Ann Arbor School Board OKs Tech Upgrades

AAPS board also gets HR and IT reports; Toyota partnership announced

Ann Arbor Public Schools board of education regular meeting (Oct. 24, 2012): In its main business of the meeting, the board approved a $5,192,872 purchase for the district-wide replacement of the computer network and wireless infrastructure. Several central administrators noted that the infrastructure improvement is a cornerstone of the district’s technology plan.

David Comsa

Deputy superintendent for human resources and general counsel for the district David Comsa, and assistant director of human resource services Stephani Field. A report from HR was delivered to the board at its Oct. 24 meeting. (Photos by the writer.)

And in keeping with superintendent Patricia Green’s desire to give annual updates to the board on a variety of topics, the AAPS board of trustees heard presentations from the human resources (HR) and informational technology (IT) departments.

Highlights from the human resources report were statistics showing that percentage-wise, more cuts have been made in the last few years to administrative positions than to teaching positions. Trustees also focused on recruitment of teachers that would reflect the same demographic profile as the student population.

Trustees were also given a report on the 2013-2015 technology plan.

In addition to the informational reports, the board was briefed on a partnership between AAPS and Toyota International. The district has been selected by Toyota as the sole participant in a pilot teaching program that will focus on Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) education. The partnership will bring the methods of Singapore, described as a leading country in STEM innovation, to AAPS.

Also at the meeting, a recommendation to rename the Argus Planetarium – to acknowledge the $100,000 donation to the facility made by IMRA America – was met with enthusiasm by trustees. They also welcomed another naming proposal – to name the Pioneer High School tennis courts after long-time tennis coach Tom “Brick” Pullen. Votes on the naming proposals will come at the next meeting of the board.

Technology Presentations

Several reports on the state of technology in the district were presented to the board. Alesia Flye, deputy superintendent for instructional services, Carlos Soto, lead tech specialist in the information technology department (ITD), and Chuck Hatt, coordinator for literacy and social studies instruction, presented the 2013-2015 technology plan.

Chuck Hatt, Ann Arbor Public Schools, The Ann Arbor Chronicle

Chuck Hatt, AAPS coordinator for literacy and social studies instruction.

Deputy superintendent for operations Robert Allen, along with director of information and technology John VanRiper, gave a presentation about the IT department. The presentations reflected superintendent Patricia Green’s initiative to have the administrative departments make annual reports to the board.

Technology: 2013-2015 Plan

Green led into Flye’s presentation saying that at the end of last school year, a new technology plan – replacing one that had been in place for many years – had been finalized. This new plan was developed with input from many stakeholders in the community, Green said. The district had made sure to do that, especially in light of the commitment the district was asking the community to make with its approval of the technology bond. The plan itself has been submitted to the state and is available on the district website.

Flye reported that the plan, spearheaded by Anne Reader, former director of instructional technology, was completed last school year. The plan focuses on updating the district’s approach to technology, while acknowledging the challenges of the digital divide, the cost of equipment and infrastructure, the need for ongoing professional development, and the complexity of guiding students to become ethical digital citizens. Flye also mentioned that there will be an annual compilation and review of the progress toward the plan’s measurable goals.

The plan is a vision for how technology will be used in the district. Curriculum connections, technology delivery, parental communications and community relations, collaboration, and professional development are all parts of the plan. Soto noted that a large part of the backbone for the plan will be using the money from the 2012 technology bond to replace and build on existing technology in the schools. Improving network infrastructure is a top priority.

Technology: 2013-2015 Plan: Board Reaction

The board was generally receptive to and appreciative of the report. Trustee Glenn Nelson called the plan a significant factor in showing the public that the district would spend the resources wisely if the technology bond were passed. Board president Deb Mexicotte noted that the report shows the breadth of instruction the district is considering. She added that they had been working hard under the current administration to bring all systems together and think more holistically about education, and the plan was a product of that approach.

Several trustees asked about the future of technology in the classroom. Christine Stead drew out the fact that “about 250″ online courses are available to AAPS students. Andy Thomas wondered about the capabilities of remote classroom transmissions, especially related to some of the class offerings that may attract only a few students from each school. He imagined that with remote transmissions, there could be a “class in one school, and the opportunity for students [in other schools within the district] to participate remotely via cameras.”

