Education Section

UM Students Lobby Regents to Take Action

University of Michigan board of regents meeting (March 15, 2012): About 100 people – most of them students advocating for tuition reform or changes to the University of Michigan’s childcare subsidy – packed this month’s venue for the regents meeting: The Michigan Union’s cavernous Pendleton Room.

Genevieve Urbain

Genevieve Urbain awaits her turn to speak during public commentary at the March 15, 2012 UM board of regents meeting. She was one of three people who spoke on the topic of Willis Ward, urging regents to find a way to honor the African-American athlete who played football for UM in the 1930s. (Photos by the writer.)

With minimal discussion, regents dispatched a variety of action items during the meeting, including several related to health education, facilities and athletics. They authorized a $50 million new building for the School of Nursing, as well as $20.5 million in renovations at the Taubman Health Care Center. In athletics-related items, regents approved renaming the Crisler Arena to Crisler Center, reflecting the broader uses there, as it has expanded in recent years. The board also authorized a $2 million increase in the budget for renovations at Yost Ice Arena, bringing that project to $16 million.

Ron Zernicke, dean of the School of Kinesiology, gave the meeting’s only presentation. He described the school’s facilities and academic programs, and the pressures of its increasing student enrollments. For undergraduates, kinesiology is the fourth largest school at UM’s Ann Arbor campus, with 877 students.

As part of her opening remarks, UM president Mary Sue Coleman reported that Fred White – a retired university auditor –has been hired as project manager to implement recommendations from an internal audit. The audit relates to an incident last year involving child pornography allegedly viewed on a UM health system computer. White will also serve as a liaison for an external review ordered by the board at its February meeting.

Several reports were received during the meeting as items of information, including the regular report on internal audits, and a summary of ongoing construction activities. Tim Slottow, UM’s chief financial officer, noted that the Fuller Road Station has been removed from the construction project list. He told regents that the university and city of Ann Arbor couldn’t agree on a memorandum of understanding on the joint project, but that he thinks it’s still a good aspiration. [See Chronicle coverage: "UM, Ann Arbor Halt Fuller Road Project"]

As it did at last month’s meeting, public commentary focused on better access to a childcare subsidy available to parents who are UM students – an issue being negotiated by the Graduate Employees’ Organization (GEO) – and equity for students who are charged out-of-state tuition because they are undocumented immigrants. Students urged regents to support both issues.

The meeting ended with three speakers – including eight-year-old Genevieve Urbain – asking regents to honor Willis Ward, an athlete at UM during the 1930s who faced discrimination because of his race. Regent Martin Taylor, who said Ward had been a friend and fraternity brother, got consensus from regents to seek recommendations on how Ward might be appropriately recognized. [Full Story]

AAPS Opens 170 Schools of Choice Seats

Ann Arbor Public Schools Board of Education regular meeting (March 7, 2012): Trustees of the Ann Arbor Public Schools (AAPS) school board fast-tracked the approval of another 170 schools-of-choice slots in the district, allowing students from within Washtenaw County to transfer to AAPS for the remainder of their K-12 education.

Simone Lightfoot

AAPS trustee Simone Lightfoot at the March 7 meeting. She was not alone in expressing her dissatisfaction with the transportation services being provided by Washtenaw Intermediate School District. (Photo by the writer.)

Under Michigan’s schools-of-choice legislation, local school districts can enroll these nonresident students without having to obtain approval from the district in which students reside.

So schools-of-choice students bring their state per-pupil allocation with them to AAPS. If all 170 seats are filled, the district will gain approximately $1.19 million in additional revenue.

The March 7 board meeting included discussions of the district’s transportation options, staffing process, and fund balance as trustees brace for budget recommendations to be brought to them by AAPS administration by the end of March.

Trustees expressed dissatisfaction with its transportation services, which it receives from the Washtenaw Intermediate School District as part of a consortium of other districts. [Full Story]

Privatizing Public Services: A Good Thing?

A recent forum on privatization, organized by the local League of Women Voters, brought together four elected officials and one former administrator to share their experiences and opinions on the issue.

Bob Guenzel, Sabra Briere

Former Washtenaw County administrator Bob Guenzel and Ann Arbor city councilmember Sabra Briere (Ward 1) were among five panelists at a Feb. 27 forum on privatization. The event was organized by the League of Women Voters of the Ann Arbor area and held at the downtown Ann Arbor District Library. (Photos by the writer.)

The membership of the national League of Women Voters is studying the issue of privatization, with the eventual goal of developing a position statement, based in part on feedback from local leagues. Susan Greenberg, who moderated the Feb. 27 panel in Ann Arbor, said they’ll be looking at the factors that governments use to determine which services are privatized, the policy issues that are considered, how privatization impacts a community, and what strategies are used to ensure transparency and accountability.

Panelists all had experience in public sector leadership: Lois Richardson, Ypsilanti city councilmember and mayor pro tem; Bob Guenzel, former Washtenaw County administrator; Sabra Briere, Ann Arbor city councilmember; Andy Fanta, Ypsilanti public schools board member; and Susan Baskett, Ann Arbor public schools board member.

Panelists gave examples of how privatization is being used locally – such as curbside recycling in Ann Arbor and garbage pick-up in Ypsilanti – but generally expressed caution about the practice. Fanta was less circumspect, describing privatization as capitalism eating its entrails. [All of the four elected officials are Democrats.]

The forum also included time for questions from the audience. Topics ranged from the impact of Proposal A – which shifted control of funding for K-12 schools from local communities to the state – to comments about national funding priorities.

The event was co-sponsored by the Ann Arbor alumnae chapter of the Delta Sigma Theta sorority, and held at the downtown Ann Arbor District Library. A videotape of the panel will be posted on the AADL website. [Full Story]

Regents Take Action on Security Investigation

University of Michigan board of regents meeting (Feb. 16, 2012): In the wake of a mishandled incident involving child pornography allegedly viewed on a UM health system computer, regents voted last week to start an external investigation into the matter.

Student groups at UM regents meeting

Members of student groups at the Feb. 16 UM regents meeting stood in support of a speaker during public commentary who was advocating for tuition equality for students who are undocumented immigrants. (Photos by the writer.)

