AAPS Mulls Suing State over School Aid Fund

Also: board affirms unlimited discussion; flips voting order

Ann Arbor Public Schools (AAPS) Annual Organizational Meeting (Jan. 18, 2012): A report about state revenues from AAPS deputy superintendent of operations Robert Allen prompted the school board to start contemplating a possible lawsuit against the state of Michigan.  The suit would be based on the state’s use of the School Aid Fund.

Andy Thomas and Simone Lightfoot are sworn in as re-elected board members

Simone Lightfoot and Andy Thomas raise their right hands as they're sworn in at the Jan. 18, 2012 AAPS board meeting. They were both re-elected to the board last November. Sitting between them is board member Glenn Nelson. (Photo by the writer.)

Also at the meeting, the board handled myriad internal board organizational issues, typical for the board’s first meeting after the start of the term for newly elected members.

After a 15-minute delay coming out of an executive session, the AAPS board launched into its first meeting of the new year, beginning with trustees Simone Lightfoot and Andy Thomas taking their oaths of office after winning re-election this past November. Though elected to four-year terms, both trustees will likely serve the board through 2016 – in five-year terms – due to recent state legislation mandating that school board elections take place only in even-numbered Novembers.

The board’s first order of business was to elect its officers. Three of the four board officer positions were uncontested re-elections, and were approved unanimously – Deb Mexicotte as president, Irene Patalan as treasurer, and Andy Thomas as secretary. But Christine Stead was elected vice-president by a 5-2 vote over Susan Baskett, who had previously held the position. Baskett and trustee Simone Lightfoot dissented. The four officers took their oaths of office, and Mexicotte appointed Lightfoot as board parliamentarian.

AAPS deputy superintendent of operations Robert Allen gave the board a summary of the state revenue consensus conference held last week, including his assessment that nothing he heard indicated that the district’s per-pupil funding would increase, despite a surplus in the state School Aid Fund.

Allen’s report prompted the board to direct AAPS superintendent Patricia Green and her staff to explore taking legal action against the state for misapplying School Aid Fund revenue.

Also at the meeting, the board reviewed and made some minor adjustments to its internal administration, including: a list of designated board associations; representation on administrative committees; time limits; meeting schedule; voting order; communication procedures; and committee structure.

Receiving an initial discussion by the board was the length of board terms,  as new state law governing board of education elections takes effect.  The board also gave initial discussion to the possibility of using BoardDocs, an electronic system of board document management, to organize board informational materials. Both of those items will return to the board for more discussion and a decision at the next regular board meeting.

Budget Update

As AAPS deputy superintendent of operations Robert Allen approached the podium to give the board a budget update, AAPS superintendent Patricia Green thanked him for his dedication. She pointed out that Allen had been in Lansing for two days and drove back that day to be able to update trustees directly on the outcomes of the state revenue consensus conference. The board thanked Allen for attending the conference and getting the information firsthand.

Budget Update: State Revenue Consensus Conference

Allen explained that the state revenue consensus conference brings together representatives from the state treasury department the house and state fiscal agencies – in order to see if revenue is coming into the state at projected levels. All three entities, Allen said, agree that economic conditions in Michigan are improving, with their assessment based on three main data points: (1) overall retail sales revenue is increasing; (2) vehicle sales are increasing, and (3) unemployment is trending downward.

Allen reported that the state School Aid Fund (SAF) is currently projected to end the 2011-12 school year with a surplus of either $42 million or $142 million. And if the same level of appropriations is assumed for 2012-13, the SAF will end 2012-13 with a surplus of either $122 million or $222 million. The $100 million discrepancy is due to the fact that one agency includes the $100 million that has been historically transferred from the general fund to the SAF, whereas the other two agencies do not, Allen noted.

He then pointed out that even in the best case scenario, there is still not enough money in the fund to keep school districts at the 2011-12 funding level. That’s because in addition to SAF appropriations, this year school districts were also offered an additional $300 million in the form of retirement rate offsets and “best practices” incentive funding. Unless those offsets and/or incentives are offered again, even a $222 million projected surplus would not be enough to maintain current funding levels.

Allen also pointed out that a $400 million surplus in the SAF last year was distributed to community colleges and universities – even though Proposal A made it clear that such funding was supposed to be used only for K-12 education, he said.

