Highland Park schools

Education
4:09 pm
Fri March 2, 2012

Highland Park schools will remain open, teachers will be paid

Mercedes Mejia Michigan Radio

The cash-strapped Highland Park schools will get help so schools in the district can remain open until the end of the school year, the Michigan Department of Treasury announced today. Michigan Radio's Sarah Cwiek is covering this story and will have an update later.

From a press release sent by Michigan's Treasury Department:

Highland Park Schools Emergency Manager Jack Martin, Detroit Public Schools Emergency Manager Roy Roberts, and State Treasurer Andy Dillon today signed a Memorandum of Agreement (MOA) that provides temporary assistance and support to Highland Park Schools from Detroit Public Schools. The MOA, which will be in place for the remainder of the 2011- 2012 school year, allows current Highland Park students to remain in their current classrooms with their current teachers, if they so choose, despite the district’s financial crisis.

Plans to reform the finances at Highland Park schools hit a snag when a judge ruled the state violated the open meetings act when a state financial review team appointed emergency manager Jack Martin to oversee the school system.

Martin was temporarily taken off his post and re-appointed to his post by Governor Snyder this morning.

In the press release, Martin said their goal is to "ensure that students face as little disruption as possible." He thanked DPS emergency manager Roy Roberts:

“I want to thank Mr. Roberts for his willingness to assist Highland Park Schools through such trying times. I would also like to thank the teachers and staff who have been in class and working all week despite not getting paid last Friday. They will be receiving paychecks later today.”

Detroit Public Schools, which has its own financial troubles, will receive "distressed district student transition grants" worth $4,000 per pupil.

State officials say Detroit Public Schools "will support personnel-related functions on behalf of Highland Park Schools."

Newsmaker Interviews
4:21 pm
Tue February 28, 2012

Sen. Bert Johnson talks alternative to emergency manager law

Democratic Senator Bert Johnson represents Michigan’s 2nd District.
Photo courtesy of Senate Democrats.

At the beginning of the year Governor Snyder appointed an emergency manager, Jack Martin, for Highland Park public schools. Shortly after that Martin was “de-activated” from the position. And now it’s unclear when he might be reinstated.

Democratic Senator Bert Johnson represents Michigan’s 2nd District, which includes Highland Park.

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Politics
4:02 pm
Fri February 24, 2012

State law quickly passed to allow Highland Park students to transfer

Michigan Radio

Governor Rick Snyder has signed a law that allows students in Highland Park to transfer to another district or charter school now that the Highland Park district has run out of money. The Legislature approved the measure Thursday.

The Highland Park school district could not meet this week’s payroll, although at least some teachers still showed up for work.

The new law allows several hundred Highland Park students to make a mid-year transfer to another district or a charter school, paid for with a $4,000 state grant.

It’s not known how many students and their families could or would take the opportunity.

Highland Park schools were under the control of a state-appointed manager, but the manager had to step down after a judge ruled the review team that recommended a state takeover violated Michigan’s open meetings law.

It will be next week before the governor can re-appoint the emergency manager.

After that, the new law also allows the emergency manager to use the per-student stipend to pay another district or a charter school operator to hold classes in Highland Park schools.

Education
11:34 pm
Thu February 23, 2012

Highland Park school board backs down from emergency manager fight

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.

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Politics
5:39 pm
Thu February 23, 2012

Emergency legislation to keep kids in school, Highland Park school board meets tonight

The Highland Park school district is almost out of cash. The state is working on a solution to keep kids in school.
user alkruse24 Flickr

Lawmakers at the state Capitol have approved a proposal to make sure students from Highland Park schools are able to attend classes next week.

The school district is on the brink of immediate shutdown after the district’s state-appointed emergency manager was removed.

A circuit court judge ruled the district’s financial review team violated the Open Meetings Act and must begin its work over again.

Ari Adler is the spokesman for state House Speaker Jase Bolger. He said the emergency legislation is necessary to protect students.

“We’re trying to set this up so parents and students will have a choice; they will have some options of where they can continue their education for the school year. Speaker Bolger has drawn a clear line of distinction between the Highland Park district and the Highland Park students. We’re done trying to save the Highland Park school district, we don’t believe it can be saved, but we are trying to save the students,” said Adler.

Adler said a payless payday tomorrow appears to be a foregone conclusion for employees in the destitute district.

Republican leaders say they are not willing to forward more money to the district while the school board remains in control of its finances.

