Give us back our schools.
That's the message some Albion residents have for state lawmakers.
The south central Michigan city voted to let Marshall Public Schools annex its school district last May. But now some community members are asking for a do-over.
“We want a push for legislation that would create an avenue for dissolved and annexed districts to recreate themselves,” said city council member Sonya Brown at a community meeting Saturday. The meeting of around 50 people was organized in coordination with Journey for Justice, a national coalition of education activists.
Brown says families are frustrated by a lack of equal representation on Marshall’s school board, and are disturbed by the high number of suspensions last year at Harrington Elementary, located in Albion.
Marshall superintendent Randy Davis says he doesn't disagree with them on that point.
“There was a grossly disproportionate number of out of school suspensions for children in Harrington,” Davis said.
Harrington had 159 out-of-school suspensions, according to district data. That's in comparison to an average of nine suspensions at the other three MPS elementary buildings.
But Davis says the district is investing in teacher training and other supports to address the discipline gap. MPS has partnered with Starr-Commonwealth to bring a coach into Harrington to help implement what’s called a “Positive Behavior Interventions and Supports” system at the school. They are also hiring a new principal for the building.
Community members at the event Saturday asked State Rep. John Bizon, R-Battle Creek, to write a bill that would allow annexed or dissolved districts (like Inkster and Buena Vista) to reopen as independent entities. Right now, if a district is dissolved, Michigan law says students have to attach to another operating district.
“That’s not what we want,” said Brown. “We want our own school in our own community.”
The group says it hopes to get a measure on the 2018 ballot that would allow Albion residents to vote on re-establishing its own district.