School Board Sets Plan to Fill Vacancy – Again

Also: Concerns raised over privatization, Logan incident

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.

Trustee Adam Hollier Resigns

Adam Hollier began his resignation statement by saying he had prepared comments, but had decided to “wing it” in light of issues raised during the meeting. He stressed that, in hearing what speakers said during the public commentary, “it does take a village to raise a child.” He recalled that some of his fondest memories were of a custodian at his elementary school, Mr. Johnson, and said they had developed a real relationship.

Referencing the few dozen AAPS employees present at the meeting to oppose privatization, Hollier argued that school support staff can make a big difference in students’ lives: “We don’t see a child fall through the cracks the day they fall … You say, ‘I wish I could have helped them …’ Many of the people in this room make a difference when no one else can.”

Hollier cited a lack of time, as well as a desire to work on education reform at the state level, as reasons for his resignation. [Hollier is the chief of staff for state Rep. Bert Johnson, who represents Michigan’s 5th District, including Hamtramck, Highland Park, and parts of Wayne County and the city of Detroit. He won his school board seat in May 2009, though he had withdrawn from the race in April. His withdrawal came too late to remove his name from the ballot, and he won the election.]

On Wednesday, Hollier expressed frustration at the current education funding crisis. He said he doesn’t know anyone in Lansing who has the answer, but since the school system is dependent on decisions made at the state and national levels, reform needs to happen there. “The problems are beyond what we can solve here,” he said.

Hollier said he believes his efforts would be better spent in Lansing, and that the board deserves a trustee who can devote more time to the position.

Referencing the defeated countywide educational millage last November, Hollier said, “We had an opportunity not to fight these battles, but it didn’t work out that way.” Addressing the public directly, Hollier continued, “I encourage you to support the public school system as though the millage passed – because it did.” [The millage failed countywide, but was supported by voters in the Ann Arbor school district.]

Hollier outlined a possible private giving target for AAPS, saying if each of the district’s 16,458 students were sponsored by a parent or community member paying $10 per month during the school year, the district could raise $164,000. Or, he suggested, community members could be asked to pay a dollar a day. [This is a theme that would be picked up later in the meeting by trustee Randy Friedman.] As a comparison, had the millage passed, AAPS would have received over $11 million annually for 5 years. [For details on public school funding, and the structure of the failed millage, see previous Chronicle coverage: "Does It Take a Millage?"]

Hollier closed his comments, made during the “Items from the Board” section at the end of the meeting, by thanking his fellow trustees and the community, asserting, “This has been the greatest experience of my life. Though I’m leaving the board, I’m not leaving the district.” President Deb Mexicotte accepted Hollier’s resignation on behalf of the board, and opened the floor to comments from other trustees.

Glenn Nelson told Hollier it was great to get to know him, that he was impressed by Hollier’s intelligence, and that he looked forward to hearing more from him as his career evolved. Irene Patalan acknowledged that it was a hard decision for Hollier to resign, and wished him luck in his next step.

Susan Baskett echoed those sentiments, “I look forward to seeing where your career goes  … Go up there and kick booty!” Superintendent Todd Roberts said he appreciated Hollier’s commitment, knowing how busy he’s been.

And Simone Lightfoot commended Hollier’s work on the board, saying, “I’m so proud of you; I’m almost speechless. Thank you for your service. I expect great things.” She praised Hollier’s conscientiousness, diplomacy, and articulateness, thanking him for “encouraging us to think outside of the box.”

Timeline and Process for Selection of New Trustee

Deb Mexicotte shared that when Hollier told her privately that he was planning to resign as of Feb. 12, she began to work out a timeline, since the board is required to fill the vacancy within 30 days. The board was at somewhat of an advantage, she said, since everyone was familiar with the process, having just appointed Simone Lightfoot to the board last December to replace former trustee Helen Gates-Bryant. The person selected to replace Hollier will serve through Dec. 31, 2010.

