Stories indexed with the term ‘AAPS’

AAPS Preps to Push for Special Ed Tax

Ann Arbor Public Schools board of education regular meeting (March 2, 2011): The board’s decision – made at a special meeting held Saturday – to begin negotiations with Patricia Green about becoming the district’s next superintendent was preceded earlier in the week by a regular, routine meeting of the board.

At Wednesday’s regular meeting, the highlight was a presentation on the special education millage that will appear on the ballot on May 3, 2011. The proposed tax would renew an existing levy for the next seven years, and is projected to generate $14 million to support special education services in school districts across Washtenaw County. Of that amount, AAPS would be allocated around $5.7 million.

The special ed millage is not the same kind of proposal as the unsuccessful November 2009 ballot proposal – which was to levy a new, additional 2 mill tax to support general operations for districts countywide.

In addition to the presentation, the board heard its usual range of board and association reports during the meeting. [Full Story]

AAPS Prefers Green as Superintendent

After morning interviews on Saturday, March 5, 2011, the Ann Arbor Public Schools board of trustees began deliberations on the two finalists for its open superintendent position. The result of those deliberations was a 6-1 vote to begin negotiations with Patricia Green (North Allegheny School District, Pennsylvania). Trustee Susan Baskett cast the dissenting vote.

The other finalist was Michael Muñoz (Des Moines Public Schools, Iowa). A third finalist, Shelley Redinger (Oregon Trail School District, Oregon), had announced her withdrawal from consideration earlier in the week. Redinger accepted a different position – with the Spotsylvania County school system in Virginia. [Full Story]

AAPS: Final Phase of Superintendent Search

By week’s end, the Ann Arbor Public Schools board of trustees will choose from among three finalists to fill its open superintendent position. Finalists include: Patricia Green (North Allegheny School District, Pennsylvania); Michael Muñoz (Des Moines Public Schools, Iowa); and Shelley Redinger (Oregon Trail School District, Oregon).

The public is invited to interview the three finalists at community forums to be held on Friday, March 4 from 6-8:30 p.m. in the Pioneer High School cafeteria annex, 601 W. Stadium Blvd. Also open to the public are the candidates’ second interviews with the board, which begin at 9:30 a.m. on Saturday, March 5 in the main conference room of the AAPS Balas Administration Building, 2555 S. State St. The board’s final deliberations on their preferred candidate will immediately follow the final interviews. Those deliberations are expected to start around noon.

The narrowing of the field of six candidates took place during the week of Feb. 14, when the board interviewed all the candidates. The board made their selection of the finalists at the end of the week on Friday, following the last two interviews. Visits to the home districts by three board members had originally been planned to take place the week of Feb. 21, but inclement weather led to a decision to cancel those visits.

Candidate-submitted profiles and resumes are also available on the AAPS website. Based on candidate responses in the first round of interviews, which included 24 questions, for this report The Chronicle has compiled profiles of the three final candidates. [.pdf of AAPS first-interview questions[Full Story]

AAPS To Visit Finalists’ Home Districts

Ann Arbor Public Schools board of education special meeting (Feb. 18, 2011): Following a week of interviews for the district’s top job, last Friday the Ann Arbor Public Schools board of education winnowed the field of six down to three finalists for superintendent: Patricia Green (North Allegheny School District, Pennsylvania.); Michael Muñoz (Des Moines Public Schools, Iowa); and Shelley Redinger (Oregon Trail School District, Oregon).

Deb Mexicotte and Glenn Nelson AAPS School Board

AAPS board president Deb Mexicotte and trustee Glenn Nelson at Friday's meeting to select superintendent finalists. (Photos by the writer.)

This week, a team of three trustees – Christine Stead, Susan Baskett, and Glenn Nelson – will be conducting site visits at each of the finalists’ current districts. Each finalist will then return to Ann Arbor to answer questions from the community at separate forums tentatively scheduled for the afternoon of Saturday, March 5, and have a second interview with the board tentatively scheduled for Sunday, March 6. Immediately following the second interviews, the board will meet in open session to review community input, hear reports on the site visits, and choose the new AAPS superintendent. [Full Story]

AAPS Selects Superintendent Finalists

At its meeting on Friday evening, Feb. 18, 2011 – which followed a week interviewing six candidates for the district’s top job – the Ann Arbor Public Schools board of trustees settled on three finalists: Patricia Green (North Allegheny School District, Pennsylvania.); Michael Muñoz (Des Moines Public Schools, Iowa); and Shelley Redinger (Oregon Trail School District, Oregon).

