Flint, MI—State and county authorities are raising concerns over the Flint Community Schools (FCS) Board and recent resignations among the district’s leadership team.
In a letter dated May 3, 2023, Michigan State Superintendent Michael Rice and Steven Tunnicliff, superintendent of the Genesee Intermediate School District (GISD), addressed the FCS Board of Education directly.
“We are very concerned that, in the last six weeks, three senior FCS staff members—your chief financial officer, your human resources director, and your assistant superintendent—have tendered their resignations,” the letter reads.
Rice and Tunnicliff cited the body’s April 12 meeting minutes and Flint Beat’s reporting on the former executive director of human resources and outgoing assistant superintendent’s concerns, which “indicate that all three [leaders] have expressed reservations with the board’s involvement in their work and their inability to perform their roles in support of Flint’s scholars and staff as a result.”
Further, Rice and Tunnicliff wrote: “The impact on the district and district operations cannot be overstated.”
In an emailed statement, Tunnicliff said spring is when school districts have a series of key operational tasks to be accomplished.
Those tasks include finalizing the current year’s budget and preparing for the 2023 to 2024 budget, which must be approved by the Board come June 30, he explained. Other tasks include finalizing and reconciling grants as well as determining staffing levels, necessary recruiting efforts and state-required reporting.
“These are significant responsibilities for all school districts at this point of the school year,” he said. “In other words, in my opinion, there may not be a worse time for a district to lose key administrative staff in such highly specialized roles.”
Flint Schools Board President Michael Clack did not return Flint Beat’s requests for comment on the letter, and Board Vice President Joyce Ellis-McNeal declined to comment.
On GISD’s part, Tunnicliff said it is providing Flint Schools with part-time support in business operations, and its staff is also meeting with Kevelin Jones, the FCS superintendent, to offer guidance and potential support in human resources and grant management.
However, Tunnicliff and Rice wrote in the letter, “GISD does not have sufficient capacity to fulfill all of these roles on a long-term basis, and FCS certainly doesn’t want this level of support to continue indefinitely.”
In an emailed statement, Superintendent Jones said: “We continue to work together alongside our partners at the Michigan Department of Education and Genesee Intermediate School District to best serve our school community amid key departures in our administration.”
He added that the district has started discussions about filling the three positions and thanked GISD and the state for their support.
Rice and Tunnicliff’s letter also urged the Board to “engage collectively” with Jones in regular governance training.
“The need for this training has become more apparent with the swift departure or pending departure of key leadership team members at a time that the district can ill afford a lack of continuity in its operations,” they wrote.
The pair added that Flint Schools has lost more than 5,400 students, or roughly two-thirds of its enrollment, over the past decade. The high turnover of superintendents and administration also hinders its ability to attract and retain educators, they noted.
FCS Board Trustee Terae King Jr. said the letter gives much needed direction for the Board.
“It affirms what I’ve been trying to convey to my colleagues,” King said, which he explained as an importance for all board members to understand their roles and get ongoing governance training with the superintendent.
Board Secretary Claudia Perkins did not respond to Flint Beat’s requests for comment by press time, and Laura MacIntyre, the Board’s assistant treasurer/secretary, said she’d only comment if Flint Beat disclosed how it obtained Rice and Tunnicliff’s letter.
Trustee Melody Relerford said she did not wish to comment until she gets the chance to discuss Rice and Tunnicliff’s concerns with them.
When asked about his main takeaway from the letter, Treasurer Dylan Luna said that the Board must work towards being “laser-focused on governance and collaboration.”
Luna added that he looks forward to any opportunities to partner with stakeholders to improve student achievement and move Flint Schools forward.
After a state evaluation, the Michigan Department of Education is now finalizing a partnership agreement with Flint Schools, its teachers’ union and GISD to improve student outcomes at FCS.
Tunnicliff said governance training has already been identified by Flint Schools’ Board and superintendent in that agreement. But, he noted, he believes “the recent events only exacerbate the sense of urgency with which such training should be embraced.”
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