AAPS Board Debates Search Process

Issue is board access to superintendent applicant names

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


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

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

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

Superintendent Search Update

The board heard a preliminary report from Ray and Associates, the search firm that is assisting with the superintendent search, about input they had received from the community into the development of a candidate profile for the superintendent position. The final report on community input will be brought to the board at a special regular meeting on Nov. 3, at which all aspects of the candidate profile will be finalized, including desired qualities, qualifications, and anticipated salary.

The board also continued a discussion on whether to allow board trustees to view the full set of candidate applications for the superintendent position. After over a hour of debate, during which trustees mostly cemented their original positions rather than moved toward any sort of consensus, they decided to ask the executive committee of the board – consisting of the president, and the two chairs of the standing committees – to craft a proposal on which they could vote at their next meeting.

Search Update: Community Input to the Candidate Profile

Board president Deb Mexicotte introduced Bill Newman, one of the consultants from Ray and Associates, the firm hired to help the board with the superintendent search.

Newman reported that Ray and Associates met with 11 constituent groups over three days, and that most of the turnouts were average to small. The Chronicle attended three of the sessions – one with 35 people, one with 12, and one with 4. Newman mentioned that the option to take an online survey about the candidate profile may have kept some people from attending a forum, even though the forums are structured to be more open-ended than the online survey.

The goal of the community forums, Newman explained, was to get a clear picture of the district’s needs so that the candidate profile used in recruiting for the position achieves the best possible match of candidate skills and experience to district needs. In general, he said, qualities that were desired in candidates were: decisiveness, strong communication skills, being a visionary, and being a risk-taker. Several groups thought it was important that the new superintendent have a terminal degree, such as a PhD or an EdD, though the board is currently thinking of asking for a terminal degree to be preferred but not required.

Looming issues in the district identified by multiple constituencies are the possible sense that the district might be coasting on its good reputation; budget concerns; uncertainty on the part of the teachers’ union that the innovative formula they recently bargained will be correctly acted upon; and closing the achievement gap.

Christine Stead and Glenn Nelson noted that they were pleased with the facilitation and organization shown by Ray and Associates at the forums they audited.

Search Update: Access to Candidate Applications – Round Three

Mexicotte asked Newman to stay at the podium to answer trustees’ questions on a matter they had discussed twice before without resolving – the issue of whether to allow trustees to have access to the full set of candidate applications for the superintendent position. Mexicotte reviewed how the board’s legal counsel had told the board that such trustee review would be allowable legally, and would not subject the applications to disclosure under the Freedom of Information Act, as long as the applications were technically kept in the possession of the search firm.

Mexicotte asserted that the board does not want to violate candidates’ privacy, and also wants to stick to a strong process that will produce excellent candidates. She noted that she is sympathetic to board members’ desire to see that the candidate profile criteria were properly applied to the search, but asked Newman to speak to her concerns that board members with access to the applications might “cherry pick” applicants to bring to the board’s attention rather than defer to the semi-final list produced by the firm.

Newman responded that just applying does not make someone a candidate. Many applicants might be discounted, he said, because they are not a good match for AAPS. If someone asks us why a certain candidate was not chosen as a semi-finalist, he said, we’d be able to tell them.

Al Johnson, another of the three lead consultants assigned to the AAPS search, noted that “cherry picking would cause a variation in the process,” as not all candidates are fully vetted until they have made it past the first steps of the process. Newman added, “We have a process that is tested and true … We believe in candidate care, and we protect [the board] – you can’t be accused of releasing anything you haven’t seen.”

Newman suggested that any vetting that individual trustees could do would be inferior to the investigations done by the firm. Johnson added that having board members do their own checking on candidates causes “us all to not be singing from the same hymnal.” He added that board members may call or e-mail a friend to research a candidate, but that the friend they call is not working from the candidate profile to assess whether the candidate would be a good match for AAPS.

Stead confirmed, “So there does not appear to be a compelling reason to have trustees have access to all the applications in your view?

Newman answered, “That’s a fair assessment,” but he acknowledged that it has happened in other searches his firm has done for other districts – at the insistence of those boards.

Stead asked whether a summary table of certain characteristics of applicants could be provided, and Johnson answered that it is standard to provide such a table.

Andy Thomas asked whether the standard process followed by Ray and Associates, which does not allow for board member viewing of all applications, is useful at preventing “misguided advocacies.” Newman responded that it does.

Nelson challenged the consultants to justify the stopping point of providing a list of semi-finalists. “If you know better than I who the 10 [semi-finalists] should be, what about the five, or the three, or the one? What’s the stopping rule?”

Newman responded the firm’s expertise brings the candidates, but the board’s expertise leads to the final selections. Johnson added, “We can’t achieve board consensus – only you can banter, debate, and agree.”

Nelson argued that having access to the full applications would allow him to validate the firm’s work. “My perception is that this community wants me to be on top of these processes … I want the community to be able to know that I and my fellow trustees were doing our due diligence, and could come out of [the search] saying that Ray did a top-notch job.”