Martin Taylor, who introduced the resolution at the start of the meeting, described the situation as “one that is unacceptable to the regents and that we, the regents, feel we must do everything within our power to ensure that it is not repeated.” There had been a six-month lag between the time the incident was initially reported in May of 2011, and action taken by university officials to investigate. A former medical resident, Stephen Jenson, was arrested in mid-December. [.pdf of Taylor's statement]

The university administration had issued its own report on an internal audit earlier this month, with recommendations to improve security and communications. [.pdf of UM report] But regents felt more needed to be done, and have asked UM president Mary Sue Coleman to work with board chair Denise Ilitch to make recommendations for outside consultants who could be hired to carry out an additional investigation.

During public commentary at the meeting, Coleman was sharply criticized for her handling of the situation. One speaker accused her of a repeated pattern of attacking whistleblowers. The remarks prompted some regents to come to Coleman’s defense, calling the accusations unfair.

The ongoing debate about whether to allow graduate student research assistants (GSRAs) to unionize also emerged during the Feb. 16 meeting, when three students spoke about the topic during public commentary. The same issue was the focus of an unusual special meeting that regents held the following week, on Feb. 21. At that meeting – which included heated debate among regents over whether the meeting had been called in conformity with the state’s Open Meetings Act – the board voted 6-2 to oppose Michigan senate bill 197. The bill would prohibit GSRAs from collective bargaining. It was subsequently passed by the Republican-controlled state senate on a 26-12 party-line vote.

Regents acted on a range of other issues during their Feb. 16 meeting. There was no mention of the Feb. 8 special meeting that had been called to approve the use of Michigan Stadium for the National Hockey League’s Winter Classic, scheduled for Jan. 1, 2013. However, one item on the Feb. 16 agenda did relate to UM athletics: a vote to rename the basketball player development center at Crisler in honor of William Davidson, who died in 2009. His family, via the William Davidson Foundation, recently donated $7.5 million to the University of Michigan athletics department.

Another renaming was also approved – for the Computer Science and Engineering Building, in honor of Bob and Betty Beyster. Bob Beyster, who received multiple degrees from UM and founded Science Applications International Corp., recently gave a $15 million gift to the College of Engineering.

In other business, regents voted to revise the board’s bylaws, including a change that eliminated a previous requirement that executives retire after their 70th birthday. Coleman will be 70 when her current contract expires in 2014, but regent Martin Taylor said the change wasn’t being made to accommodate her – it’s to comply with the law, he said. Regents also authorized the appointment of six Thurnau professorships, and took votes that moved forward several previously approved projects, including major renovations at East Quad and the residences in the Lawyers’ Club.

Two presentations were given during the meeting – by Martin Philbert, dean of the School of Public Health, and Doug Engel, chair and professor of cell and developmental biology. Engel’s presentation highlighted recent news that the U.S. National Institutes of Health has authorized an embryonic stem cell line developed by UM researchers to be eligible for federally funded research.

The meeting concluded with public commentary on a variety of issues, including (1) better access to a childcare subsidy available to parents who are UM students; (2) equity for students who are charged out-of-state tuition because they are undocumented immigrants; and (3) criticism of the university’s relationship with China. [Full Story]

AAPS Update: Climate, Bullying, Guidance

Ann Arbor Public Schools Board of Education Committee-of-the-Whole meeting (Feb. 15, 2012): At its Feb. 15 committee-of-the-whole meeting, the AAPS school board discussed three related issues — combating bullying, assessing and improving school climate, and restructuring the school guidance and counseling program.

Riot Youth

Members of the LGBTQ student group Riot Youth addressed the Ann Arbor Public Schools board at its meeting of the committee-of-the-whole on Feb. 15. (Photo by the writer.)

Trustee Glenn Nelson noted that these interwoven topics had been a high priority for the board since a 2009 study session at which the board reviewed how AAPS was functioning in these areas compared to best practices in the field of education. “[T]his is not a topic of the evening,” Nelson said. “This was a deliberate and high-priority commitment where we really want to make progress.”

Also at the Feb. 15 committee meeting, the board members discussed an administrative recommendation to implement all-day kindergarten district-wide, which they approved at a special meeting on Feb. 18, 2012. The Chronicle previously reported on that meeting and the committee discussion.  [Full Story]

GSRA Bill: UM Regents Debate Opposition

University of Michigan board of regents special meeting (Feb. 21, 2012): The board and UM president Mary Sue Coleman met via conference call on Tuesday morning in a brief but contentious meeting that focused on Senate Bill 971. It’s a bill that would make explicit that graduate student research assistants (GSRAs) are not entitled to collective bargaining rights under Michigan’s Act 336 of 1947.

Sue Scarnecchia

Suellyn Scarnecchia, UM's general counsel, was one of the few executives in the room at a Feb. 21 special meeting of the board of regents. All regents and UM president Mary Sue Coleman participated via conference call. Scarnecchia was asked by some regents to weigh in on the legality of the meeting, in the context of compliance with Michigan's Open Meetings Act.

Ultimately, the board voted 6-2 to formally oppose the bill, which was to be considered later that morning at a senate committee hearing in Lansing. [The committee later in the day voted to recommend the bill for passage by the full senate.]

The board’s two Republican regents – Andrea Fischer Newman and Andrew Richner – dissented. It was a vote along the same party lines as action taken at the regents’ May 19, 2011 meeting, when the Democratic majority of the board passed a resolution supporting the right of GSRAs to determine whether to organize. Coleman, who chairs the regents’ meeting but is not a voting member, had spoken against the resolution prior to the May vote. At subsequent regents’ meetings, several students and faculty have spoke during public commentary in opposition to the board’s action.

Much of the Feb. 21 special meeting focused on whether the meeting itself was legal. It was convened by invoking a rarely used bylaw that allows either the president or three regents to call a special meeting for emergency action. However, the meeting was apparently not publicly noticed 18 hours in advance, as required by the Michigan Open Meetings Act.

