AAPS Budget: Public Critical; Board Fretting

Chances for public input on budget remain before end of June

Ann Arbor Public Schools board of education (May 9, 2012): One of the major tasks of the board of education is setting the budget, the other is setting policy. The May 9 agenda was primarily policy-focused, but discussion on the budget found its way into most sections of the meeting.


Supporters of the Roberto Clemente Student Development Center filled the board room for the May 9 meeting. (Photos by Monet Tiedemann.)

Sentiments expressed during a heated public commentary section were later echoed during agenda planning, as two of the board trustees questioned administrative work being done behind the scenes to prepare for possible budget reductions. The budget does not need to be approved by the board until June 30. A second public forum on the budget will be held on May 14 at 6:30 p.m. in the Huron High School cafeteria.

Several speakers at the May 9 meeting thanked the community for passage of the technology bond millage two days earlier.

Also at the May 9 meeting, trustees considered approving two new easements with the city of Ann Arbor, and awarded a set of bids for physical properties work. They also took a first look at the district’s new anti-bullying policy, as well as a set of other policy updates presented by AAPS administration.

Finally the board reviewed the proposed 2012-13 budget of the Washtenaw Intermediate School District (WISD), and shared its concerns about it. Local school boards are required by law to review the WISD’s budget, but have no vote in its actual approval.

2012-13 Budget

The proposed 2012-13 budget was first presented by AAPS administration in April. The Chronicle has pulled out of the May 9 meeting all budget-related threads and presented them as follows: public input; public commentary on Roberto Clemente; public commentary on music camp; public commentary on busing to Ann Arbor Open; clarification on public commentary; agenda planning; items from the board; and the Ann Arbor Education Association report.

2012-13 Budget: Public Input

Since the budget proposal was presented, the board has invited public comment on the proposal during its regular meetings as well as at two community budget forums – one already held on May 7, 2012, and one on May 14 at 6:30 p.m. in the Huron High School cafeteria.


AAPS board president Deb Mexicotte.

At the May 9 meeting, the board also set an official public hearing on the budget as part of the May 23 regular board meeting. Board president Deb Mexicotte explained that the budget hearing will function as an additional public commentary session devoted exclusively to public input on budgetary concerns. She also explained that, unlike regular public commentary for which citizens are required to sign up before the meeting, the budget hearing “can only be signed up for at the moment … Anyone who is here during that time can comment.”

Thomas asked if the length of the budget hearing is the same as the length of regular public commentary (45 min), and Mexicotte confirmed that budget hearings have typically also been 45 minutes long, which means that in total, the public input offered at the May 23 meeting could extend to an hour and a half. She clarified, that typically there is very little commentary during the public comment section, but people had sometimes talked during both opportunities.

As noted during Mexicotte’s president’s report at the May 9 meeting, the board will next meet as a committee of the whole [on May 16 in the Tappan middle school media center at 5:30 p.m.]. Update: Around noon on Monday, May 14, AAPS announced the committee meeting would be changed from Tappan to the Balas administration building at 2555 S. State St. The reason for the change was to allow for the possibility that the meeting could go past 10:30 p.m.

At that committee meeting, the board will hold a budget discussion, among other items. Committee meetings are open to the public, and typically offer an opportunity for public commentary as well. Other items on the committee meeting agenda are the district’s gifted and talented programming and the superintendent evaluation process.

2012-13 Budget: Public Commentary – Roberto Clemente

Twenty people spoke to the board about the proposed restructuring or closure of Roberto Clemente Student Development Center, which is projected to save $400,000.

Clemente’s founder, Joe Dulin, started off the public commentary on the school. He said that sharing a building with another school would be tantamount to closing Clemente completely. He compared board members who don’t know Clemente to Mitt Romney, who he said “doesn’t know poor people.” Dulin said that discussing the closure of Clemente pits Clemente’s families and staff “against the system,” and that “shifting to another school means we’ve lost rights.”

Many of Dulin’s points were reiterated by other speakers, with the energy in their statements rising as public commentary went on. Gregg Pratt, a social worker and community organizer, led the crowd of supporters in a chant: “Our school, our choice, our students, our future,” and closed with “We demand you keep [Clemente] open and we’re not going to stop.”

