AAPS Ended 2011 with Journeyman Contract

Also: Trustees challenge state requirement to alter election dates

Editor’s note: Because the Dec. 14 meeting of the AAPS board of trustees did not adjourn until after 2 a.m., The Chronicle divided the report into two parts. The first part of the report was published before the holidays and focused only on board deliberations on contracts for top administrators: “Two Top AAPS Administrators Get Raises.”


Union members in the audience of the Dec. 14 AAPS board meeting. (Photos by the writer.)

Ann Arbor Public Schools Board of Education meeting (Dec. 14, 2011) Part 2: AAPS board of education trustees approved a contract with D.M. Burr, a Flint company, for heating, cooling, and ventilation services. Many local union members attended the meeting and spoke in opposition of the bid award to a non-local, non-unionized company.

At the opening of the Dec. 14, 2011 board meeting, board president Deb Mexicotte requested a moment of silence to acknowledge the recent loss of two students. Mariel Almendras, a second grader at Dicken, died of complications related to a rare ovarian cancer. Lucina Partis, an 11th grader at Skyline, died of accidental drowning in a bathtub in her home.

The final board meeting of 2011 also saw debate on a new state mandate to change board election dates to November in even-numbered years.

The board also discussed a number of first briefing items, and held discussion on minor resolutions.

Agenda Approval

Near the beginning of the Dec. 14 meeting, a review of the meeting’s agenda included a change proposed by trustee Andy Thomas to combine two agenda items: (1)  an informational presentation and board discussion on local contracting; (2) and the second briefing on the awarding of a contract for HVAC (heating, ventilation, and air conditioning) journeyman services. It was also agreed to move the second briefing items earlier on the agenda, to accommodate the large number of community members in attendance with interest in the journeyman contract.

HVAC Journeyman Bid Award

At the Nov. 30, 2011 regular board meeting, the board had considered as a second briefing a bid to contract with D.M. Burr of Flint, Mich., for 2,000 hours of heating, ventilation, and air conditioning (HVAC) journeyman services. The board typically sees resolutions twice – at a first briefing and at a second briefing, with a final vote taken at the second briefing.

However, on Nov. 30 the board voted to postpone the decision on the D.M. Burr contract. Trustees wanted additional information to be brought to the board’s Dec. 14 meeting by AAPS executive director of physical properties Randy Trent. Local union officials, including the president of the AAPS teachers’ union, spoke early in the meeting in opposition to awarding the bid to D.M. Burr.

HVAC Journeyman Bid Award: Public Commentary

Four local skilled trades workers addressed the board about their opposition to awarding the HVAC journeyman services bid to D.M. Burr.

Tom Yax, representing local plumbers and pipefitters, noted that all but one of D.M. Burr’s contracts with schools are to provide cleaning or maintenance services, not HVAC services. He also said that D.M. Burr has posted a job offer for this position, which says they need someone ASAP. Yax pointed out that more than five other contractors had bid on this, and urged the board to reconsider those bids. He closed with a quote he attributed to Benjamin Franklin: “The bitterness of poor quality remains long after the sweetness of low price is forgotten.”

Jim Burns said he represented approximately 10,000 members and their families from the Washtenaw County skilled building trades. He passed out literature from the 2004 and 2008 sinking fund millage campaigns, and noted that local skilled tradesmen had supported these millages, with the understanding that they would be supported in return. Burns also pointed out that the board did not have a policy on paying prevailing wage, and suggested that such a policy should be crafted.

During clarification on public commentary, trustee Glenn Nelson checked his understanding that the money for the HVAC journeyman would come from the general fund, not the sinking fund, and AAPS superintendent Patricia Green confirmed that was correct.

Ken Wadland, a local electrician, reminded the board that they are representing the school system as an employer, and urged trustees to look at the “total value” of a contract like this. Saying he can relate to the temptation to take a ridiculously low bid, Wadland said it usually turns out that those bids have a serious flaw – either the service is poor, the materials are poor, the workers not being paid well – something’s wrong.

Ron Motsinger of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW) Local Union 252 distributed a picture to trustees of a part of an electrical system that was incorrectly installed, which could lead to a fire or electrocution. He asked the board to consider the risk of hiring less experienced workers to perform HVAC services. He reiterated that local skilled tradesmen go through years of an apprenticeship program and are well trained. Motsinger also urged the board to adopt a bid policy that supports local workers.