The university’s general counsel, Sue Scarnecchia, was asked by some of the regents to weigh in on the legality of the meeting. She stated that the meeting had been called legally, based on her reading of the regental bylaw. She did not comment explicitly on how compliance with the bylaw might relate to conformance with the OMA.  [Full Story]

AAPS Kindergarten: All Kids, All Day in ’12-13

Ann Arbor Public Schools Board of Education special meeting (Feb. 18, 2012): The AAPS school board approved an administrative recommendation to move to a district-wide all-day kindergarten program at a special meeting on Saturday afternoon.

Board of Education All Day kindergarten

Clockwise starting at left: AAPS board members Deb Mexicotte, Christine Stead, Andy Thomas, Glenn Nelson, and Susan Baskett. (Photo by the writer).

The weekend meeting was scheduled when it became apparent at the board’s Feb. 15 committee-of-the-whole meeting that all trustees were in full support of the recommendation. The board wanted to be able to begin telling families about the change sooner. The board does not typically take action at committee meetings, even if a quorum is present. That’s why a special meeting was called for the vote to take place.

All-day kindergarten for all AAPS students will replace the matrix of district kindergarten choices currently offered, which includes the following options: half-day morning; half-day afternoon; all-day; extended-day (morning kindergarten, followed by afternoon childcare with the same teacher and an aide); and “K Care” (childcare through AAPS Rec & Ed to complement half-day kindergarten). Currently, the options available at each school are different, can change each year, and can cost extra.

The board’s vote means that next year, all AAPS kindergarten students will participate in a full-day program at no additional cost to families. [Full Story]

AAPS Weighs State’s Impact on Budget

Ann Arbor Public Schools Board of Education regular meeting (Feb. 8, 2012): At a meeting of the AAPS board of education with a relatively light agenda, trustees discussed the anticipated state education funding incentives revealed by Gov. Rick Snyder last week.

Christine Stead

AAPS board member Christine Stead. Across the table from Stead (and Deb Mexicotte, who's seated to Stead's right out of the frame) are board members Glenn Nelson and Susan Baskett. (Photos by the writer.)

Contending that any increases would do little to rectify the compounding losses of funding since the passage of Proposal A, trustee Andy Thomas summarized the state’s budget plan as: “One hand giveth and the other hand taketh away.”

Trustees also agreed to move to a paperless system of board documents. In other business, the board agreed to change the district’s liability insurance carrier, and joined an emerging advocacy group – the Washtenaw Alliance for Education.

Also at the meeting, the board heard from two sets of students, after making a conscious effort recently to increase student engagement at the board level.

The board also engaged in an uncommon back-and-forth with members of the audience, which stemmed from public commentary about a Thurston Elementary School teacher who’s been placed on administrative leave.  [Full Story]

Photos: Local Faces in Obama’s UM Crowd

When the president of the United States comes to town to give a major speech on college affordability, it’s not something we’d want to miss.

Barack Obama

U.S. president Barack Obama, speaking at the University of Michigan’s Al Glick Fieldhouse on Friday morning, Jan. 27. His remarks focused on the issue of education and college affordability. (Photos by Mary Morgan.)

Also not wanting to miss Barack Obama’s appearance at the University of Michigan – a return visit after delivering the commencement address in May of 2010 – were dozens of other national, state and local media. Attention is heightened even more during this election year, and Friday morning’s speech was just one of many stops as Obama hit the road following Tuesday’s State of the Union address.

There will be countless reports and opinions offered on the Jan. 27 speech at UM, but we’d encourage you to approach it unfiltered, at least initially. You can watch the roughly 40-minute speech in its entirety online, or read a transcript of it here.

For Obama’s remarks almost two years ago at the 2010 UM commencement, we provided a bit of our own analysis, along with photos by Myra Klarman.

This time, we went with an eye for recording the community connections we could see at the event. And there were many – not surprisingly for a Democratic stronghold like Ann Arbor. Politicians were easy to spot, of course, but there were also educators, business owners, government workers and many others.

Over 3,000 people attended Friday morning’s speech. Here are a few of those we encountered there. [Full Story]

AAPS to Use Savings to Offset Budget Cuts

Ann Arbor Public Schools committee of the whole meeting (Jan. 25, 2012): At the board of trustees committee of the whole (COTW) meeting on Wednesday, trustees agreed on a strategy to dip into fund equity to offset the anticipated $14 million-$16 million deficit facing the district in fiscal year 2012-13. Trustee Andy Thomas won support from his colleagues to use around $7 million in savings to “buy [AAPS] another year without having to make really draconian budget cuts.” Board president Deb Mexicotte called it a “respite year.”


School bus operated for Ann Arbor Public Schools headed north on State Street on Jan 27, 2012. Changes to the way AAPS provides transportation services was a major theme of the AAPS board's Jan. 25 committee meeting.

That led to a vigorous discussion of the district’s immediate and longer-term options to continue to function in a challenging fiscal and political environment beyond 2012-13. “Everything has to be on the table … Education is not going to be the same,” said trustee Susan Baskett.

Mexicotte agreed, saying the time for incremental change has passed, and that the district “might need to make some bold moves.”

As options to consider for the following year, trustees listed the following: redistricting; eliminating 7th hour high school classes; closing schools; sharing principals; passing a countywide enhancement millage; changing high school start times; moving more athletics extracurricular activities to a “club sports” model; increasing the number of online class offerings; changing state law; working with the University of Michigan to allow AAPS students to earn credit hours there at a reduced rate; and moving to a balanced calendar district-wide.

In some detail, the board also evaluated its options for busing – in light of news that the Ypsilanti and Willow Run public schools are considering pulling out of the Washtenaw Intermediate School District’s transportation consortium. That would leave Ann Arbor as the sole participant in the consortium.

Trustees directed administration to examine and make a recommendation on the following transportation options: improving busing within the current framework of the WISD; consolidating busing with Ypsilanti and Willow Run outside the WISD consolidation; bringing busing back into the AAPS budget with bus drivers remaining public employees; bringing busing back into the AAPS budget but privatizing bus drivers; eliminating busing entirely; or collaborating with the Ann Arbor Transportation Authority (AATA) to transport AAPS students.

