AAPS Budget Planning Continues

Tech bond millage vote moved to May 2012

Ann Arbor Public Schools board of education meeting (Nov. 16, 2011): The AAPS board of education heard updates on the district’s budget planning efforts, and received a favorable annual review from its financial auditor.

Randy Trent AAPS

Randy Trent, AAPS executive director of physical properties, gave the board an update on the technology bond millage and gave bid recommendations to the board. (Photos by the writer.)

Trustees approved moving the technology bond millage vote from February to May 2012, and passed a set of resolutions opposing pending state legislation.

A packed consent agenda passed unanimously.

Among other items on the consent agenda, one made official the board’s shift from maintaining two standing committees to meeting monthly as a committee of the whole.

Notable in light of the board’s organizational change was the increase in use of the agenda planning section of the Nov. 16 meeting.

The board’s meeting agenda is now set by the whole board – instead of by an executive committee consisting of the board chair and the committee chairs.

Budget Planning Update

AAPS superintendent Patricia Green and AAPS deputy superintendent of operations Robert Allen gave their perspectives on two recent community budget forums, and the board offered a few questions and comments. [Chronicle coverage of the forums: "AAPS Seeks Public Input on Budget" and "AAPS Budget Forum Feedback"]

Budget Planning: Community Forums

Green noted that a total of more than 220 people participated in two budget forums sponsored by the district – on one Nov. 10, and another on Nov. 14. Green said the district will continue to engage the community. Saying the richness of the community was obvious, she thanked everyone for coming out “to give input and give testimony and talk about what’s valued and what the needs are.”

Green reported that the AAPS website will incorporate a suggestion box to gather additional input on the budget. She also thanked Allen for spearheading the district’s efforts, and asked him to share his perspective.

Allen confirmed that attendance at the budget forums was high, and summarized their format.

He also concurred with Green that “many excellent ideas were brought forward,” and stressed that the district has not yet drafted a budget reduction plan. First, he said, the administration wanted to know what was important to the community, and what other information the community might want to see.

Allen said summaries of the table discussions, along with budget suggestions the district has received via email will be available on the AAPS website. The budget presentation made at the forums is also available, he said.  [.pdf of AAPS budget presentation]

As far as next steps, Allen said the administration will present a draft budget plan to the board in March or April, then hold additional forums to discuss the proposed reductions, projected to total $14 million. Based on forum input, the budget will likely be adjusted, and then formally presented to the board in April.

Budget Planning: Board Comments, Questions

Trustee Susan Baskett asked when the board will have an opportunity to suggest budget ideas in an open and transparent way, saying she would like to be a part of the feedback loop before the administration gets too deep into drafting a proposed budget.

Trustee Christine Stead suggested that the board should hold a study session to have a more focused discussion on the budget in March 2012, after the state revenue conference is held in January, and after the house and senate fiscal agencies issue their reports. She also noted that the former planning committee had vetted the budget thoroughly, and suggested that budget development should be a standing item at every meeting until the budget is passed.

Christine Stead AAPS board of trustees

Christine Stead, AAPS board of trustees

Board president Deb Mexicotte said trustees are welcome to give input at each meeting as individuals or as a whole board.

Trustee Glenn Nelson, who had attended both forums, said he had found the discussion useful, even when he did not agree with it. Nelson also asked whether best practices funding was included in the projected deficit, and Allen said it was not. Allen explained that AAPS does expect to receive $1.6 million in one-time funding, with the first installment coming this month.

Nelson also asked whether the MPSERS offset had been included, and Allen said the offset of approximately $146 per pupil had been included on the revenue side. The effect of the increased retirement rate on MPSERS contributions had also been included on the expenditures side.

Annual Financial Audit

The district’s auditors, from Plante and Moran, discussed the results of the 2010-11 financial audit of AAPS. Explaining that the goal of the audit is to form an opinion regarding the district’s financial processes to see if they are functioning properly, the auditors produced an “unqualified opinion.” This is like getting a “5” on an AP [advanced placement] test, they said. Praising AAPS for putting forth rigor and extensive preparation regarding the 2010-11 audit, the auditors also noted that AAPS has a history of scoring well on its audits.

