The Ann Arbor Chronicle » AAPS it's like being there Wed, 26 Nov 2014 18:59:03 +0000 en-US hourly 1 Live Audio: AAPS Candidate Forum Mon, 20 Oct 2014 13:25:04 +0000 Chronicle Staff As part of its fall kickoff to be held on Oct. 20, 2014 at Haisley Elementary School, the PTO Council is hosting a forum for Ann Arbor Public School board candidates. Ten candidates will appear on the ballot for the four positions. Terms are four years.

Editor of the now-defunct Chronicle Dave Askins will be moderating the forum.

The forum is expected to begin around 7:15 p.m. and will last roughly 90 minutes. Our intent is to offer streaming live audio with the player below. The following day, we expect to be able to post .mp3 files for on-demand listening.

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Fifth & William Wed, 11 Jun 2014 22:17:07 +0000 Trevor Staples Standing room only at Ann Arbor Public Schools board of education meeting. AAPS employees are wearing black in response to cuts to employees.

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Skyline High School Wed, 17 Jul 2013 23:11:49 +0000 schoolsmuse Crew is putting in AstroTurf at Skyline High School, where I went to meet superintendent Candidate #2. [photo] You can meet candidate #2, Brian Osborne at 7 p.m. at Skyline. The AAPS board makes a decision on the new superintendent on Friday.

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Column: Disparate Impact of AAPS Cuts? Fri, 07 Jun 2013 13:56:02 +0000 Ruth Kraut Editor’s note: This marks the launch of a new column in The Chronicle, focused on Ann Arbor Public Schools and other educational issues. Readers might know Ruth Kraut from her commentary on Ann Arbor Schools Musings, where she’s been writing about these issues for several years. For recent background on The Chronicle’s coverage of AAPS, see “Milestone: Why You Keep Running a Marathon.”

Ruth Kraut, Ann Arbor Public Schools, The Ann Arbor Chronicle

Ruth Kraut

Next week, the board of the Ann Arbor Public Schools will need to cut about 5% from the district’s budget. That’s a reduction of about $8.6 million. Teachers have already taken a 3% pay cut.

Per-pupil funding for next year ($9,025) will be less than the per-pupil funding of 12 years ago in 2001-2002 ($9,034). So it’s no surprise that we’re at the point where cuts are painful. Cutting teachers, cutting programs – none of it is happy news. There will be consequences. The question is, what kind of consequences?

In the civil rights world, a “disparate impact” occurs when a policy is non-discriminatory in its intent but affects a “protected class” of people in a disproportionate way. In Michigan’s Elliott-Larsen Civil Rights Act, for example, these protected classes include race, religion, color, national origin, age, sex, height, weight, and marital status.

AAPS is a district with a large achievement gap – between white students and African American and Hispanic/Latino students. And this gap has persisted for many years. Although in state civil rights law, income is not a protected status, income is highly correlated with race, age, and marital status. District-wide, there is also an achievement gap that is related to income: Poor kids are more likely to do poorly in school.

So it’s important to consider the AAPS budget from a perspective of potential disparate impacts. On the surface, the proposed budget cuts treat all students equally. But if we look deeper, would we find that certain budget cuts worsen – or perhaps improve – the achievement gap?

Three proposed budget cuts have raised a significant amount of opposition this year: (1) eliminating high school transportation; (2) cutting reading intervention teachers; and (3) cutting seventh hour or making it a tuition-only option. Together, these three account for just under $1.5 million of the $8.6 million in cuts. Do these cuts, in particular, have a disparate impact on any groups?

High School Transportation

One of the still-pending proposals is to cut all transportation for high school students, unless it’s related to special education. That would affect all students outside of the walk zones, including students who take school buses and those who ride Ann Arbor Transportation Authority buses using school-provided bus passes. In this year’s one-day spring “ride count,” just 29% of the students who could take school buses did take them. But remember, not all kids take the bus every day. If the counting were done over the course of a couple of weeks, the number might be closer to 40%.

AAPS districts for its three comprehensive high schools

AAPS districts for its three comprehensive high schools.

Whatever the exact percentage, it doesn’t appear that ridership is distributed evenly across the grades. My own daughter’s experience is probably not unusual. In ninth and tenth grades, she took the school bus to Skyline nearly every day. In eleventh grade, she didn’t have a first hour class, so she generally took the AATA bus (which frequently ran late, to her great consternation). In twelfth grade, though she didn’t have a car, a couple of her friends did – and she got rides to school almost every day.

The district doesn’t collect data on or analyze the school bus riders based on income. But it’s plausible that a higher proportion of students on the free and reduced price lunch program take school buses compared to students from families with higher incomes, who are much more likely to have an extra car.

So cutting high school transportation will affect younger students more than older students. The transportation cut will affect people employed with less flexible jobs more than it will impact people who have more flexible jobs. Families with no car or one car will be impacted more than two- or three-car families. For those students who can ride an AATA bus (or two, or three, after transfers), it will cost them money – because the district will not be able to provide any bus passes if it cuts general transportation. That’s $1.50/day x $180/year, or $270 per student.

AAPS is a very large district! Think about the student who lives at the low/moderate-income Arrowwood Hills Housing Cooperative, off Pontiac Trail. Students there are districted for Skyline High School. It’s possible to arrive at school on an AATA bus. The #1 bus leaves Arrowwood at 6:26 a.m., and after a transfer downtown to the #18, that student would arrive at Skyline at 7:06 a.m. (a little early for a scheduled school start of 7:30). So for less than $300 per year per student, an Arrowwood Hills resident can get transportation to Skyline.

Transfers required to get from Arrowwood to Skyline Highschool.

Transfers required to get from Arrowwood to Skyline High School, if a student takes AATA buses. Some students, however, live in areas that don’t get AATA service, making it even more difficult if the school system eliminates transportation to high schools.

But what if that same low/moderate-income student lives in a manufactured home community out on Jackson or South Wagner roads? No AATA routes serve that area. Directions on Google Maps suggest that you first drive to the nearest bus stop! What if your parent has to be at work at 7 a.m. and there are no “extra” cars? What if you are too young to drive? What if you live on a busy street without a sidewalk or shoulder, three miles from school? As a parent, do you want your teenager walking on that street in the dark?

I live in a two-parent, two-car household, and we both have some flexibility with our schedules. And as my son was looking at high schools this winter, we were very intrigued by the Washtenaw International High School. Yet I was worried about the question, “How would I get him there, and back?” (WiHi is located at the former East Middle School in Ypsilanti.) I knew it would be much easier for me if he could walk, bike, or take the bus to an in-district school.

But what if transportation is cut? I can tell you that if I lived in a corner of the district (say, a rural area near South Lyon, or Dexter, or Saline), and I was going to have to drive my child either way, I would think differently about WiHi, or about the South Lyon Schools. In that case, I wouldn’t be comparing a school with transportation to a school without transportation. I would be comparing two schools without transportation – and the second school might be more convenient.

Unfortunately, this is an all-or-nothing decision. The district can’t choose a few areas (say, those with low-income housing) and only provide transportation there. The district stands to save $466,000 by cutting transportation. However, every student who doesn’t show up on count day, or who attends a different school, costs the district around $9,000 in the state’s per-pupil funding allowance. So if even 50 students were lost because of a decision to cut transportation, the district would lose all of the projected savings.

But I digress.

The crucial point is that cutting high school transportation will have a disparate impact on younger high school students. And because of the ways that income and race are so closely intertwined in today’s America, cutting transportation will certainly have a disparate impact on students of color and on poor students. Assessed in relation to the achievement gap, it is clear: If students can’t, or don’t, arrive at school, they are going to fall further behind.

Reading Intervention

Today, the district employs the equivalent of 10 reading intervention (RI) teachers in the Ann Arbor elementary schools – a half position at each elementary school. The current proposal is to cut that in half. RI teachers would be retained in just the schools “with the highest need.” This year, 460 students qualified for RI services.

Who were these students? Were they low-income? Were they students of color? The best indicator available to the district for a student’s household income is the qualification for free and reduced price lunch. I asked Liz Margolis, director of communications for AAPS, if the district identified students in the RI program by income or race. The answer is no. The district says it can’t share information about students in the Free and Reduced Price Lunch program – because it’s considered private. And the district doesn’t keep track of students in the RI program by race/ethnicity. If the district did track that information and share those aggregated numbers, it might yield a revelation that makes everyone uncomfortable.

It’s possible at least to make an educated guess. In 2007-2008, nearly half of the students who were identified as cognitively impaired were African-American – even though at the time just 16% of Ann Arbor students were African American. One of the key identifying statistics of the achievement gap is MEAP test scores, and if there is one thing that the MEAP is good at testing, it’s reading. On the 2010-2011 MEAP tests, for instance, 96% of the district’s white third graders achieved “proficient” status while 80% of African-American third graders, 84% of the Hispanic/Latino students, and 76% of “economically disadvantaged students” achieved “proficient” status. (You can find more data on the AAPS website.)

So we can be fairly confident – even though the district doesn’t officially track it – that cutting the Reading Intervention program, which serves the too-young-for-MEAP population of K-2 students, would have a disparate impact on students of color and low-income students. Of course, that prompts the question: Does the RI program work? If it doesn’t work, then it’s not helping to reduce the achievement gap, even if there are disparities in enrollment. But if it does work, then eliminating RI could diminish the district’s ability to address the achievement gap. Per student, RI is the most expensive program proposed for elimination (approximately $2,175/student). But, if the elimination of the program causes students to fall even further behind in reading, they could wind up qualifying for mandated special education services. And those costs would be far greater.

Seventh Hour

Another possible cut would affect seventh hour the opportunity to take a seventh class during a semester, rather than the more standard six classes. One possibility is to cut the seventh hour option altogether. Another possibility is to convert seventh hour to a tuition-only option.

Cutting seventh hour completely would have different impacts at the district’s three comprehensive high schools. If seventh hour is completely cut at Pioneer and Huron high schools, then students could only take six credits (12 courses) a year. That has a couple of implications.

Currently, Skyline High School uses a trimester system, and there are five hours/trimester (5 x 3 = 15 classes or 7.5 credit hours), compared to seven hours/semester at the other schools (7 x 2 = 14 classes or 7.0 credit hours). They are not exactly comparable, because some classes that are taught in two semesters at Pioneer and Huron are taught in three trimesters at Skyline – for example, advanced placement (AP) classes and some math classes. And in practice, lots of students at Pioneer and Huron only take six classes, while most students at Skyline take five classes every term. But if seventh hour is cut, and Skyline stays with the trimester system, to maintain parity, should only four classes be offered per trimester (because 6 x 2 = 12 and 4 x 3 = 12)? Now that would affect a lot of people.

How many students take seventh hour? At any given time, it’s less than a quarter of the enrolled student body. But many students take a seventh hour only every second or third semester, so the impact would affect closer to half of the district’s students. Students who are most likely to take a seventh hour include: students who take orchestra, band, or choir; students who take a lot of AP classes; students who need to make up classes (credit recovery); and students in career/technical education. The Pioneer music department, for instance, estimates that 43% of the students in the music department take a seventh hour at least some of the time in order to get their necessary (non-music) credits.

I don’t have any idea how many students in the music program are African American or Hispanic/Latino. I don’t have any idea what percentage of students in the music program qualify for free and reduced price lunch. (The percentage of high school students who qualify for free/reduced price lunch in Ann Arbor is around 15%, much lower than in the middle and elementary schools. Families have to submit a separate application for each student, and in many cases the ones for older students are not submitted.) I don’t have any idea how many students would have difficulty actually earning enough credit hours in four years without seventh hour (and still be able to take music, or technical education). I don’t have any idea how many students are just barely above the free and reduced price lunch cutoff, but whose parents don’t have the disposable income to pay for a seventh hour. But the district probably does know, or could know.

I do know that if Skyline keeps a trimester system, then cutting the fifth hour would affect more students than cutting the seventh hour at Pioneer or Huron.

Cutting seventh hour compared to conversion to tuition could turn out to have quite different impacts, depending on how it’s handled. If seventh hour becomes a tuition-only option, should the fifth hour at Skyline be made tuition only? And if the district makes a seventh hour available with tuition only, would students who qualify for free and reduced price lunch have the fees waived? How would that affect the cost savings? Who would do the billing? What happens if parents say they’ll pay, but then don’t?

So is there a disparate impact to the proposals affecting seventh hour? Probably, but I can’t quantify it. What is interesting to me is that, if used correctly, seventh hour could potentially be a tool for reducing the achievement gap. I have talked to African-American parents and immigrant parents who have told me they believe that by keeping their children enrolled in music programs, their children have an opportunity to do better overall in school. That’s in part because being in orchestra or band affects your other scheduling options. And it makes it more likely that you will be scheduled with more serious students.


