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Friday, February 24, 2012

Parents, Legislative Officials, Community Members demand change at Highland Park School Board meeting

ROJS News Exclusive

In Highland Park, Michigan, concerned parents, community members, advocates and State Senator Burt Johnson convened before their elected school board members on February 22nd in a effort to save public education.

The meeting focused on House Bill 4445, the Distressed District Student Grant and Michigan controversial statue, Public Act #4

In a last ditch effort to save the struggling school Highland Park Public Schools from bankruptcy and pay-less paydays for teachers, H.B. 4445 will allocate $4,000 per pupil to hold together broken pieces of a once top-notch school district, about $10,000 less than what the district currently spends per pupil.

Funds allocated are designed to follow students if they move to buildings in another district, charter schools or remain within Highland Park's current educational facilities. 

Parents expressed a mix of anger and confusion at the school board, who they cited mismanagement has led to a educational crisis point for children of the Highland Park School District (HPSD).

Melissa Ross, who have four children in the district noted immediate change needed for her five children educational needs and the 924 students in Highland Park Public Schools.

"There is trouble in Highland Park School District," Ms. Ross stated. "I have invested in this business. It's my company," Ms. Ross noted. 
"I'm tired of my kids and other kids worried about this district finances when they should be focused on receiving a quality education."
Listen to Highland Park School District Parent Melissa Ross's comments via ROJS News Exclusive Soundfile Recording

Photo Credit-ROJS News 
Highland Park Concerned
Community Members attend
public meeting on P.A. #4 on
February 23rd
State Senator Burt Johnson (D-Highland Park) who addressed a room full of concerned community members at Ford Fieldhouse, prior to the H.P. School Board meeting.

Johnson informed the attendees that Michigan Public Act #4 must be changed to address unique needs in troubled public school board districts similar to Highland Park or cities with a Emergency Manager like Pontiac, Benton Harbor and Flint.

"I had this conversation last night with the State Treasurer (Andy Dillon)," State Senator Johnson stated. "I will say on the record that he admitted to me that we got to change Public Act #4," I said, Andy, we don't have to change it, we have to get rid of it."
Johnson called for a new law emphasizing state government assistance for public school districts or cities on the brink of insolvency, over the ad-hoc power Public Act #4 mandates to Emergency Managers.

Listen to ROJS News Exclusive Soundfile recording of Michigan State Senator Burt Johnson (D-Highland Park) call for a revamping of Public Act #4 at Highland Park community meeting on 2/23

Photo Credit-ROJS News 
Highland Park Concerned
Community Members/Parents
attend H.P. School Board
Meeting on February 23rd
Michelle Cowler, a parent with five students in the district, wants Emergency Manager Jack Martin re-appointment to manage fiscal operations of HPDS.

Martin's Emergency Manager appointment was "deactivated" on February 21st, after Ingham County Circuit Court Chief Judge William Collette found six days earlier, the state-appointed financial review board recommending his appointment by Gov. Rick Snyder for the district to be in conflict with Michigan's Open Meetings Act #267 of 1976.

Despite legal precedent, Ms. Cowler stated that Emergency Manager Martin's appointment was necessary to set Highland Park Public Schools on the path of solvency and providing a proper educational setting for students
"Yes, (Martin) came into the schools. He met with the parents on the first day. When you called he answered. He didn't close you out. The board members was humbled when he (Martin) was here," Ms. Cowler stated.
Photo Credit-ROJS News 
Parent request to address
concerns at the H.P. School
Board Meeting on 2/23
Prior to Emergency Manager Martin's appointment, Cowler stressed Highland Park Public School cramped classroom conditions, lack of involvement from elected school board members and the district superintendent Edith Hightower to deliver students a quality learning environment.
"Kids was sitting in the classroom on the floor, 55 students in a classroom," Ms. Cowler noted. "When he got here, (Martin) had the classroom changed, hired a new teacher, the kids had more space, the superintendent was coming in the schools more, the board members were coming; and as soon as (Martin) left, they're back to normal again."
Listen to Highland Park School District parent Michelle Cowler Exclusive Soundcloud file interview with ROJS News on 2/23 

Photo Credit-ROJS News 
State Senator Burt Johnson
at Ford Fieldhouse community
Meeting in Highland Park on
State Senator Burt Johnson, asked community members at the Ford Fieldhouse event to follow him to the scheduled HPSB Meeting on 2/23, in session on Sears Street. Upon arrival, State Sen. Johnson inquired if the HPSB voted to allow the state to reappoint a Emergency Manager back to the school district.
"I understand that you all asked for a Emergency Manager to come back to the district," State Senator Johnson stated. "Voting to do anything that gives them (State Government) any matter of a victory....they are on their heels about a misguided and unconstitutional law."
Photo Credit-ROJS News
State Senator Burt Johnson
addresses the Highland Park
School Board on 2/23
Highland Park School Board President John Holloway, refused to directly answer State Senator Johnson's query, instead citing state law mandates HPSB to accept a Emergency Manager appointment. Johnson disagreed with the board's action.
"This is not about this board. This is not about Public Act #4. This is not about any of the stuff we're arguing about. It's about were they are trying to take this city and a number of other small on-caves," State Sen. Johnson stated. 
"What you'll represent is the first leg of the fight that is to merge this city into Detroit. (By this vote) you have given this (fight) over into their hands."
Interviewing with a pool of reporters at the HPSB meeting, State Senator Johnson stated Highland Park's district's teachers' "pay-less payday" on Friday, February 25th, would be reconfigured allowing paycheck to possibly arrive on Tuesday, February 28th; provided Gov. Snyder sign the Distressed District Student Grant proposal, H.B. 4445.
"What happen today in Lansing with respect to the new legislation passing enact a new act that would allow them to get paid. They'll probably be paid by Tuesday," State Senator Johnson stated.
Photo Credit-ROJS News 
State Senator Johnson answers
pool reporters questions at H.P.
School Board meeting 2/23
On Public Act #4, Johnson cited state government laws shouldn't seek to replace Democracy for cities, school boards and public school districts, as a whole.
"We you do have to have some level of state intervention. The state treasurer and the state of Michigan does have some level of fiduciary responsibly to oversee this. So you do have to have people at the hem that know what they're doing," Johnson cited. 
Johnson noted Public Act #4 consolidation effect, combining the election process along with joining separated by the Michigan Constitution Executive and Legislative branches of government, in the actions of a Emergency Manager doesn't allow for a functioning Democracy state of affairs
"But, these are democratically held elections. And there are opportunities to get people out the way, when you don't believe they serve you interest," Johnson noted. " 
"You can't replace Democracy, by simply believing that you take the legislative and executive branches of government, consolidate them and call that Democracy."
Listen Exclusively to State Senator Burt Johnson entire interview with Pool Reporters & ROJS News attending HPSB meeting

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