Stead countered Nelson’s argument, saying that Ray’s success as a search firm has already been reinforced by the references AAPS sought when choosing them, which were overwhelmingly positive. She summarized that what she had heard from Ray at this meeting is that allowing trustees access to the applications introduces incremental risks to the process while not adding any value. “I would prefer us to go down a path that has the least amount of risk,” she argued. “I have heard arguments for why people would want access during other meetings that are fairly concerning to me.”

Thomas suggested that perhaps the decision about whether to allow viewing of the applications could be delayed until the application window closes at the end of January, but Newman explained that the decision needs to be made before the position is posted.

“We need to inform the candidates fairly soon as to how their candidacy and materials will be handled,” Newman stated, saying, “Some of them are fairly wary of who’s going to look at their files.” Thomas asked whether the board’s decision on this issue could affect a candidate’s decision about whether to apply, and Newman answered, “Yes, it can be a factor, and we don’t want to lose anybody.”

Nelson argued that the board should not “overreact” to differences of opinion, and that this particular aspect of the search is not as important as later discussions. By talking about the issue of access to applications for so long, he argued, “we are giving the public a sense that this is a really great big deal, when it’s not on the Top 100 list of what this board is going to deal with this fiscal year.”

Susan Baskett disagreed: “This is a big deal – this is our only employee … No disrespect to you gentlemen, but you are human. We have to live with this person … I think I have some expertise in knowing the community. I want the option to look.”

Irene Patalan weighed in, saying that she respects the process laid out by Ray, that the search firm excels in the screening process, and that she would like to take advantage of that. “We will have a lot of work to do – we will make this decision,” she said. “But, you can help us by vetting and giving us the best group.”

Thomas made a bid to head off further discussion by suggesting that the board’s executive committee draft a set of guidelines that would cover this issue.

Mexicotte asked if such a motion coming from the executive committee would be amenable to the board. She pointed out that although the board had just had a “great conversation,” that the effect had been to further polarize trustees, rather than for any one of them to shift from his or her original position on this issue. Mexicotte stated that, in addition to finalizing advertising, search criteria, timeline, and compensation package on Nov. 3, that meeting should also bring closure to this issue. “I believe that there is a motion in here that is a middle path,” she argued.

Stead questioned whether the executive committee, which is made up of Stead herself, Nelson, and Mexicotte, could effectively craft a motion they would all support. Patalan agreed, saying, “If the executive committee wants to do this, ok, but I’m feeling stronger than ever … like this comes to an all-or-nothing decision.”

Mexicotte pointed out that the all-or-nothing opinion was shared by other trustees. Baskett concurred: “This could make us stronger, or this could break us … I am open to hearing, but I don’t hear any arguments to make me change my mind.”

Thomas asked for clarification on the process. He noted that if the executive committee is unable to reach agreement, the next meeting is just about competing motions, and a lot seems to depend on who the president decides to recognize first.

Mexicotte suggested the board “cross that bridge when [they] come to it.” She pointed out that any successful all-or-nothing motion would need to be supported by at least four trustees, and currently that would mean at least one trustee will need to be persuaded by his or her colleagues.

Mexicotte wrapped up the discussion by thanking Ray and Associates for conducting the community forums, and Newman commended the board for requesting community input. “Not all boards do this,” he reiterated. “It’s a tribute to you to do this – this is better.”

Strategic Plan Update

Interim superintendent Robert Allen introduced a review of the district’s strategic plan, noting that Phase I of the plan took place in the 2008-09 and 2009-10 school years. Phase II, Allen said, is now beginning, and will entail a review of strategies and adjustments made by each of the action teams through this year. The strategic planning team then hopes to present the adjusted plan to the board in April 2011. Allen then introduced Liz Margolis, AAPS director of communications, and Lee Ann Dickinson-Kelley, AAPS interim deputy superintendent of instruction, to present the update. Board members clarified when they should give feedback on the presentation.

Margolis explained that the process used by the district was developed by Bill Cook of Cambridge Strategic Services. She noted that three current AAPS staff members attended an intensive, four-day training with Cook prior to embarking on the strategic planning process. In addition to Margolis, Dickinson-Kelley and Joan Fitzgibbon, who is the principal at Allen Elementary, have been trained in the process.

Dickinson-Kelley added that many other districts follow the same strategic planning process, so using the Cambridge method allows AAPS to compare itself to other districts.