In the end, we do have budget cuts to make. It seems to me that high school transportation affects the largest number of students. It also has the greatest potential to create a disparate impact and undermine efforts to reduce the achievement gap.

If these are the wrong cuts, then we need to find other items to cut – at least until we can convince the state legislature to improve school funding. To my mind, avoiding any or all of these cuts might involve increasing district-wide class sizes just slightly by reducing general teaching numbers. I admit, that is a tough pill to swallow, but to me it is a better alternative than cutting high school transportation.

Ruth Kraut is an Ann Arbor resident and parent of three children who have all attended the Ann Arbor Public Schools. She writes at Ann Arbor Schools Musings ( about education issues in Ann Arbor, Washtenaw County, and Michigan.

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Community Meetings Set for AAPS Budget Fri, 22 Mar 2013 13:20:21 +0000 Chronicle Staff The Ann Arbor Public School (AAPS) board of education has released dates for community dialogue meetings on the budget for fiscal year 2014. In a release from the district, the trustees indicated they would like community input to develop the principles they should follow in making cuts and strategies to lessen the need for such cuts in the future. The district must cut $17 to 20 million from the general operating budget in the coming year.

The budget dialogue meetings will be structured differently from the forums that have been held in previous years – to allow for more open conversation. Several board members will be in attendance at each meeting to engage in conversation with the community. Conversation topics will depend on the interests and questions of the attendees. Board members anticipate those topics could include:

  • Potential measures to increase AAPS resources
  • Ideas for improved practices in AAPS
  • Discussion of respective value of various programs and services
  • Ideas for measures that would lessen the negative consequences of budget cuts

Community Dialogue Meeting Schedule

  • March 28, Thursday, 7-9 p.m. Clague Middle School, Media Center 2616 Nixon Road, Ann Arbor. Board members expected to attend:  Andy Thomas, Glenn Nelson, Deb Mexicotte 
  • April 9, Tuesday, 7–9 p.mSlauson Middle School, Media Center at 1019 West Washington St., Ann Arbor. Board members expected to attend:  Christine Stead, Glenn Nelson, Deb Mexicotte
  • April 16, Tuesday, 11:30 a.m. – 1:30 p.m. Downtown Ann Arbor Public Library in 4th floor Conference Room (A) 343 South Fifth Ave. Ann Arbor. Board members expected to attend:  Irene Patalan, Glenn Nelson, Deb Mexicotte
  • April 20, Saturday, 9-11 a.m. Scarlett Middle School, Media Center 3300 Lorraine St., Ann Arbor. Board members expected to attend:  Susan Baskett, Glenn Nelson, Deb Mexicotte

Additional community forums will be scheduled in early May to discuss the draft AAPS budget for 2013-2014.

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AAPS Board OKs Biology Books, Therapists Mon, 20 Aug 2012 12:57:52 +0000 Monet Tiedemann Ann Arbor Public Schools board of education (Aug. 15, 2012): In a meeting notable for its brevity – under an hour – trustees gave final approval to adoption of a new biology text book, and to a contract for therapy services.

Glenn Nelson

Ann Arbor Public Schools trustee Glenn Nelson. (Photos by the writer.)

The biology textbook adoption for the district’s high schools was priced at $117,441. The district expects 1,391 students to be enrolled in biology courses this fall – in five different high schools. The purchase includes bound copies of traditional textbooks, as well as an interactive reader and access to an online edition.

A contract for physical, occupational therapy services – provided to Ann Arbor Public School district students with disabilities – was also given approval by the trustees. The contract is with Pediatric Therapy Associates and totals $528,360 for the 2012-2013 year. It includes 120 hours weekly for physical therapy and 135 hours weekly for occupational therapy, at an hourly rate of pay of $56.

The board was also briefed on the selection of an auditor for the coming year and the financial institutions that the district can do business with.

Public commentary included a call to leave three police liaison positions unfunded. They were left unfunded in this year’s budget, and the call was to leave those positions out of the budget in future years as well. The argument for that was based on the idea of better learning in environments without police presence.

Biology Textbook

The board was asked to approve  “Biology” by Stephen Nowicki as the new biology textbook for Ann Arbor high school students. Cost of the textbooks is $117,441 for the  1,391 students who will be enrolled in biology courses this fall – in five different high schools. The purchase includes bound copies of traditional textbooks as well as an interactive reader and access to an online edition.

Reasons for adopting a new textbook include the fact that the current textbook has been in use for the past 11 years. Content on biotechnology and genetics is outdated, and the text does not address the essential content on stem cells and differentiation. The current text also lacks online materials, text access, and virtual labs and simulations that are currently available with many textbook programs. In addition, the current text is written at a lexile level that is more consistent with the reading skills of most 10th grade students – and the AAPS district teaches biology in the 9th grade.

Outcome: The board approved the new biology text book as a part of the consent agenda, without further discussion – having already discussed the item when it was briefed at the Aug. 1, 2012 board meeting.

Pediatric Therapy Contract

The board was asked to approve a contract for physical, occupational therapy services – provided to Ann Arbor Public School district students with disabilities. The contract is with Pediatric Therapy Associates and totals $528,360 for the coming year – 2012-13. It includes 120 hours weekly for physical therapy and 135 hours weekly for occupational therapy, at an hourly rate of pay of $56.

Compared to the cost of hiring therapists to work as AAPS employees, the district’s analysis is that it would cost at least $724,757 (if therapists were hired in at the lowest step of the teachers contract) including fringe benefits or as much as $1,300,915 (if therapists were hired in at step 10 of the master level)

At the board’s first briefing on the item, given at its Aug. 1 meeting, AAPS superintendent Patricia Green noted that for the upcoming year, AAPS no longer must use 15% of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) Flowthrough Grant to support significant disproportionality. Therefore, the grant money allocations have been revised to pay for the total amount of the Pediatric Therapy contract, instead of having to support the contract from general budget funds.

Funds under the IDEA are provided to school districts on an entitlement basis for services to children with disabilities.

Outcome: The board approved the contract for physical and occupational therapists as a part of the consent agenda, without further discussion– having already discussed the item when it was briefed at the Aug. 1, 2012

Financial Topics

The board was briefed on two areas of finance at the meeting  – the appointment of an auditor for the fiscal year 2011-12 and the list of qualified financial institutions for fiscal year 2012-13.

Financial Topics: Auditor Selection

The board was presented with the recommendation to approve the designation of the auditor Plante & Moran to conduct the district’s financial audit for the previous fiscal year – 2011-12. The district’s fiscal year runs from July 1 to June 30. Auditors would begin their work in September 2012 and conclude by mid-October 2012. The board would receive the auditor’s report in early November.

The audit will cost about $53,800 plus reasonable expenses. Last year, the base fee was $58,100. The district will be looking to bid out the auditing work again after this year’s audit is complete. Deputy superintendent for operations Robert Allen indicated that the goal of bidding out the auditing work some time during the fiscal year 2011-12, before this year’s contract award, had not been met.

When trustee Susan Baskett asked why the fee had dropped from last year, Allen stated that he had negotiated for a better rate.

Outcome: This was a first briefing item. It will be returned to the board for additional review and comment before being voted on at the next regular meeting.

Financial Topics: Financial Institutions Approval

A list of a dozen different financial institutions for fiscal year 2012-13 was presented to the trustees as compliant with the district’s investment policies.

Those institutions are Bank of America (Troy), Bank of Ann Arbor (Ann Arbor), Citizens Bank (Ann Arbor), Comerica Bank (Ann Arbor), Fifth Third Bank (Southfield), Flagstar Bank (Troy), JP Morgan Chase (Ann Arbor), MBIA of Ann Arbor (Ann Arbor), Michigan Commerce Bank (Ann Arbor), Michigan Liquid Asset Fund (Ronkonkoma, New York) TCF Bank (Ann Arbor) United Bank & Trust (Ann Arbor).

Deputy superintendent for operations Robert Allen stated that all 12 financial institutions have provided the requested information the district requires, in accordance with board policy and the accompanying regulations. They have passed the district’s qualifications.

Pointing out that there were 13 institutions on the list last year, while this year there were only 12, Allen explained that Key Bank chose not to be added to the list. Key Bank cited the small amount of business it had received from the district as the reason for not being included this year. Allen clarified, saying that even when banks are approved and are on the list, it doesn’t mean they will get the district’s business. And Key Bank hadn’t gotten much business from AAPS. He explained that Key Bank can reapply next year, if it chooses to do that.

Trustee Glenn Nelson asked if an institution that is not included on the list but that wants to do business with the district could still submit the documentation to be approved. Baskett expounded on that, asking if, after the board approves the list, any financial institution not on the list will need to wait another year before applying.

Allen said it was not a unique situation for school districts to offer a defined timeline for businesses to be added to approved lists. He said he will check to see if there is any information on the district website for businesses wanting to get on approved vendor lists.

Trustee Simone Lightfoot asked if there were partnerships, scholarships, or internships for students that can be explored with the financial institutions, particularly given the influx of new technology bond money. Allen asserted that when the district puts out a new request for proposals (RFP), such possibilities will be included. He said most banks were willing to talk to students about being financially astute, but few were willing to put financial resources into the schools.

Outcome: This was a first briefing item. It will be returned to the board for additional review and comment before being voted on at the next regular meeting.

Consent Agenda: Vendor Gifts, Donations

Approval of minutes and a $2,500 donation and vendor gifts from Big Lots to Lawton Elementary School were also included on  the consent agenda.

Lightfoot asked how Big Lots determined which school received the donation. Baskett replied that, according to Big Lots’s regional manager, a stealth team was sent into the Ann Arbor area, and that team determined the school based on need. Trustee Christine Stead noted there were several Lawton teachers present at the Grand Opening ceremony.

Outcome: The consent agenda was approved unanimously.

Communications and Comment

Board meetings include a number of agenda slots where trustees can daylight issues that they feel are important, including “items from the board” and “agenda planning.” And every meeting typically includes public commentary on subjects not necessarily on the formal agenda.

Comm/Comm: Police Presence

During public commentary Scott Farrell introduced himself to the board as  the parent of a student at Ann Arbor Open and a 10th grader who just left the Ann Arbor schools for the technical middle college program. He noted that the board had eliminated funding in this year’s budget for three police liaison positions.

Scott Farrell addressed the board asking that funding for three police liaison positions not be restored.

AAPS parent Scott Farrell addressed the board asking that funding for three police liaison positions not be restored.

[These positions are staffed by the Ann Arbor police department. So the AAPS decision to eliminate funding has an impact on the ability of the city of Ann Arbor to maintain its current number of sworn officers, even if the officers in those positions can be kept on, as other officers retire – as two did last week. ] Farrell made a number of arguments based largely on national trends: Violent crime in schools is down 69%, Farrell told the board, despite a 10% reduction in police presence.

Farrell also suggested that a police presence in schools creates a way to funnel kids into the juvenile criminal justice system, which increases their likelihood of dropping out of school, even if they’re not convicted. Children in school also don’t know their rights with respect to law enforcement officers, he said. They don’t realize that they need not answer an officer’s questions without a lawyer present and may not realize something they’re telling an officer as a friendly confidant could be used against them.

The environment created by police in schools can be a fearful one, he said, giving rise to the kind of anxiety we feel when a police car pulls up behind us when we’re stopped at a traffic light. And a fearful environment isn’t conducive to learning, he said.

He asked the board to put any additional funding into those efforts that would reduce class size, allow hiring of counselors, provide conflict resolution training – not restoring the police liaison positions.

Comm/Comm: BoardDocs, Meeting Length

The board went paperless for the first time ever, having completed the switch to BoardDocs, an electronic document management system. The board had unanimously approved its adoption at the Feb. 8 board meeting. All materials provided ahead of time to the board are now available on a centralized BoardDocs website. Any confidential board packets will still be printed and delivered to the trustees.

Simone Lightfoot

Simone Lightfoot. Board members referred to their laptop computer screens for agenda information as the board transitioned to the BoardDocs system.

As the meeting opened, several trustees and Robert Allen, deputy superintendent for operations, apologized if that meant they were looking at their laptops more often than usual. When looking at the agenda planner, board president Deb Mexicotte noted that, as it was a public document, it was possible to see how many people were looking at the document at any given time.

Mexicotte, executive secretary to the board of education Amy Osinski, and Superintendent Patricia Green all acknowledged that BoardDocs worked towards helping the board be more transparent to the public, which is part of the district’s strategic plan [Strategic Plan Goal #6].

