AAPS Outsourcing: Implicit Nudge from State

Also, state budget uncertainties affect local budget proposals

Ann Arbor Public Schools Board of Education study session (Feb. 17, 2010): At their Wednesday session, board trustees reviewed privatization bids, heard updates on the AAPS and state budget proposals and discussed changes to the state retirement system.

Robert Allen AAPS

At the board's study session, Robert Allen, deputy superintendent for operations of AAPS, reported the effect of a state mandate to increase AAPS contributions to the state's public school retirement system – an additional $1 million budget shortfall.

That activity was punctuated with continual references to funding fluctuations at the state level. “There is incredible uncertainty,” stated board president Deb Mexicotte. “Ideas change daily, weekly, hourly.” Even though state-level gyrations may end up changing how the Ann Arbor Public Schools moves forward, she asserted, “We are faced with the facts on the ground, and we have to operate from that position.”

And one of those facts on the ground is a state mandate that has already been put in place. It increases by 2.47% the employer contribution rate to the Michigan Public School Employees Retirement System. The mandate adds momentum to the idea of privatization of certain services: If district employees can be replaced with workers who are employed by private contractors, the cost of MPSERS contributions would be saved.

At the study session, trustees also discussed community responses to the district’s budget surveys.

A study session is an opportunity for board members to receive information from AAPS administration, ask questions, and discuss issues in a less formal setting. The public is welcome to attend.

Although only three people spoke during the official public commentary time, a dozen people stayed to ask questions and offer comments throughout the meeting. A trend from the last two BOE regular meetings was continued at the study session – most of the public commentary addressed the negative aspects of privatizing transportation, and custodial/maintenance services.

State Budget Proposal

Todd Roberts, AAPS superintendent, reported on how Michigan Gov. Jennifer Granholm’s proposed state budget would affect AAPS, if it is accepted by the legislature. Her budget proposal can be read in its entirety on the state’s website.

Tax Changes Would Fund School Aid Budget

Roberts explained how the governor is proposing to stave off an additional per-pupil funding reduction of $255 by shoring up the School Aid Fund’s (SAF) deficit with additional tax revenue. Granholm has proposed broadening the state sales tax to include services, Roberts explained. The governor’s proposal includes lowering the overall rate from 6% to 5.5%, as well as phasing out the Michigan Business Tax (MBT) over three years.

Roberts said he would be pleased if per-pupil funding stayed at this year’s level, but pointed out that “the tax plan has received a cool reception during its first week in the legislature.” Trustee Susan Baskett clarified that the rate change would be reduced “to 5.5%” not “by 5.5%.”

Primer: Funding the MPSERS

At the study session, Roberts described proposed changes in the Michigan Public School Employees Retirement System (MPSERS). We consider first a bit of background on how the retirement system is funded.

MPSERS has been a “defined benefit” plan up until now – retirees are promised a steady monthly pension and health insurance. [It might change to a "defined contribution" plan for future employees, depending on pending legislation.] Employer contributions fund the bulk of the system. Interest accumulation and employee contributions round out the balance. Recently, due to market conditions, little interest has accumulated.

The number of employees in MPSERS is decreasing, in part because of an increased number of earlier retirements. Outsourcing in other districts in the state also reduces the number of MPSERS employees. Yet health care is getting more expensive. Because the system is “pay as you go,” and a smaller number of MPSERS members are now supporting a larger number of retirees’ pensions and health insurance, the employer contribution rate rises.

The amount that school districts contribute to MPSERS is determined as a percentage of their total salary costs. This percentage has been steadily increasing on average over the past decade, from 10.77% of gross salaries in 1998-99 to the current rate of 16.94% of gross salaries.

At Wednesday’s session, deputy superintendent for operations Robert Allen announced that the MPSERS employer contribution rate has just been increased by 2.47%, bringing it up to 19.41% of total salary costs for the upcoming year.

Also at Wednesday’s study session, trustee Glenn Nelson expressed concern that the mandated increase in employer contributions, along with the proposed 3% increase in employee contributions to MPSERS, would still not be adequate to finance the cost of a large number of retirees. Referencing some math he had just quickly done, Nelson declared, “These numbers should be checked, [but] this is a very expensive retirement incentive.”

