Financially mismanaged Michigan district shuts school doors to students, teachers


by Félix Pérez

It’s been two days since students and teachers in Buena Vista, Michigan, were sent home and shut out of their schools indefinitely. And barring a plan by the school district and the state department of education, 400 students, their parents and teachers are left holding the bag for “gross financial mismanagement.”

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Buena Vista’s 27 teachers voted Monday to work through Friday to give district and state officials time to keep schools open for students while they developed a plan. The local board rejected the offer that evening.

“As teachers in the Buena Vista School District, we find ourselves, along with our students, pawns in a high-stakes game that we did not choose to be a part of,” said Joe Ann Nash, an elementary school teacher and Buena Vista Education Association president. “Our first priority is making sure our students get the education they deserve, and we’re committed to working with the state and the district to make sure that happens.”

It’s not the first time Buena Vista teachers have sacrificed. They have agreed to freeze their pay four consecutive years.

Steve Cook, an education support professional and president of the Michigan Education Association, blamed local and state officials. “These dedicated educators wanted what is best for their students — to give their school district and the state the time and assistance necessary to work out a plan to keep school open for this final month of the year. But [Monday] night, we yet again saw proof that politicians, administrators and other so-called ‘leaders’ consistently put money first and our kids last,” Cook said. “Faced with a selfless offer of help from their employees to continue working, without the guarantee of a paycheck next payday, Buena Vista’s school board and administration gave up on their students and employees and laid everyone off.”

Cook also placed responsibility for the school district’s financial meltdown — and the financial straits of other school districts — on Governor Rick Snyder. Snyder has cut $1 billion from school funding.

The state Department of Education cut off funding to Buena Vista to recover more than $400,000 in overpayments for a program in which the district no longer participates.

In the meantime, Buena Vista students, parent and teachers are left with an uncertain future. The last day of school is June 13.

Reader Comments

  1. Hunh… rough scene. I’m not very qualified to weigh-in on the situation, but, I’m having a reaction/emotion over this, and ya’ll might just as well ride-along, for lack of anything better to do right now. 🙂

    First thing that folks might want to know… is that I’m an anti-capitalism-ist. More accurately, I’m out to completely abolish “economies”, which includes money, ownership, and price tags. Many will say “Well Wingnut… we HAVE TO have an economy, so we can trade. Teachers can get paid, and schools can have the resources (human and supplies) to get the job done!”

    But, with no economy,there’s no pricetags. No cost of living. Economies would be abolished, at least nationwide, if not worldwide. The USA military supply system runs a resources-based system just like this. All materials are owned by TEAM… and individuals become ‘custodians’ of Team materials. They check out a tool from the tool repository (crib) on base or on port. They check-out a truck from motorpool. They occupy a barracks room. Its custodianship (as opposed to ownership).

    To get to the point… military society is a commune. The military knows… that to hurt ONE member of “Team”, hurts ALL of “Team”. That’s why the military “members” are NEVER charged money for basic survival needs. One can always get a free (and ‘serviceable’) place to live on-base, and a free (nutritious) meal at the chow hall, and a free (clean and serviceable) uniform… and basic (sanitary and advanced) medical/health care. Its a commune… as is the USA public library system. Custodianship of the books… a shared repository… for TEAM. No monetary or racial discrimination seen. The military treats its members the same basic caring way, no matter the race, gender, or military rank. A careful delineation between what is a luxury and what it a necessity… is made. Luxuries (the few that the USA military actually stocks for Team)… tend to be sporting equipment and basic recreational vehicles. These things are available for “check-out” (temporary custodianship) from a organization called “recreational services”. It is a place to checkout a kayak, or fishing boat… and some rods and reels… a frisbee or some archery equipment, etc. It is shared by all, moneyless, ownerless, and discrimination-free. Its for TEAM!

