Stories indexed with the term ‘AAPS’

Live Audio: AAPS Candidate Forum

As part of its fall kickoff to be held on Oct. 20, 2014 at Haisley Elementary School, the PTO Council is hosting a forum for Ann Arbor Public School board candidates. Ten candidates will appear on the ballot for the four positions. Terms are four years.

Editor of the now-defunct Chronicle Dave Askins will be moderating the forum.

The forum is expected to begin around 7:15 p.m. and will last roughly 90 minutes. Our intent is to offer streaming live audio with the player below. The following day, we expect to be able to post .mp3 files for on-demand listening.

Fifth & William

Standing room only at Ann Arbor Public Schools board of education meeting. AAPS employees are wearing black in response to cuts to employees.

Skyline High School

Crew is putting in AstroTurf at Skyline High School, where I went to meet superintendent Candidate #2. [photo] You can meet candidate #2, Brian Osborne at 7 p.m. at Skyline. The AAPS board makes a decision on the new superintendent on Friday.

Column: Disparate Impact of AAPS Cuts?

Editor’s note: This marks the launch of a new column in The Chronicle, focused on Ann Arbor Public Schools and other educational issues. Readers might know Ruth Kraut from her commentary on Ann Arbor Schools Musings, where she’s been writing about these issues for several years. For recent background on The Chronicle’s coverage of AAPS, see “Milestone: Why You Keep Running a Marathon.”

Ruth Kraut, Ann Arbor Public Schools, The Ann Arbor Chronicle

Ruth Kraut

Next week, the board of the Ann Arbor Public Schools will need to cut about 5% from the district’s budget. That’s a reduction of about $8.6 million. Teachers have already taken a 3% pay cut.

Per-pupil funding for next year ($9,025) will be less than the per-pupil funding of 12 years ago in 2001-2002 ($9,034). So it’s no surprise that we’re at the point where cuts are painful. Cutting teachers, cutting programs – none of it is happy news. There will be consequences. The question is, what kind of consequences?

In the civil rights world, a “disparate impact” occurs when a policy is non-discriminatory in its intent but affects a “protected class” of people in a disproportionate way. In Michigan’s Elliott-Larsen Civil Rights Act, for example, these protected classes include race, religion, color, national origin, age, sex, height, weight, and marital status.

AAPS is a district with a large achievement gap – between white students and African American and Hispanic/Latino students. And this gap has persisted for many years. Although in state civil rights law, income is not a protected status, income is highly correlated with race, age, and marital status. District-wide, there is also an achievement gap that is related to income: Poor kids are more likely to do poorly in school.

So it’s important to consider the AAPS budget from a perspective of potential disparate impacts. On the surface, the proposed budget cuts treat all students equally. But if we look deeper, would we find that certain budget cuts worsen – or perhaps improve – the achievement gap?

Three proposed budget cuts have raised a significant amount of opposition this year: (1) eliminating high school transportation; (2) cutting reading intervention teachers; and (3) cutting seventh hour or making it a tuition-only option. Together, these three account for just under $1.5 million of the $8.6 million in cuts. Do these cuts, in particular, have a disparate impact on any groups? [Full Story]

Community Meetings Set for AAPS Budget

The Ann Arbor Public School (AAPS) board of education has released dates for community dialogue meetings on the budget for fiscal year 2014. In a release from the district, the trustees indicated they would like community input to develop the principles they should follow in making cuts and strategies to lessen the need for such cuts in the future. The district must cut $17 to 20 million from the general operating budget in the coming year.

The budget dialogue meetings will be structured differently from the forums that have been held in previous years – to allow for more open conversation. Several board members will be in attendance at each meeting to engage in conversation with the community. Conversation topics will depend … [Full Story]

AAPS Board OKs Biology Books, Therapists

Ann Arbor Public Schools board of education (Aug. 15, 2012): In a meeting notable for its brevity – under an hour – trustees gave final approval to adoption of a new biology text book, and to a contract for therapy services.

Glenn Nelson

Ann Arbor Public Schools trustee Glenn Nelson. (Photos by the writer.)

The biology textbook adoption for the district’s high schools was priced at $117,441. The district expects 1,391 students to be enrolled in biology courses this fall – in five different high schools. The purchase includes bound copies of traditional textbooks, as well as an interactive reader and access to an online edition.

A contract for physical, occupational therapy services – provided to Ann Arbor Public School district students with disabilities – was also given approval by the trustees. The contract is with Pediatric Therapy Associates and totals $528,360 for the 2012-2013 year. It includes 120 hours weekly for physical therapy and 135 hours weekly for occupational therapy, at an hourly rate of pay of $56.