Sherry Weatherspoon, a longtime member of the Clemente community said she was angry at the decision-making of this board and this administration. She suggested that A2 Tech and Community High Schools be merged together, but that “there is a good reason for Roberto Clemente to be alone.” Weatherspoon added, “I will fight this board and future boards ‘til my dying day – by any means necessary.” Saying the salaries of the administration need to be cut just like everybody else, she called superintendent Patricia Green’s salary “outrageous,” and asserted that deputy superintendent Robert Allen appears to be doing Green’s job anyway. After she had spoken more than 30 seconds past her allotted time, and after a few requests to bring her comments to a conclusion, Mexicotte asked her to please step away from the podium.

Cassandra Parks, whose brother and nephew attended Clemente also drew attention to administrators’ salaries, saying, “The Balas [AAPS administration] building is not on the same financial diet that the rest of America is on.” Clemente alumnus and staff member David Malcolm suggested that Joe Dulin deserved accolades for saving many lives. “One [accolade] could be leaving our building alone … Leave us alone. Go find some money from somewhere else.” He also pointed out, “All of these kids that you are voting out today will be the voters tomorrow.”

Other speakers, too, stressed the familial aspect of Clemente. “Clemente is nothing but support – every teacher is looking to make sure you succeed,” said student Quentin Havlik. Parent Tara Cole noted that parents are given phone numbers for all staff members, which might not work for all schools, but is part of Clemente’s “open communication” policy. Jacob Mercer credited the school with “saving [his] family,” as the size of the school made it possible for a teacher to learn that his family was about to become homeless and helped them find a house to rent. Steven Ward, a University of Michigan professor and volunteer at Clemente, pointed out that it’s not common to hear repeatedly about how a school “saves lives” and that “to hear it over and over again is really meaningful.” Marcus Buggs, who witnessed his father’s shooting death as a child, said simply, “My family is being gunned down right now.”

Multiple students expressed disappointment that only one of the board members, trustee Christine Stead, took them up on their offer at the last board meeting to visit Clemente, and said that only four of the seven trustees had ever visited the school. They asked questions including: “What will control the final decision?” “How can it be possible to make an informed decision?” and “How can a final decision be made based on preconceived knowledge?” Student Tevin Cole said members of the board are showing apathy about a decision that would change students’ futures for good. Student Cierra Reese and other students asked the board to vote in front of them, if board members truly respected their voice and their time.

Another theme that ran through the comments was the question of why the board would choose to change a program that was so successful the way it is. Lexanna Marie Lyons, a Clemente teacher and counselor, pointed out that the philosophies of Clemente and A2 Tech are very different. Clemente parent Tara Cole added that combining the two programs will destroy them both, and that Clemente students would be subjected to bullying if they were re-integrated into the schools that “rejected them in the first place.” Cassandra Parks argued that the concept of Clemente works and called Pioneer and Huron “drop-out factories.”

Many speakers noted that Clemente’s location “away from other schools, distractions, and bus lines” was critical and argued that attendance would decrease if the program was moved. They argued that the program cannot be replicated, and that it would not be able to recreate the “culture of achievement” that motivates Clemente students in a new location. Parent Wilber Miller commended the board for creating Clemente, giving it a magnificent building, great teachers, a great principal, and supporting it so it could become a thriving community. “Let there be more testimonies, more tomorrows, more good news to come. Keep Roberto Clemente as it is,” he urged.

2012-13 Budget: Public Commentary – Music Camps

Four people addressed the board about the elimination of a $60,000 subsidy supporting summer music camps.

Parent Theresa Angelini said the Interlochen experience is one that students never forget, and that the “investment is more than matched by families.” She said that the model of cost-sharing, in which the district pays 18% and the parents pay 82%, “seems to be a model for education.” Her son Brandon Angelini also spoke, saying that band camp allows students to be friends with people they would otherwise never meet, creates smaller communities within the comprehensive high schools, and creates unity among high schools across the district.

Parent Amy Higgins noted that the band staff believe that the camps will end if this subsidy is cut. She urged the board to consider the return on investment for each of the things “on the chopping block” and said the $60,000 helps to “close the gap.” Higgins pointed out that AAPS has Grammy-winning schools and that the music program is an “engine for success” that brings people to the district.

Student Ales Chmiel said the Interlochen camp provides students with an amazing opportunity to play in front of thousands of people and enables all students to prosper.

