AAPS Board Starts 2013-14 Budget Discussion

Auditors: school district gets “A” on annual audit

Ann Arbor Public Schools Board of Education regular meeting (Nov. 7, 2012): The Ann Arbor Public Schools (AAPS) board of education’s Nov. 7 meeting contained significant discussion of the district’s finances, straddling three fiscal years – past, present, and future.

AAPS superintendent Patricia Green and deputy superintendent for operations Robert Allen.

AAPS superintendent Patricia Green and deputy superintendent for operations Robert Allen.

Before receiving an “unqualified opinion” on the district’s 2011-12 audit and reviewing the first quarter financials from 2012-13, the board took a first pass at framing the discussion surrounding the development of the district’s budget for the 2013-14 fiscal year – a step the board has not typically taken as early as November.

Also at the meeting, the board approved the renaming of two facilities at Pioneer High School – the tennis courts and the planetarium. The tennis courts are being renamed for long-time tennis coach Tom “Brick” Pullen. And the planetarium is being co-named in regnition of a $100,000 gift from the IMRA America company.

The board also recognized Huron High School cross-country runner Allie Cell, for an extraordinary display of sportsmanship during a recent meet. 

Budget Discussion

Saying that November had been set as the target time for beginning budget discussions, board president Deb Mexicotte noted that the board had recently received information on budget considerations. The budget would be a main agenda item on next week’s board committee-of-the-whole meeting, she said. Superintendent Patricia Green noted that AAPS administration had taken the lead as requested by the board, and provided a three-year glance at upcoming budgets, saying, “There are big-ticket items that might be painful [to cut] out there. My preference is to try to preserve as much in the classroom as we possibly can. That’s where the very difficult decisions will have to be made down the road.”

Though this item was listed as an information item on the agenda, Mexicotte opened up essentially a free-flowing discussion about what trustees would like to see included in the district’s 2013-14 budget, and what process they would like to follow to set that budget. Trustees offered their thoughts on various aspects of the budget: long-term vision; possible spending cuts and revenue enhancements; political and legislative implications; and the timeline for budget development.

2013-14 Budget: Long-Term Vision

Trustee Christine Stead argued that, after making approximately $70 million of budget reductions from the general fund in the past five years, the district needs to create a longer-term vision for making bigger changes. She said necessary changes could involve large parts of the district and could require two or three years of planning.

Mexicotte said that the district’s transportation working group will make a report to the board in December, and noted that this group represents “one of those long-term planning pieces around sustainability” that will inform the conversation. She suggested that the board may want to consider creating similar working groups around other pieces of the budget that might need similar attention, such as redistricting. “It’s like trying to think about what those big items are, not that we will necessarily do anything with them, but we need to know what those could mean.”

Mexicotte also noted that the district is moving to a zero-based budgeting (ZBB) system. Green added that ZBB is a complex process involving linkages between all departments, including finance, instruction, operations, and human resources, and the reworking of existing budget items into line-by-line templates. She noted that the organizational shift to ZBB is a long-term process, and that it will not impact the 2013-14 budget.  But ZBB will be in place for the development of the 2014-15 budget.

2013-14 Budget: Possible Cuts/New Revenue

Trustee Irene Patalan said her “guiding light” is to keeps cuts away from the classroom, and that she is very interested in keeping the community in the conversation.

Trustee Andy Thomas said the budget reductions required to pass a balanced budget next year could range from $8 million to $20 million – and any way you look at it, it’s a big number. He reminded the public that the district used $4.5 million of fund equity last year to stave off deeper cuts. But it’s extremely unlikely the district would be able to do that again, he said. Thomas suggested looking at renegotiating employee contracts; reducing or eliminating transportation; closing buildings; enhancing marketing efforts; and revisiting the School of Choice option to determine net gain in enrollment.

Later in the meeting, during items from the board, Stead added that the WISD transportation review committee had also just met, and had enumerated the savings AAPS had gleaned from participating in the WISD transportation consortium. She reported that it was suggested at the review committee meeting that other districts may now be interested in joining the consortium, if the WISD continued to offer transportation services.

Mexicotte suggested that the board needs to focus more aggressively on increasing revenue as part of the budget process, giving examples such as: campaigning for a countywide educational enhancement millage in 2014; possibly selling or leasing real estate holdings; and lobbying the legislature to restore local levy authority.

