By Harold C. Ford
At its first meeting of the 2019 calendar year, the Flint Community Schools (FCS) Board of Education wrestled with ongoing concerns about a lawsuit by the Michigan American Civil Liberties Union (MACLU) and continuing resignations by FCS staff. It also elected officers.
The board’s annual organizational meeting on Jan. 9 yielded the following results:
- Diana Wright was elected to her second consecutive term as president of the board. Wright is starting her fourth year as a board trustee.
- Blake Strozier was elected the board’s vice president. He had previously served as assistant secretary/treasurer. Strozier became a board trustee in June 2011 via appointment.
- Betty Ramsdell was returned to her position as secretary, a position she has held since 2010. She has served on the board since 2009.
- Danielle Green was chosen to be the board’s treasurer. She has served on the board since 2016 and also previously held the position of assistant secretary/treasurer.
- Casey Lester, the newest board member, was elected assistant secretary/treasurer. It was only the second meeting for Lester who was recently appointed to fill the seat vacated by Kenyatta Dotson who resigned from the board.
- Amanda Senko, who described herself as an “outsourced” employee, was elected to the position of assistant secretary/treasurer-administration.
All board offices were filled without opposition and by unanimous votes. The number of FCS board trustees is now seven, down from nine, after the passage of a 2016 ballot proposal requiring such and the recently expired terms of former trustees Harold Woodson and Antoinette Lockett. Wright said the rationale for a smaller board was a “smaller district” in terms of student count. That count was 4,331 students as of Nov. 30, 2018.
In addition to Wright, Strozier, Ramsdell, Green, and Lester, the two remaining seats are held by Vera Perry and Carol McIntosh.
Board meets in closed session to discuss Michigan ACLU lawsuit:
Board trustees huddled in closed session to discuss a lawsuit brought by the Michigan ACLU about a 2015 incident that happened in one of its schools. The largest portion of the 90-minute meeting—50 minutes—was held behind closed doors to wrestle with the lawsuit filed in July 2018 against the City of Flint and the Flint & Genesee Chamber of Commerce over the October 2015 handcuffing of a 7-year-old student at Brownell Elementary.
Cameron McCadden—four-feet-tall and 55 pounds at the time—was handcuffed by a Flint police officer who was employed as a school resource officer during an after-school program. The after-school program was administered by the Flint & Genesee Chamber of Commerce.
Flint schools are laboring to restore and maintain social climates in its buildings that are conducive to learning while endeavoring to overhaul its disciplinary system so as to reduce suspensions, expulsions, and lost days of instruction. FCS is in the first year of a three-year partnership plan mandated by the State of Michigan that requires it to reduce suspensions by 10 percent, increase student attendance to 90 percent, and raise test scores by 10 percent.
When asked when FCS might have anything to announce about the ACLU lawsuit, Superintendent Derrick Lopez said, “We will probably not hear something for a while.”
Continuing attrition of staff:
Michael Hall, executive director of human resources, presented board members with yet another list of school personnel who are transitioning out of the district. The list was not made available to the public at this committee of the whole meeting. Board members continued to express bewilderment at the continuing exodus of employees from the district.
“They’re leaving us for money,” Lopez said. “We are at a lower rate than most folk” referencing compensation packages in other Genesee County school districts.
Lopez expressed optimism that ongoing contract negotiations with the United Teachers of Flint (UTF) would result in a compensation package that would be more competitive with neighboring school districts. Karen Olayinka, UTF vice-president, told EVM last month, “It’s been more than five years” that Flint teachers’ wages have been frozen.
EVM Staff Writer Harold C. Ford can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.