State school superintendent has encouraging words for Flint

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FLINT (WJRT) - (10/02/15) - The state school superintendent updated us on the water situation when he paid a visit to Flint Community Schools on Friday.

He also wanted to get a handle on where the Flint School District stands.

While he sees progress being made, there's still a lot of work to do to turn things around.

Brian Whiston was appointed by the Michigan Department of Education to the position of state superintendent in July. He was superintendent in the Dearborn district for seven years, so he knows the struggles urban districts can face.

Whiston spent part of the morning at Eisenhower Elementary, talking with community leaders about the support it will take from them to improve the Flint district.

"This community is committed to making sure the children are being successful and that the teachers have what they need to be successful so they can focus on the classroom," Whiston said.

Even with community support, Whiston says Flint Schools will need to do a better job handling its money. It has a $14 million deficit.

"We are working with Flint on their deficit reduction plan with the Department of Treasury and the school district and the Department of Education. We will (be) working in partnership to make that happen. And we will have recommendations moving forward on how we can help schools financially," Whiston said.

Whiston doesn't think the state will take over the district.

"I think with what I see here, that's never going to happen," he said.

The situation won't easily improve if the number of students continues to fall. A preliminary head count shows 300 fewer children attending Flint Schools, and that may lead to closing more schools.

"It's emotional. It's a tough conversation, but the community will be involved in those conversations and they're going to see how it's going to benefit these kids in the classroom," Whiston said.

Whiston says the state Department of Education and the state legislature are both looking at changing the financing formulas so districts like Flint could get more state aid.

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