The Aug. 15 meeting lasted under an hour – which is significant in light of the board’s discussion at its Aug. 1, 2012 about limiting the length of its meetings.

Over the last year, some of the board’s meetings lasted into the early morning hours, and the consensus at the retreat was to adopt the goal of limiting meeting times – possibly by setting parameters for staff presentations.

Comm/Comm: Financial Goals on Agenda?

During “agenda planning” Christine Stead asked why the calendar was not filled in very much. Green replied that as her staff coordinates when various presentations will be given, the calendar will be filled in. She cited people being on vacation during the summer months as a reason why there hadn’t been a more comprehensive calendar yet.

Osinski said that items won’t be put in to the agenda planner until they have been approved to be on the schedule, noting that some standard items still needed to be included.

Mexicotte noted that at the Aug. 1 retreat, the board set two goals – building trust among the trustees and financial goals. She reported that she had spoken to each trustee individually about the goals. At the next Committee of the Whole (COTW) meeting, she said, they will work on addressing the components of the financial goals the board wants to address.

Mexicotte mentioned several of the suggestions that came out of the retreat: “camping out” in Lansing to draw attention to their issues; working towards enhancement millages; and developing relationships with donors through the AAPS Educational Foundation. They will be taking a look at legislative actions, and working them through their agenda throughout the year.

Referring to the trust building goal, Mexicotte said the plans for how to proceed were still in development and will be shared as they are determined.

Comm/Comm: Washtenaw Alliance for Education

During the “items from the board” part of the agenda, Christine Stead mentioned she and Nelson attended a recent retreat for the Washtenaw Alliance for Education (WAE), a consortium of school districts in Washtenaw County focusing on legislative issues.

Christine Stead

Christine Stead

Noting that state board of education president John Austin facilitated the discussion, Stead said the members talked over common goals and were working on defining a vision to guide the group. Since there has been an increase in legislation in K-12 education over the past few years, she said, the WAE was looking at increasing their impact in Lansing as a unified county.

Allen, who also attended the retreat, added that some of the items discussed were early childhood and secondary programs – in addition to articulating a vision. He said the group was working to have “clear, concise messages” in their advocacy missions.

Stead said the group talked about other communities across the country that have done work that the WAE hopes to do. She cited both Kalamazoo County’s education initiatives over the past several years and South Carolina’s Colleton County’s work on closing the achievement gap as examples of initiatives that could be focused on by the WAE.

Comm/Comm: Cabinet Intros – Thompson, Hunter

Two new members of the executive cabinet were formally introduced by Green. Both were welcomed by the trustees.

Robyne Thompson joins the district as the assistant superintendent for secondary education, following the retirement of longtime AAPS teacher and administrator, Joyce Hunter. Thompson gave a brief synopsis of her experience, highlighting her time as a middle school principal in the Utica Community Public Schools and her experience in corporate America. She mentioned the district’s work towards closing the achievement gap as an impetus for her move to AAPS. The board approved Thompson’s contract at the June 13, 2012 meeting.

Jenna Bacolor is the new director of community education and recreation, replacing Sara Aeschbach, who retired after 31 years with the district. Bacolor briefly highlighted her previous experience at Washtenaw County Public Health, where she oversaw health programming throughout the county. Green noted the department of community education and recreation will be moving into the instructional services department to offer a more “comprehensive and integrated” approach to Rec and Ed.

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

Absent: Secretary Andy Thomas.

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

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AAPS Candidate Info Session: Attendance 0 Thu, 21 Jun 2012 11:46:27 +0000 Chronicle Staff On Tuesday evening, June 18, 2012, the Ann Arbor Public Schools held an information session for prospective candidates for election to the AAPS board of trustees. Board president Deb Mexicotte’s seat is the only one up for election on Tuesday, Nov. 6, 2012. It is a four-year term, beginning Jan. 1, 2013.

Current trustees Andy Thomas and Christine Stead were on hand to talk over the roles and responsibilities of a trustee. No potential candidates showed, however. Attendance at the information meeting was not mandatory for candidacy.

To appear on the ballot as a school board candidate, candidates must file paperwork at the Washtenaw County clerk’s office by Tuesday, Aug. 14 by 4 p.m. Candidates must file an affidavit of identity and either a nominating signature petition with the county clerk or, in lieu of the petition, pay a $100 nonrefundable fee. According to the Washtenaw County Clerk Elections website, for a nominating petition, candidates in districts with 10,000 or more in population such as Ann Arbor must collect a minimum of 40 signatures and a maximum of 100. Trustee Thomas strongly suggested getting more than the base 40 signatures, in case some of them turned out to not be valid AAPS district voters. The withdrawal deadline ends at 4 p.m. on Friday, Aug. 17.

An AAPS candidate meeting will be held on a yet-to-be-determined date in August at the Balas Administration Building. The League of Women Voters will be hosting a candidate forum before the November elections, date and time to be announced.

Write-in candidates must file a declaration of intent form by Friday, Oct. 26 by 4 p.m., just under two weeks before the Nov. 6 election.

For more information, prospective candidates to the board of education can contact Teri Williams, AAPS election coordinator, at 734-994-2233 or For election-specific information, candidates can contact Ed Golembiewski, director of elections, at the Washtenaw County clerk’s office at 734-222-6730 or The county clerk’s office is located at 200 N. Main Street in downtown Ann Arbor.

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AAPS Board Passes 2012-13 Budget Thu, 21 Jun 2012 02:07:31 +0000 Jennifer Coffman Ann Arbor Public Schools board of education regular meeting (June 13, 2012): The Ann Arbor Public Schools board of education passed a $188.96 million budget for the 2012-13 school year, which begins July 1.

AAPS school board at its June 15, 2012 meeting.

The Ann Arbor Public Schools board at its June 15, 2012 meeting.

That budget reflects roughly $4 million in spending cuts compared to last year’s budget, and reflects the elimination or restructuring of some transportation services, a reduction in the budget for substitute teachers, and the consolidation of high school summer school programs.

The approved budget also calls for using $6.54 million, or about one-third, of the district’s current fund equity, which caused trustee Christine Stead to cast her vote against the budget. Stead expressed strong concern that the budget neither allows for incremental expenditure shifts, nor sets the district up for successfully weathering the 2013-14 budget cycle and beyond. “I want us to use our past year’s experience as a data point,” she said, “… [T]o act like we are, with the information we have, is difficult for me to support.”

The June 13 meeting also saw the approval of three special briefing items – a renewal of the district’s food service contract with Chartwells, a resolution to upgrade human resources and finance software, and a set of policy revisions. Special briefing items are reviewed and voted on by the board in a single meeting instead of being entertained as first and second briefing items at two consecutive regular meetings.

Finally, the board approved the contract of Robyne Thompson as the new assistant superintendent of secondary education, and extended the contract held with AFSCME Local 1182, which primarily represents custodians and maintenance workers in the district.

2012-13 Budget

The formal adoption of the 2012-13 budget  was the main item on the board’s agenda.

Budget: Public Commentary

There were eight speakers during public commentary. Seven spoke about the district’s current plan to keep Roberto Clemente Student Development Center open for the next year, but to evaluate its effectiveness (as the board had previously weighed the option of consolidating or closing alternative high schools, including Clemente) and one spoke about busing reductions at Bryant and Pattengill.

Barbara Malcolm asked: “How do we citizens hold the school board accountable?” She argued that the board is “allowing those with no vested interest in this community come in and make you appear incompetent.” She called the arrogance displayed by the school board deplorable and questioned whether the board was so disconnected that it does not know what is going on in the community. “We have to get those who are not truly concerned about education for all students out of here,” Malcolm said.

Malcolm pointed out that the cost savings for closing the Clemente summer school might be lower than hoped – given that Clemente summer school staff members were hired by the district-wide summer school program at Pioneer High School instead of absorbing the Clemente students into the district-wide program without any adding additional staff.  She also noted that the board still has to pay for busing to the program. She also contended that a partnership with Ypsilanti has led Clemente to add $150,000 in revenues to the district, which the AAPS board has not acknowledged, she said. Malcolm noted that Green had attended the recent African-American festival, saying, “We are happy you came…, but don’t just come for the fun stuff – that’s a slap in the face.” Finally, she asserted that it seems like some board members are supporting personal agendas in their board work.

Clemente parent Kathleen Ardon disputed a contention that there had not been an evaluation done of Clemente earlier, saying an evaluation had been done under former AAPS superintendent Richard Benjamin in the 1980s, and the program had been deemed exemplary. Ardon said it bothers her that the board does not want to consider the GPA of Clemente students as a measure of success, and also noted Clemente was not “given credit” the money it brings in by enrolling students from Ypsilanti. She thanked the board for waiting to restructure Clemente, but said it was too little too late, and contended that the board has alienated Clemente principal Ben Edmondson.

Clemente graduate Nicholas Morton said he will be proud to come back to talk to the students at Clemente after attending college. He recited the Clemente creed, and noted how Edmondson holds all students to his high expectations. “There is a school for everyone, Morton argued, and [Clemente] is the school for us.”

Charlae Davis said she sat and cringed at the last board meeting when the Clemente summer school was presented as an orientation program. She said the program is 110% academically rigorous, and addresses what scholars say will diminish the achievement gap. As an educator, Davis said, she does not understand why the summer school program would be consolidated with the district-wide summer school at Pioneer. She called it a “lose-lose” situation for students who have to choose between attending summer school at Pioneer or not attending at all.

Like others, Davis noted that Clemente brings in over $150,000 in School of Choice revenue from Ypsilanti students, and questioned why that was not included in the cost savings calculations. Davis continued, saying that, “…power, oppression, intimidation, and professional bullying have no place in the school board, or superintendent’s cabinet. Please stop trying to push your own agendas – you have already received your education.”

Tia Jones said she is truly bothered that Clemente does not have a summer school program for the first time since 1974. It is not orientation, she said, but a “home” for students over the summer. “We want to be with our family and not with some strangers,” Jones asserted.

Jeanne Rivers, daughter of former U.S. Congresswoman Lynn Rivers and Clemente graduate from 1998, noted that she actually graduated early because of the summer school program at Clemente. She said it’s sad that Clemente could be closed. “We [in Ann Arbor] claim we’re not racist,” Rivers said. “I just don’t see how we are going to succeed as a city if we allow this one little school to just be dismissed and dismembered,” noting that Clemente students are not welcome in the comprehensive high schools. “Please don’t take this away from these kids,” she urged the board. “This is some of these kids’ only chance.”

Monique Hardeman urged the board to remember that we were all children at one time, and pointed out that different children have different needs. She noted that AAPS has had three alternative high schools for her whole life—A2Tech (formerly Stone School), Community, and Clemente, and that they are all part of the Ann Arbor community, and serve different groups of students. She pointed out that Clemente is not just a school for African-Americans, but that she has noticed students of many different cultures there. “Everybody there is loving and getting along well,” Hardeman said. “Before you cut any school, think about how it will affect those children.”

Patty Kracht addressed the board regarding busing changes at Bryant and Pattengill. She noted that the board has said Bryant-Pattengill parents have requested this change, but in fact, parents feel “like we have been steamrolled with this plan.” She noted that the combination of routes between the two schools will cause some of the district’s youngest students to be on a bus for 45-50 minutes at the end of the day. Two hundred four to seven-year-olds at Bryant will be “corralled in a gym” for 18 minutes before school with only two to four teaching assistants looking after them, Kracht pointed out. She added that she was disheartened by her experience on the newly formed committee on this issue, and that it was obvious that parents’ ideas and information would be dismissed.

Superintendent Patricia Green introduced the second and final briefing of the 2012-13 budget proposal by saying that the creation of the budget had been a long process, and that the administration knew it was going to be a very difficult cycle. The budget reductions that are part of the proposal are designed to keep the cuts out of classroom as much as possible, Green said, but she acknowledged the “great losses” experienced by the AAPS community as the district goes through its sixth year of significant budget reductions. “There is not a person who works for this school district who feels good about what we are about to request this evening, but we still need to be responsible in this decision-making,” she said.

Budget: Base Expenditure and Revenue Projections

Deputy superintendent of operations Robert Allen reported that since the board’s May 23, 2012 meeting, he had made a $1 million adjustment to projected base expenditures based on additional cost savings from the district’s self-insured portion of health insurance offerings. Allen explained that fewer employees are now on the self-insured plan, so the risk is lower than in past years. He pointed out that this will mean the 2012-13 budget as presented will use $6 million of fund equity, not the $7 million discussed at the previous meeting.