The board was also briefed on the selection of an auditor for the coming year and the financial institutions that the district can do business with.

Public commentary included a call to leave three police liaison positions unfunded. They were left unfunded in this year’s budget, and the call was to leave those positions out of the budget in future years as well. The argument for that was based on the idea of better learning in environments without police presence. [Full Story]

AAPS Candidate Info Session: Attendance 0

On Tuesday evening, June 18, 2012, the Ann Arbor Public Schools held an information session for prospective candidates for election to the AAPS board of trustees. Board president Deb Mexicotte’s seat is the only one up for election on Tuesday, Nov. 6, 2012. It is a four-year term, beginning Jan. 1, 2013.

Current trustees Andy Thomas and Christine Stead were on hand to talk over the roles and responsibilities of a trustee. No potential candidates showed, however. Attendance at the information meeting was not mandatory for candidacy.

To appear on the ballot as a school board candidate, candidates must file paperwork at the Washtenaw County clerk’s office by Tuesday, Aug. 14 by 4 p.m. Candidates must file an affidavit of identity and … [Full Story]

AAPS Board Passes 2012-13 Budget

Ann Arbor Public Schools board of education regular meeting (June 13, 2012): The Ann Arbor Public Schools board of education passed a $188.96 million budget for the 2012-13 school year, which begins July 1.

AAPS school board at its June 15, 2012 meeting.

The Ann Arbor Public Schools board at its June 15, 2012 meeting.

That budget reflects roughly $4 million in spending cuts compared to last year’s budget, and reflects the elimination or restructuring of some transportation services, a reduction in the budget for substitute teachers, and the consolidation of high school summer school programs.

The approved budget also calls for using $6.54 million, or about one-third, of the district’s current fund equity, which caused trustee Christine Stead to cast her vote against the budget. Stead expressed strong concern that the budget neither allows for incremental expenditure shifts, nor sets the district up for successfully weathering the 2013-14 budget cycle and beyond. “I want us to use our past year’s experience as a data point,” she said, “… [T]o act like we are, with the information we have, is difficult for me to support.”

The June 13 meeting also saw the approval of three special briefing items – a renewal of the district’s food service contract with Chartwells, a resolution to upgrade human resources and finance software, and a set of policy revisions. Special briefing items are reviewed and voted on by the board in a single meeting instead of being entertained as first and second briefing items at two consecutive regular meetings.

Finally, the board approved the contract of Robyne Thompson as the new assistant superintendent of secondary education, and extended the contract held with AFSCME Local 1182, which primarily represents custodians and maintenance workers in the district. [Full Story]

AAPS Budget: Public Critical; Board Fretting

Ann Arbor Public Schools board of education (May 9, 2012): One of the major tasks of the board of education is setting the budget, the other is setting policy. The May 9 agenda was primarily policy-focused, but discussion on the budget found its way into most sections of the meeting.


Supporters of the Roberto Clemente Student Development Center filled the board room for the May 9 meeting. (Photos by Monet Tiedemann.)

Sentiments expressed during a heated public commentary section were later echoed during agenda planning, as two of the board trustees questioned administrative work being done behind the scenes to prepare for possible budget reductions. The budget does not need to be approved by the board until June 30. A second public forum on the budget will be held on May 14 at 6:30 p.m. in the Huron High School cafeteria.

Several speakers at the May 9 meeting thanked the community for passage of the technology bond millage two days earlier.

Also at the May 9 meeting, trustees considered approving two new easements with the city of Ann Arbor, and awarded a set of bids for physical properties work. They also took a first look at the district’s new anti-bullying policy, as well as a set of other policy updates presented by AAPS administration.

Finally the board reviewed the proposed 2012-13 budget of the Washtenaw Intermediate School District (WISD), and shared its concerns about it. Local school boards are required by law to review the WISD’s budget, but have no vote in its actual approval. [Full Story]

AAPS Hears from Community: Keep Clemente

Ann Arbor Public Schools Board of Education regular meeting (April 25, 2012): The board received a formal presentation of the proposed fiscal year 2013 budget. The board is not required to approve the budget until June 30.

At the meeting, 33 parents, students, and staff responded to proposed budget cuts that would affect transportation, Roberto Clemente Student Development Center, and music camps. The total time allotted for public commentary by the AAPS board is 45 minutes. So speakers wanting to address the school board at public commentary at the April 25 AAPS school board meeting were limited to 1 minute and 22 seconds, which was rounded up to a minute and a half.