The audit was reviewed in brief, highlighting future uncertainties such as: the state retirement rate increases; a decrease in federal funding; a decrease in state foundation allowances; the cost of capital improvements without a new bond issue; rising health care costs; and a variable pupil count. In summary, the auditors stated, “It’s a difficult time to be in school finance.”

Trustee Christine Stead produced a list of variances on which she had questions, and asked for feedback specifically on the variance the district experienced in transportation service. The auditors suggested that the fact that the district’s transportation service has the most “layers” of the districts in the WISD transportation consolidation. That made it hard to anticipate the savings that might be gained. Auditors also noted that it’s hard to get a concrete picture of how such a consolidation will look until it is up and running, and suggested, “it will take a while to settle in.”

Board chair Deb Mexicotte suggested that the board might like to explore all variances above or below a certain benchmark, such as 3% or 5%. Stead noted she was mostly interested in looking at large-dollar items.

Andy Thomas noted that in the past, the board had used the [now former] performance committee to review the audit more closely and that such an opportunity had been lost with the shift to the committee-of-the-whole model.

Allen noted that overall, the district is under budget. A number of adjustments will brought to the board as a first quarter budget amendment. He responded to the board’s questions by saying he would prepare answers to specific line item questions for the financial audit’s second briefing.

Glenn Nelson noted that the impact of the increasing retirement rate is huge, and reported that by his calculations, the district is netting $105 less per pupil than it was in FY 2002, if the retirement rate is factored in, and that’s not adjusted for the cost index. Mexicotte added that the amount represents over $1.6 million dollars.

Nelson also asked the auditors to respond to “allegations of ‘fat’ in the staffing of the district [administration],” to which they replied that AAPS administration is not overstaffed, and pointed out that “certainly at mid-management levels, they are working a lot harder to get everything done than they have in the past.”

Finally, the board revisited its ongoing discussion about appropriate fund balance levels, on which trustees have very divergent opinions. Nelson suggested that AAPS should not be cutting teachers or programs to add to its reserves, and Mexicotte responded that the board did not make cuts anticipating that the money would be added to savings, and it was unexpected that the district would come in under budget.  Stead agreed with Mexicotte, saying that it was hard not to take Nelson’s comment offensively. She reminded her colleagues that fund equity can swing significantly from quarter to quarter, and that if the district’s fund balance drops under the amount of cash on hand needed to operate over the summer, it would incur interest charges to borrow the additional funding.

Outcome: The 2010-11 financial audit was a first briefing item. It will return to the board for a second briefing and a vote, tentatively scheduled for the Dec 14 regular meeting.

Tech Bond Millage

For some months now, the board has been discussing the possibility of requesting voter approval of an additional millage to fund a technology bond. At the board’s Nov. 16 meeting, superintendent Patricia Green reviewed the millage strategy being developed by the administration in concert with the board.

Green said she had asked the administration to develop a document to explain how each one of the eight strategies of the AAPS strategic plan is linked to the technology plan and incorporated into the technology bond proposal. Green said the administration is developing a list of FAQs, and asked Randy Trent, AAPS executive director of physical properties, to give a brief overview of what had been developed so far.

Tech Bond Millage: Strategy

Trent reported that the administration has developed an initial set of FAQs and their answers, and said that the FAQs will become a living document on the district’s website, with new questions and their answers getting posted as they come in from the public.

He briefly reviewed the timeline for the millage strategy as the board had discussed at their November committee meeting, and turned the presentation over to Liz Margolis, the district’s director of communications.

Margolis recommended that the board consider moving the vote on the technology millage to the May 2012 election date instead of holding it in concert with the Republican primary in February 2012, and briefly reiterated the reasoning as had been discussed by the committee.

She explained that holding a vote on the tech bond in February would be complicated since the Republican presidential primary is a closed primary. This would mean, Margolis explained, that citizens who declare themselves as a Republican would need to complete two ballots in order to vote in the primary and on the tech bond. Voters in the city of Ann Arbor who do not declare as Republicans would only have one ballot (the tech bond), and voters from precincts in other municipalities who attend AAPS could require up to three ballots – one for the Republican presidential primary, one for the AAPS tech bond, and one from their local municipality. Taken together, these possible permutations could cause significant voter confusion, Margolis said, and urged the board to reconsider the election date.

