AAPS Budget Nears Final Approval

New retirement incentives add uncertainty

Ann Arbor Public Schools Board of Education meeting (May 26, 2010): Though no one took the opportunity to speak during the public budget hearing, the board formally considered the proposed 2010-11 school budget and accompanying millage rates, with final approval expected at a meeting in June.

AAPS board member Christine Stead at the May 26 board meeting. (Photo by the writer.)

Concerns about state school aid funding emerged throughout the budget discussion, as well as during the rest of the meeting.

In its business for the evening, superintendent Todd Roberts sought input from the board on granting 32 retirement extensions. Four sinking fund projects were approved as part of an extensive consent agenda. A new textbook was suggested for AP biology.

And multiple awards were presented to both AAPS staff and students.

2010-11 Budget and Millage Renewal

Robert Allen, deputy superintendent of operations for AAPS, presented a summarized version of the 1/2-inch thick, line-item budget available for public review at the board office. He described it as very similar to what had been presented in draft form to the board in March, with only slight adjustments based on board input and shifts in accounting regarding American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) funds.

In a review of the March presentation, Allen discussed how AAPS is funded, stressing how frustrating it is to work with such uncertainty in the state budget. “Our next fiscal year begins July 1,” he said, “and today, May 26th, we still don’t have funding set for this year that’s almost over.”

The budget as reviewed on Wednesday included both Part 1, which reduces staff by 82.2 FTEs, and Part 2, which reduces it by an 42 additional FTEs. Together, the two parts of the proposed budget will save the district over $20 million.

Allen noted that Part 2 will only come into play if AAPS is unable to get specific concessions from the teacher’s union, or if the anticipated foundation allowance from the state changes. He held the state specifically accountable for the budget cuts, pointing out the “simple math” that expenditures continue to rise at 5-6% per year, while school funding from the state has grown only 1.3% per year on average since 1994.

2011-11 Budget: Public Commentary

There was one public comment on the budget, which came during general comment time, not during the public hearing on the budget. Priya Menon, a Skyline High School student, expressed concern about the possibility of inconsistent counseling being offered to Skyline students if the pink-slipped counselors there are not called back. She argued that getting all new counselors next year would put this year’s sophomores at a disadvantage when applying for colleges, because the new counselors would not know the students well enough to aid them in finding their “best fit” colleges. Menon asked the board to take that into consideration.

Questions and discussion among board members on the budget centered on two themes – the three-year budget projections that were part of Allen’s report, and budgeting as part of the strategic planning process.

2011-11 Budget: Three-Year Budget Projections

The proposed budget as presented by Allen contained a slide enumerating the three-year projected budget for AAPS. The most notable line was the rapidly diminishing fund equity balance, closing at $20 million in 2010-11, $9 million in 2011-12, and showing a deficit of $4.8 million in 2012-13. Allen noted that these numbers are “very rough.”

Andy Thomas acknowledged that though the numbers were only an estimate, they were “very disturbing.” Saying that in a year, the board would be back in this same room, looking at another $12-15 million budget deficit, he argued, “… we have to look out farther than a year.” Allen concurred, quoting teachers’ union president Brit Satchwell: “You can’t cut your way out of a structural deficit.”

Christine Stead noted that a recent report highlighted the potential for the U.S. to experience a “double dip” recession, which would impact Michigan. Noting that the board could have even bigger challenges ahead, with fund equity becoming  even more important, Stead concluded, “We need to plan for the worst.” She also mentioned that Michigan spends more on prisons than on education. Spending 50% less on education since 1994 cannot ensure sustainability, she said. She suggested that education funding in Michigan needs to shift from supporting manufacturing to supporting a wider knowledge base.

2011-11 Budget: Part of Strategic Planning Process

The board engaged in a somewhat spirited discussion about the ideal timing of the district’s strategic planning process. Trustees Thomas and Susan Baskett were in favor of reconvening the strategic planning teams as soon as possible, but Stead, Irene Patalan, and Glenn Nelson argued that it should not start until fall.

Superintendent Todd Roberts began the discussion by saying the strategic planning process would be reconvened in late August or early September, when “people are back and ready to be engaged.” Baskett suggested that some planning teams start earlier, noting that not everyone goes away for the summer. Thomas added, “How are we going to handle the 2011-12 deficit? … I don’t see how you can separate the strategic plan from the budget plan.”