Strategic Plan: Action Steps Taken

The strategic plan is broken down into eight strategies, around which action teams are organized.  Margolis and Dickinson-Kelley reviewed the action steps taken in the plan’s first two years. They include:

  • Implementing a world language program in the elementary schools;
  • Implementing an International Baccalaureate (IB) program, which will begin in 2011;
  • Holding a K-12 math summit to plan for how to ensure that all 8th graders take and are successful in Algebra I;
  • Creating the Achievement Team Process and database, and Choices 2.0 program to work toward developing personalized learning plans for each student;
  • Establishing the Equity and Collaborative Action Research in Equity (CARE) teams district-wide via the work with Pacific Education Group (PEG)
  • Creating the Rising Scholars program, and expanding the availability of alternate forms of gaining high school credits, such as e2020 credit recovery classes, the Options program, and Community Resource (CR) classes;
  • Establishing enrichment facilitators at the elementary and middle school levels;
  • Using Power School and School Messenger software to communicate more effectively  with parents;
  • Developing a three-year, comprehensive technology plan to ensure students connect to the world beyond the classroom;
  • Reviewing history texts for cultural relevance to all students;
  • Developing professional learning communities (PLCs) at the secondary level;
  • Committing to the Charlotte Danielson framework for teacher evaluations;
  • Using the “We Learn” survey to assess high school social climates;
  • Provide early release days for professional development at the middle and high school levels;
  • Training teachers in the “springboard program,” in order to increase the number of students prepared to take advanced placement and accelerated classes;
  • Working with the minority subcommittee of the teachers’ union to assist in recruiting quality minority candidates for open teaching positions;
  • Tying student growth to teacher evaluations;
  • Developing the Village Fund to ensure inclusion of all elementary students in school activities requiring additional fees;
  • Updating the district website;
  • Developing a new grantwriter/volunteer coordinator staff position;
  • Use of Zoomerang surveys to strengthen district-wide communication tools;
  • Performing a comprehensive facility assessment;
  • Creating a proposed fee schedule to allow for community use of AAPS building spaces;
  • Launching the Energy Awareness and Sustainability Education (EASE) initiative;
  • Creating a master building and grounds maintenance schedule;
  • Coordinating construction goals and spending of sinking fund dollars across schools;
  • Creating “exceptional” district branding program
  • Development of a new position to increase AAPS-business partnerships;
  • Working to renew and pass millages; and
  • Consolidating certain services with other county districts, and creating multiple-district programs.

The one area that was not successfully addressed during Phase I, according to Margolis and Dickinson-Kelley, was ensuring quality customer service for students, parents, and staff.

Strategic Plan: Board Response to Action Steps Taken

Susan Baskett suggested that the elementary world languages program be submitted for a Michigan Association of School Boards (MASB) award. Though the financial reward is nominal, she said, it would be a way to showcase the innovative program.

Christine Stead suggested that the Math Summit contain a review of math standards beyond the Michigan benchmarks, and Andy Thomas questioned whether the summit would review the district’s overall math curriculum. Dickinson-Kelley said the standards to be reviewed include the national Common Core Standards, which are aligned with international standards, but that there were no plans to re-evaluate the district’s math program at this time.

Multiple board members questioned the strategy to develop personalized learning plans (PLPs) for each student, suggesting that the district may not have sufficient time or resources to do that. Deb Mexicotte said she believes PLPs are possible, but that they may need to be redefined. Dickinson-Kelley suggested that the wording of the strategy may be amended during the adjustment process to reflect the resource of the achievement team database already in place.

Board members requested a status update on where the district is in relation to PEG’s expectations, and suggested that the district evaluate the services it is receiving from PEG.  Robert Allen responded that part of the internal assessment will include a survey of all stakeholders. Stead suggested measuring the number of staff participating in equity work, and argued that achievement among minority students should be considered the main outcome measure.

Mexicotte expressed some confusion about the purpose and function of PLCs. “I would like to understand the intentionality of this a little bit more,” she said. Dickinson-Kelley responded by saying that it’s an area that will benefit from the next phase of the district’s strategic plan, including refining its definition and application in the elementary schools as well as the middle and high schools.

Dickinson-Kelley noted that the “We Learn” survey would be expanded to middle school this year. To increase student engagement and foster a sense of belonging, she noted, the district will also be attempting to increase parent engagement in the high schools.

Thomas suggested that an important element of customer service which the district has not addressed is providing a formalized way for parents to give feedback to the district regarding the experiences their children are having with their teachers. Mexicotte asked whether language regarding parent feedback could be included in teacher evaluations.

Baskett asked for clarification on the goals of the business partnership office. Margolis responded that the idea is to create ongoing relationships with the business community, not just to seek their help when the district needs it. Dickinson-Kelley added that the assessment by the University of Michigan Ross School of Business will reveal “how well we are looking outside ourselves.”

Glenn Nelson stated that he was glad the process would continue to have strong community engagement, and praised the strategic planning team for maintaining an “audacious” vision in such a poor funding climate. He encouraged the central strategic planning team to keep two dimensions in mind – improving both excellence, but also access to excellence. Nelson requested that the strategic planning team try to have the process at a point where it could be shared with the community by the budget forums in April.

Mexicotte thanked the administration and concurred with Nelson that the strategic plan adjustments are one of a handful of very important pieces of work the district will do this year, including hiring a superintendent, setting the 2011-12 budget, and working to renew the special education millage in May.