Budget Update: AAPS Budget Considerations and Projections

Allen then reviewed how the state revenue conference projections affected the budget for AAPS. Based on what he had heard over the past two days, AAPS will still be facing a $14 million budget deficit for 2012-13. Allen then highlighted two specific considerations: the effect of the state-mandated employer retirement contributions; and the proposition of moving to all-day kindergarten throughout the district.

Allen reviewed the rising cost of funding the Michigan Public School Employees Retirement System (MPSERS), which will cost the district more than a 27% surcharge on employee salaries by 2012-13. He noted that the state is aware of the crisis, and has tried to mandate a shift in employee retirement plans from defined benefit plans to blended defined benefit/defined contributions plans. However, such a shift has faced legal challenges from teachers’ unions. Allen also pointed out that the state has $133 million in a reserve fund – which could be used to offset the retirement costs. But there has been no indication from the state about how that fund will be allocated.

Allen then reviewed pending legislation for next school year that will reduce the foundation allowance for half-day kindergarten students by 50%. Therefore, he said, AAPS is studying the costs and benefits of moving to a full-day program for all kindergarten students. [Currently, the district offers a range of kindergarten options, including both full and half day programs, depending on the demographics of each elementary school.] Green added that she will be bringing a recommendation to the board regarding all-day kindergarten as soon as possible after an administrative group concludes its study of the issue on Jan. 30.

Budget Update: Exploration of Potential Legal Action

Trustee Christine Stead expressed her frustration with the state’s appropriation of School Aid Fund surplus to institutions of higher education, saying, “I know there was some small clause in Proposal A that could be seen as allowing this in certain circumstances, but the spirit of the law has been violated in every way.” She suggested that that board direct AAPS administration to explore taking legal action against the state for its misuse of the SAF. “Time has come and gone for this.” she argued, “At what point do we say enough is enough?”

Lightfoot and Baskett responded to Stead’s suggestion with clear support. Nelson, Thomas, and Patalan were also supportive, but expressed concern about the allocation of AAPS resources to what could be a lengthy legal fight. Nelson suggested that if an initial exploration shows that a lawsuit would not pan out, AAPS could still address the issue by “going the political route.”

Mexicotte said she would be interested in finding out what the district’s legal prospects would be, and reminded the board that AAPS was a party to a set of lawsuits in the late 1990s [Durant v. State of Michigan] that succeeded in returning special education funding to local districts. “It is not without precedence that we have worked with other local districts and succeeded,” she said.

Consent Agenda Approved

The Jan. 18 consent agenda contained two items that were discussed as second briefing items – AAPS Educational Foundation Grant Awards, and the newly-crafted, district-wide Board Policy #6160 (Fines and Obligations). The first quarter financial report, minutes approvals, and gift offers were also on the consent agenda, but elicited no discussion.

Consent Agenda: Foundation Grant Awards

AAPS Educational Foundation (AAPSEF) executive director Wendy Correll came to the podium and offered to answer any questions trustees had about the set of grants being approved. She noted that the AAPSEF had just received an additional grant to fund a position currently held by Azibo Stevens, the district’s liaison to the Washtenaw Intermediate School District’s Education Project for Homeless Youth (EPHY), since state and federal funding for the position had “dried up.”

Lightfoot asked how many homeless students are part of AAPS, and Correll told her it was in the high 300s. Green added that a recent study suggested there could be as many as 140 additional students who have not yet been identified as homeless. Lightfoot said she would interested in a presentation from Stevens on the state of homelessness and truancy in the district. Mexicotte added that “educational neglect” is a related issue, and agreed it would be useful to have Stevens clarify the responsibilities of the district and the WISD as they relate to these students.

Consent Agenda: Fines and Obligations Policy

Mexicotte noted that many aspects of the regulations surrounding this policy were discussed at the board’s first briefing, but reminded everyone that the board only has purview over the policy itself. In that vein, she said, she suggested amending the policy by adding the following sentence to the end of the policy as a separate paragraph, to address the board’s main concern about the issue:

At no time shall a student be denied access to educational facilities or resources directly related to the free and appropriate public education of that student pending the resolution of outstanding fines or obligations.

Mexicotte also responded to some concerns of board members that the charge on returned materials should reflect the condition of the materials when lent. She reviewed than fines should be levied on students only outside of what would be considered “normal wear and tear.” Green added that with a policy in place, she was confident that school administrators would be able to achieve consistency in the application of this policy.