Baskett also pointed out that the fall is a very busy time for families with school starting, and then soon after that it’s the holiday season. She noted that she thought the strategic planning teams were supposed to reconvene in May, so she was a little surprised by the delay. She agreed with Thomas that the strategic plan and budget plan cannot be “divorced” from each other.

In addition to noting that “July is not a good month in all of our experience,” Roberts based his objection to starting sooner in the practical concerns regarding the extensive workload he and his administrators face this summer regarding staffing. “We have so much to do in June,” he said, “that I don’t think we have the resources to have an effective process.”

Thomas pressed on: “I recognize that this will be a stressful summer. I’m just suggesting that the more of a head start we have, the better.” Roberts eventually assented, saying he would look into the feasibility of starting in July, but that it might not be possible.

Stead mentioned that strategic planning was what led her to join the board, and said she believed there were important reasons to defer to Roberts’ judgment about the available level of staff leadership and engagement. With the large amount of change occurring, Stead argued, she would prefer the administration devote its full attention to staffing over the summer. In addition, she said, by fall, not only will staffing be set, but there will be fewer unknowns coming from the state.

Patalan concurred with Stead, saying, “The community expects the administration to do a good job getting the school year up and running.” Nelson added that he also respected Roberts’ judgment, and that opening the schools in the fall successfully was important to setting the tone for the year.

2011-11 Budget: Public Hearing

Before opening the floor to public comments, a few board members made closing comments on the budget. Patalan commended Roberts and Allen for the work they did on the budget, and noted that the AAPS student count has remained relatively consistent compared to the rest of Michigan.

Thomas also complimented Roberts and Allen, but noted that the budget did contain some “aggressive assumptions,” such as anticipating filling all the School of Choice slots for next year. He suggested maintaining fund equity as high as possible to deal with possible unmet enrollment targets.

Deb Mexicotte and Nelson commented on elements of the budget beyond AAPS control. Mexicotte called the mandated increases in retirement contributions – 3% more by employees, and 2.47% more by employers – costs that were “passed along to districts and state employees.” Nelson mentioned that the state is actively considering moving the community college budget into the K-12 school aid budget. He called this strategy “taking from the right hand and giving to the left.” He urged the public to contact their legislators to tell them not to move other expenses into the school aid fund.

Mexicotte then asked Amy Osinski, the board secretary, to open the public hearing, and she did. But no one from the community was there to speak. After closing the hearing, Mexicotte added that public input was welcome in any other format, and that a public hearing, even if it is required by law, is not always the best venue for the community to offer its voice.

2011-11 Budget: Millage Renewal

There are four active millages currently being levied on AAPS school district residents. Each year, the millage rates are set based on taxable value of homesteads, as well as truth-in-budgeting legislation. They need to be approved by the AAPS board before they can be submitted to the Washtenaw County Board of Commissioners. Allen requested that the board approve the following 2010 tax millages for AAPS: Homestead, 4.5344 mills; Non-Homestead, 18 mills; Debt Service (from the Bond projects), 2.1226 mills; and Sinking Fund, 0.5 mills.

There were no questions from the board on the millage renewal.

The 2010-11 budget, as well as the millage renewal, were first briefing items, and will come back to the board for a vote at a regular meeting in June.

State Retirement Reform and Extensions

During the budget report, Robert Allen noted that the state retirement reform signed into law May 19 could still have a significant impact on the 2010-11 budget if numerous employees choose to sign up before the June 11 incentive deadline. Employees of the Michigan Public Schools Employees Retirement System (MPSERS) who are eligible and choose to retire before June 11 will receive a significant increase in their monthly pension due to an increase in part of the formula from 1.5% to 1.6%. Another major element of the legislation raises non-retiring employees’ contributions to MPSERS by 3%.

Superintendent Todd Roberts explained in an information item to the board that AAPS has been given 32 extensions by the state, which the district can grant if it chooses to do so. These extensions would allow an employee to commit to retiring, but be able to work for one additional year before doing so. Having received no guidance from the state about how these extensions should be granted, Roberts said, he had requested information from neighboring districts.

The exact process for how the extensions would be selected is still being developed, Roberts said, but the district has decided to allow extensions only for positions which would be difficult to fill if left open at the end of this year. The other restriction will be that no extensions will be granted for positions for which current employees have been given lay-off notices.

