Highland Park Schools Employees Could Go Unpaid As Emergency Manager Process Restarts
Highland Park Schools employees likely will not receive their paychecks this Friday, as the district's financial emergency process restarts in the wake of a recent court ruling.
Michigan Gov. Rick Sndyer claims only $40,000 dollars remain in the school district's bank account and said he could not "rationalize" offering state funds to bail out the district under its current leadership, the Associated Press reports.
Highland Park Schools are currently under the leadership of the district's elected school board and superintendent, after Snyder removed the district's Emergency Manager Jack Martin Tuesday because of the court ruling.
Ingham County Circuit Court Judge William Collette found an earlier recommendation by the district's state-appointed financial review team to instate an emergency manager was "null and void" because the board did not follow the state's Open Meetings Act.
The Highland Park Schools review team reconvened for a public meeting Wednesday afternoon to comply with the legal decision that invalidated their earlier closed-door sessions. Members of the 10-member board quickly reiterated their earlier conclusion that the district needed an emergency manager.
They also offered an update on the districts finances, noting the district's several recent failures to meet payroll and continued inability to pay outside vendors.
The sparsely-attended public meeting attracted only a couple comments from the audience.
Marie Thornton, a former Detroit Public Schools board member, claimed that any action by the review team was invalidated by Collette's ruling and that the entire review process should restart.
State Treasury Spokesman Terry Stanton later clarified the state's interpretation of the ruling that found the the board merely "needed to reenact its process of reaching its conclusion."
Two Highland Park students voiced their concerns that they would need to repeat a year of school because of the power struggle over the district's future.
Parent Melissa Ross told the review team that she simply wanted teachers to be paid and for the schools to resume their usual routine.
"If you've got to put in an emergency manager, do it," she said. "But by any means necessary fix this situation."
Highland Park School District President John Holloway told The Huffington Post the only thing the review team did in the open meeting "was rehash what they said before."
Asked if an emergency manager could be appointed before the district's Friday payday, Stanton, the Treasury spokesman, said doing so "would probably be very difficult, timewise."
The financial review team must now resubmit its recommendation to the governor. If Snyder agrees with the findings, he must send a letter notifying the district. The school board will then have seven days to request a hearing.
District Superintendent Edith Hightower said still she needed to consult with the school board to decide whether to request a hearing.