Several trustees also made plugs for protecting classrooms from the effect of budget cuts, and even suggested lowering class sizes. AAPS superintendent Patricia Green suggested it was also important to relieve some of the pressure and anxiety felt by teachers and other district staff. “We are at the tipping point,” she said, “Five years of budget cuts can take its toll.”

Also at the Jan 25 COTW meeting, trustees heard updates on the AAPS preschool and family center programs, including some discussion of the county’s relinquishing of its management of the federal Head Start grant. And, the board was briefed on the implementation of the Measures of Academic Progress (MAP), a new assessment tool the board approved for purchase last May. [Full Story]

UM’s Business of Research, Academics

University of Michigan board of regents meeting (Jan. 19, 2012): The sixth floor of UM’s Ross School of Business was the venue for January’s meeting, where regents and executives dispatched the university’s business with an alacrity called for by president Mary Sue Coleman. There was no indication at the time that U.S. president Barack Obama would be speaking here later this month. News of his speech – to be delivered on Friday morning, Jan. 27 at UM’s Al Glick Fieldhouse – was announced on Monday.

Mary Sue Coleman

Before the start of the Jan. 19 board of regents meeting, UM president Mary Sue Coleman scanned an article from The Chronicle – but not this Chronicle. It's a report from The Chronicle of Higher Education. (Photos by the writer.)

Instead, regents dealt with less high-profile matters, approving a range of action items with little discussion. Those included funding for a major expansion of the UM Health System into Wayne County, along the I-275 corridor; renovations that will transform the entrance to Schembechler Hall and make a museum of football memorabilia more accessible to the public; and improvements to the university’s Northwood apartment complex on north campus.

But much of the meeting consisted of reports. Stephen Forrest, UM’s vice president for research, presented a sobering outlook for future research funding, calling the climate for federal funding “worrisome.” After his talk, regent Andrea Fischer Newman pointed out that tuition is helping to support the university’s $1.2 billion research program – about 25% of those research expenditures are covered internally.

Regents also heard from dean Alison Davis-Blake, who described how the business school is countering the caricature of managers that are only focused on short-term profits, and whose management skills consist of the ability to say, “You’re fired!” Graduates of Ross are taught to think more broadly, she said.

An item not on the agenda of the Jan. 19 meeting received considerable attention during public commentary. One student and three professors spoke against an effort to unionize graduate student research assistants (GSRAs).

Also during public commentary, the chair of the Sierra Club’s Huron Valley group raised concerns over the proposed Fuller Road Station, saying that the joint UM/city of Ann Arbor project runs counter to the university’s sustainability efforts. Fuller Road Station’s initial phase is a proposed parking structure, located near the UM medical campus, that could hold over 1,000 vehicles. [Full Story]

AAPS Mulls Suing State over School Aid Fund

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

AAPS Ended 2011 with Journeyman Contract

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


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

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

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

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

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

Two Top AAPS Administrators Get Raises

Ann Arbor Public Schools board of education meeting (Dec. 14, 2011) Part 1: After an extensive, sometimes heated discussion – and a rarely used parliamentary action taken well after midnight – the AAPS school board voted 4-3 to ratify contract amendments for two of its top administrators.

Brought forward by superintendent Patricia Green, the amendments raised the salary of deputy superintendent of operations Robert Allen by 7%, and that of assistant superintendent of human resource and legal services Dave Comsa by 12%. The board also reclassified Comsa’s position, bringing him up to the executive level of the superintendent’s cabinet, and changing his title to “deputy superintendent of human resources and general counsel.”

Dawn Linden, Liz Margolis, Alesia Flye, Dave Comsa, and Robert Allen

From left: Ann Arbor Public Schools administrators Dawn Linden, Liz Margolis, Alesia Flye, Dave Comsa, and Robert Allen. At its Dec. 14 meeting, the AAPS board voted on contracts for all of these administrators, with the exception of Margolis. (Photo by the writer.)

The board initially voted to consider the contracts as a first briefing, which meant the item would return to the board’s next meeting for a final vote, allowing more time for public input. But later in the meeting – about 1:30 a.m. – board president Deb Mexicotte moved to reconsider that initial vote, which it did, and the item was then classified as a special briefing, allowing the board to take a final vote that night. Trustee Simone Lightfoot called the move a “bait and switch.”

Mexicotte defended her decision, saying that she is elected to make decisions like these on behalf of the district. Other trustees backed that view. Irene Patalan said she often explains her vote to constituents after the fact, and this time would be no different.

In the end, concerns over transparency and equity for other employees were outweighed by the belief that salary adjustments were needed to retain Comsa and Allen, and to reflect their value to the district.

Also at the Dec. 14 meeting, on a 6-1 vote, the board ratified contracts for two new administrators hired by Green to complete her cabinet: deputy superintendent of instruction Alesia Flye, and assistant superintendent of elementary education Dawn Linden.

The set of contract ratifications reflect Green’s desire to reorganize her executive cabinet to contain three deputy superintendents – Allen, Comsa, and Flye – at an equivalent salary of $140,000.

This report will cover in detail the discussions and procedure regarding the administrative contract ratifications. Additional coverage of the remainder of the Dec. 14 board of education meeting will be forthcoming in a separate report. [Full Story]

Shouts, Songs Occupy UM Regents Meeting

University of Michigan board of regents meeting (Dec. 15, 2011): The December regents meeting reflected campus activism and the arts – nearly in equal measure.

Occupy UM protesters

Occupy UM protesters walking toward the Fleming administration building prior to the Dec. 15 regents meeting, where they protested against the high cost of public education. Flyers taped to The Cube repeated the same theme. (Photos by the writer.)

As UM president Mary Sue Coleman began her opening remarks to start Thursday’s meeting, about two dozen “Occupy UM” protesters, who’d been sitting in the boardroom, stood up and shouted, “Mic check!” For the next five minutes, in a call-and-response delivery, protesters outlined their grievances against the university’s leadership – primarily, that once-affordable public education has been turned into an expensive commodity. [A video of the protest is posted on YouTube.]

