Governor Rick Snyder has appointed Donald Weatherspoon to run the Muskegon Heights school district. The appointment is effective Monday, April 23rd. A link to the governor's press release is here.
Dr. Weatherspoon has spent the past 27 years working in the education community, both as a professor at Michigan State University and as a government executive, and currently serves on the Michigan Liquor Control Commission.
Weatherspoon will resign from the liquor control commission to try to turn around the finances at Muskegon Heights schools. Weatherspoon has little experience in the community, but he’s got lots of experience in the administration of state agencies; including the Department of Corrections and the Department of Education. He also taught at Michigan State University for more than twenty years.
Weatherspoon says he has a positive attitude going into the job, which begins Monday.
“I’m pretty open but I can also be very direct,” Weatherspoon said of his management style. “I have a passion for education and also fiscal responsibility”
The district will pay his $125,000 salary.
Muskegon Heights Schools has run a deficit for at least six years in a row. The deficit is projected to be $9.4 million by the end of this school year. Student enrollment has dropped by a third since 2006.
Unlike any other city or school district, the school board in Muskegon Heights asked for a state takeover back in December. They’ve been unable to solve the district growing deficit and are having problems making payroll on time.
“The circumstances leading up to this were probably out of their control and perhaps out of their knowledge range,” Weatherspoon said.
Muskegon Heights schools is the third school district now run by an emergency manger in Michigan. EMs run four cities as well. The City of Detroit is working under the terms of a consent agreement instead of an emergency manager.
Weatherspoon has forty-five days to submit an operating plan to the state.