flint schools

Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

There are new concerns about lead in the water in Flint schools.

The Michigan Department of Environmental Quality tested the water in 13 Flint schools. 

MDEQ director Dan Wyant says tests at four schools came in above the federal action level for lead (15 parts per billion).

Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

The White Horse Tavern is turning alcohol into water these days.  All to help the Flint school district. 

White Horse tavern owner Chris Poulos offered me a free drink as I sidled up to the bar.  

Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

It took five Home Depot employees a couple trips to unload a pickup truck filled with dozens of cases of bottled water into a classroom at a Flint elementary school this afternoon. 

The donation was the largest, but far from the only, bottled water donation to Flint schools today. 

Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

It’s the first day of school in much of Michigan.   

Dozens of men stood in the rain at the entrance to Flint’s Northwestern High School greeting students as they stepped off the bus.

From politicians to pastors, the men shook the students’ hands and wished them “good morning”.  

Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

Flint’s new school superintendent wants to do something with the district’s unused buildings.

Superintendent Bilal Tawwab says he’s forming a task force to figure out what’s the best thing to do with nearly two dozen empty school buildings, many of which have sat unused for years.

Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

After more than two years with an interim superintendent, Flint schools may have a permanent leader.

On Tuesday night, the school board voted 5 to 4 to offer Bilal Kareem Tawwab the top job at Flint schools.

Tawwab worked at Detroit Public Schools for 18 years. Right now he’s an assistant superintendent responsible for overseeing more than 40 of the Detroit district’s lowest-performing schools.

Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

The Flint school board has decided it needs more time to pick its “preferred” candidate for the district’s soon-to-be vacant superintendent job.

The board heard from the two finalists for the position last night.

Bilal Kareem Tawwab is an assistant superintendent in the Detroit Public School district. Errick Greene is an executive with an education consulting businesses.  Greene is also the son of one of Flint’s school board members.

Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

The Flint school board may pick the district’s new superintendent this evening.

Larry Watkins is currently Flint's interim school superintendent. His decision to retire prompted the district to launch a national search for his replacement.

The school board is scheduled to hold a final round of interviews with the two remaining finalists for the superintendent job.

Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

The Flint school board will interview candidates for its superintendent job next week.

The board will quiz the finalists about ways they can improve the struggling school district.

Wednesday, a search firm released the names of the six finalists for the position.

Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

The Flint Institute of Arts is opening its door to city teachers.

It’s been several years since Flint had a comprehensive arts program. 

The FIA is giving more than 400 Flint teachers free family museum memberships. 

Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

“We have to right-size this school district.”

That’s what outgoing interim Flint schools superintendent Larry Watkins said tonight, after the school district voted to close three more schools.

Closing the three elementary schools will save the district an estimated $7 million over the next seven years.  

Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

More than 80 Americorps members will spend part of the next few years helping Flint school children. 

The national service program named Flint as one of ten communities nationwide that will participate in its Operation Americorps. Similar grants have already been announced in New York,  Tucson, Arizona and Pawtucket, Rhode Island. The program combines three different parts of Americorps. 

Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

The Flint school district needs a new superintendent. Larry Watkins announced today he's retiring.

During Watkins’ two years as interim schools superintendent, the Flint school district has seen its budget deficit grow (from $4 million to nearly $22 million), staff laid off and enrollment continue to decline.

Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

Flint school officials heard from the public last night for the first time on a plan to close more city schools

People who packed the meeting came to have their questions answered and their voices heard. They at least had their questions answered. But school officials only took written questions. 

The public hearing did not include actual public comment.

Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

More Michigan school districts are dealing with a deficit. 

The numbers comes from a quarterly report filed by the State Superintendent’s office with the state legislature.

Fifty five school districts are now required to file deficit elimination plans with the state. That’s up from 48 last year. 

Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

The Flint teachers union has agreed to layoffs and a seven year wage freeze to avoid a deep pay cut. 

The Flint Board of Education approved a plan last night that includes cutting around 70 jobs through layoffs and consolidation.  

Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

The Flint Community Schools Board of Trustees approved a revised deficit elimination plan last night. 

But the district’s unions haven’t signed off on a key part of the plan. 

To make the plan work, district officials factored in a 15% pay cut for employees. District officials suggest without the contract concessions, the Flint school district could potentially start down the road to a state takeover.

Ethel Johnson is president of the United Teachers of Flint. She says they’ve already given up too much. 

Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

An audit of the Flint Community Schools has revealed that the district's deficit has risen to $21.9 million dollars. The district is searching for possible solutions, one of which may be state intervention or an emergency manager.

School officials know a solution is necessary, but they disagree that state involvement is the best way to solve their problems. Isaiah Oliver is the president of the Flint School Board. 

Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

The Flint school district once again fell short of its student count day forecast.   

90% of a district’s per-pupil funding from the state is based on the fall count day number.    

Flint fell about 150 students short of its projection for this year. Flint gets roughly $7,500 from the state for each student.  The district will now have to redo its plan to eliminate its $20 million deficit. 

Larry Watkins is Flint’s interim superintendent. He’s not disappointed by the number.

Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

The state has signed off on a plan to eliminate the Saginaw school district’s budget deficit.

Teacher pay cuts and closing a high school are part of the Deficit Elimination Plan the district sent to the state Department of Education back in July. 

Today state education officials approved the plan, which “is largely dependent on staff reductions and employee concessions.” 

Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

The Flint school board last night approved a plan to eliminate its $20.4 million deficit.  

But the plan relies on the district being able to do something it has struggled to do:  retain students.

The Flint school district delivers its revised deficit elimination plan to the state Department of Education tomorrow.  The plan calls for zeroing out a $20.4 million deficit by the end of 2021.    

Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

The Flint school district is sinking deeper into red ink.

Less than 12 months ago, an audit placed the district’s budget deficit at $10.4 million.  It's now pegged at $20.4 million.  

The Flint school district has been struggling to reduce its multi-million dollar deficit for years. But last night, school district officials described recent budget plans as being “far from reality,” even describing the district’s current budget as only ”close to reality.”

Isaiah Oliver is the president of the Flint Board of Education.  He calls the new deficit number “devastating”

Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

FLINT, Mich. (AP) - There is no direct deposit this week for teachers and other employees in the Flint school district.

They were required to pick up their check in person Friday as the struggling district confirms that it's paying people who actually work. Spokesman Brian Smith tells The Flint Journal it's too early to know if any problems were uncovered.

He says there might be legitimate reasons for someone who didn't pick up a check.

Flint Community Schools

There is no doubt that teachers in the Flint Community Schools will be paid through the end of the school year.

That's according to Interim Superintendent Larry Watkins.

Watkins said the state approved the Flint school district's deficit elimination plan today.

The district will get a $2.3 million advance on its state aid payments, and Watkins said the state authorized the district to borrow $3.6 million.

Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio

A Flint substitute teacher is facing a variety of charges, including assault and battery, for allegedly duct taping the mouths of several elementary school students on several occasions last year.

A 15 count warrant was authorized on Wednesday.     The incidents allegedly occurred at Flint's Brownell Elementary School.   The unnamed teacher was fired by the Flint school district in December.

Flint city attorney Peter Bade says during the subsequent investigation, the teacher claimed that the school’s principal had placed duct tape on the teacher's mouth.

Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio

Flint school officials have until Wednesday to deliver a new deficit elimination plan to the Michigan Department of Education.

Flint School Board members tonight will review an agreement calling for a 19% compensation cut to school district employees. Specific wage and benefit cuts will be worked out during the next several months.

The wage and benefit concession was announced last week. The cuts would begin in July and last until 2018, when Flint School District officials project the district will have eliminated its multi-million dollar deficit.

Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio

Flint school district employees are facing a deep cut in pay and benefits.

Interim school superintendent Larry Watkins announced today that the district and its unions have reached a deal that calls for a 19% cut in compensation.

Specific details about cuts to wages and benefits are still being negotiated between the district and its unions. The cuts will take effect in July. 

Watkins says the cuts are a key component of the district’s deficit reduction plan that’s being submitted to the state next week.

Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio

Last night, Flint school board members listened as auditors painted a bleak picture of the school district’s finances. The auditors blamed years of "poor internal controls" for the district’s big budget deficit.  Auditors say they did not find any "financial misconduct."

The Flint school district’s deficit is more than ten million dollars. The district also owes the Genesee Intermediate School District nearly nine million dollars.

Larry Watkins is Flint’s interim school superintendent.  He says the Flint school district will have to address its own budget deficit first.

Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio

The Flint School Board will hear the findings of the district’s most recent audit this evening.

The audit is expected to show continued problems with misspent funds, lax oversight and other issues.

“Our students deserve the very best and we’re definitely going to do that. In order for us to do that, we’re going to have to turn this district around,” says Larry Watkins, Flint’s interim school superintendent.

Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio

The Flint Board of Education has signed off on a deficit elimination plan for the district.

The challenge now is sticking to it.

The Flint school district is $15.8 million dollars in the red.

To address that, school board members last night approved a plan that will cut jobs, close two elementary schools and trim other expenses.   The goal is to reduce the district deficit to zero by June, 2016. 

Antoinette Lockett is the board president. She says retaining students will be key.