June 8: Amidst uncommon civility, unanimous adoption of Strategic Plan
June 9: Civility erodes, familiar tensions resurface
By Harold C. Ford
“It’s been going on for years and years – hostile work environment, hostile board environment.” –Joyce Ellis-McNeal, president, Flint Board of Education; June 9, 2022
[Editor’s note: East Village Magazine’s Education Beat reporter, Harold C. Ford, attended the Flint Board of Education’s (FBOE) 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 One.
JUNE 9, 2022
The relative tranquility of the previous night’s FBOE meeting on June 8 quickly disintegrated on June 9 during a discussion of the alleged assault of Laura MacIntyre, FBOE treasurer, by then-president Daniele Green on March 24. FBOE members wrangled over a motion that would provide MacIntyre the district’s financial support for an attorney in legal machinations resulting from the March incident.
The motion to provide MacIntyre with district-paid legal assistance passed 4-1. Voting in favor were: Joyce Ellis-McNeal, president; Linda Boose, secretary; Chris Del Morone, assistant secretary/treasurer; and MacIntyre. Trustee Allen Gilbert voted no.
Absent from both meetings on June 8 and 9 were: Carol McIntosh, vice president; and Green, now a board trustee. Green is currently barred from attendance because of a personal protection order (PPO) sought by MacIntyre after the alleged assault at a board subcommittee meeting.
“There’s been increasing, threats, stalking and harassment,” MacIntyre charged. “I’ve had to file two personal protection orders, one against Daniele Green and one against Arthur Woodson. They both have contested those PPO filings.”
“If they [Green and Woodson] would just stop escalating the situation and quit harassing me,” MacIntyre implored. Not long after launching her complaints against the pair, Woodson entered the auditorium and sat quietly in a seat expecting to offer public comment at meeting’s end. [It’s an agenda item that was very recently discontinued.]
MacIntyre left, then reentered the room followed shortly by a district-paid security officer who stood at attention near school officials for the rest of the meeting.
Eventually and quietly, Woodson left the meeting.
Ellis-McNeal gently admonished board members not to mention names during deliberation. Ellis-McNeal’s statement unleashed a fury of comments from MacIntyre.
“I do have the right to mention names because it is my case,” MacIntyre said. “I am bearing witness to an atrocity that happened to myself. The fact of the matter was, I was assaulted on school grounds, during a school meeting, acting in my capacity as a school board member. The school board and the district can be held liable for the injury. I want the person who assaulted me to be accountable for what she did. She [Green] refuses to be accountable. … She’s perpetuating disinformation. She’s further attacking and harassing me online and by proxy … It is ongoing and it is relentless.
“Ms. Green is continuing to make false allegations that she did not assault me,” MacIntyre continued, “… and she’s also saying that I assaulted her. Because of those things, I have to get legal representation which is ludicrous to me as the victim of the assault.”
Ellis-McNeal explained outside legal assistance will need to be provided for MacIntyre — apart from any law firms that currently serve the district – because parties involved in the March 24 incident were both FBOE members. “Thrun (East Lansing-based Thrun Law Firm, P.C.) cannot represent either party,” Ellis-McNeal confirmed.
Tit for tat
“I’m not sure what would prevent board member Green from asking for the same thing [outside legal help],” Del Morone said.
MacIntyre shot back: “There isn’t two sides to this … I find it offensive that you [Del Morone] keep bringing it up and that you keep asking about some kind of symmetrical distribution of resources. …”
Del Morone replied: “I’m not trying to pick sides here whatsoever. But I know that people are innocent until proven guilty. … We heard tonight the other party believes they were assaulted.”
Ellis-McNeal interrupted Del Morone’s comments with a parliamentary interjection, a frequent occurrence during FBOE meetings.
At this point, Gilbert rallied to Del Morone’s defense: “You [Ellis-McNeal] can’t just run roughshod because you feel something. He [Del Morone] has the right to ask these questions … We still have the right to ask the questions that no one else is willing to ask.”
Del Morone continued: “I’m not trying to pick sides … What if the other side comes before us and asks for attorney fee payments also? … I don’t know why I’ve been singled out [for attacks] by board member MacIntyre over the last two nights.”