Retirement Reform

Roberts described Granholm’s proposed changes to MPSERS as a “carrot and stick approach – mostly the stick.” Currently, annual lifelong pension payments are determined according to a three-part formula – multiplying a retiree’s final average compensation (FAC) by his/her years of service to public education, and then by 1.5%.

Key features of the planned reform were described as follows:

  • all employees retiring after Oct. 1 would lose subsidized dental and vision coverage
  • an employee’s FAC would be averaged over nine years instead of three
  • new employees could not retire until age 65 (currently, any employee can retire with 30 years of service to the district)
  • employees would need to contribute an additional 1.9-3% to MPSERS.

Roberts pointed out that this increase in employee contribution really has an impact on AAPS budget planning, because employees would be much less likely to agree to a wage decrease locally if they must contribute additional money to MPSERS per the state mandate.

The “carrot” part of the plan, according to Roberts, would be an increase in the retirement multiplier. For all employees who commit to retirement between April 15 and May 15, their retirement salary multiplier would increase by 0.1%, resulting in a 6.6% increase in lifelong pension payments. Originally, Roberts explained, the cost of this 0.1% increase was to have been borne by the districts, but it has now been decided instead that the extra cost burden would be covered by the state. Baskett asked if years of service would be capped at 30, and Roberts clarified that the cap would only apply to other state employees, not public school employees.

Roberts explained that the state projected a savings to school districts of $650 million if Granholm’s budget passes, but that the plan assumes that 75% of eligible employees will retire, and that not all of them will be replaced. Lightfoot asked how many employees would be eligible to retire this year, and Roberts answered, “I don’t know off the top of my head,” but did offer that 71 teachers had already submitted an “intent to retire.”

Roberts mentioned that Granholm’s plan also allows for retirees to return to work part-time for the three years after retiring. A community member questioned whether the part-time retirees would be district employees or contractors, and Roberts confirmed they would still be employees of the district, and still pay into the retirement system. Lightfoot asked if AAPS could re-hire district employees as contract employees, and Roberts answered that yes, that can and does often happen for administrative positions.

Timing of Legislation

Roberts pointed out that the state budget fluctuations have “created a lot of uncertainty.” He praised Granholm’s suggestion that the budget be set by July 1, and be written for two years, saying “it would be very helpful” if that occurred. But he joked that “hopefully it will be [set] before next December,” referencing the delay in the passage of this year’s state budget. Roberts also pointed out how the legislation approving Granholm’s budget would need to be signed into law very quickly in order to allow for employees to opt into the retirement incentive beginning April 15.

Revised Budget Projections

Todd Roberts presented a series of budget scenarios based on three variants of state funding: (i) no additional cuts to the foundation allowance, (ii) an additional $200 per pupil cut, and (iii) an additional $300 per pupil cut.

First, he pointed out two factors that have changed since the community budget forums – an adjustment in the student count number from 16,489 down to 16,440, which currently translates to a $476,427 loss of per-pupil funding. The second factor is the increase in employer retirement contribution rate described earlier in this article.

Robert Allen reiterated that the AAPS projected budget had allowed for a 1.5% increase in retirement contributions. However, he said that the new state-mandated increase of 2.47% will translate to an extra cost per public employee equal to 19.41% of employee’s salaries.  That means an additional $1 million in payments to MPSERS during the 2010-11 fiscal year.

That’s an additional million-dollar budget shortfall.

Roberts said the best case scenario would be if the state is able to keep the foundation allowance constant, as Granholm has proposed. If this happens, he said, AAPS would have a 2010-11 deficit of $14.7 million, lower than originally projected. In the worst case scenario, the state would proceed with the additional $300 per pupil foundation allowance cuts, resulting in a 2010-11 deficit of $19.67, which would be closer to original AAPS projections. In response to a community member’s question, Allen confirmed that the deficit numbers are cumulative from this year through 2010-11.

Glenn Nelson asked how the capital needs budget relates to the foundation allowance. Allen answered that, as of the 2nd quarter of 2009-10, capital needs allocations have been put back into the revenue and expenditures: “The capital needs budget is really a part of our operating budget.”

