Insights & Analysis

Education, Fiscal Health, Municipal, News, Opinion

Finally, it’s not the economy; unfortunately, it’s still the education void

By: Bob Kittle

If it ain’t one thing, it’s another. Perhaps not the best way to start a blog that is ultimately on education, but as the economy hums along (despite some potentially scary headwinds with the recent GM announcement) education is the nemesis that Michigan (or at least Detroit) can’t seem to conquer.

The Detroit Regional Chamber recently released its 2018-2019 State of the Region providing economic indicators and critical areas of improvement for its 11-county region plus Detroit. The report overall offered an upbeat outlook on the region’s progress in many sectors, but underscored the importance in addressing areas in which the region continues to lag – notably education. In a spot-on Detroit News column by Daniel Howes, the education void is so dark and vast, its challenges may temper many of the positive gains made in the region and the state for recent years.

The good news is that Detroit is outpacing the nation in growth in real gross domestic product (2.7 percent vs. 2.2 percent nationally) and per capita income (4.3 percent compared to 4.1 percent nationally). That can’t be overlooked. Nor can the fact that Detroit was second in the nation in growth of median home values between 2013 and 2017, increasing by 42.4 percent (Seattle was number one). The high cost of living on the East and West Coasts makes Detroit attractive—a plus for companies aiming to boost and cultivate tech talent.

But contradicting these positive indicators are critical areas where Detroit is missing out, notably extreme poverty, low metrics on community well-being, and stagnant population growth. Yet the most pressing issue is the mediocre status of Detroit’s educational attainment—which was actually below the national numbers in 2017.

News

Munetrix receives “Education Advocate” award from Auburn Hills Chamber of Commerce at annual Silver & Gold event

Auburn Hills, Mich. –December 14, 2018 –Munetrix, a public sector solutions provider offering data management, analytics and reporting tools for states, local governments and public school districts, received the “Education Advocate” award from the Auburn Hills Chamber of Commerce at its annual, sold-out Silver & Gold awards ceremony held December 10, 2012 at the Townsend Hotel in Birmingham. The award was accepted by Munetrix President, Bob Kittle. 

One of several awards presented to Auburn Hills Chamber members and area business and nonprofits who reflect excellence and leadership in their respective organizations and industries, the Education Advocate award was sponsored by Baker College and presented to the company with the most progressive education initiatives. Munetrix, with more than 200 school district customers throughout Michigan, is committed to creating efficient tech tools that increase productivity within schools to maximize their limited resources and improve access to – and use of- meaningful data for smart planning and state-required compliance. 

With estimates showing that only 2% of graduates are bound for a career in the public sector, while more than 30% of public sector employees are expected to retire in the next seven years, Munetrix is also looking to develop future professional administrators to lead local units of government in both cities and schools. The Education Advocate award specifically highlighted Munetrix’s action in responding to this silver tsunami of anticipated retirements. 

Capitalizing on its proximity to higher education in and near Auburn Hills, Kittle established a paid internship program at the company called the ‘Munetrix University’ for students who want to learn more about public sector careers. While the internships aren’t based in cities or schools, students work hand-in-hand with people in real school/government jobs and are exposed to the issues these government units face. From budgeting and planning, to the economics associated with population and school enrollment trends, Munetrix interns get a deep dive into the type of work local leaders perform. 

“23 interns have come through the Munetrix University since 2012,” Kittle said. “Some have gone on to government work, graduate school, university jobs or traditional corporate careers, but no matter what direction they take, the interns leave with many skills they did not have prior to their internship; plus, they obtain an awareness of professional career opportunities in local government that are not necessarily discussed in lecture halls or at college career fairs.” 

There has also been measurable success for Munetrix, which has converted several interns to full-time staff members over the years. Three of the company’s 12 current employees initially joined as interns. In hiring former interns, Munetrix has gained a ‘millennial viewpoint’ on its own city and school-based work. 

