MUSKEGON HEIGHTS, Muskegon — The leader of the Muskegon Heights Board of Education is speaking out on why they issued a vote of no confidence against the Muskegon Heights Public School Academy Board at a meeting Monday night.
Board President Trinell Scott says the Academy Board is not working in the right direction when it comes to student education and teacher recruitment and retention.
The district board is the authorizing agent for the public school academy system, above the academy board. The academy board is the managing tool for the district's managing company, Detroit-based New Paradigm for Education.
"A vote of no confidence for the PSA board does not mean that we have 100% confidence in New Paradigm either," Scott says.
She says the vote of no confidence was issued after the Academy Board did not complete a corrective action plan for the district. That plan was supposed to present strategies to deal with issues in the district on things like the special education program, student curriculum, and both teacher recruitment and retention.
The plan was originally due one month ago. Academy Board members said they have not been able to complete it because of a lack of meeting attendance and communication from New Paradigm on financial figures and enrollment figures they need. That includes their CEO and founder, Dr. Ralph Bland.
The Academy Board has notified New Paradigm of a breach of contract.
"It was brought to our attention that Mr. Bland was not aware of some of those meetings. And that's something that you can speak to him personally about, but we are holding him accountable for the things that they said that they could provide in their contract," Scott says. "So, we just want the public to be aware of that. But that's the task of the PSA board. And so, they have to do all the things that's necessary to make sure that New Paradigm adheres to the contract that they agreed to with Muskegon Heights Public School Academy System."
Along with the no confidence vote, Academy Board President Antonette Robinson was removed from her position. She and other Academy Board members have said in recent meetings that New Paradigm has failed in getting them a financial audit, student enrollment numbers and both new full-time and substitute teachers.
Robinson shared a statement with 13 ON YOUR SIDE after being removed from the academy board:
“This evening, the Muskegon Heights Public School District board voted to terminate me from the charter board, where I was recently named board chair by my colleagues.
It seems they’re trying to send a message, that our kids are not among their priorities. Since the start of the school year, we have had growing concerns about New Paradigm for Education, the company contracted to operate the district. The company’s CEO has stopped attending any charter board meetings and has refused to answer questions that any PSA operator would not need to have been asked in the first place, but he makes time for the district board meetings and sharing documentation with them.
The charter board has taken strong steps to demand accountability, plain and simple. The large crowds of concerned parents who have come to the charter board meetings for the past several months have rightly demanded answers about how a Detroit company was brought into Muskegon Heights and how they can be doing such a terrible job without any apparent oversight or consequence. They were quick to vote me out on a lack of confidence vote, but slow to deal with NPFE. It is almost as though the charter board is a front, as the district board has taken over so many of the charter board’s responsibilities and given us no information we need to manage the district. Yet they hold us responsible for the outcome.
We asked for financial records, and we have not gotten them. We’ve asked for the staff and resources they promised to bring. We’ve asked for simple transparency from a company supposedly working at this board’s direction, and instead of any response at all from NPFE, tonight the district board voted to remove me from the board.
People at our board meetings hear the horror stories from the staff working our buildings. The lack of staff, or materials, or services for our many special education kids. The behavior issues. Kids not learning. Kids spending hours of the school day unsupervised, or with substitute teachers unprepared for the challenges they face.
Muskegon Heights has a long, rich history of serving our community, but today we have become the repository for students who have been expelled from surrounding schools.
As a board member, I want to continue my support of the charter board they continue working to be accountable to the parents of Muskegon Heights -- in the absence of any necessary data from NPFE. I also encourage the students and staff to rally with us and demand answers and accountability from NPFE and the district board. There seems to be a pattern of folks doing whatever they please, ignoring the law, the contract, and the failing kids in our schools.
People in Muskegon Heights are informed and aware of what’s happening. The situation at our schools is worse than anyone imagined, and the district board remains bent on continuing to allow New Paradigm for Education to take our money and fail our children. Instead of holding them to account, our district board is removing people who asked questions.
It's time for the community to demand our schools back before it’s too late.”
The Academy Board is now tasked to seek additional board candidates and complete their corrective action plan. A new deadline for the plan has not been set.
The academy board meets again Monday, Nov. 21. The district board will meet again in January.
►Make it easy to keep up to date with more stories like this. Download the 13 ON YOUR SIDE app now.