Wednesday, May 29, 2013

AAPS Budget Question: Paying for a Seventh Period?

One of the possibilities on the budget cutting table is the elimination of the ability for students to take seven classes in a semester, the elimination of "seventh hour." According to district budget documents, this is anticipated to save $500,000.

A second option would allow students to take a seventh hour for tuition. The state only requires that six hours be offered, and many districts have already cut their seventh hours.

The music departments are already crying foul about this. The Pioneer music department released these statistics:

In 2012-2013:
36% of Pioneer Band students take a 7th hour out of necessity to get all of their credits in. 
46% of Pioneer Orchestra students take a 7th hour out of necessity to get all of their credits in. 
47% Pioneer Choir students take a 7th hour out of necessity to get all of the credits in. 
This is 43% of the total music department. 

So, o.k., it is clear this would disproportionately affect the music departments. It would also affect students in career/vocational education, those taking lots of AP classes...

There is also a proposal to switch Skyline from trimesters to semesters, and an alternate proposal to allow Skyline to keep trimesters but make reductions that would save a similar amount of money. 

All of which led me to the following questions. 

1. If students at Pioneer and Huron (and Community) need to pay for a seventh hour option, will it be free to students who qualify for free and reduced price lunch?

Something like 15% of our high school students currently qualify for free/reduced price lunch. Obviously, if you charge tuition and you don't waive the price for students with FRPL, then poorer kids are going to get fewer opportunities than richer kids. On the other hand, if you do waive the price for students with FRPL, then that would have a budget impact. Right?

2. If the "seventh hour tuition" goes into effect [or if seventh hour is simply cut], but Skyline stays with the trimester system, will students at Skyline need to pay for [or be able to access at all] their fifth hour? Because  
4 periods/trimester at Skyline = 12 periods (six credits) and 
6 periods/semester at the other schools=12 periods (six credits).

This seems obvious, but I think we'd have a mass protest if families at Skyline were told they could only have four hours/term (or have to pay for a fifth hour). It might seem like a credit is a credit is a credit, but because of the trimester system, many students at Skyline use three trimesters (1.5 credits) for the same class of. . . math, music, or AP classes. . . that take two semesters (1.0 credits) at Pioneer or Huron or Community. So any decision to cut credit hours at Skyline would probably affect more students than at the other schools. In fact, with only four hours a trimester, I'm not sure that most students could meet their basic requirements. On the other hand, I would think that if Skyline students get 15 hours/year and the other students only get 12 hours/year, the students (and families) who only get 12 hours/year would be rightfully pissed off.

So, anyway, I put these questions to the AAPS Director of Communications, and this is her answer: 

Ruth. We are not able to answer either of these questions. No decision has been made regarding 7th hour by the Board. We are still working on the 7th class for fee scenario. 


It's unclear to me whose job it is to "play out" various scenarios, but it doesn't seem like it should be left to me, ruminating while I'm out for an evening walk.

I'm not sure how they could make a decision on seventh hour without considering these questions, especially given that they will have budget impacts.  And that, of course, makes me wonder: what assumptions were embedded in that projected $500,000 in savings? Where did that number come from?

Monday, May 27, 2013

Around the County

Superintendent Searches and Related Information

Ann Arbor is in the middle of a superintendent search. I've written about it here. You can take a survey about what you would like to see in a superintendent You might find some of the "desired character traits" can be read in two ways. There is also an opportunity for comments. Take the survey here.

Dexter has been employing an interim Superintendent and it looks like they have identified a preferred candidate for the permanent position--Dr. Chris Timmis, currently Superintendent in the Adrian Public Schools. The school board president's letter, posted on the school web site, starts out like this:
Superintendent Search UpdateThe Board of Education would like to share current information about the superintendent search process. If you have any questions, feel free to ask a member of the School Board, or you may ask one of the building principals or union leaders who will contact us to get an answer.
Later, he writes:
Dr. Timmis embodies most of the characteristics the district and community identified as important for our next superintendent. He is a visionary leader who has shown the ability to solve existing problems and to be an innovative leader by thinking outside the box for meaningful improvements. As superintendent of Adrian Public Schools for the last five years, Dr. Timmis took his district from a low-performing, financially distressed district to one that has become a model in the state for rising student performance. Although the issues in Dexter are different from what Adrian Public Schools has faced, we see in him the ability to help Dexter move from good to great, and expand the opportunities for success of all our students.
Read the full (and detailed) letter provided on the Dexter Schools web site.

There will be a public interview. According to the letter,
The Board will interview Dr. Timmis at a public meeting on June 4th at 7:00 PM at Creekside Intermediate School Media Center. If the Board decides to continue the process, a site visit to Adrian Schools will take place the week of June 10th to talk with Adrian Schools staff, Board members, and the community. Following the site visit, a date will be set for the Board to vote on whether to hire Dr. Timmis as our superintendent.
I'm glad they are. . . doing a site visit. . . and having a public interview. And I didn't find Chris Timmis' name coming up on any searches related to Broad Foundation information.

Ypsilanti Community Schools

Dedrick Martin--current Ypsilanti Public Schools superintendent, who was to continue as an assistant superintendent in the new district because the district was going to have to pay him anyway, has taken a job in St. Johns, Michigan. So now they are going to hire a Chief Financial Officer instead of an assistant superintendent. What do you think of that?

