Ann Arbor Public Schools board of education meeting (Sept. 19, 2012): The board of trustees was briefed on three items they’ll have to vote on at their next meeting: a proposal for contracting out noon hour supervisor positions; some sexual heath program and curriculum recommendations; and an application for seat time waivers.
Board members gave mixed reactions to a proposal from Professional Contract Management, Inc. (PCMI) to provide outsourced noon hour supervision. PCMI’s proposal, made in response to an Aug. 8, 2012 RFP, was the only one received by the district.
PCMI’s bid is to charge the district 25.83% of the gross wages to be paid to the supervisors themselves. According to deputy superintendent for operations Robert Allen, that’s roughly 7% higher than bids the district has seen for similar services in the past. AAPS has used PCMI for substitutes and coaches in the past. Compared to current costs, which depend on hiring AAPS employees to supervise noon hours, the PCMI proposal offers savings of $55,000, or about 6% over the cost currently paid by the district. Deb Mexicotte, board president, was skeptical of the administrative fee PCMI would be charging the district.
A sexual health program for preschool through 2nd graders and a 15-minute video about puberty for 5th graders were the subjects of a first briefing given by the Sexual Health Education Advisory Committee (SHEAC). Any materials or curriculum must be vetted by that committee and be presented to the board. The first of two public hearings on the matter was held at the meeting. No member of the public spoke at the first one.
And students enrolled in a sufficient number of online classes in the Ann Arbor Public Schools will likely again be eligible this year to be counted as part of a school’s enrollment for the official count of students. Local districts receive an allocation from the state each year based on the number of students attending class on designated count days.
The AAPS board of trustees was briefed on the issue at its Sept. 18 meeting because the district is required to re-apply for its “seat time waiver” program by the Michigan Department of Education and must now have board approval. All districts with such programs were required to re-apply by Sept. 15, 2012 in order to receive full funding for eligible students. AAPS has operated its seat time waiver program since 2007.
Two informational presentations were also given to the board – an annual presentation on the physical properties department and an update on the Mitchell-Scarlett Teaching and Learning Collaborative with the University of Michigan.
Public commentary at the meeting included criticism from a Pioneer High School teacher that a hire for the principal’s job at that high school had not yet been announced, despite the fact that a committee had forwarded three recommended finalists to the superintendent some time ago.
Noon Hour Supervision
As part of the budget process, the board had asked the administration to look at contract negotiations for noon hour supervision. Noon hour supervisors are staff who help with supervision of students at lunch and recess – and they typically work about two hours per day. All district elementary schools and some of the middle schools use noon hour supervisors.
A request for proposals (RFP) was sent out by the district on Aug. 8, 2012. The request was for a three-year contract with the option to renew the contract on a year basis for two additional years, beginning the fiscal year 2012-2013. One response was received by the district, from Professional Contract Management, Inc (PCMI). The proposed bid was to provide services was 25.83% of gross wages, which means the district would pay an additional 25.83% to PCMI in addition to gross wages for the noon hour supervisors.
Allen said the bid was approximately 7% higher than what they had seen in the past for outsourcing bids. PCMI maintains that the cost of providing these kinds of services has grown significantly over the years.
While the proposal offers an overall savings of approximately 6% or $55,000 of current expenditures, the initial projected savings anticipated by the school district was higher. The reduced potential savings is due in part to the higher rate proposed by PCMI.
But the reduced savings is also due to a reduction in the rate the district must pay into the Michigan Public School Employees Retirement System (MPSERS), from 27.37% to 24.46%. The district currently pays just over 32% – 7.65% for FICA and 24.46% for MPSERS.
When the district hires noon hour supervisors, it must pay into MPSERS, but those supervisors are unlikely ever to be vested in the pension system. That’s because in order to be vested, those supervisors would need to work 1,000 hours per school year. Because most supervisors work only two hours per day, that works out on average to about 360 hours per school year. So the district has been paying into the system for people who won’t be able to take advantage of the benefit offered by the system. Part of the case for outsourcing the work is that the staff of an independent contractor would not require a district contribution to MPSERS – which translates in to a savings equal to the rate of the required MPSERS contribution. Because the rate is dropping a few percentage points, the savings is less.
All current noon hour supervisors would be offered positions with PCMI following transfer of fingerprint information to PCMI. Allen explained that letters would be sent to current employees to gauge their interest in transitioning over to PCMI.
