Education Beat: Turmoil at the top continues at Flint Community Schools

By Harold C. Ford

Editor’s note – This article has been updated naming the former FCS employee who received the $61,000 retirement payout.

The tumult that has plagued the leadership team(s) at Flint Community Schools (FCS) in recent years was fully on display in and around the April 12 Committee of the Whole (COW) meeting of the Flint Board of Education (FBOE).

  • Michael Clack, board president, announced an investigation by the Michigan State Police (MSP) into an alleged excessive retirement payout of $61,000 to Monaca Elston, former executive assistant to Flint Community Schools.

    FBOE President Michael Clack. (Photo by Tom Travis)

  • A revised partnership agreement with the Michigan Department of Education (MDE) called for test score improvements in two subject areas and improved procedures within FCS administration and in board-administration relationships.
  • By a 5-2 vote, the FBOE approved an out-of-state student trip that went against the recommendation of FCS building and central administrators who said trip organizers were “not ready.”
  • FCS central administration was rebuffed once again when its recommendation to fill a Human Relations Manager position was turned down by a 4-3 vote of the seven-member FBOE.
  • Within a week, two central administrators resigned their positions; evidence indicates that discordant relationships with FBOE members triggered the resignations.

MSP investigation

Clack announced an MSP investigation at the end of the board’s April 12 meeting that lasted nearly 6.5 hours.

The imbroglio over an alleged excessive payout to a former employee in 2022 surfaced at the March 15, 2023 meeting when Clack read from a report prepared by Stephenson and Company, an auditing firm retained by FCS, that found “unused paid time off was paid out to a nonunion employee upon termination of employment at a rate significantly higher than past practice(s).”

The district’s former executive assistant received a payout of $61,000 upon her retirement in the summer of 2022, “approved by the board,” according to Clack.

At the March 15 meeting, all seven FBOE members agreed to launch an investigation into the payout that was about ten times greater than most such payouts which have generally followed guidelines for retiring members of the Congress of Flint Schools Administrators, an amount set at $6,250.

Accusing fingers, implied and otherwise, have pointed in several directions:

  • Clack to Joyce Ellis-McNeal, trustee: “You were president at that time. Can you explain it?”
  • McNeal: “That was an agreement between her [the employee] and Mr. Jones [Superintendent Kevelin Jones]… They agreed to the $61,000 … The board has absolutely nothing to do with it.”
  • Jones: “This board voted. I knew nothing about it. I told her [the employee] ‘no.’ She usurped my authority and came to you [McNeal and the board] … I wouldn’t have ever asked this board to pay out that kind of money.”
  • McNeal to Jones: “If you knew that was a wrong check, why did you mail it?”
  • Clack to Laura MacIntyre, trustee: “You were the treasurer. How did $61,000 walk out the door?”
  • MacIntyre: “We voted to have this employee compensated fairly according to the law … I stand by that decision.”
  • Charis Lee, an attorney who has worked with the district since July. 2022: “We [FCS] already have a policy about the payouts … What happened here is that the board bypassed that.” Lee reported that Carol McIntosh, former board member who was absent from the payout meeting, said “there has been some type of criminal activity.” Former board member Allen Gilbert “felt he had been tricked,” added Lee.

At the April 12 meeting, Cynthia R. Scott, audit partner and certified fraud examiner for Stephenson and Company, reported on her firm’s recent audit of the district’s finances. She told the board of a “huge concern during the audit … A large vacation payout (was) … not in line with the employee agreement.”

Jorgina Rubin, since retired, was a 25-year FCS employee and held positions in the human resources (HR) department including that of HR manager. She made an unscheduled, nearly one-hour appearance before the FBOE on April 12.

Rubin explained that in 2022 she was asked by Jones to prepare a document for the pending retirement of the district’s executive assistant. Rubin produced a document that included three payout options that she then presented to her supervisor, Sharita Galloway. One option included the $61,000 payout option and two other lesser amounts.

Rubin told FBOE members she would not have recommended the $61,000 payout option. Nonetheless, her comments provided no further clarity on who gave final approval of the payout.

Rubin did admit that she asked for similar payout consideration when she later retired from the district. “If this is what you all are considering for her … I’m asking for the same courtesy,” she recollected.

