Highland Park schools

Education
6:30 am
Thu May 15, 2014

Already run by emergency manager, Highland Park schools face new budget shortfall

Credit Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

Despite a previous state takeover, a slew of surprise costs and a dramatic drop in student enrollment have led to a new budget deficit for the public school district in Highland Park.

A multi-million dollar deficit prompted a state takeover of Highland Park Public Schools in 2012. The state appointed emergency manager restructured the district’s deficit into long-term debt with over $7 million in emergency loans from the state.

The manager created a new charter school district to educate students. In 2012  The Leona Group LLC., a charter company,was hired to run the entire district for an annual fee of $780,000.

But now the district is running a deficit again.

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Politics & Government
1:27 pm
Tue April 29, 2014

Governor declares another financial emergency in Highland Park

Credit City of Highland Park

Gov. Rick Snyder has confirmed his decision that Highland Park faces a financial emergency.

The small city located within Detroit’s borders is no stranger to financial troubles.

The Michigan Department of Treasury first reviewed Highland Park’s finances in 1996. From 2001 through 2009, it had an emergency financial manager.

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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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Politics & Government
7:57 am
Fri June 28, 2013

In this morning's news: ACLU suit proceeds, Duggan considers write-in campaign, and Pugh disappears

Morning News Roundup, Thursday, Oct. 13, 2011
User: Brother O'Mara Flickr

“Right-to-read” suit continues

A Wayne County judge is allowing a suit against the Highland Park school district to proceed.  “The suite says the district failed to comply with a state law that requires remedial assistance for students not reading at grade level in the fourth and seventh grades,” reports Michigan Radio’s Lindsay Hall.  The “right-to-read” suit was filed by the American Civil Liberties Union last year.

Duggan supporters consider write-in campaign

Mike Duggan will announce his next steps today in the Detroit Mayoral race.  Michigan Radio’s Sara Cwiek reports that Duggan’s supporters are preparing a write-in campaign for him.  Duggan was ousted from the race last week when courts decided he was ineligible after filing his paperwork outside of the approved dates.    

Detroit City Council President ousted

Detroit City Council President Charles Pugh has been relieved of duty.  Emergency Manager Kevyn Orr stripped him of his salary and authority after he failed to turn up for a final deadline Wednesday evening.  Michigan Radio's Julia Field reports that Pugh is also under scrutiny after allegations surfaced of an inappropriate relationship with a high school student.

Education
9:45 am
Sat April 13, 2013

Emergency manager revokes Highland Park diplomas

HIGHLAND PARK, Mich. (AP) - The state-appointed emergency manager for Highland Park's public schools has revoked diplomas awarded last year to 18 students.

MLive reported Friday that a review of transcripts determined the students were given credit for failed classes or didn't have enough credit hours to graduate.

Emergency manager Donald Weatherspoon says the students in the academically and financially struggling Detroit area district were "misled" by school officials.

Weatherspoon also is manager of Muskegon Heights Public Schools in West Michigan.

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Politics & Government
11:32 am
Wed April 10, 2013

Challenge to emergency manager law dismissed by appeals court

Michigan Court of Appeals
Mike Russell Wikimedia Commons

Union activist and Highland Park school board member Robert Davis has been actively fighting emergency manager appointments in the state.

He's had some success arguing that the state's financial review teams must meet in public, but he's lost a recent round.

More from MPRN's Rick Pluta:

The Michigan Court of Appeals has dismissed a legal challenge to the state takeover of the Highland Park school district. Union activist and school board member Robert Davis claimed the takeover violated the Headlee Amendment to the State Constitution. The Court of Appeals said another court panel had already ruled against Davis on the same set of facts.

Davis was indicted last spring for theft.  Federal authorities say Davis sent fake bills to the Highland Park school district and pocketed more than $125,000. Davis says he's been fighting these accusations for years and says the indictment was based on information supplied by his "political enemies."

Education
1:33 pm
Mon January 28, 2013

Detroit students say education policies violate their civil rights

Mercedes Mejia Michigan Radio

Some students, parents, and education advocates from Detroit and Highland Park will testify at a federal hearing in Washington this week.

They are part of a nationwide group speaking out against changes in Detroit and other poor school districts.

The group alleges that some of the measures, particularly closing neighborhood schools, have “sabotaged and destabilized” education for many children.