2012-13 Budget: Public Commentary – Busing to Ann Arbor Open

Seven Ann Arbor Open parents addressed the board about the proposed cuts in “transportation of choice” totaling $266,400, which includes all general education busing to Ann Arbor Open, Skyline, and Roberto Clemente.

Jeff Hayner asserted that busing offered opportunities for socializing beyond the classroom that were beneficial to kids, and urged the board to reconsider. “Well-run public schools are a bargain, but poorly-managed public schools are a burden to society,” Hayner said. He argued that the board was violating the public’s trust, and asked why there were no administrative salary cuts in the proposed budget.

Multiple parents pointed out that the most vulnerable students would be those most affected by the loss of busing. “You are basically telling me that we have to switch schools. It’s targeting families much poorer than mine and it’s just not fair,” argued Tracy Jensen. Carol Sickman-Garner noted that Ann Arbor Open is a public school, should be accessible to all children in the community, and that Ann Arbor Open students should receive the same services as their K-8 peers. Sharon Simonton added that many working parents do not have the job flexibility to pick up children at 2:30 p.m. every day, and that elementary children are too young to ride the city buses home by themselves.

Saftey concerns were noted multiple times. Jill Zimmerman argued, “there is not enough time to ensure our children’s safety with this plan” if the board does not approve the final budget until next month. She questioned the district’s plan for addressing the doubling or tripling of auto traffic, and whether there would be time to talk to the city about traffic build-ups and access to Mack pool. She also questioned whether there would be eonough time, between now and next year, for parents to organize the carpools alluded to at the last board meeting.

Parents also stressed the desire for Ann Arbor Open to be given alternatives to cutting busing that meet the same savings targets. “We understand the budget crisis is real, and cuts have to be made and will continue,” Zimmerman said. She noted that Ann Arbor Open parents have repeatedly asked how much busing costs the district for Ann Arbor Open specifically. “If we had this information and more time,” she asserted, “We could suggest alternative cuts.” She added that the district’s attempts to reduce transportation costs in the past have not always yielded the projected savings.

Julie Roth suggested that the district get rid of the Northwest Evaluation Association (NWEA) test implemented this year – because an online version of the Michigan Educational Assessment Program (MEAP) could replace it soon. She said the funds supporting NWEA could be better used to save Clemente, busing, and other services that affect the most vulnerable students. She pointed out that former AAPS superintendent Todd Roberts was more visible in the schools than Green has been. Roth said Roberts had encouraged schools to be part of the solution by suggesting their own plan to reduce costs at the building level.

Parent Ruth Ann Church agreed with Roth, accusing the district of “forcing one and only one solution on the problem of needing more money” instead of allowing the principals a chance to suggest alternatives. “We need a board that will ask for the solutions and listen.”

2012-13 Budget: Clarification on Public Commentary

Trustee Andy Thomas addressed a claim made during public commentary that the loss of the $60,000 summer music camp subsidy would mean the end of the camps. Thomas indicated that it was his understanding some of this concern revolved around a question of liability insurance. He asked Green to clarify that from a practical and legal point of view, there is no reason the music camps could not continue if an extra $70 per student could be found. Green responded that the administration has looked into the question of liability, and is confident that “if this is an activity that is an offshoot of our program, our insurance would cover [accompanying teachers].”

Thomas also asked for clarification on whether the new MEAP test will be similar to the NWEA. Green said that by 2014-15, the state would like to have a test that allows the kind of benchmarking already being done in AAPS. She also pointed out that the NWEA test being used in the district allows AAPS to create personalized learning plans to be able to accelerate and remediate as needed. Green argued that eliminating it would do a disservice to students.

Trustee Simone Lightfoot asked for clarification on how parents get the data they need. Green suggested that parents should use the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) process. Lightfoot said that seemed cumbersome to her, and Green responded that without requiring FOIA requests, the district would be inundated with all kinds of requests for data and the district has to be sure it’s equitable. Trustee Susan Baskett pointed out that the cost of making a FOIA request could be a burden to some, making it an inequitable process, and suggested the district could come up with something better than FOIA in the future.

2012-13 Budget: Agenda Planning

During the agenda planning section at the end of the May 9 board meeting, Baskett and Lightfoot each questioned some of the work being done by AAPS administration to prepare the district for possible budget reductions the board could decide to make.