“These young adults are teaching us a thing or two,” Kittle said. “We are very appreciative of the Education Advocate award from the Auburn Hills Chamber because it helps us spread the word not only about the Munetrix University, but about the interesting career opportunities available in schools, cities and other local units of government that may have been otherwise overlooked. On top of that, these future leaders are learning how to bring advanced technology into a sector that desperately needs it.” Since its founding in 2010, Munetrix has continued to build its reputation among government and school district leaders. It is one of only two approved vendors prequalified by the Michigan Department of Technology, Management and Budget to provide data analytics tools for reimbursement to both Michigan public school districts and cities. It is the only resource provider that generates a fiscal wellness measure – the Munetrix Score – for cities and schools. The company has twice received “Readers’ Choice Top Products” recognition from K-12 leaders’ education trade publication, District Administration, and has been named a GovTech100 company for three consecutive years. GovTech100 is a competitive annual index by Government Technology magazine that highlights the top 100 companies in the country serving government in unique, innovative and effective ways. This most recent award brings to eight the total number of awards Munetrix has received in just four years – reassurance that it is focused on the right things. 

News

Michigan Elementary & Middle School Principals Association (MEMSPA) taps Munetrix for exclusive data analytics partnership

Auburn Hills, Mich. – October 2, 2018 –Munetrix, a public sector solutions provider offering data management, analytics and reporting tools for states, local governments and public school districts, has entered into an exclusive partnership with the Michigan Elementary & Middle School Principals Association to broaden the use of Munetrix’s powerful data analytics services to principals tasked with improving student outcomes and teacher effectiveness. The announcement was made by Munetrix President Bob Kittle. 

“As more legislative directives get passed down to school administrators, they have less time to focus on student outcomes. Our partnership with MEMSPA will introduce time saving data science and data management technology to MEMSPA members, affording them the efficiency gains necessary to accommodate the increased demands on their time as human and capital resources continue to dwindle,” Kittle said. 

The initial focus of the MEMSPA/Munetrix partnership will be on helping school administrators meet the daunting task of complying with PA 173, where individual student Growth Percentiles (SGPs) and Student Learning Objectives (SLOs) are required to calculate teacher evaluations, weighted to 40 percent in the 2018-2019 school year. The data required to generate teacher evaluations spans a three-year period, but the school roster data in its current format was never designed to be used in a consolidated manner as outlined by PA 173, according to Kittle. 

“The amount of effort to format the data so it can be made usable is not something a school district has the time or resources to handle on its own, and is why the SLO and SGP Advanced Academic Achievement tools recently released by Munetrix are so valuable for administrators who would otherwise struggle to meet the requirement,” Kittle said.

Paul Liabenow, Executive Director of MEMSPA, affirmed that the partnership with Munetrix is particularly timely. 

“Even though there has been legislation introduced to delay the implementation of the 40 percent requirement this year, 25 percent of a teacher’s evaluation is already based on student growth – and obtaining the data is a challenge,” Liabenow said. “Partnering with Munetrix now gives our members access to technology that will afford them more time to focus on their primary goals of teacher and student development and not data processing.” 

Barring legislative changes, the compliance requirement for Public Act 173 is at the end of the 2018-2019 school year. 

About MEMSPA 

The Michigan Elementary & Middle School Principals Association (MEMSPA) is a community of principals dedicated to advocating, leading and learning. MEMSPA recognizes the evolving nature of a principal’s role and supports those committed to this important work. Learn more at MEMSPA.org

News

Munetrix introduces new Student Learning Objectives (SLO) version of its Educator Evaluator tool for seamless compliance with Michigan Public Act 173

Auburn Hills, Mich. – September 17, 2018 – Munetrix, a public sector solutions provider offering data management, analytics and reporting tools for states, local governments and public school districts, has released its new Munetrix Student Learning Objectives (SLO) version of the Educator Evaluator tool to simplify customer compliance with Michigan Public Act 173, which governs educator evaluations for teachers and administrators in the State of Michigan. 