Trustee Glenn Nelson said he is very pleased with the hard work that led to the $1 million savings in health care, but questioned the district’s assumptions about the amount AAPS would receive from the state’s School Aid Fund now that the state had passed the 2012-13 school aid bill. Nelson said that if the house fiscal agency is correct, AAPS will receive $700,000 less than the district projected.

Allen responded that based on the latest information, the MPSERS (Michigan Public School Employees Retirement System) offset will be $2.2 million, the best practices incentive will be $900,000, the performance incentive dropped to $700,000, and School of Choice revenue stayed constant at $1.2 million. He agreed with Nelson’s assessment that the district will receive less in school aid than anticipated, but said he did not adjust the budget to reflect that because of other factors that could affect the budget positively, such as the state’s proposed retirement reform legislation, and the excess TIF capture by the Scio Township Downtown Development Authority (DDA). [The Ann Arbor DDA does not capture any of the AAPS millage; however the Scio DDA does. And each year, the Scio DDA returns to taxing jurisdictions – like the AAPS – whatever amount it does not use in the service of its TIF plan.]

Stead added that the MPSERS rate will likely increase, but Allen pointed out that some versions of the retirement reform legislation cap the rate, and would the state picking up the remainder of the cost.

The bulk of the board’s discussion on the budget centered on the use of the $1 million base adjustment made by Allen since the first briefing, and the public hearing on the budget, held at the board’s May 23 meeting.

Budget: Use of the $1 Million Base Adjustment

Thomas suggested revisiting the cuts to four FTEs (full-time equivalent positions) in counseling staff. As of the first briefing on the budget, Thomas pointed out, the board was prepared to spend $7 million in fund equity, but now must tap the fund reserves for $6 million. He asked Green what her priority would be if she had a magic wand, and could resurrect one item from being cut.

Green responded that if there were additional funds available, she would assign the highest priority to three items: counseling staff; the departmental budgets; and the school improvement funds. She noted that these three items directly impact the work on social and emotional learning that she is spearheading in the district.

Nelson, Lightfoot, and Patalan supported Thomas’ suggestion to restore the counseling positions.

Nelson argued that there was urgency to restoring funding for the counseling positions due to the timing of the hiring process. Green agreed, but said that while she stands by her administration’s budget recommendation, she also feel strongly about the role of counselors as critical to the work of the district going forward. Nelson also suggested that if the board agreed to renew more funding than the amount needed for the counseling positions, the administration could split it between reinstating the departmental budgets which are used to deliver professional development and giving money back to the school improvement teams.

Lightfoot said she was amenable to reconsidering the counseling cuts, and that she had several concerns, including how the placement of the remaining counselors would be made by human resources, and how the counseling reductions would impact the neediest students.

Patalan said restoring the school improvement team funding resonated with her, and that the departmental budgets are used to improve what goes on in the classroom for kids. Counseling also affects large numbers of students, she said, and is really very important. Patalan said that while she is nervous about the future of state funding, she is supportive and appreciative of the hard work that Green and her administration have done, and that she is “intrigued” by the possibility of using some of the “found chunk of money” to restore Green’s priority items, and saving some of it. She pointed out that three weeks ago, the board was ready to spend all of this money out of fund equity.

Stead said this discussion made her think of the budgeting experience the district had last year, when not all of the approved reductions could be implemented. She expected the district to face the same situation this year. She said budgeting was not a “perfect science,” but expressed concern that the board was not allowing for some opportunity to experience incremental increased costs. She pointed out that AAPS will not likely be adding much to fund equity in coming years, school aid fund revenue could decrease, fund equity needs to be maintained to manage summer payroll, and special education funding is expected to decrease by almost $3 million.

Stead encouraged the public to “employ common sense” when reading about the district’s budget, and noted that “one of the things [she] saw in anonymous comments on a local media site” is an argument that AAPS is projecting a 5% revenue increase. She pointed out that, in fact, revenue is projected to decrease, and added that the district’s per-pupil funding would be more than $12,000 per student if it had kept up with inflation. [The district’s current per-pupil allocation is $9,020.] Stead said she would be inclined to support putting anything back on the table if the district were in a different situation. “I want us to use our past year’s experience as a data point,” she said, “…[T]o act like we are, with the information we have, is difficult for me to support.”

Mexicotte took issue with the use of the term “found money,” which she said “makes it sound like it fell out of the sky.” She argued that it was due to the conservative work of AAPS administration that it was not included at first, and said that adjustments are to be expected. “What we think will work best, not what we want to do, is here on the table,” she said.

Referring to public commentary made at the beginning of the meeting which argued that board members were motivated by personal agendas, Mexicotte also asserted that “there are no personal agenda around these budget items. The agenda is to try to maintain public education in Ann Arbor. We disagree on how to get there… The only thing that is personal is how painful it is.”

Mexicotte said she agreed that the board has to look forward, but argued that putting some money back into the budget will “neither save us nor doom us,” but may allow some of the critical changes proposed by Green to “see some momentum.” Mexicotte later proposed a friendly amendment which restored $500,000 of funding for use by Green to fund some portion of her priority items – counseling staff, departmental budgets, and school improvement team budgets – at Green’s discretion.

Intermediate outcome: The board accepted Mexicotte’s amendment as “friendly” – that is, without requiring a separate vote on the amendment – to restore $500,000 of funding for Green’s priority items. That resulted in a planned use of $6.5 million from the fund balance reserve, instead of $6 million as the budget was previously briefed.

Budget: 4 p.m. Middle School Busing

Nelson asked for an update on the current status of the late bus serving the district’s five middle schools. Green said the budget still includes a reduction to eliminate those buses, but that the district has asked two organizations to help with funding them. At this time, Green said, the PTO Thrift Shop has agreed to pay for half of the cost to keep those buses running, and the AAPS educational foundation (AAPSEF) has been approached to ask if they would consider funding the othe half.

Patalan said that she is absolutely grateful that the PTO thrift shop and the AAPSEF might be able to help with middle school busing costs, and said it speaks to the “fabulous community we are all a part of.” Green added that she, along with Nelson, sits on the board of the AAPSEF, and that she would be remiss if she didn’t remind people that the AAPSEF is in the midst of its Million Reasons campaign.

Intermediate outcome: The late bus discussion did not lead to any revisions to the budget.

Budget Bryant-Pattengill Busing

Thomas asked for an update on the Bryant-Pattengill busing plan. Green said that combining routes to the two schools will eliminate the need for some runs, and will allow students from the same family to take the same bus. She said the goal was to eliminate as many stops as possible, accepting the fact that adding more students to each bus at the remaining stops means the busses will fill up faster. Green also said that AAPS requested WISD transportation services to do some dry runs to see how the proposed times line up with actual times needed to complete each route. Green reported that the dry run times were within a minute or two of the projected times.

Allen added that the numbers used in the proposal are for current riders, but pointed out that 5-10% of the routes are usually adjusted every year when current ridership numbers are established.

Thomas pointed out that the board’s budget vote does not commit the administration to specific plans for enacting each and every one of the reductions the budget contains, and that the transportation plan may end up different from what has been presented so far.

Intermediate outcome: The discussion of Bryant-Pattengill busing did not lead to any revisions to the budget.

Middle School Athletics

Regarding the proposed $37,000 reduction of middle school athletic directors, Allen said that alternative approaches to reaching the same cost savings in middle school athletics are still being considered, but at this time no changes to the proposed reduction have been agreed on. Green added that the proposal crafted by the middle school athletics directors could have “ripple effects” on another group, and that it would need to be fleshed out it more detail to be approved. “There is the beginning of the workings of possibly being close to that,” she said.

Intermediate outcome: The discussion of middle school athletics did not lead to any revisions to the budget.

Lightfoot said she was encouraged that staff had been enlisted to help shape the budget, and that she would like to see more of that. Stead said she had faith in the administration that the details would get hammered out. Green responded that she has asked her executive cabinet to develop preliminary action plans for enacting the budget so that those plans are ready to be vetted by the full cabinet as soon as the budget is approved by the board.

Outcome on budget: The budget as amended ($500,000 restored, using fund balance) was passed by a vote of 5 to 1. Mexicotte, Nelson, Patalan, Thomas, and Lightfoot voted yes. Stead voted no. Baskett was not present at the June 13 meeting. The millage resolution supporting the budget was also approved at the June 13 meeting; this includes four millages – a homestead millage at 4.7084 mills, a non-homestead millage at 18 mills, a debt service millage at 2.45 mills, and a sinking fund millage at 1 mill.

Food Service Contract Renewal

Green introduced the contract renewal to the board, saying that this was an opportunity for them to ask questions about the program, now in its third year in the district. AAPS director of purchasing, grants, and business support services Linda Doernte said that this was the third renewal of a five-year contract, and that the contract has not changed much. Doernte did note that Chartwells’ administration and management fees have increased based on the consumer price index. She also said AAPS has been receiving checks from Chartwells honoring the guaranteed minimum $500,000 that is owed to AAPS, regardless of the revenue that the program generates.

Chartwells new district manager Ann Smith and new food service director Heather Holland introduced themselves to the board, and gave a brief presentation on the food service provided this year. Holland said Chartwells has seen a 3% increase in lunches served in the district this year, and attributed that success to the introduction of new programs, and to creating an environment in which students enjoy the dining experience. She also noted the success of Chef Neil going to all the middle schools and teaching students how to create yogurt parfaits.

Holland said that students have been excited by the improved look of the service area, and the transformation of the food service setting from an “institutional look” to more of a “restaurant look.” She also noted that fresh fruits and vegetables are served at all schools four days a week from September through November, and that the overall menu is phasing out trans fats, decreasing sodium, and increasing whole grains.

Holland also reported that, effective 2012-13, the USDA will require that students select a fruit or vegetable for their meal to be reimbursable through the federal school lunch program (for students who qualify for the free or reduced lunch program), or for students to qualify for the lower “meal rate.” Students who do not select a fruit or vegetable with their meal will be charged a la carte for their items, which is generally higher than the “meal rate.”

Thomas questioned the process for ensuring that students choose a fruit or vegetable, and Smith said that cashiers are trained to ring up the selections properly. She also said the district is considering creating a “share table,” where students can leave food they do not want for other students. Thomas said the idea of charging students more money if they do not select a fruit or vegetable “seems a bit intrusive” but that the district would “roll with it.”

Smith noted that in kindergarten through 8th grade, students can be served a fruit or vegetable, but that in 9th through 12th grades, “we can only offer, not put it on their plate.” She said while she looking forward to the fact that students are being encouraged to make healthier choices, she’d be lying if she said she did not have the same concerns as the board about this new mandate.

Lightfoot asked if the increases in the Chartwells contract come automatically, and Doerte explained that yes, the management and administrative fees have increased every year due to the CPI. Lightfoot also verified that the district receives $500,000 no matter what – so that if the net income from the program is only $300,000, Chartwells will write AAPS a check for $200,000, and Doernte said that is correct. Allen pointed out that food service money is a separate fund that can only be applied to certain expenditures.

Finally, Lightfoot asked how the district tells the difference between legitimate and non-legitimate complaints about the food. Allen said that he and Doernte will sometimes arrive unannounced at the schools and eat the food being offered to the students. Smith suggested that the district could do student surveys. Holland said the trustees were welcome to eat in any of the district’s 33 lunchrooms anytime.

Nelson encouraged the sharing table, and Patalan said she is happy with the food education that is going on.

Outcome: The food service contract renewal was approved unanimously as part of the consent agenda.

Administrative Software Upgrade

Green explained that the Washtenaw Intermediate School District is considering having a uniform software platform for human resources and finance across the county. She said a recommendation for New World Systems Logos.NET for K-12 has been made after a year-long study. Green thanked Allen, Comsa, and director of human resources Cynthia Ryan for their work with the WISD selection process, noting that AAPS wanted to select software that would be fully vetted to work on both Apple and PC machines – because AAPS is an Apple district.

Green noted that the board would need to approve the purchase of this software by the end of June for the current pricing to be guaranteed. Allen drew the board’s attention to the cost summary in the board packet, pointing out that the cost would be $468,000 over the first five years, which would be entirely covered by the recently approved tech bond. In year six, Allen said, the district would have to bear the software support cost, which is estimated to be $51,000 annually. Due to the ongoing costs just in the finance department related to the current software report generation costs, Allen said the new software would not cause additional expenses, but rather would shift current costs.

Thomas confirmed with Allen that the district is positioning itself to take advantage of the scale effects – to be realized if AAPS offers its services in finance and human resources to other districts – and that would eventually drive down costs.