Regarding the possible closure or restructuring of Roberto Clemente, trustee Susan Baskett asked, “What is our plan with the transition?… It would help the community to know how it would work. Can we assure the public that it will be thought out?” Mexicotte said that discussing a transition plan would be “premature,” but that “there have been ongoing conversations with the administrators of the schools affected.”

Baskett and trustee Simone Lightfoot also asked about the status of talks between AAPS and the Ann Arbor Transportation Authority (AATA) about busing. Lightfoot asked, “Are we not going to have conversations about transportation and possible alternatives prior to approving the budget?” Mexicotte said the board would discuss transportation as part of the overall budget discussion to be held as part of the committee of the whole meeting on May 16. She added that at that time, the board could choose to put together a subcommittee or schedule a single meeting to discuss a single topic if necessary.

Lightfoot asserted that the board is not giving transportation the attention and time it’s going to require – because so much might need to be done before September. She asked how the meetings between AATA and the district were “evolving” and when the board would be updated on them. Green answered that there was a lot of conversation taking place, that the district had a meeting coming up with AATA’s CEO, and that she could summarize something for “the capsule,” a regular e-mail update from the superintendent to the board.

Lightfoot responded, “That’s unacceptable. We and the public should be getting more information on those meetings.” At the end of the meeting, during items from the board, Lightfoot invited the public to participate in a discussion being held by the AATA to get public input into their new transportation plans on Monday, May 14 at 7 p.m. at Malletts Creek branch of the Ann Arbor district library.

2012-13 Budget: Items from the Board

At the close of the May 9 meeting, Patalan reminded the community of the upcoming budget forum on May 14, at Huron High School, and said she would love for people to attend and give feedback. Saying she understood the anger she heard at public commentary, and supported everyone advocating for what is dear to them, Patalan urged the public to remember that “we [trustees] are human beings.” She added, “I am a little troubled by what seems like a lack of sticking to the rules of public commentary, a lack of respect for public commentary … and what is perceived by me as threats to the board, administration, or superintendent. We are truly working for the good of all of our students and it is hard when, once again, we have to make reductions.”


AAPS trustees Christine Stead (left) and Irene Patalan (right) listen to public commentary during the May 9 meeting.

Stead thanked the principals and students at Roberto Clemente and A2Tech for “spending so much time with [her] in the past couple of weeks.” She singled out her four student hosts at Clemente as being “fabulous students, very informative” and for asking some really great questions of her during her visit. Stead encouraged the community to engage in a constructive way to change the law regarding local tax levy authority. “It’s insane that in this country we cannot exercise our own priorities,” she said. “… [A]s we hand out what Lansing has handed to us – the time has come to change the law and get back our own democratic rights.”

Nelson said that in the very short term, at the state level, the House bill on the School Aid Fund is considerably better than the Senate bill. He urged everyone who is listening who wanted to take constructive action in the short term to support the House bill.

2012-13 Budget: AAEA Report

Ann Arbor Education Association president Brit Satchwell used the bulk of his report to encourage taking action to change state funding for education, and pointed out that no matter what cuts the board decides to make, their effects will ripple throughout the system. “I want everybody who has come to advocate for programs to realize that it’s not the domino next to you causing the cuts … Coming here and advocating is not enough.”

Satchwell called the board’s upcoming decisions “impossible” in an environment of inadequate resources, and suggested trustees focus on meeting needs where they are the greatest, “like how when the body goes into shock, the blood rushes to the center of the body to keep the heart and lungs working even at the expense of the fingers and toes.”

Tech Bond

Mexicotte devoted her president’s report at the May 9 meeting primarily to expressing gratitude for the passage of the technology bond millage. She thanked trustee Glenn Nelson explicitly for his pivotal role in getting it passed, and offered Nelson a chance to thank each of the major players in the tech bond campaign.

Nelson first recognized AAEA president Brit Satchwell, superintendent Patricia Green, fellow trustees Christine Stead and Andy Thomas, AAPS director of communications Liz Margolis, and AAPS executive director of physical properties Randy Trent.

Nelson then thanked a number of “citizen volunteers” whose services he said would have been worth $1,000 a day in the consulting world, but who received no compensation: James Corey, who Nelson said was absolutely instrumental in facilitating local companies’ involvement with the bond; Parent-Teacher-Organizationp-Council leaders Donna Lasinksi and Amy Pachera; Patrick Leonard, who took charge of flyer distribution, and was able to get out double the number of flyers that were originally printed; Lorrie Barnett, who drafted the materials on the flyers and postcards; and Steve Norton, who oversaw communication, yard sign design and distribution, was the treasurer of the citizen’s millage committee, “and did 10-12 other things.” Nelson asserted that the district is “very fortunate to have all of these wonderful people.”

