Tuesday, May 27, 2014

AAPS Budget, Public Hearing, Rick DeKeon Wednesday May 28, 2014

Wednesday, May 28th, the Ann Arbor school board will have a public hearing on the proposed AAPS budget. The meeting starts at 7 p.m.

Here are some options:
1. Go and talk during public commentary
2. Watch the board meeting on t.v. (CTN Comcast Channel 18, and also available for online streaming, but not for on-demand replay--yet. The replay schedule is: Thursday @ 1:30pm, Saturday @ 8am, Sunday @ 1pm)
3. Email the school board with your thoughts at

The board will vote on the budget at their next meeting, in two weeks.

Essential Reading

Here is the proposed AAPS 2014-2015 budget.

Here are the proposed expenditures and revenue enhancements. (Looks like a summary sheet, essentially.)

Here is the proposed budget plan. (How the budget gap will be closed.)

Compare the governor's, senate's, and house's education proposals and their impact on the AAPS budget. (There are also some slides from the new finance director--Marios Demetriou,
Assistant Superintendent, Finance and Operations--that, to be honest, I did not completely understand. Explanatory text would be nice.)

Major Proposals

How do you feel about the proposal to freeze all staff salaries, with no step or salary increases for any group? (Teachers, for example, took a 3% pay cut last year that was supposed to be a one-year pay cut. This would not be restored.)

How do you feel about the outsourcing of custodial work? (The main expected savings here has to do with the fact that the district has to pay into the state retirement fund for employees--if the positions are privatized, the state retirement fund doesn't have to be paid.)

Here are some things I've written about privatization in the past:

Transportation Lessons, 2010-2012 (February 2012)

Just Say No to Privatization (January 2010)

What do you think about Christine Stead's suggestion that the district should investigate whether there would be any possibility of suing the state for the constant cuts the district has had to make, since we are not being "held harmless?" (I LOVE IT.)

Let the school board know how you feel!

Special Bonus! 

Rick DeKeon
If you go to tomorrow's meeting. . . there is also a proposal to rename the Northside School Gym in honor of Rick DeKeon, well-loved Northside physical education teacher.

As the proposal says,

On behalf of Northside Principal, Monica Harrold, Northside staff, students, parents and alumni, it is my pleasure to present to you a recommendation, pursuant to Ann Arbor Public School Board of Education Policy 7150- Naming, to name the Northside Elementary School gym after former Ann Arbor Northside Elementary School physical education teacher and local coach Richard (Rick) Dekeon. 
Mr. Dekeon, a much beloved teacher at Northside for 25 years, passed away on November 8, 2013 leaving behind an incredible legacy that extends well beyond the Northside community.

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Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Reflections on Ypsilanti Community Schools, Year 1: Take the Survey

It was--and is--a BIG DEAL.
Last year, Ypsilanti and Willow Run schools consolidated into Ypsilanti Community Schools, and it has been a year of firsts.

It's time for a little reflection. If you are a teacher, staff person, parent, student, community member with some thoughts about the district, I'm asking you to share your thoughts and ideas--the good, the bad, and what can be improved.

Take the survey! I will share results, probably sometime next week.

NOTE: You may have noticed that I removed the YCS logo. The district was concerned people might think this survey was endorsed, or organized, by the district. It isn't. It's organized by me alone. To share what the community is thinking. I hope there will be a wide cross-section of responses. 

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Sunday, May 18, 2014

Mark Schauer's Education Platform

I went to a Mark Schauer fundraiser this afternoon. 

Mark Schauer is the Democratic candidate for governor. (I am hoping that you knew that already, but just in case you didn't...)

Find out more about Mark Schauer in general at

Read about Mark Schauer's education platform here.

P.S. I also got to meet his wife, Christine Schauer. She herself is an elected official--the Calhoun County treasurer!

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

State Budget Discussions: School Implications, Again

Budget Season is Back

Steve Norton of Michigan Parents for Schools wrote last week:

After a three-week break in April, the State Legislature is back at it again. It's budget season in an election year, which means that lawmakers will be trying to satisfy voters by showing some support for key programs such as our public schools -- or at least give the appearance of doing so.
He notes that the state's revenue projections, coming out this week, will have a major impact. The first projection came out today (two more coming tomorrow and Thursday), and at least the first projections don't look too good for schools--given that they are clearly an afterthought for Snyder and Company.

According to this article, the House Fiscal Agency projects that "The state will bring in about $400 million a year less in revenue than officials estimated in January." [Note: revenues are growing. Just not as much as the projections from earlier this year, which were revised to be ever more optimistic.]