During clarification on public commentary, trustee Susan Baskett asked Trent to speak to the picture that Motsinger had distributed. Trent said that some of the AAPS buildings have been around for 100 years, and that when problems are reported, they are fixed. “With HVAC and electrical issues,” Trent said, “We have problems every day that we’re fixing.”

HVAC Journeyman Bid Award: AAEA Report

AAEA president Brit Satchwell began his regular report to board members with a plea for them to reconsider the D.M. Burr bid. Satchwell said he understood the “seductive lure” of low prices, but cautioned the board – “you usually get what you pay for.” He pointed out that D.M. Burr has just started providing HVAC services, which makes it hard to do due diligence on determining if they are fully qualified for this job.

Satchwell noted that his father had designed bids in his professional career, and that his father had always advised to just throw out the outliers – bids at the high and low end – saying that the value was somewhere in the middle. “With such a short, non-existent track record,” Satchwell said, “it sounds to me like a roll of the dice.” He suggested that the board should instead hire experienced, local, trustworthy workers who have supported the school system and community year in and year out.

HVAC Journeyman Bid Award: Staff Report

AAPS executive director of physical properties Randy Trent came to the podium prepared to answer questions on a bid recommendation for HVAC journeyman services. At the Nov. 30 regular meeting, trustees had questioned whether D.M. Burr, the administration’s recommended contractor for this bid, was the right choice. Trent had come to the Dec. 14 meeting prepared to explain the rationale behind his recommendation.


Randy Trent, AAPS executive director of physical properties.

Trent went through a brief presentation that clarified that the D.M. Burr journeyman would not have farther to drive to reach Ann Arbor than the current journeyman servicing the district. He also compared the licenses and work experience of the current and proposed journeymen, in order to show that while D.M. Burr as a company may be new to providing HVAC services, the actual employee who would provide service to AAPS has had years of experience in this area and is fully licensed.

Trent reported that he had contacted 12 additional references for D.M. Burr (in addition to the three he had called initially) and that none of them had complaints. He stressed that the licensed mechanic D.M. Burr would provide is “more than capable of doing the job.” Trent added that D.M. Burr has offered to let the district out of the contract after 30 days for any reason, and that D.M. Burr is willing to adjust its bid higher “whatever the cost,” should it be the board’s desire to ensure that the workers sent to AAPS are paid prevailing wage.

Finally, Trent pointed out, “I fully understand that I work in the support area – every dollar that I can cut can go back into the classroom.” He acknowledged that the board has a difficult decision to make, especially in light of the public interest in this bid, but stood behind his recommendation to award the contract to D.M. Burr.

HVAC Journeyman Bid Award: Board Discussion – AFSCME?

Susan Baskett asked about the possibility of hiring an HVAC journeyman through the American Federation of State, County and Municipal employees (AFSCME) – the union representing current AAPS custodial and maintenance staff. She noted that doing so would actually save AAPS money, since AFSCME workers agreed to a contract last year that resulted in significant pay cuts.

Trent said that while he has been extremely proud of what the district’s custodial and maintenance staff has been able to do, that an AFSCME member could not be brought on to provide the HVAC journeyman services because it would have to be negotiated. Baskett questioned why the district did not simply invite AFSCME officials to reopen contract negotiations in order to be able to add another AFSCME member to the district’s internal staff.

Baskett pointed out that there is a history of going back to reopen specific contract items. She also asked AAPS deputy superintendent of human resources and general counsel Dave Comsa for confirmation that the district is not precluded from going back to any of its bargaining units to negotiate new positions.

Trent noted that hiring internally would be a longer-term engagement, and that it was his best judgment that the district would be better served by bidding out the HVAC services rather than “going back to AFSCME.” Comsa added that there was nothing “to [his] knowledge” precluding AAPS from reopening negotiations with AFSCME.

HVAC Journeyman Bid Award: Board Discussion – Reference Checks

Thomas thanked Trent for doing additional reference checks, and noted that it was well beyond the due diligence usually done for a bid recommendation. Thomas noted that in a list of reference check responses that Trent had prepared for the board, there were many positive references for other services D.M. Burr provided, such as janitorial and security services, but not for HVAC services.

Trent responded that there were three references for HVAC services– one from Carman Ainsworth Community Schools, one from Highland Park Independent School District, and one from a cinema. Baskett countered that in the e-mail the board received from Highland Park schools, HVAC services weren’t mentioned.