2013-14 Budget: Political and Legislative Implications

Stead pointed out that the district’s 2013-14 budget could be impacted by a multitude of developments at the state and federal level, including the “lame duck” session currently playing out in the Michigan legislature. She is following HB 5923, which if passed “basically says ‘any entity can be a school,’” and said she is concerned that an active lame duck session could cause incremental financial obligations for which AAPS would need to put contingencies in place. Stead also noted that the FY 2014 budget put forth by Gov. Rick Snyder last year did not include a best practices incentive, which netted AAPS $4.4 million in 2012-13.

During items from the board, Stead complimented John Austin, president of the state board of education, for his advocacy against HB 5923 among other efforts, and said it’s been a privilege to work with him. She also noted that she, Green, and Nelson successfully worked with the finance committee of the Michigan Association of School Boards (MASB) at a recent meeting to add the the list of MASB’s legislative priorities by including the exploration of local levy authority and long-term changes to Proposal A.

As part of the budget discussion, trustee Glenn Nelson said the board should be prepared to pass a resolution as a special briefing item at their upcoming committee-of-the-whole meeting. If the board recommends a position on certain legislative issues, that would provide leadership to the community, so that citizens could contact their legislators quickly. Green stated that AAPS has to “keep an eye on Lansing,” and be willing to “get into vehicles and go to Lansing to be part of the conversations happening rapidly.”

Both Green and AAPS deputy superintendent of operations Robert Allen expressed concern about the possible reduction in grant funding at the federal level, as the nation approaches the “fiscal cliff” which will cause automatic reductions at significant levels unless a budget compromise is reached before the new year. “There are no sacred cows … We have already seen a reduction in Title I funding that we were not expecting,” Green said. Allen added that in some areas, “no increase” can add up to a decrease, for example with funds that have run out from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA).

Nelson suggested that AAPS should “broaden the scope of its budgeting exercise” to include planning for changes to grant funding at the state and federal level. Usually, the main focus of the budget has been specifically the general fund, but Nelson argued that the board should adopt an approach that looks at a “combined general fund,” which would include grant funding.

Mexicotte indicated that some good might be fund in the prevailing negative climate, and suggested the board discuss contacting the two new state representatives representing portions of Washtenaw County – Gretchen Driskell (District 52) and Adam Zemke (District 55). Later in the meeting during the items from the board section of the agenda, Stead also congratulated the new representatives, saying she thought they would be receptive to working with the district.

Stead asserted that while people talk about keeping cuts out of the classroom, the situation has moved past that as a possible solution. “We need to change our funding situation, period,” she said. “That’s the only thing that will substantially change things. Communities in this state have to have a way to prioritize education in the democracy we think we live in. We will fight for a different answer for Ann Arbor, and we will get a different answer. Our students deserve better and we will get them better.”

2013-14 Budget: Timeline

Whatever decisions are made, Thomas said the district will require lead time and planning. For example, he said, the district had difficulty in the past communicating transportation changes over the summer – when cuts were made too late in the budget cycle. Thomas highlighted his hope that starting budget planning in November would not mean the board would be “arguing about the cuts for eight months rather than three months,” but rather that the decisions will be made earlier to allow for the development of a thoughtful implementation plan.

Mexicotte referred to a comment made by Thomas before the meeting started, saying that Thomas had suggested the budget be framed out by the end of January. At that point it could be brought to the public with answers about what the board plans to adjust or reduce. She suggested the trustees could go review a list of possible budget reductions and decide where they have agreement and what needs more conversation.

For example, Mexicotte said, if the board decides it does not want to touch transportation, transportation reductions would get “moved to the anathema page.” She described such an exercise as “triaging what’s on the list so we start to articulate to the public what our thinking is and how we go about prioritizing our pieces.”

Stead said that taking what the board knows now and going through that process today might not be as useful as doing so in January, when any substantive changes in funding at the state or federal level will have occurred. She asked administration to share any information they have about anticipated changes in revenue or expenses tonight.

2012-13 Fall Grant Awards

Linda Doernte, AAPS director of purchasing, walked the board through a brief review of 2012-13 grants awarded to the district, noting that grants brought in around the same amount of money as last year – roughly $4.8 million. She noted that the Head Start grant has not had any increase for two to three years, which means that rising retirement costs for the employees funded by that grant have been absorbed by the district. She also noted that Title 1 funding decreased by $300,000 because the state has the same amount budgeted for Title I, but charter schools are now requesting funding from that same “pot of money.” Allen added that the “flat grants” are causing decreased funding to other programs as salary and benefit costs rise.