Outcome: The consent agenda was approved unanimously.

Board Organization

Every January the board reviews its internal organizational structure and procedures, and makes amendments if desired. At the Jan. 18 meeting, trustees reviewed and made some minor adjustments to various aspects of the board’s internal administration, including: time limits; list of designated board associations; representation on administrative committees; voting order; communication procedures; and committee structure. Three students spoke at public commentary regarding the board’s designation of the Youth Senate as one of its associations.

Board Organization: Time Limits

Mexicotte noted the last regular board meeting, which adjourned just after 2:00 a.m., included some discussion about doing business that late:  Was it in the best interest of the district or the trustees? She requested that trustees either acknowledge that meeting with unlimited discussion time may mean that board business takes a long time to complete, or agree to limit meeting length.

Thomas said he has felt somewhat stung by criticism regarding the length of board meetings, and offered to write guidelines that the board could adopt as policy in order to “eliminate redundancies” in discussion. Patalan advocated instead for greater self-regulation by trustees. Nelson suggested that a greater use of the parliamentary procedure of “calling the question” would lead to a heightened consciousness of time.

Lightfoot countered that she was concerned with discussion being cut off prematurely. She also expressed concern with the “I-know-where-you’re-going-with-this sentiment” she often hears at the table, “because you don’t know necessarily” where discussion is headed, she said. “We have a loaded agenda. There is not a whole lot of fat to get rid of.” If anything, Lightfoot said, the board should consider limiting its agenda, but not its discussion.

Mexicotte summarized the time limits discussion by saying that she had not heard any consensus on changing the board’s practice of speaking as long as it takes and giving all items the time they need to be resolved, while maintaining the option of calling the question to a vote. “Am I hearing this correctly?” she asked. “No change is basically what I’m hearing.”

Patalan disagreed, saying that simply the fact that the board discussed this issue would have an impact. She pointed out that not every board member had commented on every item thus far in the Jan. 18 meeting.

Thomas agreed with Mexicotte, saying, “I heard what you heard. What I heard was that the board has no problem with going on until one or two in the morning on a regular basis, and that there is no sentiment to do anything on a concerted basis to control our time management. If that’s the will of the board, I can stay up just as long as the rest of you. However, I wanted to bring forward some concerns.”

Mexicotte summarized the bottom line as she saw it on time limits: “What I want to affirm here is that if we decide we are going to talk as long as it takes on these very substantial matters, that we have a shared agreement that if a vote comes at 1:30 [a.m.], that’s when it comes, and that it’s not a fault of the process.”

Outcome: Trustees agreed they would not add time limits to their discussions, or limit the length of their meetings.

Board Organization: Public Comment on Youth Senate

Members of the district’s Youth Senate voiced their concerns about the board’s reconsideration of its associations. AAPS student Aoxue Tang said they applauded the board’s interest in expanding student engagement, but said it this effort should not compromise the board’s partnership with the Youth Senate.

Another student, Keely Earhardt, added that the process of involving students “should not move backward.” She noted that one advantage of allowing the Youth Senate as a board association is that it represents all high school students. Earhardt argued that if representatives from individual high schools are invited to present to the board, student voice becomes “competitive and fragmented.”

Public commentary on the Youth Senate was concluded by a student, Priya Menon, who reviewed the successes of Youth Senate initiatives in individual high schools. She highlighted ways the Youth Senate has strengthened student voice and opened up dialogue between students and administration.

Board Organization: Designated Board Associations

The board reviewed its designated associations. Currently, the board allows six groups to offer reports at all regular board meetings – the Ann Arbor Education Association (AAEA), Ann Arbor Parent Advisory Committee on Special Education (AAPAC), the Ann Arbor Administrators Association (AAAA), the Parent-Teacher-Organization Council (PTOC), the Black Parents Student Support Group (BPSSG), and the Youth Senate.

There was some disagreement about whether to continue to invite the AAAA to report to the board – because the group sends a representative to the board less frequently than other groups. However, it was generally agreed that without a policy governing required attendance, the door should be left open to the AAAA.

Trustees also discussed the possibility of allowing other bargaining units – in addition to the AAEA – to report to the board, perhaps in a rotating system of one or two association seats at each meeting.