Trustee Andy Thomas said that any time the district talks about outsourcing, there is always “misinformation flying around out there.” He clarified that no one will lose a pension – because as it currently stands, supervisors are not working enough hours to be vested anyway. They would need to work six to seven hours per day to qualify for a year of service. It’s his expectation that current employees will be offered a position and right of refusal, if the contract were approved.
Allen confirmed the understanding that Thomas had put forward. Allen also said that if employees gave the district approval to turn over their fingerprints to PCMI, and a legal issue arose that would prevent them from being hired, then they would not be hired by PCMI. Employees who have had disciplinary problems in the past have not been asked back by the district, he said.
Thomas said that the only real difference to the supervisors would be they would be getting a check from someplace else, not AAPS. It would be, at the heart of it, the same job with the same pay with a different employer. Thomas again emphasized that it was not a way to get rid of employees or strip away any benefits. The benefit to the district, however, would be the elimination of payments into MPSERS.
Trustee Simone Lightfoot asked if there were some way to re-classify the employees – to avoid payment into MPSERS. Allen said he couldn’t think of a way to bypass the state requirement. Baskett said she thought it was unfair to have to pay into the retirement system for employees who would never see any pension return. She expressed an interest in taking a challenge to the state in order to change that.
Lightfoot also wanted to be sure that the current employees would be held harmless with wage rates in negotiation. Allen said they would be held harmless – something he would get in writing from PCMI. The employees would not receive benefits, but also do not currently receive benefits from the district.
Trustee Glenn Nelson asked who provides the management oversight in the current system and who will provide it if PCMI were to take over. Allen indicated that building principals have been responsible for oversight, and that would not change if PCMI were to take over.
Because the district would still be doing the bulk of the work, from maintaining supervision to maintaining paperwork, Mexicotte did not find PCMI’s proposed overhead to be acceptable. She said the 25.83% for overhead is “double and triple” what she would consider for an administration fee.
Mexicotte asked what prevented the district from saving the 25.83% administration fee and contracting separately with each supervisor, allowing the district to bypass the AAEA contract and having to pay into MPSERS. She suggested possibly calling them “temporary employees” or making them independent contractors. Allen replied that the IRS would not like that. Thomas added that the IRS has “gotten wise” to that sort of arrangement. He mentioned the district’s previous legal troubles that arose from calling an employee a temporary employee when they should have been considered a full-time employee. [This was an allusion to a class action lawsuit in the mid-1990s involving long-term substitute teachers, who were asked to sign a waiver by the district – a waiver found by the court not to be valid.]
Asked by Baskett why the district received only one proposal in response to the RFP, Allen explained that the RFP was not a very attractive one, because it offers few hours. He also acknowledged there were many other opportunities out there, because AAPS is not unique in trying to find savings wherever it can.
Outcome: This was a first briefing and will be voted on at the next regular meeting.
Sexual Health Program Recommendations
Two instructional programs were presented to the board for approval by the district’s sexual health education advisory committee (SHEAC). As district superintendent Patricia Green noted, every district that chooses to have a sexual education program must have an advisory board that reviews materials and curriculum for recommendation to the board of education.
The board was first briefed on Body Safety Training – which is the recommended program for preschoolers through 2nd grade. The objectives of the program include developing personal safety skills and increasing knowledge and skills related to preventing or reporting child sexual abuse. The program is intended to be presented as one 15-minute lesson per day over a two-week period.
The lessons are designed to build upon and reinforce the previous day’s lesson. They are presented by an outside expert. A sample lesson provided to the board highlights the concept of “Boss of Body” – e.g., “Who’s the boss of your body?” “Me!” The lesson focuses on teaching children a “Body Safety Rule,” which they apply to decide if certain touches of their private parts are okay.
Patricia Wells, incoming co-chair of the advisory committee, told the board at their meeting that 25-35% of abused children are abused before the age of seven. She found that the Body Safety curriculum empowered children – without filling them with fear about their environment and the adults they came into contact with.
Each lesson has a take-home handout to encourage conversation in the child’s home. Wells noted that fostering early conversation between student and parent is essential. Trustee Susan Baskett got confirmation that families would have the option to opt-out of the program.
