MUSKEGON HEIGHTS, Mich. — Since 2012, the Muskegon Heights Public School Academy System has been managing itself, and according to its superintendent Rane Garcia, they’ve shown progress in a few areas, like raising its teacher retention rate from 50 percent to 95 percent.
However, Wednesday afternoon, the advisory group -- the Receivership Transition Advisory Board -- voted to withdraw. It's a move that may lead to PSA's old overseers, the Muskegon Heights Public School Board, to regain control again.
“We want to be that oversight board that we’re supposed to be," said board president Trinnell Scott during a Zoom interview on Wednesday before the vote. "The Michigan Schools Code was written by state legislators because of issues like this, right? What makes our district different from any other district when it comes to being authorizers? You have authorizers like GVSU and so forth, and they have the right to be oversight over those charter schools. We just want the same rights.”
The state initially stripped the board of its rights years ago due to financial concerns and multi-million dollar debt. Since then, the schools were run by Mosaica Education Inc., but they left just after a few years because “they couldn’t turn a profit,” Garcia said.
Meanwhile, the state put in place RTAB, to help the old board with its debt, which Scott said they’ve been reducing.
“We’re fulfilling all of the obligations according to our Deficit Elimination Plan. We’re working our way back to control. We’re continuously paying down our debt. We have a surplus in our fund balance. We’ve been fiscally responsible,” Scott said. “We are elected officials. The people elected us to do a job, and we’re trying to do that job as being that oversight. But we can't do the job that we’re required to do if we have the RTAB in place.”
Wednesday evening, RTAB withdrew. And, according to PSA's press release the governor will decide the fate of the group, which'll determine what's next.
“If I had my magic wand, I would say that there would be a method to dig in deep into what’s been happening, to look at the progress, and then to develop a strategic plan together,” Garcia said during an interview before the vote. “Next year is the 100th anniversary of the schools in Muskegon Heights. So, the 2021–22 school year should be a year of celebration for us. It’s a year to develop a new strategic plan, moving forward.”