Mexicotte explained that the application timeline was structured to accommodate both the AAPS and the University of Michigan breaks occurring in late February, saying that the board “didn’t want to disenfranchise any part of the community” who might want to apply. She also encouraged those who came forward before to reapply, and proposed following timeline: an executive committee meeting on Feb. 9 to decide on interview questions and specific process; a meeting on March 8 to interview candidates; and candidate presentations and appointment at the regular board meeting on March 10.

Randy Friedman said the timeline was amenable to him, but suggested contacting the six other applicants who had competed for Lightfoot’s seat to see if they would like to renew their applications. He also suggested that those applicants go through a shorter interview process, since the board was already familiar with them. Mexicotte said it was her intent to contact the recent applicants, and that the executive committee would consider a shorter interview.

Glenn Nelson pointed out that, while he respects people’s time, shortening the interview presupposes that the interview questions will be exactly the same this time as they were when interviewing for the position awarded to Lightfoot. If the questions were at all different, he argued, all applicants would need to be given an opportunity to answer the exact same questions. Adam Hollier reminded the board that Lightfoot was not able to interview any of the previous candidates, as she was one of the applicants at the time, which Mexicotte conceded was an “excellent point.”

After some additional clarifying questions were answered, the following timeline for selecting a new trustee was set:

  • Monday, Feb. 8, 4 p.m.: Deadline for community to submit possible interview questions to board office.
  • Tuesday, Feb. 9: Executive committee meeting to select questions and plan interview process.
  • Friday, Feb. 19, 4 p.m.: Deadline to submit application for vacant trustee position to board office.
  • Monday, March 8: Candidate interviews by the board.
  • Wednesday, March 10, 7 p.m.: Candidate presentations at the regular board meeting, and candidate selection.

The vacancy was posted Thursday to the board’s website, and states that any individual wishing to serve must be a U.S. citizen, at least 18 years of age, a resident of the AAPS school district, and registered to vote. Applications should contain a resume, a letter of intent detailing the candidate’s experiences and qualifications, and two letters of recommendation. They should be sent to Amy Osinski by mail at AABOE, 2555 S. State St., Ann Arbor, MI 48104; by fax at 734-994-2414; or by email at

Private Giving to AAPS

Referencing Adam Hollier’s final comments, trustee Randy Friedman asked superintendent Todd Roberts if there was a formal process already in place for community members to donate to the AAPS. Roberts explained that the Ann Arbor Public Schools Educational Foundation is the vehicle for private individuals who want to donate to the AAPS. Roberts added that the foundation has already run a campaign similar to what Hollier suggested, trying to encourage AAPS-district residents to donate the same amount they would have paid if the millage had passed (about $250 per year for a home valued at $250,000).

Roberts also stated that the second phase of that giving campaign was slated to begin in the next month or so. [For more information about the work of the foundation, see The Chronicle’s coverage of its most recent Celebration of Innovation and Excellence event, held each spring: "Educational Foundation Marks Achievements"]

Friedman expressed his frustration at the foundation’s campaign, saying it “has not been well-publicized or well-organized.” He suggested that AAPS should reach out to the community directly, saying that he’s been talking private giving since before he had gray hair and asking, “Why is this so difficult?” He argued that the foundation does not have the resources to “stimulate, manage, and control” efforts at private giving, and that “this is not something that lends itself to volunteerism.” He added: “I’d like to support a campaign. I’d like there to be a campaign to support.”

Referencing Hollier’s earlier suggestions, Friedman argued that establishing an AAPS-led private giving campaign would be “a great legacy to this young trustee,” and asked the board to consider it, saying “My challenge is to the only person at the table who has a computer with a database…I’d like that on the agenda.”

Deb Mexicotte asked whether the board wanted to direct the administration to look into Friedman’s proposals, and the board agreed. Mexicotte clarified that this was not a vote, but that she “look[ed] for nodding.” She then assigned Roberts to look into how such a campaign might be structured, what the advantages and challenges might be, and to report back to the board at his earliest convenience.