Further, according to the article,
Net state revenue is projected to dip just under 1% in 2013-14, the report says. While general fund revenue is expected to dip 3% — or $290 million — to $9.3 billion. The net School Aid Fund revenue is expected to increase about 1.5% — or $169 million — to $11.4 billion. Net revenue still is expected to increase significantly in 2014-15 and 2015-16, just not by as much as projected earlier.
And--there is significant competition for any money that is seen as "extra" for road funding and the Detroit bankruptcy. And also--the Detroit News is reporting that the Education Achievement Authority administrators are jet-setting around the country while the rest of the state loans them money.

Big, beautiful Michigan does not want to fund its
schools properly. (At least, its government doesn't.)
Map taken from:

School Funding Proposals

According to Michigan Parents for Schools, the current proposals for school funding are as follows:

Governor's proposalHouse versionSenate versionInflation projections
Minimum: +$111 (to $7,187), 1.6% increase
Basic (maximum) +$83 (to $8,132), 1.0% increase
Minimum +$112,1.6% increase
Basic +$56, 0.7% increase
Min +$300,4.2% increase
Basic +$150,1.9% increase
2014 forecast: 1.3%
Avg. 2011-13: 2.3%
These increases do not reflect other changes, like "best practices" and pension plan cost changes, which may raise or lower the per-pupil funding available.

Or, as Christine Stead (AAPS school board member) succinctly states in describing the impact on Ann Arbor schools (this helped me visualize the numbers)
One would think that our FY15 will be much better [ed. note: due to the economic recovery] and we can look forward to investing again in one of our most important economic drivers: high quality education. Until you review the state’s proposals ($$ shows the impact for AAPS):
Governor’s proposal: $55,000
  Senate proposal: ($2,171,000)  House proposal: ($1,276,000) 
There is a serious disconnect in how our schools are funded, the state of our economy, and any local community’s ability to do anything about it (currently).
Multiply that by schools around the state. 

Talking Points

Michigan Parents' for Schools talking points:
At the very least, all districts deserve an increase in per-pupil funding that allows them to keep up with inflation. 
These increases should be calculated after the impact of other changes such as shifts in state pension costs, not before.  
Current law specifies that school districts should get a supplement in their per-pupil funding for every student from a family living below the poverty line. But we have never fully funded this provision, and the current spending level only covers half of what the law requires. We need to give our schools the resources they need to fight the impact of poverty, and all schools should be eligible for these funds. 
Right now, local school districts must take money from their general education funds in order to meet their important (and legally required) obligations to provide special education services. Our schools should not have to choose between meeting their moral and legal obligations to students with disabilities and having sufficient resources for all their students.
It's hard not to feel despairing about the impact we can have. 
But we need to keep trying.

Giving Input on Proposal A

Christine Stead is asking for some specific input. Here's why:

John [Austin, President of the State Board of Education], and the State Board of Education, has started a process to seek input from different organizations on the impact of Proposal A and the general funding experience for public education.  The process will shift to take input from community members and school systems over the next few months.  Presentations made so far can be found here.
I will accompany the Superintendent and CFO from the AAPS on June 17th to submit the AAPS experience and recommendations for changes to Proposal A.
If you have specific suggestions, Christine Stead would like to hear from you with your suggestions about changes to Proposal A. She writes, 
Folks can either email me or submit comments/questions to this site []. I’ll do what I can to get answers to questions. I also don’t mind submitting folks’ comments to the State Board of Education as part of our testimony – especially if they lead toward solutions. You can use either email for me: or 

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Sunday, May 11, 2014

AAPS Assessment Task Force Member List

Here is the list of members of the Ann Arbor Public Schools Assessment Task Force

This spring, they are looking at elementary school assessments. (Maybe middle school too, I'm not sure about that.)

If you have thoughts or comments about testing, you should contact some of them!

I am lousy at formatting. If you want to see this in a nicely formatted, printable list, use this link.

Ann Arbor Public Schools 
Assessment Advisory Task Force 
April – June 2014  

Name,  Affiliation,  School(s)
I have put in bold all of the people who are parents or community members.