Democratic House Minority Leader Rick Hammel said the Republican plan to provide money for kids to attend other public or charter schools in the area will hurt the students of Highland Park.

Hammel thinks a local intermediate school district should be allowed to take over Highland Park schools until a more permanent solution is found.

"The number one thing is those kids stay in that school – that’s the number one thing for us," said Hammel. "Now, the devil’s in the details. And we have taken an opportunity to just fund Highland Park schools through a responsible source, and created law with lots of stuff that goes in there that doesn’t have anything to do with taking care of Highland Park.”

The Highland Park school board will meet tonight to decide its next move.

Education
9:04 pm
Wed February 22, 2012

Financial emergency declared in Highland Park schools--again

A state review team has again declared a state of financial emergency in the Highland Park school district.

But the district may not be able to keep its doors open long enough to see its former emergency manager reinstated.

Governor Snyder had already appointed an emergency manager, Jack Martin, for Highland Park schools.

But a court found that the financial review process violated the state’s Open Meetings Act, forcing the emergency manager to step down.

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Politics
5:03 pm
Wed February 22, 2012

Michigan school system almost out of cash, legislators work to keep kids in classes

Governor Rick Snyder and leaders in the Legislature hope to begin voting tomorrow on a plan to keep Highland Park students in school when the district runs out of money this week.

Control of the district reverted to the school board after Snyder removed the emergency manager to comply with a court ruling.

House Speaker Jase Bolger (R-Marshall) said the district won’t get any more money while the school board is in charge.

He said the district is guilty of mismanaging its funds.

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News Roundup
8:44 am
Wed February 22, 2012

In this morning's news...

user brother_o'mara Flickr

Highland Park school district could close by Monday

Yesterday afternoon Governor Rick Snyder "de-activated" a state-appointed emergency manager for the Highland Park school district after a judge ruled the state did not comply with the Open Meetings Act when appointing the emergency manager.

Snyder says the district will run out of money by Friday, and is asking the legislature to take emergency measures to allow students to transfer to other schools. He's also asking that state aid be allowed to transfer to other schools as well. MPRN's Rick Pluta reports the governor called what's happening a "terrible situation."

“But, I think, given the circumstances, this is a good, strong solution to deal with a tough situation that, unfortunately got complicated by litigation, politics, and everything else. And the kids shouldn’t be the victims,” said Snyder.

Forum organized in opposition to Michigan emergency manager law

Congressman John Conyers (D-Detroit) held a public forum last night calling Michigan's emergency manager law (Public Act 4) "illegal, unconstitutional, and anti-democratic," according to Michigan Radio's Sarah Cwiek.

Conyers is the ranking Democrat on the House Judiciary Committee. Cwiek reports "that committee’s staff issued a report finding that Public Act 4 violates the contracts clause of the U.S. Constitution, because it allows emergency managers to breach collective bargaining contracts."

Emergency manager of Benton Harbor, Joe Harris, spoke out in favor of Public Act 4, saying it keeps cities and school districts from declaring bankruptcy - an outcome he said would be catastrophic for everyone.

Republican primary campaign heats up, robocalls flood into Michigan homes

A new poll shows Mitt Romney in a dead heat with Rick Santorum ahead of the February 28 Republican presidential primary in Michigan (Romney 32 percent, Santorum 30 percent - margin of error +/- 4 percentage points).

The campaign is heating up, and the robocalls are piling up on answering machines all around Michigan.

The Detroit Free Press reports some people must be listening.

"They tick off a lot of people, but (campaigns) wouldn't use them if they didn't work," said Lansing-based consultant Craig Ruff.

Campaign calls are exempt from the National Do Not Call Registry.

Politics
3:59 pm
Tue February 21, 2012

Emergency manager "de-activated" at Michigan's Highland Park schools

Update 3:59 p.m.

The governor will ask the Legislature to pass emergency measures by the end of the week to allow Highland Park students and state aid payments to switch to another district or a charter school.

The governor challenged the Highland Park school board to offer its own solution or ask for a hearing this week that could wind up with the governor re-appointing an emergency manager.

3:44 p.m.

Governor Rick Snyder says Highland Park schools emergency manager is being "de-activated" to comply with a court ruling.

A judge ruled last week that a state review team that recommended a takeover violated Michigan's open meetings law.

Snyder says the review will start over with an open meeting and a chance for the public to comment. The governor will announce an interim plan for the district this afternoon.