Board Association Reports

At each meeting, the board invites reports from six associations: the Youth Senate, the Ann Arbor Parent Advisory Committee on Special Education (AAPAC), the Parent-Teacher-Organization Council (PTOC), the Black Parents Student Support Group (BPSSG), the Ann Arbor Administrators Association (AAAA), and the Ann Arbor Education Association (AAEA). At the Oct. 27 meeting, the board heard reports from the Youth Senate, the AAPAC and the PTOC.

Association Reports: Youth Senate

Nikila Lakshmanan, a junior senator from Community High School, gave the Youth Senate’s report at this meeting. She announced that Pioneer High students are generally supportive of the renovations recently completed there, especially the removal of the portable classrooms. Lakshmanan also noted that many students are concerned about back pain as a result of carrying heavy backpacks around throughout the school day, and between home and school. One solution the Senate proposed is that the board asks book publishers to provide textbooks for first and second semesters separately. Lakshmanan acknowledged that this proposed solution could be problematic at Skyline High, which follows a trimester schedule.

Association Reports: AAPAC

Kathy Grijalva reported for the Ann Arbor Parent Advisory Committee on Special Education. She reviewed the disability awareness workshops offered at 16 AAPS elementary schools. As a part of the workshops, students participate in a wheelchair obstacle course, wear glasses that give them impaired vision, and try tasks that simulate reading disabilities. Grijalva noted that the workshop’s goal is to teach respect for all people. The AAPS has recently purchased its own kit for the program, and it is stored at the Ann Arbor Center for Independent Living between sessions. Grijalva thanked the AAPS executive director of physical properties for arranging transport of the kit to sessions.

Grijalva announced that AAPAC is running a workshop on individualized education plans (IEPs) on Thurs., Nov. 18, 7 p.m. at the Washtenaw Intermediate School District (WISD) to review changes to IEP laws, and invited all parents to attend.

Association Reports: PTOC

Amy Pachera reported for the Parent-Teacher-Organization Council, and began by thanking the board and administration for contributing to the success of this year’s launch party on Oct. 18. She noted that the accessibility and support of the current board and administration are very much appreciated by the PTOC.

Pachera also stated that the PTO officer training was very successful, and that the PTOC will be scheduling future sessions for additional officers. She invited the public to the next PTOC meeting on Nov. 15 at 7 p.m. at the Balas administration building, and ended by reiterating the the PTOC is still looking for a recording secretary.

Board Committee Reports

The board maintains two standing committees. The planning committee reviews developing programs and new proposals for board consideration, and the performance committee reviews and evaluates ongoing programs and initiatives. The planning committee consists of: Christine Stead (chair), Susan Baskett, and Irene Patalan; the performance committee consists of: Glenn Nelson (chair), Simone Lightfoot, and Andy Thomas. Board president Deb Mexicotte does not sit on either committee.

Committee Reports: Planning Committee

Stead reported that her committee had reviewed the proposed new field house for Pioneer High, and believed the plans to be “very thoughtful, and really appropriate for what they are trying to accomplish.” She also noted that they reviewed the district’s survey of historically underutilized businesses (HUBs) in more detail, and that the next steps to encouraging application of more HUBs to AAPS projects is determining exactly which projects will be up for bid in the next three years.

The planning committee’s next meeting will be held on Nov. 4, at 10 a.m., at the Balas administration building. According to Stead, their agenda will include a review of the University of Michigan Ross School of Business study on behalf of AAPS last spring, as well as the initial discussion on a resolution regarding charter schools.

Stead also mentioned that the district might want to coalesce its thoughts on desired education legislation reform, and possibly engage with other districts in the county to work toward its enactment.

Committee Reports: Performance Committee

Nelson reported that the performance committee has not met since the last board meeting. Their next meeting will be held on Nov 16, at 9 a.m., at the Balas administration building. The agenda will contain a review of the annual financial report, and continuing discussion on changes to the district’s teacher evaluations.

Superintendent’s Report

Robert Allen reported that the nonprofit 826 Michigan has chosen to work with Roberto Clemente students this year on writing. A book of student writing will be published in the spring as part of the collaboration. He also noted that the city of Ann Arbor’s Natural Area Preservation program thanked students for their recent help in removing invasive species from Ann Arbor parks. Allen also honored various students and teachers for their recent successes, including Skyline’s receipt of an award for energy efficient building management.

Finally, Allen reported that the district’s staged crisis response event on Oct. 23 was a success, and a valuable training tool. He also thanked staff members who maintained calm and order during the school lockdowns on Oct. 21.

By order of local law enforcement, AAPS put a subset of schools on lockdown on both Oct. 21 and Oct. 28 due to bank robberies in the southeast Ann Arbor area. According to 2006 legislative changes to the Michigan School Safety Codes, a “lockdown” is a precaution “in which occupants are restricted to the interior of the building and the building secured, with security measures appropriate to an emergency such as a release of hazardous material or the presence of an armed individual on or near the premises.”