When the group finished, they left the boardroom chanting “Instruction, not construction!” Neither the regents nor Coleman responded to them or alluded to the protest during the rest of the meeting.

Another group of students gave a decidedly different performance just minutes later. The a cappella group Amazin’ Blue sang five holiday songs, prompting board chair Denise Ilitch to don a blue Santa’s hat – embroidered with “Michigan” – and sing along.

The meeting included two issues related to the Ann Arbor community and parking. During public commentary, Chip Smith of the Near Westside Neighborhood Association highlighted problems with a UM parking lot that’s surrounded by homes on the Old West Side. And in a staff memo accompanying a resolution to issue bonds for capital projects, Fuller Road Station was on the list in the category of projects that would require final approval by regents prior to being funded with bond proceeds. The regents had approved the controversial project – a joint UM/city of Ann Arbor parking structure, bus depot and possible train station – in January 2010, but a formal agreement between the city and university has not yet been finalized.

Other items on the Dec. 15 agenda included: (1) presentations by three UM faculty who were named MacArthur Fellows this year; (2) approval of the Michigan Investment in New Technology Startups (MINTS) initiative; and (3) approval of several renovation projects, including work on the Law School’s historic Charles T. Munger Residences in the Lawyers’ Club and the John P. Cook Building. [Full Story]

AAPS Hopes to Cross “Discipline Gap”

Ann Arbor Public Schools Committee of the Whole meeting (December 7, 2011): At Wednesday’s board committee meeting, AAPS superintendent Patricia Green outlined her vision for addressing what she called the “discipline gap.” The board met as a committee of the whole (COTW).

Suspension statistics Ann Arbor Public Schools

Percentage of AAPS high school students by ethnicity with at least one suspension during the school year. Part of the discipline gap that district superintendent Patria Green wants to address is reflected in the different between the blue bars – African American students – and other ethnic groups. Bars are clumped by year. (Image links to higher resolution file.)

Green sees closing the discipline gap as a gateway to eliminating the district’s achievement gap. Green’s presentation included a detailed breakdown of suspension data from the past eight years – a data set that shows a disproportionately high number of African-American students, special needs students, and economically disadvantaged students being suspended or otherwise removed from instructional time.

Trustees expressed optimism that Green’s comprehensive and integrated approach could ultimately be effective in addressing the achievement gap. Saying that while the board has had binders, spreadsheets, and plans before, board president Deb Mexicotte said she believes in Green’s leadership. “A lot of times in the past, the piecemeal bits have not been clear how they would work together … I now believe we can do this.”

Recalling a question Green asked the board during her interview process last spring, Mexicotte told Green, “You asked us what we would like to see in five years, and we said: Close the achievement gap. We are absolutely unified on this.”

Also discussed at the Dec. 7 COTW  meeting were the new “cut scores” being used to determine student proficiency on the annual state Michigan Educational Assessment Program (MEAP) test and Michigan Merit Exam (MME). Under the new system, students will need to get approximately 65% of the answers correct to be labeled proficient or above; the previous proficiency level was set at 39%. The district is working to mitigate parents’ surprise and concern. This year’s student scores will in most cases likely register a significant drop.

Trustees also gave their assent to a proposal by top administrators to widen the range of students who are able to address the board at their regular meetings, heard a brief budget update, and reviewed their upcoming agenda. [Full Story]

AAPS Delays Vote on Journeyman Contract

Ann Arbor Public Schools Board of Education regular meeting (Nov. 30, 2011): In its main business of the meeting, the Ann Arbor school board voted 4-2 to postpone a vote on contracting with a non-union, non-local company for journeyman services related to heating, cooling, and ventilation.

Debate among trustees on the issue included discussion on paying prevailing wages, the legal requirements of accepting lowest reasonable bids, and due process of determining comparable services among bidders. Public commentary and the teachers’ union association report were also devoted fully to this issue.

Also at the Nov. 30 meeting, the board reflected on its decision to consolidate its busing services with the Washtenaw Intermediate School District, in light of firm audit numbers from 2010-11. Savings realized in the area of transportation fell nearly $1 million short of the district’s target in the first year of the consolidation. [Full Story]

AAPS Budget Planning Continues

Ann Arbor Public Schools board of education meeting (Nov. 16, 2011): The AAPS board of education heard updates on the district’s budget planning efforts, and received a favorable annual review from its financial auditor.

Randy Trent AAPS

Randy Trent, AAPS executive director of physical properties, gave the board an update on the technology bond millage and gave bid recommendations to the board. (Photos by the writer.)

Trustees approved moving the technology bond millage vote from February to May 2012, and passed a set of resolutions opposing pending state legislation.

A packed consent agenda passed unanimously.

Among other items on the consent agenda, one made official the board’s shift from maintaining two standing committees to meeting monthly as a committee of the whole.

Notable in light of the board’s organizational change was the increase in use of the agenda planning section of the Nov. 16 meeting.

The board’s meeting agenda is now set by the whole board – instead of by an executive committee consisting of the board chair and the committee chairs. [Full Story]

UM Regents Criticize “Formula Funding”

University of Michigan board of regents meeting (Nov. 17, 2011): A meeting that began 20 minutes late included two items that spurred discussion among regents: The possible use of a formula to allocate state funding for higher education, and the need for a more comprehensive housing strategy on the Ann Arbor campus.

Block M cookies

Regent Andrea Fischer Newman passed around a tray of Block M cookies before the Nov. 17 board meeting. Later, regent Martin Taylor objected to a potential “cookie cutter” approach to appropriating money for higher education, via formula funding. It was fairly clear that he wasn’t referring to these cookies. (Photos by the writer.)

This year, as part of the standard budget appropriations process, the state also has asked universities to provide suggestions for how to implement “formula funding” – a mechanism that’s being considered as a way to standardize appropriations for higher education. Martin Taylor and other regents expressed concerns over the approach, and asked for revisions to a letter being sent from the university to the state budget director that would explicitly state UM’s opposition to this kind of funding model.

