Emergency board meeting postpones adolescent health clinic

Emergency board meeting postpones adolescent health clinic

By Annabelle Julien and Grace Rossman

The four-hour emergency school board meeting on Jan. 19, called only 48 hours prior to the event, brought a large crowd into the multipurpose room at Brownell Middle School. The space was packed with people, some of which grabbed front row seats more than 40 minutes prior to the meeting. The entire audience prepared to hear the debate, some eager to speak for and some against the resolution to postpone construction of the adolescent health clinic at North. 45 people spoke at the podium: a collection of community members, healthcare professionals, parents, students and district faculty members. Out of the 45 speakers, 34 were against the resolution and 11 in favor of the resolution. 

The emergency meeting was called by two board members, Lisa Papas and Virginia Jeup, after the school board received a letter from attorney Anthony L. DeLuca, questioning the legality of using $989,020 from the Sinking Fund, a money supply dedicated to support school safety and technology improvements, repairs and construction of buildings in the district. The main concern being the allocation of the fund for the bid, made by Turner Construction, to finance the clinic. 

“Pursuant to MCL 380.121(1)(a), those uses [of the sinking fund] are are specifically limited to ‘the purchase of real estate for sites for, and the construction and repair of, school buildings, for school security improvements, and for the acquisition or upgrading of technology,’” DeLuca wrote in the letter. “However, the Interagency Agreement does not involve the use of sinking funds for the purchase of any real estate for school buildings, the construction or repair of school buildings, for school security improvements, or for the acquisition or upgrading of any technology.”  

In response to the letter the school board’s lawyers Miller, Canfield, Paddock and Stone, P.L.C.  addressed DeLuca’s concerns and to reassure him of the legality of the project. 

“The Revised School Code and the State School Aid Act both provide ample authority to the School District to enter into the Interagency Agreement, dated December 20, 2022, with Oakwood, and to house the Center at North, consistent with the powers and responsibilities of the School District,” the Miller, Canfield, Paddock and Stone, P.L.C. firm wrote. “The fact that Oakwood will operate the Center pursuant to the Agreement does not change the character of the space from a school building to something else, particularly because the intent is to serve School District students and other youth who are resident in the School District.” 

The potential postponement of clinic construction was met with uproar during the meeting. Signs that read “healthy kids graduate” and “healthy kids everyday,” were held up high inside the room. Pointed comments from speakers and board members competing to get a word in and those in the crowd, claiming hypocrisy and demanding straight forward answers, contributed to the commotion. Others shouted for transparency about the clinic. The disorganized manner led to President Ismail pounding his gavel to refocus the room.  

The resolution, which states “GPPSS will immediately halt work on or expenditures towards Project until an alternative has been found to provide the services outlined in the Interagency Agreement without GPPSS expending taxpayer dollars,” created by Jeup and Papas was passed 4-3. Members Ahmed Ismail, Lisa Papas, Sean Cotton and Virgina Jeup voted in favor, and members David Brumbaugh, Valarie St. John and Colleen Worden opposed. 

With clarification from Superintendent Dr. Jon Dean at the emergency meeting, postponing construction will result in a loss of the health clinic grant, meaning the project will be suspended indefinitely.