May 24, 2021
Muskegon Heights Public School Academy System (“System”)
c/o Board of Directors
2441 Sanford St
Muskegon Heights, MI 49444
Re: Commitment to Partnership and Responsible Transition Post-RTAB
Dear System Board, Administrators and Staff:
Last Wednesday’s decision by the Muskegon Heights Receivership Transition Advisory Board (“RTAB”) to recommend to Governor Gretchen Whitmer that she dissolve the RTAB, and in effect oversight over our district, was a welcomed surprise to all of us who agree that the constitutional responsibility of locally elected school boards for education in their community cannot and should not be taken arbitrarily and without limits. We are hopefully optimistic that the Governor accepts the RTAB’s recommendation and approves its removal prior to the start of the upcoming academic school year this fall.
Nevertheless, our Muskegon Heights Board of Education (“Board”) recognizes and understands the anxiety uncertain transition may cause some System teachers, administrators and professionals who work hard each day to provide (and improve the quality of) education to our students. We also understand how sudden change could negatively impact the development of our students when familiar support is unnecessarily disrupted. Our Board does not take these concerns or our responsibilities to you, our students and families lightly.
We have heard misconceptions and disinformation being spread about a coming “retribution” by our Board against the System. These allegations are furthest from the truth. In fairness, we must rely on the System for several more years to provide a public education option for our residents until we satisfy our remaining Deficit Elimination Plan obligations. The purpose of this letter is to clear up these misconceptions and share the truth about the Board’s plans for transition and vision for the future.
The Board’s plans for transition reflect our shared commitment to stability and continuous improvement with how our partnership collaborates. Our plan includes investment in ourselves and the district infrastructure to ensure we have the necessary ability to be effective in fulfillment of the traditional oversight responsibilities state law places on us and all other authorizing bodies, since we
do not believe oversight and partnership are mutually exclusive.
In support of our partnership with the System, our Board has committed to the following plan:
1. Contract for CSO/education specialist, effective July 1, 2021 (FY 2022 budget line item). The specialist will be independent contractor and given the title of Director of Charter School Oversight (“CSO Director”). CSO Director will serve as the Board’s liaison and point of contact
to the System and its board of directors. The CSO Director will advise and be accountable to our Board to help us fulfill all statutory required responsibilities, including:
a. Assist in reviewing with the System any existing education improvement and strategic plans to confirm or make recommendations for improvement or alignment with the Board’s vision and expectations based on state-wide standards and best practices. The Board will rely on the Director’s input to formalize its vision and long-term objectives as part of its oversight (“Strategic Plan”).
b. Ensure alignment of charter and Strategic Plan objectives and develop a system for evaluation which will include metrics to measure System performance against charter objectives.
c. Attend both Board and System board meetings and act as a liaison to ensure effective communication.
d. Advise Board on System compliance and accountability with state, federal and charter requirements.
e. Establish and improve standardized procedures for reporting, communication, new board member applications and future new school charter applications, if any.
f. Coordinate, recommend and schedule Board continuing education and training opportunities. g. Evaluation of System directors and leadership performance, growth, and make recommendations for corrective measures.
h. All other best practices and responsibilities of charter school oversight and compliance departments.
2. 1-year moratorium against early removal of current members of System board of directors. If Governor approves removal of the RTAB, we will not take any action to remove or replace existing System board members before their terms expire.
a. If a director’s term expires, the Board will consider new nominees of System board, together with other candidates recommended by other stakeholders of the community. b. We will not make assumptions concerning any particular System activity, performance measure or operation (even if suggested to us previously) as to compliance with state law or the charter; giving the CSO Director ample opportunity to evaluate System board effectiveness and make recommendations for improvement based on professional judgment and experience is imperative to the success of this plan.
c. This will also help with orderly transfer of knowledge to new board members (as replacements can be staggered as terms expire naturally).
d. If a director’s term expires prior to end of 1-year moratorium, directors will be reconsidered or replaced in accordance with a traditional appointment process to be recommended by Charter Oversight Director and adopted by future Board resolution as permitted.
3. Moratorium against any recommendation or action to compel System board to replace management during 2022 academic school year-end.
a. We will not make assumptions concerning any particular System activity, performance measure or operation (even if suggested to us previously; giving the CSO Director ample
opportunity to evaluate System performance in accordance with any recommended state-wide performance standards, the Strategic Plan or Charter requirements.
b. Gives CSO Director the opportunity to collaborate with and evaluate current System leadership and potential for improvements where recommended based on CSO professional experience is imperative to the success of this plan.
c. This approach gives System board sufficient time to consider and respond to CSO recommendations for management improvement, including ESP alternatives for the Fall of 2023, if necessary.
4. Commitment to continuous education and training on authorizer roles, responsibilities and best practices for administering charter oversight. Our Board wants to be as effective at policy making and oversight over the charters we issue as possible. Our Board has already scheduled multiple training dates with MASB for the months of June and July. Our Director of Charter School Oversight will be responsible for coordinating and assisting Board members with the scheduling and completion of training in accordance with an annual schedule.
We are open to meet with the System Board of Directors, staff, administrators, and Superintendent Garcia. All teachers, support staff and community members are welcome to attend this meeting without fear of retribution from the System. We are seeking input from all who are looking to help creating a renewed relationship between the System and the District Board. The Muskegon Heights Board of Education meetings are always open to the public. We welcome all community members and stakeholders to present concerns and recommendations to help improve the relationship between both parties. We are looking to schedule this meeting as soon as possible. We will continue to support the work that is currently being done by teachers, support, staff and administrators.
We are confident that together we can continue to give the students of Muskegon Heights a bright and prosperous future so they will be able to compete on all levels. We look forward to a renewed spirit of partnership for the best interests of the children of Muskegon Heights.
Trinell R. Scott, President
Muskegon Heights Public Schools
Board of Education