Ann Arbor Public Schools

Andrew Cluley

Ann Arbor Public Schools officials are excited to kick off their largest ever Schools of Choice effort.  Monday the district will begin accepting applications to fill up to 750 slots. 

Communications Director Liz Margolis says they’ve carefully looked at current and projected enrollments. After studying these projections they've made seats available for nearly every grade in all of the district's schools.  The district however isn't accepting high school juniors and seniors.

Ann Arbor Public Schools new Assistant Superintendent of Finance and Operations is excited to work closer to students in a k-12 district again.  The district Wednesday night hosted a reception for Marios Demetriou  who comes to Ann Arbor from the Muskegon Area Intermediate School District.  

School Districts across Michigan including Washtenaw County are working to find and verify all students that missed school Wednesday.  That's because the February count day is the basis for ten percent of per-pupil funding.  The bulk of state aid is based on the fall count day.  

Ann Arbor Superintendent Jeanice Swift's Listen and Learn report did a good job of capturing community thoughts on the district according to Parents and Teachers at a meeting at Forysthe Middle School Thursday night. 

As Ann Arbor Public Schools look to quickly move forward with improvements Superintendent Jeanice Swift is checking that she heard the community correctly during the Listen and Learn tour. 

Swift says the community has a hunger for action steps to follow.

Kim Carver has had students in the district previously and a son coming to Forsythe Middle School next fall.  Carver likes the positive vibe and the lack of defensiveness.

Forsythe teacher, Dan Ezekiel is extremely impressed with the report that he believes does a good job boiling down the input of 2,000 people that participated in the fall.

Swift will hold Listen and Learn follow-up meetings at Ann Arbor's four other middle schools next week.

For more, view the video summary of the Listen and Learn report

AAPS

The Ann Arbor School Board has approved a package of program enhancements designed to attract more students particularly to underutilized schools. 

The changes include co-locating Roberto Clemente and Ann Arbor Tech High; a K-8 science, technology, engineering, arts, and math program at Northside Elementary; and new pre-k programs at Allen and Thurston Elementary. 

Superintendent Jeanice Swift says the next step is creating committees of staff, students, and community members to develop the detailed action plans for each new program. 

School board president Deb Mexicotte says the programs are designed to keep costs down but it's still a calculated risk that the new options will attract more students. 

The programs are designed to respond to some of the most common concerns raised by community members during the Listen and Learn tour.

There has been positive community feedback about the Pre-K programs at Allen and Thurston and the STEAM program for Northside Elementary.  Several Roberto Clemente supporters however told the board they have concerns about what will happen when they move into the same building as Ann Arbor Tech.

The Ann Arbor School Board continues to do preliminary work on studying increasing revenues through some type of a millage.

An Ann Arbor School Board Ad-hoc committee says a rec and ed millage would provide the district the ability to offer additional non-credit programs, but not shift much money from the general fund.   School board member Glenn Nelson says the rec and ed millage would be valuable in terms of offering non-credit programs that compliment other programs.  He says it would be particularly valuable for early-childhood education where a four day program could become a five day program with a recreation program on the extra day.

The board also created a new ad-hoc committee to do a similar analysis of a county-wide enhancement millage and an increase in the special education millage.  Both of these efforts would require county-wide support while the rec and ed millage would likely raise less money but only require support from district voters.

The report on an enhancement millage and an increase to the special education millage are due in mid-March when the board will discuss what if any millage question they might want to put on the ballot.

Cali4beach / Foter.com / CC BY

Ann Arbor Public Schools officials continue to work with principals, PTO councils, and others to prepare schools for new federal food guidelines.  Starting in July all food sold in schools during the school day need their first ingredient be a whole grain, fruit, vegetable, or protein.  The new guidelines are designed to promote healthy eating habits for all kids across the country. 

SEE ALSO: Ann Arbor Public Schools Avoid Borrowing to Meet Cash Flow Concerns in December

Jenna Bacolor, chair of the district's Wellness Committee says they hope discussions now will help avoid headaches at the start of next school year.

Bacolor adds that unfortunately, the federal government and state haven't announced all of the final rules so some questions remain, particularly around exemptions for food sold through fundraisers. 

The new guidelines don't apply to food brought to schools by students.

SEE ALSO: Cash Or Credit? How Kids Pay For School Lunch Matters For Health

The Ann Arbor School Board has asked administrators to move ahead with a series of program enhancements for the next school year in an effort to better fill the district’s buildings.

The improvements include a K-8 Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts and Mathematics program at Northside Elementary, pre-school programs at Allen and Thurston Elementary Schools, and co-location of a variety of alternative High School programs at the Stone School building.

Superintendent Jeanice Swift says the programs came from community comments raised during her Listen and Learn tour and staff did enough prep work so they can be ready this fall.

The board is expected to get more complete reports on the program enhancements at their meeting next week and could vote on them with two weeks.

School Board President Deb Mexicotte says the quick turn-around should work since the controversial issues like co-locating Roberto Clemente and Ann Arbor Tech have been worked on by the district over the last few years.  She says most of the other changes come directly from what the community asked for repeatedly during the Listen and Learn tour.   Mexicotte says the district is finding ways to respond quickly to community needs without additional funding.

