EM turns Muskegon Heights schools into charter district, terminates staff

Statement from MEA President Steven Cook on Muskegon Heights School Restructuring Plan

There will be school in Muskegon Heights this fall, but it will look very different.

Late last Friday afternoon, Don Weatherspoon, Muskegon Heights’s appointed Emergency Manager (EM), announced his plan to turn the school district into the first charter school district in Michigan. He is taking bids from private companies and is expected to award the job on June 6.

Earlier in the week, teachers were notified they were being laid off and could reapply for their jobs. Now, however, they’ve been told they are terminated and their jobs sold off to the lowest bidder.

“Our teachers had no advance knowledge of the Emergency Manager’s plan to convert the school district into a charter school system. We have been left out of the planning process. The staff, students and community are paying the price for the district’s financial mismanagement that they had nothing to do with creating,” said Muskegon Heights EA President Joy Robinson.

Under the plan, the district would no longer be in the practice of educating children. However, the district would keep its projected $14.48 million debt, and the new charter company will start out debt-free and receive state aid payments.

As EM, Weatherspoon has the authority to act as the charter authorizer and appoint the board for the new charter system. He will also decide what building and materials could be offered to the charter company. He says the rest will be “put on the market and gotten rid of.”

Robinson said, “We’re meeting this week with Mr. Weatherspoon. We’re still assessing the plan, but we’re not totally convinced this is the best way to ease the burden on staff and students that the escalating debt has created. Right now, as an association, one of our primary concerns is protecting the rights of our members.”