The governor says the Highland Park school board is now back in charge, but out of money. He says schools could close as soon as Monday without an emergency solution.

Politics
12:09 pm
Wed February 15, 2012

Ruling puts Michigan's Highland Park schools emergency manager in limbo

Jack Martin is the emergency manager of Highland Park public schools. The judges ruling puts his authority in question.
US Dept. Ed

Update 4:44 p.m.

From Michigan Radio's Rick Pluta

A judge has ruled that state-appointed review teams looking into the finances of the city if Detroit and the Highland Park school district broke Michigan’s open meetings law. The judge says review teams that can recommend state takeovers of local governments and school districts are public bodies that must operate in the public eye.

The ruling by Judge William Collette says the state needs to re-launch its review of the Highland Park school district, and do so in public. But there are no immediate plans to remove the state-appointed emergency manager who was placed in charge of the district two and a half weeks ago. The ruling also says future meetings of the Detroit review team – which has yet to make a recommendation -- must take place in public.

The lawsuit was filed by Highland Park school board member Robert Davis.

“This is a monumental victory for democracy,” Davis said.

It’s not clear what affect the ruling might have on the emergency managers already running four cities and the Detroit Public Schools. The state could appeal the ruling.

The emergency manager law is also facing a separate court challenge as well as a petition drive that seeks to put a referendum on the November ballot.

12:10 p.m.

LANSING, Mich. (AP) - An Ingham County judge has voided decisions made by a review team whose recommendations led to the appointment of an emergency manager in the Highland Park public
school system.

The decision Wednesday by Ingham County Circuit Judge William Collette says the review team violated the state's Open Meetings Act.

The suit was filed by Robert Davis, a Highland Park school board member. Davis said the ruling means that Gov. Rick Snyder's appointment of an emergency manager for the district last month is wiped out.

Messages were left with the Snyder administration seeking comment. A spokeswoman for the state attorney general's office said the ruling would be reviewed.

Collette has ruled that the state-appointed review teams should be subject to the state's Open Meetings Act.

Snyder's administration disagrees.

Politics
7:42 pm
Mon February 6, 2012

Court ruling is a victory for Highland Park activist, other Public Act 4 opponents

State Treasurer Andy Dillon leads the team reviewing Detroit's finances under Public Act 4.
Associated Press

An Ingham County Court Judge has ruled that the state review team looking at Detroit’s finances must meet in public.

The ruling is a victory for opponents of Public Act 4, the state law that strengthens the powers of emergency managers in fiscally-distressed cities.

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Politics
1:54 pm
Mon February 6, 2012

Judge: Financial review teams must comply with Michigan's Open Meetings Act

Ingham County Circuit Court Judge William Collette ruled this afternoon that state-appointed local financial review teams are public bodies that must comply with the Michigan Open Meetings Act.

State-appointed financial review teams are part of a process in determining whether a city or a school district is in a state of financial emergency.

If a financial review team declares a "financial emergency," then the state can appoint an emergency manager to run the school district or municipality.

State officials have maintained that these review teams do not have to comply with the Michigan Open Meetings Act.

Judge Collette agreed with the plaintiff in the case - Robert Davis, the board secretary of the Highland Park School District.

Davis said the state's financial review team violated Michigan's Open Meetings Act by holding private meetings, failing to post public notices for the meetings, and for failing to keep minutes of the meetings.

The Associated Press reports that Judge Collette said he was issuing a preliminary injunction saying any future state-appointed financial review team meetings must comply with the act.

Laura Weber of the Michigan Public Radio Network is following this story and will have an update later.

Politics
6:23 pm
Tue January 31, 2012

Another Michigan school district moves a step closer to an emergency manager

Governor Snyder has appointed a team to review the Muskegon Heights School District's financial records. That puts the west Michigan school district a step closer to getting an emergency manager.

The Muskegon Heights school district asked for a state review of its finances back in December.

The preliminary review found the school district was in ‘probable financial stress’, due to the district’s $8.5 million deficit.

That set the stage for the governor to appoint a state review team to scour the school district’s books. 

If an emergency manager is eventually appointed in Muskegon Heights schools, it will join school districts in Detroit and Highland Park. Emergency managers are also running things in four Michigan cities.

Education
8:05 am
Tue January 31, 2012

As Michigan school districts face financial problems, will there be a rise in Emergency Managers?

woodleywonderworks Flickr

On Friday, Governor Snyder appointed an emergency manager to oversee the Highland Park School District. Emergency Managers are also in charge of Detroit Public Schools and the cities of Flint, Pontiac, Ecorse and Benton Harbor.