Brian Marcel and Scott Wenzel, giving the WISD transportation update

Brian Marcel and Scott Menzel gave the AAPS board an update on the transportation services provided by WISD to the district as part of a consortium of other districts.

After hearing the budget presentation, board members shared some of their individual thinking on how best to address the projected $17.8 million deficit facing the district next year. AAPS is sponsoring two community budget forums to get additional feedback on the budget proposal. Both start at 6:30 p.m. The first will be held on May 7 at the Pioneer High School Cafeteria Annex and the second one a week later on May 14 at the Huron High School Cafeteria.

Support of the upcoming technology bond millage came up multiple times at the meeting as one way local residents could have an impact on the funding crisis facing local schools. AAPS district voters will decide that issue on May 8.

Also at this meeting, longtime environmental educator Bill Browning was honored by the board for his years of dedication to the district, as well as his recent $30,000 donation to the AAPS Science and Environmental Education Endowment Fund. [Full Story]

AAPS Weighs Cuts to Staff, Buses, Programs

Ann Arbor Public Schools Board of Education Regular Meeting/Committee of the Whole (April 18, 2012): After quickly approving two items in a regular meeting, the AAPS school board recessed to a committee meeting to discuss informally proposed reductions to the fiscal year 2012-13 budget. The district faces a $17.8 million deficit for the coming year.

Robert Allen, AAPS deputy superintendent for operations

Robert Allen, AAPS deputy superintendent for operations (Photos by Monet Tiedemann)

Trustees discussed possible staffing cuts, reductions to transportation services and discretionary budgets, the restructuring of alternative high school programs, and the elimination of some extracurricular funding. AAPS administration is currently relying on $6 million worth of projected revenue enhancements to cover a chunk of the deficit. The remaining deficit is proposed to be covered through a combination of cuts and use of fund balance – summarized in three different plans: A, B and C.

Plan A has the least amount of cuts and the most use of fund balance, but still calls for a reduction in staff by 32 full-time positions, the elimination of some busing services, and the closure or merging of one of the district’s alternative high schools. Plans B and C have progressively greater cuts and less use of fund balance.

A formal presentation will be made on proposed budget reductions at the next regular board meeting, this Wednesday, April 25, with community forums and public hearings to follow in May. Board president Deb Mexicotte said at the meeting that the board will pass a finalized FY 2012-13 budget in June.

After the jump, the specifics of Plans A, B and C are laid out it detail. [Full Story]

AAPS Pitches Case for Tech Improvements

Ann Arbor Public Schools Technology Bond Forum (April 16, 2012):  At a sparsely attended forum on Monday evening, Ann Arbor Public Schools (AAPS) district administrators reviewed their reasoning behind asking district voters to fund a $45.8 million technology bond, and fielded questions from the community members who attended. On May 8, voters will be asked to approve a 0.5 mill tax to support the bond.

Glenn Nelson Patricia Green AAPS

AAPS school board member Glenn Nelson and superintendent Patricia Green. The campaign signs were provided by the Citizens Millage Committee, not AAPS. (Photos by the writer.)

The forum was held at Pioneer High School.

District superintendent Patricia Green noted that AAPS administration has been giving its presentation to various school and community groups, and expressed cautious optimism that voters would support the bond, based on the initial response from these groups.

At Monday’s forum, community members questioned the scope and length of the proposed bond issue.  They also asked about contingency plans if the millage fails, the district’s loyalty to Apple as a technology vendor, what will happen to the district’s computers and other technology products as they become outdated, and exactly how technology is used in teaching and learning.

After moving the ballot question from the February election to May – to avoid the confusion of holding the tech bond vote in conjunction with a closed Republican primary – the district is funding a special election on Tuesday, May 8 to decide the issue. [Full Story]

AAPS Hopes to Cross “Discipline Gap”

Ann Arbor Public Schools Committee of the Whole meeting (December 7, 2011): At Wednesday’s board committee meeting, AAPS superintendent Patricia Green outlined her vision for addressing what she called the “discipline gap.” The board met as a committee of the whole (COTW).

Suspension statistics Ann Arbor Public Schools

Percentage of AAPS high school students by ethnicity with at least one suspension during the school year. Part of the discipline gap that district superintendent Patria Green wants to address is reflected in the different between the blue bars – African American students – and other ethnic groups. Bars are clumped by year. (Image links to higher resolution file.)

Green sees closing the discipline gap as a gateway to eliminating the district’s achievement gap. Green’s presentation included a detailed breakdown of suspension data from the past eight years – a data set that shows a disproportionately high number of African-American students, special needs students, and economically disadvantaged students being suspended or otherwise removed from instructional time.

