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Muskegon Heights school board says district's management company has breached their contract

New Paradigm for Education has one month to make corrections and communicate that with the academy board.

MUSKEGON HEIGHTS, Mich. — The Muskegon Heights Public School Academy Board says the district's management company has breached their contract.

Now, New Paradigm for Education has one month to make corrections and communicate that with the academy board.

There was clear frustration from both board members and community members at Wednesday night's academy board meeting that a representative from New Paradigm wasn't at the meeting, while the firm's founder Ralph Bland was in the building for a different reason earlier in the day. 

"This is unacceptable that he wants to be CEO/Superintendent and this is the second meeting in a row he's not here," Academy Board Vice President Joseph Warren says.

The managing firm out of Detroit is currently overseeing operations in the district. They were hired before the start of the school year. Since then, teachers and community members have reported curriculum issues and a staffing shortage. 

Several people voiced their concerns during public comment at Wednesday's meeting.

"We are not complaining, but we're expected to work on our lunch breaks, how is that fair?" Tanisha Williams, a kindergarten teacher with the district, says. 

"When we all probably went to kindergarten, we could tie our shoes," Regina Richardson, a Muskegon Heights resident, says. "We knew our mother's name, her government name. We knew our address and knew how to write our name... Unfortunately these kids can't do that."

Now, the academy board says New Paradigm is in breach of their contract. Warren says the firm has not fulfilled several of their responsibilities, including the provision of the district's special education program, curriculum, staffing and financial reporting.

"In the contract, it states we must give them 30-day notice for them to get it corrected. If they don't get it corrected within 30 days, then we start the process of a breach of contract to terminate the contract based on contract language with New Paradigm," he says.

The Academy board is taking the recommendation from their recently hired consulting firm, National Charter Schools Institute. 

They originally drafted the letter to let New Paradigm know of this move back on Oct. 20, and they also recommended what to do if there's no corrective action from New Paradigm within 30 days.

"We've recommended that they withhold all funding, except for payment of personnel costs, until those questions are answered," Dr. Don Weatherspoon says. 

The Academy board also appointed new president at the meeting. Trustee Antonette Robinson will now serve in the role.

The group discussed the steps they need to take before turning in the corrective action plan requested by the district board to address curriculum and staffing issues.

That plan is due Tuesday, Nov. 8.  

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