The good news, Doernte said, comes at the local level, with the Ann Arbor Public Schools Educational Foundation (AAPSEF) bringing in new grants totaling $115,000, and the Ann Arbor PTO thrift shop offering a total of more than $144,000 for transportation. Of the AAPSEF funding, $7,000 comes from the Greek Orthodox Women’s Philoptochos Society for the purchase of software to help autistic students.

Doertne also noted that the current grant totals do not include the Perkins grant, which will be presented in the spring.

Nelson noted the grassroots commitment evident in these grants, and urged national legislators to rationally resolve the budget crisis and avoid the “fiscal cliff,” as the federal funds represented by the largest of these grants re substantially at risk.

Thomas asked about the number of students served by Title I funding. AAPS deputy superintendent of instruction Alesia Flye responded that the number of students who are eligible to receive Title I services has increased, based on the rate of students eligible for free and reduced lunch. Thomas said he was upset by the fact that charter schools are partially to blame for there being less Title I money available to serve a growing number of eligible students.

Patalan said that while she knows federal funds are important, she wanted to acknowledge the modest but extremely appreciated grant made to AAPS by the Greek Orthodox women’s group. She suggested even more effort should be made to solicit local funding, saying, “It’s time to look everywhere.”

Stead said she looks forward to Allen being able to deliver the board positive information on the budget someday. Allen replied that nobody is looking more forward to that than he is.

Outcome: The 2012-13 fall grant awards will come back to the board at the next regular meeting for second briefing and approval.

2011-12 Audit Report

The district’s auditors, from Plante Moran, made a formal presentation to the board summarizing the 2011-12 audit results. The auditors noted that a set of audits on various aspects of the district’s finances is required by both state and federal law, and that the district has received an unqualified opinion on all fronts – that is “clean, without exception.” They compared the audits results to having attended class all year, done all the homework, and earning an “A” on the final exam. Noting that not every district receives an unqualified opinion, the auditors encouraged AAPS to take pride in these results.

Audit: Presentation

The auditors reviewed a summary of the highlights of the audit, noting that overall, the expenditures and revenue numbers were very close to what had been budgeted. They noted that the one-time use of the fund balance will need to be replaced as the district moves in to the future, and discussed that several school districts they work with have discussed ways to find new revenue sources. They listed increasing retirement costs, and other budget constraints as challenges, as well as future uncertainties regarding state and federal funding.

Thomas asked if the budget figures in the audit document were the numbers approved in June, 2011 or the numbers after amendments were made throughout the year. Auditors indicated the numbers were the amended figures. [.pdf of AAPS audit for FY 2012]

Audit: Board Discussion

Thomas pointed out that using the original budget – instead of the amended budget – in the audit would not result in a close a match between planned and actual performance. He said he understood why the budget had to be amended during the year, but said it would be much more valuable as a planning tool to know how closely the district had been able to adhere to its original budget. Mexicotte pointed out that that the comment applied more to AAPS administration than to the auditor.

Nelson also questioned where actual budget numbers show up in the audit, and the auditors pointed them out [on page 33]. The audit also shows the numbers as a combined general fund, which includes grants. Nelson contended that showing the general fund as combined with grants for the audit – when the general fund is presented to the public, as part of the district’s budgeting process, as separate from grants – makes the budget less transparent.

Allen responded that the budget book contains the general fund and the athletic fund, and that grants have typically been reported in the fall, as they were that evening. He said there is a good basis for making a grants estimate and including it in the budget book, along with the general and athletics funds, and agreed it would make it easier to “follow the numbers back when they are combined in audit reporting.”

Stead complimented the auditors for a fine job, and agreed with Nelson’s recommendation to administration that grants funding be estimated when setting the budget. “We definitely need to deal with the impact of grant funding shifts next time around. We need to understand this at a deeper level than we ever had before, because there is no room to make a mistake.” Patalan agreed, saying she would like to have administration help the board to understand all the money included.

The auditors said they appreciated the fervor with which the board examines these issues and commended them for making a strategy that allows them to manage better into the future.

Outcome: The audit report will come back to the board at the next regular meeting for second briefing and approval.

First Quarter Financial Report

AAPS director of finance Nancy Hoover briefly presented the financial report from the first quarter, noting that it was being brought to the board earlier than usual, and that it contained no adjustments to revenue or expenditures.