The programs were part of seven next steps Superintendent Jeanice Swift made as part of her report on the listen and learn tour.  Swift gave her initial report on the tour at the board retreat.  The report will be available online at the district’s website Friday and Swift will hold public meetings to get feedback starting Tuesday at Clague Middle School.

At the retreat the board also worked on establishing board and superintendent goals, and discussed the superintendent evaluation.

Mexicotte says it’s great to see that the program enhancements being considered work toward achieving many of the board’s goals.  She says this shows the board’s goals are aligned with want the community wants to see from the district.

Ann Arbor Public Schools Superintendent Jeanice Swift has given the school board an initial report from her Listen and Learn tour.  

Jesse f/2.8 / Foter.com / CC BY-NC

Ann Arbor Public Schools planned to borrow money up to three times during the school year to address cash flow issues caused by a smaller fund balance than in previous years.  The district has now made it through two of the three months that were most likely to require borrowing without needing to seek outside cash. 

SEE ALSO: Ann Arbor Public Schools Parents Hopeful for Return of Tuition Based Pre-School

Chief Financial Officer Nancy Hoover says the planned use of $1.7 million in fund balance this school year, means they may still need to borrow money in June.
 
Hoover adds, the Washtenaw Intermediate School District helped the district avoid the need to borrow money in December by making a bill for transportation services not due until this month. The city of Ann Arbor also helped the district avoid the need for borrowing in December by quickly remitting some of the taxes they collect for the district. 

Hoover says the district's budget included spending $200,000 in interest payments which most of these have now been avoided.


Up to 5% of Ann Arbor Public Schools students in the fall could be coming to the district from other school districts in Washtenaw County.  The school board Wednesday night voted unanimously to open 750 school of choice seats for out of district students. 

Superintendent Jeanice Swift says the jump in school of choice seats is one of several efforts to better fill the district's classrooms.

The district has increased the number of school of choice students attending in each of the last four years, but never has filled all of the available seats. 

To help fill the spaces this year the district is planning a marketing campaign and district officials hope having spaces in all grades except the last two years of high school will help attract families with multiple children.

School of choice applications will be accepted March third through April first.  From Friday through February 14th the district will accept applications for in-district school of choice for students who don't want to attend the school where they live.

AAPS

All signs point to a return to classes Thursday for most if not all schools in the area. 

Ann Arbor Public Schools Director of Communications Liz Margolis says district staff have been working since before the snowstorm to make sure buildings will be ready to re-open. 

That includes custodians checking on the heating systems.

Margolis says district staff have been working to shovel snow since it started falling in preparation for classes resuming.

Some area schools are cancelling classes for Thursday.  

AAPS

As a cost cutting measure Ann Arbor Public Schools closed tuition based pre-school programs at Allen and Thurston Elementary for the current school year. 

A group of parents however have been working with district officials to create a new pre-school program and hope the school board will begin considering the options later this month. 


USDAgov / Foter.com / CC BY

Ann Arbor Public Schools next month will be looking at what changes are necessary to prepare the district for new federal guidelines on what food can be sold during the school day. 

The new rules begin July 1st. 

They require the first ingredient of any food sold in schools be a whole grain, fruit, vegetable, or protein. 

SEE ALSO: Ann Arbor Schools To Roll Out Enhanced Security Measures

 

School Board President Deb Mexicotte says the new rules will put some limits on what is available, but doesn't eliminate all snacks. Mexicotte adds, that it doesn't affect food brought to school by students or parents.  The new rules also end 30 minutes after the school day so concession stands at evening events don't have to adhere to the guidelines.

Mexicotte believes the school stores, vending machines and fundraising efforts will face the biggest challenge from the new rules.  She says Chartwells has been planning for the new requirements for some time so the food available in cafeterias should be able to meet the new rules.

Early next year Ann Arbor Public Schools will have a better idea on how effective and efficient their behind the scenes business practices are. 

The School Board last night unanimously approved a contract for up to $45,000 with Plante Moran for the audit. 

Superintendent Jeanice Swift says since the board originally budgeted up to $80,000 for the audit they will be able to dig deeper into issues raised from the review or other sources.  Swift says the audit, her Listen and Learn report, and a benchmark study comparing the district to six similar districts should all be completed in late January or early February.  She says this will give the district a good 360 degree look at the health and overall function of the district.

The Ann Arbor School Board has unanimously passed a resolution asking the state Department of Education to make sure mandatory tests aren't given on major religious holidays.  The resolution has also been supported by Superintendent Jeanice Swift and the Ann Arbor Arab American Parent Support Group. 

Ann Arbor Schools already have a policy prohibiting major exams and other events on three star holidays but the resolution is a response to the Michigan Educational Assessment Program exams taking place in October during Eid-al-Adha. 

School Board Member Glenn Nelson says it was more than just students that had to choose between the required test and an important holiday.  He says all of the teachers he knows that were impacted chose to stay with their students.

