Muskegon heights school district

Education
7:30 am
Thu May 23, 2013

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

Lindsey Smith Michigan Radio

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.

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.

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.

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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Education
8:00 am
Wed January 2, 2013

Muskegon Heights students hope for less "chaos" as they return to class today

Muskegon Heights schools emergency financial manager Don Weatherspoon (right) talks to Muskegon Area Intermediate School Board members. Without the MAISD's help, Weatherspoon said “we would be probably still be fighting our way out of the mud."
Lindsey Smith Michigan Radio

Muskegon Heights students are heading back to class today to begin the second half of what’s been a very turbulent school year.

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

Old district “implodes” after years-long financial problems

The school board in Muskegon Heights battled a budget deficit for at least six years in a row. They gave up the fight a year ago and asked the state to just take over. 

“The system that was in place imploded,” said Don Weatherspoon, the guy the state eventually sent in late April to be the emergency manager.

"Enrollment went down, costs went up, they borrowed more than they could pay back; you’re on a collision course with disaster and that’s what happened," Weatherspoon explained. Student enrollment is a big factor in how much money a school district receives from the state.

“Everything that you can think of basically broke down. Discipline, learning, record-keeping, financial accounting, etc,” Weatherspoon said.

By May, Weatherspoon discovered the district is more than $16 million dollars in debt; so much debt it couldn’t afford to open school in the fall.

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Education
6:30 am
Mon December 3, 2012

1 in 4 teachers at Muskegon Heights schools quit during first 3 months of school year

4th grade students at Edgewood Elementary School learn about philosophy through Mosaica's Paragon curriculum in late November 2012.
Lindsey Smith Michigan Radio

Over the summer Muskegon Heights schools’ then emergency manager laid off everybody who worked at the district and hired Mosaica Education to run operations for 5 years.

Muskegon Heights has some of the lowest performing schools in Michigan and is dealing with a multi-million dollar deficit. The state appointed manager says he had no other option but to privatize operations.

Three months in, one in four (20 of 80 total) of the newly hired teachers has quit.

“It’s confusing because I go from this learning process to this learning process to that learning process and it’s just ridiculous how some teachers leave and we have to start all over and learn something new,” Muskegon Heights High School senior Tony Harris said, “It’s just, it’s crazy.”

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Education
7:53 pm
Thu October 11, 2012

Muskegon Heights will vote on renewing millage for privatized public schools

Emergency financial manager Don Weatherspoon speaks to parents at a public forum in May 2012.
Lindsey Smith Michigan Radio

The emergency financial manager of Muskegon Heights Public Schools is asking voters to renew an operating millage for the next 16 years.

“The outcome of this millage will change the future of Muskegon Heights forever,” says a letter the school district’s emergency financial manager Don Weatherspoon sent home to parents this week.

Weatherspoon privatized the school district so he could focus on paying off its $16 million debt. That debt is mostly owed to the State of Michigan.

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Education
1:48 am
Tue September 18, 2012

Charter company faces challenges running public school district in first weeks of class

Mosaica was hired in July, 2012 to run the schools. (L toR) Mosaica Regional Vice President Alena Zachery Ross, Mosaica founder and President Gene Eidelman, and Emergency Manager Don Weatherspoon.
Lindsey Smith Michigan Radio

The first two weeks of class have presented some obstacles for Michigan’s first fully privatized public school district.

Muskegon Heights schools' emergency financial manager hired Mosaica Education, a charter school company, in July to run the K-12 system while he focuses on paying off the district’s debt. Highland Park schools’ EFM took the same option later that month.

Alena Zachery-Ross is the top administrator at the new Muskegon Height Public School Academy System. She’s very positive, but admits the first two weeks didn’t go “as smoothly” as she expected.

“There are all these things that you don’t think of. There are small details that we want to ensure are taken care of immediately but they take time,” Zachery-Ross said. She says these 'day-to-day' details are important but she must stick to a priority list.

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Government
4:16 pm
Fri August 24, 2012

Using emergency loans to pay off other loans; some Michigan school districts are doing it

The recession has made it harder for local governments and school districts to balance their budgets. This summer the governor signed a new law creating a board that will help those hardest hit cope with short term cash flow problems.

Earlier this month the emergency financial managers of both Muskegon Heights Public Schools and Highland Park schools got emergency loans to pay off other state loans. MHPS borrowed $7.65 million while Highland Park schools borrowed $4.4 million.

“It’s not a handout; it’s a loan in order to help get people on their feet, in order to make the changes that are necessary going forward,” said Caleb Buhs, a spokesman for Michigan’s Department of Treasury. The school districts have 30 years to pay the state back.

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Education
4:55 pm
Fri July 27, 2012

Highland Park Public Schools selects Leona Group to manage charter system

Bill Coats, founder and CEO of the Leona Group
The Leona Group, L.L.C.

Highland Park Public Schools contracted the Leona Group to run its charter system next year.

A press release issued by the school system's Emergency Manager, Joyce Parker, said that she met with the newly appointed board of education today who approved the Leona Group, LLC contract as charter operator unanimously.

From the release:

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Education
3:07 pm
Tue July 17, 2012

Check out the details of Michigan’s first privatized public school system

From left to right; Mosaica Regional Vice President Alena Zachery Ross, Mosaica founder and President Gene Eidelman, and Emergency Manager Don Weatherspoon during a budget hearing Monday afternoon.
Lindsey Smith Michigan Radio

Parents in the Muskegon Heights Public School district are just starting to get an idea of what to expect for their children this fall.

The district is having major financial problems and is under the control of a state appointed emergency manager, Donald Weatherspoon.

Weatherspoon said turning over the entire district to a charter school operator was his only option to keep school open this year.

Last week, the three-member school board (appointed by the Weatherspoon) hired Mosaica Education Inc. to operate the schools in Muskegon Heights.

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Education
4:28 pm
Sun July 15, 2012

Muskegon Heights charter school budget assumes more students and state money

Officials will host a "unity meeting" at Muskegon Heights High School Monday at 5:30p.m.
Lindsey Smith Michigan Radio

The school board for the new charter school system in Muskegon Heights will likely adopt a preliminary budget Monday.  

Muskegon Heights schools’ emergency manager hired a for-profit charter school company to run the public school system for the next five years.

An attorney for the school board says Mosaica Education drafted the budget the school board will consider approving Monday. It's likely the budget will be amended throughout the school year if needed.

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Education
8:24 am
Wed July 11, 2012

Muskegon Heights schools handed over to charter school company

"The facilities are amazing," Mosaica Education President Gene Eidelman said of Muskegon Heights High School. He says techonology will be integrated into the curriculum.
Lindsey Smith Michigan Radio

The leader of a small, urban school district in western Michigan is completely privatizing the public school system there. The case may become an example for other school districts facing major financial problems.

The problems are academic and financial

The situation at Muskegon Heights Public Schools was dire. It ran $18,000 in the red each day school was open last year.

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Education
5:38 pm
Mon July 9, 2012

Private, for-profit charter company to run Muskegon Heights schools

The emergency manager of the Muskegon Heights Public School district has signed a contract with a private company to run the district next year.

Mosaica Education is a for-profit charter operator that already runs six other charter schools in Michigan.

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