Stead questioned why the adjustments made to fund equity just mentioned in the audit report were not being corrected now, and suggested doing so before any budget numbers are shared with the public going forward.

Allen responded that there are a number of anticipated adjustments for the second quarter. Those included a seven FTE increase in staffing, primarily because of the reclassification of special education teachers – who had been funded with federal dollars – back to the general fund, and three teacher assistants who were hired to be compliant with the Americans with Disabilities Act. Adjustments also included: a decrease in available fund equity; adjustments to the MPSERS retirement rate, which went from 27% to 24%, and then back up to 25%; an 80-count decrease in student enrollment; and an anticipated gain in special education funding.

Thomas said he was alarmed by what sounded like a set of negative adjustments totalling $1.5 million. Allen said some adjustments will be one-time, while others will be ongoing – but that adjustments are not made for non-recurring items. He also pointed out that the reduction in the MPSERS rate is roughly a $2 million positive adjustment, and that the additional special education reimbursement will also be positive.

Nelson reiterated the importance of keeping a comprehensive view of the general fund in mind, and not narrowly defining it. Stead agreed, saying that the board needed to see both a comprehensive view of the budget, including grants funding, but also needed to have the same level of detail as it currently had. Allen said the data can be presented in a format that can reflect both funds – separately, but also together.

Stead reflected on all the financial data presented at the meeting, saying that the net impact was worse than anticipated, even though the district thought it had budgeted conservatively. Saying the district needed an “all hands on deck” effort, she argued, “We need to do everything we can to increase enrollment, and improve our customer service, but also think differently about programs and services and budgeting moving forward.”

Green added that part of what is being developed as part of the ZBB, is the ability to better track spending from year to year within specific line items.

Outcome: The first quarter financial report will come back to the board at the next regular meeting for second briefing and approval.

Renaming of Facilties

The board considered renaming of two facilities at its Nov. 7 meeting, both at Pioneer High School – the tennis courts and the planetarium. Reasons for the naming of facilities were to honor service to the school district and monetary contributions, both of which are possible reasons for naming under the district’s policy. [.pdf of AAPS naming policy]

Renaming: Tennis Courts

The proposal considered for final approval by the board was to name the tennis courts after Tom “Brick” Pullen – who coached the boys’ and girls’ tennis teams at Pioneer High School for more than two decades. The district’s director of communications, Liz Margolis, reminded the trustees that they’d been briefed at the previous meeting on the item. She noted that previously, testimony had been provided that made clear that Pullen meets the extraordinary service criterion of the districts naming policy. She introduced a few additional people.

Sandy Lymburner, whose daughter Courtney Lymburner now plays tennis at the University of California Santa Cruz, was the one who had the idea to name the courts after Pullen, addressed the board. She read aloud part of an essay that Courtney wrote as part of a college application. “Today he [Pullen] is, second only to my parents, a major figure in my life … He taught me my forehand grip, a new serve, but he also taught me how to never give up on my dreams and to persevere.”

District parent Frank Rampton also spoke in support of naming of the tennis courts after Pullen. He told the board he had a who daughter played for Pullen for four years. Tennis had been her first love as a kid – but his own aspirations for her were to follow in her older sister’s footsteps with crew. But when his daughter was in 5th grade she would tell him about this coach would come around and say, Hey, Julia, if you keep out this up you might be on the varsity by the time you’re in 9th grade! The word Rampton gave to describe Pullen was “tireless.” Pullen wasn’t tireless just on the tennis court, but also in his attitude towards the kids – in-season and off-season. He drew a comparison between Pullen and Bo Schembechler – inasmuch as Schembechler was never gone from the players’ lives.  His daughter learned a lot of life lessons from Pullen, and considers him a second father, he concluded.

Trustees took turns offering their own praise of Pullen.

Outcome: The board voted unanimously to name the Pioneer tennis courts after Pullen.

Renaming: Planetarium

In her introductory remarks Superintendent Patricia Green noted that the generous gift of $100,000 from IMRA America  had been made through the Ann Arbor Public Schools Educational Foundation. She stressed that the second briefing was an opportunity to acknowledge the generosity and the appreciation of the district for the gift. The planetarium would have closed eventually, she said, because the cost of keeping it operational was exorbitant.