Trustees spent a few minutes reading through the references, including feedback that Trent had forwarded to them via e-mail. Simone Lightfoot thanked Trent for following up on more than three references.

HVAC Journeyman Bid Award: Board Discussion – Specific Employees

Lightfoot noted that she had recently toured some of the district’s boiler system and electrical rooms and had been impressed with the size and plethora of pipes and tubes underground and on the roofs, as well as by how much of it was unmarked. Given this, she said, she questioned how training would be done for a new individual who was wholly unfamiliar with the various systems at each AAPS building.

Trent responded that AAPS mechanical staff would work with the new person, just as they did with the current HVAC journeyman from Johnson Controls. Trent said that AAPS staff members have volunteered to come out on their own time to take the new journeyman through each of the buildings. He also noted that D.M. Burr had been given a tour of AAPS facilities when the district was previously looking at outsourcing custodial and maintenance services.

Lightfoot asked if Trent had met the actual individual to be assigned by D.M. Burr to the district, and Trent replied that he had spoken to him. She asked about that specific journeyman’s qualifications, and Trent reiterated that he holds appropriate licensure. Lightfoot asked how D.M. Burr ensures its staff’s licenses are kept current, and Trent explained that state licenses expire if required ongoing professional development is not completed.

Nelson pointed out that the D.M. Burr journeyman holds his own license, while the current Johnson Controls journeyman works under another person’s license. A union member in the audience, Andy Bronson, held up his hand and was recognized by Baskett. Bronson pointed out that he is a Johnson Controls worker who also has his own license, but Trent said Bronson’s license was not relevant – because he is not the current HVAC journeyman under discussion, to whom the potential D.M. Burr journeyman was being compared.

Lightfoot asked Trent if he was concerned that D.M. Burr had placed an ad for this a journeyman position on MLive, and Trent answered, “I am not regarding it and I would recommend that you don’t. I cannot tell you why they placed that ad. It does not concern me at all – I have the licenses of the person who will be working on our job.”

Trustee Christine Stead argued that D.M. Burr was not a qualified bidder, except for the specific journeyman. She suggested that the board should require the names of the specific employees D.M. Burr is assigning to AAPS to be listed in the contract “so there cannot be a bait and switch.” [In addition to the main journeyman, there is also a smaller, less technical maintenance position associated with the HVAC work.] Without the names included in the contract, Stead said, she would be unable to vote for the bid award.

Trustee Irene Patalan asked if an individual employee had ever been named in a bid, and asked Comsa if that was okay. Comsa said the contract can include whatever terms the board wants, including tying it to the specific individuals discussed. Lightfoot asked what happens if those people leave the company, and Comsa explained that the contract could be voided at that point. Mexicotte added that if the D.M. Burr employees were unable to fulfill their duties, the board would have full purview over their replacements.

Stead’s amendment – to tie the D.M. Burr contract to the specific employees AAPS had been offered – was amenable to the board.

HVAC Journeyman Bid Award: Board Discussion – General

Lightfoot said it was “scary” that D.M. Burr was willing to adjust its bid to “whatever the cost.” She said it seemed like a lot of work for the district. “I care that we get it right the first time,” Lightfoot asserted. “There clearly is something wrong with supporting this contract.”

Stead noted that while this is a small contract, AAPS is one of the largest businesses in the city with a budget larger than the city itself. She argued that the district needs a way to value the economic contribution of local businesses when considering bids, and said she had asked Comsa to explore some methodology to do so.

Nelson said he sees a vote for D.M. Burr as directly related to keeping class sizes lower, since the amount of savings brought by voting for this contract would roughly amount to what would be needed to hire another teacher.

Patalan commended Trent for his conscientiousness, and said he made her proud. “You answered my questions,” she said. “You looked out for the district, and you did what the board wanted you to do – to put our dollars as close as possible to the classroom while getting the best value possible.”

Baskett acknowledged that Trent’s work with the district over the years has been commendable, and apologized that she had not stated that sooner. She then listed numerous concerns regarding the D.M. Burr bid, saying that she did not think Trent would have made such a recommendation in the past.

Baskett questioned how long the D.M. Burr employee would be willing to work for such low wages and benefits, and if it will be long enough for him to become fully competent with the district’s HVAC systems. She again suggested going to AFSCME to reopen contract negotiations so someone else could be hired internally instead.

She again expressed concern that D.M. Burr was a significant outlier in terms of the other bids, and said that she did not think the board should “make even a hint of a promise” that the savings would be used to hire another teacher.

