Highland Park school board backs down from emergency manager fight

Feb 23, 2012

The Highland Park school board has cleared the way for Governor Snyder to quickly re-appoint an emergency manager.

The board chose not to appeal the state’s finding of a financial emergency in the district.

It was the second time a state review team made that finding. But the emergency manager Governor Snyder had already appointed, Jack Martin, had to step down to comply with a court ruling that voided the appointment process.

So the state had to quickly re-do the whole process this week. The board fought the decision and lost the first time, but decided not to appeal this time.

Even so, many furious Highland Park parents berated the school board for fighting the initial appointment—bringing about a situation where the district was actually on the verge of shutting down, and where teachers will likely see a payless pay day on Friday.

Most parents said that they wanted Martin to come back. They said he was a stabilizing force in a district where the last few weeks have been plagued by fear and uncertainty.

Board member Deborah Hodges agreed, also calling out her colleagues for what she called "years of corruption and mismanagement."

“I can go to sleep tonight. I feel I made the right decision," said Hodges, who didn't support the board's initial fight against an emergency manager. "I may have enemies after this, but we need somebody to come in here and straighten this thing out. It’s gone on far too long.”

Parents also lobbed allegations of corruption and incompetence at board members. And many reserved special scorn for Robert Davis, the board member whose lawsuit against the emergency manager law led to Martin having to step down. A judge ruled the process that led to Martin's appointment violated the state's Open Meetings Act.

Davis wasn’t at Thursday night’s meeting.

In the meantime, the state has approved an emergency aid package that should keep Highland Park schools open--at least temporarily--and get teachers paid, though not until next week at the earliest.

But that money would also follow students if they choose to leave the district.