Margolis also noted that for many years AAPS used the May election date for school board elections and other votes, and said that might help achieve a favorable turnout. She added that there are community members lined up to help in an advisory capacity with a May millage, but said that she cannot reveal their names until the board commits to an election date.

Tech Bond Millage: Board Questions, Discussion

Andy Thomas asked Green whether the district was losing an opportunity to improve technology in a timely manner if the millage vote were to be delayed. Green said there would be no impact on purchasing. This point had been discussed by the district’s bond counsel during a previous regular meeting of the board, along with other details about what the tech bond would buy and how it would work. For details, see: “AAPS to Float February Tech Millage.”

Simone Lightfoot was not present at the Nov. 16 meeting, but sent questions to be discussed in her absence, which were read aloud by Mexicotte.

Lightfoot (via Mexicotte) asked how Barton Malow had been selected as the contractor for the tech bond work, whether their $1.5 million project management fee is standard, whether the bond includes money for training and warranties on equipment purchased, and what the connection is between planning for the tech bond and planning for the possibility of moving to all-day kindergarten.

Trent explained that Barton Malow and Granger had both submitted bids for the technology upgrades if the millage is approved, and that both have done technology work for AAPS before. Barton Malow was selected based on their proposal, he said, and their management fee is not standard. It does include warranties, but the allowable training is limited since the bonds would be issued only for capital improvements.

Trent explained that the research for the tech bond and the research for the possible kindergarten expansion were being done separately, but at the same time. Barton Malow, he said, was “going through server rooms and dusty attics” in all buildings to prepare for the technology work, and Trent himself was walking all the buildings with the principals to assess space for all-day kindergarten.

Green added that the question of whether to ask voters for a millage to support a tech bond was originally coupled with the question of whether the district would need to raise funds for capital improvements related to all-day kindergarten. She said though the board was not actively discussing all-day kindergarten, she did not want to lose sight of the possibility that the district might still want to move in that direction.

Nelson said he really appreciated the follow-up Trent had begun on space considerations for all-day kindergarten. Saying he was “amongst the group that let it slip out of my mind,” he acknowledged that “it could come up suddenly.”

The impetus for possibly moving to all-day kindergarten is a signal from the Michigan legislature that they intend to cut kindergarten per-pupil funding by half for all students enrolled in a half-day kindergarten program, though such legislation has not yet been passed. For more on the discussion to proceed with a tech bond only, see previous Chronicle coverage: “AAPS Board Hands Off Athletic Cuts

Outcome: As part of the consent agenda, the board unanimously approved moving the technology bond millage vote to May 2012 from February 2012. 

AAPS Response to State Actions

With little discussion, the board passed three resolutions in response to pending state legislation. One resolution was to express opposition to the elimination of personal property tax – Senate Bill 34, which would lead to an additional loss of revenue for AAPS of $5.3 million, while increasing homeowner taxes by .48 mills.

The second was to oppose Senate Bill 618, which would lift the cap on the number of charter schools in Michigan, including those owned by private, for-profit companies.

The third was a resolution to oppose Senate Bill 137, which was amended to allow bullying if it is “a statement of a sincerely held religious belief or moral conviction of a school employee, school volunteer, pupil, or a pupil’s parent or guardian.” Mexicotte noted that Green had written a strongly-worded statement about the legislation that was sent to parents district-wide. She also noted that after great uproar, the State House of Representatives had removed that language from the bill, but that the bill as amended had been passed by the State Senate.

All three resolutions will be forwarded to school and government officials across the state.

Outcome: All three of the resolutions opposing state legislation were passed unanimously as part of the consent agenda.

Consent Agenda: Miscellaneous

In addition to items described above, the consent agenda for the Nov. 16 meeting contained two items that were open for second briefing, but on which the board had little or no discussion: (1) the addition of a link to an Arab-American parent support group from the district’s website; and (2) an extensive set of policy amendments to formalize the board’s new committee structure.