Not included as finalists were: William DeFrance (Eaton Rapids Public Schools, Michigan); Paul Long (Pennsbury School District, Pennsylvania); and Manuel Rodriguez (Baltimore County Public Schools, Maryland).

A team of three trustees – Christine Stead, Susan Baskett, and Glenn Nelson – will be conducting site visits over the next several days at each of the candidates’ current districts. Second interviews, community forums, and final selection of the district’s new superintendent will take place during the week of Feb. 28, 2011.

This brief was filed from a special meeting of the board at the Courtyard Marriott, 3205 Boardwalk, where the board had conducted interviews with Long and Muñoz earlier in the afternoon. A more detailed report of the board’s deliberations will follow: [link] [Full Story]

AAPS Set for Six Superintendent Interviews

Ann Arbor Public Schools board of education meeting (Feb. 9, 2011): At its Wednesday meeting, the AAPS board announced six semi-finalists for the district’s open superintendent position. In alphabetical order, the candidates and the school districts in which they are currently working are: William DeFrance (Eaton Rapids Public Schools, Michigan); Patricia Green (North Allegheny School District, Pennsylvania.); Paul Long (Pennsbury School District, Pennsylvania); Michael Muñoz (Des Moines Public Schools, Iowa); Shelley Redinger (Oregon Trail School District, Oregon); and Manuel Rodriguez (Baltimore County Public Schools, Maryland).

Christine Stead, Andy Thomas, Ann Arbor Public Schools

Trustee Andy Thomas, makes a point during the AAPS board discussion on interview questions for superintendent candidates. Seated to his right at the board table is trustee Christine Stead. (Photo by the writer.)

Candidate bios and photos, along with detailed information about when and where candidate interviews will be held next week, are available on the AAPS website. The public is invited to attend, but not participate in, this first round of interviews. The board decided on more than 20 questions to be asked during a two-hour interview of each candidate, and plans to select two or three finalists for the position immediate following the last interview on Friday, Feb. 18.

Also at Wednesday’s meeting, Stone High School successfully won board approval to change its name to Ann Arbor Technological High School, and Skyline High School principal Sulura Jackson was honored for being named principal of the year by the Michigan Association of Secondary School Principals. Jackson will now move on to compete nationally. [Full Story]

AAPS Board: Six Superintendent Finalists

At its Feb. 9, 2011 meeting, the Ann Arbor Public Schools board of education announced six semi-finalists for the district’s open superintendent position. In alphabetical order, the candidates and the school districts in which they are currently working are: William DeFrance (Eaton Rapids Public Schools, Michigan); Patricia Green (North Allegheny School District, Pennsylvania.); Paul Long (Pennsbury School District, Pennsylvania); Michael Munoz (Des Moines Public Schools, Iowa); Shelley Redinger (Oregon Trail School District, Oregon); and Manuel Rodriguez (Baltimore County Public Schools, Maryland).

Board members also set interview questions and blocked out times to hold the first round of open interviews next week.  This brief was filed shortly after the board’s meeting. A more detailed report of last night’s meeting will follow: [link] [Full Story]

AAPS Superintendent Search Nears End

Ann Arbor Public Schools board of education meeting (Jan. 26, 2011): At last week’s meeting of the AAPS school board, trustees discussed changing the name of Stone High School in order to update the school’s public image.

As the result of a lengthy process with the school’s stakeholders, Stone principal Sheila Brown has suggested “Ann Arbor Technical High School” as the new name. Board members suggested replacing the word “Technical” with “Technological,” and Brown was open to that idea. The final decision on Stone’s re-imaging will be made at the next regular board meeting, on Feb. 9.

Board president Deb Mexicotte also outlined the remaining steps involved in choosing a new AAPS superintendent, a process that’s expected to conclude by late February or early March. District residents will be invited to participate in the candidate interview process during the week of Feb. 28.

