A post on Ann Arbor Schools Musings highlights a March 11 panel of the state Board of Education, focusing on funding reforms for K-12 education. The post includes a note from Jack Panitch, former Angell PTO president, urging people to attend: “This is an opportunity to show Lansing that large numbers of informed voters are watching their actions and that we care about our kids’ futures. It is also an opportunity to fall flat on our face if attendance is thin.” The event, which is open to the public, runs from 6-8 p.m at Pioneer High’s Little Theater, 601 W. Stadium Blvd. [Source]
Editor’s note: Nelson’s “In it for the Money” column appears regularly in The Chronicle, roughly around the third Wednesday of the month. Sometimes it’s earlier, like this month. Columns for the two previous months were “In it for the Money: E Pluribus Progress” and “In it for the Money: Getting Schooled.”
I spent the last two columns talking about what we should be teaching in our schools . As we teeter on the brink of another school year, I want to take a second to talk about how to best teach these things. And, fair warning, my suggestion – as a former teacher and school administrator, not just a current chattering gadfly – is one you’ve already heard a thousand times: small class sizes.
But in the next twelve minutes I’m going to give you a way to argue for small class sizes in a patois that business folks can get behind.
As I’ve mentioned before, the vogue among conservative politicians – both at the state and national level – is to argue that their business acumen makes them uniquely well-suited to govern in our economically troubled times. I don’t reject this claim out of hand, because I agree that there are many business practices that adapt well to the public sector.
The problem, to my eye, is that the practices these erstwhile businessmen want to import to the public sector are largely from the management offices, rather than the sales floor.
Ann Arbor Public Schools board of education committee of the whole (May 16, 2012): Although they showed mixed sentiment on some issues, trustees tentatively expressed agreement on a total of $4.8 million in budget cuts, and just over $6 million in revenue enhancements.
That still leaves a $7 million gap to be addressed as the district faces a $17.8 million deficit for the 2012-13 school year, which begins July 1. There was general agreement on the board to use some amount fund equity to meet the budget targets, but no agreement about how much to use. Hypothetically, the entire $17.8 million shortfall could be covered by drawing on the fund equity the district has to start FY 2013, which is $18.73 million.
But without some cuts and revenue enhancements, that fund equity would be close to just $1 million by the end of the year, which is a half percent of the district’s currently proposed expenditure budget for FY 2013 – $194 million. In addition, it would leave insufficient reserves to manage cash flow through the summer. And by the end of the following year, fund equity would be projected to be negative $23.5 million.
At the May 16 meeting, most trustees expressed support for leaving Roberto Clemente Student Development Center in place in its current form for at least another year, while evaluating the program’s educational effectiveness. Much of the board sentiment on Clemente was reflected in an exchange between trustees Simone Lightfoot and Glenn Nelson near the end of the three and half hour budget discussion. Lightfoot asserted that Clemente’s parents are “not caught up in test scores – they are just happy that their children want to go to school” and that their students are getting “some basics in place – social and mental.” Nelson responded, “I’m willing to grant that in that part of education, they are doing a good job, but for $18,000 [per-student cost], I’d like both the academic and social/emotional learning.”
The administration’s budget proposal called for the elimination of between 32 and 64 teaching positions, but trustees were in broad agreement that there should be no cuts to teaching positions, if at all possible. Nelson suggested that by hiring less-experienced new teachers to replace retiring teachers, the district would still be able to save roughly $960,000, without incurring any rise in class sizes. Trustees expressed support for that approach, which board president Deb Mexicotte dubbed the ”Nelson model.”
While trustees showed a consensus about maintaining teaching staff levels, they were divided on the issue of transportation. Lightfoot suggested a “hold harmless” approach to transportation this year – as the districts forms an administrative committee with broad stakeholder participation to develop a sustainable transportation plan. Taking almost an opposite view on transportation was trustee Christine Stead, who advocated several times during the meeting that all non-mandated busing should be cut. Based on the board discussion, busing for Ann Arbor Open will likely be preserved via a cost-neutral plan that relies primarily on common stops at the district’s five middle schools. Also likely is that the 4 p.m. middle school bus and the shuttles to and from Community High School will be cut. Some board members also indicated an interest in “phasing out” busing to the magnet programs at Skyline High School.