Trustees expressed optimism that Green’s comprehensive and integrated approach could ultimately be effective in addressing the achievement gap. Saying that while the board has had binders, spreadsheets, and plans before, board president Deb Mexicotte said she believes in Green’s leadership. “A lot of times in the past, the piecemeal bits have not been clear how they would work together … I now believe we can do this.”

Recalling a question Green asked the board during her interview process last spring, Mexicotte told Green, “You asked us what we would like to see in five years, and we said: Close the achievement gap. We are absolutely unified on this.”

Also discussed at the Dec. 7 COTW  meeting were the new “cut scores” being used to determine student proficiency on the annual state Michigan Educational Assessment Program (MEAP) test and Michigan Merit Exam (MME). Under the new system, students will need to get approximately 65% of the answers correct to be labeled proficient or above; the previous proficiency level was set at 39%. The district is working to mitigate parents’ surprise and concern. This year’s student scores will in most cases likely register a significant drop.

Trustees also gave their assent to a proposal by top administrators to widen the range of students who are able to address the board at their regular meetings, heard a brief budget update, and reviewed their upcoming agenda. [Full Story]

AAPS Delays Vote on Journeyman Contract

Ann Arbor Public Schools Board of Education regular meeting (Nov. 30, 2011): In its main business of the meeting, the Ann Arbor school board voted 4-2 to postpone a vote on contracting with a non-union, non-local company for journeyman services related to heating, cooling, and ventilation.

Debate among trustees on the issue included discussion on paying prevailing wages, the legal requirements of accepting lowest reasonable bids, and due process of determining comparable services among bidders. Public commentary and the teachers’ union association report were also devoted fully to this issue.

Also at the Nov. 30 meeting, the board reflected on its decision to consolidate its busing services with the Washtenaw Intermediate School District, in light of firm audit numbers from 2010-11. Savings realized in the area of transportation fell nearly $1 million short of the district’s target in the first year of the consolidation. [Full Story]

AAPS Budget Planning Continues

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. [Full Story]

AAPS Budget Forum Feedback

Ann Arbor Public Schools budget forum (November 14, 2011): It was standing-room only in the Pioneer cafeteria annex as over 140 people gathered to hear an overview of how the school district is funded, and to add their ideas to the mix as the district faces an anticipated $14 million shortfall in 2012-13.

Robert Allen (standing at right) with the large gathering at the budget forum held Nov. 14 at Pioneer High School. (Photos by the writer.)

The district’s approved budget for 2011-12 is $183.62 million.

As staff scrambled to bring in more folding chairs and photocopy additional handouts, AAPS superintendent Patricia Green and AAPS deputy superintendent of operations Robert Allen opened with a presentation on funding and budget challenges.

The presentation had been tweaked since a similar forum held last week. [For the details from that forum, see previous Chronicle coverage: "AAPS Seeks Public Input on Budget"]

This report highlights some of the changes made to the budget presentation, but focuses on the questions and suggestions offered by the community members who attended Monday’s forum. [Full Story]

General Election 2011: Results Roundup

Voters in Ann Arbor elections held on Nov. 8 confirmed the city’s general preference for incumbent candidates, both on the city council and on the school board. Out of a field of six, voters gave the two incumbents on the Ann Arbor Public Schools board of trustees – Andy Thomas and Simone Lightfoot – each a four-year term.


Map A: Breakdown by precinct of the vote in Ward 2, with white shading to indicate Jane Lumm's weakest precinct (2-2 with 33%) and black her strongest precinct (2-5 with 71%). Shades of gray show relative strength of Lumm's support. Incumbent Stephen Rapundalo managed a majority in 2-9 and 2-2, but in 2-2 only three people voted. (Image links to dynamic Google Map.)

And the preference for Democrats, which the city of Ann Arbor has shown in recent years, was generally also confirmed in Tuesday’s city council results. Four of five Democratic incumbents were given another two-year term on the 11-member body. Sabra Briere (Ward 1), Stephen Kunselman (Ward 3), Marcia Higgins (Ward 4) and Mike Anglin (Ward 5) all easily kept their seats.

The lone Democratic incumbent who lost was Stephen Rapundalo. He was defeated on Tuesday by Jane Lumm, who served previously on the city council as a Republican, but who ran against Rapundalo as an independent. Rapundalo himself is a former Republican, but served three terms on the council as a Democrat.

Ann Arbor voters also said yes to all three proposals on Tuesday’s ballot. They approved a renewal of the 2.0 mill street repair tax, the addition of a .0125 mill sidewalk repair tax, and a change to the composition of the city’s retirement board of trustees.