“So much to deal with, lawsuits”
FBOE members often speak in coded language about matters that seem to originate in private communications out of the public’s view. Nonetheless, details sneak into comments during open meetings. This much seems certain: The legal machinations facing the school district’s leadership teams are plentiful, vexing, and may include:
- Ongoing and potential future legal actions by current FBOE members MacIntyre and Green (as described above);
- Unsettled lawsuits brought by the two recently-dismissed FCS superintendents, Anita Steward and Derrick Lopez;
- At least two lawsuits lodged by the American Civil Liberties Union of Michigan, one settled, one unsettled. (FCS Superintendent Kevelin Jones announced he would be meeting with the ACLUM on Monday, June 13);
- Unsettled issues with two law firms that have served the school district – The Williams Firm and Lee Legal Group, PLLC.
About 78 minutes of the 171-minute June 9 board meeting – 46 percent – was spent on legal matters.
“There’s so much to deal with, lawsuits … We’re sidetracked,” Ellis-McNeal lamented.
“Like a daughter to me”
Charise Lee, the managing partner of Lee Legal Group, PLLC – brought aboard by FCS after discharging The Williams Firm in the fall of 2021—has fallen out of favor with the FBOE.
Lee’s name was invoked so many times during a 38-minute discussion Boose finally said, “We need to end this conversation because we’re mentioning her name too much.”
Nobody seemed more disappointed than Ellis-McNeal: “Charise Lee is a vendor that I even recommended … she was like a daughter to me … how I embraced this young lady … I brought her to this board.”
Ellis-McNeal’s lament turned to anger: “She doesn’t have the right to come in here and sit in on this board and dictate what she wants to do … She doesn’t have the right to dictate H.R. [human relations] … Then she tells me one board member has control over this board and I shouldn’t be president … She rabbit-footin’ around and whining … allegation after allegation. Hate can blind truth … I don’t bow down to nobody.”
Ellis-McNeal found support from MacIntyre: “She is a vendor and there’s some misunderstanding about what her role and her duties are … There are some improprieties, some missing information in the invoices. I’m very concerned … She did work that is bordering on unethical. There are some conflict-of-interest issues.”
‘It will poison the board if we continue to go this route,” Gilbert cautioned.
Thus, the good will and ebullience generated by the board’s unanimous adoption of the “Flint Community Schools Strategic Plan 2022-2027” the night before on June 8 and the unanimous passage of 35 other resolutions/motions would not serve to checkmate counterproductive board behaviors that have existed for months and years.
The tears of joy and rounds of applause on June 8 were absent as the FBOE returned to a familiar darker space on June 9.
This writer – having attended and analyzed nearly every meeting of the FBOE for the past five years since his first post about Flint Community Schools (FCS) in May 2017 – wrote the following in March 2022:
“Regular observers of the FBOE were hardly surprised by the events that unfolded on March 24 (March 24, 2022, the date of the alleged assault of MacIntyre by Green), Months and months of tension-filled FBOE meetings have been visited by acrimonious displays of thinly-veiled anger, shouting, and name-calling. Lawsuits and asserted grievances between and among board members and central administrators have become common. Instability is a constant.”
In private, a former FBOE member referenced a recent meeting he attended as a “shit show.”
Dearth of information
Information about important FCS matters – student counts, staff resignations and retirements, graduation rates, test scores, and legal maneuverings – are rarely provided to the public and the media. Updated student counts and detailed HR (human relations) reports – once routinely made available as handouts at FBOE meetings – have largely disappeared.
Straightforward reporting to the public and media of much critical data, not all, is largely absent. Interested persons rely upon snippets of information leaked in board conversations, leaked memos, or wait for mandated reports to the Michigan Department of Education to be posted on labyrinthian websites.
An expensive, out-of-town public relations firm, Lambert & Co., presents manicured, good-news stories to the public and media. Lambert carefully controls access to FCS officials. Two Lambert officials sat in on this reporter’s recent interview with FCS Assistant Superintendent Keiona Murphy.
Sometimes critical information is not even provided to FBOE members when they ask for it. At the June 9 meeting, Del Morone pressed central administration for a student count. The response to Del Morone by Kevelin Jones, superintendent, was atypically evasive: “We’ve done that study,” he said. But Del Morone’s question went unanswered.
* * * * *
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.
EVM Education reporter Harold Ford can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.