The board meeting also included an update on a partnership between AAPS and the University of Michigan Depression Center, as well as the unveiling of School of the Year and Teacher of the Year awards from the University Musical Society. [Full Story]

AAPS Mulls Options to Increase Revenue

Ann Arbor Public Schools board of education study sessions (Dec. 8, 2010 and Jan. 19, 2011): As the AAPS school board begins planning for the 2011-12 budget cycle, it has devoted two recent study sessions to strategizing about how to respond to the structural deficit in Michigan’s education funding.

Christine Stead, Jane Landefeld

AAPS board member Christine Stead, left, with Jane Landefeld, who is director of student accounting for the district. (Photo by the writer.)

The first session, held in December, focused on affecting state funding through legislative advocacy, and resulted in board approval of a detailed set of education funding principles that will be presented to state lawmakers for their consideration. [.pdf of funding principles]

At the second session, held last week, trustees brainstormed potential routes toward enhancing revenue at the local level.

In addition to continuing to advocate for funding changes at the state level, options suggested for local revenue enhancement included: increasing private giving; securing additional grant funding; running another enhancement millage campaign; licensing school logos on apparel; improving customer service; leveraging business partnerships better; continuing to develop new programs; and allocating funding for more robust and targeted marketing strategies to increase enrollment.

Finally, the board also acknowledged the need for some spending cuts in addition to increasing efforts at revenue enhancement. [Full Story]

AAPS Pursues Tenure Charges Against Two

Ann Arbor Public Schools board of education meeting (Dec. 15, 2010): At Wednesday’s meeting, the AAPS board of education voted unanimously to pursue tenure charges against two teachers – high school orchestra teacher Christopher Mark and elementary classroom teacher William Harris.

Chris Mark conducts a rehearsal Monday afternoon of the Huron High symphony orchestra.

This early 2009 Chronicle file photo shows Christopher Mark as he conducts a rehearsal of the Huron High symphony orchestra. (Photo links to Jan. 12, 2009 Chronicle article about a visit from lead violinist for the Guarneri String Quartet, Arnold Steinhardt.)

In neither case did the board explain its reasoning or share any details of their investigation. However, public commentary about Mark’s case revealed the board’s concern that Mark had engaged in a possibly inappropriate relationship with a woman when she was a student at Huron High School five years ago. Mark and the woman are currently dating.

Also at the meeting, AAPS interim superintendent Robert Allen presented a draft of proposed changes to the district’s strategic plan. Three of the eight original action teams for the plan, each centered on a core strategy, have been asked to reconvene from January to March of 2011 to clarify the focus of their work in light of the proposed changes. Finalized updates to the strategic plan will be presented in April 2011 for board approval.

A number of additional actions were taken by the board at the meeting, including adoption of a set of principles to be used in drafting education reform legislation. The principles will now be shared with other local districts in the hopes of presenting a unified set of suggestions to legislative representatives early in 2011. [Full Story]

School Board Reiterates Salary Rationale

Ann Arbor Public Schools board of education meeting (Nov. 17, 2010): Wednesday’s school board meeting opened with a standing-room only crowd that flowed out of the boardroom and into the hall. Most of the audience attended in support of a teacher who was put on administrative leave in August and is being investigated by the district. But there was also a good showing to cheer on Thurston’s 5th grade choir, which opened the meeting with a four-song performance. Another contingent attended to represent Roberto Clemente Student Development Center during its annual report to the board.

The Clemente report was the final part of an annual high school update, covering the district’s three alternative high schools, and will be reported in a separate, forthcoming Chronicle article.

In response to criticism and questions received from the community, the board also defended its decision to set the incoming superintendent’s salary in the range of $245,000, as well as other aspects of the superintendent search.

The board also discussed some of the financial challenges currently faced by the district following the annual audit report, in light of dwindling state funding for education. And they thanked the Ann Arbor Public Schools Educational Foundation, which will be providing $300,000 in grants to AAPS this school year from money raised through its One Million Reasons campaign. [Full Story]

AAPS Achievement Plan: It is rocket science

Ann Arbor Public Schools Board of Education study session (Nov. 10, 2010): Last Wednesday evening saw the unveiling of the Ann Arbor Public School’s “achievement gap elimination plan,” a document outlining the comprehensive set of strategies being used by the district to close the gaps in academic achievement between different groups of students. Preschool achievement data, positive behavior support programs at the middle school level, and a newly-created fifth grade social studies unit on African civilizations were highlighted as examples of the plan’s initiatives.

