Muskegon heights school district

Politics & Government
8:57 am
Sat April 12, 2014

The week in review

Credit Photo by penywise / morgueFile

This Week in Review, Rina Miller and Jack Lessenberry discuss the latest with the Detroit bankruptcy, the continuing controversies over the General Motors recall, and the money problems involving the charter school system running Muskegon Heights schools.

Week in Review interview for 4/11/14

Education
2:29 pm
Thu April 10, 2014

Muskegon Heights school system continues its struggle to meet payroll, asks state for more money

Credit Lindsey Smith / Michigan Radio

Muskegon Heights Public School Academy System is asking the state to front $191,000 to cover paychecks that are set to go out this Tuesday.

It’s the second time this month the district has asked for an advance.

The advance would come out of the district’s state aid payment April 20. Earlier this month the state advanced $231,000.

State treasury officials say the district typically gets roughly $455,000 a month after debt obligations.

School board officials have previously declined requests for comment from Michigan Radio. Reports out today say board members also declined to comment to reporters at the special board meeting today, which lasted approximately five minutes.

Charter company Mosaica Education is running the district. The company’s CEO has not returned repeated requests for comment this week.

Mosaica’s Regional VP of Operations Alena Zachery-Ross says advancements for struggling school districts aren’t completely uncommon. She says the district is working on a plan to meet payroll for the rest of the year but couldn’t comment on the details of those negotiations.

Education
6:00 am
Mon April 7, 2014

Officials confident Muskegon Heights schools will meet payroll, but no solution yet

Credit Lindsey Smith / Michigan Radio

State officials and the Muskegon Heights School Board are trying to figure out how they’ll be able to pay staff for the rest of this school year, although the district’s emergency manager is “confident” they’ll work something out.

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Education
5:45 pm
Tue April 1, 2014

State fronts Muskegon Heights schools cash so district can pay teachers, staff

Teachers at MHPSA will be paid this week, thanks to the state fronting the district $231,000.
Credit Lindsey Smith / Michigan Radio

Updated 4/2/14:

An attorney for the MHPSA board says all employees have been paid as of today. He said there was a "glitch" in payroll but declined further comment on this story at this time.

Original post 4/1/14:

The state is fronting $231,000 to the charter school district in Muskegon Heights so it can pay its employees. Teachers and staff didn’t get paid like they were supposed to on Monday.

The new Muskegon Heights Public School Academy System was set up in June 2012 when the old school district there went broke.

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Education
11:27 pm
Tue October 15, 2013

New state consultant to work with struggling Pontiac Schools

The former emergency manager of two Michigan school districts is moving onto help Pontiac schools.

Donald Weatherspoon was the emergency manager of the Highland Park and Muskegon Heights schools.

Now, he’s a consent agreement consultant for the Pontiac schools. The Pontiac school board chose to enter a consent agreement after a state review found the district was in "fiscal stress."

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Education
4:35 am
Tue September 24, 2013

Students making gains under first-of-a-kind charter; school leaders set bigger goals

Lindsey Smith Michigan Radio

On average, students under the state’s first fully privatized public school district are learning at a faster rate than under the old system. That’s according to data released Monday night by the charter company running the Muskegon Heights district.

Muskegon Heights schools’ emergency manager set up the charter system in the summer of 2012, when the existing district couldn’t afford to open. Highland Park Public Schools is under a similar arrangement.

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Education
3:18 pm
Wed June 26, 2013

Buena Vista schools update: Layoffs and how the Voting Rights Act impacts dissolution

Sarah Alvarez Michigan Radio

Last night, Buena Vista School District held meetings to discuss two important issues.

Overall, while the board made decisions for the 2013-2014 school year assuming the school district would open this coming fall, the future of the district depends on whether or not higher ups decide to dissolve the struggling school system.

First, the board made decisions on the school district’s budget and layoffs.

