "unity meeting" at Muskegon Heights High School Monday at 5:30p.m.
Lindsey Smith Michigan Radio

The school board for the new charter school system in Muskegon Heights will likely adopt a preliminary budget Monday.  

Muskegon Heights schools’ emergency manager hired a for-profit charter school company to run the public school system for the next five years.

An attorney for the school board says Mosaica Education drafted the budget the school board will consider approving Monday. It's likely the budget will be amended throughout the school year if needed.

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Education
5:38 pm
Mon July 9, 2012

Private, for-profit charter company to run Muskegon Heights schools

The emergency manager of the Muskegon Heights Public School district has signed a contract with a private company to run the district next year.

Mosaica Education is a for-profit charter operator that already runs six other charter schools in Michigan.

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Education
3:57 pm
Fri July 6, 2012

Muskegon Heights emergency manager signs charter school contract – will reveal Monday

Lindsey Smith Michigan Radio

The emergency manager of Muskegon Heights Public Schools says he’s signed a contract with a charter operator that will practically run the whole school district next school year.

In a press release sent out this afternoon, Emergency Manager Don Weatherspoon says he’ll review the signed contract during a public meeting on Monday. The statement doesn’t say which charter school company got the deal. Weatherspoon was not available to discuss the release.

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Education
5:48 pm
Thu July 5, 2012

Plans to have charter operator run Muskegon Heights schools going slower than expected

This sign is for sale at auction next week. It's one of many 'surplus assets' being liquidated at MHPS. Bids start at $5.
biddergy.com

Students in Muskegon Heights Public Schools are still in limbo while the district's state-appointed emergency manager decides what charter school company will manage the system.

MHPS Emergency Manager Don Weatherspoon told parents in May he planned to turn the entire system over to a charter operator this fall. He also said he wanted to have a contract signed June 13.

There’s still no contract in place. That means parents don’t know yet if their kids will get bussed to class, if the district will offer athletics, AP classes, or band next school year.

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Education
11:10 am
Wed June 27, 2012

Muskegon Heights charter takeover a 'state bailout,' new report says

Muskegon Heights High School
Lindsey Smith Michigan Radio

Muskegon Heights Public Schools voted late last year to request a state emergency manager in an effort to sort out chronically troubled finances. Part of the plan emergency manager Don Weatherspoon eventually came up with involved turning schools in the district over to a charter operator.

But as the Detroit Free Press reports today, a study from a non-profit research group says the turnover amounts to little more than a state bailout.

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Education
7:32 pm
Thu June 7, 2012

Teachers' union, emergency manager at Muskegon Heights schools settle lawsuit

Muskegon Heights High School
Lindsey Smith Michigan Radio

The teachers’ union at Muskegon Heights Public Schools has settled a lawsuit against the district. The union had alleged the district’s emergency manager was engaged in unfair labor practices.

Muskegon Heights schools' emergency manager Don Weatherspoon says allowing a charter school operator to run the public school district is the only way he can afford to keep school open next year. The deficit is more than $12 million. 

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Education
12:46 am
Thu May 31, 2012

No football? No band? Muskegon Heights parents get few details about charter school plan

Don Weatherspoon is the Emergency Manager of Muskegon Heights Public Schools. He's planning on having a charter company operate the public district begining next school year.
Lindsey Smith Michigan Radio

Muskegon Heights Public Schools Emergency Manager Don Weatherspoon heard from parents, alumni, teachers, and taxpayers during and after the meeting. He reassured parents a free neighborhood school will be open this fall.

But most had questions he couldn’t answer yet. Like, will there be band, art or athletics? Busing and special education services? Although he’d prefer it, Don Weatherspoon says he cannot make any guarantees.

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