The broader inclusion of student voice was also discussed, with multiple trustees giving accolades to the Youth Senate, as well as to AAPS assistant superintendent of secondary education Joyce Hunter – for working with the high schools to prepare a schedule for high school representatives to the report to the board. Lightfoot said she wanted to “reassure the Youth Senate that it was because they did so well that we wanted to hear from others, too.” She also said she would like to hear from a wide range of students, including those “standing in the [achievement] gap.”

Mexicotte suggested the board hold a broader discussion on its designated associations in the committee of the whole, addressing the schedule of speakers and attendance rules, as well as possible time frames and topic lists for speaking.

Outcome: The board voted to continue to invite the AAEA, AAPAC, AAAA, PTOC, BPSSG, and Youth Senate to make regular reports the board, along with additional representatives from each of the six high schools, on a rotating schedule to be determined by the board’s committee of the whole.

Board Organization: Administrative Committee Assignments

Board discussion about administrative committee assignments centered on two external groups – the Washtenaw Association of School Boards Legislative Relations Network (WASB LRN), and the city/schools committee.

Nelson informed the board that the WASB LRN position is likely to be different in the future due to the newly forming Washtenaw Alliance for Education. That’s a group designated by the WASB board of directors. The WAE would contain 33 people – two board members and the superintendent from each of the ten member districts of the Washtenaw Intermediate School District (WISD), and from the WISD itself. If approved by member districts, Nelson said, the WAE would provide way to influence legislation at the state level in a timely fashion. The group plans to meet monthly on Tuesdays at 6 p.m.

Once the WAE is officially formed, the WASB LRN would essentially “hibernate,” Nelson explained. AAPS superintendent Patricia Green added that the model of a county-wide legislative advocacy group was used very successfully in Pennsylvania, where she has worked previously. Nelson closed by saying that the creation of the Alliance will not eliminate the need for local boards to act on their own, but should build on local action rather than supplant it.

The city/schools committee has not met in several years. Baskett noted that she has gotten a sense that the hesitation in meeting has not come from the city council or city administration side, but from the side of AAPS. Given this, Baskett questioned whether the city/schools committee will be viable.

Stead confirmed that she had recently spoken to city council members Sabra Briere and Jane Lumm at an event, and that they had each expressed interest in working more closely with the school board. Mexicotte confirmed that trustees were intent on reviving the defunct committee, and suggested that trustees reach out to make the invitation to city council members, and to the mayor’s office within 60 days. Nelson added that the city/schools committee should communicate with the recreation advisory committee, which maintains an active discussion among city and school representatives.

With input from the trustees, Mexicotte then made the following appointments:

  • Lightfoot and Stead to the expulsion hearing/grade change/reinstatement panel;
  • Baskett, Patalan, and Stead to the city/schools committee;
  • Nelson to the recreation advisory committee;
  • Patalan to the celebration of excellence committee;
  • Mexicotte to the transportation safety committee;
  • Thomas to the AAPS Educational Foundation as a board member;
  • Lightfoot to the Youth Senate (if requested);
  • Baskett to Health Place 101 [part of the University of Michigan Regional Alliance for Healthy Schools];
  • Nelson to the Washtenaw Association of School Boards as a district board representative;
  • Stead to the Washtenaw Association of School Boards Legislative Relations Network; and
  • Lightfoot to the Michigan Association of School Boards Legislative Relations Network.

Outcome: The board agreed to renew the charge of the City-Schools committee, and all trustees agreed to their individual appointments, as listed above.

Board Organization: Meeting Schedule

As a way to make more efficient use of meeting time, the board considered expanding its summer meeting schedule. “Maybe we’re not on an agrarian schedule any more either,” Mexicotte suggested.

Trustees agreed that summer meetings could be used to do policy work, textbook adoptions, supply approvals, and hearing from summer school students, among other business. There was also agreement that not all seven trustees were needed, if vacation schedules prevented it, but that meeting more over the summer could allow trustees to off-load some of the work usually addressed during the school year.

Patalan noted that all of the committee of the whole (COTW) meetings were scheduled to take place at the Balas Administration building, and suggested holding them at various school buildings instead. The board expressed support for the idea.

Mexicotte requested that trustees submit their summer schedules to Osinski as soon as possible, and that Osinski put forth a board meeting schedule for the remainder of the 2012 calendar year within two regular board meetings.