Sylvan Township voters were in a less agreeable mood, voting to reject a 4.75 mill tax that would have been used to reimburse Washtenaw County for some bond payments on which Sylvan will likely default in 2012. The county will likely file a lawsuit to recover the money through a property assessment.

In The Chronicle’s travels to polling stations throughout election day, turnout was described by precinct workers as light to moderate. It ranged from a low of less than 1% in three predominantly university student precincts, to a high of 26.6% in Precinct 5 of Ward 2 – the ward with the most hotly contested race. Countywide, turnout was 11.24%, according to the county clerk’s office. However, several election workers noted that percentages are hard to gauge, given that many voters are still registered even if they’ve left the area – as is the case with many voters who register as college students.

Complete results are available on the Washtenaw County clerk’s election results website. [Full Story]

AAPS Trustees Lament State’s “Hoops”

Ann Arbor Public Schools board of education meeting (Oct. 12, 2011): Reaction to new state-level legislation and how it’s affecting the school district was a common theme of nearly every section of the Oct. 12 AAPS board meeting.

Robert Allen Ann Arbor Public Schools

AAPS deputy superintendent of operations Robert Allen (left) and Washtenaw Intermediate School District transportation director Tom Moore addressed the board's questions regarding transportation. (Photo by the writer.)

At the meeting, the board passed the necessary set of resolutions to qualify for the restoration of $1.6 million of support from the state, as board members criticized the state’s process as “hoops” they needed to jump through.

Budget constraints came up in most of the topics on which the board took action, as well as during two informational updates – one on the bus service, and one on the results of an insurance audit undertaken by the district. Multiple speakers who addressed the board urged trustees to take political action and to lead the community in legislative advocacy and state-level reform.

Transportation service changes were again a major point of discussion at the Oct. 12 meeting. Board members questioned the success of the district’s bus service consolidation with the Washtenaw Intermediate School District. Four parents spoke at public commentary about safety concerns resulting from loss of bus service, especially with the winter weather approaching.

At last Wednesday’s meeting, the board also voted to purchase additional algebra textbooks, approved the printing of the Rec & Ed catalogue, and renewed a contract for therapeutic services needed for special education students. [Full Story]

Election 2011: AAPS Board Candidate Forum

A candidate forum held Monday evening, Oct. 3, 2011 invited six candidates for two seats on the Ann Arbor Public Schools (AAPS) board of education to make brief statements and share their answers to five questions.

AAPS candidates 2011

Simone Lightfoot draws a number out of the hat, held by League of Women Voters member Judy Mich, to determine speaking order. From left to right (front to back): Albert Howard, Ahmar Iqbal, Patrick Leonard, Simone Lightfoot, Larry Murphy, Andy Thomas. (Photos by the writer.)

Candidates were asked about bullying, their candidacies, technology, transportation, and partnerships between AAPS and other entities. The forum was sponsored by the local League of Women Voters, and broadcast live from the studio at Community Television Network (CTN).

The video can be re-played online through CTN’s video-on-demand service.

League member Susan Greenberg opened the forum, introducing the six school board candidates – Albert Howard, Ahmar Iqbal, Patrick Leonard, Larry Murphy, and incumbents Simone Lightfoot, and Andy Thomas.

Election Day is Nov. 8. Voters will be asked to choose up to two candidates to serve four-year terms on the seven-member board. Board members not standing for election this time around are: Deb Mexicotte, Glenn Nelson, Irene Patalan, Christine Stead and Susan Baskett.

Greenberg explained that the League of Women Voters is open to all citizens over the age of 18, male and female, and referred the public to the League website for membership information. She added that one purpose of the League is to assist voters in making informed choices at the polls, and as such, it holds forums such as this one.

Finally, Greenberg noted that the questions for Monday’s forum were selected by a committee of League members from suggestions sent in by the community, and introduced forum moderator Judy Mich.

Mich welcomed “viewers, voters, and candidates” and provided some information on how the forum would be conducted. She explained that  the League’s policy is to alternate the person who first responds to a new question, and then allow each of the other candidates to respond to the same question. For the opening and closing statements, candidates drew numbers to determine their speaking order.

Candidate responses are presented in the order in which they were given. For previous Chronicle coverage of the candidates, including more about their backgrounds, see: “Forum for Six AAPS Candidates[Full Story]

AAPS to Float February Tech Millage

Ann Arbor Public Schools board of education meeting (August 10, 2011): AAPS board of education trustees approved a resolution at their Aug. 10 meeting to ask voters to fund $45.8 million in technology improvements across the district.


