Friday, July 20, 2012

Athletics: Equity and Cost Between Ann Arbor High Schools

Last year, for a blog post I wrote about administrative positions in Ann Arbor schools, I requested data from the 2005-2006 year and the 2010-2011 year. In the post, Administrative Cuts: Easy to Be Hard, I discussed the changes that occurred over those five years.

In 2005-2006, Skyline did not exist, and when it opened, Skyline High School was allocated an Athletic Coordinator (not an assistant principal level position, but a lower-level position), while Huron and Pioneer had Athletic Directors (which are assistant principal level positions).

I was told at the time (which was just before Pat Green started), by Liz Margolis, the AAPS Director of Communications, that the plan was to move to a single Athletic Director/two Athletic Coordinators format, after one of the current Athletic Directors retired. Obviously, this would be a cost savings.

Well, one of the athletic directors just retired.

In an article about administrator-level changes, Danielle Arndt writes,

"Pioneer’s athletic director, Lorin Cartwright, also retired at the end of the 2011-12 school year. Cartwright worked for the district for 32 years, Margolis said. She made $103,690 last year, the top of the pay scale for her position, which starts at $91,965.
An interim athletic director will be appointed next week. Like the high school principal’s position, the interim will carry out the athletic director’s duties for the “foreseeable future," Margolis said. Officials are looking both from within and from outside the school district for a replacement, she added."

I wondered if perhaps Danielle Arndt had misunderstood, and the position was actually going to be filled at the athletic coordinator level.

So of course I had to ask: Did Danielle misunderstand what the position is? Or, if not, what happened to the plan? 

And I got back the answer, "As is common with new leadership, plans change. I understand the plan is being reviewed."

So I asked, "Of course--that is understandable. What is the timeline for reviewing that plan? And what permutations are being considered? Would, for instance, the district considering raising John Young's level to be athletic director, giving the district three ADs?"

Liz Margolis' response: "I am  not sure of the timeline. I know the Pioneer AD position is set for interviews this Friday. I am unaware of any plan to create the position at Skyline as an Athletic Director position but if that did occur ( and I have no idea if this will or will not), the job would have to be posted for applicants. There are different requirements for this person including administration qualifications."

So I asked, "Thanks--so can you find out: a. If there is an actual thought out "plan" regarding the levels of athletic direction at the three schools? And if so, what that plan is?"

Liz Margolis' response: "Based on the posting  I would say the plan is to hire an AD at Pioneer and maintain the AC at Skyline. I will ask Alesia Flye if this has changed."


I am still waiting to hear back, but it's only been a couple of days. Based on what I know though, the supposed (new) plan doesn't seem reasonable. My concerns relate to both equity and cost.

The original plan, to maintain one athletic director and two athletic coordinators, was clearly based on cost. Athletic coordinators cost less, so there would be a savings. Other local school districts have adopted this approach--for instance, Plymouth-Canton. At the time (last year), my main beef with this idea was that maybe it should happen immediately, and not at some hypothetical time in the future.

The current "plan," to maintain athletic director-level positions at Pioneer and Huron, but not at Skyline, doesn't make any sense at all. The schools are essentially the same size now. Why should Pioneer and Huron get athletic director positions, but not Skyline? With similarly-sized schools and programs, shouldn't the work be equivalent? Speaking as a (former) Skyline parent, what would be the equity in bringing in a new person to Pioneer at the AD level (and keeping the Huron staff person at the AD level) but keeping the Skyline staff person at the AC level?

My third concern is this: was there an actual, real-life, thought-out decision to scratch the earlier plan? Or was there just an automatic "let's fill the position" reaction when Lorin Cartwright decided at the last minute to retire?  With both Pat Green and Alesia Flye being brand new to the district, did anyone even realize (and share) that there had been a plan to stick with a single Athletic Director position?

How is it possible to read about this sequence of events, and then not laugh at the headline in today's, "Ann Arbor school board to set goals: zero-based budgeting will be top priority." In zero-based budgeting you have to justify the rationale for your expenses. Where is the rationale?

I'm not an expert at what athletic directors and coordinators do, or whether cost or equity is more important in this case, so I can't tell you what is the right decision: three athletic directors at three schools; or one "lead" athletic director, and two athletic coordinators assigned to the other two schools.  What I do know, though, is that a plan with two athletic directors and one athletic coordinator serves neither equity nor cost savings, and should not be pursued.


  1. Wow. I think you hit the nail on the head, Ruth. They had no idea of the plan, and now they don't want to back-track. Good grief.

  2. Good article, Ruth. Please keep pursuing this!

  3. Actually, they could still backtrack. The position they interviewed for on Friday was an interim (not permanent) athletic director position at Pioneer.