Flye was receptive to Thomas’ suggestion, indicating that the topic had been discussed at a recent meeting of administrators. Not only would something like Thomas’s scenario help with budget efficiencies, but it would also maintain the quality of educational offerings for students, she said. The instructional services department and ITD were currently having those conversations. Right now, Flye cautioned, the focus is on improving the infrastructure. Once that was done, the district will be able to implement those kinds of remote learning situations.

Susan Baskett asked if there were any policy changes that might need to be made in order to work toward the plan. Flye replied to Baskett saying that eventually, policies will need to be put in place about when students will be able to check out various devices. Green mentioned the difficulty of managing content for students – to make sure that inappropriate material is filtered in an appropriate way. She also cited the challenge of teaching students how to be responsible digital citizens, by teaching them digital literacy.

Recognizing that technology in the classroom has come a long way in the past five or six years, Irene Patalan asked how the district will address the ethics of digital citizenship with students. In response, Green mentioned a community policing model, which would involve the police department taking an active role in educating students about appropriate uses of the Internet. She also brought up partnering with the community to form community connection seminars, because it wasn’t just “ethics in the school house,” but connected to the broader community.

Baskett was also concerned with teacher proficiency in technology. Flye noted that some components of teacher evaluation deal with technology proficiency, but she also pointed out that training and professional development is a key part of the technology plan. Hatt pointed out that because so much instruction was rooted in using technology, teachers “can’t deliver instruction without proficiency.”

Nelson contended that the district was approaching implementation of technology in the classroom in a way that wasn’t “pushing the edge” as far as it should. He believes technology is going to change education more fundamentally than the plan accommodates. He imagines a future where more classes are going to be akin to seminars, and the teacher may not necessarily be the most knowledgeable person in the room. This will happen, Nelson maintained, because of the instant and easy access to information the Internet can provide.

Acknowledging Nelson’s point, Flye allowed that this kind of evolution in the classroom must happen and is happening. Teachers are adopting the roles of facilitators in the classroom. She noted collaboration is one of the key tenets of the technology plan and encompasses the entire learning community of students and teachers.

Building on the point of changing education paradigms, Green gave the example of a “school of one” pilot in New York City. In that pilot program, everything centers around personalized learning for students, as each student receives a “playlist” of skills that he or she needs to master. The playlist varies across students, so they’ll be mastering skills at different levels in the classroom. The organization of the classroom is completely changed, because everything is related back to a student’s individualized learning plan. Green said the concept could be worth considering, as the district works to personalize student learning.

While Mexicotte was generally pleased with the report, she noted that assistive technology was not mentioned. She said its absence struck her because the assistive technology that works to integrate across the curriculum is just as relevant to mainstream education. Instead, it is “siloed” in student intervention and support services (SISS), Mexicotte said. She would like more integration of technology across the spectrum of students that the district serves. Hatt noted that one of the curriculum connections defined in the report is to support all students with alternative curriculum resources. Flye agreed with Mexicotte, saying that the plan does not explicitly highlight that, but it should. She said the district has been working to have stronger alignment between the two departments.

Technology: ITD Report

The ITD report dovetailed with the technology plan. Patricia Green said this reflected a collaborative approach between ITD and instruction.

The presentation outlined the structure of ITD, along with the scope of the department. Robert Allen reported that since the original technology rollout in 1996, the district has increased available technology by 400%. The original “cluster-based” support structure has currently been modified to a district-based structure, which means ITD is more responsive to needs across the district.

John VanRiper asserted that ITD will be collaborating with the instruction department to assure anticipated needs are proactively addressed. He lamented the vacant position for director of instructional technology, saying he would like a counterpart in that department. Without the close relationship between the two departments, the implementation of the NWEA [Northwest Evaluation Association] test couldn’t have happened, he said.

About ITD costs, VanRiper said he anticipates a reduction in repair costs because of the tech bond implementation. That’s because when new equipment is purchased and installed, fewer repair costs are incurred. He also said he was not repairing equipment if it didn’t make financial sense [because it would soon be replaced].

Scalability and security were two of the main focuses of the department, according to VanRiper. Both of these issues are being addressed through the implementation of the tech bond. Last year, the wireless network became so overloaded, public access had to be shut down during instructional hours. This school year, the district has been able to bring public access back.

VanRiper also noted the need for mobile device support. ITD will need to develop the infrastructure for all technology being introduced into the district – such as phones and tablets. VanRiper anticipates a BYO [bring-your-own] device system, one for which the district needs to establish best practices.