Trustee Andy Thomas also expressed appreciation for how district administration handled the Oct. 21 lockdown, noting especially the leadership of AAPS director of communications Liz Margolis in keeping parents informed. Though Thomas said any such situation causes a “certain amount of confusion and inconvenience,” he praised the district’s management, and coordination with Ann Arbor police.

2010/11 Grant Awards

AAPS director of finance, Nancy Hoover, and Linda Doernte, director of purchasing and business support services/grants, requested board approval of a set of grants totaling nearly $7 million.

Hoover explained that all but one of the grants were renewals. The new grant, in the amount of $101,706, was received from the Ann Arbor PTO Thrift Shop to start a transportation fund.

Doernte pointed out that there was a slight net decrease in the overall grant funding for 2010-11. In response to a question about the decrease, Doernte explained that the Title I and Title II grants are formula-funded, and because there were slightly fewer students last year than the year before, the grants were reduced. She noted that the student count has increased this year, and that next year’s Titles I and II grants should therefore slightly increase.

Christine Stead suggested that looking at increasing revenue-enhancing opportunities, such as grants, should be part of district’s strategic plan, as it moves into Phase II. Robert Allen added that the district has just funded a grantwriter position, which was one of the plan’s strategies.

Glenn Nelson noted that this was the first time Hoover had reported to the board since Allen assumed the interim superintendent position, and thanked Hoover for her “leadership and capacity … to keep everything in very good stead while you are taking on even greater responsibilities.” Allen had been the deputy superintendent of operations, who oversees finance among other departments. As Allen serves the district in the interim superintendent role, his deputy superintendent position remains vacant. Nelson noted that part of the reason AAPS did not “fill in behind Allen … is because of the capacity in [its] finance department.”

Outcome: The proposal to accept these grant awards was a first briefing item, and will return for second briefing and a vote at the next regular board meeting.

PTO Thrift Shop Honored

Robert Allen introduced a representative from the PTO Thrift Shop, a nonprofit store that earns money to support enrichment and extra-curricular activities at participating AAPS schools. The shop was presented with a plaque to recognize their recent donation of $101,706 to the district to start a transportation fund. The fund will be used to offset field trip transportation costs. The shop also contributed $100,000 to the AAPS Education Foundation’s “One Million Reasons” campaign last spring.

Glenn Nelson thanked the shop for supporting the schools, and noted that its gifts were significant as leverage to make AAPS attractive to other donors. He also noted that support for field trips can be very essential to families. Deb Mexicotte also thanked them for their contributions.

Irene Patalan offered “a great, big thank you” and reminisced about her own children earning money for their school trips by working at the shop. Andy Thomas pointed out that it’s no longer possible for individual students to earn money there for class trips, and that student work at the shop now earns pooled funds for classes or schools. He noted that it’s incredibly valuable for PTOs to have these resources available, since there are vast differences among the abilities of various schools to raise money from their memberships.

Review of Summer School Programming

Lee Ann Dickinson-Kelley, the district’s interim deputy superintendent of instruction, introduced a series of presentations on AAPS summer programming. In a memo to the board, she noted that over 1,400 students were served over the summer months. At the meeting, she pointed out that there are some smaller pieces of summer programming that would not be reported at the meeting, but that the eight reports to be presented cover the eight main pieces.

Following her introduction, the board heard reports from staff of the following summer programs: Preschool Summer Program, Summer Learning Institute (SLI) Elementary Program, Student Intervention and Support Services Extended School Year (ESY) Program, Haisley Title I Summer Learning Program, Mitchell Title I Summer Learning Program, Scarlett Title III (Second Language Learners) Summer Program, Middle School/High School Enrichment and Credit Recovery Program, and Clemente Summer Learning Program.

Summer School Programming: Preschool

Michele Pogliano reported on the preschool summer program, which serves children from birth to age five. The focus for special education students in the program is to maintain targeted skills from their Individualized Education Plans (IEPs); the focus for general education students is to work on achieving outcomes in areas where students had struggled during the school year. Pogliano mentioned that student achievement data is collected three times over the summer, and that the first kindergarten grades are also assessed.

Busing was a big change this year, Pogliano noted, but the program maintained 94% attendance even though they went down from eight buses to just one. There were many musical performances throughout the summer, and weekly or daily singalongs.

In the future, Pogliano said she’d like to see more parent involvement, such as parent training and parent groups running concurrently with the school day.

Summer School Programming: Summer Learning Institute (SLI)

Matt Hilton and Natasha York presented on the Summer Learning Institute (SLI), which serves eligible first and third grade students. Eligibility was determined using teacher referral based on March 2010 report card outcomes. SLI is the largest of the summer programs at the elementary level, serving 257 students.

Hilton reviewed the program’s daily schedule, which ran four hours a day for four weeks, and included one math and one literacy session daily. The focus of the program was to prevent summer regression for students below grade level in reading or math.

