Financial emergency is over for Muskegon Heights schools

MUSKEGON HEIGHTS, Mich. (WOOD) — The state says the financial emergency in the Muskegon Heights School District has been resolved after several years of state oversight.

Gov. Rick Snyder announced Friday a Receivership Transition Advisory Board made up of five community leaders has been appointed to continue financial stability and help the district transition to local control smoothly.

“This is a new day for Muskegon Heights and the community is ready to move toward a brighter future. These are important steps as we work together to transition back to local control in the district,” said Gov. Snyder in the release.

An ecstatic Muskegon Heights superintendent made it official Friday, years of financial emergency are officially over.

“I see this as a catapult. We have turned the page,” Alena Zachery-Ross, Muskegon Heights superintendent announced Friday afternoon at the high school.

In 2012, the district was still rocked by a prolonged recession, hemorrhaging student enrollment and under performing on state standardized tests. It also was plagued with a $12 million deficit for a district that now has 760 students.

As a result, Gov. Rick Snyder made Muskegon Heights became one of the districts in Michigan which would be under the control of an emergency manager. The school board would be stripped of all oversight except for the collection of taxes. A charter school management system would oversee the K-12 schools.

Move to four years late and the emergency manager position has been eliminated after it was announced the deficit had shrunk to $2 million.

“They have already gone through the worst and they are looking forward to a bright future and they know what it takes now and they’re willing to do whatever it takes  to ensure that these students are able to be served and educated right here in their city,” Zachery-Ross said

Zachery-Ross says that while the change will not be visible to students in classroom.

“This does give the district board a voice and that’s the elected board,” she said.

For now, a Receivership Transition Advisory Board — appointed by Snyder — will still oversee the gradual return to local control, a process that will only be complete when the school pays down its deficit and that could take until 2029.