By Harold C. Ford
Flint Community Schools (FCS) Superintendent Anita Steward announced she will present a plan for reopening schools to staff and students for face-to-face/brick-and-mortar instruction at the FCS school board’s next regular meeting Jan. 20. She said FCS staff members would be called back to the buildings the week of Jan. 18 while students will be given the opportunity to return to buildings starting the week of Feb. 22.
The announcement came at the board’s annual organizational meeting on Jan. 13, where new officers for calendar year 2021 also were elected. Incumbents Carol McIntosh (president), Vera Perry (vice president), Danielle Green (secretary), and newcomer Laura MacIntyre (treasurer) were elected to the four executive positions on the board.
Immediate impact by new board members
Newly-elected board members MacIntyre and Joyce Ellis-McNeal joined board veterans McIntosh, Perry, Green, and Diana Wright at the Jan. 13 meeting. Despite no stated previous education board experience, the newbies made their presence felt at their first FCS board meeting.
Ellis-McNeal’s nominations for two of four executive positions on the board—McIntosh, president, and MacIntyre, treasurer—ultimately won those positions on the third vote of the six-member board. MacIntyre’s nominee for the secretary position, Green, was elected without opposition on the board’s first ballot. Additionally, MacIntyre outlasted board vet Wright by winning the treasurer position on the board’s third ballot.
Both Ellis-McNeal and MacIntyre resisted the suggestions of other board members that they both assume the assistant secretary/treasurer position(s); the position(s) will remain vacant. Both, however, agreed to serve as representatives to the Genesee County Association of School Board Members, Ellis-McNeal as liaison, MacIntyre as alternate liaison.
Ellis-McNeal requested a walk-through for board members to inspect preparation measures for
the possible reopening of schools. Steward agreed to make the arrangements for interested board members.
MacIntyre expressed her reservations about executive sessions of the board that are closed to the public and indicated her opposition to FCS funding half of a ROTC (Reserve Officer Training Corps) staff position at Southwestern:
- MacIntyre voted against going into executive session. “Hopefully we’ll have less and less of these closed sessions (and) more openness, honesty, and transparency,” she said.
- “If it’s something the military would like, why don’t they fund it themselves?” she asked of the ROTC expenditure. “I’d rather see our students have (other) better opportunities.”
Ellis-McNeal and MacIntyre expressed dissatisfaction with the information provided board members prior to a vote on School Improvement Grant (SIG) funding. Ellis-McNeal advocated for program evaluation data. MacIntyre was concerned about filling a key program position with a local resident.
“You couldn’t find someone in the Flint community who was qualified to run that?” asked MacIntyre of the SIG-funded academic engagement officer position that included $63,724 in salary and benefits. “Why (can’t we) keep it in-house?”
Elections concluded when Ayunna Dompreh, new FCS executive director of finance, was chosen to fill the assistant secretary/treasurer-administration position. Dompreh replaced Carrie Sekelsky as the district’s chief financial officer in late-November.
Vacancy to be filled
A seventh position on the board is currently vacant due to the apparent inability of Anita Moore to meet board certification requirements. A recent past board member who did not give permission to use his/her name, told East Village Magazine (EVM) that Moore may no longer be a Michigan resident. Moore was the second leading vote-getter among twelve board candidates in the Nov. 2020 election.
The deadline for applications to fill the board vacancy was Jan. 13, 2021. Interviews of applicants will start at 3 p.m. Friday, Jan. 15. A link to the interviews will be provided at the FCS website.
Plans to return to school buildings
Steward announced that she intends to bring FCS staff back into the buildings beginning the week of Jan. 18 to get comfortable with maneuvering in buildings, engage in professional development, and prepare to deliver instruction both face-to-face and remotely.
Students will be given the opportunity to return to face-to-face instruction beginning Feb. 22, after the planned winter break, Feb.15-19. Students can choose face-to-face or remote instruction.
Steward said a Nov. 2020 parent survey found 41.1 percent favoring face-to-face instruction while 57.7 percent opted for online learning. “We need to start thinking about and planning for that 41.1 percent,” she said.
According to Steward, plans for reopening schools will be more fully discussed at the next regular meeting of the board on Jan. 20. Remote access to FCS board meetings can be arranged at the FCS website.
New year, familiar challenges
FCS leadership moves into calendar year 2021 facing familiar challenges that include: educating children in a pandemic; ongoing fiscal challenges; continuing loss of students; infrastructure needs; and the uncertainty of a three-year, state-imposed partnership plan. An analysis of these challenges can be found in the Jan. 2021 edition of East Village Magazine.
EVM Education Beat reporter Harold Ford can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.