The consent agenda also included two items that were entertained as special briefing items by the board at the Nov. 16 meeting, meaning they would be voted on the same day as first presented: (1) a revision of board policy 1250 to add wording for the use of the “call the question” parliamentary procedure; and (2) a resolution to waive intellectual property rights for an addition to the FASTT (Fluency and Automaticity through Systematic Teaching with Technology) Math program created by AAPS.

Calling the question is a parliamentary procedure used during a meeting, essentially to end debate and bring the matter to a vote. Mexicotte highlighted the fact that only someone who had not just spoken on the issue at hand could move to close discussion on that issue, and that any votes to call-the-question [or, put the question to a vote] would need to have a supermajority of at least five trustees to pass.

Regarding the waiver of intellectual property rights, AAPS assistant superintendent for human resources and legal services Dave Comsa reported that the board had held a closed session on Oct. 12 to discuss this issue, and noted only that “the royalties cannot be paid because it’s not a revenue-producer for Scholastic [the maker of FASTT Math].” He added briefly that the addition to FASTT Math created by AAPS is a small part of the program, and that Scholastic only pays royalties to long-time employees.

Noting that there will be no further modifications to the program, Comsa recommended that the board waive their intellectual property rights to the addition, and asked that the resolution be considered as a special briefing item. Trustees expressed skepticism about Scholastic’s claims, but supported Comsa’s recommendation.

Outcome: The consent agenda, which also included the approval of draft minutes, was approved unanimously.

Bid Award Recommendations

Randy Trent, AAPS executive director of physical properties, presented two bid award recommendations to the board. One was to approve a one-year contract with The D. M. Burr Group from Flint, MI for HVAC journeyman services totaling $93,025 per year. The other was to approve a one-year contract with Johnson Controls, an international corporation headquartered in Glendale, WI, for control service for $333,281 per year.

Trent noted that in the past, AAPS had combined these services in to one bid, but that it had separated them this time around in an attempt to save money.

Bid Award Recommendations: Public Comment

Two local skilled trades union representatives spoke at public commentary, both against the awarding of physical properties bids to non-local, non-unionized workers.

Tom Yax, representing local plumbers and pipefitters, asked, “Why can’t we use our people?” He said that out-of-town contractors pay sub-par wages, and that out-of-town workers don’t give back to the community. Yax pointed out that his union members support many school causes, including orchestra and athletics, and also train many AAPS students through an apprenticeship program. Urging the board to think about these contributions when they consider bids, Yax contrasted local workers with out-of-towners, saying, “These people take the money and leave – that’s not a savings, that’s a loss!”

Ron Motsinger, a representative of Washtenaw County skilled trades workers, added that in addition to offering training and apprenticeship programs, local building trades union members have endorsed AAPS bond projects and millages. Saying that local building unions believe in partnering with the school district, Matsinger noted that local union leaders had done mailings to their members, encouraged people to vote, and gone door-to-door to build support for the last bond [that built Skyline high school, among other projects.] He admonished the board for “shopping that bid all over,” and choosing a contractor who doesn’t pay its workers the prevailing wage.

Bid Award Recommendations: Bid Process Clarification

Though the board did not employ its new “clarification” agenda option after public commentary, Green did request that Trent go over the process for bidding as part of his presentation.

Trent reviewed that all bids are advertised on the AAPS and State of Michigan websites. In brief, he explained that the district puts out specifications its looking for, takes bid results, determines which are “well-qualified” bidders, and checks their references. As purchasing requirements specify, Trent said, he is recommending the lowest qualified bidder.

Baskett questioned how D. M. Burr Group was able to come in $65,000 lower than the next qualified bidder, and Trent confirmed it was because they likely “use a non-union type of pay scale, and are able to select people who maybe don’t need benefits.”

The board had some discussion over the state requirement to honor the lowest qualified bidder with the contract in lieu of awarding bids based on local commitment to community. Susan Baskett asked if the board was monitoring locality, along with other metrics the board had deemed important, such as whether the bidders represented historically underutilized businesses (HUBs).