Baskett argued, “When I look at D.M. Burr, they are a generalist. I see what they’re doing – they are trying to buy their way in here.” She disagreed with Trent that the current AAPS staff would be as cordial as he is expecting to the D.M. Burr journeyman. “I don’t think the expectation Trent has of the current staff is realistic. Of course they are professional, but this person is coming in to possibly take their jobs.”

After the discussion, Baskett said, she felt even stronger in her position that D.M. Burr is not qualified.

Thomas said it had been a troubling issue to him for a number of reasons. Although he was not 100% convinced that D.M. Burr is the right choice, he was 99% convinced, and so he supported the bid recommendation.

Outcome: The HVAC journeyman services contract was awarded to D.M. Burr as proposed, with the motion to accept the contract passing 5-2. Trustees Lightfoot and Baskett dissented.

Resolution to Change Board Election Date

At 1:00 a.m., AAPS deputy superintendent of human resources and general counsel Dave Comsa brought a resolution to the board that would officially move the dates of future board elections to Novembers of even-numbered years, as Michigan law now requires.

The current election schedule for AAPS will include odd-numbered years. Deb Mexicotte’s seat is up for election in November 2012; Irene Patalan and Glenn Nelson are up for election in November 2013; Christine Stead and Susan Baskett are up for election in November 2014; and having just been re-elected last November, Simone Lightfoot and Andy Thomas will be up for election in 2015.

AAPS board members serve four-year terms. The recently passed state legislation enables local school boards to extend terms in order to comply with the law. In 2013, AAPS would likely need to extend the terms for Patalan and Nelson so that the seats could remain filled until November 2014. In a telephone interview, AAPS director of communications Liz Margolis told The Chronicle that the board does not need to act immediately – because the next scheduled election (this year) is in an even-numbered year.

Board president Deb Mexicotte pointed out that past legislation has always said that if AAPS began holding November elections, that the district would lose the right to move elections back to a different time of year in the future. Comsa pointed out that AAPS has no choice now except to hold elections in even-numbered Novembers.

Mexicotte argued that this is not a good idea, and expressed frustration that the state had “bludgeoned and coerced” districts into doing this. “It extends terms, or turns the board over in big chunks, and makes people have to run more expensively. I don’t want to pass this resolution. Sue us,” she said.

Comsa responded that it was his recommendation that the board complies with the resolution as presented. “I think you would be in a better position to adopt the resolution,” he added.

Mexicotte quipped, “Will we get more funding? Will they give us funding for mandates they are passing left and right?”

Nelson noted that while he shared Mexicotte’s frustration, he would support the resolution so that staff time and the district’s money would not be wasted fighting a lawsuit.

Thomas agreed. “We have our chief counsel telling us that it is his expert opinion that we should pass this, however distasteful this is.”

Stead noted that the cost of running will significantly shrink the field of board candidates, and asked Comsa what the ramifications would be if the board decided not to pass the resolution. Comsa said he would not speculate, adding, “I didn’t hazard that this issue might come up.”

Baskett referenced a point earlier in the meeting when Satchwell had held up a sign reading “resistance is not futile.” Patalan concurred, saying the community is not in favor of this.

Lightfoot noted that she would rather the district would protest the Race to the Top legislation, and that she would heed Comsa’s recommendation.

Baskett simply thanked Comsa for doing his job.

Outcome: By a vote of 4-3, the board voted against the resolution agreeing to hold board elections in even-numbered Novembers. Stead, Mexicotte, Baskett, and Patalan voted no. Thomas, Nelson, and Lightfoot voted yes.

After the vote, Mexicotte noted that alternate resolutions may be brought forward at a later date, and thanked trustees for their diligence in the matter.

Consent Agenda Approved

A consent agenda consisting of three main items, along with minutes approvals and gift offers, was approved unanimously by the board.

The three main items were the purchase of new sixth grade science kits, the approval of amendments to the district’s pension plans, and the approval of a resolution opposing Michigan House Bill 4770 (Public Employee Domestic Partner Benefit Restriction Act). Each item is briefly discussed below.

Consent Agenda: Sixth Grade Science Kits

At 11:45 p.m., the board opened its second briefing on the purchase of new science kits for sixth grade students. Though the science department chairperson Amy Dillar Deller was still present at the meeting, the board had no questions for her. Mexicotte said that she was impressed with Deller’s patience, and Nelson said to Deller, “Too bad you had to sit there all this time. Thank you for all your work.”