    Yes, abolishing economies would be a VERY LARGE undertaking… but… do we really have a choice? We all know that competitive, get-a-leg-up, capitalism… is a pyramid. Pyramids get top-heavy from folks rat-racing and “trying to get ahead” (of the cost of living that we create for ourselves by continuing to circularly-invoice one another, harder and harder.) We put each other further and further “over a barrel”. What goes around, comes around.

    I call it spirography, because just like the spirograph’s pen, it loops around and around, until it eventually comes back to its starting location. Every invoicing (demand) we each “issue”… comes back into our own mailbox as a billing. This is because the tip of each spirograph flower petal… is a LOOP and not a point. Each billing is handed-on across the spiral flower, loop, loop, loop, until it returns to the issuee. Spirography. What goes around, comes around.

    And since we’re here… and since we’ve watched DEMANDINGS (billing/invoicing) go around the spirograph gears and returning home… lets see what GIVING/LOVING does when sent on a trip with the spirograph pen. Oh my goodness! GIVING/LOVE is ALSO handed-on person to person to person, loop, loop, loop, until it ALSO returns to the issuee. HOLY COW! LITERALLY HOLY. So, demands/billings/invoicing eventually returns home, and so does loving/giving. Interesting!

    Ahh, Utopia. I can see if from here. Anyone else?

    But now, for a practical comment about the immediate situation at hand. We all know good’n’well that this situation is a power-play. SOMETHING is trying to use the shock and awe of this… to leverage something into doing something. When parents and teachers get up in arms with a classic “Oh, but think of the children!” emotion/reaction, that is EXACTLY what the powerplay instigators WANT YOU TO DO. They WANT and NEED a “huff’n’puff”… its the very reason why they jammed the machine’s gears. I think in some circles, its called “creating a stink”.

    Keeping that in mind, I still have no solutions. I guess I’d try to develop an emergency testing system (similar to the old Iowa Basics?) that gave everyone a quick-look at where each child is at… and then concentrate on the weak points… AS CIVILIANS. We’re talking building a team of volunteers… INCLUDING MANY PARENTS… that can see if the students are a-ok as far as completion of their current grade levels. This would be a PURE non-school effort. Its a TOWN effort. Pitch-in, get some testing booklets, run the kids through testings at the community center, look at the graphs, clean up the dents, and graduate the kids. Get THEM out of “harm’s way”. 🙂 Get them home for the summer a bit early, yet well-educated (as best can be accomplished in these rough waters). Then… the war over money can begin. Game ON!

    Take care, gang.
    Larry “Wingnut” Wendlandt
    MaStars – Mothers Against Stuff That Ain’t Right
    (anti-capitalism-ists/anti-economy usage)
    Bessemer MI USA

  2. The entire state of Michigan’s public education is under attack by the GOP governor and legislature. They will not be happy until each public school goes under and is in the control of privately run organizations that will make schools a profit making plan for them.

  3. The education administrations (wherever) are becoming more tyrannical and disconnected, with the education of actual students, by the minute.

  4. I am a teacher from Buena Vista School District. As of today, May 11, 2013 teachers are laid-off and students remain out of school. To make matters worse for the teachers in Buena Vista,the lay-off was given during teacher’s appreciate week. I never felt so appreciated in my life. Oh, I forgot to mentioned the entire staff was laid off except the School Superintendent and two Administrative staff members. I want answers from my school district and the state of Michigan concerning the students who are not attending school.

    Believe it or not but the Superintendent plans to send home a Instructional Learning Packet (worksheets) and yes parents are outrage.

    Alexis Ervin
    Vice President of local BVEA
    IPD Commission, MEA
    MEA-RA Delegate
    NEA-RA Deleate
    PAC Chair
    Newly elected Vice President of Region 11, MEA

    1. You need to occupy the capitol building. And if Lansing news crews don’t show up, go to them. Block their station doors. Get in the headlines. Get arrested. Its all we have left when nothing else works. But everyone has to go. Teachers, parents, everyone. If you lay down and let it happen it will, and it will only get harder to turn around as time goes by.