Mexicotte noted that if someone was not on Nelson’s list, it was because she did not warn him that she would be asking him to enumerate the campaign workers at this meeting. She then asked a Huron High School student to the podium, who reported that Nelson had participated in Challenge Day at his school and that Nelson is “a tremendous and wonderful person.” Nelson said that he would take great pleasure in watching the young man in the future.

Thomas asserted that the “spiritual and energetic and emotional leader” of the millage campaign was Nelson himself, and said that he “did it in a way that made everyone else feel like the decisions were communal … It was impressive – to be led without realizing you are being led.”

Green’s superintendent’s report also contained a list of thank-yous regarding the millage’s passing: to voters in the community for their support; to her executive staff for attending many community events; and to the bargaining units. “It does take a village,” she said, “and the village really responded … I hope we do very well implementing the next phase of this. [AAPS executive director of properties] Randy Trent – you have a lot of work ahead of you, and I know you are up for the job.”

During the agenda planning portion of the May 9 meeting, Baskett said that now that the tech bond had passed, she would like the board to have a discussion regarding its priorities in terms of hiring contractors. Mexicotte told Baskett that any trustee can bring forward a proposed policy for the board to consider. But Baskett said she would prefer to have trustees first have a discussion to see if they were all “on the same page” regarding hiring local workers, paying a living wage, encouraging bids from historically-underutilized businesses, and other such values before hiring contractors to carry out the work related to the tech bond.

During items from the board, Nelson and Patalan also thanked the community for passing the tech bond millage. Patalan said she was glad the board took the time to celebrate the people who helped to make it happen and the citizens who “are not giving up on the future.”

AAEA president Brit Satchwell also offered thanks for the tech bond’s passage on behalf of all educators, saying the community has given teachers the ability to do what they’re here to do – to prepare students for success in life in the outside world.

Easements for Northside and Pioneer

The board considered granting two easements to the city of Ann Arbor– one on the property of Northside Elementary School and another on the property of Pioneer High School, both for work related to water mains. AAPS executive director of physical properties Randy Trent explained to the board these are two different easements, one for work that the district has already done. Lightfoot asked how the easement could be granted for work after it was finished. Trent explained that the exact locations of water mains are not known until they are installed, and the sequence of installation followed by the easement is typical. When there is a water main and the city has easements, the city has responsibility for them. It works both ways very well, Trent said.

Outcome: The easements come back for approval at the next general meeting.

Physical Properties Bid Awards Approved

Trent was also on hand to answer board questions during a second briefing on six physical properties bid award recommendations. The bids are for: asbestos abatement; environmental consultation; integrated pesticide management; University of Michigan parking services; 2012 asphalt paving, and Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) improvements.

Nelson asked Trent to explain how integrated pest management is approached in the district. Trent explained that the district always take the least toxic approach to managing pests as needed. Usually, he explained, pests can be managed with proactive monitoring, such as applying caulk if pests are entering through cracks, taking down hornet and wasp nests from the playground equipment before school starts in the fall, and hand-pulling poison ivy from school property. Lightfoot asked which pests the district is most burdened by, and Trent answered ants and bees.

Patalan noted that the ADA bid was for “Phase IV” of ADA improvements, and asked how many phases there will be. Trent answered that they will be ongoing as long as access can be improved, though there will be fewer in the future as the district has done a lot in recent years.

Mexicotte noted that the details on each bid were in the board packets, and Trent added that in all cases, the lowest qualified bidder is being recommended.

Outcome: The board awarded the bids unanimously approval as part of the consent agenda.

Anti-Bullying Policy

Mexicotte noted that the state has required all districts to create an anti-bullying policy that contains certain elements. Trustees asked AAPS deputy superintendent of human resources and general counsel Dave Comsa to list the nine required elements and point out where they were in the draft policy, which he did. Comsa also noted that the policy must be adopted by June 6, and that detail regarding the regulations will be created once the policy is approved.