Schools of Choice

Saline is opening a limited Schools of Choice, with at least 50 kindergarten spots, at least 10 first grade spots, and at least 15 high school spots. There are some other spots available as well, depending on enrollment over the summer. Find out more here.

Lots of other schools have schools of choice as well, including Lincoln, Milan, Whitmore Lake, the new Ypsilanti Community Schools, Manchester. I think Chelsea has schools of choice this year (but I could only find last year's form); Dexter has opened to a very limited schools of choice (I think five students) and Ann Arbor had schools of choice but the "window" for applications has closed.

Additional Information

Chelsea Update, found at, is a local news source, and at the top of the page there is a "Schools" tab if you are looking for Chelsea Schools information.

Dexter Patch is also a source of information about Dexter schools.

Good Reads

Why Minnesota's Governor Vetoed Teach for America Funding

This has absolutely nothing to do with schools, but it is about valuing our histories. This is a fascinating article about how historic treasures were saved in Timbuktu when northern Mali was taken over by radical Islamists.

Thursday, May 23, 2013

After School Child Care: A Remembrance

As a working parent, few things are more precious than finding the right afterschool child care program. A program where the kids get exercise; and have fun with games, reading, and art projects too. A program where the kids are not glued to the television screen.

Ann Arbor Public Schools Rec & Ed has offered a robust child care program for many years, but to be frank, how good the program is in any individual year rests on two things: a) the quality of the staff and b) the school location where the child care program could be.

Space turns out to be really important. I actually had a co-worker who did an in-district transfer for her kids because the child care space at her districted school was so poor, and she chose a nearby school with much better child care space! The kind of space that the afterschool program gets depends on a combination of space available and the importance the principal places on having good space. In any case, while my children were in the program, the principal--who used the child care herself--felt that this program was very important. The space at Ann Arbor Open was excellent--three basement rooms that were large and had large windows.

In general, in the years my kids were at after school child care, the staff ranged from good to great. But there were a couple of years where not only were the staff excellent, but they also got along so well, and were such good friends, that the feeling was palpable when you walked in the room at the end of the day. That was a special time, and I believe that (at least at that time) Ann Arbor Open had one of the largest afterschool child care programs in the district.

Most of those staff people were in college, or thinking about college, or working on artistic pursuits, and eventually, most of them moved on. One of them even has a child at Ann Arbor Open now! But over the past few months, I was saddened to hear of the death of two former Ann Arbor Open childcare staff.

Jevon Walls worked at Ann Arbor Open both in the child care program and as a lunch supervisor. He connected well with the kids and died after struggling with substance use issues.

Carrie Holmes had a great sense of humor. She was really warm to the kids, and with my daughter she seemed to work endlessly on perler bead projects. (The kids can do the designs, but an adult has to do the ironing of the perler beads.) Thus she was with her on the day that my daughter accidentally put a perler bead up her nose, something we all (except my daughter) found pretty funny. Carrie fought brain cancer for years, and she had just gotten her teaching certificate.

Carrie and Jevon--may your memory be a blessing. 

The Next Terrible Idea: Vouchers for Vendors

Here's our latest action alert: we need to...
Steven Norton1:26am May 23
Here's our latest action alert: we need to tell the school aid budget conference committee members that Vouchers for Vendors has got to go! The new Section 21f, included in the budget, would require districts to allow students to take two online courses per semester. The problem starts when it's not clear who gets to approve the online providers. Our local schools have to foot the bill, and live with the results, but don't get to approve the courses or even decide what it means to pass!

Now there's news from Louisiana about a similar program there which has ended up being used for fraud. Thousands of students were unknowingly signed up for online classes, or signed up for ones they don't need or were in the wrong grade level, by companies going door-to-door in low-income neighborhoods to recruit students. Those who were told what was going on were mainly promised a free iPad, and left the details to the hired recruiter.

We don't want or need that kind of scandal here. Vouchers for Vendors has got to go! Spread the word!
Get rid of Vouchers for Vendors
Get rid of Vouchers for Vendors


Tuesday, May 21, 2013

State Funding Update--Action Requested

I just got this in my inbox from Michigan Parents for Schools.

Dear Friends,

I wanted to share with you this message which my colleague Elizabeth Lykins just sent out to parents and concerned citizens in the Grand Rapids area. I think she hits the nail on the head.

Steve Norton
Executive Director, MIPFS

Action items are first. Greater detail follows. If you have already made calls or sent emails, THANK YOU. If not, take a couple of minutes and do this for your community. The cuts we are all suffering are drastic; they could be MUCH deeper if some of the proposed legislation passes.

