Forum for Six AAPS Board Candidates

League of Women Voters event to be broadcast Oct. 3

The Ann Arbor area League of Women Voters (LWV) will hold a candidate forum on Monday, Oct. 3 from 7-8 p.m. at the Community Television Network studio, 2805 South Industrial Highway, Ann Arbor. The public is invited to attend but not to participate. The forum will also be broadcast live on CTN’s CitiTV Channel 19.

Two seats on the Ann Arbor Public Schools board of education are up for election on the Nov. 8, 2011 ballot, each for four-year terms. The seats are currently held by Simone Lightfoot and Andy Thomas, who are both seeking re-election. Challenging the incumbents are: Albert Howard, Ahmar Iqbal, Patrick Leonard, and Larry Murphy.

All candidates are either alums of AAPS or have children currently enrolled in the system. Advanced degrees are held by Iqbal (MPP from Harvard University), Murphy (MBA from the University of Michigan) and Thomas (MBA from the University of Michigan.)

The six have a range of occupational backgrounds. Howard is senior pastor at Ann Arbor Different Church. Iqbal is CEO at Maize & Green Capital Partners, an energy financing consultancy. Leonard is a marketing research analyst with Joyce Julius and Associates. Lightfoot is a regional urban initiatives consultant with the National Wildlife Federation, and is climate change and sustainability manager for the NAACP. Murphy is the owner of Precision Controls Co., an automotive supplier. Thomas is a retired health care administrator.

Incumbents Thomas and Lightfoot can count their current positions on the AAPS board as public office experience. In the 1990s, Lightfoot also ran unsuccessfully for Ann Arbor city council and for Washtenaw County clerk. Howard was a Republican candidate for president of the United States in 2008 and is running again in 2012. Iqbal ran unsuccessfully for ethnic vice chair of the Michigan Republican Party in 2011; he serves as fundraising chair of Asian and Pacific Islander American Vote and as a board member of Pakastani Association of America. Murphy served on the board of the Ann Arbor Transportation Authority in the 1990s and currently serves on the Scio Township zoning board of appeals. [.pdf of 2012 AAPS board candidate profile information]

In a phone call with The Chronicle, LWV president Nancy Schewe described the format of the forum. Each candidate will be invited to make a short opening statement. Then, LWV members will ask roughly five or six questions created by a LWV committee, giving each candidate a chance to answer each question in a rotating order, with no rebuttals. Candidates will then be allowed to make brief closing statements.

Schewe added that though the LWV forum does not currently allow the public to suggest questions or interact with the candidates at this time, the LWV is “thinking about developing a way to include audience participation in the future.”


  1. By Parrhesia
    October 3, 2011 at 9:11 pm | permalink

    Ahmar Iqbal is a proud supporter of Rick Snyder (just google their names together and you will see all of the money and hosting of events Iqbal has given to support Snyder). If you care about public schools in Ann Arbor, you should NOT vote for Iqbal. He is an articulate speaker no doubt, and he is cleverly playing on a few key emotional issues (e.g. busing), but make no mistake. He wants to push the Snyder agenda of attacking public education.

  2. By John Schempke
    October 4, 2011 at 12:00 pm | permalink

    I enjoyed watching the LWV candidates’ forum. I thought all candidates were prepared and addressed the issues in great detail; however, I felt Patrick Leonard was the strongest of the candidates. I like that he is a product of the system he wishes to change. I’ve had the opportunity to speak with him during his campaign and he has a passion and vision that will help improve this district. I wish he would have been more aggressive yesterday and highlighted his strategic plan for the district.

    Ahmar often refered to AAPS’s “big general fund budget” throughout the debate. What Ahmar Iqbal failed to recognize is that FICA, STEP, Fringe benefits, etc. continue to incrementally increase; therefore, the AAPS may have more annual revenue but it does not offset these rising costs.

    Larry Murhpy does not support the tech bond and instead would like to hire more teachers. How can AAPS hire more teachers with a projected $14 million deficit for next year? If they don’t pass the bond, funds will be coming out of the general fund, and this could potentially affect teachers and classroom resources. I also didn’t understand his concept of neighborhood busing, and how that would work in a district our size?

    I really enjoyed Simone Lightfoot and Andy Thomas – they are strong candidates. I’m just ready for a change to the AAPS school Board, and think Patrick Leonard can be a tremendous addition to the board.

  3. By A2person
    October 4, 2011 at 2:30 pm | permalink

    I too enjoyed the debate. My take on the challengers: Howard is not a viable candidate (the answer to the problems the schools face is the body of Christ?). Iqbal was well-spoken and thoughtful, but I fundamentally disagree that the budget of AAPS is so flush. The money that AAPS has been working with has been decreasing for years, and it is NOT adequate, and we need to push back against Snyders huge cuts. I like Murphy’s passion and his committment to small class sizes, I agree with him there. But if the technology bond that he opposes does not pass, then we scramble around with our dwindling General Fund to cover these costs, and I can’t see how that helps with anything. I’d like to see him re-think his stance on this. Leonard did not present anything I seriously objected to, but I didn’t think his answers seemed especially well-informed or creative. I wish we had a candidate pushing back or at least seriously questioning the value of all this new testing we are doing.