Trustees made the following suggestions: amend language to make it clear that the policy includes behavior at school-related activities, not only behavior in school; develop a tool to track whether bullying is linked to racial, ethnic, or sexual orientation intimidation; add a timeline for resolution of bullying investigations; add something about how this policy appears in multiple media – because it will be part of the Rights and Responsibilities handbook as well; link the annual review of bullying incidences to the expulsion and suspension report; and be sure staff is trained to counsel students through the process.

AAPS deputy superintendent of instruction Alesia Flye said that some of the board’s suggestions would be addressed by the regulations as they are developed. She noted that students will be involved in creating some of the specific pieces of the district’s anti-bullying program, and that she is looking to develop a framework that is consistent throughout the district.

Mexicotte said the board has great interest in seeing the regulations as they are developed to understand how they reflect the spirit of the policy.

Outcome: The anti-bullying policy was reviewed as a first briefing item and will be returned to the board for additional review and comment before being voted on at the next regular meeting.

Policy Updates

The board reviewed seven expiring policies at this meeting – Student Reclassification-Retention (Policy 5160); Elementary Reclassification-Acceleration (Policy 5170); Field Trips (Policy 5300); Pilot Projects/Innovation (Policy 6120); Donations-Gifts and Bequests (Policy 7400); Parental Involvement (Policy 7800); and Parental Involvement Title 1 (Policy 7810).

No significant changes were suggested to policies 5160, 5170, 7400, 7800, or 7810.

Discussion of the field trip policy (5300) included the question of whether field trips could be required if they did not cost any money. Trustees suggested wording that stresses that missing a field trip would not adversely affect a student’s grades – either because a student does not go on the trip, or because a student is unable to participate in follow-up activities related to the trip.

Baskett suggested adding that “denial of field trips would not be used as a disciplinary action.” Thomas disagreed, saying that it is appropriate to deny participation in a field trip to an individual with a history of disciplinary programs who would be at risk to himself or others in a field-trip environment. Baskett noted that there is a sense of weeding out students early in the year from end of the year field trip opportunities. Mexicotte said the district might need to work to change the behavior of schools regarding this, and Green said that she is working to build in incentives with cooperative discipline that will help schools intervene early enough to change behaviors.

Lightfoot requested that Allen look into how athletic directors are choosing to transport students to sporting events, because some schools use buses and others use private vehicles.

Regarding the pilot projects policy (6120), Mexicotte said she had been part of crafting this policy in an attempt to bring oversight of significant academic programs to the board level, but that it “somehow just cannot work within our environment.”

Nelson pointed out that this policy just restates what is already law in terms of the board’s responsibility. “We just need to assert periodically through the agenda-setting process that we would like certain reports,” he said.

Mexicotte pointed out that without a policy like this at all, there were major programs going on at schools that the board did not know about, but that in the current fiscal climate, that appears to not be happening anymore, so perhaps the policy is no longer necessary.

Lightfoot, Thomas, and Baskett expressed interest in maintaining the oversight provided by this policy, and Mexioctte suggested perhaps the policy’s name is getting in the way of its being used.

Green said she likes consistency, and that “pilot project” has not been consistently defined. She also noted that the policy could be seen as constraining creativity.

Outcome: These policies will return to the board for more discussion and a vote at the next regular board meeting.

WISD Budget

Stead gave a presentation on the Washtenaw Intermediate School District’s 2012-13 budget, which had been furnished by the WISD to member districts. She noted that AAPS and other member districts are mandated by law to review the WISD’s general fund, and that AAPS would review the special education budget as well.

The presentation was in the board packet, and Stead read through it, highlighting the role of the WISD, the services it offers AAPS, and the various teaching and learning initiatives in which WISD is involved. Trustees expressed interest in getting brief descriptions for each of the roughly 50 teaching and learning initiatives – as a part of their information packets for their next meeting.

Stead then reviewed expenditure categories, sources of revenue (primarily property tax revenue), projected reimbursement rates, and the projected decrease in the WISD’s fund balances. She noted that AAPS is interested in the reimbursement rate for special education services, which has decreased since 2010, and is projected to continue to decrease as property values continue to decline.

Mexicotte pointed out that the recent special education millage renewal was a renewal of the rate, not the amount. The reimbursement rate is lower in part because the millage did not replenish the same amount of funds, she said. Nelson said that one of the things the board has a responsibility for is to think about things on the revenue side. Stead also pointed out that earmarked federal grant money, such as the IDEA grant, could also decrease.

