June 8: Amidst uncommon civility, board unanimously adopts Strategic Plan
[Click here for Part Two, June 9: Civility erodes, familiar tensions resurface]
By Harold C. Ford
“Sometimes, for the sake of the children, we have to put aside our personal philosophies and beliefs and do what’s right for our children.”
–Eddie Thomas: principal, Eisenhower Elementary; president, Congress of Flint School Administrators, Inc.;
June 8, 2022
[Editor’s note: East Village Magazine’s Education Beat reporter, Harold C. Ford, attended the Flint Board of Education’s (FBOE) Committee of the Whole (COW) meeting(s) on June 8 and June 9. This month, the FBOE began to divide up and conduct the COW meeting over two nights consecutively. Most of the board’s business is hammered out at COW meetings and then routinely ratified at a regular business meeting one week later.
Collectively, the June COW meeting(s) lasted nearly 6.5 hours. The personalities of the two meetings couldn’t have been more different. Uncommon civility and celebratory passage of the district’s long-awaited strategic plan on June 8 devolved into familiar patterns of interpersonal tensions on June 9. The sources of those tensions are largely unknown as the panelists publicly bickered in coded language about issues that seem to develop out of public view – in closed meetings, emails, and private conversations.
For the purpose of readability, EVM has divided our report about the June 8-9 meeting(s) into two parts. [Click here for Part Two, June 9]
June 8, 2022
During a nearly 3.5-hour meeting of the FBOE on June 8, 2022 a five-year strategic plan for Flint Community Schools (FCS), years in the making, was adopted by a unanimous vote of the five members present and voting.
Members present included: Joyce Ellis-McNeal, president; Laura MacIntyre, treasurer; Linda Boose, secretary; Chris Del Morone, assistant secretary/treasurer; and Allen Gilbert, trustee.
Carol McIntosh, vice president, and Danielle Green, trustee, were absent from both meetings.
The district’s previous strategic plan, 2017-2020, expired two years ago. Adoption of the new plan may serve as a lynchpin for initiatives to: upgrade the district’s badly deteriorated physical infrastructure; add supportive programming to ameliorate the deleterious effects of the pandemic, poverty, and Flint’s infamous water crisis; attract and retain competent staff; bring back families and students who have abandoned the district; upgrade the district’s financial profile; improve academic performance indicators of FCS students.
The Strategic Plan can be viewed below:
It’s a tall order for a district trending in so many wrong directions. The challenge is to turn words on paper into actual accomplishments.
“Flint Community Schools Strategic Plan 2022-2027” was made available to EVM by Kevelin Jones, FCS superintendent, with the knowledge of those FBOE members present at the June 8 meeting. (See above for a copy of and a summary of the plan.)
Nearly the entirety of the board’s June 8 public meeting was characterized by a level of civility not often evidenced in recent years. Largely absent, not totally, were expressions of frustration and parliamentary snafus including oft-misused parliamentary interjections – points of order, information, and procedure – that seem intended, at times, to cut off the conversation of another panelist to make way for the interjector’s comments. There was no name-calling or angry arguments. Haughtiness and disdainfulness were minimal.
A whopping total of 23 resolutions, or motions, were passed unanimously with little or no debate on June 8. An additional 14 resolutions/motions were passed by the FBOE on June 9 with only one dissenting vote: Gilbert voted against a motion to provide additional legal counsel for MacIntyre in her legal entanglement with Green following the latter’s alleged assault on March 24.
The voting pattern of FBOE members over the two evenings was remarkable; 184 of 185 votes – 99.5 percent – cast by five board members found agreement.
And the resolutions brought to the board were wide-ranging – from the district’s complicated and challenging financial issues, to building repairs, personnel matters, service contracts, and legal imbroglios.
Strategic plan unanimously adopted
Easily, the crowning achievement of Jones’ short tenure as FCS superintendent was unanimous adoption of the district’s strategic plan. His team worked hundreds of hours to engage stakeholders – students, parents, teachers, administrators, community partners, representatives of Michigan government, board members, and others – to cobble together a plan.
When an earlier draft was presented to board members, it was sharply criticized by some FBOE members. In typical fashion, Jones went back to work with his team and brought to the board a revised plan that was roundly praised and unanimously adopted.