Outcome: The board voted to meet twice in July and August – one regular meeting and one COTW meeting, and to relocate COTW meetings to school buildings.

Board Organization: Voting Order

Mexicotte noted that at the previous board meeting, a trustee questioned why the board always voted in alphabetical order. She asked trustees to consider whether they wanted to revise this past practice.

Nelson, Stead, and Baskett said they preferred board secretary Amy Osinski to read trustees’ names in a random order for every roll call vote. As a rationale for his opinion, Nelson offered, “Those who vote later in the process know things that others in the beginning did not know. That’s an obvious difference.” However, he also pointed out, “One can argue that it’s good to vote early because you can be such a strong influence on the group.” Stead said simply that voting in random order would make trustees focus more on their own votes.

Thomas, Lightfoot, and Patalan expressed interest in maintaining the board practice of taking roll call votes in alphabetical order. Thomas noted that he thought the decision was a “pretty trivial” one.

Mexicotte then said she was inclined to continue voting in alphabetical order because for her, “random is just too random – we just have [Osinski] tossing darts.” She suggested maintaining an order, but switching to reverse alphabetical. Trustees agreed to vote in reverse alphabetical order.

Referencing the board’s earlier decision not to limit discussion, Thomas noted, “If there is any doubt why our meetings last until 2 am, the last 15 minutes should provide ample explanation.”

Outcome: The board agreed to vote in reverse alphabetical order.

Board Organization: Communication Procedures

The board reviewed its internal communication procedures, as well as how it communicates with the AAPS administration and the community as a whole.

No changes were made to the board’s internal communication, except that some trustees requested a phone call from board secretary Amy Osinski regarding urgent matters – because they are not in continuous e-mail contact.

Trustees then discussed their relatively new process of making superintendent Patricia Green the single point of contact between the board and AAPS administrators and staff. That was something they had agreed to at their first committee of the whole meeting this fall. Thomas, Stead, Patalan, and Nelson reported that the process is working well for them, but Lightfoot and Baskett disagreed.

Lightfoot argued that with Green as the gatekeeper, “All seven [trustees] are not getting the same access to the cabinet.” Baskett also questioned the timeliness of having to wait for a reply via Green when in the past, she has been able to call specific cabinet members directly with a question.

Green clarified that it is best practice for all communication between trustees and top administrators to go through her, but that there is no prohibition against trustees contacting staff with specific questions. She noted that her cabinet has come back to her since the board began instituting this new process and reported how much better smoother and better this has been. “We have to avoid fragmentation,” Green said. “We have to work [trustees’] questions into the work flow, and can’t answer every question quickly.”

Mexicotte said she was concerned about the perception of unequal access to the cabinet, but suggested that when fielding constituents’ questions, trustees could refer them to AAPS staff or administrators directly. Lightfoot called that approach “a luxury,” and suggested that in some communities, referring constituents to the superintendent instead of answering their questions directly would be interpreted by the constituents as “putting them off.”

Patalan suggested the alternative of simply telling constituents it may take a while to get an answer for them. Lightfoot responded to Patalan’s suggestion by saying that would work for her better than telling a constituent to call someone else. Nelson also answered that if the superintendent does not grant a trustee access to her staff for whatever reason, the trustee always has the recourse of bringing the issue up at a board meeting. “If I can get a majority,” he explained as an example, “I can change that answer.”

Board Organization: Committee Structure

The board considered creating two board-level task forces or ad-hoc committees – one to focus on the technology bond and one to focus on legislative advocacy – but in the end decided not to create either one.

Regarding the upcoming technology bond millage campaign, Mexicotte noted that Stead and Nelson had already been in touch with the Citizens’ Millage Committee (CMC). Baskett asked for information on the work on the committee, and a list of its members.

Nelson explained that a similar group of people has come together to form the CMC during the past few AAPS millage campaigns, and that the CMC will function as the campaign’s advocacy arm. Because the district is legally prohibited from advocating for a “yes” vote on the millage, the CRC complements the internal group of AAPS administrators who are responsible for assessing the district’s technology needs, researching costs, and deciding how to make the most of any bond money approved by the voters.

Nelson named James Corey, Donna Lasinski, Steve Norton, Amy Pachera, Laurie Barnett, and Margy Long as some of the CMC members, but said he was sure he had forgotten some other names.