Consent Agenda: Amendment to District Pension Plans

AAPS director of finance Nancy Hoover explained that the law related to the pension plans offered by the district has changed, and asked the board to approve a resolution that authorizes the district to follow the law by amending the plans as required.

The item was presented to the board as a special briefing item, which meant that the board was giving final approval on its initial consideration of the item.

Consent Agenda:  House Bill 4770

Nelson introduced a resolution to formally oppose House Bill 4770, the Public Employee Domestic Partner Benefit Restriction Act. Though the bill had already passed both houses of the state legislature, it was awaiting Gov. Snyder’s signature at the time of the board meeting. Nelson explained that this bill would eliminate benefits for same-sex couples, and argued, “There is a chance that if the governor hears enough opposition, he will not sign it.” [Gov. Snyder did sign HB 4770 into law on Dec. 22, 2011.]

Nelson read the resolution, which noted that HB 4770

… would conflict with the high value we place on respect and celebration of diverse people including but not limited to diverse sexual orientations, gender identities, and gender expressions; … and would lessen the attraction of Ann Arbor and Michigan to people in same-sex relationships, or possibly in such a relationship in the future, and thereby decrease [the district's] ability to attract and retain excellent employees in such relationships.

Baskett thanked Nelson, saying the resolution was wonderful.

Financial Report

Allen began the first quarter financial report by noted that historically most of the changes to the budget take place in the second quarter, after the school year has begun in September. [The district’s fiscal year runs from July 1 to June 30.]

AAPS director of finance Nancy Hoover noted that some savings have been realized by changing to 100% direct deposit for payroll, and that coaches are now also being paid by electronic transfer. Baskett asked whether all vendors, as well as the board members, could be paid electronically. Hoover noted that new software would allow the district to increase the number of electronic payments made.

Financial Report: First Quarter

AAPS deputy superintendent of operations Robert Allen made a brief presentation to the board, and noted that the district had spent 12% of its total budget in the first quarter, and that the board could expect that percentage to rise in the second quarter. He said he has begun to realign the expenditure categories based on audit results, and that those would come as future adjustments.

Stead asked, “Given the adjustments we’re expecting for the second quarter, and in terms of budget planning, what’s your best estimate of the kinds of reductions we need to plan for?” Allen said he still expected the district would need to look at reducing its budget by about $14 million.

Financial Report: Medicaid Revenue

Nelson asked what was meant by Medicaid revenue, which was bullet-pointed in Allen’s presentation.

Green explained that there are certain services that a district can be reimbursed for through Medicaid, depending on the actual service provided to special needs students.  She said that she had been concerned when she became superintendent of AAPS in July 2011, because she had not been able to locate any reimbursements – and she would have expected them to be a source of general fund revenue.

After much research, Green said, she was able to determine that an agreement was made within Washtenaw County a couple of years ago that the Washtenaw Intermediate School District would hold the funding in common, and that a portion of it might be used to purchase new human resources and financial software for the county and its districts.

Green noted that this was not a written agreement, and that it took her a lot of effort to determine that $1.4 million of the district’s funds have accrued over two years. She argued that this money should be returned to the district, and that it is the purview of the school board how this money should be used.

Allen added that the Medicaid revenue will be greater than $1.4 million because it does not yet include reimbursements from 2010-11. Nelson noted that he was very pleased and appreciative of this and pleased to hear it’s a number with seven figures in it. This is an example, he said, of where Green’s experience and “stick-to-it-ive-ness” is paying off.

Mexicotte said the way this money is being reported, and accounted for has been a concern in the special needs community for as long as she’s been involved. She said she is pleased Green has found additional money the district can use.

Outcome: The first quarter financial report will come before the board for a second briefing and a vote at the next regular board meeting.

Budget Planning Update

Allen said he was anticipating having a better sense of where the district stands in terms of funding after the state revenue conference is held in January 2012. Stead asked about the effect of a variety of factors on the possible funding, and Allen said nothing is settled yet. Allen added that the districts receive some information from the Michigan School Business Officials (MSBO), which has lobbyists who follow state actions more closely.

Patalan noted there had been a good turnout at the fall budget forums, and that she believed the community genuinely understood what the district was facing. She asked if there was a place for community feedback on the AAPS website.

Allen said that there is a suggestion box on the district website, and that he has also received some ideas directly via e-mail. Some ideas have been more detailed than others, he said, but all the suggestions are being compiled.