Trustee Andy Thomas uses a magnifying glass to review the amortization table presented as part of the bond proposal during an Aug. 9 special meeting. (Photo by the writer.)

The request to the voters will take the form of a tax to be paid by property owners over the next 13 years at an average rate of around .51 mills to support the sale of bonds. The rate will vary because the bonds will be issued in series in order to ensure that the equipment purchased with the bonds has a useful life longer than it takes to pay off the bonds used to purchase it. [A rate of .51 mills is $0.51 for every $1,000 of a property's taxable value.]

Trustees plan to place the measure on the Feb. 28, 2012 ballot – the fourth Tuesday of the month. Previously, the board had discussed the possibility of placing it on the Nov. 8, 2011 ballot.

If approved, the millage would pay for a bond that would fund upgrades to equipment previously purchased with a 2004 bond, including student, teacher, and administrative computers, as well as upgrade infrastructure such as switches, servers, and the district’s wireless “backbone.”

The new bond would also include support for new classroom technologies and administrative software.

The Aug. 10 decision to place the technology millage on the February 2012 ballot came after discussion at a special board meeting on Aug. 9, which was called to allow for trustees to share feedback they had received from the community since directing administration to prepare for a tech bond at a study session on July 13.

The Aug. 10 meeting also included trustees’ unanimous vote supporting a new DVD recommended by the district’s Sexual Health Education Advisory Committee (SHEAC). [Full Story]

Six to Vie for Two Seats on School Board

Today, Aug. 16, marked the filing deadline to appear on the ballot as an Ann Arbor Public Schools board of trustees candidate in the Nov. 8, 2011 election. Two four-year terms, beginning January 1, 2012 and ending December 31, 2015, are up for election this year.

The two seats are currently held by Simone Lightfoot and Andy Thomas – who are both running for re-election, Washtenaw County clerk staff confirmed today.

Challenging the incumbents are: Albert Howard, Ahmar Iqbal, Patrick Leonard, and Larry Murphy. Voters will be able to select up to two out of the field of six, with the top two winning election to the board. Thomas, Murphy and Iqbal all attended an information session held for … [Full Story]

AAPS: No Fee Hike for “Pay to Participate”

Ann Arbor Public Schools administration sent out a letter to families today outlining the district’s 2011-12 athletics plan.

In a major departure from the iteration most recently presented to the board of education, the final plan does not raise pay-to-participate fees.  It also retains cheer and dance as varsity sports.

The letter states that this is the final verdict – after gathering feedback from parents, coaches, boosters, and the school board – on what has been an ongoing discussion since district athletic directors unveiled their original program cuts in late June. Finally, the letter sent today also warns that, although a “favorable return on expenditures” allowed some program reductions to be avoided for the coming year, the district is “fully expecting reductions will again … [Full Story]

AAPS Info Session Draws Possible Candidates

On Thursday evening, June 30, 2011, the Ann Arbor Public Schools hosted an information session for prospective candidates for election to the AAPS board of trustees. Two board seats will be up for election on Nov. 8, 2011, both for four-year terms beginning Jan. 1, 2012. The two incumbents – trustees Simone Lightfoot and Andy Thomas – have told The Chronicle that they will seek re-election.

Voters will choose up to two from the field of candidates, and the top two vote-getters will take seats on the board.

Thomas, along with two other prospective candidates – Larry Murphy and Ahmar Iqbal – attended the informational meeting. The deadline to file an intention with the Washtenaw County clerk’s office to run for a school board seat is Aug.16 at 4 p.m.

In response to questions from Murphy, Iqbal, and Thomas, longtime board members Deb Mexicotte, Glenn Nelson, and Susan Baskett reflected on several topics: the campaigning and election processes; closing schools; the recent dearth of candidates in local school board elections; dealing with displeased constituents; the time commitment involved in serving as a trustee; the role of board members; skills needed on the board; the use of outside consultants; and countywide enhancement millage campaigning. [Full Story]

AAPS Board Sets 2011-12 Budget

The 2011-12 Ann Arbor Public Schools (AAPS) budget, approved by the board of education on June 8, will cut 62.3 teaching positions, modify bus service to high school students, and require the use of $810,000 of the district’s fund balance.

The $183 million budget went through many iterations since originally proposed in April, before the board approved it on Wednesday evening on a 5-2 vote. Trustees Simone Lightfoot and Christine Stead dissented.

Details on the board deliberations that led to the split vote on the budget will be included in The Chronicle’s forthcoming meeting report, along with the other board business transacted that evening.

