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Highland Park Schools EM explains move to charter schools

Joyce Parker

The Highland Park School District in Wayne County faces major financial problems. Emergency Manager Joyce Parker has selected a charter school provider, The Leona Group LLC, to operate the district’s schools starting this fall.

The decision to turn the district over to a charter operator is not without controversy. Parker says she considered several options, such as consolidating the school district with other districts and even bankruptcy.

Parker says the district is no longer eligible for state funding and adds she needed to make sure students were able to start classes in September.

“The charter district system is one that would allow financial resources in the form of state aid to come into the new system to support educating the students.”

Last January, the state appointed Jack Martin as emergency manager. Joyce Parker replaced him in May. Parker says there are some improvements at Highland Park Schools, but when it comes to eliminating the deficit and stabilizing the financial situation, she says that has not happened.

“The problem in Highland Park is pretty distressful at this point in time and so it’s really going to take some time to get through some of the financial challenges that the district is faced with.”

In July, the ACLU brought a lawsuit against the Highland Park School District. The suit includes the State of Michigan, the state Board of Education, state Superintendent Michael Flanagan, Highland Park Schools and its Emergency Manager Joyce Parker, according to the Detroit Free Press.

Parker says she cannot speak to past problems, but she says, “moving forward it is my intent and it’s the state’s intent to support the district and to provide quality education. And if there are deficiencies, as part of the operating agreement with the charter operator those issues will certainly be addressed. In the management agreement there is an educational component that speaks to performances that will be required, and the measurement of that performance on a quarterly basis. " 

Parker, along with Highland Park Public School Academy board members and representatives of the Leona Group will host an open meeting for parents, students and community members today at 5:30 pm at Highland Park Community High School.

Mercedes Mejia is a producer and director of Stateside.
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