      I wish you luck in solidarity.

      Z.M. in Minnesota.

      P.S. failing that, if you can, move to MN.
      Our best teaching job search site is here:

  5. Well, uh, the only reason they would not like teachers to work for nothing is that it would undercut any private enterprise which might be poised to take it over. Even a corporation abhors slave labor-unless they can own it…

  6. This is enough to break a parents heart!
    I’d like to know that each if those board members receive some kind of consequence for such terrible misconduct.
    At the very least, a week in jail for every day they take away from the teachers right to teach un-paid.
    And a second week for every day the students lose from their education.
    That school board has a very poor concept of who a school board member is responsible to. Their concern should be totally for the students.
    Yet they show total disregard for the students.

    They should be dipped in olive oil (not hot), rolled through chicken feathers, and forced to parade through their school districts streets to show the community what chicken cowards they are. Non-violent Just educational for the community!

    1. Yes indeed! And of course if the student’s test scores aren’t up to par, the teachers will be blamed. It is as if some of these governors & politicians tie the hands of educators with ever increasing laws & mandates which can’t possibly be implemented as written for a variety of reasons, & then when the end result is failure, teachers get blamed. The governors & their political cronies who know nothing about how kids learn set the system up for failure to prove their point & reinforce their agenda. Meanwhile the students suffer & educators who just want to teach & see kids learn are blamed because they think we are greedy & are only out for ourselves at the taxpayer’s expense. Well, hello we are taxpayers too, but we have no say in a system we have the professional expertise to give insights into as to how kids learn best. And 1 single test score does not determine whether or not a child will succeed in life or at future employment whether or not they pass or fail the test. These governors & school boards w/their political agendas are out of control & they could care less about the kids. It’s all about political power & agendas.

      1. Amen! Until the parents and teachers (taxpayers all) unite and elect to school boards the “right thinkers” and work together, there will more of what you are undergoing. The American voters have got to see that by mindlessly re-electing lawyers and the “Haves,” voters will continue to receive less than nothing. Lamblasting teachers is the surest way to draw attention from the real issues of economic malfeasance; finger-pointing is the way the media goes along with the act. It is a smokescreen!

        Anyone in Michigan over 60? Remember that witless comment, “Those who can, DO; those who cannot, teach”? Well, it was a lie then and it is still is. Only the BEST teach; I mean, teach well.

        I admire you teachers who will work for $0.00. Ha! Our counterparts in the North want too much, the South keeps cutting retirement and pay, and your genius “Lords of the Rings” over spend and mismanage the money that your taxes produce.

        Who actually suffers the most? The students who really need to learn to read and understand what is happening. And letting some wannabe company come in and charge trillions to run schools? Yea, and how are they gonna do it, huh? Bullwhips? Chains? Running a corporation is not the same issue as working with living, breathing, talking, walking students. They can put out memos, have meetings, and do power points till the moon turns blue, but the governor of your state will be spending your $$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$ and getting what? Do elected officials receive finders’ fees? (In the 1880s, we would have called that Boss Tweed’s kickbacks, right? Oh, Boss Tweed is dead, right????? I mean , corruption in public government died, right? All elected politicians are honest, right? The moon is made of cheese, right???? Urban myths are true, right?)

        God bless you teachers. You wanted to help your students and your state and your school board members (who should be immediately taken off their elected positions (I assume they did not just say, ‘I am on the board!”) stopped the educational process for the students of your locale out of avarice, spite, greed, and downright malice. Your seniors? What happens to their acceptances to major universities and their financial aid packages?

        Parents, get some good attorneys and start the law suits. Your students have been denied a legal right to a lawful education. Maybe when the school board members find their names on subpoenas, they will realize what a wonderful group of teachers they just spit on.

  7. I really don’t get this…Ok, the district ran out of money and even mismanaged it, but…how can the state allow these students and teachers to be out??? It sounds like the district isn’t the only issue here.

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