The district had never expected that one generous donor would come forward. Because of that, the district felt that it deserved recognition of a co-naming of the planetarium. District director of communications Liz Margolis reviewed how the planetarium was originally gifted to the district by the Argus Camera Company back in 1956. The district now looks forward to students in the future also receiving the benefit of the continued existence of the planetarium, she said. The projector system would be upgraded, which would allow expansion of the curriculum.

Executive Vice President of IMRA America Makoto Yoshida and  board president Ann Arbor Public Schools Educational Foundation Omari Rush were on hand to deliver some remarks. Yoshida told the board he was grateful to the district for its support in the education of the children of the company’s employees. IMRA is a research company, he noted.  To recruit people to come work for the company, he always emphasizes that Ann Arbor is a really good place to live – because the education system is the best, with a reasonable cost. As a high-tech company, he said, IMRA recognizes the value in encouraging interest in science at an early age. This is where our future scientists are created, he noted. Science and technology is IMRA’s passion, he said, and they would continue funding through through the district’s educational foundation – as long as the company can still make a reasonable profit, he quipped. He called the donation an investment in the future for all of us.

Trustees in turn expressed their appreciation for the gift from IMRA.

Outcome: The board voted unanimously to approved the co-naming of the Pioneer High School planetarian in recognition of IMRA America’s gift.

Sportsmanship Recognized

Superintendent Patricia Green announced the special recognition. She said it was very important that students be commended for things that they do that are so noteworthy, and selfless in their contribution to others that it rises to the level that it needs to be brought before the public and the board of education.

She invited Huron High School athletic director Dottie Davis to come to the podium to recognize one of the district’s athletes – a student from Huron High School who excelled in making certain that she had given back to others – Allie Cell. She thanked Amy Cell, Allie’s mother, for raising a wonderful daughter and putting the values into her that the district so much appreciated. [Cell is granddaughter of Ingrid Sheldon, former mayor of the city of Ann Arbor, who was on hand for the recognition of Allie's sportsmanship.] Tony Mifsud, coach from the opposing team from Dearborn Divine Child High School was also on hand. Davis describe the athlete from Divine Child whom Cell had helped as having a body type more like that of Davis – like that of a discus thrower.  [Mariah Fuqua, the Divine Child athlete, is accomplished as a discus thrower and shot putter.]

Fuqua, had never run 5K [3.1 miles] in her life, Davis explained. Her coaches prepared her so that in the first couple of weeks of the season she was able to run a mile and then she would stop. The second couple of weeks she was able to run two miles. On that particular day in question, on an up-and-down winding course, Fuqua was about to quit at the halfway mark. Allie had already run the course, and finished the race among the top runners. As she saw Fuqua struggling up a hill, Cell went back and encouraged her and and wound up running step for step with her all the way to the finish line. When they crossed the finish line, Davis reported, “Tears just exploded from everybody’s face.”

Trustees in turn heaped praise on Cell and noted the importance of athletics in education.

Communication and Comment

Board meetings include a number of agenda slots when trustees can highlight issues they feel are important, including “items from the board” and “agenda planning.” Every meeting also invites 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 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 the Youth Senate, the AAPAC, and the AAEA.

Youth senators Xuerui Fa and Seunghyun Lee, both sophomores from Pioneer, asserted that the policy of having “split lunch,” or two lunch periods, should be abolished. They noted that the transfer of students from Pioneer to Skyline has reduced the number of Pioneer students sufficiently to allow for all students to have lunch at one time. Arguments the the two made for one common lunch included: access by students to all teachers during lunch time, and better access to more club and activity meetings, which often occur during lunch hours. Fa and Lee also noted that a large number of students support their recommendation to abolish the split lunch policy.

AAPAC’s Melanie Robault congratulated Mexicotte on her re-election, and noted that the AAPAC was looking forward to working with Mexicotte for years to come. She also thanked the administration for recently presenting information at AAPAC meetings. Robault also invited the public to a free workshop entitled “The Contents of an IEP [individualized education plan],” to be held on Nov. 27 at the Washtenaw Intermediate School District from 7-9 p.m.

The AAEA’s representative reported that she had attended a professional development session at Pioneer High School the previous day during which staff had created lists of things of which they were proud. The representative shared a sampling of the items she had seen on the lists, including: Special Olympics, peer mentoring, guest speakers, peer mediation, revamping of the media center web page, open communication with students, rising AP scores, and participation in the Midwest music conference.

