EM: Muskegon Heights not a ‘failed experiment’

MUSKEGON, Mich. (WOOD) — After a breakup with its management company and an emergency loan from the state, the Muskegon Heights school district is looking for another company to run it.

But after years of money troubles and splitting with Mosaica Education Inc., 24 Hour News 8 asked the emergency manager if it’s worth it for the district to remain open.

It’s only not worth it, Greg Weatherspoon said, “if you see it as a failed experiment.”

“We gotta believe, who can better do the job than us right here? Who is wiling to accept our children? So we haven’t heard anybody beating the doors down to get our kids and we’re saying we can get this job done,” he continued.

And the emergency manager and the school board does not see it as a failed experiment, saying there have been improvements over the past two years in both buildings and student achievement. Weatherspoon said $1.2 million had been invested in building improvements since 2012.

The charter district has run at a deficit each of the two years it has existed and recently added $1.4 million emergency loan from the state, to the debt Muskegon Heights taxpayers will have to pay off.

That debt won’t be resolved until at least 2044.

As it seeks for a replacement for Mosaica Education Inc., the education management company that will leave June 30 — three years earlier than originally specified in its contract — the district is considering asking more than one company to run it. One company could deal with education and the other with management.

Weatherspoon said the district isn’t closed to the idea of a for-profit company like Mosaica, but that it’s looking at all of its options.

“I think it’s going to be a very tough challenge for a for-profit company to show how they can make a profit and come into a community that’s poor like this one,” said Weatherspoon. “We’ll consider whoever, but they gotta understand, I don’t know how you can get — take Lincoln off the penny — it’s gonna be a tough job [to make a profit]. We learned that we couldn’t make it work, so somebody’s bringing something else.”

Weatherspoon emphasized the things the district learned through its first experience with Mosaica.

“I think we would write the contract where you would know you get your fee at the end of the day,” Weatherspoon said. “Not upfront. You won’t get anything upfront because there’s got to be proof in the pudding all the way through.”

He said no application have yet been submitted, but there has been interest.

He declined to say outright whether the state-run Education Achievement Authority (EAA) — which has taken over and run 15 Detroit schools in the past two years — has expressed interest.

“I’m not going to say, but you’re hot,” he said.

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