Andrew Trzaska | February 13, 2012
A community meeting scheduled for Wednesday night at 6 p.m. will be a chance for Muskegon Heights Public School district parents and city residents to have questions answered regarding all recent developments concerning the district.
The meeting will be held in the performing arts center at Muskegon Heights High School and will run from 6 to 7:15. Questions must be submitted in writing and can focus on topics relating to the district.
Community leaders including Heights alum Judge Gregory Pittman, local pastors and union representatives have also been asked to be present at the meeting.
Interim Superintendent Dave Sipka will lead the discussion, which was suggested by “numerous people” that the meeting was necessary to update our parents events that have happened in the past few weeks.
A conscious decision was made by those planning the meeting to set an end time while also requiring questions to be submitted in writing.
“There are people that just want to ask questions,” said Sipka. “Sometimes people like to get up and give a sermon or give a piece of their mind, so what we’d like to do is have people write down their questions.”
Muskegon Heights High School Alumni Association President Joe Warren worked for months with others to get this meeting set. He challenged the community to “get off Facebook” and come to the meeting to hear facts and start taking action.
“We have tried for months to get this Town Hall Meeting in place, for some reasons it didn’t happen,” said Warren. “It is now in place. And we want 1,000 people at this meeting.
District Developments: State Police Investigation Dropped, New Enrollment Numbers, Loftis Maintenance, Financial Review Team
Monday’s board of education work session gave a preview for some likely topics to be discussed.
Details regarding the Michigan State Police’s investigation of the district were discussed at Monday’s meeting. As previously reported, the state police have ended their investigation and found no prosecutable offenses regarding the misuse of Title I funds.
Regarding indications that the investigation may continue on the federal level, Sipka noted that it was “not out of the ordinary” because the dollars in question were federal”, and the state not finding anything criminal was a good sign.
Also discussed was the state’s review team that will recommend whether an emergency financial manager also received. The team’s 60-day deadline will come near the end of March. One of ten “triggers” defined by the state must be met for a financial manager to be recommended; Sipka indicated that his own assessment showed the district could qualify for seven of those, far beyond the minimum of one.
Enrollment and schools of choice also received attention Monday night. A count of 1,287 was tallied during last week’s statewide student count day, a drop of about 120 students from the fall count of 1,407 – a drop of roughly 9%.
Board trustee Trinell Scott asked what the district had planned to retain existing students.
“A good education will keep students here,” said Sipka. “The focus needs to be on the kids.”
“It’s not about a gimmick. It’s about being truthful with our parents and keeping their kids in this district.”
On another note, Sipka indicated that in the coming year, the district’s Head Start program may need to be moved to Lindbergh school from its current location at Loftis Elementary due to needing a building to meet program standards.
Questioned by board secretary Brewer, Sipka indicated that all other aspects of the district’s culture would be maintained as best as possible:
“We are proceeding just as normally as we can, even with the financial issues we have. Things that come to me, unless they are expensive I am giving my blessing and saying we should continue as best we can.”
Numerous pastors around the city have spoken from their pulpits in support of the district. Board vice president Ronald Jenkins called on the city’s pastors and other leaders to unite at Wednesday’s meeting and beyond:
“Muskegon Heights can survive. Muskegon Heights will survive. We’ve got to stay together.”