Michigan Education Digest Daily, October 2007

Detroit Board Member Charged With Assault, School Board Investigates
Oct. 18, 2007

DETROIT – The Detroit Board of Education is determining whether it will take any action against board member Marie Thornton after she was charged with assault for a confrontation at a school board meeting in September, according to The Detroit News.

Thornton received a misdemeanor assault and battery charge and a charge for disorderly conduct after engaging in a confrontation with Rev. Loyce Lester, 60, of Detroit. The assault charge carries a maximum 93-day jail sentence and/or a $500 fine. Disorderly conduct carries a maximum 90 days in jail and/or a $500 fine. In addition to these charges, the board of education is also considering sanctions, a censure or removal from the board entirely.

According to Lester, Thornton called him names and spilled gravy from her dinner on him. He reports having a scratch on his chin from the incident. Thornton reports that Lester called her a derogatory name and shoved her, forcing an act of self defense. Thornton now believes she is being targeted by the board for her outspoken behavior and dissenting opinions, according to The News.

"I believe they are trying to silence me because I don't vote the way they vote," she told The News. "Being a good member doesn't mean you rubber stamp; it means you research." She noted her votes against school closures and contracting, The News reported.

Board President Jimmy Womack said her behavior is regularly inappropriate.

"Marie Thornton, at least one time in her life, needs to take responsibility for her own actions and stop pointing the finger of blame," Womack told The News, adding that the board is also investigating Lester's role in the incident. "Marie Thornton has called people names while sitting at the board table and given people the (middle) finger. She has continued to be a disruptive element to this board."

Parent Chris White is concerned with the lack of professionalism among board members in general, and does not want to see Thornton ousted, according to The News.

"The climate needs to be addressed when a board meeting ends up in court because of arguing," White told The News. "The real onus falls back on the president."

For Mackinac Center analysis of this story, please see here.

The Detroit News, “DPS board investigates member charged in scuffle," Oct. 17, 2007

Michigan Privatization Report, “Education Management Organizations: Managing Competition," Aug. 13, 1999

Grand Rapids Public Schools To Open Prep Academy
Oct. 17, 2007

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. – Grand Rapids Public Schools, in partnership with private companies, is planning to open a university prep academy in the fall of 2008, according to The Grand Rapids Press.

The Grand Rapids University Prep Academy is modeled after a charter school in Detroit that graduated 95 percent of its first class, while 93 percent of graduates continued on to post-secondary education. The school will start as a middle school and will seek to provide rigor and support for underachieving students, The Press reported.

The pilot school will be governed by the GRPS Board of Education and receive some funding from donations made by private companies and individuals. These donations are expected to pay for the building and equipment, while taxpayer money will go towards creating small class sizes, according to The Press. The school also has an advisory board of business leaders who will make recommendations to GRPS Superintendent Bernard Taylor regarding policies and staffing. Members of the school’s advisory board include Brian Coyd of Steelcase, Inc., Steelcase CEO James Hackett, Autocam CEO John Kennedy and others.

"The best way to make improvements in a community is to find something that works and try and replicate it, so I'm really enthused about this idea," said Milton Rohwer, president of the Frey Foundation and a member of a group that worked with Taylor to develop the idea of a public-private partnership, according to The Press.

For Mackinac Center analysis of this story, please see here.

The Grand Rapids Press, “GR Prep Academy to open in 2008," Oct. 17, 2007

Mackinac Center for Public Policy, “Dearborn: A Traditional Public School District Accepts the Charter School Challenge," in “The Impact of Limited School Choice on Public School Districts," July 24, 2000

MESSA Accepts Marshall Decision
Oct. 16, 2007

MARSHALL, Mich. – The Michigan Education Special Services Association has decided it will not challenge a decision by Marshall Public Schools to cancel health insurance for custodians who no longer work for the district, according to the Battle Creek Enquirer.

MESSA is a third-party administrator affiliated with the Michigan Education Association school employees union that outsources insurance underwriting and then resells policies to school districts.

MESSA originally told Marshall schools that a 30-day notice was necessary for any policy change, the Enquirer reported. Bonnie Brooks, a field representative for MESSA, then sent the district an e-mail stating the 30-day requirement was not valid because the district and MESSA did not have a current contract. Amy Jones, Marshall’s finance director, told the Enquirer the district last signed an agreement with MESSA in 1989.

“If you are going to change coverage or remove people from a group, yes, the 30-day notice is required," Jones told the Enquirer. “The coverage has been canceled, but it’s because they were laid off. It’s been resolved, and it certainly was no error on behalf of the district."

For Mackinac Center analysis of this article, please see here.

Battle Creek Enquirer, “School decision cleared," Oct. 16, 2007
http://www.battlecreekenquirer.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/ 20071016/NEWS01/710160317/1002/NEWS01

Mackinac Center for Public Policy, “Selective Moral Outrage," Sept. 24, 2007

Former Saline School Student Arrested for Internet Threats
Oct. 14, 2007

SALINE, Mich. – A former Saline Area Schools student was arrested after making threats against the district on an internet gaming Web site, according to The Ann Arbor News.

Police arrested the 18-year-old boy at his father’s house after police determined the threats were coming from his computer. All schools in the district were put on alert and a bomb-sniffing dog was led through the alternative high school that the boy last attended a few weeks ago, The News reported.

Ann Arbor Police Chief Paul Bunten did not present the specifics of the threat but said they involved weapons. However, after completing an investigation, there was no evidence to support any intention to cause harm, according to The News.