This brief highlights the key elements of the approved budget. [Full Story]

Ann Arbor School Board Weighs Cuts

When the board of education trustees meet on Wednesday evening to pass the fiscal year 2011-12 budget for the Ann Arbor Public Schools, they will have to choose between what to cut now and what to cut later.

AAPS Robert Allen

AAPS interim superintendent Robert Allen and board chair Deb Mexicotte. (Photo by the writer.)

School districts across Michigan are facing an ongoing structural deficit in state funding, along with significant anticipated cuts in reimbursement for special education services, and increases in mandated payments into the Michigan Public School Employees Retirement System (MPSERS).

Since the AAPS board last met on May 25, Michigan legislators passed a budget for the upcoming state fiscal year, which begins in October 2011 – though it still awaits Gov. Rick Snyder’s signature. The budget includes a one-time provision to offset the increase in school districts’ MPSERS payments, as well as one-time grants to districts that meet at least four out of five “best practice” guidelines, as defined by the state.

For AAPS, this means the district could receive as much as $4 million more in state funding than anticipated when its 2011-12 budget was proposed – a $2.4 million retirement offset, and a possible $1.6 million in best practice grant funding. In light of these changes, AAPS trustees met Friday, June 3 to review possible amendments to the budget proposal they will be considering Wednesday. No binding decisions were made at the study session, and there was no consensus among trustees about how much to defer to recommendations brought by the administration.

Changes to transportation services and class sizes generated the most discussion. The proposed budget includes a reduction of 70 teaching positions, which would raise class sizes at all grade levels by two or three students per classroom. Administration has proposed bringing back 7.7 of those 70 positions, though trustees discussed whether the district should add back even more.

The board also discussed the possibility of proposing additional local millages. Revenues could be used to refresh technology districtwide and build more classrooms, allowing AAPS to offer all-day kindergarten at all elementary schools. Ballot language for any proposed millages would need to be completed by the end of August to be voted on this fall.

Two four-year terms for board of education trustees will also be on the Nov. 8 ballot, for seats currently held by trustees Simone Lightfoot and Andy Thomas. [Full Story]

School Board Calls Extra Session on Budget

Ann Arbor Public Schools board of education meeting (May 25, 2011): The May 25 meeting of the AAPS board of education opened on a somber note, with board president Deb Mexicotte requesting a moment of silence to honor Huron High School junior Seth Harsch, who died Tuesday after stepping in front of a train. Mexicotte noted that crisis counselors have been on hand at Huron to offer support to students and staff, who are dealing with the loss to their community.

A handful of residents addressed the board during a public hearing on the proposed 2011-12 AAPS budget. The board will hold an additional study session on the budget on Fri., June 3 at 3:30 p.m. in the main conference room of the Balas administration building, and the public is invited.

The session will focus on prioritizing objectives, in case the finalization of the state budget leads to greater revenue for the district than initially expected. If revenue projections increase, the board may choose to restore high school busing, decrease class sizes, or make other amendments to the currently proposed budget. A final vote on the budget is scheduled for June 8.

Public commentary on the Haisley Elementary School parking lot continued. Although many of the speakers requested additional changes to the design, the board approved the proposal as it had been presented at the board’s first briefing, along with a host of other facilities improvement projects. Trustees also approved the purchase of a new standardized assessment tool, the Northwest Evaluation Association Assessment (NWEA), primarily for use in grades K-5.

Late in the meeting, which lasted over seven hours, the board engaged in a frank discussion regarding the Washtenaw Intermediate School District’s (WISD’s) budget as it relates to state reimbursement of special education services as well as local tax levies. Though trustees eventually passed a proposal in support of the budget, some board members registered strong concerns.

Finally, the board heard first briefings on a number of other items, including the 2011 millage resolution that will accompany the final budget vote, and updates on both the AAPS strategic plan and a set of board policies. [Full Story]

AAPS Board: No Principal Sharing in 2011-12

Ann Arbor Public Schools (AAPS) board of education meeting (May 11, 2011): After hearing significant public commentary on the matter, and following a spirited discussion, the AAPS board voted 5-2 to eliminate a plan to share principals among elementary schools from the proposed 2011-12 AAPS budget. A public hearing on the budget will be held as part of the next regular board meeting at 7 p.m. on May 25.

Public commentary was also rich with concerns regarding a proposed expansion of the parking lot at Haisley Elementary, which was discussed by the board at length as a first briefing item. It will come up for a vote at the May 25 meeting.

