Sipka: Musk Hts schools plan could be a model


MUSKEGON, Mich. (WOOD) — In the third incarnation of Muskegon Heights schools, different agencies will run different parts of district next year.

Muskegon Area Intermediate School District will provide financial and business services for the district, the board decided Monday. MAISD Superintendent Dave Sipka said that the ISD will advise the charter district board, but will not decide how the money is spent — that will be up to the school district board.

“The success, or the failure of this, is still going to be with the board,” Sipka said at a Tuesday morning press conference.

MAISD Superintendent Dave Sipka speaks at a press conference to discuss Muskegon Heights Public Schools. (June 17, 2014)
(MAISD Superintendent Dave Sipka. June 17, 2014)

He went on to say that he did ask the Michigan Association of Intermediate School Districts if it would be appropriate for MAISD to provide financial services for the Heights. He said he was told it was a good step to make.

“I look at this as potentially a model for what ISDs can do for schools around the state,” said Sipka. “For school districts that have been in financial distress, or are headed that way, and I think that’s going to be a big picture.”

Superintendent Alena Zachery-Ross, former employee of private, for-profit company Mosaica Education Inc, will be hired as an employee of the district board to act as district superintendent. She no longer will have to report to an outside private company. Mosaica is leaving a five-year contract with the school district three years early.

A for-profit Michigan company, Access Point Human Resources, will do the hiring and firing for the district. A representative said the company currently provides similar services for other districts in the state.

Muskegon Heights schools Emergency Manager Greg Weatherspoon said Tuesday that it was made clear to him on the state level that closing and dissolving the district wasn’t an option.

Muskegon Heights Public Schools Emergency Manager Gregory Weatherspoon. (June 17, 2014)
(Muskegon Heights Public Schools Emergency Manager Gregory Weatherspoon. June 17, 2014)

“They told us to find a way, yes, that was always the intent,” said Weatherspoon.

He said he was referring to the governor’s office and the Michigan Departments of Education and Treasury

When asked why the process of choosing management agencies for the district wasn’t more public and transparent, Weatherspoon replied, “I’m not sure about that answer.”

“What you’re looking at is a process that we didn’t have really defined. We had to stumble and find out as we went along,” he said.

The district is scheduled to start school Aug. 25.

Many of the same problems it has faced for some time remain. Board leaders may have to budget nearly $300,000 to bring buildings up to code.

The district plans to operate in three buildings next year: one for pre-K through 1st grade, another for 2nd through 6th grade and the last for 7th through 12th grade. The definite number of students who will enroll is still a question mark, but Supt. Zachery-Ross said about 90% of the current students have already re-enrolled for the next school year.

The changes will go into effect Wednesday, June 25 at a special board budget meeting.

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