The meeting also included a review of secondary discipline data that showed disproportionate numbers of male students and African-American students receiving suspensions.

In response, the board made some suggestions on data collection processes and possible cross-references that could add depth to the analysis of student assessment and discipline data. [Full Story]

AAPS Board Debates Search Process

Ann Arbor Public Schools Board of Education meeting (Oct. 27, 2010): Board members continued debate on a key aspect of the superintendent search process – whether the full set of applications for the position will be open for trustees to view.


Trustees Glenn Nelson and Christine Stead at the Oct. 27 meeting of the Ann Arbor Public Schools board. (Photo by the writer.)

The decision will be made at a special, regular meeting on Nov. 3 being held to finalize the candidate profile and compensation package for recruiting purposes.

At last week’s meeting, the board also heard two major reports – an update on the first two years of the district’s strategic planning process, and a review of the summer programming offered by the district in 2010. [Full Story]

AAPS Comprehensive High School Update

In recent months, the Ann Arbor Public Schools (AAPS) Board of Education has heard updates from its three comprehensive high schools – Pioneer, Huron and Skyline. [The district also includes three alternative high schools – Community, Stone, and the Roberto Clemente Student Development Center.]

Updates to the board on the three comprehensive schools had been scheduled for last June, and the presentation on Skyline High School was delivered June 9 as planned. But a tornado warning on June 23 saw the board retreat to the basement of the downtown Ann Arbor district library, resulting in a delay in the presentation on Pioneer and Huron high schools planned for that day. The board received an update on Pioneer and Huron at its Oct. 13 meeting.

Skyline is the youngest of the three comprehensive high schools. Its creation was approved by voters as part of a comprehensive school improvement program in 2004, and it is now in its third year of operation. It opened with just a freshmen class in 2008, and has added one grade each year, gradually providing significant relief to the overcrowding at Huron and Pioneer. Next year, Skyline will have its first class of seniors, who will graduate in 2012.

In the wake of enrollment shifts among the schools, administrators and teachers from each of the three schools provided the board with updates on their transitions.

Pioneer and Huron staff made a joint presentation to the board about the changes in their buildings, organized around “characteristics of successful high schools.”

Skyline’s staff began their presentation by delineating differences in structure and organization between their school and the two other comprehensive high schools. They then moved into a review by subject area, with emphasis on Skyline’s four magnet programs. [Full Story]

Farewell to Roberts, Search Firm Selected

Ann Arbor Public Schools Board of Education meeting (Sept. 29, 2010): Though Todd Roberts, outgoing superintendent of the Ann Arbor Public Schools (AAPS), sat in his regular seat at Wednesday’s school board meeting, there was also a newcomer at the end of the table. Robert Allen, AAPS deputy superintendent of operations, did not participate, but he sat with the board for the duration of the meeting. Roberts’ last day with the district will be Oct. 8, and Allen will be taking over as interim superintendent on Oct. 9.

AAPS Robert Allen

From left to right, outgoing AAPS superintendent Todd Roberts, board president Deb Mexicotte, treasurer Irene Patalan, vice-president Susan Baskett, and Robert Allen, who will assume command of AAPS as interim superintendent on Oct. 9. (Photos by the writer.)

AAPS is hosting a public farewell reception for Roberts at 4:30 p.m. on Thursday, Oct. 7, at Skyline High School. Board president Deb Mexicotte quipped that the reception would be an opportunity for everyone to express good wishes or condolences to Roberts “as he moves on to accept a not-as-good position in North Carolina.” At Wednesday’s meeting, the board chose Ray & Associates, an executive search firm from Cedar Rapids, Iowa, to help them recruit and select a new superintendent.

The meeting also served as the annual organizational meeting for the board, during which trustees elected three new officers, changed the composition of their standing committees, and set their meeting dates for the remainder of the school year.

The board also heard a first briefing on yet another high school option being developed county-wide – an international baccalaureate program. [Full Story]

AAPS Search Firm Choice: Down to Two

Ann Arbor Public Schools Board of Education search firm interviews (Sept. 22, 2010): The Ann Arbor Public Schools (AAPS) school board has narrowed its short list of potential consultants to help with its superintendent search to two firms: Ray & Associates Inc. of Cedar Rapids, Iowa, and McPherson & Jacobson LLC of Omaha, Nebraska. Both firms have significant expertise in conducting national superintendent searches.