Trent said that companies’ commitment to using local workers was not part of the bid, and that HUB status was requested, but is optional. Comsa added that, in his view, “it might be problematic” to request additional information from contractors (such as HUB status) that is not specified in the bid.

Christine Stead suggested that there might be a way to “math out” the economic contribution that one vendor might be able to make to the community, and wondered if there was a legal way to award bids that also honored local workers. As a counter to that line of thought, Nelson said that while he is very much in favor of programs that extend bidding opportunities to firms that represent underrepresented groups, he is apprehensive of trying to use models of economic impact. He argued that such models are difficult to apply in a careful way, and would “chew up” staff resources.

Andy Thomas also pointed out that the $65,000 difference between D.M.Burr and the next lowest bidder for HVAC journeyman services is roughly the cost of a salary for one teacher, minus benefits. So, he continued, “in an era of budget consciousness, we can either go with lowest qualified bidder, or we can reduce our teaching staff by one position.”

Susan Baskett argued that when the district undercuts local contractors, it takes away their trust. She noted that community trust will be necessary to gain support for the upcoming technology bond and any other future millages. She reminded the board that the union members who spoke during public commentary have supported the community, and that contractors from outside the community will not be paid a prevailing wage.

Outcome: These bid recommendations were presented at first briefing, and will come before the board for a second briefing and a vote at the next regular board meeting.

Grant Awards

Linda Doernte, AAPS Director of Purchasing, Grants & Business Support Services reviewed changes to 2011-12 grant funding totaling $4.8 million. She highlighted that amounts of federal grants are somewhat variable, and that the district cannot control exactly the amount it receives.

Trustees asked whether local students would lose Head Start completely if Washtenaw County no longer manages the program. Green noted that the local superintendents all agree it’s a valuable program, but that no definitive action has been taken to retain it, such as transferring it to the Washtenaw Intermediate School District.

Glenn Nelson thanked the PTO Thrift Shop and AAPS educational foundation for their continued support of the district.

Deb Mexicotte added a question from Simone Lightfoot, who was unable to be at the meeting. She asked if the district’s new grant writer was helping to coordinate grant requests to ensure consistency and that buildings most in need are participating and benefiting. Liz Margolis, the district’s communications director, explained that requests were being coordinated, and that the grant writer has held workshops at the Balas administration building. The grant writer has been working closely with the AAPS educational foundation, she said.

Outcome: These grant awards were presented at first briefing, and will come before the board for a second briefing and vote at the next regular board meeting.

EASE Team Update

Randy Trent reported on the Energy Awareness Sustainability Education (EASE) program at work in AAPS, which he said has produced steady savings in the area of utilities. The EASE program works with changing human behavior, and is coordinated by Johnson Controls.

Trent noted that the EASE program includes a booth for use in individual schools, an email campaign, and meetings with custodians. He said it created $671,000 in savings, which was $347 beyond the target of $324,000, and that every building saved energy with the exception of Skyline, which added 400 new energy users.

The program also includes a “plug survey,” that is, an annual survey of what is plugged in to every plug in every room across the district in order to have a clear idea of where energy is being used, complete with pictures. “What we’re not spending on energy, we can spend on the classroom,” Trent asserted, noting that an energy policy would be coming the board in the future.

Patricia Green noted that she was very impressed by the savings generated by the EASE program, and that she had directed Trent to explore the possibility of returning a percentage of the savings to the source of the savings – such as specific buildings.

Christine Stead thanked Johnson Controls for the program, praising the company for being a “great community partner.”

Andy Thomas asked about the information included in a recent EASE email that explained how plugging appliances into power strips and then turning the strip off could save money. Trent referred Thomas to the district website, which he said provides more detail on this phenomenon, known as “phantom load.” The Johnson Controls representative added that controlling the phantom load on the district’s electric devices would save the district an additional $7,000 per year.

Susan Baskett said she sees this program as an addition to the current district curriculum, and asked how much it costs. Trent answered that it costs $320,000 per year for four years.