About a possible BYO device program, Glenn Nelson asked if the district envisions a program similar to the graphing calculator program, where students could check out expensive devices. He wanted to know if ITD had a plan or was just going to muddle through the implementation. Allen responded that the first thing they needed to do was to have the infrastructure in place to support the devices. To address equity issues, he foresees a system for checking out devices, but that will be in the future. Green said the district might institute a pilot program at the middle school level to test it out, as best practices haven’t been established yet.

Both Nelson and Irene Patalan remarked on the ease and helpfulness of the help desk. Christine Stead thanked Allen and VanRiper for the presentation and said their work doesn’t go unnoticed or unappreciated.

Outcome: Both reports were informational and will be updated yearly. No board action was required.

Tech Infrastructure Replacement

Superintendent Patricia Green noted that it was fitting the second briefing on the technology infrastructure replacement came immediately after the reports on the technology plan and ITD.

Susan Baskett

AAPS trustee Susan Baskett.

The trustees were first briefed on the request at the Oct. 10, 2012 regular meeting. Randy Trent, executive director of physical properties, was on hand to answer any additional questions from trustees.

The $5,192,872 purchase will be for a district-wide replacement of the network and wireless infrastructure. Trent emphasized that the work will be completed by the end of summer in 2014. Sentinel Technologies, an Illinois-based company that has a satellite office in Ann Arbor, was recommended for the contract award. Susan Baskett, who had reservations about awarding the contract to an out-of-state company, asked if the workers will be paid the prevailing wage. Trent indicated that the prevailing wage does not apply.

Outcome: After being moved from the consent agenda to a board action item, the board approved the contract. Baskett cast the sole dissenting vote.

Human Resources Report

David Comsa, deputy superintendent for human resources and general counsel for the district, and his team of Cynthia Ryan and Stephani Field, presented the inaugural annual report on the HR department. This is the second in a series of reports commissioned by superintendent Patricia Green to be make the administration’s departments more transparent.

Several of the trustees commended Comsa and his team on the presentation. Christine Stead said the “desegregation of information” was important for the board, especially the data points of administrative cuts versus teacher cuts. Irene Patalan said the information will make her job easier to do, because it “helps answer questions.” While pleased to have the report, Glenn Nelson was dismayed at the difficulty of broadening the district’s teacher demographics.

The report detailed the function and organization of the HR department. It also itemized staffing numbers, as well as teacher demographics and education. Full-time equivalent (FTE) positions in the district for the 2012-2013 school year were compared with data from the 2011-2012 school year. A loss of one FTE in the professional certified staff was the only difference between the two years.

Human Resources: Admin vs. Teacher Cuts

The trustees were most interested in the data regarding the five-year trend in administrator FTEs versus the five-year trend in teacher FTEs. The overall change in administrative FTEs [including both central administration and principals/directors] from 2005-2006 to 2011-2012 was a net loss of 8.0 positions. The overall change in teacher FTEs over the same five-year period was a loss of 67.6 positions.

Saying they continue to hear the clamor of comments from the media and the public who say the board has greatly reduced the number of teachers in the district and has done little to reduce administration, Andy Thomas broke down the math. The data shows that there has been a 27.3% reduction of central administration and an 8.9% reduction of principals and directors, for a net reduction of 11.9% over the five-year period. During the same period, there was a 5.6% reduction in teaching staff.

Thomas stressed the point that the reduction in central administrators (27.3%) was more than four times the reduction in the teaching staff (5.6%). More principals were not added, despite the opening of Skyline High School. Each administrator is now responsible for a greater number of teachers, he said. His impression is that the duties of principals and administrators have not remained static, but that there were more required reviews and increases in responsibilities over that time. His point was that a substantially increased workload was being taken on by the administrators. Comsa confirmed Thomas’ impression, saying the amount of student data collection has increased.

Deb Mexicotte said that during a time when the district has been asking more and more of the staff, the board has continued to see achievement and improvements in a wide range of areas. Green agreed, saying there is a trend of accomplishment by both principals and students.

Human Resources: Teacher Demographics

The board spent a significant amount of time talking about the demographics of teachers within the district. David Comsa remarked that progress had been made in the hiring and retaining of African American, Asian American, and Hispanic teachers. Teachers of color make up 16.6% of the overall teaching staff at AAPS for the 2012-2013 school year. People of color account for 19.5% of new hires this school year, he reported.

