Special Topic: Status of the Flint Community Schools
Two Interviews addressing the topic
Journalist, Retired Educator
September 1, 2021
Partner in The Harvard Group, Former Communications Researcher with Luntz Global Partners, and Current Harvard Graduate School Student
September 8, 2021
We’ve been trying to keep tabs on the steadily evolving situation with the Flint Schools in general and the Flint Central/Whittier complex, in particular. It’s not been an easy task. It seems as though every day is a new bit of drama. In fact it’s entirely likely that by the time you read these words there will have been even more changes and news altering the narrative in substantive ways.
But here’s our best crack at capturing the story so far:
First Ian Shetron and his Harvard Group jumped in last spring with an eye-popping offer of 51 million dollars to save and repurpose the entire Flint Central/Whittier complex. That received tepid receptivity by the Flint School Board. But it didn’t last.
As soon as the Federal government announced over 100 million in Covid relief, the Board grew very cold to the Harvard group plan. Apparently the thinking was they could use that to rebuild the schools - or at least some schools. That's just speculative because that wouldn’t have been near enough to make a dent in all or even most of the schools' problems. Then, when it came out that most of that 100 million wouldn’t even be allowed to be used (as some already understood) to "sort of" rebuild an entire school district.
Enter in to the drama Ridgeway White and the Mott Foundation. White created a now locally famous Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) that he shared with the Superintendent of Flint Schools, and reportedly several Board members. Just like the Harvard Group proposal there was receptivity - at first. That hardly seemed like a shock since the Mott Foundation was offering up a ‘no strings attached’ capital stack of nearly half a BILLION dollars. Who would turn that down? Well the Flint School Board - that’s who. They did it with emphasis too, hurling negative monikers and accusations at both White and the Foundation in a shocking (to some) open meeting. It made zero sense. As usual.
White subsequently threatened to pull some funding that was already being provided until he received a proper audience to accept his largesse, but that led to immediate threats of protests happening at the Mott Foundation Building. Which in turn led White to reverse his decision the next day, and apologize, reinstating the funding he had threatened to pull. Still, no takers for his half a billion. If all of this sounds utterly insane to you, that’s because it is.
Meanwhile, back at the ranch, the schools are struggling in ancient and decrepit buildings to even find teachers to teach and habitable classrooms to house them in.
Classes have been repeatedly cancelled this year due to excessive heat, and that in turns threatens head counts and funding. Then, it was announced that Doyle Ryder school was being shut down because of dangerous mold. And before anyone could even react to that the story it was announced that Superintendent Anita Steward was going on ‘leave’ after a special meeting held to review her performance. According to Flintbeat.com, “This was after the Board issued a verbal warning to her for running a “hostile administration.” Again, according to Flintbeat.com, “The Board also barred her from speaking to community partners without the presence of the Board President or their designee, citing transparency concerns.”
Then, it was announced that not only was Steward leaving, along with two other Board members, she was also suing the Board. It’s confusing, and opaque, as it so often is with the Flint School Board. Meanwhile the student population continue to plummet, which portends even more budget problems to come.
To help us try to make sense of this we invited two key players in this drama in to speak to us. Harold Ford is a journalist with the East Village Magazine, he’s been following this story closely since it began. He is a self proclaimed ‘Progressive’ former educator with over 40 years experience teaching mostly at Flint Beecher including a short stint at Flint Central. He’s a passionate advocate for both kids and the community.
We also asked Ian Shetron to join us again. Ian is a political conservative, with a professional background in business communications, a Flushing native and graduate of Flint Powers Catholic high school. He is taking a break from his professional career to get a Masters Degree at Harvard, and is the leader of the Harvard Group, and the efforts to infuse 51 million in to potentially saving Flint Central High School.
Although they come at this story from very different political, professional, generational, and life experiences, they both agree on one very important thing--none of this makes any sense. But we’ll let them do the talking and you can listen and decide for yourself if it’s Rod Serling time (younger folks feel free to Google him) or not.
It’s a unique two-for-one dose of Fish and The Flint Chronicles!