Roberts reiterated that the 4% salary and benefit reductions initially proposed by AAPS could be significantly affected by state level budget decisions, and that the board will need to plan for alternatives “since negotiations are not nailed down.” He reported that he will come to the board in March with a range of options outlined.

During her public commentary, Kathy Griswold requested that AAPS release its raw financial data and its check register “so the public can analyze it, and make informed decisions.”

Review of Privatization Bids: Transportation

Robert Allen, AAPS deputy superintendent of operations, reported on two bids received in response to a request for proposals (RFP) issued by the district to privatize transportation services. The RFP had asked companies to include the cost of regular routes, field trips, bus aids, and fleet maintenance in their proposals, in order to be comparable to the $6,053,298 that AAPS spends on those services. Allen said both companies offered savings to AAPS: a proposal from Durham would save $840,433, and a proposal from First Student would save $726,683.

Allen then reported that in addition to these two base bids, a number of “alternative bids” were submitted and are still being reviewed. The parameters of a base bid, Allen explained, are to “keep wages consistent, and match as closely as possible the benefits we currently have.” Alternative bids, on the other hand, offer additional savings, usually by offering lower wages or less robust benefits.

When questioned by trustee Simone Lightfoot, Allen confirmed that, per the RFP, the base bids do not include costs associated with management, mechanics, route supervisors, fuel, or additional costs related to special education needs. But the bids do give an “apples to apples” comparison with the district’s costs.

Lightfoot, along with BOE secretary Glenn Nelson, also asked about indirect costs. Lightfoot defined those as “costs that we did not put in the RFP that could come back to haunt us.” Allen responded that his best estimate was that transportation services cost the district around $200,000 indirectly – that included legal, finance, and human resource management costs.

Trustee Susan Baskett asked if the countywide consolidation plan was on schedule. [She was referring to a developing program being spearheaded by the Washtenaw Intermediate School District, which would increase efficiency and share transportation services across the 10 public school districts in Washtenaw County.] Todd Roberts, AAPS superintendent, answered that the final report of the committee reviewing that program is not due until the end of April, but that AAPS would know if that was a possibility by the end of March.

Public Comment on Transportation Bids

Kathy Griswold – a former BOE trustee and one of the founders of the non-partisan political action committee (PAC) Coalition for Responsible Schools for All Students – asked whether either of the transportation bid companies will provide retirement or health care. Allen replied that employees working for Durham or First Student would receive the same wages and comparable health benefits, but would no longer be “tied to” the state retirement system.

During earlier public commentary time, Griswold had argued that privatization is racially-biased and a distraction. She contended that there is no financial reason to outsource, and that it is not in the best interest of students, adding: “I believe it [privatization] is being championed by a board member who is not here tonight, and who for all intents and purposes, does not live in our district.”  [Griswold was alluding to trustee Randy Friedman.]

One community member asked where the bidders were from. Allen did not know, but thought that one might be from Illinois. He did confirm that neither of the companies is local.

Another public commentary speaker said he had worked for AAPS for 28.5 years, and asked if there was “anything in there to help people who are close” to the 30-year point – at which state employees can retire with a full, lifelong pension. Mexicotte responded that the BOE had discussed when certain employee groups will be vested, and that they would talk more about it.

A third speaker asked if the board expected a high number of transportation workers to be rehired, as was the case when AAPS fully privatized its food service to Chartwells in 2008. Allen confirmed that minimizing staff turnover is a goal, and explained that the key factor to getting staff to stay – according to other districts that have privatized – is maintaining the rate of pay.

The most contentious community voice came from a man who took issue with Allen’s assertion that wages and health care benefits would remain the same. Also using the district’s food service as an example, he asserted that food service workers are not in fact paid the same across the board. He contended that new hires are paid $9 per hour, and given health insurance with co-pays that cost $3,000 per year rather than $500 per year.