“We have revised this plan,” Jones explained. “We have brought this plan to a place where it is the ‘what’ of what we’re supposed to be doing in our district. We removed the ‘how’ to ensure that we have a concise plan.”
“It wasn’t just me; it was this team,” said Jones nearly shedding tears as he spoke. “It’s been a long time coming … I feel like we’ve accomplished something.”
FBOE members surprised even themselves by the spirit of unanimity and cooperation that marked the plan’s passage:
- Gilbert: The plan may help us to “put aside all these personal drama and issues with one another.”
- Boose: “I feel this was a very productive meeting and went very swiftly.”
The celebratory spirit was elevated by several rounds of panelists’ applause.
The 2022-2027 strategic was largely modeled after the district’s earlier 2017-2020 plan. The “Executive Summary” of the new plan highlighted enhancements:
“Specifically, the plan proposes upgraded and compliant technology options; adaptable scholar seating; scheduling that supports rigorous multi-tier instruction; an expanded selection of co-curricular alternatives at both neighborhood schools and at sites designed to serve the entire district; expanded spaces in schools that accommodate parent and community gatherings; aesthetic appeal for the interiors and exteriors of all FCS facilities; and appropriate additional staff to address social-emotional development.”
The plan included five strategic priorities:
- Strategic priority 1: scholar focus, “decisions and systems will support the development of the whole child from cradle to career”
- Strategic priority 2: teaching and learning, “expectations for high levels of teaching and learning”
- Strategic priority 3: culture and climate, “a culture and climate of excellence”
- Strategic priority 4: staffing, “attract, recruit, and retain high performing teachers, administrators, and staff”
- Strategic priority 5: finance, “align all fiscal resources to support high levels of teaching and learning while maintaining fiscal responsibility”.
Some specific details are found in subsequent pages of the plan. For example: “Graduation rates for traditional 12th grade scholars increase by five percent.” Nonetheless, many parts of the plan are vague and nonspecific such as “Create a scholar support system that focuses on the whole child.” What does that mean exactly? How is it measurable?
“A very productive meeting”
Multiple factors may have contributed to the improved atmosphere at the June 8 meeting:
- Jones: The public leadership of Jones from his superintendent perch, thus far, has been steady and conciliatory no matter the level of angst between and among the school district’s leadership teams. His measured and mature leadership has been recognized by FCS observers inside the district and outside as well. “Mr. Jones is quite passionate about the success of the scholars,” said Bryan Beverly, director of the Office of K-12 Outreach at MSU at the June 9 meeting of the board.
- Absentees: McIntosh and Green were both absent from the June 8 and 9 meetings. McIntosh is a self-identified outspoken, feisty member of the panel that often stirs the board’s pot. Green was removed from her position as the board’s president following an alleged assault on MacIntyre. She has been barred from attendance since the successful petition for a personal protection order (PPO) by MacIntyre.
- Deadlines: Important deadlines fostering a sense of urgency have included: the imposition of an enhanced deficit elimination plan (EDEP) by the state (recently rescinded but reimposition is possible); several unsettled lawsuits; long-overdue deadlines to improve attendance, raise test scores, and reduce suspensions and expulsions; windfall COVID relief funds that will disappear by 2024; loss of students that are abandoning the district and taking with them a significant amount of sorely-needed state aid.
- Failing infrastructure: Aging FCS buildings – eleven buildings that have nearly 8 centuries of wear and tear – are in constant need of repairs that demand quick resolution.
- More resignations and admonishment: EVM has learned that three more members of the central administration team intend to resign their positions. Reasons for the resignations cited in a June 1 memo to FBOE members include “the hostility, indecisiveness, leadership turnover, and inconsistency of members of the Board of Education.”
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The next scheduled meeting of the FBOE is June 15 (a regular meeting). Meetings take place at Accelerated Learning Academy, 1602 S. Averill Ave., Flint, MI 48503. Special meetings are frequently scheduled; interested persons should check the FCS website for updates.
Meetings normally begin at 6:30 and can be seen remotely by registering, in advance, at the district’s website. Videos of past meeting(s) can be accessed online at YouTube; the most recent meetings can be found at the following address(es): https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nKa09lJYtsI.
EVM Education Beat reporter can be reached at email@example.com.