Thomas asked what was included in “central services” in the WISD budget – because the WISD’s central services budget is almost three times as high as the corresponding item for AAPS. He also said he would like to see how much it costs to operate High Pointe.

Nelson said that he was in favor of approving the WISD budget, but would like to make two suggestions – that the transportation services provided to cooperating districts be broken out by district, and that the WISD work to establish closer relationships between itself and its member districts. Lightfoot also expressed interest in seeing the breakdown in transportation costs, as well as projections about their possible role with Head Start.

Mexicotte said she was really struck by the precipitous drop in the WISD’s fund balance, and asked what WISD will do when it is depleted. She suggested that the WISD should provide a line-by-line breakdown of its budget and offer explanations of each item. Also, she said she would like to see the amounts for the specific things AAPS should be paying attention to, such as the consolidated substitute teacher program, and programs for which AAPS gets specific support.

Association and Student Reports

Five associations are invited to make regular reports to the school board: the Black Parents Student Support Group (BPSSG), the Ann Arbor Parent Advisory Committee for Special Education (AAPAC), the Parent Teacher Organization Council (PTOC), the Ann Arbor Administrators Association (AAAA), and the Ann Arbor Education Association (AAEA). The Youth Senate is also invited to speak once a month, as are representatives from each of the high schools.

At this meeting, the board heard from a student representative from Ann Arbor Technological High School (A2 Tech), the AAPAC, and the AAEA. Comments from AAEA were included above, in sections of the meeting report about the budget and the tech bond.

Association and Student Reports: A2 Tech

A2 Tech student Hannah King offered the board her story of how she became a student at A2 Tech. She described how she had been at Community High School and done well initially, but as classes became harder, she began to not do as well. Finally, after the first semester of her junior year, Community dean Jennifer Hein suggested that she transfer to Skyline permanently or attend A2Tech to recover some credits, and then be able to return to Community for her senior year. Her time at A2 Tech has been successful, King said, and the smaller class sizes have allowed her to learn how to become a better student. She is now planning to continue her journey to art school in the future.

King also read the statement of DeAndre Booker, another A2 Tech student who was called into work and was therefore unable to attend the meeting. She noted that Booker’s boss had said he would be fired if he did not come to work, so he had no choice but to go.

Booker’s story begins when he was 16 years old, living with his sister. He had dropped out of school to take care of his mother, who had a worsening mental disability, and his sister told him he would need to be in school or move out. At 17, he left home and went into independent living through a program called Fostering Futures in Ypsilanti. He began to attend school at Huron, but struggled due to the large class sizes, the lack of time to build relationships with teachers, and his perception that they weren’t concerned about him. After transferring to A2 Tech, he felt cared for, and has been able to thrive due to extra help received during and after school. Booker has received scholarship offers, has applied for college, and credits A2Tech with making him into the “peaceful, strong, and determined” young man he is today.

Nelson said he appreciated King’s excellent report and Baskett thanked her for reading both her story and her peer’s story. Nelson then asked for more detail describing the decision process that led to transfering to A2Tech. King reviewed her conversation with Hein, how she wanted to make the choice that would allow her to return to Community because of her interest in its art program, and how her parents had been part of the decision, too.

Nelson said King was the kind of student the district is proud of. Patalan agreed “You know what you want for your future, and you are doing what you need to do to get what you need fore your future – that is something to be commended. The board is proud of that.”

Baskett also commended A2Tech principal Sheila Brown for attending the meeting to support her students.

Association and Student Reports: AAPAC

Kelly Van Singel gave the report for the AAPAC. She thanked the SISS staff for providing a district update at the AAPAC’s recent meeting and expressed happiness that the tech bond had passed. Van Singel said she “appreciates the cabinet member’s efforts to work within the budget reality we are all facing.”

Van Singel noted that the AAPAC is conducting surveys on the special education experience within AAPS. She said that special education busing has had a lot of late arrivals and early departures and cautioned that these issues could result in compliance issues regarding students’ individualized education plans, such as loss of instructional time. Van Singel said the AAPAC requests that the board keep working on addressing transportation concerns.

Awards and Accolades

This meeting included a number of awards and accolades.