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Education
10:47 pm
Mon June 24, 2013

Muskegon Heights schools emergency manager: 1 year to local control, 28 to pay off debt

EM Don Weatherspoon at a meeting in May 2012.
Lindsey Smith Michigan Radio

With a little luck and another loan from the state, Muskegon Heights Public Schools’ Emergency Manager Don Weatherspoon is predicting the district will pay of its debt the year 2041.

Don Weatherspoon told a small crowd gathered in the high school auditorium Monday night he hopes to hand local control back to the district’s elected school board in one year.

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Education
9:12 am
Mon June 24, 2013

Muskegon Heights schools' emergency manager to update community tonight

MHPS Emergency Manager Don Weatherspoon at a town hall meeting in May 2012.
Lindsey Smith Michigan Radio

Muskegon Heights Public  Schools had nearly a $12 million deficit at the end of last school year. That's when the district’s newly appointed Emergency Manager Don Weatherspoon said the district couldn't afford to open school in the fall. He laid off most all the staff and hired charter school company Mosaica Education to run the schools for five years.

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Education
10:21 am
Fri June 7, 2013

State fines Muskegon Heights schools for hiring teachers without proper certification

The Muskegon Heights school system has been fined nearly $100,000 by the Michigan Department of Education. The department launched the investigation after Michigan Radio reported the new Muskegon Heights charter school district had about 10% of teachers working without a valid teaching certificate or permit. It’s against state law to do that.

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Education
7:30 am
Thu May 23, 2013

Despite state takeover, special education problems linger for Muskegon Heights schools

Lindsey Smith Michigan Radio

Listen to the on air version of this story.

New reports show special education students in Muskegon Heights didn’t get all the services they should have this year. The company that runs the state’s first all-charter public school district is working to correct the problems.

Problems with charter company’s handling of special ed services

Federal law and state regulations outline the rules that are supposed to make sure kids with special needs still get a fair education.

Michigan’s Department of Education found more than a dozen ways the new Muskegon Heights charter district violated those rules, affecting a couple hundred special education students.

“In my opinion this was probably the worst delivery of special education services I’ve seen in my career,” said Norm Kittleson, a former special education teacher at Muskegon Heights. He’s been teaching for 15 years.

Kittleson started teaching a small class of students with learning disabilities and emotional issues at Muskegon Heights last October.

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Law
11:55 am
Sat May 11, 2013

Lawsuit next week to challenge Michigan's emergency manager law

(file photo)
Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio

DETROIT (AP) - Leaders of the Detroit branch of the NAACP say they'll file a lawsuit next week challenging Michigan's emergency manager law.

The law has allowed Gov. Rick Snyder to put managers in Detroit and other struggling cities and school districts. Critics plan to talk Monday outside the federal courthouse in Detroit.

Other legal challenges have not been successful. An Ingham County judge in April threw out a lawsuit that claimed lawmakers violated the Open Meetings Act when it approved the bill in December.

Education
5:24 pm
Thu February 14, 2013

After report, Muskegon Heights teachers get Michigan certificates, substitute permits

Lindsey Smith Michigan Radio

Teachers in the new charter school district in Muskegon Heights have now obtained certificates or permits that allow them to legally work in Michigan classrooms.

This week Michigan Radio reported the state's first all-charter public school district had at least eight teachers who worked, in some case for months, without a valid Michigan teaching certificate or permit. It’s against state law to do that.

Now, public records show those who were still teaching at Muskegon Heights without proper certificates managed to get them this week. Most obtained teacher certificates. Two others obtained substitute permits.

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Education
6:04 pm
Tue February 12, 2013

Stateside: Uncertified teachers at Muskegon Heights charter school system

The Muskegon Heights emergency manager and representatives of Mosaica Education.
Lindsey Smith Michigan Radio

The following is a summary of a previously recorded interview. To hear the complete segment, click the audio above.

Lester Graham is filling in for Cynthia Canty on today's Stateside.

In her recent report, Michigan Radio's Lindsey Smith found that teachers in the new charter school system in Muskegon Heights were hired without teacher certification.

The entire public school system in Muskegon Heights was recently turned over to a private company.

