By Harold C. Ford
Appearing before the Flint Board of Education (FBOE) at its first post-pandemic face-to-face meeting Monday, C. S. Mott Foundation President and CEO Ridgway White pleaded with the FBOE to support a massive recovery plan for Flint schools titled Flint Education Continuum (FEC).
“My goal at the Mott Foundation is to ensure that every child in Flint has an equal opportunity for success,” White said in a public statement to the board.
White spoke before the FBOE at the Accelerated Learning Academy (formerly Scott Elementary School). The FEC is contained in a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) first described by East Village Magazine (EVM) when provided by an anonymous source.
“I’m asking that you let the Mott Foundation … help Flint (schools) recover and rise and to look to a future where there’s equity for all kids, …” White said.
“(That MOU) called for creating all new schools in Flint,” he added. “That proposal has us committing to up to $200 million for Flint Community Schools.
“I call for doubling down on Flint Community Schools, on really doubling down on all the wraparound services to help these kids recover,” White continued. “These kids that have been told for seven years: ’It’s not safe to drink the water.’ ‘It’s not safe to breathe the air,’ ‘It’s not safe to go to school.’”
“It’s not fair,” White continued. “We need to all get together, as a team, behind these kids and support them.”“I’m asking for your support. I’m asking for you to help us. I’m asking for you to allow us to partner with you, to talk with you, to go over things that are in the MOU.”
White voices concern over deteriorating relationship between superintendent and School Board
In a brief interview in the school lobby after the meeting, EVM asked White if the superintendent and the school board can’t work together — a situation documented in recent EVM stories — would that jeopardize the MOU?
White replied, “As I’ve said, we’ve been working on this for four years. And the reason it hasn’t been done is the continuity of the leadership has continued to falter over the last couple of years. So yes.”
MOU and FEC
The Flint Education Continuum includes three levels of government, several nonprofits, and all three of Flint’s major institutions of higher learning.
All 17 parties named in the MOU had yet to sign the document when information about it was revealed publicly in May. It was obviously a work in progress.
“The purpose of the project, according to the MOU, “is to develop and expand the framework for an education continuum in Flint which ranges from birth to college and career …” It aims to “leverage federal, state, and local dollars to create an exponential impact that goes beyond schools to whole neighborhood revitalization.”
The centerpiece of the FEC is construction of new schools—four new elementary schools and a new high school—and the renovation of two buildings, one for elementary students and the other for middle school students. All buildings would be operated by Flint Community Schools (FCS) and located within the City of Flint.
The cost of four new elementary schools, with a capacity of 500 students each, is projected at $25 million each or $100 million total. Durant-Tuuri-Mott would be renovated at a cost of $20 million, according to the MOU.
The site of a 1200-student middle school is expected to be a renovated Doyle-Ryder building or one of the existing high school buildings, also to be renovated. The new high school would serve up to 1800 students where “juniors and seniors would be dual enrolled at MCC (Mott Community College).”
The site of the now-abandoned Central High School/Whittier Junior High School campus, on Crapo St. near the Flint Cultural Center, is clearly designated as the location for construction of the new high school.
The MOU indicated that the Flint-based Mott Foundation would additionally commit another $100 million ($10 million per year) over 10 years for the new schools in support of community education, after school programs, and a college/career technical education pipeline from Mott Community College starting in the third grade.
A 2021 FCS Strategic Plan would be extended to a 10-year plan “with milestone reviews at the 3-, 5-, and 7-year marks.” The strategic plan would “include a strategy to address its facilities and infrastructure needs …” White stated.
Other partners in the project would include: the State of Michigan; the City of Flint; Mott Community College; the Genesee Intermediate School District; Flint & Genesee Group/Genesee Area Focus Fund; Concerned Pastors for Social Action; Community Foundation of Greater Flint; United Way of Genesee County; Ruth Mott Foundation; University of Michigan-Flint; and Kettering University.
The project anticipated the support of Dan Kildee, U.S. Congressman for Michigan’s Fifth District, and Jim Ananich, State Senator for Michigan’s 27th District. In his appearance at the Monday FBOE meeting, White said talks had been underway about the FEC “for almost four years now.”
White’s plea a counterpoint to opposing views
Prior to White’s appearance in front of the FBOE, public commentary at FBOE meetings about the MOU and FEC so far has been characterized by skepticism from some quarters, such as from activist Arthur Woodson who has warned of “gatekeepers.”
“Tell us what we need to do at the Mott Foundation … how we should grant dollars …” White pleaded. “because the most important thing in this world is knowing that when a kindergartner, a prescholer, or a first-grader comes in and is all smiles … that smile still exists when they graduate and walk across the stage.
“If we can’t have that in Flint, we’re not doing our jobs,” White concluded. “So please let me help you.”
[The author of this article, a long-time educator (see below) offered an op-ed piece several weeks ago concerning this matter, available at this link. Based on his knowledge and research, he has estimated that the total FEC investment—including infrastructure upgrades, programming support, and contributions by partners—could approach a half-billion dollars].*
*EVM Education Beat reporter Harold C. Ford has nearly five decades of experience with public education including: one year as a sub teacher in Flint; 30 years as a public classroom teacher in Beecher; 10 years as the principal founder and administrator of the Beecher Scholarship Incentive Program principally funded by the Ruth Mott Foundation which spent an estimated $6 million on Beecher students; three years as supervisor of Beecher’s Ninth Grade Academy; five years as education writer for EVM.
Ford can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
EVM Managing Editor Tom Travis contributed to this report.