Public Commentary: Privatization

Walking into the downtown library, where the regular board meetings are held, The Chronicle passed through a throng of picketing members of the custodial, maintenance, and grounds workers’ union.

Demonstration outside AAPS school board meeting

Workers demonstrate against privatization of certain school services on Feb. 3 outside of the downtown library on Fifth Avenue, where the AAPS school board meeting took place.

The 16 members were walking slowly back and forth along Fifth Avenue, holding signs in opposition to the proposed privatization of their services, as well as to privatized transportation services for the district.

At the meeting, board president Deb Mexicotte reminded the 13 speakers signed up for public commentary, as well as the dozens of teachers, students, and co-workers there to support them, that public commentary is limited to 45 minutes.

Because the time is divided equally among the number of speakers present, that meant that  each speaker would be given no more than 3 minutes and 20 seconds to share his or her comments.

Privatization Commentary: Head Start Licensing, NAEYC Accreditation in Jeopardy

The bulk of the speakers at Wednesday’s public commentary were there to oppose privatization, and this time, a new voice joined their ranks. Marifran Brown, a preschool teacher with 22 years of service to the district, spoke in “support of my colleagues in custodial, maintenance, and transportation services.”

Brown offered a new perspective to the ongoing debate over privatization in the district, arguing that AAPS is in danger of losing Head Start grant funding and National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC) accreditation status if they privatize. She explained that the preschool has specific needs that would not be met if the people essential to her educational team were privatized.

The district’s Preschool and Family Center serves a specific population of students. According to a report made by preschool staff to the board’s performance committee last year, two-thirds of the families served by the pre-school received special education services, and the remaining one-third were living in poverty. At that same meeting, an update was given on the then-ongoing accreditation process. The minutes state: “Ongoing evaluation to achieve NAEYC accreditation has been a lot of work …There are few accredited preschools in the country, so this is an area where Ann Arbor has also taken the opportunity to move to the next level. … Trustees noted that there is little appreciation of the comprehensive nature of our Preschool programming, due primarily to few informational opportunities outlining the scope and range of services.”

At Wednesday’s board meeting, Brown explained that the nature of working with this population demands a high degree of communication and cooperation among all members of the team, using transportation services as an example. “Bus drivers are a critical link to parents,” she said. “We are asking parents of [at-risk] three-year-olds to put their children on a bus. It’s not fair to say that we don’t know who’s driving the bus, or if they can work a 5-point harness. You’re not going to know – they won’t answer to you.”

Brown cited the extensive inspections to maintain Head Start licensing, as well as the criteria required to meet NAEYC accreditation standards as being impossible to achieve “without the support of custodial, maintenance, and transportation services.” She argued that they’ve been able to meet the criteria only because of the entire team. The higher staff turnover that would accompany privatization, due to lower pay and lack of retirement benefits, would imperil the district’s ability to keep staff properly prepared for the ongoing licensing inspections, she said. “We could not keep our grant and licensing criteria met – we will not have had time to train people.”

Privatization Commentary: Personal Appeals, Sacrifice

Multiple speakers made emotional appeals to the board, expressing fears and worries about how privatization would affect them personally, and offering to take additional pay cuts to protect their jobs.

A custodian with 20 years of service said she had graduated with just a 6th grade reading level, and that her education failed her. She credits AAPS with giving her a way “to not feel like a failure.” In return, she said she has given “beyond anything” back: “I fill in when teachers, secretaries, principals are late. I serve breakfast.” She listed numerous occasions when students have leaned on her, and she has been able to provide support and guidance, even to a student considering suicide. “The district needs to look at what we give,” she said, “and we’re still willing to give.”

Another employee, a bus driver with four years of district service, said this job is one of three she currently holds, and that it pays the majority of her bills. “Financially,” she said, “we are your smallest liability, but we are your greatest asset.” She asserted that she knows all about budgeting and cutting back, yet she still struggles to make ends meet. She asked, “I wonder, [if privatization occurs] will they hire everyone back, or just a percentage? I wonder if I can afford health insurance. Why diminish the quality of living standards of the poorest paid employees?” She closed by encouraging the district to put something on its website about how parents can contact their legislators about school funding issues,  offering to use her van to spread flyers with that information.

