Muskegon Heights discusses future of schools after oversight release

Muskegon County

MUSKEGON HEIGHTS, Mich. (WOOD) — A town hall was held Tuesday night to discuss the future of public schools in Muskegon Heights.

The state announced on Monday that it will release oversight of the district.

The district has a distinct setup. It’s managed by two different boards: The Muskegon Public School Academy System Board of Education and the Muskegon Heights Public School Board.

The academy system oversees daily operations, while the public board focuses on reducing the district’s debt.

“Our kids are so behind from what I’m seeing out there to what we have here,” a community member attending the meeting said.

Several community members lamented the quality of education in the district and wondered what will happen now that the state will no longer oversee it.

“We need to stop fighting with each other and think about our kids,” the community member added.

The public school board held the meeting. Its members acknowledged that the relationship between the two boards hasn’t been the greatest.

“We don’t need another failure,” said Mark Glover, the vice president of the public school board. “We need for academy as it exists right now to be successful in education of our children. We need to put ourselves second to that goal. We need to be transparent to the public.”

The district is facing a debt of $42 million. Trinell Scott, the public school board’s president, says the state wouldn’t be releasing oversight of the district if it didn’t see progress.

“Just want to stress that if RTAB (Receivership Transition Advisory Board) had not seen we were financially responsible, they would not have exited,” Scott said. “So, we have been doing our due diligence to pay off the debt and work down the debt. We can’t continue to focus on past, as far as debt goes.”

Among the disagreements between the boards is the process of approving academy board members. Under the partnership with the state, the public school board had to approve elected members.

Rane Garcia, the district superintendent who will be stepping down, said in a statement on Monday that hasn’t been case. In such instances, the state would fill the vacancies.

“Try to speed that process along. We don’t want to lose any more members before their term expiring, not having people in place,” Scott said. “We will work diligently to make sure that doesn’t happen.”

While the public school board is willing to work with the academy board, Scott says some things will have to change going forward.

“We’re going to break those systems, expose those things put in place to keep our children down,” Scott said. “I encourage you to stay tuned. We are under a new administration in three weeks here. A new superintendent coming in. It’s time to build new relationships, better relationships.”

The new superintendent will be Arnetta Thompson, who has served in the academy system for three years. Her first day as superintendent will be on Aug. 23.

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