Baskett asked whether dates have been set for winter budget forums, and Allen said they have not been set yet, but that they would not occur until a budget had been proposed.

Budget Planning: Public Commentary

Mark Quigley said he was there to help, and presented two concrete ideas to the board regarding the budget. First, Quigley suggested that the board require restitution from the employees who carried ineligible health care dependents on their insurance plans up until a recent dependent audit. “Is it right, legal, moral, ethical to allow your employees to steal from you? Our money went to fraud, abuse, and waste,” Quigley asserted. The recent audit revealed $766,000 was spent on ineligible dependents.

During clarification on public commentary, AAPS deputy superintendent of human resources and general counsel Dave Comsa clarified that there were 200 employees who self-reported ineligible dependents. He also noted that in order to get maximum participation in the audit, there is a standard clause stating that employees would be held harmless if they responded. Comsa added, “I would be cautious of accusing people of criminal activity – I don’t believe that there was any.” He stressed that AAPS has saved $0.75 million as result of the audit.

Quigley’s second budget suggestion was that the district should shift more of costs of football parking on the Pioneer lot to the University of Michigan (UM). He suggested that the UM should pay for the cost of policing the lot, and noted that the “mulit-million dollar” parking contract is coming up for renegotiation soon – “Let’s put more of the expenses on [UM] and leave more for our children.”

During clarification on public commentary, Mexicotte asked the administration about the status of the current parking negotiations. Allen answered that the AAPS parking contract with UM expires at the end of the year, and that negotiations for a new contract will start in January. Mexicotte asked who was responsible for that negotiation, and Allen answered that it is Tim Gruszczynski, Supervisor of Environmental Services, and the Allen and Trent also have input.

AAPS Educational Foundation Grant Awards

The board held its first briefing of a list of grants being conferred by the AAPS educational foundation (AAPSEF). It was late in the meeting and AAPSEF Wendy Correll, who had made a presentation thanking major donors earlier in the meeting, had left the meeting by the time the item came before the board.

Mexicotte noted that the total amount of grants being awarded was $177,000, and that the impact of these grants would be felt by more than 30,000 students. “These are substantial awards around important programs,” she said, adding in reference to the fact that Correll was no longer present, “I look forward to saying additional things at second briefing.”

Board members highlighted individual grants on the list for recognition, including seed money for document cameras, the elementary enrichment coordinator program, and scholarship programs.

Green noted that one of the grants is the Karen B. Thomas Memorial Fund, started in honor of trustee Andy Thomas’ late wife. Green invited Thomas to describe the work of the grant.

Thomas explained that the purpose of the grant is to encourage reading and a love of reading at the elementary level, particularly among students who are economically disadvantaged. He described some projects funded by the grant, including the addition of classic literature at Pittsfield, co-support of an after-school reading club at Mitchell, and the refreshing of the library at Bryant. Thomas said in the future that that the Karen B. Thomas Memorial Fund might be used to purchase a set of Kindles for student use.

Patalan thanked Thomas for the grant, and said she was glad the board took a minute to talk about the literacy projects. “The whole piece of literacy … it’s simple,” she said, “but we can’t take it for granted.”

Outcome: Discussion and approval of these AAPSEF grants will continue as a second briefing item at the next regular board meeting.

Fines and Obligations Policy

Green introduced this item, saying that she was hoping this policy would streamline some of the inconsistencies she has seen across the district in terms of how student fines and obligations are handled. She noted that there has not previously been a district-wide policy on this issue One one goal of such a policy would be to ensure that students are not kept out of school because of outstanding fines or obligations.

Green invited Robert Allen and Alesia Flye, AAPS deputy superintendent of instruction, to discuss the proposed policy and associated regulations. Allen began by noting that he and Flye had worked with a committee, solicited input from building principals, and reviewed similar policies in other districts.

Allen read the proposed policy in its entirety:

The District will provide educational material, including textbooks or other tools and supplies necessary to access the curriculum during the normal academic year. Students are expected to return all educational materials in satisfactory condition at the time and location designated by school personnel. Should material be determined lost or stolen, or the material returned is in unsatisfactory condition, the superintendent or designee has the authority to collect an amount equal to the replacement value of the material. Circumstances may be such that alternative arrangements can be made with designated school personnel.

Trustees had no comments regarding the policy itself, but did suggest a few changes to the regulations. The board does not have purview over the regulations directly, but can make recommendations about them to administration.