Baskett also wanted to make sure students are taught what to do if someone violates the rules. She said that wasn’t clear to her in the sample lesson the board was given. Marcia Dykstra, program director for the Washtenaw Area Council for Children, emphasized that each day, the previous day’s instruction is reinforced. Part of the overall lesson, she said, is not only to recognize, but to report the behavior.
Thomas expressed concern that recent highly publicized cases of child abuse – both at Penn State and locally – could generate a lot of concern and conversation among the children. He asked if current events were presented in the curriculum.
Alesia Flye, deputy superintendent for instructional services, explained that the lessons are scripted. Anything that is presented in the classroom would follow the lesson plan and be aligned to the standards, she stated. Dykstra, who is a trained presenter of the program, said if students push the teacher on any subject, they are referred to their parents to talk about it.
Mexicotte said that because the lessons are scripted, it allows younger students to receive the information in a developmentally appropriate way. She recognized that the roles played by teachers and students change as students get older.
The board was also briefed on “We’re Just Around the Corner” – a 15-minute video about puberty produced by Marsh Media for 5th grade students. The video was updated in 2011, making it more recent than any puberty video that had been previously approved by the board. Wells said the committee found the video age appropriate, respectful, and an accurate portrayal of the factual information of puberty changes.
The members of SHEAC described the video in positive, but not entirely uncritical terms: “The video used relatable teens but the dialogue was a bit ‘cheesy’ and I think youth will pick up on that. … I appreciate how the video points out the positive side of puberty. … Information is clear. It’s presented well even if it is a little stilted at times. It’s much better than most I’ve seen.”
When asked by Baskett if the video was part of a lesson plan, outgoing SHEAC co-chair Margy Long said the committee must review any part of curriculum a teacher wants to use in a sexual health education program. She said that if the district were found to be in violation of any part of the rule, there would be a penalty to pay.
The first of two public hearings on the issue was held after the presentation. No member of the public spoke during the hearing. The next public hearing will be held after the second briefing, scheduled for the next regular board meeting on Oct. 10, 2012.
Outcome: This was a first briefing item. The board will vote on the issue at the next scheduled regular meeting, on Oct. 10.
Seat Time Waiver
Flye presented the application for the 2012-2103 seat time waiver program to the board. This year for the first time, the state is requiring that school boards approve seat time waiver applications. Flye acknowledged the Sept. 15 date to submit an application had passed. Because board action on seat time waivers was a new requirement by the state, the late submittal by AAPS would not be a problem, she said – and the district had been in contact with the state about the timing issue.
Seat Time Waiver – Background
AAPS has officially operated its seat time waiver program since 2007, one of the first districts in the state to offer such a program. The district offers the seat time waiver through its Options Magnet program, coordinated out of Community High and Ann Arbor Technical High. The program is designed to allow students to choose the types of instruction that work best with their learning styles, such as a combination of online, traditional, and Community Resource (CR) courses.
A seat time waiver allows schools to count and receive funding for students who take more than two non-traditional classes – online or CR – if they follow the requirements set by the program. The program serves a range of students: from previously home-schooled students to students who are looking to develop their own individualized educational plans.
Seat Time Waiver – Clarifications
When Nelson asked how the program had changed and possibly will change, Susette Jaquette, recently retired options coordinator and current consultant for the district, explained that the program at Community High School peaked back in 2010 at about 40 enrollees, when the district was allowing schools-of-choice students to participate in the program.
Since the program has stopped allowing schools-of-choice students to participate, the numbers enrolled though Community have dropped to about 30 students per year. She also said there were about 40 students enrolled in the program out of Ann Arbor Tech.
Flye said she would be working with Anthony Lauer, the district’s options magnet advisor, to write consistent guidelines within the options program. She said they were working to get systematic protocols in place. And there was a committee in place working on recommendations for improving the program, she said. Jaquette said her personal opinion is that some changes need to be made.
Responding to a question from Thomas, Flye said a variety of students used the program – those who are using it to maximize the courses they can take, students who are using it for credit recovery opportunities, and previously homeschooled students.
Thomas also asked about the projected number of students participating in the program, wondering if the number on the application placed a cap on the number of students who could apply for the program. Flye explained that the numbers given – 50 high school and 15 6-8th graders – was just an estimate. Twenty-five percent of a school population was the limit according to state law. She also emphasized that the focus has been on high school students, not middle school students.