While there are teachers who do have certification, there are others who do not.

The question is, what will happen with those teachers that have not been certified?

We sat down with reporter Lindsey Smith, who joined us from Grand Rapids.

She told us how it became evident that there were uncertified teachers working in the school system. She also tells us what it was like speaking to the parents in Muskegon Heights and their reactions.

Education
7:35 am
Tue February 12, 2013

Investigation uncovers non-certified teachers at Muskegon Heights new charter school

This Muskegon Heights teacher at Edgewood Elementary school holds a valid teaching certificate in Michigan.
Lindsey Smith Michigan Radio

Update: As of February 14th, these teachers have now obtained valid Michigan teaching certificates or permits.

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Education
7:23 am
Thu February 7, 2013

Muskegon Heights has high hopes for 3rd high school principal in 6 months

Incoming Muskegon Heights High School 'Head of School' Carla Turner-Laws poses for a photo.
Courtesy photo Mosaica Education

The new Muskegon Heights charter school district is welcoming yet another principal at its high school. Carla Turner-Laws is the third principal so far this school year. Technically, her title is Interim Head of School/Instructional Specialist.

A couple dozen people sharing cookies and pink fruit punch welcomed Turner-Laws at a reception Wednesday night. Most were fellow co-workers, friends and family members.

The MHPS district’s state-appointed emergency manager turned the entire district over to a charter school company last June.

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Education
1:00 pm
Tue January 8, 2013

Grading Michigan's first fully privatized public school district

Lindsey Smith Michigan Radio

Last summer, Muskegon Heights became the first school district in the state to completely privatize its public school system.

In December 2011, after running a budget deficit for six years in a row, the school board requested the appointment of an emergency manager under the now-defunct Public Act 4.

Soon after his appointment in April 2012, emergency manager Don Weatherspoon laid off all of the district’s employees, created a new charter district, and appointed a new school board to run it.

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Education
8:00 am
Mon January 7, 2013

Patience please, Muskegon Heights school leaders “building the airplane as we fly it”

Don Weatherspoon answers questions from Mary Valentine (top right) after a school board meeting following the repeal of Public Act 4.
Lindsey Smith Michigan Radio

This story is the fourth in a four-part series about how things are going so far in Michigan's first fully privatized public school district. Find part one here, part two here, and part three here.

The on-air version of the story. An expanded online version is below.

Students in Muskegon Heights are going through a lot of changes this year, because the entire school district was converted to a charter school system. After tackling some tough issues in the first half of the school year, the operators of the charter school system want the public to give them a full school year to put the changes in place.

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Education
8:00 am
Fri January 4, 2013

Many Muskegon Heights students dig the charter company’s curriculum: “It’s fun.”

Students at Edgewood Elementary School learn about philosophy through Mosaica's Paragon curriculum.
Lindsey Smith Michigan Radio

This story is the third in a four-part series about how things are going so far in Michigan's first fully privatized public school district. Find part one here, part two here and part four here.

The decision to convert the Muskegon Heights Public School district into a charter school district was a financial one. But the officials who run the new system hope to improve academics too.

The on-air version of the story. An expanded online version is below.

From the outside, Edgewood Elementary School looks and sounds the same as any other year.

But this year, Mosaica Education, the charter company that’s running the school, hopes a new curriculum, longer school day and year round classes will improve student success.

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Education
8:00 am
Thu January 3, 2013

"I couldn't accept that." Why Muskegon Heights teachers quit and how it impacts students

Lindsey Smith Michigan Radio

This story is the second in a four-part series about how things are going so far in Michigan's first fully privatized public school district. Find part one here, part three here, and part four here.

The on-air version of the story. An expanded online version is below.

At least one in four teachers at the new Muskegon Heights school district have already quit the charter school this year. That’s after an emergency manager laid off all the former public school teachers in Muskegon Heights because he didn’t have enough money to open school in the fall. That means there have been a lot of new, adult faces in the district.

Students say the high teacher turnover has affected them and top school administrators say it has held back academic achievement this school year.

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