Nelson also spoke as the board liaison to the developing Arab-American Parent Support Group (AAPSG), which he noted was formed approximately one year ago. He invited the public to the first community-wide meeting of the AAPSG, to be held on Sunday, Nov. 11 from 1:30 to 3:00 p.m. in the third floor meeting room, also called the “free space,” of the downtown branch of the Ann Arbor District Library.

Comm/Comm: Superintendent’s Report

Green enumerated recent awards and accolades received by the AAPS community, including: Community high school’s invitation to participate at a statewide conference to share strategies for improving student achievement for all students; the NAACP’s honoring of 112 students at its annual Freedom Fund dinner; Tappan music students’ invitation to perform on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial as part of the commemoration of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s “I Have A Dream” speech; and the success of the Dicken Dash, a new PTO fundraiser in which 367 students raised over $15,000 to support field trips and develop an outdoor classroom.

Comm/Comm: Action Items

The board passed a consent agenda containing minutes approvals and gift offers, and also approved a motion to hold an executive session on Dec. 5 for the purpose of negotiations.

Comm/Comm: Items from the Board

Thomas noted he had the privilege of making a number of “great idea” grant awards on behalf of Ann Arbor Public Schools Educational Foundation’s (AAPSEF) Karen Thomas Memorial fund, which Thomas founded to honor his late wife. The grant awards were matched with PTO funds and used to purchase Nook e-Readers to promote reading and writing among fifth grader students. Thomas also noted that his monthly coffee would be held next Tues, Nov. 13 at 9a a.m. at the Sweetwaters on Washington.

Nelson reiterated his appreciation for the awards received by the AAPSEF and the PTO thrift store, and also expressed thanks to the Center for Independent Living and the NAACP for the their work in promoting the educational development of young people.

Patalan noted that this meeting highlighted both the successes in the district, and well as the challenges the district faces “with people who are not on the same page with funding public education.”

Mexicotte noted that trustee Susan Baskett was ill and that therefore Nelson would need to attend an upcoming meeting in her place, as was an alternate delegate for that meeting. She also offered encouragement to the boards in Ypsilanti and Willow Run, noting that both of their communities agreed to a consolidation plan and to add an operating millage to support the newly created district. Mexicotte said she wanted to congratulate them on these plans and extended the support of AAPS to help them during the transition. She also noted AAPS may partner with them on a possibly upcoming educational enhancement millage.

Comm/Comm: Re-election of Deb Mexicotte

Also during items from the board, each of the trustees congratulated Mexicotte on her successful bid to remain on the board of education for another term. [Mexicotte received 31,436 (63.19%) votes to 17,758 (35.69%) for Dale Leslie.] Thomas pointed out that Mexicotte had garnered over 31,000 votes, which he believed sets a record for the highest number of votes any AAPS school board member has ever received. Green also expressed congratulations to Mexicotte during her superintendent’s report.

Mexicotte began by acknowledging the passion and interest of her opponent, Dale Leslie, thanking him for putting himself out there to the community and being willing to serve on the board. She then thanked the her fellow board members for their support, and then closed the meeting with a statement acknowledging and thanking the community for their extensive support of AAPS students and of the board of education.

Mexicotte said running for re-election during a fall presidential race was more difficult than in June, noting it was more expensive, a little more partisan, and harder to reach voters. However, she said it was really gratifying and humbling to hear how much the community supports the work of the board. “Even when they disagreed,” she said, “they were still so positive about the district. The community respects our service.” She noted the support of many of the district’s community partners support students in a meaningful way, saying “This community serves our students – they give their time, their money, their volunteerism, their verbal support … Thank you to the community for all they do, and for returning me to do my very small piece.”

Present: President Deb Mexicotte, vice president Christine Stead, secretary Andy Thomas, treasurer Irene Patalan, and trustee Glenn Nelson.

Absent: Trustees Susan Baskett and Simone Lightfoot.

Next regular meeting: Wednesday, Dec. 5, 2012, at 7 p.m. at the fourth-floor boardroom of the Ann Arbor District Library’s downtown branch, 343 S. Fifth Ave. [confirm date]


  1. November 12, 2012 at 3:15 pm | permalink

    Wasn’t the planetarium already named the “Argus Planetarium?” So what’s the new official name?