Clack concluded the April 12 meeting by advising FBOE members to prepare for the MSP investigation:

“It is extremely irresponsible and untrustworthy for one person to receive a payout that exceeds that of every teacher that has taught in the classroom … It is unfair for one person to receive a payout ten times more than anyone would normally receive … Treasurer MacIntyre sought the motion and President McNeal raised the motion … The board has never been involved in the payout of a district employee … It is not district policy to show favoritism to certain retirees … Beginning next week, a detective sergeant of the Michigan State Police will begin the interview process … We will let the police do their job and we will move on with the business of the district.”

Partnership agreement

The goals of a new partnership agreement with the Michigan Department of Education were announced at the April 12 meeting.

“We have now had our partnership agreement approved by MDE,” announced Diona Clingman, FCS executive director of academics. Members of the team that crafted the partnership agreement included FCS administration and staff, MDE, the Genesee Intermediate School District, and the Crim Foundation which provides support services for FCS students.

Clingman said three goals were established in the agreement: modest improvements by students in literacy and math; and a systems goal:

  • FCS students who score “proficient” in literacy will increase by three percent by June 30, 2025.
  • FCS students who score “proficient” in math will increase by three percent by June 30, 2025.
  • A “systems goal” included “the development and implementing of effective systems between the FCS Board of Education and district personnel that increase operational efficiency to improve the academic and social-emotional learning of FCS scholars by June 30, 2025.” Targets for this goal include: better FCS student attendance; diversity and inclusion training; and improvements in governance to include operations of the FCS business office and human resources department;

[As if on cue, FCS executives in both the business and human resources departments have submitted their resignations within a week of one another. See below.]

Dr. William Pearson, director of office of partnership districts and Paul Schumer, MDE educational consultant and partnership agreement liaison, participated in the presentation. Pearson told East Village Magazine (EVM) that previous partnership agreements were disrupted by the COVID pandemic. He told EVM, “The data was not valid.” No districts entered the partnership program in 2020 and 2021.

Dr. William Pearson, Michigan Dept of Education. (Photo source:

The previous iteration of a partnership agreement between MDE and FCS covered the years 2018-19 to 2020-21. The goals were threesome: improve student attendance by 10 percent; reduce out-of-school suspensions by 10 percent; increase student attendance to 90 percent.

In November, 2022, the MDE announced that more than 50 districts in Michigan presided over at least one underperforming school and, therefore, would be required to enter into a partnership agreement with the MDE.

In all, there are over a hundred such “partnership” schools in the state. FCS “partnership” schools include: Brownell, Eisenhower, Freeman, Neithercut, Pierce, and Potter.

Other Genesee County schools on the “partnership list” list include: Beecher High and Dailey Elementary in the Beecher Community School District; Eagle’s Nest Academy; and Greater Heights Academy.

Schools become candidates for partnership agreements if their four-year graduation rate is 67 percent or less or scores fall to the bottom five percent on the state’s “index accountability system” which includes student academic performance, attendance, graduation rate, availability of career and college preparation courses, and more.

Springtime standardized testing has already commenced for Flint students. Testing windows for at least seven categories of tests began Feb. 2 and end May 26. A full schedule of standardized tests for FCS students is found at the district’s website.

[EVM last reported on the test scores of area schools in Sept. 2019.]

FBOE approves D.C. trip despite FCS administration reservations

During the time for “Remarks from Individual Board Members” scheduled near the end of every FBOE meeting – a time when unexpected motions, not on the printed agenda, have often been introduced – another such motion was brought by Trustee Melody Relerford.

FBOE member Melody Relerford. (Photo by Tom Travis)

Relerford’s motion seeking the board’s approval and support for the upcoming senior prom and a trip to Washington D.C. for some 140 8th graders at Holmes STEM Academy were bundled together in a single motion and approved by a 5-2 vote of the board after a 50-minute discussion.

The D.C. trip was approved despite the reservations of FCS central and building administrations who cautioned that trip organizers were “not ready”:

  • Assistant Superintendent Keiona Murphy: “This was not initiated properly in the beginning … The (trip) details are not as clear as they need to be … I’m challenged by the timeline …This is not how I do business.”
  • Superintendent Jones: “This (trip) is logistically not together … Safety has been our top priority … We have to insure that we have enough chaperones … The (Holmes) principal and assistant principal don’t think they need to take this trip this year.”

