In her first year on the job Ann Arbor Public Schools Superintendent Jeanice Swift led a wide variety of changes in an effort to meet community desires and boost attendance.
Balancing the budget through attracting students rather than relying solely on cost savings measures is a key message Swift took from her Listen and Learn community tour. This made for a busy second half of last school year as a variety of programs, such as the new STEAM program at Northside, had to be developed and ready to go for this week's start of the school year.
Did the changes lead to the hoped for enrollment jump? The official count won't be known for a month, but Swift says the new students that signed up for Ann Arbor schools are showing up in the classroom.
She expects this year will have a different primary focus. "This year will be about monitoring and supporting and watching the numbers and making sure that our programs are fully supported and that they have developed with quality, and so that will be the focus of this year," Swift says.
School Board President Deb Mexicotte agrees the year will be largely about making sure the new programs are working. But she says some areas of the district haven't gotten as many new initiatives. "We expect that they're going to be looking at those programs and saying, 'Wow, what can we step up and do? What do we need in our building?' and so we are going to be very open to this sort of wide set of innovation occurring across the campus," she says.
Swift plans to again seek public input with some form of listening tour to kick-off later this month. She says this will make sure the right changes and programs have been implemented and find where the community wants additional attention.