Roberts asked if the board had any concerns about moving forward with that plan, since the district would need to get a memo out to employees soon regarding the process. It is being suggested, he said, that teachers would need to express an interest in the extension by June 4, with the district selecting who will be granted a retirement extension by June 7, so that employees would be able to file retirement paperwork by June 11. Roberts noted that the suggested timeline would allow employees to know whether or not they would be granted an extension before they commit to retiring.

Lastly, Roberts noted that knowing these retirements are coming ahead of time would be helpful with next year’s planning and the 2011-12 budgeting process.

Many board members gave statements in support of the AAPS plan regarding the extensions. Irene Patalan called the extensions “our insurance policy,” and appreciated being able to slow the transition of too many employees retiring at once. Glenn Nelson reiterated his concerns about the fiscal year 2012 budget, saying he supports the philosophy of preserving any possible flexibility one year from now. Christine Stead called the plan very fiscally responsible and Simone Lightfoot concurred.

Andy Thomas approved of the fairly restricted use of the retirement extension option, and said that he did not want to give extensions out as a “perk.” Deb Mexicotte confirmed for Roberts that the board seemed to offer “general assent in the direction you’re heading.”

Roberts confirmed that the language in the memo makes clear that the offer is contingent on the restrictions he outlined above.

Lightfoot asked how the retirement legislation has affected the number of retirement applicants in the district, and if this will cause any changes in the number of teachers laid off. Roberts answered that the number of retirements is slowly rising, and that the board will have a good idea by the end of next week how many there will be. He noted that these retirements may help reduce the number of layoffs necessary, but added that not all of the retirees will be teachers, and that if AAPS has many principals retire, it could be problematic to fill those positions quickly.

Thurston Paving Project and Other Second Briefing Items

During public commentary, Kathy Griswold argued that proper process was not followed in terms of including public input in planning for the upgrades to the Thurston Elementary School parking lot. She mentioned how a similar driveway set-up proposed to the community near King Elementary was rejected, and asked why a driveway plan that’s not good enough for King school was good enough for Thurston.

As part of a second briefing on proposed facilities projects, trustee Susan Baskett asked Randy Trent, the district’s executive director of physical properties, how he would address the concerns brought by Griswold during public commentary. Trent reported that a certified traffic engineer had approved the design, and asserted that the design had been reviewed with the public at least four times. Baskett confirmed again, “So, these [designs] were reviewed and supported by the Thurston community?” Trent answered, “Yes.”

Christine Stead added that when the planning committee was briefed on the paving projects, Thurston’s public involvement came across as an asset. Irene Patalan concurred, saying she appreciated how Trent always includes the local community in the projects he leads. Trent added that having a certified traffic engineer approve the plans protects the district, and that he hopes to continue working with each community.

None of the other second briefing items were discussed by the board at this meeting. They included three facilities improvements, in addition to the paving project, to be funded from the 2010 sinking fund: roof replacements, ADA site improvements, and an energy conservation program. Additional second briefing items included: the third quarter financial report, the WISD budget, and updates to board policy, all of which were presented at the last regular board meeting on May 12.

Consent Agenda Approved

In the only vote of the night, trustees approved a lengthy consent agenda. It contained all the second briefing items mentioned above, as well as gift offers, and approvals of minutes. The consent agenda was moved by Stead, and seconded by Patalan.

Outcome: The consent agenda was unanimously approved by trustees Nelson, Mexicotte, Lightfoot, Patalan, Stead, Baskett, and Thomas.

New AP Biology Textbook Sought

Joyce Hunter, administrator for middle and high school education, presented a proposal to purchase new textbooks for high school advanced placement (AP) biology classes, a college course taught in 12th grade. Citing the rationale that the College Board requires textbooks not to be more than eight years old, and noting that the books currently used will be eight years old next year, Hunter recommended purchasing 175 books (and accompanying teacher materials) at a total cost of $23,094. This will be enough, she said, to cover a third AP biology class when materials are redistributed to Skyline High School as 12th grade is added there.

Hunter also explained the process used to select a new textbook, including review and rating of books under consideration by a committee of teachers. In response to a question from Glenn Nelson regarding the necessity of updating materials, Hunter introduced Dolores Kingston, a zoologist who teaches AP biology at Pioneer.

