By Harold C. Ford
This article has been updated to show the correct date Anita Stewart became FCS Superintendent which was June 2020 and not as we originally reported as being January 2021. EVM Editors.
The Flint Board of Education (FBOE) named Kevelin Jones superintendent of the Flint Community Schools (FCS) at its Nov. 17 meeting. Jones had been serving as the district’s interim superintendent since September. He replaces Anita Steward, whose brief tenure began in January 2021 and ended with her resignation Nov.12.
Jones is the eighth FCS superintendent of the past 16 years.
The motion to elevate Jones was approved by a 5-0 vote of the FBOE members present, including: Board President Carol McIntosh, president; Danielle Green, vice president; Adrian Walker, assistant secretary/treasurer; Chris Del Morone and Allen Gilbert.
FBOE members Laura MacIntyre, treasurer, and Joyce Ellis-McNeal, secretary, were absent.
Jones rose rapidly through FCS administrative ranks after being named principal of Doyle/Ryder Elementary School in 2017.
Shortly after Steward was named FCS superintendent in June 2020, Jones moved into the position of assistant superintendent.
Steward took leave from her superintendent position starting Sept. 2, per provisions of the Family Medical Leave Act. Jones was named interim superintendent Sept. 8.
Steward officially resigned Nov. 12. Steward, represented by Flint-area attorney Tom Pabst, has filed a lawsuit against four FBOE members – McIntosh, MacIntyre, Green, and MacNeal – that alleges: Whistleblower Act violations; ELCRA (Elliot-Larsen Civil Rights Act) violations; breach of contract; and tortious interference and neglect.
After inking a contract, Jones is expected to fill the rest of the term vacated by Steward’s resignation through June 30, 2023 at nearly $170,000 per year.
Praise and optimism
During the move to place Jones in the district’s top leadership position, McIntosh said, “You can’t leave your superintendent position vacant for too long … I wouldn’t dream of overlooking Mr. Jones (who has) been instrumental in keeping us alive.”
“I don’t know how we would have made it without him,” McIntosh continued. “I think it would be downright rude and disrespectful to disregard the service he has rendered to this district in our time of need … in trying to navigate us through this tough time.”
Green spoke directly to Jones: “This roller coaster ride we’ve been on: Thank you for holding on tight and not letting go, because the district needs you, the students need you, and I appreciate you.”
“I watched you (Jones) closely,” said Gilbert. “I think your heart’s in the right place; that’s important … You have shined very bright on behalf of this city and I think you deserve the chance to take the district and the board … in the direction for the children.”
“Mr. Jones, I’m in your corner,” Del Morone declared.
“Mr. Jones has been a huge help for getting me acclimated,” Walker said. “I’m excited about [him] being in this capacity and moving our district forward.”
Jones will have a full plate as the district’s chief officer, as FCS is confronted with plentiful challenges:
- Aging infrastructure: eleven FCS buildings average 70-years-old. The average age of school buildings in the U.S. is 44 years. Thus far in the 2021-22 school year, at least six days have been lost due to HVAC (heating, ventilation, air conditioning) issues. Due to black mold, students were moved out of the Doyle/Ryder building to the Potter building which was subsequently plagued with a bat infestation. FBOE members have recently signaled their intent to talk with the C.S. Mott Foundation about help in rebuilding or upgrading FCS buildings.
- In the past few years, FCS has lost more than a thousand years of employee experience through resignations and retirements. Many classrooms are staffed with relatively inexperienced provisional teachers still seeking professional certification. The last contract with FCS paraprofessionals provided compensation for service as substitute teachers. The district will host job fairs on Nov. 18 and 30 in an attempt to fill vacant positions.
- The district is burdened by accumulated debt, annual deficits, and a financial picture so unclear that it is bringing back former executive director of finances, Carrie Sekelsky, for the purpose of finding clarity. Ayunna Dompreh, FCS executive director of finance, took an extended personal leave after charging MacIntyre, the board’s treasurer, with creating a “hostile work environment.”
- Student enrollment has precipitously declined in recent years to about 3,000, making FCS the sixth or seventh largest school district in Genesee County. A majority of Flint’s estimated 15,000 primary school-aged students attend neighboring school districts via the state’s schools of choice program. Or they attend charter or private schools.
- Student test scores on standardized tests are abysmally low. None of the student populations in Flint’s seven elementary schools – Brownell, Doyle/Ryder, Durant Tuuri Mott, Eisenhower, Freeman, Neithercut, Pierce, Potter – reported more that seven percent proficient in all subject areas on the 2020-21 M-STEP, Michigan Student Test of Educational Progress.
- The district has yet to resolve a three-year school improvement plan mandated by the state of Michigan that sought a 90 percent student attendance rate, a 10 percent reduction in student suspensions and expulsions and a 10 percent improvement in standardized test scores.
Eight superintendents, 16 years
Jones officially becomes the eighth FCS superintendent in the past 16 years.
Previous superintendents included: Walter Milton (2005-07); Linda Thompson (2008-12); Lawrence Watkins (2013-15); Bilal Tawwab (2015-18); Gregory Weatherspoon (2018); Derrick Lopez (2018-20); and Anita Steward (2020-21).
EVM Education beat reporter Harold Ford can be reached at email@example.com,