Tell your lawmakers:
  1. To oppose any reduction to the total per pupil funding. It is dishonest for legislators to claim that they are increasing per pupil funding while simultaneously reducing other types of aid that our public schools depend on, resulting, in fact, in a net loss to school budgets. They all claim to support schools - start showing it. So far, many have not.
  2. To remove from the final school aid budget the provision requiring school districts to allow students to take two online classes per year. This would siphon money from our schools, while giving it to private online vendors who are not held accountable for student academic performance (while at the same time holding our schools accountable for the students' academic performance in those online classes).
  3. Not to resolve the road crisis (or any other tax issues) on the backs of our schools. The legislature would be acting in a highly irresponsible way by removing the funding that gas taxes provide for schools without an assured funding replacement - one that does not rely on a ballot measure. Find the replacement BEFORE voting on any cuts.
  4. To stop using money from the School Aid Fund for purposes other than K-12 funding. The School Aid Fund has enough money to restore the per pupil funding cuts of the last several years and actually invest in K-12 public education - but not if those funds continue to be divided among other recipients, such as universities and community colleges.
  5. There is $400 million surplus in the general fund - please use it to restore money taken from our children.
ISSUE: The School Aid Budget
Currently, with the two budget proposals (House and Senate versions), local school districts can expect more cuts - again. In addition to the proposed funding cuts, we are concerned about a provision that is in both budget versions. This provision would require school districts to pay private online vendors, who are unaccountable for student academic performance, for up to two classes per year if students choose this option. This could potentially siphon more money away from our schools. Experience with a similar program in Louisiana shows that this could be a huge opportunity for fraud.

ISSUE: Roads vs. Schools.
Several bills would shift gas taxes, which benefit schools, to other fuel taxes that are exclusively committed to transportation. This would result in about an $800 million reduction in the School Aid Fund. The effect of such a shift would be at least a $500 per pupil cut on top of the funding decreases we are already trying to manage. This would be devastating. Replacement revenue has not been guaranteed. Another bill has been proposed that would eliminate transfer taxes on used cars (which also benefits the school aid fund).

My sincerest thanks,

Monday, May 20, 2013

American Public School History: Quiz Results

So here are the quiz results. With the answers. How did you do?

The first public school in our country was Boston Latin, founded in 1635. That's right, 15 years after Plymouth Rock! So I can say that public schools are "like a rock" to our country.

In 1827, Massachusetts passed a law making all schools free to all children. This was a little bit of a trick question, in that Michigan wasn't even a state yet. It's also worth noting that Massachusetts is still the national leader in school funding. And their student achievement results show it.

The answer is "fund parochial schools." I wanted to highlight this so that you would understand that issues around funding parochial schools have also been around for a long time. The impetus for this has changed over time. When these laws were first implemented the main issue was that the majority of citizens were Protestant and there was an influx of Catholic immigrants.

Most of you got this one right! The 1896 Plessy v. Ferguson case was overturned by the Brown v. the Board of Ed. decision. However, you should read up on these other cases! Engel v. Vitale is about prayer in public schools; Tinker v. Des Moines features Ann Arbor's own Paul Tinkerhess and is a free speech case; and Hendrick Hudson Board of Ed. v. Rowley is an early (early? 1981!) special education case.

Sunday, May 19, 2013

Read. Think. Act

Things to read:

Article about the experience of being a test grader: Inside the multimillion-dollar essay-scoring business. Reading about scoring reminded me of the essay my son wrote for a test once that I actually published.

Article about Ann Arbor Public School teachers losing their domestic partner benefits due to the union contract being renegotiated due to Right to Work, and the anti-domestic partner legislation passed two years ago in Michigan. (Note: this is also true of Washtenaw County employees, and probably others in the state.) I. feel. terrible. about. this.

Article about how Snyder and Co. knew all about the Skunk Works project

Article about Albion closing its high school. (One thing I don't understand about this--it was my impression that state law says that a district is defined by having a high school. But it appears this won't automatically dissolve the district.)

Think and Act. Or in some cases, Act and Think.

The former "SkunkWorks" group now headed by Michigan Superintendent Flanagan has set up a new Facebook page asking for input. Please. Give them a piece of your mind.

The Ann Arbor Schools are asking you to fill out a survey about the qualities most important to you in a Superintendent. Find the survey here. It's fairly short, but before you fill it out, think about how you want to answer qualities that could be interpreted in more than one way. There are several of those. For instance, what exactly do they mean by "Is comfortable leading innovation and reform efforts?" Is that a code word for another Broad Foundation candidate? I'm all for innovation along the lines of more project-based work and more magnets, but I'm not for corporate reform. . . As it happens, there is a comments box at the bottom. Use it!

There is a MoveOn petition to the Ann Arbor school board asking the district not to cut high school transportation because of its disparate impact on low-income kids. If you are in agreement, please sign it here. (I did.)

Saturday, May 18, 2013

Take the Quiz

This quiz is now closed (5/20/2013). Read the results here.

I posted this quiz the other day as part of this post.

But I really love the quiz and only a few people have taken it. Please take it (below) and then later this week I will post the responses (as well as the correct answers, which are available here if you need instant gratification).

Thursday, May 16, 2013

Ann Arbor: Are We Operating in a Data-less World?

I'm reflecting on the Ann Arbor school district's budget study session, and the recommendations that have come out of it.

And it just makes me wonder--are we operating in a data-less world?

It's a little hard to get a fix on exactly how much needs to be cut, and it does need to be cut. I might make some people unhappy by advocating for more cuts rather than fewer, but given the uncertainties in the budget that would make sense to me.

How do you go from needing to cut 20 million to 8.6 million. . . and then back up again. . .