Stead said she was concerned about switching to a PC-based system, even though the software is supposed to work on both platforms. She asked what the cost will be if in the end, if not all the other districts in Washtenaw county sign up. Stead noted that the original WISD transportation consolidation was supposed to include all ten districts as well. Green said it was her understanding that the other districts are also in the process of  approving the platform. But Stead questioned how other districts will pay for it – because they have not all just passed technology bonds. “I think good will is good, but we have been here before,” she said.

Nelson asked if the district was pleased with its current human resources and finance software. Allen told him AAPS was not pleased with the current software. Allen explained that support has been dwindling over the years, and that AAPS often has to pay extra for a software developer to write code to generate reports that are not part of the package. Allen added that the new software will be web-based, and have drop-down menus that allow users to create reports. “From an efficiency standpoint, we have to make a change,” he argued, adding that it would cost AAPS much more to purchase new software outside of the group rate being offered as part of the WISD. Nelson pointed out that the cost of this upgrade would have needed to come out of the general fund, if the community had not passed the tech bond.

Stead said she was in favor of the software purchase, calling it “directionally correct,” but said that she would have liked to see a business case made for how much AAPS can potentially gain, depending on the number of districts that actually sign up.

Lightfoot asked if more districts in the county are likely to participate in transportation if they are first participating in this shared software purchase. Allen responded by saying there is still talk of consolidating special education transportation services.

Mexicotte suggested a friendly amendment to remove the word “irrevocably” from the resolution to approve the resolution, since nothing can prevent a future board from making different choices. There could be circumstances that the board can not anticipate which would make AAPS want to revisit this choice.

Green added that she would like the district to move toward zero-based budgeting, and that such a move would be difficult with the current software. She pointed out that zero-based budgeting allows for more transparency, and Allen added that it can also allow for more precise budget projections, because the majority of the district’s costs are in human resources.

Stead asked how friendly the user interface is, and Allen said it is very easy to use. Green added that the ease of use can make it more helpful at the school level too. Stead said she liked the fact that the software will allow more staff to meet more reporting requirements as those requirements continue to increase.

Outcome: The administrative software upgrade was approved unanimously as part of the consent agenda.

AAPS Policy Review

Mexicotte noted that the policies being reviewed that night were being treated as special briefing item – in the hope that the board could cancel the June 27 regular board meeting. [The board will be meeting in executive session at 5:30 p.m. on June 27 to evaluate Green formally in a closed session. Around 70 members of the community have been surveyed for the purposes of the evaluation: .pdf of survey form contents. For Chronicle coverage, see "AAPS Begins Superintendent Evaluation."]

Mexicotte reviewed the eight policies being presented – the entire 7000 series, regarding communication and community relations – most of them with no changes. The policies were reviewed only because they were nearing expiration. She noted the few minor changes being presented, and asked trustees asked a few clarifying questions.

The board made a few small wording suggestions to clarify meaning in the set of policies without much discussion.

Outcome: Policies in the 7000 series were approved unanimously as part of the consent agenda, which – in addition to the items above included the third quarter financial report, and donations.

Board Action Items – Contracts

The board took action at this meeting to renew a contract with one of its bargaining units, and to ratify the employment contract of a new administrator.

Contracts: AFSCME Extension

AAPS deputy superintendent of human resources and general counsel Dave Comsa recommended that the board approve a contract extension with AFSCME Local 1182, which primarily represents the district’s custodial and maintenance staff. Comsa added that AFSCME members have already ratified the contract.

Outcome: An extension of the AFSCME contract was approved unanimously.

Contracts: Asst. Superintendent – Robyne Thompson

Green requested that the board approve a contract which had been extended to Robyne Thompson. Thompson will be joining the district in the role of assistant superintendent for secondary education following the retirement of longtime AAPS teacher and administrator Joyce Hunter, who currently holds that position. Green read a statement about Thompson, highlighting her work with social and emotional learning, her doctorate degree, and her extensive professional experience. Thompson is currently a middle school principal in the Utica Community Schools district.

Lightfoot asked if Thompson had signed the employment contract yet. Green reported that Thompson has signed it, but Green has not signed it and would not do so until after the board approved the contract. Green also noted that Thompson would be paid the same rate as Hunter, and that Thompson would be taking a pay cut to join AAPS. Lightfoot also asked if Thompson was planning to move to Ann Arbor to take this position, but Green said she did not know, and that AAPS did not have a residency requirement for staff members.

Stead asked about a phrase in the contract that ensured Thompson’s salary would not decrease, and asked how that could be affected by future administrative salary budget reductions. Mexicotte added that there have been periods in the district where cabinet members have agreed to “share the pain” of budget reductions.

Comsa said the contract is a two-year agreement, which is standard for Class 1 personnel. He said lowering Thompson’s salary before the contract expires would require the district to enter into negotiations with her, and Lightfoot pointed out that that would be the case for all Class 1 employees. Comsa agreed, and said it would be true for employees covered by union contracts as well.

Outcome: The board unanimously approved the proposed contract with Robyne Thompson.

Mexicotte stated that she was happy to be among the first people to welcome Thompson to the district.

Association 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 only from the Youth Senate. Priyanka Menon said students receive a world class education in AAPS, and that being at Skyline has been “phenomenal.” She said as long as every voice is heard, there is no problem the district cannot solve, and said she hopes AAPS continues to maintain high standards. Blaire Crockett called AAPS a “close-knit community” that she has been grateful to be a part of. She noted that AAPS cares for its students, and is loyal to them.

Awards and Accolades

Numerous individuals and groups were praised for their accomplishments at the June 13 meeting, including the 2012 graduates, individual students, and two retiring members of the superintendent’s cabinet.

Awards/Accolades: Graduations

The meeting began with a graduation video montage celebrating the successes of graduating seniors at Community, Skyline, Huron, Pioneer, and Ann Arbor Technological high schools. Multiple trustees pointed out that this was the first time there were five different graduation ceremonies in the district, and congratulated Skyline for graduating its first class. During the “items from the board,” section of the agenda, Stead pointed out that Skyline did a great job of highlighting the comprehensive experience students have there, as well as “establishing their legacy.”

Awards/Accolades: Envision Michigan

Two AAPS seniors– Priya Menon and Aoxue Tang– were awarded $500 Envision Michigan scholarships by state senator Rebekah Warren. Warren staffer P.J. Petitpren was on hand to present the awards, and noted that the application for the scholarship was simple, requiring only a 750-word essay on the topic, “If you were governor, what would you do?”

Calling Menon “a woman ready to go forward,” Petitpren noted Menon will attend Harvard in the fall to pursue her interest in law and politics. Petitpren noted that Tang, was unable to attend because she has gone to China with her family for the summer, will be attending Stanford in the fall.

Mexicotte said she was pleased to have Petitpren come and present these awards.

Awards/Accolades: Jay Jondro

Green introduced longtime AAPS staff member and master plumber Jay Jondro, who on two occasions has saved the lives of others. Saying that Jondro has been a role model for students, and has distinguished himself as an asset to AAPS, Green said he was being presented with a special recognition for acts of heroism and acts of service to the community and the district. Jondro thanked the board for its recognition, but said it was part of his duty.

Green also thanked AAPS executive director of physical properties Randy Trent for bringing to the board’s recognition that one of his employees was deserving of this special recognition.

Awards/Accolades: Retirements

Green recognized two members of her cabinet who were retiring – director of community education and recreation Sara Aeschbach and assistant superintendent of secondary education Joyce Hunter.

Green praised Aeschbach for having transformed the Rec & Ed department into becoming self-sustaining, and noted her long tenure with the district. Aeschbach has worked for AAPS since 1981. Lightfoot added that Aeschbach was very gracious to her when she became a trustee, and said she was inviting, informative, and passionate about her work. Mexicotte extended her appreciation to Aeschbach as well, as did Patalan, who said that Aeschbach was “calm, funny, personable, kind ,and a treasure” and that she was happy to have had the chance to work with her.

Green said that Hunter has had an illustrious career in AAPS beginning as a teacher in 1974. She became class chair, then a principal, before moving to central administration, Green said, and has been instrumental in the career and technical education program, which allows students to receive on-the-job training while still in high school. She noted Hunter’s graciousness, thoughtfulness, and kindness. Green also noted Hunter’s many activities beyond her work in the district, and said, “You are a significant leader, and I know that we will still be seeing you in the district, and in the community.”

Mexicotte also extended her appreciation to Hunter, who was present at the meeting and enjoyed a standing ovation from the entire room. Lightfoot added that she loved Hunter in many capacities, and called her a “saving grace” for many students at Huron in the 1980s, including Lightfoot herself. “I’m glad you’re still so young and pretty that you can get out and do your thing… I’m looking forward to what you’re going to be doing with that museum,” she said. [Hunter is a founding member of the African-American Cultural and Historical Museum of Washtenaw County.] Finally, Patalan also praised Hunter, saying she was happy to have been able to work with her, and that she goes back the longest with Hunter compared to anyone else in the room, having served with her on a high school review committee in the mid-1990s.

Awards/Accolades: Superintendent’s Report

In addition to some of the items listed above, Green praised the students who participated in the Special Olympics games, saying it was a wonderful achievement, and noting they brought home many medals. She also expressed thanked the staff, the community, and the board for supporting students this year, and her staff who helped her go through her first year in AAPS.

Agenda Planning

Stead requested that the board discuss Skyline’s trimester system, and said that some parents are concerned that their students do not have the flexibility they expected regarding the ability to dual-enroll in Skyline and Community high schools – because the two schools are on different schedules. Mexicotte asked Green how she would recommend approaching this issue, and Green said this is a topic that is already under discussion. She suggested that the board take up the discussion at a future committee-of-the-whole meeting.

Lightfoot said that she, too, was looking forward to hearing about the trimester issue, and noted that she loves it for the mastery approach it fosters. “Because [students] have so much room in their schedule, they are able to catch up,” she asserted.

Lightfoot said she also wants to be sure that summer school meets the district’s needs as it moves to close the achievement gap, and that Green has led her to believe that summer school is being evaluated that way. She questioned why students who have not actually failed, but have received a D- for example, are not included in summer school.

Nelson said he misses the old days where the board sat down with everything in front of it and set priorities. He said that every time there is a board meeting, one to four ideas come out, and all of them take up significant staff time. “I want this great professional staff that we have to be focusing on really important things,” Nelson said.

Mexicotte said the board is looking to have a retreat about superintendent and board goals in August, and that such a retreat might be the time for “setting those broader directions.” She said she was considering flipping the committee-of-the-whole and regular meetings in August, so that the August 1 meeting would include retreat-type activities, and the August 15 meeting could address business that comes up just before school begins for the next year. Mexicotte closed by agreeing that that board does not yet have the committee-of-the-whole process streamlined, but that the board will keep working on it.

Items from the Board

Thomas said he had attended a concert put on by the community outreach music program, which is sponsored by the Ann Arbor School of Performing Arts in cooperation with the district. The program allows students who would not normally be able to have private music lessons to take them at a greatly reduced cost, Thomas said. He recognized the contributions of AAPS staff members Robin Bailey, Fred Smith, and Abby Alwin for their role in the program.

Thomas also encouraged everyone to participate in the AAPS Educational Foundation’s Million Reasons campaign.

Nelson said that he was pleased to say he’s the proud owner of a medal from Northside Elementary, as he was the honorary starter of a 5K race at the school.

Lightfoot shared that she was invited by the Wayne State Board of Governors to join an oversight board there, and pointed out that higher education is facing some of the same challenges as K-12 education. She also said she has been in contact with many of the community assistants in the high schools about how they see their role changing with the reduction of the three dedicated police officers. And, finally, Lightfoot congratulated the Logan 5th graders, and thanked all the schools for holding “phenomenal” graduation ceremonies.

Patalan said that as she was reflecting on the graduations held throughout the district last week, she had to pause and think, “What a fabulous group of young people who are now our future.” She said she was so proud of AAPS, and noted that each graduation had its own “flavor, and was fabulous, and beautiful, and delightful in its own way.”

Patalan said that while the board has been hearing a lot in the past 60 days from people who are upset or concerned, the district really is doing a good job. Patalan asserted, “There is nothing like education – it is worth putting all of our time and energy into.”

Stead quipped that there would be a “little jog through town on Sunday,” referring to Ann Arbor’s inaugural marathon. She said it primarily benefits AAPS through the AAPS education foundation, and said that if people are not running themselves, she hoped they would come out and support it. [Stead ran the marathon herself, and finished in 7th place among female participants, with a time of 3:40.]

Mexicotte reported that her son participated in the recent Special Olympics on a team sent by Pioneer, and thanked the parents and staff who supported that effort.