Helen Moore is with the Detroit-based group Keep the Vote-No Takeover.

She said the group wasn’t getting far fighting these measures at the local level.

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Government
4:16 pm
Fri August 24, 2012

Using emergency loans to pay off other loans; some Michigan school districts are doing it

The recession has made it harder for local governments and school districts to balance their budgets. This summer the governor signed a new law creating a board that will help those hardest hit cope with short term cash flow problems.

Earlier this month the emergency financial managers of both Muskegon Heights Public Schools and Highland Park schools got emergency loans to pay off other state loans. MHPS borrowed $7.65 million while Highland Park schools borrowed $4.4 million.

“It’s not a handout; it’s a loan in order to help get people on their feet, in order to make the changes that are necessary going forward,” said Caleb Buhs, a spokesman for Michigan’s Department of Treasury. The school districts have 30 years to pay the state back.

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Newsmaker Interviews
10:19 am
Wed August 1, 2012

Highland Park Schools EM explains move to charter schools

Joyce Parker
Joyce Parker

The Highland Park School District in Wayne County faces major financial problems. Emergency Manager Joyce Parker has selected a charter school provider, The Leona Group LLC, to operate the district’s schools starting this fall.

The decision to turn the district over to a charter operator is not without controversy. Parker says she considered several options, such as consolidating the school district with other districts and even bankruptcy.

Parker says the district is no longer eligible for state funding and adds she needed to make sure students were able to start classes in September.

“The charter district system is one that would allow financial resources in the form of state aid to come into the new system to support educating the students.”

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Education
4:55 pm
Fri July 27, 2012

Highland Park Public Schools selects Leona Group to manage charter system

Bill Coats, founder and CEO of the Leona Group
The Leona Group, L.L.C.

Highland Park Public Schools contracted the Leona Group to run its charter system next year.

A press release issued by the school system's Emergency Manager, Joyce Parker, said that she met with the newly appointed board of education today who approved the Leona Group, LLC contract as charter operator unanimously.

From the release:

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Education
2:20 pm
Thu July 12, 2012

ACLU sues on behalf of Highland Park Schools students' 'right to read'

user ppdigital MorgueFile.com

The American Civil Liberties Union is suing on behalf of more than 950 Highland Park Public Schools students and their parents, claiming children aren't receiving an adequate reading education.

ACLU of Michigan Executive Director Kary Moss told reporters at a news conference Thursday the lawsuit is about the "right of children to read."

The suit against the state and others seeks class-action status.

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Education
6:58 pm
Mon June 18, 2012

Highland Park to charter all its schools in the fall--only way to save the district?

Another Michigan school district in deep financial trouble will be turned over to a charter operator for the coming school year.

The emergency manager of the Highland Park Public Schools announced the plan Monday.

Joyce Parker says the district  will likely start the next school year with a roughly $15 million deficit, and only about 800 students.

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Politics
3:27 pm
Thu May 10, 2012

New CFO in Detroit leads to new emergency manager for Highland Park Schools

There's some job switching going on today in Michigan as Highland Park Schools emergency manager Jack Martin got the nod to become the new chief financial officer for the City of Detroit.

The CFO position was created as part of the city's consent agreement with the state. Jack Martin has been the EM at Highland Park Schools since last February.

Martin is a certified public accountant and was the CFO for the U.S. Department of Education from January 2002 through December 2005.

Martin's move to Detroit left the EM position at Highland Park Schools open which will now be filled by Joyce Parker. She's the current emergency manager for the city of Ecorse. She'll continue on in that role part-time, according to the Michigan Department of Treasury.

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Crime
3:05 pm
Mon May 7, 2012

Feds say Highland Park's Davis created fake non-profit for spending sprees

Highland Park School Board member and union activist Robert Davis was indicted last month on charges of theft by federal prosecutors.

They accused Davis of stealing more than $125,000 from the ailing Highland Park school district.

Today, more details emerged from the indictment.

Robert Snell of the Detroit News reports on "newly unsealed federal court records" the paper obtained.

The records allege Davis controlled a bogus nonprofit group, "Citizens United to Save Highland Park Schools." The feds say Davis used the group's bank account for "an $84,000 spending spree at car dealerships, hotels, bars, restaurants and a custom-clothing store."