Nelson invited an AAPS graduate, who works for Johnson Controls on the EASE progam in the district, to describe how she attained the position. She said she graduated from Pioneer in 2005, completed a bachelors and masters in environmental engineering at Cornell, and then became connected to Johnson Controls through work on a solar home. Nelson said that AAPS is very proud of its graduates.

Association Reports – AAPAC

Though the board invites reports from six associations at its board meetings, the Ann Arbor Parent Advisory Committee (AAPAC) was the only association present to report at the Nov. 16 board meeting.

The AAPAC representative applauded the administration’s foresight in embracing positive behavioral support, and said it can succeed in the district, despite difficulties. She also said the AAPAC is pleased to hear about peer-to-peer mentoring taking place in many of the district elementary schools, noting that these programs teach social skills, and are a win-win for special needs and general education students alike.

She said that the PAC was encouraged to hear from superintendent Patricia Green that the district is committeed to finding actionable ways to close the achievement gap among all students, including the 2,200 students with Individualized Education Plans (IEPs) and several hundred more with Section 504 plans. [Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 requires federally-funded schools to create a written plan to meet the needs of students who require extra accommodations, but who do not qualify for a special education IEP.]

The AAPAC representative noted that the Disability Awareness Workshops held this fall have been very successful, and invited trustees to attend and experience any part of the two upcoming workshops.

She acknowledged that “this year will be very challenging” in terms of the budget reality, and asserted that parents of children with special needs are used to “thinking outside of the box” and are ready to help keep AAPS strong for all children.

Agenda Planning

The board suggested work to be done on: revenue enhancement, superintendent evaluation, AATA, equity, math support, legislative action, and board functioning.

Agenda Planning: Revenue Enhancement

Christine Stead suggested a renewed focus on revenue enhancement, specifically on increasing AAPS enrollment. She noted that the former planning committee had studied ways to increase enrollment, as well as other revenue enhancement strategies including increased philanthropy, business partnerships, and grants.

Agenda Planning: Superintendent Evaluation

Susan Baskett suggested that AAPS partner with other local districts to study approaches to meeting state-mandated changes in superintendent evaluation. She noted that Scott Morrell, vice-president of the Centerline Public Schools Educational Foundation would be available in January to provide professional development on this issue.

Stead questioned how Morrell developed expertise in this area, since the legal changes to employee evaluation were new to all Michigan school districts this year. Baskett said it was a fair concern, but that Morrell has worked closely with the Michigan Association of School Boards on this issue, and that MASB in working on a suggested model for superintendent evaluation, because the new law requires that student growth be included as a factor.

Deb Mexicotte noted that the superintendent would be informally evaluated in February, and formally evaluated in May or June. She suggested enlisting the WISD to convene a professional development session for all local districts on this topic. She said doing that would be a good opportunity to consolidate efforts.

Green added that she had asked the district’s legal counsel, Dave Comsa, to research how the law affects current contracts. She noted that there is no consensus among superintendents across the county about which takes precedence in an evaluation – the new law, or a superintendent’s employment contract.

Agenda Planning: AATA, Equity, Math Support

Baskett asked about the status of possible meetings with the Ann Arbor Transportation Authority to develop ways the AATA could be of more assistance to the district. Green said that she had requested that the district’s next meeting with Ann Arbor city administrator Steve Powers and his top staff include the AATA.

Baskett also requested a status report on current or future work on equity, and math support, saying she was hearing a lot of concern from the community about math support at the middle school level as all students prepare to take algebra in the 8th grade.

Agenda Planning: Legislative Action

Baskett reviewed the board’s recent actions surrounding legislative advocacy, and suggested the board should consider what else it can do to lobby and raise awareness.

Mexicotte said that the board should consider forming a task force or auxiliary committee on legislative matters. Nelson said there is a group forming through the Washtenaw Association of School Boards that could complement any AAPS board committee.

Stead asserted that the legislative work that lies ahead will require a state-wide ballot initiative, and suggested that the board needs to “put that on the radar.”

