By Harold C. Ford
At its April 21 meeting, conducted via Zoom, the Flint Community Schools (FCS) Board of Education adopted an amended Enhanced Deficit Elimination Plan (EDEP) to send to the State of Michigan for review.
The board also dismissed three building administrators for “performance issues” without detail provided to the public. Further, not a word was spoken about the sudden suspension of Derrick Lopez from his superintendent’s position at a board meeting on April 15.
Detail on the many items facing the board this year before the coronavirus hit, requiring remote meetings, were summarized here in a Jan. 29 EVM piece.
Deficit and debt:
An amended version of the FCS Enhanced Deficit Elimination Plan was unanimously adopted by the board on a 7-0 vote. The two-part motion did the following:
- The board approved the updated EDEP “reflecting the issuance of the bonds”—the result of voter approval of a 4.0-millage proposal on March 10.
- FCS will file “the amended and updated EDEP with (the Michigan Department of) Treasury,,,for the prior approval application for the Bonds.”
Carrie Sekelsky, FCS executive director of finance, said, “If we can sell the bonds prior to June 30, we will be out of deficit for fiscal year 2020, the current year that we’re in.”
“Also, our projection is that next year we’ll still have a positive fund balance but it will be very small,” Sekelsky explained, “And then, as we continue on, we do incur deficit based on our assumptions of how many students we’re going to lose and how much foundation allowance we will gain.”
Sekelsky cautioned that assumptions about student enrollment were critical to projecting the viability of future FCS budgets. “When we plateau off at losing students, that’s when we start to build back our (positive) fund balance,” she explained. “It really hinges on student count.”
Each enrolled student currently brings about $8,000 of state aid into the district. The precipitous decline of FCS student enrollment from its peak of close to 40,000 in the 60s to about 3,900 now has cost the district millions of dollars. FCS student enrollment is now fifth highest in Genesee County behind Grand Blanc, Davison, Carman-Ainsworth, and Flushing.
Casey Lester, the board’s president with a background in banking and finance, urged clarity when speaking of the district’s debt and deficit.
“The fiscal stability bond that we passed will help eliminate our debt,” Lester said. “Our deficit—meaning our (annual) operational negative—was about $5 million a year.” Passage of the millage will additionally trim about $2 million from the projected $5 million annual deficit, he explained.
“So, eliminating the debt still leaves us about a $3 million a year deficit,” Casey continued. “So, what I don’t want the public to hear is that, because we passed the millage, we’re no longer going to have a deficit. That’s not the case. I want to be very transparent.”
Projected $3 million annual deficit:
The EDEP that will be sent to the state “does not include any school closures,” said Sekelsky. “That is not the direction we are taking at this time.”
Board members pressed Sekelsky about cost saving recommendations toward reducing the projected $3 million annual deficit.
“We’re taking a good look at things that don’t touch our teachers, don’t touch our classrooms,” said Sekelsky. She listed sale of the administration building, reorganization of the transportation department, and an audit of central office personnel as potential cost saving items currently under review by FCS administration.
“We are headed in the right direction,” Sekelsky said, “(but) not as fast as we would like.”
Three administrators dismissed:
After considerable discussion, the FCS board dismissed three building administrators for “performance issues only.” They included:
- Matthew Lane, principal at Flint Junior High (located at the former Northwestern High School campus)
- Richard Robart, assistant principal at Southwestern Academy
- Donald Whitman, principal at Eisenhower Elementary
The dismissals of Lane and Whitman were unanimous. Robart was removed on a 5-2 vote. The dismissals were brought to the board by Cassandra Wilson, executive director of human relations.
In addition, Sidney Rhodes, assistant principal at Accelerated Learning Academy, resigned effective March 17.
Interim Superintendent Anita Steward updated the ongoing efforts to provide remote learning for Flint students. The district is endeavoring to provide every one of its students with an electronic learning device and access to the internet. Learning packets are being made available to those lacking either a device or internet.
Steward advised those with issues or questions related to the remote learning initiative to contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org. She said that every school building is now open one day a week for parents to pick up learning packets and/or leaning devices.
Blake Strozier, board trustee, praised the remote learning efforts of FCS educators. “Our building administrators and teachers are doing an amazing job of connecting with our students,” he said. “Being in a house with two kids that go to Flint Community Schools and having them have that [remote learning] readily available to them, is definitely beneficial to our house.”
EVM Education Beat reporter and staff writer Harold C. Ford can be reached at email@example.com.
Carrie Sekelsky, FCS executive director of finance
Source: photo posted at Linked In site