Also on the agenda were two requests related to renovations at East Quad on central campus and Baits II on north campus. The topic prompted regent Andrea Fischer Newman to call for a broader strategy for student housing in the coming decades, saying that more attention needs to be given to that aspect of the university. Regent Larry Deitch noted that UM charges a healthy price, and he doesn’t believe there’s full value for UM’s lower-division students when some facilities aren’t up to snuff.

The child rape scandal at Penn State was mentioned at two points during the Nov. 17 meeting. Toward the start, board chair Denise Ilitch read a brief statement on behalf of the regents, saying that the board fully supported president Mary Sue Coleman’s Nov. 16 letter to the campus community. The university plans to use this tragic situation, Ilitch said, for thoughtful re-examination of UM’s values, culture and priorities.

At the end of the meeting, Douglas Smith spoke during public commentary, criticizing the university for not protecting alleged victims of sexual assault by UM athletes Brendan Gibbons and Jordan Dumars. Penn State was only an anomaly because the victims were children, he said. But it’s not an anomaly for university administrators to protect their athletic programs rather than the victims, he added – that’s the norm.

Two others spoke during public commentary. Stephen Raiman, founder of Students Against GSRA Unionization, lobbied regents to reverse their previous vote of support for the right of graduate student research assistants to unionize. And Courtney Mercier, founder of Michigan Student-Athletes for Sustainability, advocated for support to improve integration of the athletic department into the university’s sustainability efforts.

Student filmmakers also made a presentation during the meeting, highlighting video public service announcements (PSAs) they’d made for UM’s “Expect Respect” campaign. After they finished, Ilitch asked whether they’d be interested in making a PSA for the regents, too. [Full Story]

Column: Speaking Truth to Power

John U. Bacon

John U. Bacon

College football coaches are far from the richest people in sports, but they could be the most powerful. That might seem far-fetched, but not to the disciples of Bear Bryant, Woody Hayes, and Tom Osborne, to name just three, who rose to become almost spiritual leaders at their schools.

At University of Michigan president James Duderstadt’s retirement banquet in 1996, he said being president wasn’t easy, but it came with some nice perks. He even got to meet the man thousands of people considered God. “No,” he said, “not Bo Schembechler, but the Dalai Lama.”

It got a laugh, but it also revealed how much presidents both fear and resent their coaches’ power, which can eclipse almost everything else on campus. The best that schools can hope for is an enlightened despot, one who keeps things clean – while winning ten games a year and beating their arch-rival.

Michigan has been lucky. Its biggest icons – Fielding Yost, Fritz Crisler, and Bo Schembechler – were not just revered, they were restrained, refusing to resort to the dirty tactics their opponents used on and off the field.

No one in the history of Penn State stamped the school more than Joe Paterno did. He led the Nittany Lions to five perfect seasons, and did it the right way. He didn’t spend a dollar to expand his humble ranch home, instead donating more than $4 million to expand the university.

As Mark Twain said, once a man earns a reputation for hard work, he can sleep until noon. Likewise, Paterno’s image eventually took on a life of its own, one so powerful no mere mortal dared question it.

The acid test was his former top assistant, Jerry Sandusky, who received the first formal complaint about his questionable conduct from a boy’s mother back in 1998. This introduced a pattern of reports, with all of them systematically squelched by Paterno and Penn State. Having seen Michigan’s coaches spend 16-hour days together – which is typical at that level – I find it impossible to believe Penn State’s coaches weren’t all too aware of Sandusky’s behavior, and the danger it posed. [Full Story]

AAPS Budget Forum Feedback

Ann Arbor Public Schools budget forum (November 14, 2011): It was standing-room only in the Pioneer cafeteria annex as over 140 people gathered to hear an overview of how the school district is funded, and to add their ideas to the mix as the district faces an anticipated $14 million shortfall in 2012-13.

Robert Allen (standing at right) with the large gathering at the budget forum held Nov. 14 at Pioneer High School. (Photos by the writer.)

The district’s approved budget for 2011-12 is $183.62 million.

As staff scrambled to bring in more folding chairs and photocopy additional handouts, AAPS superintendent Patricia Green and AAPS deputy superintendent of operations Robert Allen opened with a presentation on funding and budget challenges.

The presentation had been tweaked since a similar forum held last week. [For the details from that forum, see previous Chronicle coverage: "AAPS Seeks Public Input on Budget"]

This report highlights some of the changes made to the budget presentation, but focuses on the questions and suggestions offered by the community members who attended Monday’s forum. [Full Story]

AAPS Seeks Public Input on Budget

Ann Arbor Public Schools budget forum (November 10, 2011): About 60 people joined AAPS superintendent Patricia Green, deputy superintendent of operations Robert Allen and the rest of the AAPS top administrators at a budget forum last Thursday evening.

Glenn Nelson AAPS

Ann Arbor Public Schools board trustee Glenn Nelson (light blue shirt), listening to parents at the AAPS budget forum on Nov. 10. (Photos by the writer.)

The forum served two distinct purposes: (1) to educate the public on school funding issues, including its specific challenges for crafting next year’s (2012-13) budget; and (2) to solicit ideas from the public on how the district can reduce its budget by $14 million.

The current fiscal year’s approved budget is $183.62 million.

The district typically schedules budget forums in the spring, but this year wants to involve the community earlier than that.

A second forum will take place Monday, Nov. 14 at 6:30 p.m. in the cafeteria annex at Pioneer High School.

At Thursday’s event, Allen said that the district is projecting a $14 million deficit for the 2012-13 school year. Over the past five years, the district has made a cumulative total of nearly $50 million in cuts. [Full Story]

Election 2011: Final AAPS Candidate Forum

All six candidates for the Ann Arbor Public Schools board of education attended a 90-minute forum at Ann Arbor Open @ Mack school on Thursday evening, Nov. 3. It was the final public candidate forum before next Tuesday’s election. About 50 people, including teachers and parents of AAPS students, filled the small auditorium. Several candidates remarked that it was the best-attended event of the election season.

No Nut sign

A "No Nut" sign was posted at the entrance to Thursday's AAPS board candidate forum. It did not appear to relate to the event. (Photos by the writer.)