Agenda Planning: Board Functioning

Mexicotte reminded the board that part of the service they had received from the superintendent search firm last year was to take the board through an evaluation tool to determine how well it was functioning. She suggested the board may want to revisit that tool to compare its current functioning with how it was working before. She said she is thinking about how to propose that work formally.

Awards and Accolades

Various individuals, entities, and events were highlighted by the board and administration.

School Board Election

Nelson, Mexicotte, and the AAPAC representative congratulated Thomas and Lightfoot on being re-elected to the board. Mexicotte also commended the other four candidates who had run for bringing constructive discussion to the campaign. She encouraged the former candidates to bring their passion to the district in other ways, saying, “Your service didn’t end to the students in this district if you didn’t want it to.”

NAACP Freedom Fund Dinner

Green reported that on Nov. 5 the local NAACP held its annual Freedom Fund dinner, which honored over 100 students earning a 3.2 GPA or higher – the largest number of students ever. Green added that it had been an honor for her to participate. It was noted throughout the meeting that Baskett, Mexicotte, Nelson, Lightfoot, and Thomas also attended.

During items from the board, Nelson commented that the event was “really impressive in terms of honoring the young people,” and that the stories of the Raymond Randolph Jr., the keynote speaker, were courageous and moving.

Phantom of the Opera

Green also congratulated Pioneer on their recent production on Phantom of the Opera, saying it was “phenomenal.” Thomas added as an “item from the board” that this production “didn’t just happen,” but that it developed as a result of sustained support of the visual and performing arts throughout the district’s K-12 experience.

Superintendent’s Report

In addition to some items noted above, Green also commented on a wide array of honors and awards received by schools, programs, students, student-athletes, staff, and teachers throughout the district.

Dawn Linden

The district's newly hired assistant superintendent of elementary education, Dawn Linden.

Green also welcomed the newest member of her executive cabinet – assistant superintendent of elementary education Dawn Linden.

Green noted that she had been a guest narrator for the Ann Arbor Symphony Orchestra’s opening of a family musical series.

Items from the Board

Andy Thomas noted that AAPS has been given an A- rating by the Sunshine Review, a non-profit that evaluates the openness and transparency of public organizations, whereas Michigan as a whole received a C.  Thomas said he “just wanted to point this out because we continually hear that we need to improve our transparency, but at least one unbiased group is of the opinion that we are doing a pretty good job.” Thomas thanked Patricia Green and Robert Allen for their work in making this happen.

Thomas also pointed out how he had been surprised to discover that his recently-won 4-year-board term had just been extended to include a fifth year. He explained that there is another piece of legislation coming out of the state that will move all school board elections to Novembers of even-numbered years. Thomas stated, “I find this just an incredibly bad idea. The amount of money that it will take to run for school board will quadruple as a result of this – it’s going to make it much harder for people to run … What this will inevitably do will force people who want to run for school board to run in slates.” He noted that in the 2011 election, an odd-numbered year, six candidates ran for two seats. The year before, in an even-numbered year election with five open seats, there were only five candidates.

Glenn Nelson reported that the spirit shown at the 50th anniversary of Allen School was wonderful, and gave kudos to all schools that create community in their neighborhoods. He also noted that the recent Challenge Day at Huron High School was a bug success, and that in decision-making, everyone should follow the mantra from that day: “notice, choose, act.”

Baskett thanked state Sen. Rebekah Warren (D-18) for holding a town hall on charter schools, which was valuable and efficient. She also congratulated AAPS sports teams, including the team on which board secretary Amy Osinski’s son plays. “It was hard work,” Baskett said, “and there’s always next year for bringing home the trophy.”

Noting “marked improvement,” Mexicotte expressed her appreciation for the Ann Arbor District Library and Community Television Network staff who had done some “awesome work and fine-tuning” on the microphones and audio quality at the board table.

Present: President Deb Mexicotte, vice-president Susan Baskett, secretary Andy Thomas, and trustees Glenn Nelson and Christine Stead.

Absent: Treasurer Irene Patalan, and trustee Simone Lightfoot.

Next regular meeting: Dec. 14, 2011, 7 p.m., at the fourth-floor conference room of the downtown Ann Arbor District Library, 343 S. Fifth Ave.

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