Nelson had asked for comment on whether AAPS would have wanted to purchase a new book for this class soon anyway, even if it was not required by the College Board. Kingston responded, “It’s absolutely necessary that we keep up.” She cited recent advances in molecular biology as having a big impact on that section of the revised book, and noted that, “When the AP Board makes its test, it makes it on current data.” Saying he felt reassured, Nelson said he felt good about spending money on the textbooks.

Christine Stead supported the new book, mentioning that she holds a degree in cellular and molecular biology from the University of Michigan, and can attest to how quickly knowledge changes in that field.

Irene Patalan noted that the recommended textbook is a 2008 edition, and asked when the 2009 edition was expected to come out. Susan Baskett also questioned whether AAPS is required to use a textbook, as opposed to web sites and other resources. Kingston responded that the 2009 edition will not be out until the middle of next school year at the earliest. On a blog she follows written by AP biology teachers, she reported that some of them have tried teaching without textbooks and it has not gone well. Kingston pointed to the stellar illustrations as a large asset of the recommended textbook.

Deb Mexicotte requested that Hunter have a copy of the textbook available for public review at the Balas administration building, 2555 S. State St., if requested. The board will vote on  approving the new AP biology textbook in June.

Transportation: Public Commentary

The district is still in negotiations with the AAPS transportation workers’ union, as well as in discussion with the Washtenaw Intermediate School District (WISD) regarding possible countywide consolidation of transportation services. Two bus drivers spoke out against the WISD consolidation plan during the meeting’s public commentary.

Richard Miller pointed out that consolidation is only possible because workers’ salaries decrease while their health insurance costs increase. He noted that if AAPS joins the WISD plan, workers would be fired and could reapply without regard to seniority. Calling the WISD plan “illogical,” and “a clumsy and doomed design,” Miller concluded: “What a mess we have in store.”

Chai Montgomery echoed Miller’s concerns and argued that consolidation works a lot like privatization, and that drivers and aides have not been included in the consolidation planning. He noted that the drastic reduction in wages, hours, and overall jobs could result in high turnover and unsafe driving. Montgomery also pointed out that it’s not clear if WISD could outsource if they “won the bid.”

He requested that if the board does choose to go through with consolidation, that it be done as a transfer of workers, not a re-hire, and that seniority and accumulated sick time be preserved. Lastly, Montgomery pointed out that if workers are fired and rehired, the recently passed changes to the state retirement system would cause them to be reclassified into a different, and lesser, retirement plan.

Kathy Griswold also addressed the board regarding transportation issues from the perspective of the Transportation Safety Committee (TSC), on which she serves. The TSC is made up of representatives from AAPS, the city of Ann Arbor, nearby townships, and the Washtenaw County Road Commission. In addition to raising questions about the Thurston paving project, discussed above, Griswold advocated for moving the crosswalk in front of King Elementary School from its mid-block location to a four-way stop. She noted that there was broad support for the move from the King community. She posed two specific requests to the board: 1) that the board and superintendent send a letter to the city of Ann Arbor requesting the crosswalk be moved, and 2) that a comprehensive, outside analysis be done of the districts’ school walk zones.

Association Reports

For the first time this calendar year, the board received a report from the Black Parents Student Support Group (BPSSG). It also heard from the Youth Senate, the Ann Arbor Parent Advisory Committee on Special Education (AAPAC), and the Ann Arbor Education Association (AAEA). The Parent-Teacher-Organization Council (PTOC), and the Ann Arbor Administrators Association (AAAA) did not report at this meeting.

BPSSG Report

Chairperson Sylvia Nesmith reported to the board on the activities of the Black Parents’ Student Support Group (BPSSG). After a brief review of the group’s activities from earlier in the year, Nesmith commented on the recent issues at Dicken Elementary leading to the disbanding of its African-American Lunch Bunch program. She said the BPSSG appreciated the supportive statements that came from the board and the administration, but that everyone needs to take the dignity of children into account when discussing the situation. Nesmith registered BPSSG’s concern at the quality of African-American curricular enhancements, and noted that local Black history was not included in the Ann Arbor local history curriculum used in the district.

Nesmith reported that the BPSSG is also concerned that the cost-sharing of athletic fees (part of the 2010-11 budget proposal) will lead to “elistist” athletics. She told the board that some parents were struggling, even though they do not qualify for free and reduced lunch. Nesmith cited the transportation requirement, which requires families to transport students to and from athletic events instead of using district transportation, as a hardship for many parents.