In any case, I accept that there will be teacher cuts. [Speak to the legislators and tell them to restore funding to the School Aid Fund.] I don't have any trouble with cutting a staff person from the Pioneer theater program. [Have you seen how much money Pioneer Theatre Guild makes?] I accept that pay to play sports will cost more for my son next year.

But it seems to me that we are making decisions without data that the district should be able to provide.

For instance, I asked a couple of weeks ago, when the proposal to cut all of the Reading Intervention teachers came up, "But is the Reading Intervention program working?" [Not surprisingly, the Reading Intervention teachers say yes, and here is their web site.]

I argued, if the program is working, we shouldn't cut it, because early interventions for reading are important; and if it isn't working, we should have cut it earlier.

And then. . . the school board decides to cut it. . . in half. To my mind, this is the least satisfying thing they could do. Is the program working, or not? I am sure that there is data that shows that it is or isn't working. But maybe the data doesn't exist. If it doesn't exist, then that's a different problem. Cutting the program in half appears to show that you have no idea if the program is working or not.

The school board is deciding to cut high school busing. I think this is a terrible idea, at least in the mornings. (I saw an interesting suggestion to keep busing in the morning, and cut it in the afternoon--I liked that idea but I'm not sure if it is legal.)

But what I really want to know is this: how many low-income kids live in areas that are too far from their high schools to get there without high school busing? Many of the complexes with large numbers of low-income students are not on bus routes.

If we assume that most middle class kids would, in fact, be able to find a way to school (and I'm not sure that's true, but let's make that assumption), how many low-income kids would have trouble getting to school? I'm thinking, for instance, of kids who lives outside the bus lines at Scio Farms, Orchard Grove Village, or Lakestone (formerly Eagle Pointe) Apartments. How would they get to Pioneer or Skyline? What about kids who live in apartment complexes that are on bus routes--say, for example, Glencoe Hills? Would we pay for them to have bus passes?

Do we have this data? I would think we should use it to inform our decisions. Do the supposed cost savings account for paying for kids (at least low-income kids) to have bus passes? Does it account for some number of low-income kids dropping out? Do we even know how many kids we would put at risk of dropping out?

Where is the data?

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Standing at the Creation of Public Schools in the United States

This week it's the Jewish holiday of Shavuot, or the Feast of Weeks. In the Jewish tradition, we are all supposed to see ourselves as if we were in the Sinai desert, when the Torah (Five Books of Moses) was given to the Jewish people. That is because the Torah is foundational to Jewish understanding of Jews as a people. When Jews "see" themselves as if they were "present" at Sinai, it's as if a connecting strand stretches back thousands of years. It's not literally true, but it's a powerful image.

I know, you're thinking--but what does that have to do with education in Michigan?

In a recent conversation with Steve Norton of Michigan Parents for Schools, he said (and I'm paraphrasing here) that "some of the anti-public school people try to make it seem as if public schools were an idea hatched by hippies in the 1960s. Some of them believe that public schools are a recent innovation. And nothing could be further from the truth." No, he argues (still paraphrasing here), "public schools are foundational to our understanding of ourselves as a nation. Public schools helped create our nation, and our national identity."

I think that in order to argue for public schools, it's important to understand that public schools have a long, deep history in our country.

So here is a short quiz, and then some pictures of some historic public schools in Washtenaw County, and then the quiz answers. (No peeking until you've tried!) [Update: Quiz closed, but you can find the questions and answers here.]
Sharon District #1 School from 1890 is located just outside Manchester on Pleasant Lake Road. Photo: Ruth Kraut
 I couldn't find out too much about this school, but if you know some of its history you could put it in the comments. The Manchester Area Historical Society records for schools are at the Bentley Library, and District No. 1 was in existence from 1839-1952, according to the catalog. Take a look at the catalog here.

Blaess School in Saline is now located on the campus of the old Saline High School. Photo: Ruth Kraut
About Blaess School:
In 1836, a year before Michigan became a state, Lodi Township (north of Saline, MI) was platted. The present Weber-Blaess one-room school was built in 1867 in Section 17, on Ellsworth Road in Lodi Township. A simple wood structure was built on the same stone foundation as its predecessor, a log school that had burned a year earlier.
Read more here.

Quiz Answers:

1. The first public school in the country was Boston Latin, founded in 1635.

2. In 1827, Massachusetts passed a law making schools free to all children. (And yes, Michigan wasn't even a state then! Just testing you...). And even earlier, pre-Revolution, Massachusetts had the Old Deluder Satan Law which required schools to be established in towns with more than fifty families. By the way, Massachusetts is still a leader in public education in our country, funding public schools at something like twice the amount of funding that Michigan schools get.

3. In the 19th century, most states passed laws forbidding using public funds for parochial schools. (This largely started out because the mostly Protestant U.S. saw a lot of new immigrants who were Catholic moving in. Still--the issue of keeping public funding for public schools has a long, long history.) There is lots of interesting history around the education of African-Americans, Asians (particularly the education of the children of Chinese immigrants in California), and Native Americans (who were forbidden to be taught in their native languages).