Baskett asked if the district was planning to use teachers from within the district to teach the online classes described in the application. Flye responded by saying that when students take online courses within the Michigan Virtual School, teachers are provided. She noted that there were professional development opportunities for teachers within the district to get online teaching training.
When asked by Baskett how students were being monitored for success, Jaquette said that after the student’s curriculum is approved, each student is assigned an on-site mentor. The application states that the on-site mentor will be a certified Michigan teacher employed by the district, and will meet with or have weekly two-way interaction with the student.
To ensure the quality of education, Flye said, there are assessment components students need to pass successfully. Data from those assessments, grades, and the rigor of the course they take are all data points used for determining quality of education. Flye mentioned that the Michigan Virtual School corresponds to the common core standards, which are used universally in the district’s curriculum.
Baskett also asked if the overall satisfaction of the students was considered, saying that “being stuck in front of a computer doesn’t appeal” to her. Jaquette replied that student and parent satisfaction are measured through survey responses. She noted that changes in the program have been made, based on survey feedback.
Usage reports, Flye noted, show that students are utilizing the online components 24/7. She also said that before students sign up for the program, they are told that “taking courses in a non-traditional way is not for everyone.” Part of the process is to be sure it’s an appropriate fit for each student’s learning style, she said.
Jaquette speculated that there might be support at the state level for legislation that would eliminate the need for a seat time waiver. Mexicotte ventured, “Wouldn’t it be refreshing if legislation went the way of making something easier on a district rather than harder?” but noted that as it currently stands, the board is asked to do more work.
Outcome: This was a first briefing. The board will vote on the seat time waiver application at the next regular meeting.
As the first in a series of yearly reports designed to bring forward issues of importance to the board, Randy Trent, AAPS executive director of physical properties, delivered three reports to the board at Wednesday’s meeting: a physical properties briefing, an update on the district’s energy and sustainability efforts, and an update on the technology bond implementation.
Physical Properties: Building Improvements
Trent began by updating the board on building improvements that had been made over the past year. Paving projects were completed at ten schools and the Balas administration building. Accessibility and ADA exterior work was completed at five elementary schools. Trent noted that previous work had focused on getting students into the building. The most recently completed work focused on getting students from the buildings to the playgrounds.
Roofing repairs were made to four schools over the summer. When asked by Thomas why only sections instead of whole roofs were replaced, Trent said they based the repairs on an assessment of each building done two years ago.
Physical Properties: Phase V Energy Savings
Trent also listed the work done for Phase V of the Energy Saving Capital Improvement project. LED lighting upgrades to all buildings were made. With the LED replacements, lights won’t have to be replaced for another seven to ten years, which results in savings, noted Trent. Occupancy controls were placed in all but two gymnasiums. In response to Baskett’s question about occupancy controls, Trent explained that with the controls, after 20 minutes of non-activity, the lights turn off. After school, the controls make sure all lights are off.
Other energy savings measures were put into place. Air control systems were repaired. An additional 11,000 linear feet of pipe insulation was installed in 28 buildings. Adjustable day/night thermostats were installed in 19 buildings, which allows for greater control over thermostat changes when buildings are unoccupied. The existing control systems for the CO2 interface were upgraded, to monitor fresh air intake into the classrooms of each building. Liquid pool covers, which keep the water heated more efficiently, are now being applied when students aren’t using the pools. In the school buildings that use steam for heating, 1,100 steam traps were replaced. Nelson asked for an explanation of a steam trap. Mexicotte offered that it’s like a valve, that allows steam to pass through.
Physical Properties: EASE Report
The board also heard an update on the Energy Awareness and Sustainability Education (EASE) initiative run by the physical properties department. Because energy cost is one of the top expenditures in the district, it has been a goal to reduce energy consumption by 4% per year over a four-year period. The initiative was approved in 2010.
In the first two years of the program, the district has seen a total program savings of $532,000. Trent noted that when EASE was begun, only five buildings were Energy Star rated. Today, 23 buildings are Energy Star rated, with a end goal of 30 buildings by the completion of the project. Skyline High School has been the only building to have shown an increase in energy consumption, as more of the building has been put to use as students have been added.
Trent noted that the EASE program includes a booth for use in individual schools, an email campaign, and meetings with custodians. The annual “plug survey” will be completed in the future. A plug survey is an inventory of what’s plugged into every outlet in every room across the district to have a clear idea of where energy is being used, complete with photos.
