By Harold C. Ford
Only 55 seconds into the Flint Board of Education’s (FBOE) first of three September meetings – a Committee of the Whole (COW) meeting on Sept. 14 – the first parliamentary interjection, a point of information, was made by Trustee Laura MacIntyre. MacIntyre contended that Carol McIntosh, FBOE President, had not read Trustee Joyce McNeal’s name during a roll call to open the meeting.
Initially, McIntosh ignored MacIntyre’s point of information. “You were supposed to recognize me,” MacIntyre insisted.
“Go ahead,” McIntosh finally replied. MacIntyre repeated to McIntosh that McNeal’s name had been omitted from the roll call.
“I called her name,” McIntosh insisted.
Eventually, after nearly 90 seconds of meeting time, McIntosh called McNeal’s name and the roll call was completed.
And so it went for nearly 12 hours at three FBOE meetings on Sept. 14, 20, and 21. Board members stumbled into and through hundreds of parliamentary interjections, public displays of intemperate behavior, and walkouts by FBOE members.
Meanwhile, 15 candidates have announced their intent to run for five available seats on the board in the upcoming Nov. 8 election. Candidates are listed at the website of the Genesee County Clerk’s office.
The tempestuous nature of the meetings resulted in an increased presence by the Flint Police Department at the board’s third September meeting. Two police cruisers – conspicuously at the ready, engines running – greeted attendees at the public entrance to the Sept. 21 meeting at Accelerated Learning Academy, 1602 S. Averill, Flint.
And, after months and months of chaotic school board meetings, the district’s employees appear to have had enough. A raucous, larger-than-normal audience of about 50, mostly district employees, unleashed their ire on FBOE members during a time set aside for public commentary at the Sept. 21 meeting.
Amid the chaos of a meeting that extended past five hours, the FBOE responded affirmatively to the passionate pleas of its paraprofessional staff for improved compensation.
Several members of Service Employees International Union (SEIU), Local 517, pleaded with the board to reopen their contract.
“We are a valuable asset to any classroom,” declared Elizabeth Peoples, a paraprofessional with 28 years of service to the district. “We provide instruction, we understand the needs and desires or our students, we nurture their greatness and their growth … We open up classrooms as lead teachers, we sub in different classrooms, we use technology, we do whatever we are asked to support the scholars. … It is really disheartening to realize that someone who works at a gas station, a grocery store, or a restaurant makes more than paraprofessionals.”
“I earn $12,000 a year,” another paraprofessional stated. “Even with a stipend, I still could qualify for welfare.”
Eventually, the board voted unanimously 6-0 to reopen contract negotiations with its paraprofessionals. Voting in favor: McIntosh; MacIntyre; McNeal; Chris Del Morone, vice president; Linda Boose, secretary; and Allen Gilbert, trustee.
At the one-hour mark, after a clash with MacIntyre, McIntosh threatened to have MacIntyre removed from the meeting. Deterioration of the meeting’s decorum was thenceforth punctuated by frequent parliamentary interjections, shouting, and loud banging of the board president’s gavel.
“We’re not hogs, we’re not dogs,” McNeal protested. “You don’t have to bam like that. … It’s offensive.”
At the 1:48 mark McIntosh threatened to have both McNeal and MacIntyre removed. By a 5-1 vote, FBOE members overrode McIntosh’s attempt at removal.
McNeal and MacIntyre had launched broadsides at members of the FBOE that removed them from their treasurer and president positions respectively at the Aug. 17 meeting.
MacIntyre read from a prepared statement: “They [McIntosh, Gilbert, Del Morone, and the now-removed Green] do not have the best interests of the Flint Public Schools in mind.” She said their conduct was “unethical, reprehensible, and a breach of public trust” and that she was a target of “slander, threats, and harassment.” Referencing McIntosh, MacIntyre said she “collaborated and conspired a hostile takeover of this board,” calling it “dubious at best, illegal at worst.”
McNeal called the Aug. 17 removal of her and MacIntyre “illegal … a coup.”
An officer of the Flint Police Department, seated near the FBOE members, rose from her chair more than once, poised to take necessary action.
During 2:07 of meeting time – minus one hour of public comments from paraprofessionals and two hours of presentations by outside agencies – 109 points of order and 22 points of information were declared by FBOE members. That’s 131 parliamentary interjections in 187 minutes.
“I think the whole board is out of order,” Boose observed.
A 15-minute recess was declared at about 11:30 p.m. to allow tempers to cool, but the infighting continued on the meeting stage in front of the public and raised voices were audible from a room behind the meeting area as well. Several members left the building, denying the quorum needed to continue; the unfinished COW meeting was reconvened six days later.
Infighting and parliamentary interjections slowed the transaction of FBOE business once again at its second September meeting.
In a meeting that lasted for 3:38, 87 points of information and 61 points of order were declared by members of the board – 148 parliamentary interjections during 218 minutes.
An attempt to return MacIntyre to the vacant treasurer position failed by a 3-2 vote, with four affirmative votes needed for approval on a seven-person panel.
Danielle Green recently vacated the treasurer position and her seat on the board per an edict issued by Herman Marable, 67th District Court judge, in response to the alleged Mar. 23 assault by Green upon MacIntyre.
Voting for MacIntyre were: MacIntyre; McNeal; Linda Boose, board secretary. Voting against: Del Morone, vice president; Allen Gilbert, trustee.
“I feel I’ve been unfairly punished and prosecuted,” MacIntyre said.
MacIntyre’s subsequent motion to remove McIntosh as board president failed by a similar 3-2 vote.
MacIntyre charged the absent McIntosh with “holding this board and this district hostage. … She (McIntosh) was going to take this district down.”