Candidates for the two open seats – each for four-year terms on the seven-member school board – are Albert HowardAhmar IqbalPatrick LeonardLarry Murphy, and incumbents Simone Lightfoot, and Andy Thomas.

The forum was hosted by the Ann Arbor Open Coordinating Council, and was moderated by AAOCC co-chair Sascha Matish. After brief opening statements from all candidates, they responded to a series of six questions that had been submitted by parents whose children attend Ann Arbor Open.

Questions covered the topics of programs of choice, standardized testing, state-mandated initiatives, the district’s budget, class size, and the proposed technology millage. Summaries of each candidate’s answers are provided below, presented in the order in which they responded.

For previous Chronicle coverage of the school board candidates, including more about their backgrounds, see: “Forum for Six AAPS Candidates“ and “Election 2011: AAPS Board Candidate Forum.”

This year, the general election falls on Nov. 8. Readers who are unsure where to vote can type their address into the My Property page of the city of Ann Arbor’s website to get that information. Polls are open from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. [Full Story]

AAPS Board Tackles Procedural Issues

Ann Arbor Public Schools board of education regular meeting (October 26, 2011): The board spent the better portion of its meeting discussing a large set of changes to the procedures it uses to conduct its business.

Stemming directly from discussions held at the board’s Oct. 14 retreat, the changes covered the board meeting agenda structure and its committee structure.

Deb Mexicotte Susan Baskette AAPS mission

AAPS board president Deb Mexicotte (left) and Trustee Susan Baskett discuss linking the AAPS strategic plan to board discussion. Baskett is holding a copy of the plan's mission and goals. (Photo by the writer.)

The proposed changes were initially presented as special briefing items, meaning they could have been approved by board action that night. But in the end, the board approved just two of the changes at their Oct. 26 meeting – linking all agenda items directly to the strategic plan, and adding a section to the agenda to clarify facts related to public commentary. The board put off making two other decisions – one that would officially change the board’s committee structure, and another adding time limits to meetings.

The most substantive change – meeting monthly as a “committee of the whole” instead of maintaining two standing committees of three trustees each– was examined in light of the 21 board policies that such a change would affect. A large part of the policy discussion centered on how items are put on the board agenda, and how changing the committee structure could affect that process.

Responding to some trustees who said that they would like more time to let the proposed policy amendments “marinate” before committing to them, board president Deb Mexicotte led the board to treat the proposed changes as first briefing items. Issues typically come before the board as a first briefing and are then voted on at a subsequent meeting as a second briefing item.  Mexicotte later moved, and the board agreed, to meet as a committee of the whole on Nov. 2. The board will then vote on the policy changes necessary to enact the committee structure changes at the next regular meeting on Nov. 16.

The final suggested change – adding time limits to agenda items and meetings – was discussed in some detail, but not acted upon officially at Wednesday’s meeting. Board president Deb Mexicotte said she would present a summary of the discussion regarding time limits at the Nov. 2 committee meeting.

Also at Wednesday’s meeting, the board heard public commentary on the upcoming NAACP freedom fund dinner, class sizes, transparency, transportation, and special needs services. Trustees also approved a series of policy updates as part of a short consent agenda. [Full Story]

AAPS Trustees Lament State’s “Hoops”

Ann Arbor Public Schools board of education meeting (Oct. 12, 2011): Reaction to new state-level legislation and how it’s affecting the school district was a common theme of nearly every section of the Oct. 12 AAPS board meeting.

Robert Allen Ann Arbor Public Schools

AAPS deputy superintendent of operations Robert Allen (left) and Washtenaw Intermediate School District transportation director Tom Moore addressed the board's questions regarding transportation. (Photo by the writer.)

At the meeting, the board passed the necessary set of resolutions to qualify for the restoration of $1.6 million of support from the state, as board members criticized the state’s process as “hoops” they needed to jump through.

Budget constraints came up in most of the topics on which the board took action, as well as during two informational updates – one on the bus service, and one on the results of an insurance audit undertaken by the district. Multiple speakers who addressed the board urged trustees to take political action and to lead the community in legislative advocacy and state-level reform.

Transportation service changes were again a major point of discussion at the Oct. 12 meeting. Board members questioned the success of the district’s bus service consolidation with the Washtenaw Intermediate School District. Four parents spoke at public commentary about safety concerns resulting from loss of bus service, especially with the winter weather approaching.

At last Wednesday’s meeting, the board also voted to purchase additional algebra textbooks, approved the printing of the Rec & Ed catalogue, and renewed a contract for therapeutic services needed for special education students. [Full Story]

Election 2011: AAPS Board Candidate Forum

A candidate forum held Monday evening, Oct. 3, 2011 invited six candidates for two seats on the Ann Arbor Public Schools (AAPS) board of education to make brief statements and share their answers to five questions.

AAPS candidates 2011

Simone Lightfoot draws a number out of the hat, held by League of Women Voters member Judy Mich, to determine speaking order. From left to right (front to back): Albert Howard, Ahmar Iqbal, Patrick Leonard, Simone Lightfoot, Larry Murphy, Andy Thomas. (Photos by the writer.)

Candidates were asked about bullying, their candidacies, technology, transportation, and partnerships between AAPS and other entities. The forum was sponsored by the local League of Women Voters, and broadcast live from the studio at Community Television Network (CTN).

The video can be re-played online through CTN’s video-on-demand service.

League member Susan Greenberg opened the forum, introducing the six school board candidates – Albert Howard, Ahmar Iqbal, Patrick Leonard, Larry Murphy, and incumbents Simone Lightfoot, and Andy Thomas.

Election Day is Nov. 8. Voters will be asked to choose up to two candidates to serve four-year terms on the seven-member board. Board members not standing for election this time around are: Deb Mexicotte, Glenn Nelson, Irene Patalan, Christine Stead and Susan Baskett.

Greenberg explained that the League of Women Voters is open to all citizens over the age of 18, male and female, and referred the public to the League website for membership information. She added that one purpose of the League is to assist voters in making informed choices at the polls, and as such, it holds forums such as this one.