Present: President Deb Mexicotte, vice president Christine Stead, secretary Andy Thomas, treasurer Irene Patalan, and trustees Simone Lightfoot (arrived at 7:50 p.m.) and Glenn Nelson.

Absent: Trustee Susan Baskett.

Next regular meeting: Wednesday, June 27, 2012, at 7 p.m. in the fourth-floor conference room of the downtown Ann Arbor District Library, 343 S. Fifth Ave., Ann Arbor.

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AAPS Budget: Public Critical; Board Fretting Mon, 14 May 2012 15:08:36 +0000 Jennifer Coffman Ann Arbor Public Schools board of education (May 9, 2012): One of the major tasks of the board of education is setting the budget, the other is setting policy. The May 9 agenda was primarily policy-focused, but discussion on the budget found its way into most sections of the meeting.


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

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

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

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

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

2012-13 Budget

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

2012-13 Budget: Public Input

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


AAPS board president Deb Mexicotte.

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

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

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

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

2012-13 Budget: Public Commentary – Roberto Clemente

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

2012-13 Budget: Public Commentary – Music Camps

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

2012-13 Budget: Clarification on Public Commentary

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

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

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

2012-13 Budget: Agenda Planning

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

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

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

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

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

2012-13 Budget: Items from the Board

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


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

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

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

2012-13 Budget: AAEA Report

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

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

Tech Bond

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Easements for Northside and Pioneer

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

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

Physical Properties Bid Awards Approved

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

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

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

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

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

Anti-Bullying Policy

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

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

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

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

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

Policy Updates

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

WISD Budget

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Association and Student Reports

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

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

Association and Student Reports: A2 Tech

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

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

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

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

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

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

Association and Student Reports: AAPAC

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

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

Awards and Accolades

This meeting included a number of awards and accolades.

Tappan Band Ensemble

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

E3 Award

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


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

Superintendent’s Report

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

Agenda Planning

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

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

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

Items from the Board

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

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

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

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

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

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AAPS Hears from Community: Keep Clemente Thu, 03 May 2012 15:28:35 +0000 Jennifer Coffman Ann Arbor Public Schools Board of Education regular meeting (April 25, 2012): The board received a formal presentation of the proposed fiscal year 2013 budget. The board is not required to approve the budget until June 30.

At the meeting, 33 parents, students, and staff responded to proposed budget cuts that would affect transportation, Roberto Clemente Student Development Center, and music camps. The total time allotted for public commentary by the AAPS board is 45 minutes. So speakers wanting to address the school board at public commentary at the April 25 AAPS school board meeting were limited to 1 minute and 22 seconds, which was rounded up to a minute and a half.

Brian Marcel and Scott Wenzel, giving the WISD transportation update

Brian Marcel and Scott Menzel gave the AAPS board an update on the transportation services provided by WISD to the district as part of a consortium of other districts.

After hearing the budget presentation, board members shared some of their individual thinking on how best to address the projected $17.8 million deficit facing the district next year. AAPS is sponsoring two community budget forums to get additional feedback on the budget proposal. Both start at 6:30 p.m. The first will be held on May 7 at the Pioneer High School Cafeteria Annex and the second one a week later on May 14 at the Huron High School Cafeteria.

Support of the upcoming technology bond millage came up multiple times at the meeting as one way local residents could have an impact on the funding crisis facing local schools. AAPS district voters will decide that issue on May 8.

Also at this meeting, longtime environmental educator Bill Browning was honored by the board for his years of dedication to the district, as well as his recent $30,000 donation to the AAPS Science and Environmental Education Endowment Fund.

Presentation of Proposed 2012-13 Budget

AAPS superintendent Patricia Green led off the formal budget presentation with a set of prepared remarks. She reviewed the effect that Proposal A, passed in 1994, has had on “the defunding of education as a state priority.” She said the resulting budget cuts have caused the district to feel a great sense of loss and tremendous pain. Green noted that AAPS students score higher on the ACT and SAT than state and national averages, and that the district is also recognized nationally for success in arts and athletics, but that “all of this excellence is in danger if the state does not address the structural deficit they have created.” Green urged all AAPS families to contact their legislators to ensure that retirement costs are fairly addressed, and that K-12 schools receive their rightful funding.

AAPS deputy superintendent of operations Robert Allen then gave the board a formal presentation on the administration’s proposed budget for 2012-13. His presentation reviewed the assumptions underpinning the proposed budget, and reviewed the proposed reductions presented at the board’s April 18, 2012 committee of the whole meeting.

2012-13 Budget – Assumptions

Allen reviewed the funds held by the district, and noted that all funds have restrictions on their use, except for the general fund. He explained how schools are funded, and reviewed how student count is determined. Of the slides he presented, one piqued more interest from trustees than others – a slide that showed the per-pupil allocations AAPS has received from the state over time. The district is currently receiving $9,020 per pupil, which is less than the 2001-02 amount of $9,234.

Trustee Christine Stead pointed out that the actual amount is much lower when you adjust for inflation. And Andy Thomas suggested adding a column to the chart that shows the increase in the mandated employer contribution to the state pension system, MPSERS, alongside the decrease in foundation allowances. “It would give a very realistic portrayal of why we are sitting here after midnight getting ready to talk about some very difficult issues.”

Allen noted that, in 2001-02, the district was paying an amount equal to around 12% of employee wages into MPSERS, but that the rate has skyrocketed in the past decade. The mandated employer contribution rate is currently 27%, Allen said, and is projected to increase to more than 31% for FY 2013-14, and to more 33% for FY 2014-15.

Allen said that while legislation is currently being considered to reform MPSERS, the effect of any changes would be long-term. In response to a question from trustee Glenn Nelson, Allen said that for each percentage point that the MPSERS rate increases, the cost to AAPS is roughly $1.1 million.

Finally, Allen showed a slide of three-year projections and highlighted the impact on the district’s fund equity, if the district did not make any budget reductions. “If we don’t cut anything,” he said, “we could make it one more year.” Nelson suggested checking the accuracy of base budget numbers, given the projected changes to special education reimbursement.

In response to Allen’s review of potential revenue enhancements, Nelson asked if the enrollment projections included the School of Choice students. Allen said that although the district is expecting an increase in SOC students based on the move to all-day kindergarten, the projected increase in enrollment is not reflected in the budget’s enrollment projections. Nelson also contended that the “best practices” incentives offered by the state are not best practices as defined by educators, but function instead like “political ransom.”

Stead noted that Michigan school districts are facing the largest funding reduction in state history, and said it would really change the whole conversation if communities were able to regain local levy authority. Trustee Irene Patalan said that while sales in Michigan are projected to increase, she did not trust that the state will use the sales tax as promised to fund K-12 education.

The Chronicle has organized the bulk of this article according to the budget topics addressed at this meeting – transportation, Roberto Clemente Student Development Center, band and orchestra camps, staffing, the tech bond, and discretionary budgets.

2012-13 Budget – Transportation

The proposed transportation budget reduction options discussed at the April 25 meeting were:

  • changing Skyline’s school day starting and ending times by 15 minutes to streamline bus use ($266,400);
  • eliminating the 4 p.m. middle school bus ($85,284);
  • eliminating midday shuttles from Community High School to comprehensive high schools ($230,184);
  • eliminating all transportation of choice (i.e., Ann Arbor Open, Skyline, and Clemente) ($266,400);
  • eliminating all high school busing ($545,000);
  • and eliminating all busing except for special education busing ($3.5 million).

Transportation: WISD Update

Earlier in the evening of the April 25 meeting, the Washtenaw Intermediate School District (WISD)’s superintendent Scott Menzel and assistant superintendent Brian Marcel presented the board with an update of the transportation services provided to AAPS as part of the WISD transportation consortium. Their presentation highlighted the results of a parent satisfaction survey they had conducted, from which they concluded there are an “unacceptable” percentage of parents who are unhappy with the service. [.pdf of WISD transportation update]

A key issue, Marcel explained, is that routing is done with the previous years’ student data – because the district’s student accounting software, PowerSchool, does not “roll up” student data until August. That is, in the district’s software, students aren’t moved to the next grade level until August. Multiple trustees questioned this process, and suggested ways to achieve greater accuracy in routing. Marcel also provided volume data for the phone calls received by the WISD about busing, and discussed plans to be better prepared to respond to calls in the coming year.

Nelson clarified that the district’s participation in the WISD transportation consortium has an effect on the special education reimbursement from the state. In Michigan, 70% of the cost of special education vehicles is eligible for state reimbursement. Marcel explained how the state reimbursements had shifted – as the responsibility for transporting special education students had shifted from AAPS to the WISD.

A few board members expressed disappointment with the WISD’s report, and requested additional information. Trustee Andy Thomas asked if the WISD was aware of any industry standards in terms of cost per student mile that would allow AAPS to benchmark the efficiency of the consortium, and also asked Green to have AAPS staff review the effect of the transportation changes to absenteeism in the district. Lightfoot also questioned the cost of services provided by the consortium. Patalan asked for the WISD’s suggestions on how to save money in transportation.

Board president Deb Mexicotte said the presentation had given the board a lot to think about, and said, “Hopefully we can do better next year.”

Transportation: Ann Arbor Open and Community

Five parents spoke to the board during public commentary regarding the proposed cuts to busing that would affect students attending Ann Arbor Open and Community High School.

Bruce Tasonjy, whose daughter will be attending Community in the fall, said that the cuts to busing will make it hard for single parents to keep their jobs. He also suggested cutting salaries across the board, instead of laying off so many employees.

Sascha Matish, Jill Zimmerman, Carol Sickman-Garner, and Carol Chase discussed the ramifications of cutting busing to Ann Arbor Open. Matish said parents at Ann Arbor Open are sympathetic to the difficulty of the job facing the board, but noted that Ann Arbor Open serves 500 students ages 4 to 14, who deserve the same services as their K-8 peers. She argued that cutting busing would limit Ann Arbor Open to families who live nearby the school and are able to transport their children to and from school each day.

Zimmerman suggested that Ann Arbor Open could make other cuts that would equal the cost of transporting to and from the school. She and Chase said Ann Arbor Open parents would welcome the district’s suggestions for alternative ways to meet the targeted budget reductions, and that parents can also suggest alternatives that would achieve budget reductions while doing less damage to the school’s institutional integrity. Zimmerman also pointed out that students who are interested in pursuing open education might find local charter schools more interesting if AAPS does not offer transportation to Ann Arbor Open.

Finally, Sickman-Garner said that if the board does decide to eliminate bus service to Ann Arbor Open, the school will need help from the district to ensure student safety during drop-off and pick-up. She pointed out that twice every day, 500 students and their families are converging on one building with a small parking lot in the middle of a neighborhood. She asked if there had been any consideration of the impact of eliminating busing on the neighborhood surrounding Ann Arbor Open, as well as the cost of possibly upgrading traffic lights, redoing the school’s parking lot, or hiring additional crossing guards.

Transportation: Board Discussion

Trustee Simone Lightfoot said she would like to see the district form a transportation committee that includes representation from parents and kids who are affected, and said she would be willing work with the committee. During the agenda planning portion of the meeting, Mexicotte said she would place the possible creation of a transportation committee on the board’s next committee of the whole agenda.

Thomas said that it seems to him, in looking over the budget projections, that the question is not whether but when to eliminate transportation. He said, that like taking off a bandaid, “You know it’s going to hurt no matter when you do it. In my view, transportation appears to be a dead duck.” Regarding transportation at Ann Arbor Open, Thomas recounted his memory of living on the Old West Side, seeing Ann Arbor Open parents standing in line with tents, barbeques and camp chairs, to be able to register their children for the school. Citing the extreme dedication and determination of Ann Arbor Open parents, Thomas said he firmly believed that these parents would figure out how to organize carpools to get their kids to school.

Lightfoot asked for clarification on why only Skyline’s and not other high school’s schoolday times would be changed. Allen responded that Skyline’s day ends later than the other high schools, and would not allow for buses to take Skyline students home and then return in time to take middle school students home.

Lightfoot also said the board needs to be sensitive to all parents, even those who don’t show up, who “don’t love their children any less.” She said she felt the board had a tacit agreement to “hold harmless” transportation this year, make it right, and put alternatives in front of parents. Lightfoot expressed frustration that when people talk about keeping budget cuts out of classrooms, they don’t think about the need to get kids to the classrooms. “I would like us to take the elimination of busing off the table, and figure out real, sustainable solutions after we can study it.”

Patalan said she shared Thomas’ vision of the future of transportation, and asked, “Where is AATA with this – they provide something we need.”

Patalan also said taking away transportation from Ann Arbor Open makes her uncomfortable because it serves younger children (K-8), but that if busing is taken away, she would look to Ann Arbor Open to be a model to the rest of the district as to how to work with their coordinating council/PTO to get their kids to school. “I am asking them to lead this community,” she said.