Both Susan Baskett and Glenn Nelson asked that the “other” category be clarified. Comsa said “other” encompassed people who did not self-identify a race or ethnicity. Responding to a question from Nelson, Comsa indicated that Arab American teachers were categorized as Caucasian. Comsa acknowledged that the district was looking at ways to break out information better.

Nelson made note of the difference between the student and teacher populations. District demographics in the fall of 2010 showed a 14.4% Asian American student population, but only a 1.7% Asian American teaching population. He wondered if hiring strategies needed to be rethought in order to have the teacher makeup more accurately reflect the student population.

Human Resources: Minority Hiring

On the topic of minority recruiting, director of human resource services Cynthia Ryan acknowledged that the district might need to rethink some of its strategies. She also noted that a significant role in the networking, supporting, mentoring, and recruiting of teachers is played by the Ann Arbor Education Association‘s minority affairs committee. The AAEA committee has been active for at least the past 10 years, according to Ryan. HR also reaches out to current teachers who may have connections to other potential teacher candidates.

Baskett mentioned that she and Nelson have talked in depth about teacher recruiting. She asked why it seems the list of schools where AAPS recruits has remained static – the University of Michigan, Michigan State University, Eastern Michigan University – and has not expanded to include universities such as Wayne State. Ryan replied that in the past, the district has recruited at job fairs at Central Michigan University, Wayne State, and Saginaw Valley, but this past year, they only attended the recruiting events at the local universities.

Baskett stressed the importance of reaching out to applicants of color because “we are such a good school district.” She asked that some of that evening’s conversation translate into more action for recruiting for the 2013-2014 school year. Her concern is that the hiring timeline in AAPS was not in sync with other districts, which meant that lots of good candidates of color have offers from other districts before they graduate.

Human Resources: Hiring Process

While the district attends job fairs typically held in the spring, Ryan said, AAPS sometimes must wait until August before it can make final decisions on hiring. The district may know about its personnel needs early on, but until the budget is finalized, the district is not able to make formal hires. When Baskett asked if the problem was that budget discussions did not happen early enough this past year, Ryan indicated that was not the case. To Baskett’s question of how the board can help the HR department get better recruits, Ryan said having the district’s budget settled sooner would be most helpful.

Comsa also recognized that retirements play a part in anticipating staffing needs. He said  the district can’t make “hard offers” until the hard data is known. And Ryan noted that the retirement openings don’t always translate into the same positions hired.

Baskett asked if the hiring process should be changed. If a hire needs to be made mid-year, Baskett asked, is the district able to go back to the pile of applicants already screened? Ryan indicated that’s possible and is sometimes done.

Mexicotte wondered if there was another time to have the conversation about recruitment. She said the board needs to discuss how to maintain a pool of qualified candidates with whom the district has built relationships. Baskett suggested the many student teachers AAPS has each year as a potential candidate pool. Ryan indicated the district currently works to recruit excellent teachers from the pool of student teachers, and has been successful doing so.

Outcome: This was an informational report, which will be given yearly. No board action was required.

Partnership with Toyota

Superintendent Patricia Green, along with Cynthia Mahalak, Toyota assistant manager of media and community relations, introduced a business partnership with Toyota International, working with the Institute of International Education (IIE). Toyota has asked AAPS to join a pilot program to advance Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) education at the secondary level. Toyota selected AAPS as the sole school district nationwide – due to its commitment to international standards and best practices of teaching, according to Green.

The district will work Toyota and IIE to redesign the international teacher program with an emphasis on STEM. The pilot program with AAPS will work to connect AAPS educators to educators in Singapore – a country noted for its innovation in STEM education. Green said that teams of educators from the district will begin traveling to Singapore as early as the spring of 2013.

Mahalak said that when Toyota Motor Sales contacted her to select a district in the state of Michigan for the program, there was little discussion. Ann Arbor was identified quickly as the district Toyota wanted to partner with. Toyota is growing its presence in the Ann Arbor and Saline area, having just celebrated its 35th anniversary in Ann Arbor. [The Toyota Technical Center in Ann Arbor does research and development work for the company.]

Many of the trustees thanked Mahalak and Toyota for partnering with AAPS. Irene Patalan was honored Toyota chose the district. Christine Stead said she was looking forward to seeing the partnership grow. Glenn Nelson noted it will provide the district with the interesting opportunity to see firsthand international standards in a top-rated country.

Outcome: This was an information briefing. No board action was needed on this item.