Nelson says they hope to speak with the State Board of Education, the state superintendent and others to ensure testing doesn't conflict with important holidays.  He says culture diversity needs to be considered for Michigan to attract people from across the globe.

Maximilian Schönherr / Foter.com / CC BY-SA

Ann Arbor Public Schools are working on reducing the load students have in their backpacks.  The move to online textbooks either through iPads, laptops, or desktop computers will reduce the need to carry books to and from schools. 

Superintendent Jeanice Swift says some of the recently adopted textbooks already have online options available and the district wants to expand their use before a complete move to online textbooks.  Swift says the bulk of the transition to e-textbooks won't happen for a couple of years.  She says the delay will give time for new textbooks to be developed specifically to meet the common core curriculum.

 Swift says she doesn't think paper textbooks will ever be completely eliminated but could become an extra feature that costs more.


As Ann Arbor Public Schools officials look to again address a projected budget shortfall for next school year they are also gathering information on a possible new revenue source.  An ad-hoc committee is collecting information on a possible recreation millage. 

School Board member Glenn Nelson says determining what this type of millage can be used for will be a first step.  He says checking with some area districts on how they use a recreation millage will be a valuable resource.  Nelson says the committee should have a report ready for the full school board by the middle of January.  He says they would then have the background details needed to consider a recreation millage compared to other options such as trying again on a county-wide enhancement millage.

The committee should have a report by the middle of January so a recreation millage request could be considered among other options when the budget discussions really get going in earnest.  Nelson  says a recreation millage wouldn't be able to directly fund core academic programs, but it could free up money that's currently funding other programs.

Ann Arbor Public Schools Sinking Fund Millage Passes

Nov 6, 2013

Ann Arbor Public Schools will continue to have a dedicated source of funding for facility maintenance and upgrades. 

Voters approved a five year continuation of the sinking fund millage yesterday.  The one-mill tax was approved by over 80 percent of voters. 

School Board Member Glenn Nelson says the sinking fund is an important piece of the overall budget.  He says without the millage the shape of schools would have been reduced and instruction would have suffered as well.  Nelson says the community has once again invested in education and the area's future.  He says the sinking fund millage is an education tax that completely remains in the district.

Local Election Results (Un-official)

Nov 5, 2013

Un-official election results have Saline Township voters saying "yes" to a road maintenance millage renewal.  The one-mil issue generates revenue to take care of the township's gravel non-primary roads. 

School district voters appeared generous with their support Tuesday, approving an operational millage renewal for Saline Area Schools.  Ann Arbor schools voters also approved a sinking fund millage renewal.

The Ann Arbor school board has voted four-to-three to offer a contract to Jeanice Swift to be the district's next superintendent. 

The board held a special afternoon meeting Wedneday to decide how to proceed after South Orange Maplewood, New Jersey Superintendent Brian Osborne turned down an offer for the job. 

Swift is currently Assistant Superintendent for Instruction with Colorado Springs District 11. 

WEMU's Andrew Cluley reports that board President Deb Mexicotte will negotiate a contract with Swift.

Officials in the Ann Arbor Public Schools are hoping to quickly work out a contract with the Board of Education's choice for district Superintendent. As WEMU's Andrew Cluley reports, the School Board last Friday, voted unanimously to offer the job to Brian Osborne. Osborne is currently Superintendent of New Jersey's South Orange and Maplewood School District. 

Brian Osborne's current contract in New Jersey mandates a 90-day notification prior to departure. If a contract is agreed upon, it could mean three months before he can start in Ann Arbor.

Members of the Ann Arbor Board of Education have just over 24-hours to consider whom they prefer to serve as the districts next Superintendent of Schools. As WEMU's Andrew Cluley reports, the second and last finalist last night met with the community at a public forum.

The Ann Arbor Board of Education is set to interview six semi-finalists for the districts Superintendent position. As WEMU's Andrew Cluley reports, the board last night finalized most of the remaining plans for the selection process.

  The Ann Arbor school district has identified the six semi-finalists to be the district's next superintendent, and a couple of them are local. 

Dr. Henry Hastings is a full-time instructor at Eastern Michigan University, and Dr. Benjamin Edmondson is principal of Ann Arbor's Roberto Clemente High School. 

The Ann Arbor school board has received a lot of input on what the community is looking for in the district's next superintendent.  As WEMU's Andrew Cluley reports, input has come in online, and through a series of small group meetings Wednesday.

aclu.org

  The American Civil Liberties Union of Michigan wants Ann Arbor Public Schools to to re-think charging high school students for seventh hour classes.  WEMU's Andrew Cluley has the story.

The Ann Arbor School District is turning to the head of its Human Resources and Legal Services 

Departments to lead the district for the next few months. As WEMU's Andrew Cluley reports, the Board of Education last night named Dave Comsa to serve as Interim Superintendent.

There has been no shortage of input from the community at public forums on the Ann Arbor School District's budget proposal. The latest hearing was held Tuesday night at Pioneer High school. The budget proposal calls for eight-point-seven million dollars in cuts for the upcoming academic year. As WEMU's Andrew Cluley reports, attendees are also suggesting ways to enhance district revenue.

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