It is heartbreaking to witness the unfolding scandal at Muskegon Heights [MI] Public Schools. The breathtaking mismanagement has inflicted long-term damage on students, the community and the staff of the school system.
More than anything, this sad situation developed due to a lack of leadership in the school district. When it came time to pitch in to help bail water out of the sinking ship, Superintendent Dana Bryant “accidentally” fell into the lifeboat of a taxpayer-funded pension in the middle of the current school year. How much is that pension, you ask? We don’t know. That’s apparently none of the taxpayers’ business. If this is any indication, his annual compensation package totaled $185,082 when he abruptly retired.
Bryant is Muskegon Heights’ own Francesco Schettino, the captain of the Italian cruise ship that recently ran aground. Instead of saving lives, Schettino reported “fell” into a lifeboat to save himself. He has rightly earned global scorn for his cowardice and dereliction of duty.
Is Bryant really any better?
Make no mistake, this is a multi-year problem that festered under Bryant’s watch. Instead of sounding the alarm and asking for help, Bryant and his school board apparently didn’t know how to deal the problem, or worse, chose to look the other way.
The mismanagement was widespread. According to a recent Muskegon Chronicle story, interim district managers are “trying to hold off creditors, deal with a school utility shut-off notice, satisfy state requirements to eliminate the district’s debt, negotiate concessions with staff, cajole the state to keep per-pupil aid flowing, recommend cost-saving measures to the school board and deal with serious facility needs.”
What a remarkable failure. After all, in the 2009-2010 school year, Muskegon Heights received $15,013.21 per student – the most of any district in Muskegon County. Income was not the problem.
Add on top of that the truly dismal academic record of the district. Recent data published by the district shows that 6.8% of 11th graders are proficient in reading and writing while only 2.2% of those same students are proficient in math. Let those numbers sink in – they’re worse than any in Detroit Public Schools.