Allen allowed that while the food service workers were paid exactly the same wage at the time they transferred from AAPS to Chartwells, the district’s contract with an outsourced company does not extend to new hires: “They [Chartwells] are a company … they have a right to do that.” The public commentary speaker concluded with, “You should not be misinformed about what happened to the health care of these employees … Basically, at $9, they cannot afford the health care plan.” Mexicotte’s response was, “That’s often what happens with outsourcing … It’s not a perfect world.”

Review of Privatization Bids: Custodial

Randy Trent, AAPS executive director of physical properties, explained that AAPS was entertaining both separate and combined bids for custodial and maintenance services. He then introduced the six base bids received for custodial services.

Base bids – bids that keep wages and benefits comparable to those currently offered by AAPS – were received from Midwest, GCA, Fastemps, Aramark, GLES, and Omni. The spreadsheet presented to the BOE by Trent was broken out into the following categories for each contractor: lump sum, exception cost, adjusted lump sum, benefit cost, and lump sum less benefits. Trent explained the reasons for the breakdown. The lump sum is the final amount bid by each company. But some adjusting needs to be done, Trent said, to understand those bids in the context of how they compare to the current AAPS custodial costs, as well as to each other.

The bids of two of the companies – Fastemps and Aramark – do not include pay for substitute custodians if employees are absent, so the “exception cost” is how much it would cost to add the substitute costs to those companies’ bids. The other four bids do not have exception costs. Therefore, the best column to use to compare to the total amount AAPS spends on custodians, Trent explained, is the adjusted lump sum, which is the lump sum plus any exception costs. AAPS total custodial costs are $6,955,697, and the adjusted lump sums for custodial services ranged from $5,893,071 to $8,170,560.

Trent then focused on the “benefit cost” column – the amount each company would spend on benefits. The benefit costs submitted by the six companies range widely from $130,894 to $2,298,618 for the 140 positions bid out. In the interview process with each company, Trent explained, the district can negotiate the details of the benefit package offered to employees.

Trent explained that the best way to compare the companies to each other is to subtract the benefit costs they gave from the adjusted lump sums, since a new benefit package could be built during negotiations: “All of [the companies] are very flexible in putting together a benefit package that is acceptable to us.”

With the benefit costs subtracted, the bids look much more comparable to each other, with a “lump sum less benefits” range of $5,329,440 to $6,000,831. Trent stressed in order to compare this column to the AAPS custodial costs, one would have to add in the cost of benefits, which prompted a question from trustee Glenn Nelson: “Of the nearly $7 million district [custodial] costs, how much is our benefit cost?” Allen replied that he did not have the number off the top of his head. Nelson responded that the number should be easy to get.

Trustee Susan Baskett asked why another firm, Du-All, was not included on the spreadsheet. Trent responded that it did not offer a reasonable bid, saying “We want 100% of our workers to be able to transfer.” Lightfoot asked for clarification on the exception costs for some of the potential vendors: “We pay for subs? So, we’re technically responsible for their employees?” and Trent confirmed that yes, if they don’t show up, AAPS would have to pay for subs for Fasttemps and Aramark employees.

Trent then briefly introduced the 15 alternative bids for custodial services, describing them as reflecting “how much the market could bear.” He said that AAPS would be continuing to analyze them. He also pointed out that most of the alternative bids saved money through wage reduction strategies.

Public Comment on Custodial Bids

Darryl Wilson, president of the local custodial and maintenance workers union, mentioned that the current AAPS employees already have an established sub pool that pays $9.85 an hour with no benefits. Deb Mexicotte responded, “Your comment has been taken and acknowledged.”

Another community comment centered on the scope of work performed by current employees, saying that the typical area covered by a custodian has almost doubled since 1994, and that AAPS custodians are uniquely positioned to keep up with the workload: “If a machine breaks, we can fix it. You’re not going to see savings [from private companies] with areas twice as big.”

Review of Privatization Bids: Maintenance

After a missing Powerpoint slide was located by Amy Osinski, secretary to the board, Randy Trent continued with a review of the bids received for privatizing maintenance services. Trustee  Simone Lightfoot asked whether AAPS maintained responsibility for the maintenance and upkeep of related equipment, and Trent confirmed that it would.

