Education Beat Analysis: Flint School panel counters “we are the best board” after state superintendent warns there are too many buildings, financial crisis on horizon  

By Harold C. Ford

A takeaway that emerged from the Nov. 8 (Committee of the Whole or COW) and Nov. 15 (regular board meeting) meetings of the Flint Board of Education (FBOE):

Link to Nov. 8 meeting

Link to Nov. 15 meeting

Michigan Superintendent of Instruction Michael Rice told the board that the Flint Community Schools (FCS)  has too many buildings for too few students, that the flush of COVID-era cash will soon disappear, and, without rightsizing the school district, the district is likely headed for a financial crisis.

State superintendent delivers sobering message

The Nov. 8 assessments of Rice, Michigan’s top education official, were gently delivered, but the foreboding nature of his commentary was hard to miss. The major points of his commentary follow:

Michael Rice, Michigan superintendent of public instruction (Photo by Mark Bugnaski, The Detroit News)

  1. FCS has too many buildings for too few students.
  • “Having too many facilities busts the budget … That should give you substantial pause.”
  • “It [too many facilities] adversely affects your teacher staffing.”
  • “The more you spread out your buildings, the more you’re going to inefficiently staff [the buildings].”
  • “I urge you to expedite the structural balance … including expediting right-sized school space.”
  • “Some of these buildings were not meant to be here a hundred years later … They need to be replaced.”
  • “You do not need 11 schools.”
  1. FCS needs to increase its student enrollment.
  1. The FCS financial profile, currently buoyed by ESSER/COVID-relief funding, will soon revert to a pre-pandemic status of annual deficits and long-term debt when that funding disappears if adjustments are not undertaken.
  • “Recurring revenue [has to be greater than] “recurring expenditures.”
  • ESSER funds are “nonrecurring revenue” … [they make the financial picture] “appear better, but that’s illusory.”
  • “Your fund balance will dissipate … in 2024-25.”
  • Rice predicted “a $14 million gap (or) structural deficit between recurring revenue and recurring expenditures” if changes are not made.
  • “The projections are sobering.”
  • “It’s about cutting and growing.”
  1. Rice made clear that FCS needs to improve its financial profile, elevate student academic performance, and that the two are linked.
  • “If you don’t have control over your finances … you can’t have control over your academics.”
  • “Board, you need to accelerate your progress both financially and academically.”
  • Finally, Rice urged a more independent role for the FCS superintendent, free from unnecessary oversight by FBOE members.
  • “Leave the day-to-day running of your school district to your very capable superintendent.”
  • “Leave the day-to-day operations to him [Kevelin Jones, FCS superintendent] and his staff.”

“We are what we need”

The response of FCS officials to Rice’s remarks at the Nov. 8 meeting were immediate and self-congratulatory:

  • Joyce Ellis-McNeal, FBOE vice president: McNeal lauded the potential of a strategic plan. “We’re not done with the strategic plan,” she said. “I urge … that we keep moving forward the way we going.”
  • Melody Relerford, trustee: Relerford noted that five of seven FBOE members became “board-certified” in January. “We all take our positions very seriously … [the Flint superintendent] has learned to trust us as well as we trust him … This is the best board for Flint Community Schools … We’re a lot better … We are what we need.”

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  • Laura MacIntyre, assistant secretary/treasurer: MacIntyre metaphorically pointed an accusing figure at the impact of charter schools. “We’re forced to deal with … an assault on public education … the number of charter schools,” she said, “whether we like them or not.”
  • Claudia Perkins, FBOE secretary: “This is a very progressive board,” Perkins said. “We have learned to work together … I believe Flint is going to be the comeback kid.”
  • Terae King, trustee: King lauded new public relations initiatives in FCS. “The social media is on fire,” he said. “The board, we had rough times,” King added, “but we’re doing an awesome job.”
  • Kevelin Jones, FCS superintendent: “We are taking care of Flint,” Jones said. “We are going to do our best to ensure that the scholars that are coming … have a brighter future.”

YouTube recording of Nov. 8 FBOE meeting can be viewed at this link.

“We do great things.”

Seven days later at the FBOE’s Nov. 15 meeting, the praise fest continued:

  • Michael Clack, FBOE president: “Board, thank you for all of our hard work … I’m proud of you all.”
  • Perkins: “I don’t want anybody to think we aren’t on top of this stuff, because we are … We are very much involved … to make Flint a better place in every area … We’re doing so many things to try to bring Flint back.”
  • King: King acknowledged FCS student success at a health care program as an example of “…great things our district is doing. We do great things.”
  • MacIntyre: “We’re all doing our part,” said MacIntyre as she threw verbal bouquets in the direction of nearly everyone. To King: “Gratitude … for doing a lot with school safety.” To Luna: “for invaluable information you bring to the board.” To Perkins: “for just being you with all your union [and] legislative expertise.” To McNeal “You’re just basically a rock.” To Clack: “You’re being very presidential.”  To Relerford: “You are on it.” To Jones: “Every day and every week you’re more ‘superintendenty.’”

YouTube recording of Nov. 8 FBOE meeting can be viewed at this link.

Thus, in the remaining one hour and 22 minutes of the Nov. 8 meeting following Rice’s sobering presentation, and the one hour and 53 minutes of the Nov. 15 meeting a week later – 3.3 hours of public meeting time in all – not a single substantive word by any member of the FBOE directly addressed any of the major points made by Michigan’s top education official.

No further actions to rightsize district after Oct. 5

As reported earlier by East Village Magazine (EVM), the FBOE agreed to close two of its 11 buildings – Pierce in 2024-25 and Neithercut in 2025-26 – at an Oct. 5 special meeting. Attempts to close Eisenhower and the district’s Administration Building were turned down.

No further action(s) to rightsize its building lineup were undertaken at the FBOE’s four subsequent meetings: Oct. 11 and 18; Nov. 8 and 15.

An analysis of building closures by EVM found that previous Flint school boards had closed 45 buildings in 41 years from 1976 to 2017.  But not a single building has been closed in the past six years – 2017-2023 – even though the district has continued to experience a dramatic decline in student enrollment. 


On Nov. 13 – sandwiched between the Nov. 8 and Nov. 15 meetings of the FBOE – Grand Rapids public school officials announced the closing of 10 of its buildings in the next five years due to declining enrollment.

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The next two meetings of the FBOE are scheduled back-to-back on the evening of Dec. 13, starting at 6:30 p.m., at Accelerated Learning Academy, 1602 South Averill Ave., Flint. Interested persons can join the meeting online at the following link:

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

Author: Tom Travis

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