    I thought the incumbants did well. I’ll continue to pay attention to Leonard (and perhaps to Murphy, but likely not if his stance on the millage remains).

  4. By AASchools
    October 4, 2011 at 4:01 pm | permalink

    I agree. I will be paying more attention to Simone Lightfoot, Patrick Leonard, and Andy Thomas. I feel those three are the best candidates for the AA school board. I could tell that Mr. Leonard did not like the one minute he had to answer questions – sometimes stopped short or could not get his point across; however, I have heard great things about him, and that he is extremely knowledgebale about the public education system. I like his energy and will be supporting him as a candidate (although I will be attending his coffee hours to learn more). Simone Lightfoot and Andy Thomas had a lot of ideas and seemed well-informed. I think they would be a great addition to the AA school board. I didn’t care for the other three candidates because of their plans for the district (especially did not like that Mr.Murphy opposed the tech bond).

    After last night’s forum, here is how I would rank the candidates:

    1. Andy Thomas
    1. Patrick Leonard
    2. Simone Lightfoot
    3. Larry Murphy
    4. Ahmar Iqbal
    5. Albert Howard

  5. October 4, 2011 at 9:21 pm | permalink

    Simone Lightfoot’s web site is operable (you have links to the others, I think): [link]

  6. By ScratchingmyHead
    October 5, 2011 at 9:59 am | permalink

    I think the more articulate and whose ideas was the most well thought out was Iqbal. However, I’m not sure if that will be a help or hindrance as a Trustee. I was disappointed in Trustee Lightfoot ealiier grumbling about her colleagues did not defer to her as an “expert” on African American issues that come to the board. If Trustee Lightfoot was truly an “expert” she would not be on the AAPS Board. Also, Trustees Lightfoot and Basket coordinated two community meetings on the achievement gap a couple summers ago and promised to follow through with other meetings for those of us who did attend and so far never did. Follow-up is key for me. I supported Trustee Thomas earlier but he has not demonstrated the type of growth since being selected to serve in an interim capacity I would have expected to see on the board. I’m not sure who I will vote for, however.

  7. October 5, 2011 at 2:34 pm | permalink

    Don’t forget, the Ann Arbor League of Women Voters(LWV) will also hold a candidate forum tonight, Wednesday October 5, for City Council candidates in the four contested races.

    Ward 2, 7-7:30 p.m., Democratic incumbent Stephen Rapundalo vs. Independent challenger Jane Lumm

    Ward 3, 7:45-8:15 p.m., Democratic incumbent Stephen Kunselman vs. Republican challenger David Parker

    Ward 4, 8:30-9 p.m., Democratic incumbent Marcia Higgins vs. Republican challenger Eric Scheie

    Ward 5, 9:15-9:45 p.m., Democratic incumbent Mike Anglin vs. Republican challenger Stuart Berry

    The forum will be telecast live on Comcast Channel 19, rebroadcast periodically up to the election and available on the CTN web page: [link]

  8. October 6, 2011 at 9:48 am | permalink has not featured/covered any of the Ann Arbor Public School Board of Education candidates in the hard copy edition of the newspaper on Thursday or Sunday. Furthermore, they have not sent any of their reporters to the debate forums. reporter Kyle Feldscher responded to my @AlbertHowardUSA tweet: ‘ I don’t know off the top of my head if the story ran in either print edition – been moving and haven’t had a chance to look’.

  9. By John Callewaert
    October 6, 2011 at 11:31 am | permalink

    Here’s my ranking after attending the forum and reviewing all the websites.

    1. Iqbal: brings the budget knowledge & experience to dig through all the details to find the opportunities. Has a real passion for making sure the “Educated in Ann Arbor” means something.

    2. Lightfoot: was the only current trustee I heard asking hard questions of the administration during the discussions on cuts to athletics.

    3. Murphy: has great ideas – not certain they will fit Ann Arbor PS.

    4. Leonard: needs more experience but hope he stays involved.

    5. Thomas: lacks depth. Used a list of email addresses of folks who contacted the board with concerns to promote his campaign. Seems to me like a clear exploitation of his role as board secretary.

    6. Howard: seems only be to using the opportunity to promote his personal beliefs.

  10. By A2person
    October 6, 2011 at 7:54 pm | permalink

    John, “educated in Ann Arbor” will mean nothing if the AAPS remains completely cut to the bone. I have several friends who left the district for private schools this year — the fact that we AGAIN increased class sizes was the last straw for them. Iqbal, if you want excellence, you must be willing to pay for it.

  11. October 23, 2011 at 11:32 pm | permalink

    A detail:

    PAA is Pakistan Association of America, not Pakastani Association of America, for Iqbal.