Growth was demonstrated for students in both grades, Hilton reported. He noted that the program had high parent involvement, made use of instructional technology such as System 44, and Read 180 (both literacy software), and maintained high student attendance.

Hilton argued that SLI is a “very special place” and that parents had expressed extreme appreciation of the program’s ability to leave their children feeling optimistic about starting the next regular school year as a result of having been in the SLI. York added that the SLI is also a successful partnership with the University of Michigan, which sends student teachers to the program. The benefit to the student teachers is exposure to different forms of instruction.

Next year, Hilton described how he would like to create a podcast of the program’s orientation, and would consider creating a dual language classroom to better meet the needs of second language learners.

Susan Baskett asked for clarification on the different language used to assess progress for first and third graders. Hilton explained that for the first graders, a simple pre-test/post-test analysis was done to measure student growth. Third graders were assessed to determine whether they were at beginning, developing, or secure levels of the targeted math and literacy outcomes.

Summer School Programming: Extended School Year (ESY)

The Extended School Year (ESY) program is a federally mandated support program for students with disabilities. Bill Harris, AAPS assistant director of student intervention and support services, reported that over 80% of ESY students are in self-contained classrooms during the regular school year.

The ESY program is a five-week program that runs four half-days per week. It was housed in Wines elementary, and served 145 students, most of them at the elementary level.

Harris commended the ESY staff, saying they had “wonderful skill sets and hearts of gold.” He noted that staff were able to complete over 20 hours of their annual professional development requirement via offerings during the summer.

The focus of the ESY program, Harris stated, is maintaining skills according to each student’s IEP. Social behavior and functional goals are as important to maintain as academic goals, and are addressed through direct instruction, he said. Harris also praised the ESY’s talented art, music, and PE teachers. The program this year also included swimming and many enrichment activities.

Harris explained that students with disabilities participate in other summer programs beyond ESY as well, including SLI, and the secondary summer school program. Special education students are also provided with social work and other support to facilitate their participation in Ann Arbor Recreation and Education summer camps.

In the future, Harris noted he would like to expand serving ESY students within the SLI program, and increase the level of co-teaching at the secondary level. Co-teaching is when a general education and special education instructors teach classes together to provide extra support for special education students who are mainstreamed into general education classes.

Summer School Programming: Haisley Title I

Title I is a federal program that provides supplemental funding to schools with a high proportion of students from low-income households. In response to questions from board members, Dickinson-Kelley explained that schools who receive Title I funding can choose to use part of their funding for summer programming, but cannot duplicate any district-wide programs.

In AAPS, all elementary students performing below grade level in grades 1 and 3 were offered spots in the district-wide SLI. So the ten elementary schools with Title I funding could choose to offer complementary summer programming to students in grades 2, 4, and 5.

In some cases, schools reserve some of their Title I money for summer programming, but in other cases, schools may end up with a surplus of Title I money at the end of the school year.

Title I summer programs cannot be opened to students from non-Title I schools, but if two or more Title I schools have a small amount of funding leftover, they can join together and pool resources. Any Title I funding left at the end of the fiscal year is lost.

Dickinson-Kelley pointed out that there were many permutations of the application of Title I funding this past summer. Pittsfield Elementary held a correspondence summer school. Dicken Elementary held a two-week intensive program. The Mitchell program served Allen and Carpenter and Pittsfield as well.

Haisley ran a small summer program for just 22 of its students. Most of the students who participated had IEPs, and were at least two grade levels behind their peers in math or literacy.

Charles Davis reported that due to the small number of students being served, the Haisley Title I summer program was able to provide individualized instruction. As measured by pre-tests and post-tests, he said, 100% of students increased their level of math and literacy. In particular, all third and fourth graders went up at least one reading level.

Davis said that the format of the Haisley program was modeled after the SLI’s schedule, but also included a daily walk. The program made use of available district technology such as FastMath, Readabouts, and Read 180. Attendance was consistent, with over 90% of students attending daily. Davis noted that having the regular Haisley office staff work with the summer program helped with consistency and attendance.

The fact that all students were from Haisley, Davis said, allowed for the program to make effective use of limited time, because everyone already knew each other. He also touted the lack of stigma surrounding the program. “We turned it around to make it exposure to what was coming – kids felt smarter since they got a preview of what was coming in the next grade,” he stated.

Though parents were seen each day, Davis said, next year’s program would ideally have greater parent involvement. Davis also acknowledged the effect of a “transportation glitch,” on achieving a larger number of students served by the program, and hopes to resolve that for next year. He noted that future summer programming might include a service learning project.

Summer School Programming: Mitchell Title I

Mitchell principal Kathy Scarnecchia noted that this year was the first time Title I funding had been pooled from schools that feed into Scarlett.

Bernard Bell reported on the shared program, describing its structure as similar to that of the SLI. One difference is that Mitchell program students were fed breakfast and lunch. The program also used Read 180 and FastMath.

