MUSKEGON HEIGHTS, Mich. (WOOD) - A public forum to discuss the new Muskegon Heights Public School Academy System was the first chance for the community to meet the people who will lead the district.
Muskegon Heights Emergency Manager Donald Weatherspoon, the new academy system Board of Directors, and Mosaica Education representatives were present. They discussed the new charter system and answered questions.
The Monday meeting was the first time since the creation of the charter academy system that charter compnay officials have held an open forum for community members. Those leaders were effectively trying to sell the new system.
Muskegon Heights is the first public school district in Michigan to make the transition to chartered.
The success of the forum hinged on a simple question for the emergency financial manager, who's making an unprecedented move: "Would you send your child to the school district?"
Leaders of the Atlanta, Georgia-based chartering company also introduced Alena Zachery-Ross as the regional vice president. She will effectively act as the superintendent of the district.
Zachery-Ross, a Grand Valley State University graduate, previously served as an assistant superintendent for curriculum and instruction at Van Dyke Public Schools in Warren, Mich., according to Mosaica. She also held positions as an elementary and middle school principal, teacher consultant and school psychologist at Van Dyke.
She said the most immediate goal is hiring staff, which will likely include some of those who were laid off from the old district -- though their salaries will likely be lower.
"If the size of the paycheck is the only thing the teacher wants to compare, we might not be the best," said Mosaica Education President Gene Eidelman. "This district is in the shape it is in because there's not enough money to afford it."
The company said the plan was to hire 200 people.
"We want our teachers ready so they can educate our students," said Zachery-Ross.
A major theme at the forum was accountability. Zachery-Ross said that will be central for the students, teachers and administration. A tool to maintain that accountability will be cameras in the hallways and in each classroom.
"Not only just for security, but also looking at the instructional skills in each classroom -- modeling for other teachers, instructional practices -- so we use it for our own educational learning as well," said Zachery-Ross.
Weatherspoon is the first to admit that this is new ground. While he has confidence in Mosaica, he said the agreement with the company allows for change if needed.
"We'll be looking at how the district is progressing, how Mosaica's progressing and, as I said, if a problem surfaces early on, we're going to stop it, and go back and re-align," said Weatherspoon.
The reaction from the community entangled in the mess, which just wants its children to have what they need to succeed, seemed positive.
"Something has to change. It could not continue as it was," said community member Dorothy Gill-Jackson. "So, we'll try the charter. If that doesn't work then we'll have to try something else."
All students who intend to go back to school in the district will have to re-enroll.
The community will have several more opportunities to address the schools new leadership.
More meetings for parents will be held every Monday and Thursday in July at 5:30 p.m. at the performing arts center:
- Thursday, July 19, 2012
- Monday, July 23, 2012
- Thursday, July 26, 2012
- Monday, July 30, 2012
On Saturday, the Michigan State Spartans will be taking on the Ohio State Buckeyes for the Big Ten College Football title. On Friday, fans began gathering in Indianapolis for the big game.
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