Another bus driver, with 29 years in the district, also spoke of being willing to sacrifice personally for the good of the whole. He suggested that if you take the district’s total operating budget of roughly $192 million, that the $20 million shortfall could be made up entirely if all employees agreed to take an 11% pay cut. He said he would agree to that, as long as the cut was universal.

Privatization Commentary: Public Appeals for Public Appeals

Three of the speakers appealed directly to the public, encouraging parents and community members to write trustees and legislators themselves. A transportation worker with 16 years of service pleaded with parents directly, saying they should be worried, and “not be afraid to call – we need your complaints. [Privatization] is not only going to hurt us, but also the parents, and the children of the parents.”

Another speaker, a bus driver, said, “I really look forward to retiring with somewhat of a pension, and I’m concerned about that. Could we contact our legislators to make a stronger or more powerful statement to Lansing?”

Privatization Commentary: AAPS Mission Statement

Two speakers, one teacher and one bus driver, spoke directly about how they saw privatization as antithetical to the district’s mission statement.

Teacher Carol Mohrlock pointed out that the AAPS mission statement, “talks about nurturing the human spirit and building alliances with families and communities,” and shared her concern that privatization of “any department … moves us further from this statement.” She questioned how the district hopes to maintain its vision of excellence in customer service by “hiring individuals who are not invested in the district,” and encouraged the district to analyze how departments can work smarter and more efficiently before eliminating them. “The answer lies within us and with our district employees,” she said.

Bus driver Penny Scheppe echoed these concerns, and framed the question as a moral one. “Simple logic should tell us that it’s impossible for a private company to deliver the same service for less,” she said, adding that most people seem to forget that private companies owe a legal responsibility to make a profit for their investors. “If wages are reduced and benefits are eliminated, there’s money to go toward profit,” she said. “But, [this] profit comes at a huge cost to the public … Should the [AAPS] be promoting greed as a building block of society to our kids?” She also asserted that the district can always find someone to do the job cheaper, “but you won’t find anyone to do the job better!”

Privatization Commentary: AAPS Already Gets “Tremendous Value”

Multiple speakers used the phase “tremendous value” in referencing the savings AAPS gets by maintaining its own staff, for transportation in particular. One bus driver pointed out that more delineated accounting – splitting out the wages for drivers and monitors from administrative and maintenance costs – would show this savings more clearly. He suggested that 90% of drivers are part-time, creating a huge savings for the district in terms of benefits. He also argued that privatization shows a lack of long-range planning and that the net effect will be exhausted drivers, if workers need to get second or third jobs to make up the lack of pay and benefits.

Privatization Commentary: Student Safety a Key Issue

Echoing the above comments, the same bus driver who had suggested a universal pay cut also pointed out how privatization could impact what he called the current “culture of safety” in transportation services. “What do you want the bus driver of your child to be thinking about?” he asked. He claimed that part-time, privatized workers would be forced to look for additional work to make ends meet, and would end up exhausted. He closed by asking, “At what point [do we] allow the deterioration of the safety culture to cause the death of a child?”

Reminding the board of another perspective on safety, Darryl Wilson, president of the local chapter of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME) Local 1182, representing custodians and maintenance workers, cited the 2004 safety incident in which a felon with a history of assault was hired as a contract custodian. Wilson used the incident to highlight the inadequacy of trusting private companies to do complete and proper background checks on their employees, and pointed out that Michigan State Police “admit to having up to a 64% failure rate,” depending on the timing of felonies and whether or not they occurred out of state. (Currently, all AAPS employees are also checked against a federal database.)

“You say, ‘It’s just one incident’ … This person stabbed people,” Wilson asserted. Quoting a statement made by Liz Margolis in an Ann Arbor News article on the incident in which she said the employee “would not have been hired had the district known he’d been convicted of assault,” Wilson asked, “When you’re thinking about privatization, who do you want in your schools?”