Flye noted that earlier in the 2011-12 school year, there had been an incident where students had lost instructional time due to fines, and that that was not acceptable. Baskett questioned how these staff errors were addressed, and Comsa answered that an investigation was undertaken and that principals were advised that school policies should not prohibit students from participating in instructional time. Baskett said she knew of a student who had requested a letter of apology over the matter, and AAPS assistant superintendent of secondary education Joyce Hunter confirmed that such a letter had been sent.

Lightfoot suggested including parents earlier in the communitcation loop regarding fines.

Baskett suggested some clarifying wording changes, and confirmed that students do get a receipt when they return a book or other materials. She suggested that PowerSchool could be used to record receipts instead of generating more paper.

Thomas stated that this is a very well-crafted and well-designed policy that strikes a good balance between protecting the rights of students to receive an education, but still providing some consequences if they don’t return a book without making arrangements.

Nelson suggested cross-referencing this policy with the equity policy to make their relationship explicit.

Mexicotte suggested that the replacement value charged to students should reflect the condition of the book, and that she would suggest giving school administration the power to use their best judgment in waiving fees. She said she would like to see a way for students to agree on the condition of the books they are given when they receive their textbooks, and agreed that parents should be kept in the loop better.

She expressed some discomfort with the punitive nature of the policy, but said she was pleased that students’ instructional time and grades will not be affected by outstanding fines. She wanted to be sure that being on a payment plan was seen as sufficient in allowing students to participate in extracurricular activities.

Mexicotte also said she liked the idea of having related policies noted, and wanted to be sure that the policy is the same across all grades and all schools. Finally, she asked if there were other items that should be included, such as instruments or field trips fees.

Thomas noted that holding the final report card is an empty threat, meaning it would not be a motivation to pay fines.

Mexicotte thanked the administration for their work on this policy and its regulations, saying it showed how AAPS is passionate about getting students the equipment they need.

Outcome: This was the first briefing on this item. Any suggested changes or modifications will be incorporated before this item comes back to the board for a second briefing.

Other Public Commentary

The meeting also included public commentary on other topics.

Other Comment: Buses

Peggy Connors spoke to the board about bus service to Slauson middle school and Pioneer High School. She said that buses have been taken away from kids living between Liberty Street and Scio Church Road. In the morning, she said, it’s dark, and there are wooded areas lining the walk route. Saying she had tried the route herself, Connors noted that she was almost hit by a car, and argued that it’s a dangerous route for kids. She asserted that the costs of using the Ann Arbor Transportation Authority buses are prohibitive if a low-income family has multiple children with an adult who also needs to use public transportation to get to work. She requested that AAPS restore bus service to the area as soon as possible.

Other Comment: Buses, Privatization

Ronnie Rosner spoke to the board as volunteer and mother of five. She stated that she was there to strongly voice her opposition to the privatization of custodial staff and bus drivers. Saying she believed this could compromise the safety of AAPS school children, and lead to the layoff of some of custodial staff and bus drivers. Their pensions could also be negatively affected, she said. “There is no guarantee that privatizing these jobs could save money,” she argued.

During clarification on public commentary, Green and Lightfoot shared a concern regarding the busing situation that Connors had mentioned, and Green requested that Allen contact Connors and take another look at that situation. Mexicotte also pointed out that there is no proposal currently being considered by the board to privatize bus drivers or custodians.

Board Associations

The board invited regular reports from six organizations – the Youth Senate, the Ann Arbor Parent Advisory Committee on Special Education (AAPAC), the Parent-Teacher-Organization Council (PTOC), the Black Parents Student Support Group (BPSSG), the Ann Arbor Administrators Association (AAAA), and the Ann Arbor Education Association (AAEA). At the Dec. 14 meeting, the AAPAC and the AAEA were present to address the board.

Board Associations: AAPAC

Kathy Zager-Doxey thanked her son’s teacher, and Kelly Van Singel, a parent who recently gave a presentation highlighting how the iPod and iPad can be used to help students with special needs. Zager-Doxey pointed out that the slides from Van Singel’s presentation, “Happy to be Appy” are available on the AAPAC website.

Zager-Doxey also said the AAPAC is looking forward to increased partnership with SISS, and thanked Erik Thompson, assistant director of student intervention and support services for elementary buildings, for recently giving AAPAC a district update.

