Tiger supporters show their commitment to the Heights

The orange and black balloons and signs said it all—“I’m committed to the Heights.”

And more than a thousand students, parents, school employees and community members came out in full force to pledge their commitment to Muskegon Heights schools at Tiger Pride Day on March 31. The tiger is the school mascot—a fitting symbol for the fighting spirit evident that day.

On Monday, a state-appointed financial review team determined that the school district is in a financial emergency and recommended the appointment of an emergency manager for the district. Governor Synder signed PA 4 earlier this year which allows struggling communities and school districts to be assigned an emergency manager with the power to disband city government and school districts and gut employee contracts.

Tiger Pride Day was the first of several planned activities by teachers, alumni and the community to rally support for the schools. Martin Luther King Elementary teacher Angie Ogden served as chairperson for the event which featured   more than 40 vendors with booths spotlighting district schools and community organizations.

All day long, Tiger supporters could stop in the auditorium to see student talent presentations; cheer on students receiving MEAP certificates; witness athletic competitions in the gym; or sample food prepared by community volunteers.

“This day represents our commitment to the Heights,” said Joy Robinson, Muskegon Heights Education Association President. “We’re thrilled that so many people came to see what the schools have to offer. We have a tradition of success and quality here, and we want that tradition to continue.”

Parents and community members were encouraged to sign commitment cards promising to keep their students in the Heights and to support the schools. Each student received a backpack and giveaways when their parents signed.

JacQuaye A. Dockery, whose daughter will be a kindergartner in the fall, came to Tiger Pride Day to sign a commitment card.

“I’ m not from here, but my husband is a graduate of Muskegon Heights schools. I think he’s an example of the successful people of character the Heights produces. There’s untapped talent here. Don’t brush off the underdog,” Dockery said.

In their effort to ward off the interference of an emergency manager, the teachers have already made financial concessions and are offering more. David Sipka, the Heights interim superintendent, hasn’t responded to any of the teacher requests for a meeting.  The teachers are also interested in setting up a Promise Scholarship—similar to the Kalamazoo Promise—to attract and keep students in the district. Robinson sees that goal as key to the survival of Muskegon Heights schools.

“Every day, parents, students and teachers provide examples of all the good things going on in our schools. This event wasn’t just a one-day splash. We have plans for Muskegon Heights schools and community and we have parent and community backing. We know what the Heights needs. We need a chance. We don’t need an emergency manager,” said Robinson.