Privatization Commentary: It’s the Problem, Not the Solution

A head custodian at one of the district middle schools cited a series of examples of what he sees as wasteful spending. All were examples of outsourcing that he felt could have been done by AAPS employees for less cost, particularly electrical work such as counting light bulbs, switches, and outlets, or installing a new light bulb in a food warmer.

He also asked, “How does the district explain the new ‘school messenger’ phone system?” [This system is described in some detail in the superintendent’s report later in this article.] “Technology is important,” he stated, “but are we beginning to put in place a system that will next replace another group of employees?” He pointed out how the AAPS used to have plumbers, but how plumbing is now outsourced completely. “If the AAPS has slowly eliminated custodial and maintenance workers, then why is there still an issue regarding the cost for these departments?” he asked. “Could private companies be charging the district too much money?”

Incident at Logan Elementary

Also generating public commentary, as well as response from district officials, was an incident in which a fifth-grade teacher left the Logan Elementary school building without informing the principal.

Public Commentary on Logan Incident

Two parents, both representing families of fifth-grade students at Logan Elementary, expressed frustration with the district’s handling of a recent incident there, in which a teacher left his school unexpectedly during instructional time and has been placed on administrative leave. After the teacher left, the school was placed temporarily in lockdown mode.

The first parent, Kate Klaus, referenced a letter given to board trustees, which she said was pulled together in less than 12 hours and signed by a majority of parents with students in the class to show that “we are united in support for the teacher.” The parents, Klaus said, decided to write a group letter expressing support for the teacher because “the voice of the community acting together is stronger and louder” than that of individuals. She acknowledged that it was wrong for the teacher to leave the building, but said that he should be allowed to return to his classroom immediately.

Calling the lockdown policy “seriously flawed,” Klaus claimed that “someone exercised criminally poor judgment by calling police and imposing a lockdown.” She spoke on behalf of the teacher again, saying “he turned the kids into critical thinkers” and arguing that “children have already been harmed” by his absence. Klaus closed by repeating her request to return the teacher: “We are asking that the rule the teacher broke not be considered more important than the kids the rule was designed to protect.”

A second parent, Tina Pappas, also spoke in support of the teacher. She asked all parents and students present on the teacher’s behalf to stand up. When they did, filling nearly a whole side of the public seating available in the boardroom, she noted that the teacher had “near-unanimous” support from the families of the students in his class. She claimed that “what should have been a simple personnel issue became a non-objective lockdown,” and asserted that this is a dedicated teacher, who teaches each student to “be a good person, and learn about the world.” In closing, Pappas also requested the teacher be taken off leave: “He needs to get back in the classroom. Personnel issues need to be worked out between administration, him, and the union rep.”

District Response to Logan Incident

A follow-up call by The Chronicle to Liz Margolis, spokesperson for the AAPS, provides some background on the incident in question. Margolis outlined the situation as follows: Late last month, a fifth-grade teacher left the building without informing the principal. He left his laptop and keys on the principal’s desk, spoke with another teacher, and then drove off in his car. That teacher went to the principal, and reported what had been said. The principal then called the district office, as well as the Ann Arbor Police Department liaison officer assigned to Logan. What the teacher said before leaving has not been made public, but based on his statement, the officer recommended a lockdown, which was enacted.

Margolis acknowledged that Logan had been following outdated lockdown policies that were “over-the-top,” but asserted that, though students had been frightened and unsettled by the procedures, they were not in danger at any time. She also added that the Logan principal and police liaison officer devoted three hours during last week’s regularly scheduled PTO meeting to review proper district lockdown procedures with parents. As of week’s end, the teacher in question remains on administrative leave, and a substitute has been placed in his classroom.

Challenge Regarding Anonymous Commentary

Trustee Susan Baskett thanked the community for participating in public commentary, and said she appreciated public comments.