4. The 1896 Plessy v. Ferguson case was overturned by the Brown v. the Board of Ed. decision. However, you should read up on these other cases! Engel v. Vitale is about prayer in public schools; Tinker v. Des Moines features Ann Arbor's own Paul Tinkerhess and is a free speech case; and Hendrick Hudson Board of Ed. v. Rowley is an early special education case.

So, in sum--if we think of ourselves as being present at the founding of our nation, then we were surely present at the founding of our public schools. They are foundational to our national heritage. Stand beside them. And guide them. Protect them. And defend them.

Monday, May 13, 2013

Guest Post: The Meaning of an $800 Million Diversion from the School Aid Fund

My friend Sascha Matish (who is also a co-chair of the Ann Arbor Open Coordinating Council) wrote me an email that was so clear that I asked her if we could turn it into a blog post. Lucky for the rest of you, she agreed. Here it is: 

This week the Republicans controlling the Michigan state legislature announced their plans to divert $800 million of school aid funds to pay for fixing our roads and highways.  This is after the state has already cut hundreds of millions of dollars from the school aid fund.

I keep thinking (yet not saying out loud) that this has to be as bad as it is going to get.

I am going to stop thinking that now.
Instead, I am now thinking that our biggest fear is actually true: Governor Rick Snyder and his fellow Republicans in the state legislature want to destroy public education as we know it so that Snyder’s friends in the private sector running online education and charter school companies can make a profit off our children’s education.

I may be a little off, but here is how it seems to have played out:

1.  Cut K-12 funding.
2.  Vilify teachers and enact drastic changes to how their unions can represent them and receive dues/fees from their members, in an attempt to weaken teachers’ unions.
3.  Radically change the Emergency Financial Manager law so the state can take over any city, county, school district, etc., at any time with little to no input from the citizens of that city, county, district, etc.
4.  Cut K-12 funding again.
5.  Allow for an increase in the number of charter schools.
6.  Pass “right to work” legislation in an attempt to completely disable the unions that will fight against steps 1 through 5.
7.  Cut K-12 funding some more.
8.  Don't do anything to address the increasing financial burden to school districts caused by the pension system for public school employees.
9.  Create a work group (after the secret group was outed) to study the feasibility of "increased efficiencies" for K-12 education, including online education from for-profit companies not located in Michigan, and $5,000/pupil "value schools."  Remind the public that “increased efficiencies” are needed, because of 1, 4 and 7.
10.  Divert HUGE sums of money from K-12 education so we can fix roads that arebadly in need of repair, because that is where the money for road improvements should come from (sarcasm added).

Here is what I suspect the next step will be: Tell the public we have no choice but to follow through on the recommendations of the work group in step 9, on a large scale, in order to address our financial woes and our "failing schools," many of which are failing because the state decided to stop funding them. 

I am beginning to think that Snyder planned this all along.  There does not appear to be a way to stop him right now.  Until Democrats get control of the state House or Senate, I don't know how we can.  And, for a true believer in the public school system, that is what is so scary.

--Sascha Matish

Readers: Do you agree with Sascha that "I am beginning to think that Snyder planned this all along.  There does not appear to be a way to stop him right now." Do you think there is a way to stop these shenanigans?

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

You Thought State Funding Couldn't Get Worse? It Can

Eclectablog has an excellent post about the precarious state of the School Aid Fund:

Aptly titled "Michigan Republicans celebrate National Teacher Appreciation Week by voting to strip more school funding," it succinctly states:
As I reported yesterday, the Michigan House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure voted to eliminate the sales tax on aviation fuel. This bill is in addition toHouse Bill 4539 which if passed, will eliminate the sales tax on gasoline sales in our state. My piece said that this would take $770.1 million out of the School Aid Fund (SAF). However, that amount is only for the repeal of the gasoline tax. According to a statement by State Rep. Brandon Dillon, yesterday’s repeal of the aviation fuel tax will remove another $55 million . That means if both bills are passed, $825.1 million more will be taken from our kids’ schools. 

Yes, you read that right. That, by the way, is in addition to the $1.8 billion dollars the School Aid Fund has lost since Rick Snyder took office.

Read the rest of his post here.

In the meantime, does anyone out there personally know Rick Snyder? Would you PLEASE PLEASE intervene and ask him to veto anything that takes more money from the School Aid Fund without replacing it with other funding?

Eclectablog concludes:

So, make yourself heard on this. Call your State Representatives and Senators and tell them to vote no on House Bills 4539 and 4572 and to fund road repair in an honest way. Here are some ways you can reach out to lawmakers: 
  1. Click HERE to go to a page with contact information for your legislators. MAKE THE CALL!
  1. Click HERE to send a message to your legislator via the Michigan Parents for Schools website
  1. Click HERE to send a message via the Tri-County Alliance for Public Education

Monday, May 6, 2013

Who is the Broad Foundation and Why Do We in Ann Arbor Care?

The Eli and Edythe Broad Foundation (rhymes with road) is a foundation that makes grants and is devoted to education, contemporary art, medical research and civic projects in Los Angeles.
By Dj1997 (Own work) [CC-BY-SA-3.0
(], via Wikimedia Commons
If the name sounds familiar, it might be because the new Michigan State University Art Museum is named after the Broads, who were major donors.  Eli Broad is an MSU alum and the Broads made a $28 million dollar gift to the museum (which I am hoping to visit this year). The museum was designed by architect Zaha Hadid, and it looks spectacular. That's the nicest thing that I will say about the Broad Foundation in this post.