At the May 11 meeting, which lasted past 1:30 a.m., the board also approved upgrades to the district’s PowerSchool communication system, SISS assistive technology, and the elementary math curriculum. They also heard a first briefing on a proposal to purchase a new standardized assessment tool to complement the Michigan Educational Assessment Program (MEAP), and were updated on the progress of the Widening Advancement for Youth (WAY) Washtenaw program. [Full Story]

AAPS Gets Update on Achievement Gap

The April 13 study session of the Ann Arbor Public Schools board was highlighted by an update on the district’s efforts on equity initiatives, as well as some blunt discussion about race in the Ann Arbor public schools. Study sessions are meetings of the board scheduled as needed to gather background information and discuss specific issues that will be coming before them in the future.

The session included a presentation from Glenn Singleton, a facilitator for the Pacific Educational Group (PEG). PEG was hired by AAPS in 2003 to assist in the district’s efforts to close the achievement gap – a disparity in academic performance between minority students and other students.

Singleton, who led a majority of the discussion, criticized the board on a number of points, contending that a lack of continuity in leadership has impeded progress in closing the gap. He also said the board has not shown full support for closing the achievement gap, resulting in uncertainty for principals, administrators and other building leaders as to the board’s commitment to solving the problem.

Interim superintendent Robert Allen was on hand and provided background on the district’s involvement with PEG. Allen said that Singleton was touching base with the district and visiting AAPS schools. Singleton was doing walkthroughs to evaluate the district’s progress on closing the achievement gap using techniques suggested by PEG.

“At this point we can have a meaningful evaluation of where we are with the equity work and what we’ll need to do to achieve our goals,” Allen said. The study session focused on lack of board support, failures in leadership structure and the need for “courageous conversations.” [Full Story]

AAPS Superintendent Contract Signed

Patricia Green, incoming superintendent for the Ann Arbor Public Schools, will be earning an annual base salary of $245,000, according to a contract signed March 30, 2011 and provided to The Ann Arbor Chronicle in response to a Freedom of Information Act request. The five-year contract runs from July 1, 2011 through June 30, 2016.

Fringe benefits include 25 vacation days annually, three personal days per year, 12 sick days that could accrue up to 200 sick days, and the same paid holidays as other top AAPS administrators. She also receives long-term disability and retirement benefits equivalent to those received by top AAPS administrators; a term life insurance policy at three times her salary; up to $2,500 per year in fees and dues to join community organizations; and reimbursement for participation in up to four professional organizations. The district will pay for her laptop computer, cell phone, job-related travel, entertainment and professional development activities. Green has waived the district’s medical, dental and optical benefits, instead receiving an additional $2,700 per year.

The seven-page contract also stipulates that the district will pay for her relocation costs. For any time spent in the district prior to her July 1 start date, consulting with the district or meeting with community members, the district will pay a daily rate of 1/260 of her base salary – or $942 per day – plus travel, lodging and meals.

If the school board terminates her contract, Green is entitled to 18 months worth of salary. At the current rate, that amount totals $367,500. [.pdf of AAPS contract with Patricia Green] [Full Story]

AAPS Superintendent Choice: Hard Decision

Ann Arbor Public Schools board of education special meeting (March 5, 2011): The Ann Arbor Public Schools search for a new superintendent came to an end last Saturday afternoon, when the board of trustees selected Patricia Green as their preferred choice for the position.

Green is currently the superintendent of schools at North Allegheny School District in Pennsylvania. She’s a career educator, with her own educational background including a bachelor’s degree in elementary education and a doctorate in education policy, planning and administration. The AAPS website includes additional biographical material on Green. [See also Chronicle coverage of first round interviews with the candidates: "AAPS: Final Phase of Superintendent Search"]

Patricia Green

Patricia Green answers questions at a community forum held at Pioneer High School on March 4, 2011.

The decision to enter into negotiations with Green was made after the board held second interviews with Green and Michael Muñoz last Saturday morning, which followed a community forum the night before. At the forum, held at Pioneer High School, both candidates answered questions submitted by many of the roughly 100 members of the public who attended. Several board members also attended the forum.

The board selected Green after lengthy deliberations, which included reports on reference calls, an extensive discussion of candidates’ strengths and weaknesses and a number of straw polls displaying support for both candidates.

The fact that straw votes by trustees at one point had five of the seven supporting Muñoz – before the board eventually decided on Green – indicated that the board’s consensus was reached only with a great deal of effort. Board members frequently expressed their satisfaction with both candidates.

“We have two excellent candidates,” board president Deb Mexicotte said. “This is good for the outcome but tough for making the decision.”

Other board members agreed, frequently prefacing their statements of support for one candidate by allowing that, ultimately, they would be fine with either choice.

This report describes how the board’s discussion on Saturday unfolded. [Full Story]