Lastly, Nesmith said that the problem resolution and group dynamics pieces of the middle school planning centers, as they were originally intended, were very important. The planning centers are set to be cut completely out of next year’s budget, but Nesmith suggested phasing out the centers while instituting the positive behavior support approach. The BPSSG, she said, would be submitting some suggestions on the planning center phase-out, as well as the reconfiguration of the program at Dicken and similar student support groups. Nesmith closed by thanking Susan Baskett and Todd Roberts for their support.

Youth Senate Report

Nikila Lakshmanan gave the district update from the Youth Senate, which ended its year of work on May 16. The Senate thanked everyone who supported its recent walkathon and picnic to raise money for its Fight Poverty in Africa initiative. Following Lakshmanan’s report, two senior youth senators made statements to the board.

Abraham Liddell spoke with gratitude of the Achievement Solutions Team (AST), a project of the Youth Senate sponsored by the Youth Empowerment Project. Saying he could rely on them whenever there was a need, Liddell later became a peer coach for the AST. Though he comes from a family with only a handful of college graduates, Liddell said, he will attend the University of Michigan in the fall.

Keo Robin credited the senate’s opportunities and support with getting him through high school, thanking two teachers in particular – Millicent Fisher, who taught him in third grade, and Susan Washabaugh, who taught his AP chemistry class. However he said, the system isn’t perfect, and argued that, “We do not necessarily lack the academic support resources needed for widespread student success in this district; but rather, we need to work on the methods of implementation we use to make these resources available.” Robin suggested that the board look at research from other schools on closing the achievement gap, as well as seeking solutions through the Youth Senate’s “Leap the Gap” research and pilot of ASTs.

AAPAC Report

Kathy Grijalva reported for the Ann Arbor Parent Advisory Committee on Special Education. She spoke of the services that were offered to her special needs son, including a positive experience with the bus drivers who transported her son for learning in a self-contained classroom. She expressed concern about the consolidation of some self-contained special needs classrooms, but recognized the benefits to the district of moving forward with such plans.

Lastly, Grijalva expressed regret at the retirement of Larry Simpson, administrator for student intervention and support services, noting that there have been five administrators of special education in 13 years, with Larry Simpson’s four-year tenure being the longest. She credited Simpson with establishing the elementary community classrooms, and the core behavior support team, as well as developing the Teaching and Learning Camp for Extended School Year services, a summer program for special needs students. Grijalva thanked Simpson for taking to heart and genuinely championing the interests of students receiving special education services and wished him the best in his retirement.

One public commenter also spoke about inclusion of special needs students. Joanne Darr, of the Washtenaw Association for Community Advocacy, addressed the board about inclusion. She told the board she has a hard time understanding why inclusion of special education students in regular classrooms is not more prevalent in the district. She pointed out that often, at mediations or Individualized Education Plan (IEP) meetings regarding the placement of special education students, inclusion is often not suggested, and placing students in self-contained classrooms seems to be preferred.

Darr asked her son, Alex, a special needs student in the district, to speak to the board about what he had learned during his school’s “Reality Day.” Alex spoke briefly about the duties of law enforcement officials when performing body searches, and Darr used his comments to illustrate how much more she feels her son is getting out of his education by being mainstreamed instead of taught separately in a self-contained classroom. She closed by saying that she hopes the board looks more thoroughly into “universal design.”

Ann Arbor Education Association Report

Brit Satchwell, president of the teachers’ union, began his report by characterizing anything the district does in terms of budget cuts as nothing more than “coping mechanisms.” He reviewed the speakers who had attended the Michigan Education Association rally earlier that week, and thanked the district for allowing the AAEA to hold the meeting at the Skyline High stadium, as well as Skyline’s administration for its support. Satchwell urged all members of the AAPS community to continue to find “common cause,” and rallied, “If we don’t look to the source of the problem and try to solve it, shame on us.”

Satchwell also encouraged everyone “to have a landslide victory of the millage vote in your own house,” by donating to the AAPS Education Foundation whatever amount they would have been levied had last fall’s millage passed. “You don’t have to take that ‘no’ for an answer,” he challenged. “You have your own ‘yes’ in your pocket – in your wallet.”