With Phase V installation completion on January 1, 2014, the annual guaranteed savings will increase to $1,049,047. Trent said that when he started working for the district in 1984, the annual budget for the physical properties department was $5.7 million. Despite the addition of 10% more building space, the budget has decreased to $4.9 million and will decrease to $4.7 million, he said.
Several of the trustees commended Trent on the good work his department has been doing to reduce energy consumption, thereby reducing cost.
Physical Properties: Tech Bond Update
Trent also gave an overview of the technology bond expenditures. The first year bond expenditures focus on infrastructure upgrades to accommodate future growth needs. The trustees already approved the purchase and installation of computer network equipment at the Sept. 5 board meeting.
A major infusion of technology is set to begin in the second year for classroom and teacher technologies. In preparation for that infusion, the board recently approved the purchase of 30 laptops for the Information Technology Department (ITD) to make sure all current software will work with the new technology and operating system.
Also shared with the trustees was an example of a project status report Trent will use to update the board on progress on the bond. Trustees will be able to see the project status and the money allocated to each project. Four phases will be used to designate progress on projects: design phase, board action, implementation phase, and completion.
To date, the board has authorized $394,859.74 in expenditures. Eberwhite Elementary’s computer room was moved for a cost of $3,285; $260,571.74 was spent for professional team services; $54,540 was authorized for the laptop purchases; and $74,463 was spent for network firewall upgrades.
Nelson suggested using a different term than ‘computers’ when talking about the infusion of technology that is set to take place. He said that the public wanted to hear that there was going to be more than just computers. Trent said additional technology such as tablets was included, as well.
Nelson also asked if during the assessment of the facilities had revealed any unevenness in building usage. He wanted to know if there were some that were “bursting at the seams.” Trent acknowledged that with the addition of all-day kindergarten this year, some schools had space available, while other schools had to shift reserved rooms [for reading resource or ancillary staff] to be dedicated classrooms.
Outcome: This was solely an informational report with no board action to be taken.
Teaching and Learning Collaborative
Because the inaugural year of the Mitchell-Scarlett Teaching and Learning Collaborative (MS-TLC) with University of Michigan had been completed in 2011-2012, Green said she believed it was appropriate to report to the board on the partnership.
The collaborative brings together teachers, UM faculty, and UM student interns to support continuous opportunities for student learning, driven by high academic standards and innovations in curriculum, instructional practices, professional learning, and community involvement, Green said. Cathy Reischl, coordinator of the collaborative and a clinical associate professor at the UM school of education, was joined by Mitchell Elementary principal Kevin Karr, Scarlett Middle School principal Gerald Vasquez, and several other AAPS and UM educators in making the presentation to the board.
Teaching and Learning Collaborative: Overview
By the numbers, over the past year, more than 600 students have participated in some form of teaching and learning activity through the partnership. Nearly 200 UM teaching interns taught students through partnership activities. Over 50 Mitchell and Scarlett teachers participated in partnership teaching, curriculum development, and program planning activities, and over 15 UM faculty have taught courses and worked with teachers and students.
Over the course of the 2011-2012 school year, there has been a focus on building trust and professional relationships between the teachers and administrators and UM faculty. Needs have been assessed, and programs, curriculum, and instruction have been planned to address those needs. The partnership is also beginning to study their efforts.
Teaching and Learning Collaborative: Extended Days, Year
While a balanced calendar option was taken off the table, the collaborative has focused on providing extended day and extended year programs for students. Karr said that instead of a balanced calendar, which involves spreading out the days students are in school, they have been pursuing options that get students into school more. Some of the programs mentioned included a Saturday learning opportunity at the UM for 6th grade science students, the Summer ESL Academy, and the Scarlett Photovoice Project.
Lightfoot said that both she and trustee Christine Stead were interested in extended days. She also mentioned her interest in summer school and how that fit into the program. She asked if a balanced calendar needed to be looked at again. Flye said that the issue of a balanced calendar had not come up since presented to the board at its April 18, 2012 meeting.
Teaching and Learning Collaborative: Results
Noting that Green was the “most data driven superintendent” he’s ever worked for, Vasquez said the academic growth of students of color, economically disadvantaged students, and special education students showed 5% growth in gap areas, based upon the NWEA testing done. That growth had not previously been seen, he said.
