(Crystal A. Proxmire, Jan. 22, 2017)
Pontiac, MI – Two schools in Pontiac – Whitman Elementary and Pontiac High School – have been put on a list of schools to be reviewed by the State’s Michigan School Reform Office for possible closure due to being in the lowest bracket of performance three years in a row.
The State has the ability to close schools if they repeatedly fall into the bottom 5% in academic performance. Potential options include closing the school and sending student to neighboring schools, appoint a CEO to take over, replacing the principal and staff or converting the school into a charter school. Pontiac High and Whitman are the only schools in Oakland County on the list. Many schools listed are in Detroit. Schools in Saginaw, Muskegon Heights, River Rouge, Kalamazoo, East Detroit (district in Eastpointe), Bridgeport-Spaulding and Benton Harbor Area are also slated for review.
The reviews are expected to take place in February, with determinations announced in late February or early March.
Superintendent Kelley Williams is hopeful to avoid closure. “I am confident that we have the facts, results and the plan to make the case to the state and avoid any negative consequences for students and families,” Williams said in a Jan. 20 statement. “We have a detailed plan to improve our district, and we are implementing that plan. We are seeing measurable growth in student achievement, but we need more time to allow our plan to work.”
When asked about the potential closures, School Board President Brenda Carter said, “The Board of Education strongly disagrees with our two schools being placed on the list, because of the district’s progress in closing the achievement gap and reducing our deficit. There are multiple proactive steps in progress to from the board of education and administration. We are reaching out to state and county organizations for support as well as our faith-based organizations, businesses, and educational organization. Superintendent Kelley Williams and the board will do its best to keep our community up to date, and we ask for your continued support.”
Through a previous agreement with the State, Pontiac has reduced the budget deficit from $51 million to $25 million. “We have made tangible gains in student achievement and academic performance in all of our schools,” said Superintendent Williams. “We have renovated and reinvested in our school buildings so our students can learn in a safe, modern environment that supports growth and success.”
For State Representative Tim Greimel, the issue has to do more with funding than with management. ““Every student in Michigan has a right to a high quality education. Instead of just closing underperforming schools, the state should first adequately fund underfunded schools. The state’s own study found that many school districts, including Pontiac, are underfunded by $1,200 per student. It’s not surprising that students in these underfunded districts are struggling. The state has an obligation to both adequately fund districts AND to hold districts accountable to spend that money effectively to improve student outcomes,” Greimel said.
Learn more about Pontiac Schools at http://www.pontiac.k12.mi.us/.
Learn more about school performance ranking at http://www.michigan.gov/mde/0,4615,7-140–402764–,00.html.