Gov. Rick Snyder reappointed Jack Martin as the emergency manager of Highland Park Schools Friday, following a second recommendation by the state review board sent to evaluate the district's finances.
Martin's return is the latest twist in the district's struggles in recent weeks. Originally appointed by the governor in late January after the district failed a financial stress test by the review board, Martin was removed on Feb. 21 after a ruling from a judge determined his appointment had been made illegally.
On Feb. 15, Ingham County Circuit Judge William Collette ruled the financial review board's initial recommendation "null and void" because the group had made its decisions in closed sessions, violating Michigan's Open Meetings Act.
In the time between Martin's removal and his return, control of Highland Park Schools reverted back to the elected school board. Although the district seemed to be unable to meet its financial obligations this week, classes continued as normal with teachers appearing to work without receiving the previous week's paycheck.
The governor and Republican-controlled state legislature quickly passed a law providing financial incentives for students of the district, but the legislation restricted the current elected leadership of the district's access to the funds. Students instead could take their individual funding to another district or charter school operator.
In a public meeting last week, the Highland Park Schools financial review team repeated its earlier negative assessment of the district's fiscal health that cited recurring deficits and declining enrollment. The team also included an update in its recommendation to the governor, noting that despite cash advances from the state, the school system had been unable to pay its teachers and staff for a third time on Feb. 24.
Despite Friday's reappointment, Martin's continued tenure as the district's emergency manager remains uncertain. On Feb. 29, a coalition working to repeal Public Act 4, the law that allows emergency managers to takeover cities and school districts, dropped off signatures that would force a referendum on the law. If these petitions are approved by the state, Public Act 4 will be suspended until voters decide on the issue in November.
UPDATE: 2:40 p.m. -- The state announced Friday afternoon that Highland Park Schools would partner with Detroit Public Schools to ensure the district can remain operation for the remainder of the school year.
DPS and its emergency manager, Roy Roberts, can take over operations of Highland Park thanks to legislation signed by the governor last week. Highland Park students will still have the opportunity to transfer out of the district and take their approximately $4,000 in state funding with them.
DPS will get that $4,000 per head for the students who remain in Highland Park. And Martin will retain his role as emergency manager.
“Our goal is to ensure that students face as little disruption as possible," said Martin in a statement. "I want to thank Mr. Roberts for his willingness to assist Highland Park Schools through such trying times. I would also like to thank the teachers and staff who have been in class and working all week despite not getting paid last Friday. They will be receiving paychecks later today."
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