Signed into law in 2015, PA 173 requires that educator evaluations be conducted annually, and that they incorporate student growth data as a significant component, beginning with 25% of the evaluation in the 2015-2016 school year and growing to 40% in 2018-2019*. Teachers and administrators with three consecutive years of highly effective ratings may receive biennial reviews in place of annual reviews, making the 2018-2019 results particularly critical. 

The SLO tool is an addition to the Munetrix SGP Educator Evaluator, which is used for national and state normalized assessments like NWEA and M-STEP and was introduced in April 2018. The SLO tool incorporates the six methods of determining student success as identified by the Michigan Department of Education:

  • Meeting Average Change of Previous Years by Quintile
  • Exceeding Average Change of Previous Years by a Percent
  • Simple Average Growth 
  • Meeting a Proficiency Score • Group Effect Size Score
  • Tiered Growth Projections 

Both Munetrix Educator Evaluator tools put school roster data in a usable format for these state- required evaluations, according to Munetrix Vice President and Co-Founder Buzz Brown.

“The Munetrix SLO & SGP Educator Evaluator tools simplify the onerous task of manipulating data from multiple sources while performing teacher evaluations in the 2018-2019 school year,” Brown said. “School roster data was designed to link a student, teacher and classroom for every hour of every day during the school year; the rosters were not intended to calculate teacher evaluation scores to reveal three-year trends and cannot be used in their current format for calculating educator scores. That’s where the benefits of the Munetrix Educator Evaluator tools and data science come into play.” 

The Munetrix Educator Evaluator tools are foundationally based on the Michigan Department of Education’s model and integrated into the Munetrix platform using the company’s data science expertise, allowing school administrators in most cases to load their own data and obtain results. 

“Without these tools, teachers will have to spend hours performing data cleansing and manipulation, which takes time away from the classroom,” Brown said. “Michigan school districts simply cannot afford to have their educators spend time manually inputting data for this purpose.” 

The Munetrix SLO Educator Evaluator can be used for any assessment data that provides preand post-test scores, making it easy for users to calculate teacher evaluations. This is especially useful in certain grade levels and in subject areas where national and state normalized assessments are not available, such as art and band, and with special education. 

Since its founding in 2010, Munetrix has continued to build its reputation among government and school district leaders. Munetrix is one of only two approved vendors prequalified by the Michigan Department of Technology, Management and Budget to provide data analytics tools for reimbursement to both Michigan public school districts and cities and is the only resource provider that generates a fiscal wellness measure. In 2016, the company received “Readers’ Choice Top Products” recognition for the second consecutive year from K-12 leaders’ education trade publication, District Administration. Munetrix has also been named a GovTech100 company for three consecutive years, an annual index by Government Technology magazine that highlights the top 100 companies in the country serving government in unique, innovative and effective ways. 

*Pending legislation, Michigan HB5707, is seeking a one-year reprieve on the 40% student growth data for the 2018-2019 school year, asking instead that the percentage be kept at 25% through this school year. 

News

Munetrix adds new Vice President of Technology to its executive team

Auburn Hills, Mich. – August 28, 2018 –Munetrix, a public sector solutions provider offering data management, analytics and reporting tools for states, local governments and public school districts, is pleased to announce that Mathew Varghese has joined the company as Vice President of Technology. The announcement was made by Munetrix President, Bob Kittle. 

In this new role, Varghese will be a member of the Munetrix executive team, directing and managing the entire database, product development roadmap, hosting, data governance and other high level technical management activities. Varghese worked with Munetrix as an external consultant for nearly five years and recently returned to the United States following a two-year stay in India with his family. 

“Mathew Varghese brings an advanced skillset to Munetrix,” Kittle said. “Plus, because he is already attuned to both the Munetrix platform and our corporate culture of service and innovation, he can make an immediate impact on our strategy, which has always been focused on delighting customers and solving problems for them using data science and technology.” 