Relerford was unable to answer questions about the number of student travelers, travel date(s), or other trip details. “That’s being worked out,” she said.

Rather, Relerford chose to read aloud a letter by an organizer of the trip, a Holmes teacher, that excoriated Jones and his administration for its initial response to the trip. The letter said Jones’s “mind had already been made up.” The letter charged Jones with an “ambush” by “using every lame excuse in the book” to deny the trip.

The letter read by Relerford also accused Jones of “not enough respect for me (the teacher)” and noted his “concern and disapproval of you (Relerford) contacting me.”

“Most of what I’ve just heard is incorrect,” Jones responded. FBOE Treasurer Dylan Luna found it “inappropriate to read a letter like that.”

FCS Superintendent (left) Kevelin Jones and FBOE member Dylan Luna (right) in a recent FBOE committee meeting. (Photo by Tom Travis)

At the end of the meeting, Clack also cautioned panelists about overstepping boundaries: “As board members, it is not our role to overstep administration and pry into their daily affairs. Our main responsibilities are to set policy for the district and approve the budget.” Nonetheless, Clack voted to approve the D.C. trip despite the “not ready” warnings from the FCS administrative team.

In the end, only King and Luna cast dissenting votes citing “process” and potential damage to the district’s “chain of command.

Moved by an infectious can-do attitude, the other five members of the panel voted to approve the D.C. trip:

  • Relerford: “Everybody up here is saying they’re here for the students; I need you to show it.”
  • MacIntyre: “Let’s do this … Let’s think outside the box.”

FBOE rejects HR hire recommended by FCS central administration

At the April 12 FBOE meeting, the district’s central administration team suffered another setback when the board turned down its candidate to fill the vacant “HR Manager” position by a 3-4, for-against, vote. Dissenting votes were cast by McNeal, MacIntyre, Perkins, and Relerford – an FBOE quartet of panelists that has coalesced into an identifiable voting bloc.

In the end, the oft-heard protestations of MacIntyre about a bloated central administration, including a “top-heavy” HR department, won the day. “School districts of comparable size don’t have all these positions,” she said.

Following the rejection, Jones told the board that the HR Manager position would not be filled.

Resignations of two central administrators

It was announced at the FBOE’s April 12 COW meeting that Latisha Wolf, executive director of finance, had resigned her position April 7. That followed an apparent public-private dustup between Wolf and FBOE Trustee Relerford. “I would like you to address Dr. Wolf tonight,” Relerford said at the board’s March 15 meeting before conspicuously asking Jones about the deadline for renewal/nonrenewal of contracts.

Stephenson and Company’s Scott told the board: “That [Wolf’s resignation] brings grave concerns to me … It’s really important that you get somebody in there.” She said FCS may need to appeal to the MDE for help.

In a document provided EVM by an anonymous source, Sharita Galloway, FCS executive director of human resources, submitted her resignation April 15. Her resignation letter said, in part:

“I have endured endless nights away from my family to stand witness to irrelevant bickering, physical, emotional, verbal violence and abuse at the hands of board members … I, along with others of the executive team have been victims of thrashing to our personal and professional integrity and character without cause or remorse.”

At its March 15 meeting, an FBOE member summoned Galloway to speak about the alleged excessive payout to a former district employee. Jones cautioned against the request: “Not if it’s going to cause her to be ostracized … I’ve been here so many times before.”

Galloway told the FBOE that the board’s $61,000 payout was done “not according to the policy, the procedure, or the process.” [See “MSP investigation” above.]

Galloway’s resignation also follows the FBOE’s very public rejection on April 12 of an “HR Manager” position recommended by FCS central administration. [See “FBOE rejects HR hire” above].

* * * * *

The next meeting of the FBOE is a regular board meeting scheduled to begin at 6:30 p.m. April 19 at Accelerated Learning Academy, 1602 S. Averill Ave., Flint MI 48503. A link is posted at the FCS website to access online viewing; visit; or type Flint Community Schools into the YouTube search engine.

Additional future meetings of the FBOE are: May 10 (Committee of the Whole/COW); May 17; June 14 (COW); June 21.  Check the FCS website for any other FCS meetings open to the public.

EVM Education Beat reporter Harold C. Ford can be reached at

Author: Tom Travis

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