Until recently, I had no idea who or what the Broad Foundation was. I had seen on Pat Green's resume that she had been through Broad superintendent training. It's not something she hides; in fact she is quite proud of the fact that she was part of the first class of Broad Fellows and features that on her web site--but I didn't think at the time that the training meant anything in particular.

Now I know better.

The Broad Foundation is part of a group of foundations (include the Walton Foundation and the Gates Foundation) that are part of the so-called "education reform" movement--a thinly veiled movement to destroy public education. The Broad Foundation describes its mission as "“transforming urban K-12 public education through better governance, management, labor relations and competition,” and that sounds good, but in practice it is not.

In education, the Broad Foundation is most notably known for the Broad Superintendents Academy--an alternative certification route to becoming a school superintendent. You don't need to start with a background in education to enter it.

To understand their reach, you have to read these statistics, courtesy of the Broad Center:
  • Forty-one academy graduates serve as school district superintendents, four as state superintendents, four as chief executive officers of charter management organizations and 12 as school district cabinet executives.
  • Ten urban school districts have hired more than one superintendent that has graduated from The Broad Superintendents Academy.
  • Ten percent of states have selected Broad Academy graduates to lead their state departments of education.
  • Across more than 50 urban school systems, 107 superintendent-level positions and 104 cabinet level positions have been filled by graduates of The Broad Academy since the program began in 2002.
  • More than 300 current and former Broad Residents are working in more than 50 urban school districts, charter management organizations and departments of education nationwide.
In our own state, John Covington, the head of the Education Achievement Authority--that unproven program which the state legislature is trying to ram through an expansion--is a Broad Center graduate. So too are the about-to-retire emergency financial manager of the Detroit Public Schools. Oh, and so is Michelle Rhee. And so is Shael Polakow-Suransky, who was raised in Ann Arbor and has been a lightning rod for criticism in the New York City schools.

[From the Perimeter Primate in the comments: "One correction. Michelle Rhee was never a Broad Superintendents Academy "fellow." But she did have regular contact with the Broad Foundation and even visited Eli Broad at his Fifth Ave. apartment in NYC in 2008. He clearly adores her."]

So I wasn't too surprised to find that the Broad Foundation has recently bailed out Michigan's Education Achievement Authority to the tune of $10 million dollars. So we should not be surprised that they wrote an op-ed piece on April 28th in the Detroit Free Press about how great the EAA is. The truth is--and this is a pattern with the Broad Foundation--that they say they want data, but they only want convenient data. We actually won't have good data to evaluate the EAA until many years have passed. [I digress, but the initial data implies that the program can't run without additional money; that teacher turnover is extremely high; and that so is student turnover.]

In an article from Parents Across America, "How to tell if your school is infected by the Broad virus," they suggest several signs--many of which have come true in Ann Arbor in the short time that Pat Green has been here. 

However, Pat Green is leaving, and I just want to note a few of these (although I recommend you read the whole article!): 
  • Repeated use of the terms “excellence” and “best practices” and “data-driven decisions.” (Coupled with a noted absence of any of the above.)
  • Power is centralized.
  • Decision-making is top down.
  • Excessive amounts of testing introduced and imposed on your kids.
  • The superintendent receives the highest salary ever paid to a superintendent in your town’s history (plus benefits and car allowance) – possibly more than your mayor or governor — and the community is told “that is the national, competitive rate for a city of this size.”
Now, the good news is that Pat Green is leaving, and we in Ann Arbor have an opportunity to find a different kind of leader. And actually, you might think--well then we don't need to know about the Broad Foundation anymore. 

Unfortunately, no. We do need to know about the Broad Foundation. There are a lot of links in this piece from the Charlotte Observer (h/t to CC for finding this), but this comment by the Perimeter Primate is particularly concerning: 

PS: Ray & Associates is the superintendent search firm which recruited Gorman to CMS [Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools] in 2006.Carl Davis of Ray & Associates is also listed as one of the speakers for the Broad Superintendents Academy...
Two other firms, Jim Huge & Associates and Hazard, Young, Attea & Associates, appear on the Broad Foundation's list of BSA training session guest speakers. I presume they are paid to appear.What needs to be investigated is if these particular superintendent search firms give preferential treatment to the Broad-trained candidates, in terms of presenting them to school boards.For instance, in the case of the Springfield (MA) search in 2008 conducted by Jim Huge, three of the four finalists were Broad fellows. . . 
And then: This is an excerpt from an article about Durham’s superintendent search (started late 2009): “The board has search proposals from the North Carolina School Boards Association; Hazard, Young, Attea and Associates (Glenview, Ill.), Ray and Associates (Cedar Rapids, Iowa) and Jim Huge and Associates (San Francisco). ALL BUT THE FIRST WERE RECOMMENDED BY THE BROAD FOUNDATION OF LOS ANGELES. . . 
How many school boards and members of the public realize that superintendent search firms may have their own agendas? (Emphasis added.)