Varghese previously owned Michigan-based iTekk, LLC, a technology consulting firm. He also worked as a business analyst at IBM in Southfield, Michigan for more than eight years. Varghese holds a Bachelor of Science degree in Engineering from TKM College of Engineering, India. He is a resident of Troy, Michigan

Education, K-12, News

Cities & Schools Reach Crisis Point Due to States’ Low Economic Reserves

A recent article in the Wall Street Journal (Many States Are Unprepared for Next Economic Downturn) caught my attention because it highlighted a key factor adding to the fiscal stress of municipalities and schools.  The article suggested that most states are unprepared for an inevitable economic downturn as they lack the necessary fiscal reserves or rainy-day funds to cushion the next financial blow, and, it’s already having a negative trickle-down effect.

Forced to do more with less since the last recession, cities and schools are continually struggling with reduced revenue sharing from their states while scrambling to meet the demands of unfunded mandates, retiree obligations, an aging infrastructure and even increased student testing. Add this to the anticipated silver tsunami caused by public sector retirements in the next decade, we see a myriad of local governments that are already stretched too thin and have reached a crisis point.

One of the most alarming things noted in the WSJ article was that some states appear to have little sense of urgency and limited tools to address these budgetary shortfalls. Forget crisis point—this dilemma will have far-reaching and long-term consequences for the populations served by those who gloss over the unavoidable hard truth and do nothing about it now.

Fiscal Health, Municipal, News, Opinion

At least for now, Michigan closes the chapter on Emergency Financial Managers

By: Bob Kittle and Katrina Powell

The State of Michigan Department of the Treasury sent out a press release on June 27, 2018 announcing that for the first time in 18 years, neither a school district or municipality in Michigan has an emergency manager. You can read the press release in its entirety here, but following is an excerpt.

“LANSING, Mich. – State Treasurer Nick Khouri today announced that no Michigan municipality or school district is under state financial oversight through an emergency manager for the first time in nearly 18 years. The…announcement comes after releasing Highland Park School District from receivership under the Local Financial Stability and Choice Act. Since 2000, there has been an emergency manager providing financial oversight somewhere in Michigan.”

For many years the Emergency Financial Manager (later changed to Emergency Manager or EM) concept was regularly maligned by some constituents, citing it as an overreach of state government at the loss of local control and racially motivated. The term carpetbagger was bandied about as well. One respected national government trade publication headlined a 2012 article, Emergency Financial Managers: Michigan’s Unwelcome Savior. As local government financial advisors ourselves, (Katrina was the State-appointed City Manager for Hamtramck from 2014 to 2017) we, but especially Katrina, have been on the receiving end of some hurtful and untrue verbal attacks about roles and motives.

News

Munetrix donates $1,000 to Baldwin Center in support of STEM education

Auburn Hills, Mich. – July 10, 2018 –Munetrix, a public sector solutions provider offering data management, analytics and reporting tools for states, local governments and public school districts, was pleased to support the efforts of the Pontiac-based Baldwin Center with a donation of $1,000 on July 9. 

The donation is intended for use with the Baldwin Center’s STEM program, which provides engineering related after-school education for children from Pontiac in grades 1-8. The program was brought to the attention of Munetrix co-founder Buzz Brown, who is active at Bloomfield Hills-based Kirk in the Hills church, through fellow church member Alan Miller. Miller is an engineer at GM who leads the volunteer student engineering program at the Baldwin Center. 

Pictured in the photo: Elizabeth Longley (Baldwin Center Executive Director), Buzz Brown (Munetrix), Alan Miller (General Motors), Bob Kittle (Munetrix President) and Asalyn Coachman (Baldwin Center Board Chair). Photo credit: Christine Crabill.