After recognizing the effort and thought that has been put into the partnership, Thomas asked how results were going to be measured and monitored. Flye responded that the planning committee has worked on a data-based program review. She said that many of the specific learning goals and targets identified in the School Improvement Plans (SIPs) would be used as benchmarks. Karr said they are aligning their work to SIPs already set by the buildings. To that end, UM faculty have participated in SIP meetings and consulted with faculty and teachers on goal setting.
While he expressed board support for the importance of the NWEA testing and the data it provides, Thomas said he continues to hear from members of the public who question the need for all the testing. He said the sooner those results are made public, the easier it would be to show its value. In response, Flye said there will be a presentation on achievement in October that will provide NWEA data for the district. She said that the NWEA is becoming one of the district’s most reliable forms of data for evaluating instruction.
In addition to standardized tests, Reischl noted, the partnership developed assessments for ESL students through a grant from UM. She said that several doctoral students are analyzing data from the program.
Stead questioned if the program will be sustainable, – given that many of the initiative’s components were funded through grants. Baskett asked what sorts of challenges the program has faced.
Flye recognized that as they continue to navigate the financial challenges throughout the district, they will have to prioritize. Reischl reaffirmed UM’s commitment to the program, saying it was a long-term commitment. She emphasized that the collaboration was mutually beneficial.
Outcome: This was solely an informational presentation with no board action to be taken.
Hiring Pioneer Principal
During public commentary at the start of the meeting, Michelle Macke introduced herself as the parent of two Pioneer High School graduates and a high school senior currently attending Pioneer. She told the board and that she had served as president of the PTSO at three different schools in Ann Arbor. She also served in other offices of the PTSOs of other Ann Arbor schools. She teaches math at Pioneer high school. She described herself as very involved in the educational process. “I would say I’m a champion for Ann Arbor public schools.”
Macke told the board it was embarrassing to her that there was no public process happening for the hiring of a new principal at Pioneer High School. There is supposed to be a hiring process in the district, she said. That includes posting the job for applicants, which she acknowledged had been done twice. Second, an interview team is supposed to be formed, consisting of staff, parents, and students. That team is supposed to interview candidates and advance names of finalists. The final step is that the superintendent of the district makes a final decision.
She told the board that the names of three finalists had been advanced to the superintendent – a month before school started. Superintendent Patricia Green had still not shared her decision publicly, Macke said. Registration is now over, and Capsule Night has been held – and both of those occasions would have been good opportunities to introduce the new principal to parents, she suggested. Last week, at a Pioneer staff meeting, she had been told by a top-level AAPS administrator that there is a process going on – but that it’s confidential. Another Pioneer staff member asked if the staff could at least get a timeline – but they had been told that that is also part of the process and therefore also confidential. The school district website is filled with several references to transparency, she pointed out. And the website even describes how the district has won awards for transparency, she noted. But she said: “I’m not really seeing that.”
Macke called the lack of information insulting to parents and staff. And she said it is especially insulting to the parents, staff and students who spend their time interviewing candidates and whittling the list down to three highly qualified candidates – which they chose based on their knowledge of their school. Macke said that if Green has a reason by those three candidates are not acceptable, that should be communicated? The current process is undermining the credibility of whoever might eventually get the job, Macke contended.
She had tried to talk to some school board members earlier in the year to see if they could get the process moving – but that failed, she said. That’s why she was raising the issue in a more public way. She asked the board to investigate why the established hiring process is not being followed and why there is no timeline.
Macke added that she attended two large community forums that have been held in connection with the hiring of the superintendent. And she told the board that she had really wanted to hire Green. There was another candidate she felt was good, but she was concerned that he would not make “the tough decisions.” She told a lot of people at the time: “This woman is going to make the tough decisions.” She concluded her remarks by telling Green, “I am hoping you make a tough decision.”
Patricia Green did not offer any response during the time on the board’s agenda following public commentary, which is reserved for clarification by the board and administration of factual issues raised during commentary.
[Responding to a followup telephone query from The Chronicle on Sept. 26, AAPS director of communications Liz Margolis indicated that a decision on a permanent hire for the Pioneer principal job is still being reviewed. Kevin Hudson, who was assistant principal at the school, has been serving as interim principal since July 2012, when Michael White left the district.]
Communications and Comment
Board meetings include a number of agenda slots where trustees can highlight issues they feel are important, including “items from the board” and “agenda planning.” Every meeting typically includes public commentary on subjects not necessarily on the formal agenda or that are not covered elsewhere in The Chronicle’s meeting report.