During a seven-hour meeting held at the Balas Administration Building, the board discussed selection criteria, set their interview process, interviewed five firms, and decided to check the references of two of them. A theme that emerged throughout the day was the challenge of conducting a search in an “open state” such as Michigan, where candidates’ names will be made public early in the process as a requirement of the Open Meetings Act.

The board is expected to make a final selection at its regular board meeting on Wednesday, Sept. 29. The search firm will be seeking a replacement for outgoing superintendent Todd Roberts, who announced his departure in mid-August. AAPS deputy superintendent Robert Allen was recently selected to serve as interim superintendent when Roberts leaves within the next two weeks. [Full Story]

Superintendent Search Step One: Hire Help

Representatives from two executive search consultants met with two members of the Ann Arbor Public Schools Board of Education on Friday to discuss the request for proposals (RFP) recently issued by the district. In the last week of August, the district issued the RFP, which solicits proposals to help with the board’s search for a new superintendent, after Todd Roberts resigned in mid-August.


AAPS board members Susan Baskett and Glenn Nelson met with representatives of two search consultants who will be bidding for the contract to help AAPS with its superintendent search. (Photos by the writer.)

The two consultants that attended were the Michigan Association of School Boards (MASB), from Lansing, and David J. Kinsella and Associates, from Ann Arbor. By the end of the meeting, both consultants said their questions had been answered, and that they planned to submit proposals.

As the board embarks on the replacement process for Roberts – the district’s current superintendent who will be leaving in November – it has decided to hire an executive search firm to help in the recruitment, selection, and hiring process. Friday’s meeting was optional, and offered potential bidders a chance to ask questions of board members Glenn Nelson and Susan Baskett before bids are due on Friday, Sept. 10 at 10 a.m. [Full Story]

AAPS: Which Bus Route to Take?

Ann Arbor Public Schools Board of Education meeting (June 4, 2010): At an extra, regular meeting on Friday evening, the school board heard an updated presentation on the details of a proposed consolidation of school transportation services with the Washtenaw Intermediate School District (WISD). The board’s second briefing on the consolidation and its vote, will come Wednesday, June 9.


AAPS trustee Susan Baskett and deputy superintendent for operations Robert Allen listen to the transportation consolidation proposal. (Photos by the writer.)

Brian Marcel, assistant superintendent of business services for WISD, walked board members through the proposal, and went through an extensive list of questions and answers about the plan. A few bus drivers from AAPS, as well as some from Lincoln Consolidated Schools, attended the meeting – one of them, Richard Miller, spoke during public commentary.

The only other business conducted at the meeting was to approve a set of minutes, and to schedule an executive session before the next regular meeting on Wednesday, June 9. [Full Story]

Schools: Achievement Gap or Equity Gap?

On May 27 at Mitchell Elementary School, 30 people gathered in a room. The group included a school psychologist, four school board members, a social worker, four school principals, four teachers, a pastor, the president of the local chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union, an education researcher, and representatives of local community-based organizations.

Baskett and Lightfoot

Simone Lightfoot, left, and Susan Baskett at the Beyond the Talk meeting at Mitchell Elementary School on Thursday, May 27. (Photos by the writer.)

Sponsored by Ann Arbor Public Schools board trustees Simone Lightfoot and Susan Baskett, the meeting was a follow-up to an event held in late April at the Peace Neighborhood Center. At that event, the College and Career-Ready (CCR) Review, AAPS superintendent Todd Roberts and his senior instructional staff had presented a subset of data on student achievement in the district, broken down by race.

The breakdown showed an ongoing difference in test scores between whites and other races. The focus of the May 27 Mitchell meeting, called Beyond the Talk, was on brainstorming around what co-facilitators Lightfoot and Baskett called the elements of a plan to address this issue.

Since April’s CCR Review, the community has seen the Lunch Bunch program at Dicken Elementary School – an initiative intended to address this gap – ended when it was found by the district to violate relevant anti-discrimination laws. The story of parents’ complaints about a Lunch Bunch field trip, which was restricted to black students only, had inflamed controversy that gained national attention.