However, she said, “what I cannot embrace are anonymous contacts.” Baskett then held up a letter that she had received from an anonymous source, saying that the letter contained “serious, incorrect allegations” but that she was unable to respond, as the letter was unsigned. Two other board members also received the correspondence.

Baskett issued a challenge to the writer, asking him or her to come forward and “allow us a way to communicate … on an adult level.”

Board Committee Reports, Mack Pool Task Force Update

The board maintains two standing committees, performance and planning.

Susan Baskett, chair of the performance committee, reported that at its recent meeting they had reviewed the entrance and exit procedures for Stone School and the Roberto Clemente Student Development Center. The committee is comfortable with the procedures, she said, and will release them to the public soon. The committee will also be scheduling meetings in March to look at redesigning the district’s alternative programs. The committee also discussed the role, anticipated needs of, and way to improve the district’s communications. The school messenger program was reviewed as a means of allowing the district to quickly disseminate information. Also, Baskett reported that the performance committee is planning additional discussions about charter schools.

Irene Patalan then gave a report as chair of the planning committee. At its Jan. 26 meeting, the committee was briefed on the electrician bid, which was shared as a first briefing at Wednesday’s board meeting. The committee also heard an update on the status of a possible license agreement involving Mack Pool. Patalan explained that the city has created a task force, including three AAPS representatives, to study possible ways to increase revenue and decrease operating costs of Mack Pool. The AAPS representatives on the task force are: Randy Trent, executive director of physical properties; Sara Aeschbach, director of AAPS Community Education and Recreation; and Naomi Zikmund-Fisher, principal of Ann Arbor Open School at Mack, where the pool is located.

The city and the AAPS have an agreement dating back to 1974 regarding the sharing of Mack Pool. Patalan explained how the task force is considering amending this agreement to allow the city a longer block of time during the day to rent out the pool. [See previous Chronicle coverage of the recommendations from the Mack Pool task force.]

School Messenger System

As part of his superintendent’s report, Todd Roberts introduced the School Messenger system, a new communications system being put in place throughout the district, which will allow all schools to send messages via voicemail, text message, or email at a fast rate. He said the system can make 3,000 phone calls in 3 minutes, and that it would improve the district’s ability to communicate during emergencies, as well as to advertise upcoming events and help with attendance at the secondary level. “We believe it will allow us to get information out much more quickly,” he said, adding that the system includes a survey feature, and is translatable into languages other than English. Roberts also suggested that the PTO and other organizations would be allowed access to the system, within certain guidelines.

Prompted by a request for clarification by Deb Mexicotte, Roberts explained the School Messenger system was funded by a federal Readiness and Emergency Management for Schools (REMS) grant. He added that AAPS was one of the only school districts in the state to receive REMS funding, and that the nearly $400,000 in funding over two grant cycles, allows AAPS “to do some things we would not otherwise be able to do.”

Budget Update

The information packet distributed as part of Wednesday’s meeting also contained a memorandum from superintendent Todd Roberts regarding proposed changes to the Michigan Public Schools Employees Retirement System (MPSERS), and how the changes could affect the district.

Retirees in MPSERS currently receive an annual pension equal to 1.5% times their years of service, times their final average annual pay. Gov. Jennifer Granholm is recommending a change to MPSERS that would increase the retirement multiplier to 1.6%. For example, if an AAPS teacher earning an average of $80,000 over the past few years, with 30 years of service to the district, chose to retire at the end of this school year, his or her annual pension payment would increase from $36,000 to $38,400. This additional cost per retiree would be paid by the district. Granholm’s plan also increases employee contributions to MPSERS by 3%.

Roberts’ memo explained that, in addition to the costs of the early-retirement incentive, the proposed increase in retirement costs for employees “may impact the ability to lower our salary and benefit costs locally because of the additional costs being added to employees by the state.” It also states that the change would likely result in a significant number of retirements for the system, which might cause significant staffing issues in spring and summer.

At this time, these are still proposals. Legislation would be required at the state level to enact Granholm’s recommendations.

