Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Pontiac isn't looking super looking for a new super

     Who knows what happened in Pontiac. It was predictable last August when they hired yet another superintendent. Brian Dougherty must have replaced his optimism with "what the hell did I get myself into," sometime early in his term. Supers that last two years must in this former model district age quicker than many US  president for all that is dysfunctional in that district. For Dougherty, he lasted 9 months. Between the school board, the teachers union the nepotism in this financially strapped district  and the mostly low achieving students, what is there to like about this place? When you find out that your district is nearly 40 million in the hole after being told it was less than ten and kids are leaving the district in droves, putting up with the rest of this mess would make anyone run for the hills. I heard that Dougherty and others hoped plenty of volunteers would sub in classes whether they had the credentials to teach and hoped to just get anyone in there for no pay. This includes retired teachers on top of those that had no idea of rough the kids in this district can be to anyone.  

     What is troubling is plenty of districts have siphoned off students and it looks like Lake Orion's Schools of Choice will do its part to take that many more students from this urban district. What is this district going to do? It may be time for an emergency manger to divide up what is left and with state help,  make other districts take a piece of the Pontiac pie. The people left really cannot manage anything as incompetence, greed and self-interest have greased the rails for the latest mess. While Dougherty did not create the problems in the district, his most likely forced departure is a clear signal that this district needs outside help if it ever has a chance to right its ship. The Oakland Press story is below.

Pontiac schools superintendent leaving after less than a year; district may miss payroll

                            By DIANA DILLABER MURRAY
diana.dillaber@oakpress.com; Twitter: @DDillybar

Superintendent Brian Dougherty has resigned from the top position a Pontiac schools  — leaving the district to search for its 13th superintendent in a long line of superintendents and interim leaders in the past several years.

Dougherty took the helm of the financially struggling district in August, when the deficit was thought to be $24 million. It turned out after a recent audit to have actually been $37.7 million as of June 30, 2012.

The superintendent, who was hired in late summer, said he is leaving after less than a year because he wants to “explore some other opportunities.” He did not want to comment on whether he has an eye on a particular position at this time.

“We are coming to the end of school year and that is the best time to make a transition. It gives time for an individual to come in and get situated before the start of a new school year,” said the superintendent, whose resignation will be effective May 17.

Dougherty said he is optimistic if the state approves the amended deficit elimination plan submitted by his administration, which includes an extra year, the district will be out of debt and able to do the best for students by 2015.

“There’s an administrative team there that is doing the very best that they can and a faculty that has worked under very adverse conditions,” Dougherty said.

On Thursday, Rick Pluta, a Michigan Public Radio reporter covering state government, tweeted that Pontiac may be the second district to run out of money before the end of the school year and not be able to make payroll May 17. The district is under state review, which can be the first step toward the appointment of an emergency financial manager.

To prepare for the transition, the board will place someone in the role of acting superintendent to lead the district for the last two months of school, said Board President Caroll Turpin.

And the district will focus on two major goals, Turpin said: getting approval from the state of the deficit elimination plan and providing a quality education for children.

Turpin has also called a public meeting at 10:30 a.m. May 16, when the Michigan Association of School Boards will explain the impact of the new emergency finance manager law and what could happen if one were assigned to the Pontiac district. Continued...
The board president is calling for everyone in the district to pull together.

“As a district, we will increase collaboration and input from all administrators and teachers during these challenging times,” Turpin said in a statement Thursday afternoon.

“The district has to work as a team with all personnel focused on a common outcome. Lines of communication have to be transparent and the message has to be one of a common belief, forged in the belly of the district, in order to produce successful students prepared for life,” Turpin said.

“We believe in basic fundamental values of respect, integrity, compassion, accountability and a belief in our children. These fundamental values must be reflected in our policies, our classrooms and the overall decorum of our buildings.

“Yes, we have challenges. Yes, we believe in our district family. Yes, we will prevail,” Turpin concluded in her statement.

Dougherty said he was hopeful when he came to Pontiac district.

“Obviously, my hopes when I came to the district were to reduce what I thought was to be a $24 million deficit and we were successful in reducing by $11 million,” Dougherty said, in large part, because employees gave concessions in salary and health insurance.

But an audit of the 2011-2012 school year showed the deficit was $37.7 million.

“Obviously, that put us back at square one and only one year to go in the deficit elimination plan,” which calls for the Pontiac district to have a balanced budget by June 30, 2014, Dougherty said.

“It makes it difficult to keep the district moving when dealing with those kinds of constraints.  
“Most of my day, frankly, was spent from December on with dealing with the amount of debt the district has and the issues with infrastructure that popped up continuously and became very consuming,” Dougherty said, referring to almost daily break-ins, occasional fires in the district’s vacant schools and other types of building emergencies.

“My career has always been working with teachers and academic advancement. Part of the separation here ... it’s just a tremendous amount of time spent for me in areas that weren’t really focusing on student achievement.

“It is no one’s fault. It was the circumstances of the district,” Dougherty said.

“My biggest hope, at some point soon the district can address the class sizes and begin to meet the needs of the kids.”

 Dougherty took over from Interim Superintendent Walter Burt, who served for less than a year after being appointed to take over from Jon Brown, who was in the position for a short time after Superintendent Thomas Maridada III’s surprise resignation in July of 2011. Maridada was superintendent for two years.

Meanwhile, a court ordered the district to levy taxes on property owners in the portions of the eight communities in the Pontiac school district boundaries in order to pay off $7.8 million for unpaid teachers’ health premiums.

“I’m very concerned for these students and for my members and district as a whole, said teacher’s union President Aimee McKeever.

“There are so many scenarios in my head; there are so many different things that could happen. I continue to have conversations with the board, the (Michigan Education Association) and officials in Lansing, and we continue to work together to do whatever is possible for the survival of the district,” McKeever said.