Naming of Facilities

Two facilities at Pioneer High School are likely to be named to honor service to the school district and monetary contributions, both of which are possible reasons for naming under the district’s naming policy.

Naming: The Argus IMRA Planetarium

The board welcomed the recommendation to rename the current Argus Planetarium as the Argus IMRA Planetarium – in recognition of the $100,000 in private financial support from IMRA America. The IMRA funding allows for the purchase of a new Digistar 5 system. New cove lighting, as well as new signage, will also be covered by the donation. Funds will be set aside to cover costs for opening the planetarium to the community after school hours. AAPS director of communications Liz Margolis also noted that the projector had recently failed.

The Argus Planetarium first opened in 1956 with a financial donation from the Argus Camera Company in Ann Arbor. It was the first high school planetarium in the country. The IMRA funding will ensure that the Argus Planetarium will remain the longest continually running planetarium in any school or college in the Western hemisphere.

IMRA America, which makes ultrafast fiber lasers, has made large donations to the district in the past. In 2011, the company donated $50,000 toward physics equipment, and in 2010 it donated $50,000 for science and math education.

Many of the trustees expressed their appreciation for IMRA’s donation. Glenn Nelson and Andy Thomas noted that it was an example of how the district could work successfully with the greater community. Thomas said it pointed them in the direction of where they need to be going – to look at partnerships with individuals, businesses, and other sources of private funding, as traditional sources of income decrease. Nelson said that when there was a synergy between the district, nonprofits and businesses, it works for everyone.

Christine Stead said she was very impressed with IMRA and was hopeful that other businesses also had ideas of how they could support Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) education. Deb Mexicotte said the donation “speaks volumes” about how the community supports its students. She imagined the recommendation would be  wholeheartedly approved the board’s next regular meeting.

Naming: Pioneer High School Tennis Courts

The board also heard a recommendation to name Pioneer’s tennis courts after long-time boys’ and girls’ tennis coach, Tom “Brick” Pullen, based on his extraordinary service. Over his 23 years of coaching, all but one of the teams have finished in the top six in the state. He has been named Coach of the Year numerous times, as well as National Coach of the Year twice. In following the district’s naming policy, the first four steps of the process have been completed. Board approval is the next step.

Superintendent Patricia Green noted that many people in the community have asked that Coach Pullen be honored in this way. She gave the recommendation her strong support. Representing some of the 173 people who have written to the district to nominate Pullen, Dan and Sandy Lymburner, parents of four Pioneer High graduates, were on hand to speak about Pullen’s “unparalleled commitment to the tennis team.” Sandy Lymburner confirmed that Pullen met expectations, exceeded them, and was well deserving.

The trustees expressed their appreciation for Coach Pullen. Glenn Nelson said that because the district is focusing on the education of the entire student, including social and emotional needs, he was pleased to recognize individuals like Pullen. Irene Patalan was impressed by the outpouring of community support for Pullen’s nomination. Deb Mexicotte said Pullen’s work was typical of the dedication of the teaching staff at AAPS. Susan Baskett asked whether Pullen was agreeable to having the courts named after him – and Lymburner indicated he was.

Outcome: Both naming recommendations were first briefings. They will come up for a second briefing and vote at the next regular board meeting.

Communications and Comment

Board meetings include a number of agenda slots when trustees can highlight issues they feel are important, including “items from the board” and “agenda planning.” Every meeting typically includes public commentary on subjects not necessarily on the formal agenda or that are not covered elsewhere in The Chronicle’s meeting report.

Comm/Comm: Michigan Legislation

During “Items from the Board,” Christine Stead spoke about several legislative issues she felt were important to highlight. The Oxford Foundation-Michigan is engaged in rewriting the Michigan School Aid Act in its entirety to reflect the Any Time, Any Place, Any Way, Any Pace public school learning model Gov. Rick Snyder supports. Under this learning model, funding follows the student, and is not exclusively tied to the school district that a student attends. The School Aid Act could be rewritten and executed through the budget for fiscal year 2014, Stead reported. Stead highlighted problems with Snyder’s approach – related to anticipating staffing needs and tracking student performance. David Comsa, deputy superintendent for human resources and general counsel for the district, supported Stead’s position. He said there had to be better ways to address student needs than to “turn state education on its head.”

