By Harold C. Ford
It took more than four hours, but the remaining five members of the Flint Board of Education (FBOE) got work done at their Sept. 29 meeting, including settling a contract with the teachers’ union, filling the two board vacancies created by recent resignations, electing officers, reviewing efforts to sell vacant schools, and approving action to eliminate bats and black mold in elementary schools.
Teacher contract settled
The board and the United Teachers of Flint (UTF) have ratified a new contract.
The FBOE approved the contract by a 5-0 vote at the Sept. 29 special meeting.
Teachers voted Sept. 20 and 21 to approve the new contract by a margin of more than 90 percent, according to Kevelin Jones, interim superintendent for Flint Community Schools (FCS). Jones told East Village Magazine that a pay raise and new language addressing teacher safety concerns and planning periods led to the overwhelming positive vote.
Flint’s teachers had been working without a contract since July 2020. Negotiations for a new contract started four months earlier in March 2020.
UTF filed a lawsuit in May charging the district with “unfair labor practices.” And UTF members expressed their displeasure about the pace of negotiations at several summer meetings of the FBOE.
“We worked hard to get to this point,” said Jones of the settlement. “Now it’s time to renovate and rebuild.”
Board vacancies filled
The five current members of the FBOE interviewed 11 candidates for two vacancies on Sept. 29 at Accelerated Learning Academy (ALA). After two rounds of interviews, the FBOE chose Allen Gilbert, 65, and Chris Del Morone, 66, to fill the two vacant positions.
Gilbert is a retired skilled trades worker for General Motors; he currently serves as associate pastor at Bethel Apostolic Church, 5133 Fenton Rd. Del Morone sought a seat on the Flint City Council in the Aug. 2021 election, has served as chair of the Genesee County Land Bank Citizen Advisory Council, and was a candidate in the Nov. 2017 Flint mayoral recall election.
The board vacancies were created when long-time board members Vera Perry and Diana Wright abruptly resigned from the board on Sept. 7. Collectively, Perry and Wright had served on the board for more than 24 years.
During summer board meetings, Wright was rebuffed in her attempt to get the C. S. Mott Foundation’s proposal to rebuild or renovate all FCS school buildings on the FBOE agenda. Perry told East Village Magazine that her services were “no longer used.” Both had missed several recent FBOE meetings prior to their resignations.
New board officers
The resignations of Perry and Wright resulted in board leadership changes on Sept. 29. Danielle Green moved from the treasurer position to vice president. Joyce Ellis-McNeal replaced Green as the board’s treasurer, moving from the assistant secretary-treasurer position. The board’s newest member, Adrian Walker, was chosen assistant secretary-treasurer.
Bats in the Potter building
The presence of bats in the Potter Elementary School building, 2500 N. Averill Ave., was reported at the Sept. 15 meeting of the Flint Board of Education (FBOE).
“They’re having an immediate issue with bats in the building,” reported Kevelin Jones, interim superintendent of Flint Community Schools (FCS). “It’s been a constant issue for that particular school.”
Potter currently houses some 400 students representing two schools. Students from Doyle/Ryder Elementary were recently moved to the Potter building when black mold was discovered in early childhood classrooms.
On Sept. 8, the FBOE approved a $440,000 plan to fix the problems at Doyle/Ryder. On Sept. 15, $22,050 was approved by the FBOE to remove bats from Potter. That did not include patching holes in the roof and elsewhere that allow bats to enter the building.
“If more bats get into the building, we have to do this process again,” concluded Carol McIntosh, FBOE president.
“It absolutely is an emergency,” declared Danielle Green, FBOE treasurer.
Doyle/Ryder was built in 1901, making it, at 120 years, the oldest building in the district. Potter is a 69-year-old facility, built in 1952.
The eleven FCS buildings that currently house students in grades K-12 average 70-years-old. The average age of school buildings in the U.S., according to a 2017 study by Education Week, is 44 years.
“Effective facilities maintenance”
“Because we know that routine and unexpected maintenance demands are bound to arise, every education organization must proactively develop and implement a plan for dealing with these inevitabilities.”
“Thus, an organization must plan to meet the challenges of effective facilities maintenance. It’s simply too big of a job to be addressed in a haphazard fashion. After all, the consequences affect teaching and learning, student and staff health, day-to-day building operations, and the long-range fiscal outlook of the organization.”