  2. By Eric
    November 12, 2012 at 3:54 pm | permalink

    The most important event facing AAPS is the impeding merger of Ypsi and Willow Run. Once these two corpses are officially married the state of Michigan will try to animate the resulting zombie by merger with AAPS. To remain independent AAPS will need much bigger cash reserves than they have now. The least bad thing to do would be to demand union contract renegotiation with large immediate pay cuts. If the unions balk, shut the system down for a year and accumulate money, it would not hurt the children, they do not learn much at AAPS anyway.

  3. November 12, 2012 at 4:07 pm | permalink

    Jim: from news.a2schools.org: [link]

    “In appreciation of the company’s generosity, the planetarium will be renamed the Argus IMRA Planetarium for the next 25 years.”

  4. November 12, 2012 at 9:34 pm | permalink

    I would really like it if the board would have a plan to involve the parents and taxpayers in budgeting for the next year early on. Don’t wait until February, March, or April–bring the public in and share documents and information now–in November and December. Please.

  5. November 12, 2012 at 9:59 pm | permalink

    > AAPS director of finance Nancy Hoover briefly presented the financial report from the first quarter, noting that it was being brought to the board earlier than usual, and that it contained no adjustments to revenue or expenditures.

    Was the draft first quarter financial report made available to the public in advance of this meeting? If it were in your hands, Ruth, I think it might be helpful. (Let me know if you’re interested, and I’ll help draft the FOIA request.)

  6. November 12, 2012 at 10:07 pm | permalink

    Re: [5] and a possible request under the Michigan Freedom of Information Act to obtain the first quarter financial report

    Ed, the AAPS analog to the city of Ann Arbor’s Legistar system is here: [link].

    The link to the specific document is here: [link]

  7. November 12, 2012 at 10:47 pm | permalink

    Thank you very much Dave. (And Ed, for asking the question.)

    I did not know until now that there was a direct way to access the board documents. If you go through a2schools.org and click on the “Board” area, there are “Reports to the Board” (outdated); “Board Notes” (6/23/12 is the last one); and then the area labeled “Meeting Schedule” (which has the minutes). The “Meeting Schedule” area, if you scroll down far enough, gets you to the google calendar, and if you open up a particular event (say, for example, a board meeting) then there is a link to the board documents–though it’s not generally hyper-linked, and it’s truly cumbersome to look up each meeting.

    You kind of have to be “in” to know how to get there.
    You have just provided a much more direct link to the AAPS board documents–and I hope that AAPS will follow suit. Thank you very much!

  8. November 12, 2012 at 10:51 pm | permalink

    And now, looking back, I see that I am wrong–on the meeting schedule buried far down the page, embedded in a box, there is this notification:


    Board of Education


    Changes/Additions since last posting appear in BOLD

    This notification of meeting change is posted in compliance with Michigan Open Meetings Act, Public Act No. 267 of 1976, and supersedes all previous postings regarding these dates. Notes/minutes of these meetings can be found in the Board of Education office, 2555 S. State Street, Ann Arbor, MI 48104.

    Also go to BoardDocs at [link] for current Board Meeting Agendas, Meeting Minutes and information.”

  9. November 12, 2012 at 11:14 pm | permalink

    Re: “You have to be ‘in’ to know how to get there.”

    Fair enough. But once you know there’s a Google calendar for the board meetings, you can use the feature at the lower right hand corner of the calendar – the button that reads +GoogleCalendar – to simply add that calendar to your own Google calendar. Once you’ve imported the district’s calendar into your calendar, if the district changes the board’s calendar, your own calendar will automatically update. If the district adds a board meeting, that meeting will automatically show up in your calendar. If the district adds “CANCELLED” to an event, that will show up automatically in your calendar as well.

    This approach – based on an icalendar feed (for the BoE, it’s automatically generated by the Google Calendar) – is one The Chronicle has adopted for our event listings: [event listings] All of those listings come from an organization that’s using a calendar system that either generates an icalendar feed or a calendar system from which an icalendar feed can be built.

    So The Chronicle’s event listing now includes BoE meetings – automatically, with no additional work by anyone, beyond the data entry into the district’s Google Calendar. In our listing, clicking on the “…” will reveal more details, like the link to the BoardDocs system.

  10. November 13, 2012 at 12:07 pm | permalink

    Thanks Dave, Ruth.

    I updated the Ann Arbor Board of Education page here on Arborwiki [link] with direct links to the board documents page, so that I and whoever else can find it incrementally easier next time the question comes up.

    That page is about two elections behind, so any other updates for it would be welcomed.