Stead also drew attention to HB 5923, legislation through which almost any entity could become a school, she said. She contended that “we could have any company in town become a school” without any accountability for student performance. Both of these pieces of legislation, Stead said, could substantively change education in the state. She said  legislators she has met with have not been aware of these changes and “didn’t think it was a big deal.” But, she asserted, these education models do not protect against conflict of interest and do not protect students.

Comm/Comm: Election Pleas

Stead continued her thought, saying that “people need to know who they are voting for in this November election.” She urged people to take action now, as legislators need to understand what Michigan needs to be a better place to live. At the state level, investments are not being made in education, which means the state is not positioned to be a knowledge-based education state, Stead contended. She noted that Michigan has dropped in ranking and is now ranked 46 out of the 50 states for education.

Tongue in cheek, Andy Thomas called Stead’s attention to a recent article in the Detroit Free Press and said she was worrying too much. He summarized the article, saying the Republican leadership in Lansing is opposing the Common Core State Standards because it takes away control from the local districts. Thomas’s perception had been that there were many other intrusive pieces of legislation that have been passed, but now he “understands the real motivation is to protect the autonomy and local independence of school boards.” He indicated that if that were true, the legislature should embrace the idea of reinstating local control over funding. In closing, Thomas urged everyone to vote.

The leaders of the state, said Deb Mexicotte, cannot race fast enough to the bottom of the pile when it comes to education. She challenged anyone at the state level to show that they have qualitatively done “a single thing to help education” in the state. She asserted that despite the lack of support from the state level, the students of AAPS are achieving. The board is committed to supporting the students, she concluded.

Comm/Comm: Huron/Pioneer Football Fight

Two people addressed the topic of the fight earlier this month following a football game between Pioneer and Huron high schools.

Dale Leslie told the board that he wanted to revisit the recent incident at the Huron and Pioneer football game. As an interested citizen, he said, he wanted to know more about what happened. [Leslie is also a candidate for the school board, running against incumbent board president Deb Mexicotte.] He said he had talked to parents and the police – one officer told him that the act of violence could have been anticipated, because there are very few violent acts that occur without a foundation of antagonism. But the officer had told him that AAPS had removed police from the district’s three large high schools because of budget cuts, Leslie said. These are officers who had gotten to know the students and faculty well, he said, and who are trained to anticipate situations like the one that took place. Leslie said it distressed him to know that the district “threw away the baby with the bathwater.”

He would have hoped that someone from the school district would have approached the Ann Arbor Downtown Kiwanis Club, where he’s a member, to ask for support for these police positions. He noted that the club already provides $30,000 in scholarships to the schools, and perhaps they could have provided funding for part of the police staffing too. It might have been a limited program, but it would have been better than no program at all, he said. This is not your mother’s or father’s high school, Leslie said. There’s a need for law enforcement to be present, and he hoped the board would rethink what’s been done and whether it was a wise decision. He concluded by saying he’d heard from another source that six police officers had been requested for the Huron/Pioneer game, but that the request had been denied.

Sarah Clark identified herself as the mother of two students at Skyline High School who were football players. Even though Skyline wasn’t directly involved, the situation affects everyone, she said. When it’s the lead story on Channel 4 News, she said, that’s not good for anyone in the district.

Sarah Clark

Sarah Clark.

This has left a negative mark on the district’s overall athletic program. She hoped that as the board reviewed the incident, they’d look at the process and outcomes. Kids need to understand how they’ll be judged, she said. It would be helpful to have a framework for how actions will be evaluated and punishments determined. Was the AAPS fighting policy applied in this case? Would the consequences have been the same if spectators had been involved, rather than football coaches and players? Was the process for evaluating the situation applied in the same way at both high schools? Who evaluated if that was the case?

Kids need to understand what the expectations are for them, she said. Had AAPS set up a system in which the punishment for swearing at a coach was the same as participating in a brawl? They might be setting themselves up for a potential conflict in the future, she said. It’s time to review how the district responded. Clark said she appreciated the risks involved with disclosing information, but there are also risks associated with not disclosing information. There were some inaccurate statements made about who was involved, and also the perception that an uneven number of suspensions had been made at one school compared to the other. She urged the board to disclose more information.

Later in the meeting, superintendent Patricia Green responded to some of the statements made about this incident during public commentary. She clarified that the police liaison officers – positions that Dale Leslie mentioned had been cut – had previously been employed by schools during the day. She noted that for after-school games, each school principal has the authority to engage as many police officers as they need. That process hadn’t been affected by budget cuts, she said. On the night of the Huron/Pioneer game, four officers were on duty – that’s the number that the principal had requested, Green said.

