Flint, MI—Flint Community Schools (FCS) officials have set their sights on a list of eight strategic priorities for the next six months.
At a Wednesday, March 8, 2023, meeting, the Board of Education unanimously voted to advance an 8-point plan presented by Kevelin Jones, the district’s superintendent, for a final vote at its meeting next week. The plan lays out the top items for the Board focus on, which range from academics, staffing, communications and COVID-19 relief spending to funding for building new schools.
Terae King Jr., the Board vice president, welcomed the plan to refocus on the district’s top priorities.
“We have been everywhere,” King told fellow board members. “This is a good start for us to dive deep. These are … transformational things for our students in our buildings.”
Further, the proposed priorities help provide a roadmap towards achieving the district’s 5-year strategic plan, according to Dylan Luna, Board treasurer.
They allow for the Board to “give our feedback and our direction, and then check in to make sure what we set forth is being followed,” Luna said during the meeting.
Here’s a more detailed look on the 8-point plan:
1. ESSER III dollars
Flint Schools has until Sept. 30, 2024, to spend its third round of COVID-19 relief funding, also known as ESSER III funds.
Jones told Flint Beat that the current priority lies in spending the district’s ESSER III funds prior to the 2024 deadline, such as authorizing spending for construction projects.
“If we’re constantly talking about all these other priorities and we’re not focused in on spending that money and how we’re going to do it, then we’ll never get there,” Jones said in an interview.
Overall, the district has over $99.4 million in ESSER III dollars, with about 13.5% of these funds spent as of Jan. 31, 2023, according to district documents.
2. A partnership agreement with state, county authorities
District officials have been working away at a partnership agreement to boost students’ academic achievement, following a state evaluation.
The evaluation flagged seven low-performing schools in FCS to be covered by the agreement between FCS, the Michigan Department of Education and the Genesee Intermediate School District, though Jones has previously emphasized that the district is focused on improving outcomes at all 11 of its schools.
The deadline to sign the agreement is April 17.
3. A plan for the next 5 to 10 years
From addressing staff shortages and increasing enrollment to closing buildings, the superintendent is aiming to form a proposal to achieve these goals. It’s a “plan for a sustainable future,” Jones wrote to the Board in a correspondence prior to the meeting.
When it comes to shutting down schools, he noted that “this plan will lead to building closures based on the study and expert support that will be completed. A district with roughly 3,000 scholars should not run 11 school buildings, as you know.”
4. Financial support from the Mott Foundation and others to construct new schools
Even with plans for closures, the administration also hopes to build new schools for students. Flint Schools’ discussion with the Charles Stewart Mott Foundation regarding this vision has begun, Jones said, but pursuing other funding opportunities is crucial as well.
“We’re going to need more support,” he told Flint Beat.
Building a new high school costs much more now than it did a few years ago due to inflation, he explained. The superintendent said it would currently cost roughly $190 million, up from about $90 million, when talks with the Mott Foundation regarding such an opportunity first began in 2017.
“I don’t think that you can solely put all your eggs in one basket and neither does the Mott Foundation feel as though they can possibly take on everything,” Jones said.
Digitizing personnel files, creating an employee handbook and addressing the teacher union’s demand for a wage reopener are all part of the district’s priorities when it comes to staffing, according to Jones’ correspondence with the Board.
With a years-long freeze in advancing teachers’ pay based on their years of service, the United Teachers of Flint has been seeking to renegotiate the salary scale under their current bargaining agreement. Doing so requires the Board’s go-ahead.
“I just need to know what the Board wants to do,” Jones said in an interview.
With respect to the employee handbook, he wrote to the Board that it’s something “FCS has never had to our knowledge for our employees.”
The handbook would be crafted for staff such as executive assistants and data technicians, Jones told Flint Beat.
6. Communication between the Board and the administration
The superintendent hopes to create proper channels of communication between the Board, himself and the rest of the administration, given the “communication issues” with how the Board seeks information from his team, Jones said.
“We need a system established so that we’re not all over the place, and currently, we’re all over the place,” he said. “I need the Board to determine with me what will that look like.”
To help maintain timelines of the district’s renovations and upgrades, Jones called for the Board to authorize changes to its renovations plans as they arise.
The district’s work in this area includes planned restorations of parking lots at seven schools and replacement of furniture across all 11 schools. Meanwhile, renovations of the auditorium of Potter Elementary School and Doyle-Ryder Elementary School are underway.
8. A satisfaction survey
Flint Schools aims to create a satisfaction survey for staff and families, an online survey that would be completed by the end of the school year, according to Jones’ correspondence with the Board.
Taken together, Jones wrote that the 8-point, 6-month plan aims to “move the needle in our district.”
He added, “Where we are, did not happen overnight, and it will not be fixed overnight. We are still discovering years of negative impacts in our systems, communications and management, since the early 2000s. However, we can make an impact if we can agree to focus on some priorities rather than all at once.”
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