The board then voted 4-1 to rescind a motion passed in August to provide financial assistance for Green’s legal fees stemming from the alleged assault upon MacIntyre in March. Voting to rescind were: MacIntyre; McNeal; Boose; Del Morone. Voting against rescission: Gilbert.
“If you’re going to pay her (MacIntyre’s) legal fees, former Trustee Green’s fees should be paid as well,” Gilbert argued.
MacIntyre said she deserved the district’s financial support as she was assaulted while carrying out her duties as the board’s treasurer.
After only 10 minutes of the Sept. 21 meeting, MacIntyre and McNeal walked out during an attempted presentation by Charis Lee, an attorney that had been doing legal work for the district for about a year.
Lee began her report by saying her firm had been paid $57,960.27 in its first year of service to the district, from Sept. 2021 to Aug. 2022; The Williams Firm, previously employed by the district, had been paid $429,932.41 in the prior year, July 2020 to June 2021.
Parliamentary interjections were launched at a fast and furious pace – 40 in all during the first 10 minutes of the meeting – an average of four during each minute of meeting time; all but seven interjections were made by MacIntyre and McNeal.
MacIntyre and McNeal insisted that the report by Lee was inappropriate. “It’s very disrespectful for you to bring this person [Lee] here,” McNeal charged.
After heated exchanges with McIntosh, MacIntyre and McNeal walked out of the meeting. The two were roundly booed by many members of the audience as they left the meeting.
Lacking four members required for a quorum to conduct business, the meeting was temporarily suspended.
“This is a circus!” shouted one member of the audience. “You should be ashamed of yourselves!” yelled another. “You are holding this district hostage!”
“We can go outside,” Gilbert said to an audience member. “I’ve got something for you.”
Trustee Linda Boose then arrived at the meeting. A quorum thus established, the meeting continued with Lee making her report to the board.
Lee presented documents defending her billing practices that had been the target of ongoing criticisms from MacIntyre and McNeal. “Over the past year I have tried tremendously to make sure that the billing that you receive … is well within what you need, not excessive,” Lee said.
Lee left the meeting at the end of her report. MacIntyre and McNeal then reentered.
“You are the problem”
About halfway through the Sept. 21 meeting [at the 1:50 mark of the YouTube recording] during time set aside for public comment, the anger toward the board’s stumbling leadership was unleashed by district employees:
- Karen Christian, United Teachers of Flint (UTF), president: “I’m so disheartened by the conduct of this board. … Every time we come to a meeting, there’s ridiculousness that happens – calling each other names, committing assaults, personal political agendas, and not doing the work of the district for our students. … I’m embarrassed and ashamed of the conduct here. The teachers would not tolerate this behavior from our students. … This board is micromanaging everything that the administration is doing. … It seems that you are the problem that’s keeping teachers from coming into this district. … You don’t get to be disciplined; you get to be voted out. … We’ve had enough.” Christian gave a Robert’s Rules of Order for Dummies book to each FBOE member.
- Dr. V. Stewart, school psychologist, 30-year FCS employee: “Up until this point, I have been pretty proud of the Flint schools. … My concern is that with your behavior you are driving children, teachers, and families away from Flint. … When a fight breaks out at a football game, they can say, ‘Oh, we’re just acting like the board.’ … It is critical that you represent the best of us, not the worst. … Please do better; it is critical for our survival. … It’s not the water that’s hurt us as much as you are. … Psychologically, you’re killing us.”
- Heather Nassar, teacher, 24-year Flint Community Schools (FCS) employee called the board’s behavior “unacceptable and unprofessional.” She said the board’s response to infrastructure needs was slow, inadequate, and detrimental to staff and students.
- Felicia Naimark, speech pathologist, FCS employee: “I have never seen a board or meetings run as horribly as these are. The time that it takes to get nothing done is unbelievable.” Naimark called the Sept. 19 meeting a “travesty; board members walking out, infighting, arguing between people, points of order, points of information improperly used. … This is wasting the time of our community.” Naimark said the payment of legal fees for board members would be better spent on the district’s staff and students.
- Bruce Jordan, union official who represents teachers in 10 Genesee County districts, called Flint board meetings “a public travesty, a sham … a complete embarrassment … a laughing stock.” He advised those in attendance: “If you want a change, Nov, 8 is coming, Vote.”
The three September meetings of Flint’s public-school board ended after a total of nearly 12 hours.
15 running for FBOE seats in Nov. 8 election
Fifteen candidates have announced their intent to run for five available seats on the Flint’s school board in the upcoming Nov. 8 election. Candidates are listed at the website of the Genesee County Clerk’s office.
Nine candidates are running for three spots; all are full six-year terms: Linda Boose; Chris Del Morone; Emily Doerr; Dylan Luna; Carol McIntosh; Claudia Perkins; Melody Relerford; Lakeisha Tureaud; Audrey Young.
Four candidates are running for a one spot, a partial term ending Dec. 2024: Kasey Calvert; Michael Clack; Allen Gilbert; Leslie Haney.
Two candidates are running for one spot, a partial term ending Dec. 2026: Donyele Darrough; Terae King.
EVM has reached out to all 15 candidates to provide information for candidate profiles.. Readers can expect online profiles in about two weeks by mid-October.
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The remaining announced meetings of the Flint Board of Education in 2022 are Oct. 12 & 19, Nov. 9 & 16, Dec. 14 & 21. Meetings can be viewed remotely or in person. Meetings start at 6:30 and are held at the ALA building, 1602 S. Averill, Flint, MI 48503. Additional details are available at the district’s website: www.flintschools.org.
Editor’s Note: Any descriptions of Flint school board meetings by East Village Magazine, past or present, can be verified by accessing audiovisual recordings available at YouTube.
Banner photo: FBOE in session during September meeting. Photo by Tom Travis
EVM Education Beat reporter Harold Ford can be reached at email@example.com.