Bell noted that the Mitchell garden was special part of program. At least twice a week students aided in taking care of the garden or harvesting food, which was then used in their lunch. The Ann Arbor District Library came in for two assemblies.

Collectively, Bell argued, program was successful, but any one metric is hard to track – due to the movement of many students in and out of the program throughout its duration. During the summer, he noted, a large number of Mitchell students stay in different residences.

Though informal parent relationships were established, which have carried into the fall, the program’s parent coffee was only attended by 50% of parents. Bell suggested that the program hold a parent open house next year which could be more available for working parents.

Summer School Programming: Scarlett Title III (Second Language Learners)

Gerald Vasquez, Scarlett principal, presented on the Title III summer program for Second Language Learners at his school. Title III is a federal program that provides extra funding to help students with limited English proficiency. The goal is for them to master English so they can then achieve the same high standards of content-area learning as native English-speaking students. The predominant first language spoken by students in the Scarlett Title III program was Spanish, Vasquez told the board, with Chinese and Arabic also well-represented.

The Scarlett Title III program served 37 Scarlett students, and a “handful” from Tappan, Vasquez said. It was taught by 4.5 teachers, and had a structure notably different from a regular school day. Vasquez described the program as “highly relational,” with students arriving at 8 a.m. for breakfast and conversation. The program was a great opportunity, he said, for English Language Learners (ELLs) to feel a sense of belonging to and ownership of their school. Teachers could see students in a different light, and students had more of a chance to be themselves in a smaller group. Vasquez said he was pleased to see the ELL’s newfound confidence persist through the fall, which he had not anticipated.

All students in the Scarlett Title III program were pre-assessed in the four core subject areas, and 90% saw an increase in post-test scores. The program also used Read 180 and FastMath.

On Fridays, Vasquez said, the program took students on culminating trips using public transportation, and public resources such as the AADL, Michigan 826, and the UM Exhibit Museum of Natural History. Vasquez touted the low expense, as the program costs were almost entirely limited to the cost of riding the Ann Arbor Transportation Authority (AATA) buses.

The program’s focus was to enrich academic experiences, and reduce summer loss. Because students usually speak their native languages at home, the program was a valuable opportunity to participate in another month of English-language instruction. Vasquez predicted it will result in academic gains this school year. A survey of participants revealed that 90% of them said the program was a positive experience, and many would want to do it again.

Summer School Programming: Secondary Enrichment and Credit Recovery

Marcus Edmondson and Kevin Hudson reported on the district’s summer programming for secondary students. The program had a morning and afternoon session – students could attend a half-credit by attending one sessionor the other. They noted that AATA does not ordinally run to Skyline, but restructured its routes to support the summer program being held there.

The middle school portion of the program served 120 students and focused on pre-teaching math and literacy skills to 7th and 8th graders. All participating students made academic gains.

The high school program had four divisions: (1) traditional high school courses, (2) pre-teaching algebra and biology to incoming 9th graders, (3) a credit recovery program, (4) and online courses. Over half of the 468 students served by the high school program had IEPs, and support for ESY students was provided through Read 180.

Edmondson and Hudson noted that the e2020 credit recovery program was very successful, with all students completing their courses and receiving credit.

While Skyline was a safe and secure building, which allowed the middle school and high school classes to be held on different floors, Edmondson argued that a more centralized location would be a better fit for the program in the future. He noted that more bus routes run near Pioneer, which would allow for better program access and increased equity.

He also suggested that parents could be given more information, and that the program’s registration process might be improved if it started one week later. The program has usually started before teachers have turned in all student grades at the end of the school year.

Summer School Programming: Clemente

Ben Edmondson and Barbara Malcolm reported on the summer program at Roberto Clemente. Edmondson noted that 95% of its students are African-American, and that 35% of them are special education students. The program is considered an extension of Clemente’s regular school year, and runs for half-days, four days a week for seven weeks instead of four or five like the other programs.

Edmondson noted that roughly 75% of Clemente’s students participate, and that students who were new to Clemente this fall were mandated to attend. The criteria for students to attend were outlined to students during the last school year, and include students who have low grade point averages (GPAs), have more than 15 absences throughout the school year, or are behind in any aspect of credits.

Subjects were taught by the same teachers as during the regular school year, and the program focused solely on reading and math. Edmondson noted that e2020 credit recovery was available, but that most Clemente students learn better in face-to-face classes.

Although the program required three buses, costs were cut in other ways. Malcolm added that the program provided breakfast, lunch, and snacks with funding from the county. Parent involvement was required, and was 100%. The program also made use of grandparent or elder mentors.

Baskett asked why Clemente’s program ran longer than others. Edmondson answered that students need to be in school every day, and said that sometimes his students disappear over the summer. He said he tells students, “If you’re in school, bad things will not happen to you.” Edmonson argued that he would have made the program even longer if he could.

Nelson commented that Clemente’s summer program sounded somewhat punitive compared to other programs which were portrayed more positively. Nelson also questioned the exclusion of any enrichment activities in the program.