Depending on your perspective, the Beyond the Talk meeting looked either poorly-attended or well-attended. Early in the evening, one participant commented that African Americans were poorly represented at the meeting, and contended that any efforts to close the gap, however the gap was defined, would be unsuccessful as long as the “apathy” continued.

But Lightfoot declared that work gets done by those who show up to do it. And so they dove into their work.

“Current programs are maintaining the gap, not closing it.” “It’s not the kids – it’s the system.” “The system is not broken. It’s working exactly how it was designed to work.” “People are scared to shake up the status quo. It’s like fighting a war on many, many different fronts.”

Thoughts like these were distilled into bullet points by the end of the meeting, as participants discussed what next steps should be taken to address what has commonly been called the “achievement gap.” [Full Story]

AAPS Budget Would Cut Positions, Add Fees

Ann Arbor Public Schools Board of Education meeting (March 24, 2010): Todd Roberts, superintendent of Ann Arbor Public Schools (AAPS), unveiled his administration’s 2010-11 budget recommendations to the board of education on Wednesday night. To counter a potentially $20 million shortfall, the proposed budget eliminates 80.6 positions across the district, while restructuring programs, adding fees, and bringing 200 new students to the district.

Todd Roberts AAPS school board

AAPS Superintendent Todd Roberts, flanked by members of his staff, begins presenting his administration's proposed 2010-11 district budget. Behind him, from left to right, are two members of his cabinet: Robert Allen and Randy Trent, and the three administrators of instructional services: Lee Ann Dickinson-Kelley, Larry Simpson, and Joyce Hunter. (Photos by the writer.)

However, multiple budget factors are still unknown: the state has not yet set the per-pupil funding amounts for next year; contract negotiations between AAPS and its teachers, bus drivers, and custodial/maintenance workers unions are still ongoing; and a possible countywide transportation consolidation plan is in the works, but has not yet been solidified. Depending on these outcomes, an additional 39 teaching and three administrative positions could be eliminated, and support services could still be outsourced. If layoffs are made, teachers will be notified by the end of April.

Though the board will hear an update on the proposed budget from the administration on April 14, board president Deb Mexicotte described that second briefing as a time when the board is “looking to have a general consent that this is the direction we are going, with the idea that we have legal obligations related to the budget that we are approving in June.” Two public forums are set for April 12 and 13, and a public hearing on the budget will be held before the board in late May. The district’s fiscal year begins July 1, 2010.

Wednesday’s meeting also covered a variety of other business: the second quarter financial report; a discussion regarding the necessity of maintaining the district’s fund balance; unanimous approval by the six trustees present to welcome “schools of choice” students to the district; and a special briefing which expedited the district’s ability to lease antenna space on the top of three district buildings to a wireless broadband Internet service provider. [Full Story]

AAPS Weighs Schools of Choice Program

Ann Arbor Public Schools Board of Education meeting (March 10, 2010): Christine Stead, a business management consultant in the health care industry, was sworn in as a member of the Ann Arbor Public Schools (AAPS) board of education Wednesday after receiving a four-vote majority in the first and only round of consideration.

Stead Ann Arbor Public Schools

Christine Stead is sworn in after being appointed to fill the opening on the Ann Arbor Public Schools board of trustees left by Adam Hollier's resignation. (Photos by the writer.)

Her first vote as a board member was to support the meeting’s consent agenda, including a bid to outsource $135,000 in low-voltage electrical work to a local company.

Also at the meeting, the board heard a recommendation from AAPS superintendent Todd Roberts to open the district to students from all of Washtenaw County. If approved at the next board meeting, this “Schools of Choice” program could result in 170 new students being added to AAPS kindergarten, first, and sixth grade classes, bringing with them an additional $1.1 million in revenue for the upcoming school year.

Bus drivers and custodial/maintenance workers again held signs outside the meeting at the downtown Ann Arbor library, as they have for the last few months. They collected signatures to petition the board not to privatize any AAPS services. They were joined during public commentary by a University of Michigan research scientist, who likened the district’s contention that outsourcing has saved AAPS money to “a rooster getting credit for the sunrise.” Public commentary also included representatives of opposing positions in the local debate over school funding, and both sides called on the board to make fully transparent the decision-making process used to set the upcoming budget.