Trustees decided not to form a board-level technology bond committee, but to support the work of the CMC as well as the AAPS administrative group working on the issue. “It sounds like we have a strong role to play as advocates,” Mexicotte said.

Regarding the possibility of a legislative advocacy committee, the board decided to table the formation of such a committee pending the creation of the Washtenaw Alliance for Education [described above]. Trustees agreed that the WAE was worth their investment of time, but noted that, if necessary, they would revisit forming an AAPS legislative advocacy committee in the future.

Length of Board Terms

The board briefly discussed a first briefing item that would lengthen the term of board trustees to six years instead of four. The idea was suggested in response to recent state legislation requiring school boards to hold elections only in even-numbered Novembers. In AAPS, this will mean that a majority of the board (4 members) will be up for consideration in every other election. This would allow for a shift in the majority, unless the board votes to change the length of its own terms.

Board members did a quick straw poll on the issue, with the majority expressing an interest in maximizing board continuity while allowing the voters as much control as possible. Thomas noted that having six-year terms might increase the number of trustee resignations in the middle of a term, so it may be better to stick with four-year terms and risk that a majority of the board would turn over in one year. Mexicotte noted that six-year terms might set the bar too high for people to run.

Lightfoot said she trusts the voters, and that they should be able to vote people out in four years. Baskett was blunt, “Six years is just plain crazy … This is a volunteer position.”

Trustees noted that they would be interested in receiving feedback from the community on the issue before voting on it at the next regular meeting.

Outcome: The issue of board term lengths will come up for more discussion and a vote at the board’s next regular meeting.

BoardDocs: Electronic Document Management

The board had discussed moving to BoardDocs – a “paperless governing solution” – at its retreat in July 2011. At the Jan. 18 meeting, the board held a first briefing and discussion about BoardDocs.

The board packet contained a memo from board secretary Amy Osinski recommending that the board adopt BoardDocs, a paperless, electronic document management system.

Lightfoot and Thomas expressed their preference for hard copies, but said they could print the board packets out. Patalan and Baskett also expressed mixed feelings about the prospect of moving to a paperless system. Patalan acknowledged that she believes some aspects of BoardDocs would be very beneficial, such as transparency, the ease of updating policy, and being able to link to other districts.

Baskett suggested that the board would need to explore what to do to ensure connectivity, such as purchasing a computer for Osinski that could be used as a connectivity hub, or “hot spot.”  Baskett also said that she herself would require a “live body” next to her to help for the first couple of meetings, but that she thought it was important for the board to be a role model using technology – “it’s about time,” she said.

Lightfoot asked how much the district would really save, if confidential board packets are still to be printed and delivered by courier. Osinski replied that there are only a handful of confidential packets each year, and that the copy company can deliver them instead of a courier. She also noted that the cost of policy books and other large copy orders would be significantly reduced.

Osinski said overall, she expects the time savings to be huge. Although there are initial costs, BoardDocs would be worth pursing for efficiency, she said. BoardDocs would save the district approximately $4,000 to $5,000 per year in printing costs, she said.

Thomas reviewed the proposed costs as outlined in the board packet. If AAPS makes a five-year agreement with BoardDocs, the cost will be $9,000 per year, which would include maintenance, support, installation, training, upgrades, and customization. The annual cost would increase for shorter agreements, and all require a $1,000 implementation fee.

Osinski noted that BoardDocs has only “gone down” once in 11 years, and that the district would be reimbursed for the time when the system was down, if it ever happened again.

Mexicotte noted that her concern about moving to BoardDocs was about eye contact and meeting management. “I struggle with the laptop format in a meeting like this because you’ve got your nose in it and you’re behind a screen,” she said. Thomas said that trustees would be able to see each other’s faces over the screen, and pointed out how everyone could see the faces of the media representatives even though they were using laptops at the meeting. He joked that the greater concern might be whether trustees were really looking at the web pages they were supposed to be looking at during meetings.

Baskett suggested including corollary costs in the second briefing discussion, including any additional costs for ensuring connectivity.

Outcome: The question of moving to the BoardDocs paperless document management system will be reviewed at second briefing and voted on at the next regular board meeting.