The board took no formal votes during their committee-of-the-whole-meeting on May 16. However the board’s consensus on various issues, convey to the AAPS administration, will inform the final budget proposal. That final proposal comes to the board for a first briefing and public hearing on May 23.
In addition to the budget discussion, the May 16 committee meeting included four and a half additional hours of discussion on: discussing gifted and talented programming in the district; outlining the superintendent evaluation review process; and creating a framework for a broad-based committee to study the sustainability of transportation in the district.
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.
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.
Ann Arbor Public Schools budget forum (November 10, 2011): About 60 people joined AAPS superintendent Patricia Green, deputy superintendent of operations Robert Allen and the rest of the AAPS top administrators at a budget forum last Thursday evening.
The forum served two distinct purposes: (1) to educate the public on school funding issues, including its specific challenges for crafting next year’s (2012-13) budget; and (2) to solicit ideas from the public on how the district can reduce its budget by $14 million.
The current fiscal year’s approved budget is $183.62 million.
The district typically schedules budget forums in the spring, but this year wants to involve the community earlier than that.
A second forum will take place Monday, Nov. 14 at 6:30 p.m. in the cafeteria annex at Pioneer High School.
At Thursday’s event, Allen said that the district is projecting a $14 million deficit for the 2012-13 school year. Over the past five years, the district has made a cumulative total of nearly $50 million in cuts.
Ann Arbor Public Schools Board of Education meeting (Aug. 18, 2010): At their opening meeting of the 2010-11 school year, the Ann Arbor Public Schools (AAPS) school board trustees discussed how to proceed in light of the recent resignation of superintendent Todd Roberts. Roberts is moving to his hometown of Durham, N.C. to become chancellor of the North Carolina School for Science and Math.
As part of the plan, the board settled Wednesday on the idea of hiring a search firm to assist with the selection of a new superintendent. To review an RFP (request for proposals) for a search firm, an additional board meeting has been set for 3 p.m. on Tuesday, Aug. 24, at the Balas administration building main conference room, 2555 S. State St. Update: The date and time for the additional board meeting has been changed to Monday, Aug. 23 at 6:30 p.m.
Early in Wednesday’s meeting, Roberts thanked the board, the staff, and district parents for their support of his work over the past four years. He named the district’s parents specifically as a “great strength” of AAPS, and said that during his tenure, he has felt both “supported and pushed – as it should be – by the community of parents to be the best that [he] could.” Referring to the district’s budget challenges last year, Roberts noted that the collaboration, partnership, and shared sacrifice has set AAPS up for a good year this year. He said he is sad to leave, and reassured everyone that he will be here this fall to get the district off to a great start.
President Deb Mexicotte said the board would be sad to see Roberts leave, but that they are happy that he and his family have this opportunity. She thanked Roberts and wished him “all the best and continued success.”
Also at this meeting: the final projects being funded by the 2004 Comprehensive School Improvement Program (known as “the Bond”) were reviewed; the board welcomed Elaine Brown, the newly-hired director of Student Intervention and Support Services (SISS); Chartwells provided an update on the district’s food service program; and two local programs offering students alternative paths to a high school diploma were presented for the board’s consideration.
It’s late March and I’m lingering around the end of the boathouse used by the Pioneer High School rowing team, waiting for the boats to head down to the water for practice. Coach Rich Griffith has agreed to let me ride along in the motorized launch as he monitors the rowers’ workout. The following week I’ll take a ride with Huron High’s coach, Tom Kraft.
From behind me comes the warning from one of the coxswains: “Heads up!” Coxswains steer the boats on the water – and on land as well, because lifting and turning the long craft requires coordination.
A peek over my shoulder confirms that the command is directed at me – I’m standing near the middle of an upside-down 8-person rowing shell held aloft by eight women. My noggin is safe for a few seconds as they pause. To clear the boat completely, I’d need to hustle a good 25 feet in one direction or the other. But that seems like an overly dramatic and panicky move. Surely that’s not what boathouse culture demands? Instead, I simply kneel. The boat makes its way over me and down to the dock.
The learning curve is steep. A few minutes later: “Heads up!” The scene repeats itself.
I confirm with Pioneer senior Meaghan Kennedy, who’s standing nearby, that yes, maybe I should find another vantage point. Kennedy is coxswain for the men’s varsity eight-man boat and one of the team’s captains, along with twins Zach and Mackenzie Miller. Kennedy is waiting to guide her own boat down to the dock.