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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.

The contract is signed but the emergency manager would not release it until the state treasury’s office approves it. He and other officials declined to share many details of what’s in it, including how much money the charter operator will make. The contract should be approved by the state by July 19th.

John Gretzinger, an attorney with the newly form Muskegon Heights Public School Academy System, says the contract runs for 5 years. He says there is an “out clause” for both the district and the company. He says the contract includes athletics, band, special education, and bussing.

Gretzinger says the system will get to lease two elementary schools, a middle school and the high school building for a dollar a year.

Carmella Ealom was appointed Vice President of the newly formed board that will oversee the charter system. After months of confusion she says it’s nice a plan is finally in place.

“At the end of the day it’s about educating our children and I think we have to set aside any differences that we may have, any preconceived notions that we may have going forward and say we’re going to work together hand in hand to make this a success and that’s what I want to do,” Ealom said.

The roughly 50 people in attendance were receptive of the news, applauding when officials said there would be athletics next year.

Mosaica Education is one of the largest charter operators – running more than 50 schools around the globe.  Gene Eidelman is President of the company.

“The biggest challenge is the school has no money. So we have provided a five and a half million dollar commitment to have the funds here so we can open until the first check arrives. That was number one. Number two is hiring quality personnel; that is a huge challenge,” Eidelman said.

Eidelman says academic achievement will be the top priority. He says there will be longer school days and a longer school year.

Mosaica officials began interviewing candidates for teachers and staff right after the announcement Monday afternoon.

Next Monday the academy system's board will hold a special meeting to review the budget. More details of the agreement are expected to be available at that time.

Muskegon Heights schools requested a state appointed emergency manager last year. Its deficit is more than $12 million.

Lindsey Smith helps lead the station'sAmplify Team. She previously served as Michigan Public's Morning News Editor, Investigative Reporter and West Michigan Reporter.