Pontiac School District enters consent agreement with state

The Pontiac School District has avoided an emergency manager after officials in the beleaguered district were able to reach a consent agreement with the Snyder Administration this week, but state officials will still assume an immense amount of power over the district’s employees.

The district is about $38 million in the red, due to a combination of Gov. Rick Snyder’s massive school cuts and fiscal mismanagement by district officials.

“The debt has been made the burden of school employees and students, even though we did not create it,” Pontiac Education Association President Aimee McKeever said. “We are continually being asked to sacrifice and take on this burden, when we have taken major financial concessions over the last three years.”

Under the agreement, interim Pontiac Superintendent Kelley Williams will have to work in tandem with a consultant appointed by state Treasurer Andy Dillon to turn around the 5,000-student district’s finances. The consultant and his or her staff will receive $750,000 in pay over two years.

The district will have to honor any current labor agreements in place, but will need Dillon’s approval before entering into any new union contracts. Teachers and some education support professional units are currently working without contracts, so any new contracts for those employees will need to be approved by Dillon.

As part of the agreement, state officials will require the firing of teachers deemed “ineffective” by flawed and unfair teacher ratings, before the start of the 2014-15 school year.

Pontiac administrators have in the past failed to properly carry out teacher evaluations, McKeever said.

“Teachers were observed once and were not given any plans for assistance or time to improve,” she said. “They had one observation, and were laid off and deemed ineffective.”

In addition, the district will be forced to outsource many administrative functions, such as accounting and human resources.

Pontiac teachers and education support professionals have made numerous sacrifices to help their students, making numerous wage and benefit concessions and paying for basic school supplies out of their own pockets.

“We keep dipping into our own pockets to make sure these kids have everything they need, from school supplies and clothing,” Pontiac Education Association President Aimee McKeever said. “I don’t know how much more we can step up in the face of this consent agreement.”

Despite that, children and school employees are being made to suffer for the mistakes of local and state politicians.

“When is the state going to step up and do what it needs to do to help these poor school districts?” McKeever said. “These children deserve a good education in buildings that are safe and healthy — just like in the school districts surrounding us.”