In fact, as far back as 2006, the Broad Center was featuring Gary Ray, "whose Cedar Rapids, Iowa-based search firm, Ray and Associates Inc., has placed several Broad graduates as superintendents."

So here is the situation. We hired a Broad Center superintendent, using a firm that has worked extensively with the Broad Center, two years ago. The same firm is essentially offering their services for free this time. That is the same firm that I believe helped the school board arrive at the high salary they offered Pat Green. That is the same firm that posted the last position on the Broad Center job posting list. 

Looking back at the mistakes we've made, and keeping us from making the same mistakes a second time, is critical. The board has just taken two excellent steps. First, they are offering the position at what I consider to be a more reasonable salary range (and just as importantly, it's a range, not a single number). Second, they discussed and decided not to post the position on the Broad Center job posting list. 

Now, there are two more things that didn't happen last time, that should happen this time.

For one thing, during the last superintendent search, inclement weather forced the cancellation of site visits to the applicants' home districts, and they were not rescheduled. I believe that for any non-internal candidates, district site visits are essential. I think they would have told us a lot about the candidates. [For instance, what if someone had come to Ann Arbor this year and found out about the glass wall Pat Green had put up; about the requirement that everything be FOIA'd; about the rumors that she didn't work on Fridays?]

Second, now that we know about the Broad Academy, I'd rather we didn't hire anybody with those credentials. At a minimum, anyone with those credentials needs to be extensively questioned about their experience and agenda. It's not just that I don't agree with the Broad Center's agenda; it's that I don't think that most Ann Arborites do either. Further, and even worse, I don't think that the Broad Foundation is honest about their agenda. I believe that their agenda is to privatize, and profit-ize, public schools.

And since we're using a search firm that has been associated with the Broad Center in the past, it behooves us to be rather careful.

Friday, May 3, 2013

More on the Ypsilanti/Willow Run (YCS) Teacher Situation

Update 5/4/2013 9 p.m.:

From the Ypsilanti Community Schools facebook page, from an anonymous Willow Run teacher:

I am a Willow Run teacher who was not hired back, although I met the criteria. I am a little shocked because I have always had very high evaluations and good feedback from other teachers, students and families. I was upset that none of my references were contacted after spending so much time getting them together. This preparation took hours and I am highly insulted. I am also upset because Emma Jackson was quoted saying that counselors would be available in each building. No one was at my building, and when I asked my principal he said he could call one if I needed it. (Emphasis added.)

Update 5/3/2013 6 p.m.:
@_KrystalElliott: Ypsi Community Schools offers positions to 171 of 258 teachers, 32 receive "call back" notices. 55 not offered positions

And one of those not offered a position was the Ypsilanti teachers' union head, Krista Boyer--from all accounts that I have heard an excellent teacher. Did that have anything to do with her being the head of the union?

In this post (which I will probably be adding to) I am just taking information from different things I've been reading over the past few days, many of which are rather troubling.

We have been forwarded yet another email from Bob Galardi, this one dated May 2, 2013:
"During this week I have received several inquiries about reference checks. A decision was made early in the process that we would not use references for selection. We thought we would check references for candidates that we were going to select. This is typically when references are needed. After further review we determined that reference checks on current employees would not be a productive use of our limited time. Because of the nature of this process we are not selecting unknowns - we know the employees we are selecting. It is almost as if we are transferring employees from one department to another and in that case we would not contact a reference."

This is, of course, a complete contradiction of his emails sent on March 21 & 22 and April 19. Moreover, this shows that the district is not the least bit interested in receiving input from the community when making these hiring decisions and that the district has no respect for the time and effort community members put into these recommendations. Listening to the community is, in Mr. Galardi's words, "not a productive use of our limited time." [Emphasis added.]
2. From the Ypsilanti Community Schools facebook page:

Excerpt from April 19 email from Bob Galardi: 
"We will begin contacting references of top candidates next week." [Emphasis added.]

3.. From the Ypsilanti Community Schools facebook page: 

This is an excerpt from a "Crisis Management" document emailed on May 1, 2013 from the district's administration to staff, explaining that references were to be included in the 20-point score on which hiring decisions were based:
1. No current administrator or Board member of YPS, WR, or WISD, served on the interview committees. External consultants (comprised of retired educators and administrators) followed a process that was aligned to the teacher commitments that were adopted by the board. The process resulted in a score in four areas (application review, references, interview, and classroom visit) with a maximum of 20 possible points. . . . "

Mr. Galardi's explanation sent late last night appears to be false. While he justifies failing to contact references by stating that "A decision was made early in the process that we would not use references for selection," the above excerpt contradicts this, as does his own email from April 19. The above excerpt confirms that just two days ago, the district sent an email specifically stating that references were to be used in the hiring process. We now know they were not.

Mr. Galardi's explanation sent late last night appears to be false. While he justifies failing to contact references by stating that "A decision was made early in the process that we would not use references for selection," the above excerpt contradicts this, as does his own email from April 19. The above excerpt confirms that just two days ago, the district sent an email specifically stating that references were to be used in the hiring process. We now know they were not. (Emphasis added.)