Public Comment: Hiring

Jim Turner spoke of his disappointment about the board’s recent hiring actions. “I have never seen a bigger display of arrogance … You don’t know everything, and you just decide what’s best … You don’t listen to what people have to say … I don’t believe you’re looking out for kids…You don’t care about what the people in the district want.”  [Turner may have been alluding to the board's recent decision to award a bid for HVAC journeyman services to D.M. Burr, a non-union company in Flint, MI.]

Awards and Accolades

In honor of National School Board Week, Joe De Marsh, conductor of the Tappan Middle School chamber orchestra recognized the work of the trustees. His students then played three selections for the board.

Superintendent’s Report

Green thanked the local chapter of The Links for recently sponsoring “Beyond the Bricks,” a media project and opportunity for national community engagement on the consistently low performance and graduation rates of black males. She noted that AAPS assistant superintendent for secondary education Joyce Hunter had moderated a panel discussion after the film, and that the event had been very enlightening.

Green also offered congratulations to various schools, students, and staff members for exemplary work across the district, and the receipt of awards throughout the state. She also praised many of the community services projects recently undertaken by AAPS students and staff.

Finally, Green recognized the trustees for their work as part of school board appreciation month, and offered them certificates of gratitude. “I think it’s important that the conversations you all have are genuine and that they represent who you are,” Green said. “It’s because of what you do that we appreciate the results of what you do.”

Student Discipline

Based on the board’s earlier hearing, held in closed session, Mexicotte said, she moved to expel Student A from AAPS as required by the state of Michigan and board of education policy. Her motion was seconded by Stead.

Baskett noted that the board usually puts a time limit on its disciplinary actions, and Mexicotte said the action would be for 180 days. She also noted that in the hearing the board had requested that the educational needs of the student would be supported by referral to alternative education.

Outcome: The board unanimously approved the expulsion of Student A.

Acceptance of Canvassers Report

On Nov. 8, 2011, voters in the AAPS district voted to re-elect Simone Lightfoot and Andy Thomas to four-year terms.

Outcome: With no discussion, the board voted to unanimously accept the canvassers report from the November 2011 board election.

Agenda Planning

Mexicotte noted that she would add an agenda item regarding homelessness, truancy, and how the district interacts with the Washtenaw Intermediate School District (WISD) on such matters. She also reminded board members that the next committee of the whole (COTW) meeting was next week, and that the February meetings are taking place on a condense schedule due to mid-winter break.

Lightfoot questioned the achievement update’s place on the board calendar in March and asked if it had changed. Green answered that no, it had always been planned for March.

Items from the Board

Stead encouraged her colleagues to sign up for the inaugural Ann Arbor marathon being held on June 17, 2012. She noted that they would have a full six months to train, and urged, “This is do-able!”

Stead also announced the upcoming Washtenaw Elementary Science Olympiad, the largest event of its kind in the nation.

Thomas invited the board and public to a performance this week of Life Sciences orchestra, in which Thomas plays the viola. He pointed out that this concert is geared to a younger audience, and will include an “instrument petting zoo” sponsored by Shar Music. The concert will be held at 4 p.m. on Sun. Jan. 22, 2012 at Hill auditorium, and is free.

Baskett invited everyone to an event on Mon. Jan 23 co-hosted by the local Student Advocacy Center and the ACLU. Saying it would be a forum to talk about student rights and responsibilities as they deal with expulsions, Baskett said the event would be “packed full of information.” The event will be held at the Peace Neighborhood Center from 6-8 p.m., and an RSVP is requested to attend:

Mexicotte noted that the WISD would be running a workshop on superintendent evaluations from 8:30-11:30 a.m. on Sat. Feb. 18 to bring the ten county districts together.

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

Next regular meeting: Wednesday, Feb. 1, 2012, at 7 p.m. at the downtown branch of the Ann Arbor District Library, 343 S. Fifth Ave. [confirm date]


  1. January 23, 2012 at 9:11 am | permalink

    A couple of disparate comments:

    In the “late nights” discussion, it’s curious to me that the board didn’t discuss just moving their start time earlier, which might be a fairly easy solution.

    I’d be very interested in having Ann Arbor see if there is a good premise for legal action around the state funding issue. If they believe that there is, I’d imagine some other school districts would be interested in joining such a case.

  2. By A2person
    January 23, 2012 at 1:40 pm | permalink

    I support the BOE 100% in pursuing this lawsuit. And I bet they could find some other districts willing to pursue it with them.