Comm/Comm: Nov. 6 Election

The third speaker during public commentary was Thomas Partridge. He noted that he had been elected student body president during the same year that John F. Kennedy was nominated for U.S. president. He recalled that it’s the near the anniversary of Kennedy’s announcement creating the Peace Corps, which Kennedy made while visiting the University of Michigan. It’s in that same spirit that Partridge said he’s calling for the re-election of Barack Obama, the first African American president in U.S. history. He urged the board to help provide transportation to the polls on Nov. 6 for the most vulnerable residents.

Partridge reported that he was running as a write-in candidate for the state House of Representatives in the 53rd District. [Partridge had been defeated in the Aug. 7 Democratic primary by incumbent Jeff Irwin, with Partridge getting 11.53% of the vote.] It was an important seat, he told trustees. Partridge also suggested that a male and female student should have a seat on the board, perhaps rotating representation among the high schools and even middle schools, he said. We need more participatory democracy, he said. He noted that it was an issue addressed in a free book he had picked up on his way to the meeting from a rack on the first floor of the library building. [The AAPS board holds its meetings in the fourth floor conference room of that building.] Partridge concluded by saying that people should unite to support expanded public transit, making it affordable and accessible to the most vulnerable residents.

Association and Student Reports

Five associations are invited to make regular reports to the school board: the Black Parents Student Support Group (BPSSG), the Ann Arbor Parent Advisory Committee for Special Education, the Parent Teacher Organization Council (PTOC), the Ann Arbor Administrators Association (AAAA), and the Ann Arbor Education Association (AAEA). The Youth Senate is also invited to speak once a month, as are representatives from each of the high schools.

At the Oct. 24 meeting, the board only heard from the Ann Arbor Parent Advisory Committee for Special Education (AAPAC). Carli Hildebrand, one of AAPAC’s executive officers, gave a brief report on the group’s September retreat and other activities. She invited the public to attend AAPAC’s monthly meetings – the next one will be held on Monday, Nov. 5 from 7-9:30 p.m. at the Washtenaw Intermediate School District’s Teaching and Learning Center at 1819 S. Wagner Road in Ann Arbor.

Comm/Comm: Visit from Dr. James Comer

James Comer – founder of the Comer School Development Program, and the Maurice Falk Professor of Child Psychiatry at Yale University – visited the district on Oct. 15-16. A mentor of superintendent Patricia Green, Comer visited Ann Arbor because of the district’s work toward eliminating the achievement gap. While here, he attended functions that allowed him to speak on his focus on social and emotional learning for students. Deb Mexicotte noted that “anyone who had the opportunity to engage with him felt his expertise and caring.”

Comm/Comm: Rec & Ed Grant

During her superintendent’s report, Patricia Green noted that community education and recreation director Jenna Bacolor applied for and received a $100,000 grant from the Michigan Department of Community Health (MDCH). The grant was awarded as part of MDCH’s Physical Activity and Healthy Eating Before and After School and Summer pilot program. Four elementary schools – Bryant, Carpenter, Mitchell, and Pattengill – as well as Ann Arbor Open’s Summer Learning Institute, will benefit from the grant.

Comm/Comm: Executive Session

Before the regular meeting at 7 p.m., the trustees met for an executive session [which is closed to the public] to receive and discuss with legal counsel a legal opinion protected by the attorney-client privilege requested by the superintendent and provided by legal counsel.

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

Absent: Trustee Simone Lightfoot.

Next regular meeting: Wednesday, Nov. 7, 2012, at 7 p.m. at the fourth-floor boardroom of the Ann Arbor District Library’s downtown branch, 343 S. Fifth Ave. [Check Chronicle event listings to confirm date.]

The Chronicle could not survive without regular voluntary subscriptions to support our coverage of public bodies like the Ann Arbor Public Schools board. Click this link for details: Subscribe to The Chronicle. And if you’re already supporting us, please encourage your friends, neighbors and colleagues to help support The Chronicle, too!

One Comment

  1. November 1, 2012 at 5:11 pm | permalink

    I wonder if AAPS has considered outsourcing their 100TB of storage instead of expanding it.

    I see that both Microsoft Office and Open Office are on the list, but Microsoft Office requires an update for Lion. In keeping with the move to open source, would it be practical to just drop Microsoft Office? It’s kind of annoying when teachers and staff send me a Microsoft Office document.