Comm/Comm: Association Reports
The Sept. 19 meeting included reports from three associations affiliated with the district. The reports were largely introductory in nature. Heather Eckner spoke for the Ann Arbor Parent Advisory Committee for Special Education. The group advises the district on issues related to special education.
Reporting out for the PTO Council was Amy Pachera. She described the council as a parent organization made up of representatives from each of the different schools – which helps the individual PTOs at individual schools achieve best practices for PTOs.
Michael Madison gave the update for the Ann Arbor Administrators Association (AAAA) – known colloquially as “Quad A.” It represents 51 building and district administrators. He told the board it was an honor to be back there again this year. He ticked off the members of Quad A he saw in the audience. His cheerful remarks, on the opening of the school year, generated applause on more than one occasion: “This is going to be a great year!”
Comm/Comm: Legitimate Information Sources
Dale Leslie – who is contesting, with incumbent Deb Mexicotte, the one open seat on the board in the Nov. 6 election – told the board that he had a comment which would be followed by a question. He strongly urged the board to no longer use the information supplied by US News & World Report. He contended that in academic circles it’s compared to Reader’s Digest, or the gossip magazines that you find at grocery store checkout lines, and the police gazette. So he concluded that the positive things that the board might read about the district in US News & World Report should not carry a lot of weight.
Even though US News & World Report is not highly respected, Leslie continued, information contained in that publication is used to promote the district. He contended that US News & World Report was investigated several years ago because the publication had skewed results in favor of a client. He reiterated that US News & World Report is not a quality publication and not a highly respected publication. He suggested that the University Michigan Institute for Social Research to conduct a more rigorous survey.
Leslie’s question was to ask for an update on the board’s achievement so far on their priority of building trust and relationships among the trustees. He told the board he wanted to see evidence of that happening – because he feared that until that occurs there would not be productive results coming from the board.
Comm/Comm: Public Involvement
Nelson, the board’s member on the Recreation Advisory Committee (RAC), reported that there are three openings for citizen volunteers. The commission is a group that advises the city and district jointly on programs dealing with recreation and education and meets quarterly. Nelson stated that Green and Jenna Bacolor, director of community education and recreation, are pushing the group to expand their thinking of how Rec & Ed can fulfill other roles.
Thomas reported that he recently held the first of a monthly coffee hour for the public to come talk with him about issues they are concerned with. He said he plans to alternate between day and evening meeting times, to allow for greater participation. He mentioned he heard concerns over differentiated learning, had a discussion about the implementation of the technology bond, and fielded questions about what individual citizens could do to influence the state legislature.
Comm/Comm: Board Retreat Goals Update
While she did not have a president’s report for the meeting, Mexicotte did share an update for the next Committee of the Whole (COTW) meeting, scheduled for Oct. 3. At that meeting, trustees will begin looking at creating opportunities for additional financial support for the district. They will discuss strategies and determine how they should go about this work. This meeting focus is the outcome of the board’s August retreat goals.
Comm/Comm: Rising Scholars Update
During “agenda planning,” Lightfoot questioned the timing of the discussion of the Rising Scholars program on the agenda. The program is currently scheduled to be discussed in February, and to Lightfoot, that seemed too far off. She said she was registering concern with the program as it currently stands, because it was “not receiving what it needs to be the best it can be.” Lightfoot warned the board not to be surprised when she brings the topic up again.
Comm/Comm: Superintendent’s Report
During her superintendent’s report, Green highlighted the fact that 61 AAPS students were announced as semi-finalists for the National Merit Scholarship. She also mentioned anti-bullying programs that had been held at several elementary schools in conjunction with UM athletes.
Consent Agenda Approval
The board unanimously approved the consent agenda, which included the approval of meeting minutes and a donation made to the fine arts department. There were no briefing items voted on at the meeting.
Present: President Deb Mexicotte, vice president Christine Stead, secretary Andy Thomas, and trustees Susan Baskett, Simone Lightfoot, and Glenn Nelson.
Absent: Treasurer Irene Patalan
Next regular meeting: Wednesday, Oct. 10, 2012, at 7 p.m. at the fourth-floor boardroom of the Ann Arbor District Library’s downtown branch, 343 S. Fifth Ave. [Check Chronicle event listing to confirm date]
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