Flint, MI— The Flint Community Schools Board of Education voted down a data-sharing agreement with Michigan State University that provides programming to the district during a board meeting March 16. 

The data, which would include student academics and teacher information, would be used to evaluate the effectiveness of MSU’s Fellowship of Instructional Leaders. The fellowship provides professional development and coaching to Flint teachers at no cost to Flint schools. Superintendent Kevelin Jones said the district has been participating in the program, funded by the Charles Stewart Mott Foundation, for years. 

“When we have our fellowships, when they meet with principals, they’re able to share this data,” Jones said. “They get to pull data to support our principals, with their presentations and their work as well.” 

But some board members said they didn’t need to share data. 

 “We know what’s the problem, what’s wrong with this community, we don’t need data. We know what’s the problem wrong with the schools, we don’t need data. And it’s kind of heartbreaking. Every time I open up the paper, I’m hearing somebody had gathered some negative data. It’s never positive,” Vice President Joyce-Ellis McNeal said. 

Treasurer Laura MacIntyre and Trustee Carol McIntosh agreed with McNeal. 

“Now, let me reiterate my stance in case in case it’s not perfectly clear: this is the Flint Community School District. This is not a special project of the Mott Foundation or partners. Our students are not guinea pigs to be experimented on,” MacIntyre said. 

The motion failed 7-0. Jones said that while the district will continue working with MSU, it will look different moving forward. 

“It doesn’t prevent the program from happening, it just makes it a little bit more difficult for them to work with student data,” Jones said. “They can work with us for pulling the data to support and be prepared to work with principals and teachers, it’s going to be a little bit more difficult.”

Board members expressed similar concerns over a Memorandum of Understanding with Central Michigan University’s Gear-Up Program, a pre-college initiative that introduces students to different career paths, provides professional development to teachers, and coordinates college visits. The program is free to the district. 

“Once again, we have this program, which I don’t disagree has some benefits,” MacIntyre said. “An MOU is required to receive the service along with the data sharing agreement to collect the following data. So again, our scholars, their data, is being harvested by yet another institution.”  

The motion passed 5-2 with MacIntyre and Assistant Secretary/Treasurer Chris Del Morone casting dissenting votes. 

The board’s next meeting is scheduled for April 13 at Accelerated Learning Academy located 1602 S. Averill Ave., Flint for 6:30 p.m. 

Carmen Nesbitt is a journalist with diverse experience in news reporting and feature writing. She wrote for Hour Detroit and SEEN Magazine before joining the Flint Beat news team as an education and public...