Andrew Trzaska | February 15, 2012
“This is not a wake, despite of what we might feel… This is a wake-up call.”
This remark from the Honorable Judge Gregory Pittman set the tone for Wednesday’s public meeting at Muskegon Heights High School concerning the district’s current state, a meeting which could be described as part information session, part pep rally.
Coordinated in part by the Muskegon Heights Alumni Association, the meeting’s goal was to inform members of the public, field questions and jumpstart coordination among the community to support the district. At least 200 people were in attendance at the meeting.
“Tonight we wanted to make sure folks had the opportunity to ask questions and share information,” said Muskegon Area Intermediate School District head and interim district superintendent Dave Sipka. “There is so much information that has come out since the first of the year especially concerning finances. We have been trying to be as transparent as possible… but sometimes things happen very fast and that information is fluid.”
A common theme among all those who spoke: face the realities the district faces and focusing on the best interests of the district’s students.
Sipka began the evening with notes about good things happening in the sea of bad news. Among the district’s achievements: Career Technical Center honors earned by Muskegon Heights health professions students in January, a new roof on the middle school, Title I program compliance and the recently-reopened middle school library.
“There’s a reason to happy and proud about Muskegon Heights and we need to celebrate those things,” said Sipka.
Speeches from Muskegon Heights Public Schools alumnus Judge Gregory Pittman and Pastor Samuel Greer came after Sipka’s initial remarks.
Pittman stressed a need to accept tough realities not just of the present and future and urged all in the community to take action:
“Muskegon Heights is going to survive but it’s not going to look like it used to be… It’s time to accept the reality that we’re going to have to do business differently in Muskegon Heights.”
“It takes more than just showing up at the board meetings when there is a tough issue. It takes more than a board just rubber-stamping what is put in front of them,” said Pittman. “We have to live within our means, and we need to appreciate this school district isn’t here as a source of employment but as a citadel for the education of our students.”
Pittman’s understanding of governmental action at the state level was one of support, not of malice: “These people [at the state level] are not waking up every day wondering how quickly they can just down Muskegon Heights Public Schools”
Sipka noted that questions that either couldn’t be answered during Wednesday’s meeting would be posted on the MAISD’s district information web page in the coming days. Current financial information, frequently asked questions and updates from Sipka are currently available at that location as well.