Highland Park and Detroit are in Southeast Michigan, but districts across the state are facing dire financial straits mainly because of declining student enrollment and cuts in state aid. Michigan Radio's Christina Shockley speaks with Michelle Herbon, a Senior Consultant at Public Sector Consultants, about the possibility of more emergency managers being appointed to financially struggling school districts across the states.

Politics
3:54 pm
Fri January 27, 2012

Michigan will get another emergency manager, Snyder names EM for Highland Park schools

Jack Martin when he was the CFO for the U.S. Department of Education. He will officially be the emergency manager of Highland Park public schools on Monday, January 30.
U.S. Dept. of Ed.

Governor Snyder named an emergency manager, Jack Marin, for the Highland Park public schools. today. His appointment will be effective on Monday, January 30.

Update 4:00 p.m.

Governor Rick Snyder says it’s "unacceptable" that that Highland Park School District may not have enough money to finish the school year. Snyder made the comments following a tour of a factory in West Michigan Friday afternoon.

Highland Park Schools has already borrowed money from the state to make payroll. The district will need more money in order to pay teachers and other employees next month. But Snyder says it’s unclear where that money will come from.

“I can’t give you the answer other than to say I want to make sure these kids finish the school year and we’re going to work with the legislature or other places to see if we can really make that happen as quickly as possible," Snyder said, following the tour. 

Update 3:54 p.m.

The Highland Park school district is the sixth public entity in Michigan to be placed under the control of a state-appointed Emergency Manager.

That’s after Governor Rick Snyder concurred with the findings of a review team that the school district is deep in debt with no credible plan to fix its finances.

Jack Martin will assume the role of Highland Park public schools emergency manager on Monday. Miller is a certified public accountant and the former chief financial officer for the U.S. Department of Education.

Martin said his first task will be to determine how quickly Highland Park is losing students, and how that will affect the district’s finances in the coming school year.

"We want to get an accurate forecast, as best we can, of what the student population’s going to be; try to match the expenditures to what the revenues will be; and we’ll make adjustments to expenditures as we feel are necessary to sustain the district and manage the deficit," said Martin.

Martin will have 45 days to submit a preliminary plan for addressing the deficit to the state treasurer.

3:03 p.m.

Here's more about Jack Martin from a Department of Treasury press release:

Martin is founder and chairman of Martin, Arrington, Desai & Meyers, P.C. and has 40 years of experience in both the public and private sectors. Martin was chief financial officer for the U.S. Department of Education after serving as CEO and managing director of Jack Martin & Co. Certified Public Accountants and Consultants and acting CEO of Home Federal Savings Bank of Detroit.

2:03 p.m.

Michigan will have six emergency managers operating in the state.

Governor Snyder has just named an emergency manager for Highland Park public schools.

More from MPRN's Capital Bureau Chief Rick Pluta:

Governor Rick Snyder has affirmed a state of financial emergency exists in the Highland Park public schools and named an emergency manager to run the district.

The governor has named Jackie Martin to be the emergency manager.

The neighboring Detroit public school district is also being run by an emergency manager, as are the cities of Pontiac, Benton Harbor, Flint, and Ecorse.

Politics
4:34 pm
Thu January 26, 2012

Decision on emergency manager for Highland Park schools expected soon

Governor Rick Snyder says he will decide no later than tomorrow whether to place an emergency manager in charge of the Highland Park public schools.

Snyder says he understands that parents are concerned about what could happen to the school district if it is taken over. But he says it’s important the school district is able to stay open to students for the rest of the year.

"Well the main answer on all of this is let’s make sure that kids can finish the school year because Highland Park got themselves in a situation where they couldn’t meet their payroll," Snyder said.

 Snyder’s office has received phone calls from about 100 concerned parents in Highland Park since a financial review panel determined there is a financial emergency in the district.

Detroit Public Schools is the only school district in the state currently run by an emergency manager.

The governor says he wants families to be assured that Highland Park students will be able to finish the school year.

Education
6:03 pm
Wed January 25, 2012

Uncertainty in Highland Park schools as parents look for answers

Mercedes Mejia / Michigan Radio

Highland Park school officials are battling to keep their school district from a state takeover.

But many parents there say they just want to know whether the district will last through the next month.