Jose’ Benki                                 Parent Bach 
Lisa Burlingame                         School Psychologist Tappan
Rose Marie Callahan                  Curriculum Coordinator Central Leadership
Amy Deller-Antieau                   Science Dept. Chair/Teacher Pioneer
Bruce Doughten                         Parent Clague 
Joan Doughty                             Exec. Dir. of Community Action Network King, Allen, Bryant,                                                                    Clague, Tappan, Pioneer, Clemente 
Marcus Edmondson                  Asst. Principal/Parent Huron 
Sam Firke                                   Parent Wines, Forsythe, Skyline 
Greta Furlong                           Parent Pattengill, Tappan, Pioneer 
Chuck Hatt                                 Principal Burns Park
Kathe Hetter                              Teacher Skyline
Michael Hopkins                      Parent Abbot 
Kelly House                               Teacher Wines
Jane Landefeld                           Exec. Dir. Student Data Central Leadership
Raven McCrory                        Community Member Angell, Community, Slauson 
                                                        AA Open, Huron 
Elizabeth Nelson                      Parent Eberwhite, Slauson 
Angela Newing                          Math Dept. Chair/Teacher Forsythe
Hyeuo Park                                Principal Bach
Jazz Parks                                  Principal Tappan
Catherine Peterson                  Parent Eberwhite 
Seth Petty                                  Teacher King
Laura Roth                                 Teacher Tappan
Francisco Sanchez                    Parent Haisley, Slauson, Community 
Patricia Shure                            Community Member Tutors @ Skyline
Angela Smith                             Parent AA Open, WiHi 
Robyne Thompson                     Exec. Dir. of Secondary Ed Central Leadership
Susan Washabaugh                    Teacher Pioneer
Sean Waymaster                        Asst. Dir. of Special Ed. Central Leadership
Deborah Wolter                          Teacher Consultant AA Open

Lee Ann Dickinson-Kelley Asst. Sup. of Instruction Central Leadership
Dawn Linden Ex. Dir. of Elementary Ed Central Leadership
Merri Lynn Colligan Ex. Dir. of Technology Central Leadership

Jeanice K. Swift Superintendent Central Leadership

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Sunday, May 4, 2014

Why Did the WCC Faculty Take a No-Confidence Vote In the School President Last Week?

Last week, Washtenaw Community College's faculty took a no-confidence vote in the President of the school. WCC, you may know, is funded in large part by our tax dollars.

Why did they do this? And why did the vote pass by a huge margin? I asked the WCC faculty to explain.

Read on to get their point of view, and also to find the link to their blog.

For those outside of Washtenaw Community College, I'm sure that the most recent press about the vote of no confidence in President Bellanca's leadership could be alarming, confusing, or even amusing. 

From the inside, issues with Dr. Bellanca's leadership have been building for some time. Faculty were prepared for change when former president, Larry Whitworth, retired in 2011. However, instead of getting a progressive leader interested in using the expertise of the staff and faculty, we were faced with a growing executive administration, staff and mid-level manager turnover, and a distinct shift in how conversations could take place on campus: marketing became the name of the game

About 18 months ago, it became more than obvious to the WCCEA union leadership that relationships were not improving and that seeking help from the Board of Trustees was needed. Quietly, requests for help were made by the WCCEA but ignored by the Board. 

After the unprofessional handling of Vice President Blacklaw's firing in March 2013, a united faculty sought help from the Board of Trustees again, but we were essentially told that we were afraid of "change." Bewildered, we took time to regroup, hoping for a shift in what was becoming a hostile work environment with a president who wanted to dictate instead of lead, with the Board co-signing every step. 

The growing number of executive administrators, recent resignations of three of our five academic deans, along with resignations of key staff throughout the college left us little choice but to bring forth a vote of no confidence to the faculty. With nearly 88% of the faculty supporting this vote, our issues are not imagined or vague as some on the Board want to believe. Now that the vote has occured, the WCCEA is ready to find a way through this and get back to what we do very well: teaching and learning. 

Please follow our blog at

Julie M. Kissel
Professional Faculty - English Department
WCCEA Representative

Following the vote of no confidence, the president of the WCCEA wrote this, in part, in a press release: 

Often,  faculties come to the point of calling for No Confidence Votes when their salaries or job security is on the line.  That is not the case here. What we are doing here is, I think, unique.  We are not focused on increasing our compensation from the school, and we are not asking for more time off.  We are asking for accountability from an administration that has failed to instill confidence and trust with the faculty.  People, whether they are faculty or not, are NOT comfortable speaking up.  People do Fear retribution.  Because of this, as faculty members at WCC, we are concerned about the health and future of the school… a school that many of us have served for decades.  

(Respectful) thoughts about the vote of no confidence and the situation at WCC are welcome in the comments.

Also--if you are thinking about running for the WCC Board of Trustees, now would be a good time to collect petitions!

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