First Briefing on General Bid for Electrical Work

As referenced earlier in the public commentary, AAPS outsources much of its electrical work. At Wednesday’s meeting, Randy Trent, the district’s executive director of physical properties, approached the board to request their annual approval of a blanket bid for 2,000 hours of electrical work. The Bid Review Proposal included in the board meeting packet states that pre-approval allows the physical properties department to act on electrical maintenance requirements in a timely way. This year, Trent recommended the district’s contract be granted to Wiltec Technologies, Inc.

Trent explained that an outside contractor is needed because “we don’t have the trained staff to do these things.” He said the department received several bids, and that the two lowest bidders did not have any low-voltage experience, so his recommendation went to the lowest qualified bidder, which was Wiltec.

Glenn Nelson asked whether the district has had any experience with Wiltec, or information on the quality of their work. Wiltec is an Ann Arbor company, Trent replied, with decades of experience with AAPS. He added that Wiltec was a successful bidder on the bond issue for digital and lighting controls, and that their work is of very high quality.

Susan Baskett asked for clarification on whether the RFP (request for proposals) specified the necessary experience, since the two lowest bids had been discounted. She also asked about the minority business classification of Wiltec. Trent explained that the degree of experience was revealed during reference checks, which was why those bids were disregarded. He also said that Wiltec did not meet the minority business threshold of 10% of its workers being minorities, but that it would only be providing one person to the district, so it was not relevant.

Additional Second Briefing Items and Consent Agenda Approved

Two items, in addition to the naming of facilities, had been presented at the Jan. 20 board meeting and were presented again at Wednesday’s meeting for final consideration of the board: 1) the contracting with Great Lakes Environmental Services (GLES) to manage parking at Pioneer High School during University of Michigan football games, and 2) the replacement of computers in the business lab at Huron High School.

Susan Baskett asked Randy Trent, executive director of physical properties, whether GLES hires people as employees or contractors, and Trent confirmed that GLES hired people as employees and paid their taxes. Both items were approved as items included in the consent agenda of Wednesday’s meeting. The consent agenda also included the acceptance of two gift offers, and a resolution to hold two additional executive sessions in February (one for collective bargaining negotiations, and one for evaluation of the superintendent). [.pdf file of Feb. 3 board agenda]

Awards and Accolades

The board’s Feb. 3 meeting included numerous award and accolades – from the naming of facilities to a celebration of an AAPS-University of Michigan partnership.

Westfield-Sleeman Track and Lillie Gym Names Approved

Two naming proposals were approved at their second briefing.

Superintendent Todd Roberts bestowed “with great honor” the co-naming of the Pioneer High School track to Don Sleeman, introducing the coach as “a man who, for many people, needs no introduction.”

Don Sleeman

Coach Don Sleeman

Sleeman was on hand to accept the award, thanked the superintendent and all of his student athletes. “The thing that’s really gratifying is the fact that so many of them have gone onto various professions,” Sleeman said. “Whatever they did, they did with outstanding effort … and became very good at it.”

Glenn Nelson thanked Sleeman for all he’d done for the district and “innumerable” students. “It’s wonderful to recognize such an outstanding person,” Nelson said, adding that it was great that someone like Sleeman would choose to spend a 42-year career with the district. Irene Patalan said she could tell by Sleeman’s remarks to the board that he was always encouraging students.

Because Sleeman was in attendance, Deb Mexicotte entertained voting on the proposal immediately, instead of during the consent agenda later in the meeting. The motion was made by Susan Baskett, who offered, “As the wife of one of his former track stars, I’d be honored to make the nomination.”  The motion passed unanimously.

Tappan Middle School gym teacher Rob Lillie was also celebrated, with the naming of the Tappan gym in his honor. Superintendent Todd Roberts spoke briefly on behalf of Lillie, saying the award wasn’t just about his service as a physical education teacher and coach, it was his impact on shaping the lives of kids, and their kids, over 40 years.

The board unanimously approved Lillie’s award as an item on the consent agenda later in the meeting. Since Lillie is out of town, it was agreed that he would be invited to be personally congratulated by the board upon his return in March or April.