Lastly, Satchwell noted that the teaching staff will step up to shoulder the burden, but maintained his goal of rescinding all 191 lay-off notices. Satchwell encouraged everyone to hold out hope, as the teachers’ union and AAPS bargaining teams continue to work out a contract.

Awards and Accolades

The board devotes time at each meeting to reflect on positive accomplishments in the district, and honor those people who go above and beyond their calls of duty.

Pioneer Omega Yearbook Award

The Pioneer High School yearbook, entitled the Omega, won a National Gallery of Excellence award from the Walsworth Publishing Company. Walsworth’s Michigan representative, Nora Guiney, was on hand to present the award to yearbook staff, and described the Omega as representative of the best yearbooks in the country.

Susan Baskett expressed pride that the publishing company recognized the students’ work. “As a former editor-in-chief of the Omega,” she said, “the lessons I learned … are still with me.” Todd Roberts recalled his four years as yearbook advisor while an English teacher in North Carolina, noting, “We never won any awards.” Then, he leaned over and said something to Deb Mexicotte, who reported, “Dr. Roberts just told me that being superintendent is not as hard as being yearbook advisor.”

Glenn Nelson added that he knew right where his yearbook was on his shelf, and commended the Omega staff: “What you are creating … really is something very lasting and meaningful.”

Envision Michigan Scholarships

State Rep. Rebekah Warren presented three students each with a $500 scholarship from her Envision Michigan fund. Warren spoke to the board and public, saying she has maintained her commitment to the strong public education system since taking office in 2006. Students who received awards were: David Shapiro and Sarah Juster from Pioneer Community, and Ramona Mladin from Huron. In the fall, Shapiro will attend UM, Juster will attend Yale, and Mladin will attend Wayne State University.

Celebration of Excellence Awards

The last two Celebration of Excellence awards of the school year were given at this meeting – the first to Sandra Maconochie, a music teacher at Tappan, and the second to Pat Butler, a custodian at Northside.

Andy Thomas presented Maconochie with her award, noting that she started one of the first middle school jazz bands in the district, among many accomplishments during her more than 26 years with the district. Thomas read comments from a parent who touted her child’s experience in Maconochie’s jazz band as “the highlight of [his] school experience.” A former student said that playing in Maconochie’s programs “absolutely laid the foundation for my future as a professional musician.”

Maconochie came to the podium, and accepted the award on behalf of not only herself, but also shared it with AAPS students, families, district music staff, and Tappan music staff. Saying she was grateful for the opportunity to have worked with students and shared her love of music with them, Maconochie said, “I have had the best gig in town!”

After Machonochie received her award, Martine Perreault, co-chair of the PTOC, announced that a scholarship fund had been established in her name through the AAPS Educational Foundation. All are welcome to contribute.

Then, Pat Butler was presented with her award, read by Irene Patalan. Patalan noted that Northside staff commended Butler for having “one of the best work ethics of anyone we know.” She was honored for her positive attitude, cheerfulness, and friendliness. A Northside teacher said of Butler’s work, “She treats it as if it’s a personal mission, and … I don’t think I have ever seen her without a smile.”

Butler spoke briefly after accepting her award, making a “shout out to the 500 wing, and the pretty lady – she rocks!”

Superintendent’s Report

Among many notable accomplishments, Todd Roberts thanked all retirees for their years of service to the district. He also noted many scholarships and individual awards received by AAPS students this year, including the receipt of Kiwanis scholarship money by Stone School for the first time. In addition, he said, 21 Stone students received scholarships to attend Washtenaw Community College. Roberts congratulated the Pioneer Regatta winners, and the Pioneer concert band and director for winning awards.

Clague Orchestra Special Presentation

A subset of the strings orchestra of Clague Middle School performed two pieces at the start of the meeting, under the direction of Abby Alwin. Board members were very supportive and thanked the students for their hard work and stellar performance.

Items from the Board

Christine Stead acknowledged having attended the May 24 MEA-sponsored rally for education funding, and noted that it was good to see the common awareness of the need for securing stable school funding from the state.

Andy Thomas invited everyone to attend the naming ceremony for the Tappan gym for Rob Lillie, to be held on Sunday, June 6 from 2-4 p.m.

Glenn Nelson reflected on attending the Neutral Zone’s Breakin’ Curfew, the Pioneer Grammy concert, and the district’s retirement dinner. He also reiterated that there is still time to attend the district art shows at the Work and Slusser galleries, and commented positively on the scholarships and mentoring Stone School students received from the Rotary Club. Stone School, Nelson said, “literally changes the lives of students.”

