Lansing— Donald Weatherspoon has been appointed consent agreement consultant for the Pontiac School District, the state Treasury office said Tuesday.
The Pontiac Board of Education approved the appointment Monday night during a meeting, Treasury spokesman Terry Stanton said.
Weatherspoon, 70, the former emergency manager for Highland Park and Muskegon Heights school districts, said he will officially begin his post next week when the board approves his contract and sets his salary.
Before taking the position, Weatherspoon resigned the emergency manager posts.
His brother Gregory Weatherspoon, 63, a consultant for the Michigan Department of Education, was named as the new emergency manager for both districts effective Wednesday. Treasury officials said the recommendation to hire Gregory Weatherspoon came from a third party and not from his brother.
The Pontiac School District is battling a $37.7 million deficit and anticipates a cash shortfall this school year of $18.9 million. The board chose a consent agreement instead of an emergency manager, neutral evaluation or Chapter 9 bankruptcy to resolve its financial emergency, all options under Public Act 436.
“I am up to speed. I have read the (financial) review team’s report. I will not be able to comment in detail until I am on site,” Donald Weatherspoon said.
Weatherspoon oversaw Highland Park and Muskegon Heights school districts after they were converted to charter school systems — the first districts in the state to do so. Weatherspoon said he does not foresee turning Pontiac into a charter school district.
“I am not an emergency manager. This is a consent agreement under PA 436. I don’t foresee me taking part in those discussions,” he said.
Weatherspoon said he sees his role as working collaboratively with Pontiac Schools Superintendent Kelley Williams.
“We will together be making recommendations to the board. I believe very strongly we are going to work together well,” he said.
According to a 60-page consent agreement finalized last month between the district and the state treasurer, the district must create a contingency plan for its only high school that includes either transferring it to the statewide reform district, closing the building or enacting further reforms.
The agreement says the consultant must carry out all of the document terms and conditions, including the creation of a financial and operating plan as well as an education plan for the 5,000-student district.
The state said it will reimburse the district for the cost of the consultant — up to $750,000 over two years — but the district must pay for the initial costs.
The district has been ordered to consult with Oakland Schools on the financial plan, which must include cash flow projections and an evaluation of costs associated with pension and retiree health care costs. A draft of the plan is due to the state by Dec. 15.
The high school was labeled a “priority school” by the state and was among its lowest-performing 5 percent of schools statewide.
The agreement says the district cannot enter into any collective bargaining agreements without the written approval of the state treasurer.
It also says the district will, “as necessary,” hold one or more millage elections to repay any obligations to the state and to implement its financial plan, the plan states.
Under the agreement, if the district’s superintendent does not act upon a request by the consultant, the consultant may exercise several powers under Public Act 436 that include rejecting, modifying or terminating contracts; entering into agreements with other districts; and acting as the sole agent in collective bargaining agreements.
School board President Caroll Turpin was not immediately available for comment.