Finally, Greenberg noted that the questions for Monday’s forum were selected by a committee of League members from suggestions sent in by the community, and introduced forum moderator Judy Mich.

Mich welcomed “viewers, voters, and candidates” and provided some information on how the forum would be conducted. She explained that  the League’s policy is to alternate the person who first responds to a new question, and then allow each of the other candidates to respond to the same question. For the opening and closing statements, candidates drew numbers to determine their speaking order.

Candidate responses are presented in the order in which they were given. For previous Chronicle coverage of the candidates, including more about their backgrounds, see: “Forum for Six AAPS Candidates[Full Story]

Forum for Six AAPS Board Candidates

The Ann Arbor area League of Women Voters (LWV) will hold a candidate forum on Monday, Oct. 3 from 7-8 p.m. at the Community Television Network studio, 2805 South Industrial Highway, Ann Arbor. The public is invited to attend but not to participate. The forum will also be broadcast live on CTN’s CitiTV Channel 19.

Two seats on the Ann Arbor Public Schools board of education are up for election on the Nov. 8, 2011 ballot, each for four-year terms. The seats are currently held by Simone Lightfoot and Andy Thomas, who are both seeking re-election. Challenging the incumbents are: Albert Howard, Ahmar Iqbal, Patrick Leonard, and Larry Murphy. [Full Story]

Literacy Coalition Faces Uncertain Future

In April 2010, Washtenaw County commissioners marked a transition – handing over leadership for a literacy coalition the county had spearheaded.

Washtenaw Literacy Coaltion meeting

At left, Amy Goodman, executive director of Washtenaw Literacy (a different entity from the Literacy Coalition of Washtenaw County), led the Sept. 26 membership meeting of the Literacy Coalition of Washtenaw County.

At the time, the Literacy Coalition of Washtenaw County had just hired its first executive director – Vanessa Mayesky – and reported progress in goals outlined in the county’s ambitious Blueprint to End Illiteracy.

But at a recent working session of the county board, commissioner Rob Turner reported that the coalition is now in crisis.

Mayesky resigned earlier this month to take a job at the University of Michigan, and funding for the coalition’s efforts is nearly depleted. Amy Goodman, chair of the coalition’s steering committee, had sent out an email on Sept. 20 stating that the coalition is at a crossroads. Based on the coalition’s financial situation, action needed to be taken, she wrote – and one of the options is to dissolve the coalition.

Goodman’s email was also a call for supporters to attend a Sept. 26 membership meeting at the NEW Center, to give input on the future of the coalition. At that meeting, which The Chronicle attended, Goodman and other steering committee members outlined the status of coalition finances. The faltering economy has tightened funding from both private and government sources, and the situation has been made even more challenging by a new coordinated funding approach being used by the county, city of Ann Arbor, Washtenaw United Way and other funders.

The coordinated funding focuses on six community priorities, ranging from homelessness to health care. But despite intense lobbying from coalition members – who noted that illiteracy is at the root of nearly every other social challenge, including unemployment and poverty – literacy is not on that list of coordinated funding priorities.

Options discussed at Monday’s meeting include: (1) trying to operate the coalition at a fully-funded level, which would entail raising funds for an annual budget of at least $71,000; (2) operating at a significantly reduced capacity, with a part-time coordinator and annual budget of $45,000; (3) creating a volunteer group to continue the effort; or (4) dissolving the coalition completely. [Full Story]

AAPS Families Challenged By Busing Changes

Ann Arbor Public Schools Board of Education meeting (Sept. 14, 2011): The main topic of discussion at Wednesday’s meeting of the board of education was transportation, specifically cuts to bus service that the district has made this school year.

The full 45 minutes of public commentary time was used at the meeting, and it was almost exclusively devoted to the transportation. Public commentary was bookended by pleas from administrators to view the transportation cuts as necessary in the context of severe state funding decreases. Ann Arbor Public Schools superintendent Patricia Green warned, “Although we have had a lot of pain, be aware that this is not the end of the budget reduction cycle.”

Later in the meeting, Brit Satchwell, president of the local teachers’ union, jettisoned the remarks he had prepared for his regular report to the board, and instead made an openly partisan, passionate speech echoing the outraged sentiment expressed during public commentary, and imploring the community to unify in opposition to Gov. Rick Snyder instead of blaming each other.

Describing Snyder as “the man whose finger hit the first domino,” Satchwell argued, “The Republicans have taken $1 billion from students and the elderly and turned it into corporate tax breaks … We are dealing with ideologues who will not compromise and will not be moved by facts … We have to step back and look at the source of the problem.”

Also at Wednesday’s meeting, the board approved the district’s choice of auditors and financial institutions, and the recently ratified tentative agreement with the AAEA-P, the union representing the district’s paraprofessionals. It also reviewed two bids under consideration – one for the publishing of the Rec & Ed course catalog, and one for the contracting of therapeutic services needed to meet the needs of special education students. Both bids will return to the board for a second briefing and vote at its next meeting. [Full Story]

AAPS Admin Meets Board Candidates

Editor’s note: Jennifer Coffman covers Ann Arbor Public Schools board meetings for The Chronicle.

Patricia Green Superintendent of Ann Arbor Public Schools

Patricia Green is the new superintendent of the Ann Arbor Public Schools, a job she started this summer. (Photos by the writer.)

To develop additional background understanding of the board, she attended a recent forum for candidates in the Nov. 8 school board elections. The forum was hosted by AAPS staff. Other media reports from that forum raised questions about what was actually said at that meeting. So The Chronicle asked Coffman to write up her notes from that forum. 

Four of the six candidates running for AAPS school board met with top AAPS administrators for an informal question-and-answer session held at the Balas administration building on Aug. 23, 2011.

After brief introductions, Patrick Leonard, Larry Murphy, Ahmar Iqbal, and Albert Howard asked administrators for more information about a variety of topics.

Those topics ranged from busing, to the district’s role in school board elections, to prayer in public schools. The two incumbents in the race – board secretary Andy Thomas and trustee Simone Lightfoot – did not attend the forum. [Full Story]