AAPS received base maintenance bids from seven companies: Aramark, Fasttemps, Midwest, GCA, GLES, Omni, and Barton Malow. Three of them had exception costs for hiring substitutes. The adjusted lump sums range from $1,398,600 to $2,149,175, and can be compared to AAPS annual maintenance costs of $1,902,619. As with the custodial bids, Trent pointed out the wide range in benefits costs included in the proposals – from $23,375 to $410,468 for 25 maintenance positions. And when benefit costs are subtracted from the adjusted lump sums, the range of “wage and overhead” costs narrows from $1,227,400 to $1,859,175, making the bids more easily comparable to each other.

Trent also briefly introduced the 12 alternative bids, for which the adjusted lump sums ranged from $730,000 to $1,551,263. Almost all of the alternative bids include lower wages as the cost-savings measure. He stated that the alternative bids would be reviewed by AAPS administration in more detail.

Susan Baskett then asked Trent if he would like guidance from the board on whether to consider the wage reductions presented in the alternative bids, but before he could answer, board president Deb Mexicotte shut down the discussion, interjecting, “That’s something for closed session.”

Baskett then pointed out that two bidders, GLES and Barton Malow, are using unionized workers, and that it might be possible for employees to maintain their union if enough of them are rehired, or to join a new union already working under the chosen contractor. Superintendent Todd Roberts clarified for Baskett that the board would next discuss the bids on March 10 – the next regular BOE meeting. Baskett thanked the administration for “weeding stuff out and figuring out what’s left to do.”

Public Comment on Maintenance Bids

In response to two questions from community members present at the meeting, Mexicotte confirmed that the alternate bids were not comparable to AAPS costs in terms of wages and benefits.  She also confirmed that the scope of expected maintenance coverage was delineated in the RFP. Another question about the inclusion of significant others in the benefit packages led Mexicotte to reassert that the district is committed to maintaining comparable benefits for any employees who transfer to the contract company, if AAPS decides to privatize.

There was a question about the length of the potential contracts, if a bid is accepted. Trent, Mexicotte, and Allen each confirmed that it’s flexible – the base bid is set originally for three years, but can be canceled annually, and is reviewed by the board officially every five years.

Darryl Wilson, president of the local custodial and maintenance workers union, followed up their responses by asking, “And, how long would wage retention stay in place – for the duration of the contract? For three years?” Trent, Allen, Mexicotte, and Baskett all reassured Wilson that a company would not be able to lower salaries right away. Baskett offered, “Once you’re hired on, your salary is locked in for the length of the contract.”

Members of the public who were present expressed lack of trust in the good faith of the potential outsourcing companies: “With no union, they could make us go down to $6 an hour,” and “I’ve heard other districts dropped wages to $9 an hour.” Trent again tried to clarify, saying that companies have to honor the salary negotiated in the contract, and argued that in other districts, wages were low because they started out that way. He again reiterated that AAPS insisted that base bids include comparable wages and benefits.

Other members of the public against privatization included a plumber for the district, who shared a description of his work with the pools, and said, “On behalf of all of our best interests, I don’t see privatization being the answer.” He mentioned that in 1994, when outsourcing maintenance workers was considered, the union and administration worked together on a coordinated plan to save the jobs, but that this time it was different: “I don’t see any alternative plan on the table at this point, and it scares me. … We could try to tailor a plan out of the situation we’re in.”

During his public commentary time, Wilson said he was “here to review.” First, he asserted that data proves privatization is unsafe. He reminded the board that the company that hired a felon accused of sexually harassing a student still works for AAPS, and that two more contractors have been invited to the district since then with the same background check procedure.

Then Wilson addressed quality issues, saying that when he took time off to come speak to the board, there were three complaints about the subs covering for him while he was away. He reminded the board that a quality assurance committee was supposed to be set up two years ago, but that despite repeated attempts on his part, no one has approached him to set it up. Lastly, Wilson pointed out that privatization has failed in other places it’s been attempted, such as in Illinois, where a school district recently canceled its contact with a private company, and hired back its bus drivers.

Wilson closed with, “Ann Arbor’s always been a leader – why are we following?”