4. From the comments section on this article on (I know! the Comments section!):

What Danielle failed to quote is that the teachers received an agenda at their "crisis" staff meeting this week with a sentence that read, "Most likely, everyone will be handling a message that will be shattering", and that Ms. Lisiscki's email stated, "Please be aware that if you withdraw your application for employment, you will be deemed to have waived any right to challenge the hiring process or hiring decisions." This is the REAL hidden agenda. The administration knows that the hiring process was shady at best and that many will have a lawsuit to file against the unfair hiring process that followed very few Human Resource guidelines and regualtions. This is also why another message was sent yesterday stating the number of teachers who will receive "maybe" letters has increased drastically! They will send out many "maybe" letters today so that they will not be challenged and FOIA'd to death by the "no" letters they had originally planned to deliver. This will also give Menzel the opportunity to tell the press that they handed out very few "no" letters, trying to make them look like good. Ypsi Schools recenlty attended a job fair, looking for teachers. My question, if the people who receive "maybe" letters today, end up not getting called back (which is most likely their scheme) and then the new district hires external teachers, what can "maybe" teachers do about it? Lawyers get ready! It is absolutely a shame how the 3 superintendents and the hiring team at WISD have manipulated, scared, and demoralized these fine teachers who have given their blood, sweat and tears to work in an urban district that has become increasingly high stress and low achieving over the years. (Emphasis added.)

5. From the comments on the same article: 
Maybe and Reporter Arndt will keep a close eye on if Ypsilanti Community Schools hires "Teach for America" employees to "replace" the experienced teachers of both of these soon-to-be former school districts. There's a suspicion that this is what Menzel and Crew (including that so-called un-elected Board of Education) is trying to do. 
"Teach for America" teach are paid a bottom basement rate, only are required to have a bachelors degree in ANY subject to teach, are not unionized and are used by various "charter schools" corporations to keep wages low and unionization out. Now, Ypsilanti Community Schools are supposed to be a "public school district" but their actions over the past year acts like "corporate top down" structure more than anything else.
Maybe at the press conference this afternoon Reporter Arndt can inquire if Menzel and the rest plan on hiring "Teach for America" employees. (Emphasis added.)

6. From the comments on the same article:

First, Danielle Arndt (article author) writes in the comments: 
The current breakdown of teachers in both districts was not readily available. I was told by Scott Menzel this information is being prepared for tonight's press conference. So I hope to be able to answers these questions for readers in this evening's report. I do know, and it was included in an earlier article, that about 330 internal candidates in total from both districts applied for spots. (Emphasis added.)

Then, a commenter says: 
If you would ,like information regarding projections go to the consolidated schools website and look at their consolidated budget funding for teacher professional development and it show that 240 teachers will be allowed 15 days of professional development over the summer. The question remains who will these teachers be if they have a large amount of "Maybe" offers dependent upon enrollment. Based on that document it seems they have already made decisions based on enrollment and enrollment trends. Are the teachers who are given maybe letters going to have priority over external applicants? If the district begins to accept external applicants then we can only assume that they are going to fill positions that the "maybe" internal applicants could be filling which then harkens other questions about the purpose of this process and if it was really designed to retain current good teachers. (Emphasis added.)

Thursday, May 2, 2013

Teacher Terminations, the Ypsilanti Community Schools, and Staff Appreciation

Hiring and Firing

Friday is going to be a hard day in Ypsilanti and Willow Run.

Teachers. . . all those teachers who were pink slipped earlier this spring. . . will get their final papers, which will tell them if they've been hired; not hired but could be hired later if student numbers permit; or not hired ever.

And you might think, "Well that's too bad, but it's prudent of the new district to not hire too many teachers back, because who knows how many students will join the new Ypsilanti Community Schools." Sure, I understand that. It is prudent. Although originally I had heard that 80% of the teachers would be re-hired, more recently I have heard that it will be a much smaller number.

Unfortunately, late breaking news that I have gotten says that the new YCS district did not follow its own process in hiring teachers.

From the Ypsilanti Community Schools Supporters facebook page, I learned that:

An email from Bob Galardi on March 22, 2013 to teachers said:
References - We will be reviewing over 250 applicants. Some applicants have submitted numerous references. Our plan is to contact references personally. We can't call everyone you have listed. With that in mind we will contact three (3) per candidate. We will use select three from the references on your application unless you wish to specify three you'd like us to contact. 
However, numerous teachers are now saying that not a single professional reference of theirs was contacted.

Teachers are also saying that they were not allowed to submit letters of recommendation during the interview process.

What does all this mean? If these claims are substantiated, I would guess that it means the new Ypsilanti Community Schools will find itself in a morass of litigation, and that is not a good way to get started.

Also--apparently tonight--the night before these notices are going out--there was a special meeting on ideas for how to help the teachers through this. Really? The night before, and YCS is just now convening a meeting on how to help the teachers?

In a great irony, Staff Appreciation Week is next week.


Many of you are at schools where the PTO or another group has a plan for staff appreciation. (At Ann Arbor Open, at least one plan involves providing a lot of pies to the staff.) You can participate.

Take this opportunity to write a note to a teacher telling them what you like about their work (or about them as people).
Take this opportunity to write a note to a custodian, front office staff person, principal, or other staff person.

And in Ypsilanti and Willow Run on Friday and next week especially, remember--a kind word will go a long way.