MUSKEGON HEIGHTS, Mich. (WOOD) - Muskegon Heights schools invited the community to a special question-and-answer session about the school's financial troubles on Wednesday night.
Interim Superintendent Dave Sipka took the stage to read and answer questions submitted by taxpayers and parents.
The meeting came after the Muskegon Heights Board of Education asked the state to appoint an emergency manager in December in an effort to deal with several million dollars in debt.
Many parents worried if the district would close and asked how they could help.
Sipka said that he couldn't guarantee anything, but that the school district expects to be functioning next school year.
Many questioned the decisions that placed the district into an estimated debt of at least $8.5 million.
"Where is the accountability for the people who got us into this mess?" Sarah Willea, a mother, asked.
"We're all responsible," he told the crowd assembled in Muskegon Heights High School's performing arts center. "That's sort of the reality. We all have a little bit of a hand in this."
That answer provoked parents to roll their eyes or make side comments in disagreement. Josephine Goynes didn't like that answer.
"People in charge are responsible. I can't be in charge for something I don't know," she said.
"How can [the district] appoint someone to make decisions for my family without my consent?" Willea asked. "I did not agree to that. This is not my fault, absolutely not my fault. These are our kids."
Sipka admitted that the job ahead is daunting:
"This is a major task," he told 24 Hour News 8. "But we're wrapping our arms around it."
Pat Todd, a Muskegon Heights alum, still has faith.
"Will this be the end for Muskegon Heights? No! There's hope," she said.
Sipka said that to help, parents can call their legislators about the emergency manager, be a mentor to kids, and keep students in the district.
In late January, Gov. Rick Snyder appointed a review team to determine if the district should get an emergency manager after a preliminary review revealed that the district had "probable financial stress."
The district is the first in Michigan to do so and is waiting for an answer.
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