Community Responses to Budget Survey and Forums

Liz Margolis, district director of communications, and Jane Landefeld, director of student accounting and administrative support, presented the results of two community surveys conducted by AAPS . One was an online survey presented on the district website, and the second was a survey completed by community members who attended one or more of the budget forums held in January. The surveys were used to get community feedback on suggested budget reductions, as well as to collect additional input and new ideas.

Margolis began by cautioning that the surveys were “unscientific” because a single responder could have submitted multiple responses, or completed both surveys. Further, not all respondents commented in every are making the “total” number different for each category. The online Zoomerang surveys garnered 338 responses, and 519 surveys were completed at the budget forums.

Of the budget forum responses, 96% of them “supported” or “somewhat supported” the cost-saving and revenue-building options that had been presented at the forums. Margolis explained that all responses had been grouped into the following seven categories: instructional/academic programs, administration, facilities, extracurricular activities, transportation, new revenue, and other.

Instructional/Academic Programs Responses

Half the responses in this category revolved around curriculum and programming: 35% thought that teachers should make contract concessions, and should be held more accountable.

About 30% of responses focused on reorganizing schools, such as restructuring the school week. Margolis pointed out one example of a 50-50 split in responses, regarding 7th hour classes – half of the responses said to keep it, and half said to cut it.

Susan Baskett asked for clarification about which responses were being included in this presentation. Landefeld explained that she and Margolis were summarizing themes on which many people had commented, rather than listing comments present on only one or two surveys.

Administration Responses

Regarding administration, the largest chunk of comments were about the number of high school principals: 20% of responses included questions about why AAPS needs so many principals and 10% suggested reducing number, salaries, and/or benefits of all administrative employees. Margolis said that Student Intervention and Support Services (SISS) was mentioned often as a place to look for efficiency and savings.

Todd Roberts clarified for Glenn Nelson that SISS administrators are reimbursed by the state. Nelson then pointed out that the public needs to recognize that eliminating certain positions will not save AAPS money, due to reimbursement structures.

Facilities Responses

Fully half of the responses regarding facilities mentioned concerns with the number of schools currently being operated by AAPS, and suggested some closures, particularly Community High. Many suggestions were also made for ways to maximize schools’ energy efficiency. A greater percentage of forum participants were concerned with privatization than those who responded to the online survey.

Margolis told trustees that 31 of the forum surveys showed support for privatization of custodial and maintenance services. But Simone Lightfoot indicated that the number seemed high based on what they’d heard people say at the forums. Margolis responded that the reporting out heard at the forums was based on the group survey completed at each table, and that she was now offering summary data from the individual surveys completed. In response to the notion of closing Community High, Nelson commented that the board’s performance committee had discussed how people want the smaller, more comfortable environments often associated with charter schools.

Extracurricular Activities Responses

Margolis mentioned that a majority of responses support “pay to play” – that is, charging students a fee for participating in extracurricular activities, including but not limited to athletics. One-third of responses mentioned wanting to ensure the existence of scholarships for students who could not afford the fee. There were also many additional suggestions made to increase revenue, such as charging higher event fees, increasing fundraising, and seeking more corporate sponsorship.

Baskett clarified that “pay to play” really should be called “pay to participate,” since parents were not buying playing time for their kids. Deb Mexicotte pointed out the importance of delineating which programs should be considered “extracurricular,” giving the example that “music is actually academic.” Landefeld confirmed that the issue of distinguishing between academic and extracurricular came up in the surveys too, and that AAPS administration needs to make that clear. Margolis added, that “as a parent, we already pay.”

Transportation Responses

Around 40% of responses encouraged the use of the Ann Arbor Transportation Authority (AATA) to transport students. Discussions about that have already been initiated, according to district administration. Margolis reported that 25% of responses asked the district to increase the efficiency of bus service, 15% supported increasing walk zones, and 10% suggested charging fees for all busing outside of regular school hours.

Regarding privatization of transportation, the online survey results were fairly split. Of the 214 completed surveys that mentioned transportation in response to open-ended questions,  21/214 mentioned being in favor of privatization, and 17/214 mentioned opposing it. The forum survey responses were more opposed to privatization overall, but “not as black and white,” according to Margolis. Forum survey respondents cited concerns about liability, loss of role models, and ability to demonstrate cost savings. Landefeld said that overall, the comments on transportation services centered on being more efficient, and mentioned getting parents to commit to ridership as an example.