Edmondson acknowledged Nelson’s perception as correct, and said that Clemente reflected the real world, where actions have consequences. “We want our kids to graduate with their peers on time,” Edmondson argued. “If we let them slip by, they will not graduate … If they don’t graduate, where are they going to go?”

Regarding enrichment, Edmondson and Malcolm spoke about the change in the summer program since Edmondson took over as principal. Before Edmondson took over, Malcom said, the summer program included a weekly field trip. Yes, she said, students got to go places they had not been able to go before, but now, she said, students can tell you what their GPA is.

Edmondson added, “When you know your students, you know what they need.” He said his decision to cut enrichment activities out of the summer program to focus solely on academics was based on student needs.

Summer School Programming: Board Response

Dickinson-Kelley thanked the board for its support of summer programming. Multiple board members noted that they appreciated the consistent format which organized each of the program’s presentations, and the concise review of so many unique programs. A few board members also noted that they appreciated the program staff’s focus on being cost-effective.

Stead commended the focus on student achievement and elements of personalized learning included in the programs. She noted that she’d love to see the programs evaluated for effectiveness so that resources can be assigned to aspects of the programming that are most helpful. She also asked if the programs are constrained by capacity, and suggested that the district should plan to increase student enrollment in summer programs if possible.

Nelson noted that since the summer school budget straddles two fiscal years, the board’s planning and performance both need to be aware of the program’s future needs so that proper funding can be assured. He also asked how absenteeism during the regular school year affects student achievement, and suggested that he might lead the performance committee to look into that.

Thomas said the summer school presentation whet his appetite for hearing more about the new lab school initiative between AAPS and UM. He suggested that the year-round schooling coordinated by the lab school would de-stigmatize summer programming, and is “based on the well-supported premise that students benefit from more continuous learning.”

Dickinson-Kelley asserted that school leaders would love to talk about how to improve attendance. She also noted that an update on the lab school’s development would be coming to the board in December.

Patalan reiterated the importance of supporting parents as well as students. “Support for parents helps them for the rest of their lives,” she argued. She also suggested that “it’s important to breathe outside the classroom walls,” and noted her appreciation for the outdoor time, and field trips mentioned as part of some programs. Lastly, she stated that she liked that program staff shared possible improvements that could be made to their programs in the future. “I can give you my suggestions,” she said, “but I’m not living and breathing it.”

Mexicotte expressed some concern that the special education ESY program focused on maintenance rather than improvement over the summer months. The maintenance model, she argued, “needs to be shown the door when we think about our values in this district.” She suggested lengthening the ESY program to seven weeks.

Dickinson-Kelley validated Mexicotte’s concerns, and suggested that the summer programming has been moving in the direction of more co-teaching.

Mexicotte also suggested that a thorough evaluation of summer programming would be appropriate, as the district begins to include a measurement of “student growth” in its evaluation of teachers.

Consent Agenda

A brief consent agenda consisting of gift offers and minutes approvals was approved.

Items from the Board

Andy Thomas noted that it was rewarding to see 28 teachers recently receive grants from the AAPS Education Foundation.

Christine Stead noted an innovative fundraiser at Wines Elementary called the runathon, which incorporates health and exercise in a fun way for kids and their families, and complimented Amy Pachera for its creation.

Glenn Nelson reported that the AAPS education foundation had a nice harvest dinner celebration full of people from the community who came out to support public education. He also praised the Neutral Zone as a partner with AAPS “to give students good experiences, and … make the community better.”

Irene Patalan announced that she had met a federal Head Start evaluator who had just come from the AAPS preschool, and was universally excited about the program.

Susan Baskett, who sits on the local Healthy Schools committee, reported on the great work happening at Scarlett and Stone schools regarding school-based health clinics. The clinics, she said, provide eye testing, and mobile dentistry. They also partner with Lenscrafters to get vouchers for contacts and glasses. Scarlett has a walking club, helmet use program, and asthma prevention program, she said, while Stone is providing workshops on depression, and a youth smoke-out. Baskett pointed out that the use of school-based clinics leads to higher attendance.

She also thanked the Rising Scholars program for the work they do in the district, and reminded everyone about the local NAACP Annual Freedom Fund dinner on Nov. 6.

Deb Mexicotte noted that there will a reception to recognize the AAPS Education Foundation donors at 6:30 p.m. before the board meeting on Nov. 17.

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

Next special regular meeting: Nov 3., 2010, 5:30 p.m., at the Balas Administration building, 2555 S. State St.

One Comment

  1. By Christine Stead
    November 3, 2010 at 4:43 pm | permalink

    This is excellent coverage of the meeting. Jen Coffman continues to serve as an asset to the community in creating the information that one could legitimately use to be current on Board discussions.

    I appreciate that some might struggle with the length of the content. In actuality, it is fairly condensed, given that these meetings are often 4 – 5 hours long (this one was >5 hours).

    Nicely done.