An audit shows the Highland Park school district is running an $11.2 million deficit—mostly because it’s lost more than two-thirds of its students.

In 2008, the district had 3419 students. Today, they have fewer than 1000.

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Education
4:45 pm
Tue January 24, 2012

Gov. to Highland Park parents: schools in danger of closing next month

Governor Rick Snyder has put Highland Park schools parents on notice that the district is in danger of closing next month.

The warning came in a letter Snyder sent to parents. It says the district’s finances have reached a crisis stage, and that Highland Park might not be able to finish the school year without state intervention.

"We were hearing lots of concerns, lots of frustration" the governor's spokeswoman, Sara Wurfel, said of the letter. "And so we just wanted to make sure we were communicating directly so they could hear from the governor, and he could begin to help answer those questions as best we can at the time."

But Highland Park school board secretary Robert Davis says the letter serves little purpose other than to scare parents, "and in turn may cause some parents to take their kids out of the district, which will further cripple the Highland Park school system."

The district's cumulative deficit is more than $11 million. Two weeks ago, the state had to front the district money to meet payroll.

A state review team has recommended that Governor Snyder appoint an emergency manager to run the district. Governor Snyder is expected to make a final decision once he receives a report from the state Treasury Department from a hearing held last week, at which district officials opposed state intervention.

Politics
12:20 pm
Fri January 20, 2012

Highland Park School officials want to stop emergency manager takeover

Highland Park school district financial director Randy Lane (left) listens as district counsel George Butler makes his arguments to a hearing officer in Lansing
(photo by Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio)

Highland Park school district officials are trying to convince the state not to appoint an emergency manager to run the district. A hearing today in Lansing may be their last chance.   

A state review panel says the Highland Park School District is in a ‘Financial Crisis’.   The district is $11 million in debt.   It’s student population has plunged from more than 3000 students in 2006 to less than a thousand today.    

A review panel member says the school board’s efforts at reducing their budget deficit have been “going in the wrong direction”.    

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Financial Crisis
5:05 pm
Thu January 12, 2012

Snyder: Financial crisis exists in Highland Park School District

State Treasurer Andy Dillon, left, and state Superintendent Mike Flanagan
Sarah Hulett Michigan Radio

Update 4:58 pm:

State Treasurer Andy Dillon says the district’s money problems are deep and troubling. He says the state will advance the school district $188,000 so it can meet payroll tomorrow. 

"I have no comfort that the district has a handle on their finances," said Dillon. "The numbers move hourly. We have three people down there today trying to get a handle on how much they actually need for payroll. And I’m very uneasy about it, because I can’t tell you in the middle of February that they’re going to make payroll."

But school board member Robert Davis says the state has contributed to the district’s financial woes by requiring that it close a career academy that enrolled 1,500 students.

"Their plan and intent is to fold the Highland park School system into the Detroit Public School system," Davis said. "That’s what this is all about."

Highland Park Schools' student population has declined 58% percent since 2006. 

State officials say their objective is to keep the district’s doors open through the end of the year. But they say that will be difficult. The district needs a cash infusion of at least $3 million to get through the school year. But the maximum the state is allowed to advance under hardship cases is $2 million.

The district's cumulative deficit is $11.3 million. That’s about $10,000 for every student enrolled.

12:56 p.m.

Governor Rick Snyder has declared a financial emergency in the Highland Park school district, Rick Pluta reports. The district will have a chance to challenge the finding at a January 17th hearing before the governor names an emergency manager.

In a statement released today, the Governor says:

“It is critical that students in the Highland Park School District get the education they need and deserve. For that to continue, the Highland Park School District must have stable finances. Through the comprehensive reviews that have been conducted, it is clear the district faces monumental financial challenges.”

On January 4th a state review  panel recommended the governor appoint an emergency manager to fix the school district’s "financial emergency." The financial review team had been looking at the Highland Park School District’s books since November. Earlier this month, Steve Carmody reported:

The panel’s report to the governor finds the school district is $11 million in the red. That works out to about $10 thousand for every student enrolled.  The school district’s deficit has grown by $3 million in just the last year. The school district’s debt has grown, as its student population has fallen. Nearly 3,200 students attended Highland Park schools in 2006. This year, fewer than a thousand students are enrolled.

Emergency managers are already running the Detroit public schools,  as well as the cities of Flint, Pontiac, Ecorse and Benton Harbor. Financial review teams are also looking at Detroit and Inkster's books.

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