Simone Lightfoot invited the public to the follow-up to the College and Career Ready Review, which was held recently at Mitchell Elementary.

Susan Baskett noted that the Senior and Academic Recognition at Roberto Clemente Student Development Center was powerful, and thanked Joyce Hunter for maintaining the homebuilding program. She also expressed thanks on behalf of the grandmothers of Jasmine Thomas, a Pioneer student who died on May 19, for the support they received from the AAPS community at her memorial service on Tuesday. And, lastly, Baskett congratulated this year’s graduates and urged them to celebrate safely.

Irene Patalan commented also on the Pioneer Grammy award ceremony, saying it was just wonderful. Also regarding the rally at Skyline High School earlier in the week, she agreed that “putting vision on securing funding is absolutely worthwhile.” Patalan also expressed satisfaction at having filled the vacant board seat: “It’s nice to be sitting here with seven people on the board.”

Finally, Deb Mexicotte offered her general comments. First, she remarked that it was a honor to be invited to Scarlett Middle School’s Portfolio Day, in which professionals from the community connect with students on a personal level by conducting mock interviews with them for jobs in their respective fields. Mexicotte also thanked Rebekah Warren for coming to the meeting earlier, and commended her support for AAPS students, and for education in general.

Mexicotte continued, noting that though the state has just decided to award $65 per pupil back to the district, it’s only one-sixth of the $398 per pupil that was cut this year. As much as she wants to be happy about the slight funding increase, Mexicotte said, with a $297 cut to per-pupil funding anticipated next year, all representatives need to support education. She noted that, “It is an election year, and politics does play a role into how these funding decisions are made.”

Committee Reports and Agenda Planning

Neither the performance nor the planning committees had reports for this meeting. In planning future board agendas, Deb Mexicotte pointed out that superintendent Todd Roberts will be evaluated in June, and that Irene Patalan and Amy Osinski will be setting up that evaluation. She also repeated her request that board members turn in their summer schedules to the board secretary as soon as possible so that the board retreat can be scheduled, possibly for sometime in July.

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

Next Regular Meeting: Friday, June 4, 2010, 5 p.m., at the Balas Administration Building, 2555 S. State St. [confirm date]


  1. June 2, 2010 at 1:31 am | permalink

    I think that Sarah Juster and David Shapiro are both Community High School graduates. (At least, they were on stage at the CHS graduation tonight.)

  2. By Jennifer Coffman
    June 2, 2010 at 7:27 am | permalink

    Thank you– you’re right. We will make the correction.

  3. June 2, 2010 at 10:14 pm | permalink

    My response to the following statements in this article:

    “During public commentary, Kathy Griswold argued that proper process was not followed in terms of including public input in planning for the upgrades to the Thurston Elementary School parking lot. She mentioned how a similar driveway set-up proposed to the community near King Elementary was rejected, and asked why a driveway plan that’s not good enough for King school was good enough for Thurston.”

    “[Randy] Trent asserted that the design had been reviewed with the public at least four times. [Trustee Susan] Baskett confirmed again, “So, these [designs] were reviewed and supported by the Thurston community?” Trent answered, “Yes.”

    Randy Trent is correct in saying that he engaged the Thurston parents; in fact the process is much improved under his leadership. Also, after parents vigorously protested a similar two-loop concept for the King School driveway in 2008, he worked with members of the transportation safety committee (TSC) on a planning procedure to avoid such problems in the future. However, the district did not follow this procedure with regards to other public input, including the transportation safety committee (TSC) and concerns on record with the district.

    For example, the King parents, including many who are professionals in engineering and urban planning, recorded over twenty-five concerns with the two-loop concept during the forum held at King School in the spring of 2008. As a result, the district delayed the project for one year and abandoned the two-loop concept.

    “Those who do not remember the past are condemned to repeat it.”
    George Santayana

    Now we have the same two-loop concept scheduled for Thurston School this summer. It maximizes vehicular throughput, but at the expense of pedestrian safety. Per one urban planner at the U of M, the design is based on an airport drop-off zone, but is not appropriate for elementary students.

    If the district had followed its own procedure for public input, then the Thurston community would have had the benefit of past information and the opportunity to design a safer driveway for its students.