FCS is attempting to sell its vacant properties to reduce any costs of maintaining the properties and to generate badly needed revenue for the district. Information about the properties compiled by Flint-based THA Architects Engineers can be found by visiting the district’s website.
Some key data about some of the vacant properties is found below. Information includes: name of the property; address; year built; property size; square footage; an estimate of the amount needed to restore the property. The information was compiled more than a decade ago in 2008; thus, the price tags to restore the properties have likely increased.
- Anderson: G-3284 Mackin Road; 1965; 6 acres; 36,390 sq. ft.; $3,481,304.
- Bryant: 201 E. Pierson Rd.; 1960; 20 acres; 108,424 sq. ft.; $8,683,020
- Carpenter Road: 6901 Webster Rd.; 1965/68; 6 acres; 56,870 sq. ft.; $3,856,887
- Civic Park: 1402. W. Dayton St.; 1922/1958; 5 acres; 53,432 sq. ft.; $5,620,848
- Cook: 500 Welch Blvd.; 3.71 acres; (other information not found at the FCS website)
- Dort: 2025 North Saginaw; 1962/76; 3.7 acres; 53,200 sq. ft.; $4,383,128
- Garfield: 1301 E. McClellan St.; 1928/77; 21.8 acres; 52,000 sq. ft; $6,417,248
- Johnson: 5323 Western Rd.; 1967; 5.1 acres; 35,950 sq. ft.; $2,251,935
- King: 520 W. Rankin St.; 2.071 acres; (other information not found at the FCS website)
The average age of the properties listed above, from the original date of construction, is 68 years. On more than one occasion, Laura MacIntyre, FBOE treasurer, has proclaimed that FCS properties represent a potential “goldmine” for the district. Persons interested in acquiring the properties should contact the district.
Staff attrition continues
The attrition of FCS staff is continuing. At the Sept. 15 meeting of the FBOE, Jorgina Rubin, interim executive director of human resources, reported the resignations or retirements of another nine FCS employees whose collective service to the district totaled nearly 74 years.
Of particular note was the resignation of Eileen Tomasi, school health coordinator, who stepped down after nearly 11 years of service. “That is a very key position in our district right now especially under COVID,” observed Rubin. “We’re going to miss her dearly.”
Rubin is filling in for Ayunna Dompreh, the district’s executive director of human resources, who has taken a leave of absence after filing “hostile work environment” charges against Laura MacIntyre, FCS board treasurer.
Student enrollment under 3,000
At the Sept 15 meeting, Jones reported that student enrollment was 2,800, up from an initial count of 2,500 for the 2021-22 school year. Jones said that enrollment recruitment efforts were underway including production of a 30-second promotional video and home visits by staff.
Superintendent Steward still on leave
Anita Steward, FCS superintendent, was still on leave and not present at the Sept. 15 or 19 meetings of the FBOE. Jones told EVM on Sept 8, “As far as I know, Ms. Anita Steward is coming back on the fifteenth (of September). And on the fifteenth, I’ll be going right back to being assistant superintendent.”
On Sept. 8, Steward filed a lawsuit against four members of the FBOE: McIntosh; MacIntyre; Green; and Ellis-McNeal. Tom Pabst, a Flint-area attorney representing Steward, told MLive on Sept 9, “he doesn’t see Steward returning to the district.”
Following a two-hour closed session to discuss the Steward lawsuit, the board adjourned its Sept. 15 meeting at 9:39 p.m. making it, at four hours and nine minutes, the longest in this reporter’s five years of covering the FBOE. Two weeks later, that was exceeded by the Sept. 29 meeting at four hours and 47 minutes.
The next scheduled meetings of the FBOE are Oct. 13 (Committee of the Whole or COW) and Oct. 20 (regular meeting). Meetings begin at 6:30 at the ALA building.
At present, members of the public can attend FBOE meetings in-person at ALA or virtually by registering at the link found on the district’s website: https://attendee.gotowebinar.com/register/2980657693257532943.
Audio-visual recordings of the meetings can be found on YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCnr6IGn8sLKt0LjLgeEsmFQ