WUOMFM

Highland Park schools get new emergency manager

Oct 21, 2016

The Highland Park School District is getting its sixth emergency manager in nearly five years.

Kevin Smith replaces Steve Schiller, who was appointed in February, 2016, and also serves as emergency manager for Muskegon Heights schools.

In a press release from the Department of Treasury, Governor Rick Snyder said Smith’s 18 years of experience in public finance and restructuring makes him a good fit for the position in Highland Park.

“Under emergency management, our role is to provide prudent fiscal management and an efficient provision of services,” Snyder said. “Kevin’s skills and experience are well-aligned for this work.”

In 2012, then-emergency manager Joyce Parker created a new charter district run by Leona Group LLC, the Highland Park Public School Academy System, to educate students.

Meanwhile, the original Highland Park School District has been trying to manage its debt.

In a July 2016 Detroit Metro Times report, Department of Treasury spokesman Jeremy Sampson said Highland Park Schools had a budget deficit of about $7.8 million at the end of the 2015-2016 fiscal year.   

According to Sampson, there’s also nearly $9.5 million in bond debt that’s owed, bringing the district’s total long-term obligations to just more than $17,245,000. – Curt Guyette, Detroit Metro Times, July 6, 2016.

Enrollment in the new charter school district plummeted in the years following its formation. 

Highland Park closed its high school after the 2015 school year. Currently, Highland Park Renaissance Academy is the city's lone school. It educates students from pre-kindergarten to eighth grade. Highland Park's high school-age students were absorbed into nearby districts.  

Michelle Kuanda, truancy officer at Highland Park Renaissance Academy, says 355 students are enrolled this year. 

Neither Kevin Smith, nor a spokesperson from the Michigan Department of Treasury were available for comment.