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Muskegon Heights schools' emergency manager to update community tonight

Lindsey Smith
Michigan Radio

Muskegon Heights Public  Schools had nearly a $12 million deficitat the end of last school year. That's when the district’s newly appointed Emergency Manager Don Weatherspoon said the district couldn't afford to open school in the fall. He laid off most all the staff and hired charter school company Mosaica Education to run the schools for five years.

MHPS’ board of education still meets once a month at noon. But this will be a better opportunity for people to get a general update on the Michigan’s first all charter school district.

The meeting will take place at 6p.m. in the auditorium of Muskegon Heights High School. Weatherspoon would only say the meeting would be to discuss "district finances."

Alena Zachery-Ross is Mosaica's superintendent for Muskegon Heights.

“It’s going to focus on where the schools were, academically and culturally, when we took over, the progress that the schools have made since September and then what still needs to be done for the schools to meet the state requirements,” Zachery-Ross said.

The state found Mosaica failed to provide services for 167 special education students. It required the district offer compensatory education over the summer to make up for the loss. Less than 20% of parents responded to the offer. Fewer than 30 kids will take the summer classes, slated for July 9th through August 8th.

“We want to make sure that people know that we are meeting the needs of our special education students. I know that people questioned it but that’s an area that we really take seriously,” Zachery-Ross said.

Mosaica has struggled to retain teachers. The district was fined by the statefor employing several teachers without proper certification.

“On one hand there’s much work to still be done but we’re continuously working to improve it and we’re committed to doing whatever it takes to get us to the level that we expect to be at,” Zachery-Ross said.

Zachery-Ross says many students were several years behind academically. But she says parents have become more engaged with the new system.

“We are just very grateful that the community has supported us in our efforts. We know that we could not have done this alone. Because of the community working with us the culture of the building has changed, and even the culture of Muskegon Heights is beginning to change,” Zachery-Ross said.

Zachery-Ross says Mosaica will hold a different meeting later this summer to discuss issues not related to finances.

The new emergency manager law passed in December requires such a “public informational meeting” within 30 days of submitting an updated operational plan to the state. For schools, that plan includes an educational plan. The operational plan from last year is posted online. Quarterly reports haven’t been posted on the school district’s website since last year.

Lindsey Smith is a Peabody Award-winning journalist currently leading the station's Amplify Team. She previously served as Michigan Public's Morning News Editor, Investigative Reporter and West Michigan Reporter.
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