“We take these situations very seriously and after conducting our investigation we found there's no credibility to what he was doing,” Bunten told The News. "He was angry and just spouting off.”

The case will be submitted to the city prosecutor for review. The boy was referred to the University of Michigan for a psychiatric evaluation, The News reported.

The Ann Arbor News, “Ex-Saline student in custody after online school threats,” Oct. 13, 2007 http://www.mlive.com/news/annarbornews/index.ssf?/base/ news-24/1192256104208480.xml&coll=2

Michigan Education Report, “The three P’s of school safety: parents, prevention, and police,” Nov. 1, 2001

Volunteer Coach Found Guilty in Death of Student
Oct. 13, 2007

DETROIT – An Ecorse High School volunteer coach was found guilty of providing drugs to a 17-year-old girl who then died from an overdose, according to the Detroit Free Press.

Deleon Alexander II, 28, was found guilty of delivery of a controlled substance resulting in death, as well as delivery of a controlled substance. The first charge may result in life in prison, while the second carries a maximum sentence of 20 years and a $25,000 fine, the Free Press reported.

In March, Stephanie Brown, then a senior at Wyandotte High School, collapsed in a hotel after Alexander provided her with cocaine and ecstasy. Elizabeth Walker, Wayne County deputy chief of special prosecutions, said that the jury was probably moved to their decision through the testimony of a medical examiner who said the student had five times the amount of drugs in her system necessary to cause death, according to the Free Press.

"I'm certainly very disappointed in the jury's verdict; I think the jury was just wrong," Alexander’s defense attorney Maria Mannarino told the Free Press. "There were a lot of questions raised and a lot of reasons to believe what Mr. Alexander did was not the cause of that young woman's death. ... The incontrovertible fact was Mr. Alexander delivered a very small amount of cocaine that was shared with the other girl who survived."

Detroit Free Press, “Dealer Guilty in teen’s death,” Oct. 12, 2007 http://www.freep.com/apps/ pbcs.dll/article?AID=2007710120329

Mackinac Center for Public Policy, “Parents Still Have an Option to Check Kids’ Safety,” Feb. 2, 2006

Students Forced to Retake MEAP Writing Test
Oct. 12, 2007

JACKSON, Mich. – The fifth and sixth grade students across Michigan who recently took the writing portion of the Michigan Educational Assessment Program test will have to retake it after a Jackson Citizen Patriot reporter revealed the writing prompts in a feature article, according to The Citizen Patriot.

State officials are still determining the details of the statewide re-examination, and it is unclear how many of the 260,000 fifth and sixth graders will be affected. MEAP testing typically takes place in three-week windows to fit district schedules. This testing period began Oct. 8 and will end on Oct. 26, The Citizen Patriot reported.

"We haven’t come up against this problem until now," Martin Ackley, spokesperson for the Michigan Department of Education told The Citizen Patriot.

State officials are completing an investigation on the Jackson Community Schools, and the district may face repercussions, according to Ackley. The MEAP office also sent out letters to school districts explaining that Michigan’s Adequate Yearly Progress status may be in jeopardy if the writing test is deemed invalid by the U.S. Department of Education, according to The Citizen Patriot.

The author of the news story, Chad Livengood, was allowed by school officials to interview students and was unaware of the effect his story would have, The Citizen Patriot reported.

"I feel bad about the problems this simple feature story has caused," Livengood told The Citizen Patriot. "I apologize for any problems this story created, but I’m not an expert on MEAP rules."

For Mackinac Center analysis of this story, please see here.

The Jackson Citizen Patriot, "Story forces MEAP retest," Oct. 12, 2007
http://www.mlive.com/news/citpat/index.ssf?/base/ news-23/1192203419133110.xml&coll=3

Mackinac Center for Public Policy, "Which Educational Achievement Test is Best for Michigan? A Comparison of the MEAP, SAT-9, and ITBS," Sept. 8, 2002

Legislature Continues "Equity Payment"
Oct. 10, 2007

LANSING, Mich. – Under the state’s new budget deal, at least $20 million will be spent on districts with a foundation allowance below a certain amount, according to The Muskegon Chronicle.

Legislators are still uncertain as to how much districts may receive, but House Education Chairman Tim Melton said three-fourths of the state’s public school districts and charter schools could receive these funds. The state’s goal is to decrease the gaps between district foundation allowances. Last year, district foundation allowances ranged from $7,085 to more than $12,000, The Chronicle reported.

The Legislature also included a 1 percent funding increase for public schools. Through the deal, districts could receive an additional $70 per pupil from the state, The Chronicle reported.

"School districts all over are losing students," Mona Shores Superintendent Terry Babbitt told The Chronicle. "So even when you get a per-pupil increase, if you’re losing students you’re continuing to lose ground."

For Mackinac Center analysis of this story, please see here.

The Muskegon Chronicle, "Lower-funded schools get more state aid," Oct. 9, 2007
http://www.mlive.com/muskegon/stories/ index.ssf?/base/news-12/1191939330233660.xml&coll=8

Mackinac Center for Public Policy, "State Categorical Payments," in "A Michigan School Money Primer," May 30, 2007

MICHIGAN EDUCATION DIGEST is a service of Michigan Education Report (http://www.educationreport.org), a quarterly newspaper with a circulation of approximately 150,000 published by the Mackinac Center for Public Policy (http://www.mackinac.org), a private, nonprofit, nonpartisan research and educational institute. Contact Managing Editor Sarah Grether at

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