And, as numerous educators were commended for their service to public education at the meeting, both the board and PTO Council took steps to increase their advocacy efforts at the state level to ensure that funding that level of service can continue. [Full Story]

AAPS Board Interviews Go Back and Forth

On March 8, eight candidates vying for the one open seat on the Ann Arbor Public Schools (AAPS) board of education dutifully answered the questions asked of them. But they also took advantage of the boilerplate board query at the close of each interview: “Do you have any questions for us?”

And questions from candidates led board members to hold forth on their personal motivations for serving the district, define what they see as the “new normal” in terms of school funding, and admit how challenging it can be for new board members to get up to speed.

The interview questions were written by the board’s executive committee, and approved by the board as a whole. Candidates discussed their backgrounds and motivations; their familiarity with AAPS; their commitment to diversity; cost and revenue options currently being considered in the draft budget; thoughts on the district’s greatest asset and how to leverage it; their ability to support board decisions with which they disagreed; balancing community input with public service; and the time commitments of being a board member.

After all interviews were concluded, the board reviewed its candidate selection process, and adopted a revision to their voting process. The new process is intended to increase the potential for consensus on candidate selection. This new voting process will be used to select the new board member at the next regular board meeting on Wednesday, March 10, after which the new member will be immediately sworn in and seated. [Full Story]

School Board Sets Plan to Fill Vacancy – Again

Ann Arbor Public Schools Board of Education meeting (Feb. 3, 2010): Trustee Adam Hollier announced his resignation near the end of Wednesday’s school board meeting, setting in motion a plan to fill his seat when he leaves on Feb. 12. This is the second time within three months that a trustee has resigned – Helen Gates-Bryant stepped down in mid-November.

Todd Roberts Adam Hollier

Todd Roberts, left, superintendent of Ann Arbor Public Schools, talks Adam Hollier, who resigned as an AAPS board of education trustee on Wednesday night. (Photos by the writer.)

Leading up to his announcement, Hollier used his parting comments as an AAPS trustee to offer support to the workers facing possible privatization, as well as to make a strong pitch for private giving to support the schools in light of a looming budget shortfall.

Also during the meeting, 13 speakers filled the maximum allotted public commentary time of 45 minutes, most of them focusing on the perils of privatization. A few speakers were there to express frustration with the district’s handling of a recent incident at Logan Elementary School.

Other actions at Wednesday’s meeting included a report on a new communication system that would allow the district to quickly send mass voicemails, texts or emails, and the presentation of several awards. And in the board’s informational packet – but not discussed at the meeting – was news of a possible state retirement mandate that could negatively impact the district’s budget. [Full Story]

AAPS Issues RFPs for Privatization

Ann Arbor Public Schools Board of Education meeting (Jan. 20, 2010): Wednesday’s meeting of the AAPS board of education was a study in contrasts.

Demonstrating against privitization

Outside the Jan. 20 school board meeting, one of four demonstrators against privatization of certain school services. (Photo by the writer.)

On one hand, it was an evening of accolades and celebrations.  The board heard recommendations to pay tribute to the work of two longtime AAPS staff members by naming facilities in their honor, community participation in budget planning was lauded, and the students from this year’s Hikone Exchange Program reported on their trip to Ann Arbor’s sister city of Hikone, Japan.

At the same time, concerns about possible privatization of custodial, maintenance, and transportation services dominated the meeting’s public commentary. And when the same presentation that was made to recent public budget forums was repeated for the board, looming school budget cuts again came to the fore. Requests for proposals (RFPs) for outsourcing that are a part of those cuts were also briefly discussed. [Full Story]

A Banner Year for Community High

One of two banners recently hung on the back of Community High School, facing the Kerrytown district.

One of two banners recently hung on the back of Community High School, facing the Kerrytown district.

For folks passing through Kerrytown – whether to Zingerman’s Deli, Kerrytown Market & Shops or the farmers market – it’s easy to overlook the backside of Community High School. But two new banners that now adorn its outer back walls aim to bring attention to the school and add some public art to the Kerrytown district.

Ansted Moss, a Commie High senior, designed the two 24-foot by 12-foot vinyl pieces, which are stretched like a canvas over metal bars facing South Fifth Avenue. They were hung over the course of two days – using a cherry picker lift – just before school started.

Kris Hermanson, who taught art for 30 years at CHS before retiring two years ago, describes them as “elegant, yet edgy and original.” [Full Story]