Trustee Susan Baskett said that she appreciates that folks at Ann Arbor Open will work out transportation issues, but argued that some people “don’t always want to be a charity case.” She gave an example of having a beat-up vehicle that is unreliable making a parent unable to be part of a carpool. “If we say we believe in alternative education, our actions are not speaking with out words… If we value it, we have to put money behind it,” she said.

Baskett also pointed out that the elimination of the 4 p.m. middle school bus could have a disproportionate effect on children at-risk. Allen noted that the elimination of the bus would impact both academic and athletic programs at the middle schools. Baskett said the impact of eliminating this bus should be thought out fully, and pointed out, “Some things we are willing to study with a committee and some we are not.” She also requested more information behind the reasoning for eliminating the midday shuttles at Community.

Jill Zimmerman, an Ann Arbor Open parent who stayed at the meeting past 2 a.m., asked to be recognized, and Mexicotte said she could speak to the board very briefly. She said that she appreciates that Thomas thinks Ann Arbor Open parents are super-dedicated, and that Patalan thinks they could set an example for the district, but pointed out that it would a hard burden for Ann Arbor Open parents to lose transportation. “It’s one thing to wait outside for a few days in a tent [to register for the school]; it’s another to have to be at school every day,” Zimmerman said. Lastly, she pointed out that the kids who will leave Ann Arbor Open due to a lack of transportation will be its most vulnerable kids.

2012-13 Budget – Roberto Clemente

The board is considering closing or restructuring Roberto Clemente Student Development Center to achieve targeted cost savings of $400,000. At the April 25 meeting, 23 people addressed the board to express disapproval with a proposed budget reductions which would affect the school – 16 students, 4 parents, 1 teacher, 1 social worker, and Clemente’s principal, Ben Edmondson. Almost all of the speakers reflected on the way that Clemente functions more like a family than a school.

During the April 25 meeting, comments made by individual board members about the Clemente meeting indicated a general willingness to consider relocating the program into the building currently being used by A2 Tech.

Roberto Clemente: Public Commentary from Students

One of the themes that came across in the students’ statements to the board was the importance of second chances. Many students gave examples of their grade point averages before and after moving into Clemente from their traditional programs, and credited the school with their turnarounds. Xavier Lawson defined himself as a former “at-risk kid,” and said that because of Clemente, he and many other students who had previously been “in the [achievement] gap” were not any longer in the gap. Alexzandra Botello agreed, saying, “I became a student at Clemente.”

A handful of students gave very humbling statements about how staff at Clemente had helped them to realize how their previous attitudes or behaviors were only hurting themselves. They talked about how they had taken responsibility for themselves and were preparing to attend college. Students expressed concern that moving Clemente’s location would cause a regression in their positive behavior. Many asked that board members visit Clemente to see firsthand how unique and well-suited the environment is to this population of students.

Multiple students also credited Clemente with being a “lifesaver.” Marcus Buggs said that without Clemente, he “would be dead or in jail.” After witnessing his father’s fatal shooting at age 9, and with his mother currently in jail, Buggs credited Clemente with “making [him] a man – a person who can take of [his] family, and other families – who can go to college and change the world.” Buggs will be attending Western Michigan University on a 6-year scholarship, beginning in the fall of 2012.

Finally, the most prevalent theme was the family atmosphere fostered at Clemente; multiple students called Clemente home, and the school community a family. Cierra Reese said that “each teacher is like a parent to each student. Taking away this program is like taking away a child’s home.” Meghan Lau said that consolidating Clemente would be like “Closing the road to success for people who have finally found their way there.” After she was overcome with emotion, principal Ben Edmondson offered to finish reading Lau’s statement: “It’s like shutting a door to your house and not being allowed back in…” London Renfroe-Lindsey directed her comments specifically to AAPS superintendent Patricia Green, reminding Green that when she visited Clemente, she had promised that Clemente would be safe from budget cuts. Renfroe-Lindsey asked “This program has more to offer than meets the eye…What would drive you to take that away?”

After public commentary had concluded, Thomas asked a clarifying question of Clemente students regarding the medals that some of them were wearing around their necks. Students explained that the medals signified the attainment of certain grade point averages.

Roberto Clemente: Public Commentary from Parents

Parents noted Clemente’s small class sizes, mentorship program, universally high expectations, and exceptionally caring staff as critical to the school’s success and did not want to see any changes to the program or its location. “We want success just like anyone else wants success,” said parent Jeri Jenesta. Andrea Martin noted that without Clemente, many of these students would not get a diploma, and that if they don’t graduate, “we, as taxpayers, will be taking care of them the rest of their lives.” Chris Miller’s comments regarding her son summarized many of the sentiments shared: “He is not a number. He is not a statistic. And, he is not a dollar sign.”

Roberto Clemente: Public Commentary from Staff

Clemente principal Ben Edmondson stood beside each student as they spoke, but said little himself other than that he was proud of his students and thankful for the opportunity to be their principal. Edmondson also read the rest of one student’s statement when she became too overcome with emotion to speak. Charlae Davis, a social worker who identified herself as the co-founder of a mentoring program used by Clemente students, urged the board to “humanize the discussion,” and noted, “In a world of policy, if you find programs that are experiencing success, you ask how you support and replicate them, not eliminate them.”

Longtime Clemente teacher Michael Smith questioned the district’s commitment to closing the achievement gap, noting that some of the students he teaches enter his classes reading significantly below grade level. He noted that Clemente’s current building was purpose-built for students needing the structure, discipline, and family atmosphere it offers, and called it a “rescue mission” for students who had been “lost or forgotten by the district and this community.”

Roberto Clemente: Board Discussion

Lightfoot asked why Community High School had not been considered for closure or restructuring, as the other two alternative high schools had been. “It has this reputation as a sacred cow,” Lightfoot said. Allen answered that Community’s student population is much larger than the populations of Clemente and A2 Tech, and therefore could not be combined with other programs. Also, Allen said, A2 Tech and Clemente have similar goals, while “the program at Community is slightly different in terms of who they cater to.” Lightfoot said it should have been more clear that the district was looking at restructuring “alternative programs with fewer than 250 kids in them” rather than all alternative programs.

Thomas said he was “sick” about letting a financial decision drive a programmatic decision, such as moving Clemente onto the A2 Tech campus. He expressed concern about being able to effectively merge the two programs when they are operationally very different. “There is a huge climate gap with the way they do things at A2 Tech versus how they do things at Clemente. Will it be that they share teachers and classrooms, or will it be A2 Tech on one side of the building and Clemente on the other side, as though they are still five miles apart? I am willing to keep an open mind, but I am really concerned.”

Lightfoot said she would like to see the Clemente program continue without being “morphed.” She was less wedded to it continuing in the very same building. “The thing that makes the program work is the individuals implementing it,” she said.

Patalan said she “absolutely supports Clemente,” and that it is “saving kids’ lives and helping them become the wonderful citizens we all want them to be.” She pointed out that AAPS has had programs share buildings before, that she believes that having Clemente share space with A2 Tech is doable. She said she trusts the principals to work it out.

Baskett questioned, “What is our commitment to alternative education? We know it is important to us, and we know it costs more. So, if we are going to do it then we have to play the price for it, and I think our children are worth it.” She said that this proposal is “bigger than putting two groups of kids in a building” and that “for some of them, to take their building away is traumatic enough.” Finally, Baskett said that after the “transportation debacle” of last year, she did not trust administration to get the Clemente/A2 Tech restructuring worked out by the fall.

2012-13 Budget – Band and Orchestra Camps

The board is considering cutting $60,000 of funding to support band and orchestra camps. The district’s funds offset the costs of travel and staffing at the camps, and are complemented by funds raised by music students and their families to cover the camp costs.

Band and Orchestra Camps: Public Commentary

Five people spoke to the board regarding the proposed cuts to the district’s band and orchestra camps. David Baum, co-president of the Pioneer Band Association, asked the board not to cut funding for the band camps. He noted that more than 850 students attend the camps, and said that they are the springboard into the academic music program each year. Baum argued that cutting the camps would lower the quality of the band and orchestra programs, and will eventually lead music students to choose to leave the district.

Patton Doyle, an AAPS alum, credited the AAPS music program with teaching him problem-solving, and noted that the true power of the AAPS music program is not the success of one school, but the program as a whole. Doyle is currently studying physics at the University of Michigan.

Maggie Fulton, president of the Pioneer Orchestra Parents Society (POPS) asserted that many students don’t have the family resources for lessons, and that they would be disproportionately hurt by the elimination of this experience. She said music staff members have told her the program will not be able to happen without the district’s subsidy, and argued that the subsidy “provides a demonstrable return on the investment.”

Two current AAPS students spoke on behalf of the band and orchestra camps. Charlie Geronimous said band camp inspired him to work harder and be a better musician, and brought kids together in ways not seen anywhere else. Judy Pao added that orchestra camp helped her to transition to high school a lot easier, and that she felt like she was in a family on the first day of school.

Band and Orchestra Camps: Youth Senate Report

The Youth Senate is invited to give a report to the board each month. This month, the report focused entirely on the possible elimination of district funding for band and orchestra camps.

Youth Senator Enze Zing urged the board not to overlook the impact of smaller budget cuts in the face of needing to reduce the overall budget by $17.8 million for the coming school year. Zing, who is also the co-president of the Pioneer Symphony Band, reminded the board of Pioneer’s standing as the only two-time Grammy award-winning high school in the U.S. Zing argued that the rigorous music camps, which take place in August, encourage students to keep up with practicing over the summer, and that the music programs would “crumble” without them. She also suggested that the camps offer freshmen student an immediate social entree on the first day of high school, as well as giving upperclassmen a way to transition back into school after “a languid summer.”

Zing asserted that not having the music camps to adjust to school would cause students to experience higher stress levels, leading to lower grades. The falling grades, she continued, would lower the school’s overall success and cause some parents to pull their kids out of AAPS. The associated loss of funding from these departures will cause a vicious cycle of additional budget deficits and more cuts to programming, Zing said. She suggested asking students for alternative ideas before eliminating the music camps.

Band and Orchestra Camps: Board Discussion

Allen suggested that additional fundraising could be done to cover the cost of the camps. Thomas pointed out that there is no reason to think that the camps would need to be eliminated, and said that booster clubs may be able to help fundraise the $60,000, saying that works about to about $70 per student. “We can do this,” Thomas asserted, noting that scholarships exist for families for whom an additional $70 would be a financial hardship. Allen noted that students do already do some fundraising to pay for the cost of camp attendance, and that the $60,000 paid by the district has been used to fund the support staff, teachers, and administration who participate.

2012-13 Budget – Staffing

The proposed staffing budget reduction options discussed at this meeting were: reducing teaching staff by 32 full-time equivalent (FTE) positions ($3.2 million); and eliminating four counseling positions ($400,000).

Thomas said it is absolutely unacceptable for the district to cut 32 teaching positions after having cut 65 last year and more the year before that. “I don’t want to reduce by one teacher,” he said emphatically. Thomas suggested using more fund equity to be able to save the 32 teaching FTEs. Patalan said she shared Thomas’ feelings about losing teachers, and said that while making those cuts this year could be done, it would not be acceptable to cut more teachers every year.

Allen noted that the counselors are currently being staffed at 250 to 1, but could be staffed at 300 to 1. In response to board questions, he said the reductions would be for two middle school counselors and two high school counselors. Baskett asked how the new counseling and guidance program rolled out this February will be affected by the proposed reductions, and what other impacts the counseling reductions will have. “They do more than write college entrance letters,” she said.

2012-13 Budget – Tech Bond

On May 8, AAPS district voters will decide whether or not to pass a millage to fund a $45.8 million technology bond. The AAPS administration’s reasoning behind asking for the bond can be found in previous Chronicle coverage: “AAPS Pitches Case for Tech Improvement” A detailed description of what the bond would buy and how the millage would work to fund it can be found in “AAPS to Float February Tech Millage” [The board subsequently decided to put the bond on May's ballot instead of February's.]

During her report from the Parent-Teacher-Organization Council (PTOC), Amy Pachera thanked Allen for coming to a recent PTOC meeting and explaining the details of the proposed budget. She noted that schools across the state have their hands tied, and that “low-hanging fruit was cut years ago.” Pachera asked the community to vote on the upcoming tech bond as a way to have a real impact on the budget. She noted that 100% of the money raised by the bond will go to AAPS, unlike local tax dollars, of which only 30% are returned to the district.

