Flint, MI—Several Flint Community Schools Board of Education members are calling for more transparency from the Flint Community Schools’ administration on the district’s finances and a potential $340 million plan to revitalize FCS and eliminate their staggering deficit.
Concerns arose at an April 21 board meeting after news of the plan, detailed in a draft of a Memorandum of Understanding entitled the Flint Education Continuum, was made public only hours before. Board members said details of the plan came at a surprise.
“I am speaking as an individual board member, not as the board, but I’m dismayed with the fact that this is the eighth iteration of an MOU that I’ve only just now seen starting last week,” Flint Board of Education Treasurer Laura MacIntyre said.
The MOU—a nonbinding agreement between entities — details a collaboration between the State of Michigan, the City of Flint, the Charles Stewart Mott Foundation, and several other organizations. The document describes a multi-tiered plan that would involve building five new school buildings, fighting blight in surrounding neighborhoods, and partnering with local organizations to work with Flint students.
In total, contributions from various agencies add up to $340 million.
Flint Beat obtained the document earlier this week, but the board and administration have held no public meetings that discussed the partnerships, financial contributions, or the development of the plan.
President Carol McIntosh told board members she received the MOU on April 17 and immediately dispersed it to the board.
“I want my board to understand, I am here to support this district. I am not here for sly dog moves. I don’t have a dog in this fight, other than to make my community proud,” McIntosh said.
The surprise MOU comes on the heels of mounting frustrations by board members who have been waiting months for administration to provide information on the district’s deficit elimination strategy.
FCS currently faces a $18 million deficit, largely due to declining enrollment and losses in funding. Since 2009, student enrollment has decreased by 70% and the district has been unable to downsize fast enough, causing severe budget problems.
Over the course of two “budget workshops” on Jan. 28 and Feb. 4, Deputy Director of Finance Ayunna Dompreh presented information about the district’s financial situation and informed board members that a deficit elimination plan was a state-imposed requirement.
To better inform their decision, board members requested an enrollment study, a program study, facility assessments, and appraisals for 22 buildings currently sitting vacant.
At subsequent board meetings through Feb. and March, Dompreh said she was working with Treasury to approve the request and determine what company would perform the appraisals and evaluations. Superintendent Anita Steward also said Director of Operations William Chapman was seeking pricing for updated appraisals on all of FCS’ facilities.
On Feb. 10, McIntosh announced that she was working with the district’s lawyer Kendall Williams concerning the sale of the vacant properties.
“I did express to Kendall, for the record to the board, that all vacant properties be listed and I’m waiting on the updated appraisal…. I’d like to know what it’s worth. So, I was hoping could see something like that before we start actually selling, disposing of buildings,” McIntosh said.
By April, board members said they still did not have their questions answered.
“There’s a lot of things that need to be addressed….we were talking about the properties; we’re supposed to have an evaluation on these properties and there’s a lot of questions on the appraisal on the property. There’s questions on our funding. So, we’re, as a board, kind of left in the dark. Where are we going with this? And who are we talking to?” Assistant Secretary/Treasurer Joyce Ellis-McNeal said at a committee of the whole meeting on April 14.
At the meeting, Dompreh announced that she would be presenting an MOU to the board in May but revealed no further details.
“I am still having conversations with Treasury. And we are getting ready to have an MOU that we will get together and I will bring forth to you all in May to say that they’re going to give us funding to get the enrollment studies and facility assessments, and program utilizations, and building utilizations that we asked for,” Dompreh said.
As to why the administration has made little mention of the MOU while the board has been tasked with developing a deficit elimination plan for months is a matter of transparency, Secretary Danielle Green said.
“It’s not a breakdown of communication, because we’re talking. But when we’re talking, you’re not being transparent. You’re not being completely honest,” Green said, adding that she feels her direct questions are met with “side-stepped” answers and policy explanations.
Green also voiced hesitation about the draft, explaining that it was similar to a proposal presented in 2019 by President and CEO of the Mott Foundation Ridgway White at a meeting in Lansing. At the time, it was suggested that FCS rent the buildings from Mott.
However, the most recent draft states that FCS would own all buildings. Green and other board members requested to see past iterations of the MOU to compare.
“It is always our goal to operate in the spirit of transparency. First and foremost,” McIntosh said. “I have nothing to hide…I’m here to make sure your children and the parents in this community get the help and the support they need.”
Other items of note from Wednesday’s board meeting
- Board members approved the adoption of a rapid antigen testing program to be offered to students and staff
- The district’s contract with Sodexo, a food service provider has been renewed for $3,378,319
- The district has renewed their contract with Edlio, a website content management system, for $27,000