New operator sought after Musk Hts, Mosaica split

MUSKEGON HEIGHTS, Mich. (WOOD) — If the Muskegon Heights school district can’t find a new private management company, it may have to be dissolved.

Saturday, the district’s board and its current private operator Mosaica Education, Inc. agreed to end a five-year contract three years early. The contract will expire at the end of June

“Right now, I think the chances are fair for a new company to come in and embrace the good things Mosaica has done, and they’ve done a lot,” Muskegon Area Intermediate Schools Superintendent David Sipka said. “A new management team will be able to come in and not have as many challenges as Mosaica had when they began.”

The district was in such bad shape two years ago before it was converted into a charter academy that only two management companies put in bids. Though the district ended the 2012-2013 school year in debt and is currently even further behind, Sipka says things have improved.

“Number one, Mosaica put about $1 million upfront into the school buildings themselves. There were about 170 safety violations that were found in the schools,” he said.

He said Mosaica also improved student achievement.

“What we’ve seen is a growth in the MEAP scores and a growth in the outside testing that was done to the point where, on the average, there was 1.25 years of growth for the last two years,” he said.

With some of that heavy lifting out of the way, Sipka said, other operators may find the district an attractive prospect.

“I’m hoping for three or four companies that will bid to take over Muskegon Heights,” Sipka said.

Applications open Thursday and then education companies will have until May 23 to bid to take over.

But if no one applies, Sipka said, the ISD may have to dissolve the district. The ISD would decide what would happen “not only to the students, but all of the resources, the buildings, the land, the furniture, the text books, everything,” Sipka said.

“I don’t think our ISD board relishes the thought of having to do that. So we’re very hopeful that this is going to all work out,” he continued.

The ISD would look to neighboring districts like Mona Shores and Muskegon to take students. Muskegon has more space to take students, but Sipka said that could be a difficult transition.

“These districts have been around for decades and decades and have been competitors and suddenly you look and say they’re going to be joining forces and be one? That’s a hard pill to swallow,” Sipka said.

With a lot of feelings at stake in the small community, Sipka hopes it won’t come to that.

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