From The Detroit News:

The financial information was included in an FBI search warrant affidavit requesting permission to raid Davis' home in Highland Park last year.

The affidavit does not specify which car dealerships were patronized. But Davis paid a St. Clair Shores dealership $21,450 for a used silver Mercedes-Benz CLK320 coupe in May 2009, according to the Secretary of State.

That's at the height of the time Davis was stealing money from the school district, according to federal prosecutors.

The sixteen-count indictment says Davis stole the school district's money between 2004 and 2010. If convicted, he faces the possibility of 10 years in prison on each of the counts of the indictment.

Davis made headlines before the indictment was made public by successfully winning a court battle against the state's financial review teams for violating the Open Meetings Act.

Davis has maintained his innocence and his lawyer did not offer a comment on the newly unsealed records, telling the News he had not seen them yet.

News Roundup
8:16 am
Fri April 6, 2012

In this morning's Michigan news headlines...

user brother_O'Mara Flickr

"Opening Day" for Detroit

In a media roundtable in Detroit yesterday, State Treasurer Andy Dillon compared the day after Detroit City Council approved a consent agreement with the state with the home opener for the Detroit Tigers taking place nearby, "This is opening day in more ways than one for the city of Detroit," he said.

The next order of business for the city is to fill new positions called for the in the consent agreement. From the Detroit Free Press:

Mayor Dave Bing now has six days to create the positions of the city's chief financial officer and program management director and 30 days after that to hire the people for the positions... At the same time the state and city are compiling the list for the two top positions, they'll be developing a file of candidates to fill the nine-member financial advisory board, a team of people also with financial backgrounds, who will wield significant power as the city tries to right its finances.

Mayor Bing suffering from two "acute pulmonary embolisms"

Bing returned to the hospital on Wednesday. Yesterday afternoon his office released a statement saying the Mayor was diagnosed with acute pulmonary embolisms in both lungs. A condition that could be life threatening, but his doctor at Henry Ford Hospital said he's recuperating well. Deputy Mayor Kirk Lewis has been acting on the Mayor's behalf. Michigan Radio's Sarah Cwiek reported that Lewis said Mayor Bing "is alert and very involved in the ongoing process to implement the city’s new deal with the state."

“I’m just standing in his shoes right now, until he recovers. But Mayor Dave Bing is clearly the mayor and will be the mayor,” Lewis told reporters Thursday.

Highland Park School Board member calls charges against him "quite suspicious"

Highland Park School Board member and union activist Robert Davis was indicted yesterday on charges of theft by federal prosecutors. They've accused Davis of stealing more than $125,000 from the ailing school district.

Davis successfully won a court battle against the state's financial review teams for violating the Open Meetings Act. At a news conference held last night in his attorney's office, Davis called the timing of the indictment "quite suspicious."

More from the Detroit News:

"It's important for people to know that for the last two years I've been dealing with this particular issue as a result of my political enemies taking this false information to the FBI and to federal authorities," Davis said...

Politics
4:44 pm
Thu April 5, 2012

School Board member who fought financial review teams indicted for theft

User Gini Flickr

The Highland Park school board member who filed the Open Meetings Act lawsuits against the state's financial review process for Detroit, has been indicted for theft. The U-S Attorney’s office says Robert Davis sent fake bills to the district and stole thousands of dollars.

Davis faces up to 10 years in prison if convicted. Authorities say between 2004 and 2010, he stole more than $125,000 from the Highland Park School District by using cover companies to submit fake invoices to the district.

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Education
3:24 pm
Tue March 6, 2012

Muskegon Heights schools' review team begins real work Wednesday

A state appointed team that will decide if the Muskegon Heights school district needs an emergency manager really gets to work Wednesday. It’s the first time the team has met in Muskegon.

The governor appointed the review team in January. But because of legal challenges in the Highland Park school district, the team’s work has been delayed until now.

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Education
9:28 pm
Fri March 2, 2012

Agreement lets Highland Park schools stay open through the school year

The Detroit school district has stepped in to help make sure the Highland Park public schools stay open for the rest of the school year.

But there are still plenty of questions about what happens after that.

The state had to advance Highland Park money last week, or the district would have gone broke.

And the state did—but with the provision that the money couldn’t go to the Highland Park school district, per se.

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