Finally, she noted that the district’s Disability Awareness Workshops would continue, and said that the AAPAC was looking forward to an upcoming report from AAPS superintendent Patricia Green on disproportionality in special education services, because many behaviors among special education students are manifestations of their disabilities.

Board Associations: AAEA

In addition to the part of his report regarding the journeyman services bid [described above], teachers’ union president Brit Satchwell noted that the State Senate is considering a bill (SB 865) which would “referendum-proof” the newly-enacted state emergency manager law (Public Act 4). He argued, “Many of these emergencies that we’re facing, that cities are feeling, are in part manufactured emergencies, for which those people are then blamed and have to suffer. How they do this without tanks rolling in the street is amazing to me.”

Satchwell urged everyone to advocate for the repeal of PA 4, and pointed out that the state is considering sending emergency managers to Detroit and Inkster. “If those two cities fall,” Satchwell pointed out, “over half of the African-Americans in this state will have lost their vote and be under authoritarian rule – no mayor, no county commissioners, no school board … If you’re an American this has to bother you.”

Awards and Accolades

The board acknowledged two major donations at the meeting, as well as successes of various students, staff, and schools.

Awards and Accolades: AAPS Education Foundation

Green pointed that the AAPS Educational Foundation (AAPSEF) recently received two substantial donations that she felt needed recognition in front of the board. AAPSEF executive director Wendy Correll expressed appreciation for a $50,000 donation from IMRA America (IMRA), a local high-tech company, and for a $10,000 gift from the Dearborn Federal Credit Union (DFCU).

Correll also announced that the AAPSEF would be partnering with Champions for Charity to put on the first Ann Arbor Marathon, Half Marathon, and 5K and 1.2 mile runs, and will be receiving philanthropic donations from the events.

Baskett asked how the AAPSEF formed relationships with IMRA and DFCU. Correll explained that IMRA approached the district as a way of being philanthropic in their community, and that DFCUapproached the AAPSEF because it is part of their mission to support education. Nelson expressed his excitement about the partnerships, and noted that the equipment that can be purchased with their donations makes learning math and science even more fun.

Board members thanked Correll for her work and for her leadership. Correll thanked the board for giving the space at this meeting to acknowledge these donors.

Awards and Accolades: Superintendent’s Report

Superintendent Green acknowledged “activities that have brought honor to our students and our schools,” including winners of various statewide competitions and contests, and community services projects undertaken by various school groups.

Student Disciplinary Action

Mexicotte explained that the board needed to share its reasoning behind a decision recently made in closed session concerning a student disciplinary action. She moved that the board reduce the disciplinary action to “level 3” to allow Student A to return to his or her school of origin, and noted that “this reduction in disciplinary action was due to the board’s determination that the weapon was not possessed for use as a weapon.”

Baskett questioned whether the word “weapon” should be used twice, and Mexicotte said the wording had come out of the closed session and could not be changed.

Outcome: The board unanimously approved Mexicotte’s motion to reduce the disciplinary aciton.

Agenda Planning

Mexicotte noted that she would be contacting each board member about the proposed agenda for the board’s upcoming organizational meeting on Jan. 18. The meeting will include the assignment of officer positions, ad-hoc committee positions, and board representation on administrative and community committees.

New Process and Procedure

The Dec. 14 board meeting saw the introduction of two new items.

New Process: Online Meeting Packets

The district piloted a new, online board packet at the Dec. 14 meeting. It can be viewed at this link: AAPS online board packet. Board secretary Amy Oskinski spent 15 minutes at the beginning of the Dec. 14 meeting orienting trustees to the new system and highlighting its technical features.

New Process: Meeting Adjournment Procedure

Mexicotte requested a motion to adjourn the meeting, a new parliamentary procedure for the board, which she said will help prevent her from inadvertently adjourning the meeting preemptively. The Dec. 14, 2011 meeting was adjourned at 2:07 a.m.

Present: President Deb Mexicotte, vice-president Susan Baskett, secretary Andy Thomas, treasurer Irene Patalan, and trustees Simone Lightfoot, Glenn Nelson and Christine Stead.

Absent: None

Next Regular Meeting/Annual Organizational Meeting: Jan. 18, 2012, 7 p.m., in the fourth-floor conference room of the downtown Ann Arbor District Library, 343 S. Fifth Ave.

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One Comment

  1. By TJ
    January 12, 2012 at 8:47 pm | permalink

    I wonder why the current HVAC providers weren’t able to avoid flooding in ~15 classrooms over the recent break…