Celebration of Excellence and Gold Star Awards

The board periodically recognizes AAPS staff members who have excelled in either innovation or customer service with the Celebration of Excellence award, or who have done a good job within the realm of their responsibilities with a Gold Star award. At this meeting, both honors were awarded.

Donnetta Brown, a secretary at Huron High School, received a Celebration of Excellence award. Brown was lauded as the “heart of Huron,” and honored for her quality of attention, patience, and flexibility. She was nominated by her co-worker, Sharon Brown (no relation), with the statement, “Ms. Brown has provided support to a peer who was suffering from a serious illness, treating her as if she was her own family. She has been a source of comfort and assistance that has gone above and beyond the ‘outstanding customer service’ category. She has truly earned distinction as a loving hero.” Deb Mexicotte echoed that sentiment as a Huron parent.

Brown accepted her award, saying, “I’d just like to say thank you. I love working in AAPS, and I’m just glad to be of service.”

Mexicotte then announced the following Gold Star awards, and offered her congratulations to Jeremy Eldred and Mike Hogue of the information technology department, and to Cindy Johengen, a teacher at Allen Elementary School.

Youth Senate Update

Three high school students representing the Youth Senate gave a report to the board. They thanked the trustees for their “hard work, dedication, and perseverance,” and hoped that the board felt sufficiently acknowledged by the community during school board recognition month, which was in January. They also thanked the DTE Energy Foundation for a recent leadership development grant awarded to the Youth Senate. Lastly, they reported on the accomplishments of the Achievement Solutions Team currently meeting at Huron High School. The AST is a peer support group that works to eliminate achievement disparities – the students said that early reports show no AST students failing any classes last semester.

Appreciation of University Musical Society-AAPS Partnership

Both superintendent Todd Roberts and trustee Glenn Nelson expressed gratitude during Wednesday’s meeting for the relationship between AAPS and the University Musical Society (UMS). During his superintendent’s report, Roberts thanked UMS for hosting the annual partnership luncheon and performance, featuring Ladysmith Black Mamabazo. He lauded UMS for the many benefits it offers to AAPS students, and said it was a relationship of which the district could be proud.

Nelson delineated these benefits during the “Items from the Board” portion of the meeting. He noted the recent performance about Abraham Lincoln, choreographed by Bill T. Jones, that AAPS students were privileged to see, and noted that “the public performance was great, but the public did not get to see Jones doing his work – our students did. … How many people get to see a MacArthur fellow doing his work?” Nelson thanked UMS president Ken Fisher, saying “There are times when I get that same excitement of a learning experience that was like my own school experience. It’s exciting to be learning like K-12 students in your mid-6os.”

Additional Accolades

Also during his superintendent’s report, Todd Roberts congratulated various students and school communities on their recent accomplishments, including:

  • Four Pioneer High School seniors who are candidates for a Presidential Scholar award.
  • Skyline High School’s production of “The Midnight Caller,” which qualified to compete in a regional fine arts festival, despite being produced completely by freshmen and sophomores.
  • Wines Elementary first family math night, attended by 188 people.
  • 4th, 5th, and 6th graders who placed highly in the Knowledge Master Open.
  • Many high ratings among musicians at all the high schools in the Solo and Ensemble Festival.
  • Many school communities who raised thousands of dollars for Haiti.
  • The fact that AAPS continues to need larger and larger venues for the National African-American Parent Involvement Day evening program, known as NAAPID at Night, and hosted by Skyline this year on Feb. 8, from 5:30-8:30 p.m.

Present: Deb Mexicotte, Irene Patalan, Glenn Nelson, Randy Friedman, Susan Baskett, Adam Hollier, Simone Lightfoot. Also present as a non-voting member: Todd Roberts, AAPS superintendent.

Next regular meeting: Feb. 24, 2010, 7 p.m., at the downtown Ann Arbor District Library 4th floor board room, 343 S. Fifth Ave. [confirm date]