Flint, MI—The Flint Community Schools (FCS) Board of Education has approved a set of strategic priorities for the next six months.
At a Wednesday, March 15, 2023, meeting, the Board of Education voted 5-2 to authorize a 9-point plan that outlines the most pressing issues for the Board, with trustees Melody Relerford and Laura MacIntyre voting against it.
Among several amendments to a proposed plan, which was first presented by FCS Superintendent Kevelin Jones earlier this month, is the additional priority to expand FCS early childhood education.
Jones said the 6-month focus plan is intended to help “move the needle of the work” and refocus the Board on the immediate priorities of FCS.
“We cannot do everything at the same time,” he told Board members. “That’s currently what’s going on in an operational deficit district, in a district where we do not have enough staff to do our work.”
For Terae King Jr., the Board vice president, the most critical items include the spending of Flint Schools’ third round of COVID dollars, known as ESSER III funds, and gathering community feedback. On the latter issue, the administration is aiming to launch a satisfaction survey for students, families and staff by the end of the school year.
“Flint Schools need to do better in marketing, need to do better in engaging the community, because you can’t be Flint Community Schools without community,” King told Flint Beat, adding that as a first step, the district could consider creating a mobile app for parent notifications.
In the meantime, Relerford said she is “really cognizant” on what she votes on. It’s a matter of interpretation, but the Trustee said she would have voted to “accept” the amended plan rather than to “approve” it.
“When you come to the Board and the Board approves something, that settles it,” she said in an interview. “What you submit to the Board, you can’t make any changes to it when they approve it, unless there is an appeal within 30 days.”
That said, Jones assured the Board that the actions outlined in the plan, for instance possibly closing a school, would still require the Board’s further votes as they weigh on acting on those items.
Beyond the initial eight focus areas proposed by the administration, Michael Clack, the Board president, said building upon the district’s early childhood education would help recruit more students into Flint Schools.
But in order to increase the district’s enrollment, Clack said the Board also has to achieve several things in lockstep, ranging from increasing teachers’ wages and addressing its vacant properties to rightsizing the district, all of which will help build the community’s confidence with the district.
“We’ve got to get trust back with the community,” he told Flint Beat. “We have to get parents to trust the Flint Community Schools and the Board, because there’s been so much distrust over the years.”
Meanwhile, MacIntyre said in an interview that she rejected the plan given that “there wasn’t sufficient discussion and explanation for some of the items that had been noted.”
For Claudia Perkins, the Board secretary, building respect between Board members is one of her top priorities, and that’s a work in progress, she explained.
“We need to be getting along so that we can get on the same page and do the right things for everybody,” Perkins told Flint Beat.
With two different boards in the last two years, alongside various changes to its leadership, Jones wrote in a March 3 correspondence to the Board that “we have not been able to establish how we will communicate to ensure a positive climate and culture amongst us, that has been consistent.”
So, improving communication not only among Board members, but also between the Board and the administration is key to making progress on the host of issues the district is facing, Perkins explained.
All in all, Clack called for unity among trustees so that the Board can help advance the district’s future.
“There’s not one day that we can afford to just be wasted with frivolous arguments and infighting,” he said. “We’ve got all these things that need to be done.”