New Revenue Responses

Half of responses suggested charging for or increasing the fee for extracurricular events, school supplies, or textbook rental. About 40% suggested increasing the rental fee for school use outside of school hours, and also increasing the number and types of these rentals. Around 30% suggested working to increase “school of choice” students. Other suggestions made were to work for change at the state level, and use more parent volunteers.

Other Responses

The most common additional suggestion was to reduce salary and benefit costs, followed by re-examining high school programming options, and reducing or eliminating some schools.

Board Discussion on Community Responses to Surveys

Todd Roberts said that some of the community feedback reflected options that AAPS is already exploring. He also pointed out that the question of the number of schools would be part of a conversation conducted by the strategic planning committee, which is due to resume its work in April.

Glenn Nelson thanked the administration for pulling together the report, and said it would be very useful. He also mentioned that two of the suggested ideas that resonated with him were having an earlier start to the elementary school day to accommodate working parents, and to be in touch with Washtenaw Community College regarding setting up additional room rentals. Irene Patalan agreed that there were pieces of the report that “tap you on the shoulder.” She also pointed out the diversity of ideas presented, and that many of the responses conflicted directly with others.

Simone Lightfoot also thanked the AAPS administration for its work, saying “These online results were clearly different from what I saw at the town hall meetings.”

Susan Baskett asked Roberts to clarify for what activities AAPS can and cannot charge a fee. Roberts clarified that AAPS cannot charge for basic transportation to and from school, but that the district could charge for field trips. Similarly, Roberts explained, the district cannot charge for any supplies that students are required to have to do the work for a class.

A community member commented that she did not remember the online survey asking specifically about privatization, and Margolis allowed that it did not. However, she explained, at the forums, the community was asked to comment directly on the options presented, including privatization. Margolis also reiterated that the forum group survey and the forum individual survey were not the same, and agreed that the online and forum individual surveys did not line up exactly in their wording.

Final comments on the survey responses came from a community member concerned with what would happen to the children of district employees who currently attend AAPS if those employees are outsourced. He estimated that this situation would affect approximately 70 students. Some students are able to attend AAPS schools based a parent’s employed with the district, not residency in the district.

Deb Mexicotte answered first, saying that the question was interesting and that the board should take note. Roberts then began to answer, saying that there was nothing that would prohibit the board considering the issue, but before he could finish, Dave Comsa, assistant superintendent for human resources and legal services,  jumped up from his seat on the side of the room and asserted: “We [AAPS] should take a further look.” Baskett asked for clarification of board policy on the issue, and Roberts answered that currently in that situation, the student would leave with the departing staff member.

The meeting ended with Mexicotte thanking AAPS administration for the information it presented, and everyone who attended. She reminded community members that they were welcome to contact the board by e-mail with any follow-up information they wanted to share.

Present: President Deb Mexicotte, vice-president Irene Patalan, secretary Glenn Nelson, trustees Susan Baskett and Simone Lightfoot. Also present as a non-voting member was Todd Roberts, AAPS superintendent.

Absent: Treasurer Randy Friedman

Next meeting: The next public meeting of the BOE will be a study session on March 8, at which the board will interview the eight candidates who have applied to fill the board vacancy left by Adam Hollier, who resigned earlier this month. The interviews will begin at 5:30 p.m., and will take place in the main conference room of the Balas administration building, 2555 S. State St.

Next regular meeting:
March 10, 2010, 7 p.m., at the downtown Ann Arbor District Library, 4th floor board room, 343 S. Fifth Ave. [confirm date]

One Comment

  1. By Rici
    March 3, 2010 at 2:37 pm | permalink

    Huh – so if about 70 kids are lost to the district due to outsourcing, does that loss of per-pupil funding negate all the savings reflected in the bids? Good question! Based on the figures in paragraph 2 of “Revised Budget Projections”, it would be more than $500,000 (since that reflects a loss of 49 students).