Tappan Band Ensemble

An ensemble of students from the Tappan middle school band performed for the board at the start of the May 9 meeting. Their director, Fred Smith, thanked everyone for their support of these and other music students, especially parents. After the two selections played by students, Mexicotte thanked them on behalf of the board, and said the performances were wonderful. Patalan added that she was very impressed, and that it was a nice way to start a meeting.

E3 Award

AAPS director of communications Liz Margolis introduced representatives from the Ann Arbor/Ypsilanti regional chamber, who announced that AAPS was being awarded an E3 award for the health sciences technology program at Pioneer and Huron. The E3 awards, they explained, are granted to “exemplary educational endeavors,” and the health sciences technology program is just that. In its 33rd year, the program includes class time studying anatomy and physiology, as well as internships in the community that allow students to explore health careers. Teachers Lynn Boland (Huron) and Cathy Malette (Pioneer), who co-administer the program, were on hand to accept the award.


The board read and unanimously supported two proclamations – one celebrating school nurses in honor of National School Nurse Day, and one celebrating teachers in honor of National Teacher Appreciation Week and National Teacher Day. Green also thanked teachers and nurses as part of her superintendent’s report.

Superintendent’s Report

In addition to the accolades given to teachers and nurse, Green commended the following: elementary students who succeeded in the Knowledge Master Open; student poetry winners; students who won an innovative design challenge to convert a gas-powered car to an electric car; a student curating a cartography exhibit; entrants into the Michigan youth arts festival; short story entrants in the Ann Arbor District Library short story contest; students participating in a documentary competition; a Michigan high school football all-star; district choirs and sports teams; contributors in a large food drive; and a teacher who won an award for the best short fiction collection of 2011.

Agenda Planning

Baskett requested an update on the Rising Scholars program, as well as an update on the district’s equity and cultural competency work.

Lightfoot requested updates on the International Baccalaureate program, and Mexicotte said it has been placed on the agenda of one of the summer board meetings, along with updates on the Early College Alliance (ECA), and Widening Advancement for Youth (WAY) programs.

Lightfoot also asked when the board would have an opportunity to discuss its relationship with the Pacific Education Group, and Mexicotte said that would be included in the discussion on equity and cultural competency.

Items from the Board

Thomas reported on his attendance at music programs in the district. He highlighted the middle school orchestra and choir concerts and said it was rewarding to see the progression of development through the three years (6-8 grades). Thomas also brought to the board’s attention a new recreation facility – the Argo Cascades, on which he had the privilege of being the first official traveler. He said it was a wonderful experience and said he would be glad to host any of his fellow trustees and AAPS administrators who would like to try it.

Baskett thanked the Bryant-Pattengill community for their recent event celebrating parent volunteers.

Nelson praised Thurston elementary’s recent International Night event, and said that international nights are “one of the really great things we do here in AAPS.” He also invited everyone to a district-wide art exhibit opening to be held in the Slusser Gallery on the University of Michigan’s north campus at 7 p.m. on Monday, May 14.

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, May 23, 2012, 7 p.m., at the downtown branch of the Ann Arbor District Library, 343 South Fifth Ave., Ann Arbor, MI 48104.


  1. By A2person
    May 14, 2012 at 5:44 pm | permalink

    “Green said that eliminating [the NWEA test] would do a disservice to students.” One might be compelled to ask…. which is the greater disservice? Eliminating a standardized test which was just piloted this year and is purely additive to the multiple other tests our kids receive each year? Or cutting bus routes, and closing schools for the most at-risk population in the city?

    The MEAP is indeed being replaced by a computer-adaptive test very similar to the NWEA, within the next two years: [link].

    There was recent legislative movement to even move that timeline up further.

    I think we need to look seriously at what cuts will do the *least* amount of harm, and I believe in this case, it’s obvious. Our kids are so over-tested, and so much of the testing is redundant, anyway. If a computer adaptive test is the way to go, then fine. But if it’s going to be mandated anyway, we should stop putting all these resources into figuring out how to implement a test that we’ll be scrapping in a year anyway. That test took a ridiculous amount of class instruction time, teacher time, computer time — and we took it three times a year, including kindergarteners. The teachers I’ve spoken to found nothing particularly new from the results that they didn’t already know about their students.

    Time to cut our losses on this one.

  2. May 15, 2012 at 4:15 pm | permalink

    Amen, A2 Person! The amount of money that the standardized test companies get paid for the tests is mind boggling. Anyone who says you can’t get rich off of education never met those folks.