‘3-pronged approach’ for Muskegon Heights schools

The meeting at which the Muskegon Heights school board will decide which entity will take over managing the district. (June 16, 2014)

MUSKEGON HEIGHTS, Mich. (WOOD) — The Muskegon Heights Board of Education will use a “three-pronged approach” to run the troubled school district in the upcoming school year.

The board decided at a meeting Monday night it want the Muskegon Area Intermediate School District to be charge of Muskegon Heights’ finances starting July 1. The ISD ran the beleaguered school district for several months in 2011 and 2012 before an emergency manager stepped in.

The board decided on Advance Educational Services, Inc. — a private, for-profit, Michigan-based company — to be in charge of staffing. It also decided to hire Superintendent Alena Zachery-Ross as an employee of the board to run the district. She joined the district as the regional Vice President of Mosaica, Inc. in 2012.

Contracts are expected to be signed, possibly even ratified, at the board’s special meeting on June 25.

District leaders have told 24 Hour News 8 in the past that Mosaica took on a big job in 2012 when it agreed to run both the management and educational services for the new charter district.

This time, the application allowed agencies to bid for different parts of the job. The district received a total of eight bids to run all or parts of the district. Two of the bids, including the bid from Advance Educational Services Inc., came after the district’s deadline.

“After reviewing these [applications], it became clear that none of them were 100% satisfactory to [the district’s] situation, and we should probably look more towards a hybrid model,” the district’s attorney John Gretzinger said during the board meeting.

Zachery-Ross said that she thinks this is a step forward in the issue of local control for the district.

“I think this is the best of all the worlds, what Muskegon Heights can have at this time,” she said. “Right now, the Muskegon Heights Public Schools has the debt, so the wish of everyone that the district would go back to a public school district can’t happen until the debt is gone.”

She went on to say she believes the district will emerge from its struggles stronger.

“Although we probably will go smaller, we will probably go down to three schools, we’ll get better and we’ll be able to give a great program so if we give a good program enrollment should go up,” she said.

The new agreements would mean all teachers would have to reapply. Zachery-Ross said she believed about 90% of staff would be rehired at the district.

A press conference to discuss the district’s status will be held will be held at 8:30 a.m. Tuesday. Outgoing MAISD Superintendent David Sipka, Muskegon Heights Emergency Manager Gregory Weatherspoon and Zachery-Ross are expected to be in attendance. 24 Hour News 8 will be at the press conference and will bring you the latest as it develops.

Earlier this year, the district decided to part ways with Mosaica effective June 30 — three years before Mosaica’s contract originally specified.

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