About the Baldwin Center 

The Baldwin Center’s mission is to feed, clothe, educate and empower the men, women and children of the Pontiac community. A nonprofit 501(c)3 organization, the Center has been serving its neighbors since 1981 and currently offers more than 25 support programs that meet basic needs, offer assistance in a crisis, provide education and enrichment opportunities for adults and children, and serve as a safety net. Learn more here

Education, Fiscal Health, Municipal, Opinion

FY 2025 forecast could spell disaster for many communities

From this point forward, saving every minute and dollar possible in anticipation for what lies ahead will be crucial to survival in the public sector.

Maybe you’ve heard us talk about the silver tsunami, or perhaps you’ve read other articles on it, but the reality is while we all can clearly see what’s coming for us, few of us are doing anything to prepare for it.

Let’s be clear about what awaits us: in less than 10 years’ time almost half of the public sector workforce will retire.

Conservative estimates put the looming exodus at 40 percent. Depending on the make-up of your workforce this mass departure could happen at a more subtle pace throughout the next decade or it could happen almost over night, in a single fiscal year or season. Regardless of the makeup of your workforce, the coming silver tsunami will leave destruction in its wake.

News

New Munetrix Educator Evaluator tool simplifies compliance with Michigan Public Act 173 through seamless data integration and calculations of NWEA, M-STEP and STAR data

Auburn Hills, Mich. – April 17, 2018 – Munetrix, a public sector solutions provider offering data management, analytics and reporting tools for states, local governments and public school districts, has released its new Munetrix Educator Evaluator tool to simplify customer compliance with Michigan Public Act 173, which governs educator evaluations for teachers and administrators in the State of Michigan. The announcement was made by Munetrix President Bob Kittle. 

Signed into law in 2015, PA 173 requires that educator evaluations be conducted annually, and that they incorporate student growth data as a significant component, beginning with 25% of the evaluation in the 2015-2016 school year and growing to 40% in 2018-2019. Teachers and administrators with three consecutive years of highly effective ratings may receive biennial reviews in place of annual reviews, making the 2018-2019 results particularly critical. 

The Munetrix Educator Evaluator tool was introduced to simplify the onerous task of manipulating data from multiple sources while performing teacher evaluations in the 2018-2019 school year. The Munetrix Educator Evaluator is foundationally based on the Michigan Department of Education’s model. Integrated into the Munetrix platform using the company’s data science expertise, the tool also allows school administrators to load their own data and immediately obtain results. 

Without the tool, teachers will have to spend hours performing yet another reporting requirement that takes time away from the classroom. Based on recent reports on student growth declines in Michigan, school districts cannot afford to spend time doing this manually. 

The Munetrix Educator Evaluator can be used for any assessment data that provides Student Growth Percentiles (SGP), making it easy for users to calculate teacher evaluations with data from NWEA, STAR and M-STEP. Fiscal year 2018-1019 will mark the first time that M-STEP data can be evaluated for the required three consecutive years, so the release of the tool is timely. 

“Our customers trust the integrity of the Munetrix web-based platform to help them meet important state compliance requirements, in addition to serving as a fiscal wellness indicator and strategic planning and data analytics tool,” Kittle said. “The Munetrix Educator Evaluator is another example of Munetrix bringing additional value to school districts in anticipation of future needs. Munetrix allows districts to meet data driven state mandates in a comprehensive, timely and cost-effective manner.” 

Since its founding in 2010, Munetrix has continued to build its reputation among government and school district leaders. Munetrix is one of only two approved vendors prequalified by the Michigan Department of Technology, Management and Budget to provide data analytics tools for reimbursement to both Michigan public school districts and cities and is the only resource provider that generates a fiscal wellness measure. In 2016, the company received “Readers’ Choice Top Products” recognition for the second consecutive year from K-12 leaders’ education trade publication, District Administration. Munetrix has also been named a GovTech100 company for three consecutive years, an annual index by Government Technology magazine that highlights the top 100 companies in the country serving government in unique, innovative and effective ways. 

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