Nelson and Stead each remarked on how the budget will be affected if the tech bond does not pass, noting that certain infrastructure within the district will need to be upgraded with or without the dedicated funding, due to changes in state law on data management and reporting requirements.

During items from the board, Mexicotte made a similar plea. She reported that she and Green had attended part of a recent state summit on education, and had found it disappointing. “It continues to be quite illustrative,” she said, “to go to Lansing and hear our leaders speak without ever acknowledging or connecting the dots between the desperate situation we districts find ourselves in and their lack of leadership in bringing us to this place.” Mexicotte pointed out that passing the tech bond is one way that AAPS can help itself, and closed the meeting by speaking directly to voters: “I want to urge you to take back that bit of control that we have over funding and our experience with our students… It’s a modest bond, but it’s one that will make a real difference… Vote yes – it’s local, it’s helpful, and it’s for our students.”

2012-13 Budget – Discretionary Budgets

The proposed budget would cut 5-10% from discretionary funds, for a savings of $250,000-$500,000. Allen explained that “discretionary” might not be the best term to describe these budgets, which are really building-level departmental budgets. Trustees asked for clarification about what was included in these budgets.

Green listed items included in these budgets as: dues and fees; paper; mail and postage; materials; office supplies; field trips; some textbook costs; hourly teacher rates; and printing. “There is discretion in there,” she said. “The discretion is in ‘Do I need all of these supplies, or this amount for postage?’” Allen added, “It’s really all those things you use when you run a building… The discretion is in how to balance them – all categories are needed things.”

Thomas argued that reducing discretionary budgets by 15% instead of 5% or 10% would net another $500,000, which he proposed could be used to keep Clemente going another year, and keep the middle school late bus, which all the middle school principals feel strongly about.

Lightfoot asked where programs such as Read 180, a reading support program, fall in the budget, and if they were at risk of being cut by lowering the discretionary budgets. Allen said software such as Read 180 is paid for out by the instructional department. Green added that there is absolutely no consideration being given to cutting Read 180 funding.

Patalan asked where the funds for School Improvement Teams are located in the budget, and Allen said those funds come out of the central budget. Deputy superintendent Alesia Flye added that most buildings use their money to pay for substitute teachers so building SIT team members can be brought together to meet.

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 BPSSG, the AAPAC, the PTOC, the AAAA, the youth Senate and representatives from Skyline High School. Brit Satchwell, outgoing AAEA president, was present but passed in lieu of giving a report. The Youth Senate’s report was entirely related to the possible elimination of district funding for band and orchestra camps, and was presented above.

Student Report: Skyline

Skyline juniors Sam Keller and Hannah Lee reported on the activities of the Skyline’s Student Action Senate (SAS), and described how SAS delegates are chosen from the smaller learning communities within Skyline, and how the SAS is organized internally to work on issues of student concern or interest.

Patalan commented that it was great to have students have a voice and work in leadership positions. Nelson and Stead asked clarifying questions of the students regarding the delegate selection process and the key accomplishments and issues faced by the SAS.

Keller responded that the course fair held to introduce lower classmen to upper level electives had been very successful, but that getting the school to allow an open campus for lunch had not worked. Lee noted that a memorial to Skyline students who have died was an important achievement, but that attempts to change the dress code had failed.

Green commended the students on their presentation and asked if they would be interested in taking a leadership role in developing a leadership program called “Peaceable and Respectful Schools” to the elementary level. She also invited them to participate in the process of expanding student councils to a district-wide “house of delegates.” Keller and Lee said they were interested in being a part of the district’s new endeavors surrounding student voice.

Association Report: BPSSG

The BPSSG’s representative, Deborah Mitchell, noted a number of community collaborations between the BPSSG and other local organizations. In particular, Mitchell singled out the local teen center Neutral Zone as a group with which the BPSSG plans to increase engagement in the upcoming year.

Mitchell asserted that the 2012-13 budget, if passed as proposed, will disproportionally impact minority and low-income families, and noted the irony that this would occur as the district is focusing on reducing academic disparities related to race/ethnicity and socioeconomic status. Referencing the 2011-12 budget cuts, Mitchell said that the coming year’s cuts are “like deja-vu.” She encouraged the district to make special efforts to engage minority and low-income families other than “boilerplate forums.”

Association Report: AAPAC

Maria Huffman reported for the AAPAC, beginning with an announcement that Medicaid will soon begin to cover autism services in Michigan. She pointed out that this may cause a rise in consumer protection issues as new behavioral analysts begin to offer services, and urged everyone to keep the focus on the wellbeing of children.

She noted that the passage of the tech bond would increase the participation of students with disabilities, as well as provide better support of Excent Tera, software that is used in case management of students with special needs.

Finally, Huffman asserted that data collection to be used in assessing whether or not students qualify for Extended School Year (ESY) services is the responsibility of the district. She noted that state law requires that regression and recoupment, critical stages of learning, and the nature of the student’s disability all must be factored into the decision on whether a student qualifies for ESY.

Association Report: PTOC

Amy Pachera reported for the PTOC. In addition to the tech bond endorsement discussed above, she announced that the PTOC would like to see the 18 water stations of the first Ann Arbor Marathon, be worked by AAPS. Pachera also noted that $6 of every entry fee to the race, which also includes 5K and 10K components, will be donated to the AAPS educational foundation, and that other education non-profits can also use the race as a fundraiser.

Association Report: AAAA

Michael Madison reported for AAAA, saying that he was originally going to talk about budget cuts, but decided to share something more “upbeat.” He then proceeded to thank a number of AAPS staff and board members for jobs well done. He singled out director of community education and recreation Sara Aeschbach and assistant superintendent for secondary education Joyce Hunter, who are both retiring this spring, and led the board in a round of applause for each of them.

Board President’s Report

Mexicotte reported on the board’s April 18 committee of the whole meeting. She noted that the board had a preliminary discussion on the budget. She noted that the idea of moving to a balanced calendar was tabled for now in lieu of considering a variety of strategies to use instructional time more effectively that would fit into the district’s strategic plan and other plans. Stead added that AAPS needs to find a way to spend more time with students to be globally competitive.

High School Start Times

Assistant superintendent of secondary education Joyce Hunter gave a brief presentation to the board that reviewed the pros and cons of moving high school start times, based on academic literature studying districts that have implemented later high school start times. She noted that moving start times later aligns the school day with teens’ natural waking hours, and has been shown to decrease depression while increasing academic achievement, with the greatest benefits being seen in “at risk” students. On the flip side, Hunter pointed out that transportation logistics and the effect on extracurricular activities were complex issues that would need to be addressed to be able to start the high school days later. She also noted that in some districts, a shift to later high school start times has been initially contentious among stakeholders in the community.

Hunter proposed that AAPS establish a steering committee to study later high school start times, with representation from human resources, the teachers’ union, and transportation. She also suggested administering a Zoomerang survey to parents and students, and consulting with experts such as University of Michigan professors who have studied this issue.

Mexicotte said that she saw high school start times as “bound up” with issues of scheduling, transportation, and support for extracurricular activities. She suggested that perhaps AAPS could move “7th hour,” during which many elective classes take place, to 8-9:00 a.m., and then students could elect to attend that hour or not. She noted that Dearborn public schools have a similar two-tiered system. Basket also expressed interest in a “split schedule” and urged the district to “make transportation work for us, not the other way around.”

Trustees asked about the timeline, and Hunter said the committee would be charged with making a recommendation one way or the other in time to implement a change in start times for the 2013-14 school year if that was the decision made. Baskett warned against “analysis paralysis” and said the committee should be sure to adhere to its timeline for decision-making on this issue.

Stead expressed concern about the impact on extracurricular activities, and Green noted that she would like students to be involved in the study committee for that reason, as well as for the fact that many students also hold part-time jobs after school. Nelson suggested looking at the reasoning behind the decision of some districts to move back to an early start after having had a late start for high schools, such as those in Minneapolis.

Patalan said the board’s recent discussion on contradictory research regarding moving to a balanced calendar made her question the research. “What I want,” she said, “is to look at the research that says not to do this… I do want more information… I am grateful for a committee to study this further, more in depth.”

Mexicotte repeated that she is interested in looking at high school start times as one piece of possibly broader adjustments to the high school schedule, which might include other shifts as well. As an example, she said that if AAPS moved from 180 to 220 school days, high school days could start later, but end at the same time they do now.

This was a point of information for the board, and no action was taken on high school start times.

Bid Awards

The board briefly reviewed a series of bid award recommendations with little discussion. The bid awards under consideration include work on asbestos abatement, indoor air quality testing, integrated pest management, parking, asphalt paving, and ADA (accessibility) improvements.

The bid award recommendations will return to the board for a second briefing and vote at the next regular meeting.

Consent Agenda and Reimbursements

The consent agenda, which contained only gift offers, was passed by a voice vote. A set of trustee conference reimbursements was passed unanimously by roll call vote.

Awards and Accolades

Numerous students, staff, and schools were singled out for accolades at the April 25 meeting.

Awards and Accolades: Bill Browning Recognition

On the 50th anniversary of the AAPS environmental education program, the board honored longtime environmental educator Bill Browning, who coordinated the program for 28 years. Current AAPS environmental education consultant Dave Szczygiel and parent Nancy Stone noted that thousands of students and parents have benefitted from his work. The AAPS environmental education program provides enrichment for every AAPS student grades K-6 through field trips, many led by volunteer naturalists.

Stone announced that in addition to the years of passionate teaching and commitment to the district, Browning has recently made a $30,000 donation to the AAPS Science and Environmental Education Endowment Fund, managed by The Ann Arbor Area Community Foundation. Szczygiel and Stone presented Browning with a “local geologic treasure,” called a puddingstone, on which was affixed a plaque recognizing his contributions.

Browning accepted his honor with humility, saying that it was not him that deserved credit, but those that came before him who worked to get environmental education included in the curriculum. Browning thanked the district, saying, “I had a wonderful, wonderful career here in Ann Arbor – I’m grateful.”

Multiple trustees spoke fondly of their personal connections with Browning, and thanked him for his dedication and vision. Baskett, who is now a master gardener, said warmly, “I was one of those kids on the big, yellow bus… You showed me my first wildflower – a trillium.”

Mexicotte said the district was lucky to have had Browning on staff for so long, and said that the legacy he had created would be passed on for generations.

Awards and Accolades: Superintendent’s Report

Green recognized students who had scored highly on the ACT, sports champions, poetry contest winner, homebuilding program students, and robotics team members for their accomplishments, among many others. She noted that schools are engaging students in a number of service projects, such as kindergarten students at Eberwhite Elementary School who counted coins as a fundraiser for the Dexter tornado relief work. Green also noted the success of the local Washtenaw Elementary Science Olympiad, and a variety of staff accomplishments. Finally, she commended the district’s administrative professionals, who she said are “always there” for the school community.

Agenda Planning

Thomas requested a discussion of the partnership between Mitchell, Scarlett, and the University of Michigan.

Stead would like an update on the possibility of charging tuition to some SOC students.

Mexicotte suggested that the board should get as much non-budget-related work done at the next regular meeting as possible, and then have the “full, facilitated budget discussion” at the May 16 committee of the whole meeting, after the two community budget forums have taken place. (Which are now scheduled for May 7 and May 14.) She also suggested that the board should keep May 30 open as a date to add an extra board meeting if needed.

Items from the Board

The fact that it was after 2:30 a.m. did not dissuade trustees from reporting the following items at the close of the April 25 meeting, in addition to those comments noted above.

Thomas said that there are a few challenge grants on the table in the current One Million Reasons campaign of the AAPS educational foundation. He also noted that he recently attended the equity team meeting at Logan Elementary School and was impressed with their focused student approach. Finally, he invited everyone to the May 3 Life Sciences Orchestra concert in which he plays.

Nelson said he had stopped by the very successful college and career fair at Pioneer High School, and the University Musical Society partnership celebration. He also mentioned attending a couple of Neutral Zone events, and said they were a good reminder of the importance of the board’s community partnerships.

Patalan said that three people have told her there were delighted to have AAPS superintendent Patricia Green visit their school, and that they were grateful for the opportunity to get to know their superintendent.

Stead said that Green did a great job passing our awards to the 4th and 5th grade winners at the Washtenaw Elementary Science Olympiad, the largest elementary science Olympiad in the U.S. She noted that the event was more about participation than awards, and that all AAPS elementary schools will be participating next year. Stead also pointed out that it took 750 adult volunteers to make the event happen.

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

Next meeting: Wednesday, May 9, 2012, 7 p.m., at the downtown branch of the Ann Arbor District Library, 343 South Fifth Ave., Ann Arbor, MI 48104.

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