Monday, February 8, 2010

Commentary by District--Including the WISD!

Listed in order of school district

Ann Arbor
Adam Hollier, AAPS school board member (the one who tried to withdraw, got elected anyway, so therefore decided to serve) has now decided to step down. I guess his first instincts were the best ones.  You can apply to be on the AAPS school board. There were a lot of good candidates when Simone Lightfoot was chosen just a couple of months ago. Perhaps some of them will apply? It's an interesting question to me--why do we get more candidates for a nominations process where you (as candidate) can't control the outcome, than we did for the school board elections, where presumably you can influence some votes? Do you think it's the process, or just the timing of this set of nominations? The deadline for applications is February 19th at 4 p.m.
The first round of Space Available In-District Transfer Applications (could we possibly pick a more understandable name????) runs February 1-26. Basically, say that you live in one part of the AAPS district and you decide you would prefer to be at another school, if it is on the list, you can apply and if space is available, you can switch schools. There are lots of reasons people choose to switch, including the fact that some of the child care programs have better space than others, and some of the schools have different atmospheres. The good news: ten elementary schools have space at all levels, and three more have space at one grade; and four out of five of the regular middle schools are on the list. The bad news: no high schools are on the list, there is a different application process for Ann Arbor Open, and yes, you need to live in the Ann Arbor School District. (Oh, yes--and the Ann Arbor Open, Community High School, and Skyline High School application processes are all going on now. Community and Skyline deadlines are this Friday, February 12th. The Ann Arbor Open deadline is sometime in March.)
Updated 2/8/10 at 10:00 a.m.: There is an excellent summary of the AAPS board meeting, including Adam Hollier's resignation and extensive public commentary, in the Ann Arbor Chronicle today.

A school board filing deadline is February 9th. And there was good news at the last board meeting for non-union employees. From the Chelsea Standard:
Board member Steve Olsen motioned to rescind the wage and insurance reduction imposed on non-union employees for now, given that the original decision was made based upon the expectation of a second and third cut in state funding for this school year. Killips said that as a matter of integrity, he would contact the district’s Transportation Department as well, since it had voluntarily taken a reduction in pay.
Et tu, Brute? Dexter High School and Creekside Middle School are getting security cameras. Really? I didn't think they were necessary for Pioneer, and I certainly don't think they are necessary in Dexter. It's the kind of expense (all the security upgrades together are nearly half-a-million dollars) that makes me less willing to support school millages. It also highlights the stupidity of a system where we have money for construction and things, but no money for people. Education should be all about people.

Dexter is also having a budget meeting Monday February 8th, and studying its transportation setup and having a series of meetings this coming week about it. Read all about it here.

Aaaahhh, Lincoln. Lincoln Schools have taken a lot of flak for paying to be called one of the top schools in Michigan.  I understand why. They're not one of the top schools in Michigan by any measure (nor are they one of the bottom), so why make that up? On the other hand--they paid $25,000 for an ad, and if they pull in an additional 5-10 students because they get noticed, they will have made up their money. What you see in action here is the law of unintended consequences. Base school revenues solely on per-pupil counts, and you get some unfortunate decisions. This decision was not stupid if your primary goal is increasing per-pupil counts; but it looks kind of desperate. Well, that's because they are desperate.

Manchester schools did very well in the Spring 2009 Michigan Merit Exams. Is small beautiful?

I've got nothing--is no news good news?

It's nice to see the front page article on the Saline web site be devoted to early intervention services in Saline. In the Superintendent's blog, Scot Graden recently wrote a post, If communication is key, who are the key communicators? Given the changing way that news gets shared, and the fact that people don't necessarily live and work in the same town anymore, it's an interesting post. BURIED in the comments is this nugget, though. (Scot Graden writing in response to a question.)
The next steps in dealing with the budget deficit for this year involve wage and benefit concessions from our administrative staff. Unfortunately, we will be recommending mid-year staff reductions as well. Both will occur at the next Board of Education meeting on Tuesday, February 9th. (Emphasis added.)
Well, as far as I'm concerned, that should have been front and center. That's what we mean when we ask for transparency.

Washtenaw ISD
Oh, and while Dexter is having transportation meetings, and Ann Arbor is busy considering privatization, the WISD is planning on consolidating transportation--lock, stock, and barrel--by the fall. Hmmm. What does that mean for all the various unions and districts? I could see it saving money in a few areas--primarily in bus maintenance. Or is it just another union-busting move? The WISD has done well with consolidating some services, but those have not involved nearly as many permanent employees. And will individual districts want to give up their buses? A lot of the sketchiness of this is due to the fact that WISD, while technically public, doesn't seem to want to be too public about anything. You won't find this on their web site. And you also won't find the different school district superintendents talking much about this publicly, even though they should be. So many thanks to David Jesse from for breaking this story.

Whitmore Lake
Whitmore Lake School Board is also meeting on Monday, February 8th. Kudos to Whitmore Lake for posting, on the front page of their web site, their Regular Meeting Board Book. Scroll down to find it just after the agenda for the board meeting. It looks to me like it contains the background materials that the board gets. (Correct me if I am wrong.)

Willow Run
Willow Run still has a long way to go, but they have started updating their web site. And there is a College Goal Sunday event  on Sunday, February 14, where families can get help with college financial aid forms. 

Ypsilanti is considering closing two schools (again--they closed a couple a few years ago).  And Ypsilanti parents are organizing against that idea. In the comments on a while ago, Steve Norton of Michigan Parents for Schools pointed out that the savings from closing a school can by wiped out by the kids that leave the district for other schools. In Ypsilanti, kids could go to Lincoln, Willow Run, South Lyon, Whitmore Lake, or Van Buren schools (not to mention many charters). So if closing a school saves a district $250,000, that savings could be eroded if just 35 or 40 students leave the district (which seems totally plausible). In tic tac toe, we call that a cat's game.


  1. Frustration threatens to overwhelm me. The process for the decision-making has been slow to start and has been top-down instead of from the community. People feel their input is merely for show and that decisions have already been made.

    That said, it's hard to accept the public's attitude of surprise that things are so bad. How loudly must the alarm be sounded? Where were those voices when the millage was being discussed? I am trying to shake off those thoughts and move forward, trying not to dwell on lost opportunities. Clearly, I need to work on that!


  2. And, I will look for some more cheerful things to write about:)

  3. What's the official policy for an in-district move? Say you're renting and you decide to buy a house and according to the AAPS' "Attendance-Area-by-Street directory" tool, the new house isn't in the same district as the one your kids are now attending. Do they have to transfer schools? Reading the attendance policies on the web site reveals no clues about this question.

  4. Sorry, in the above comment when I wrote "isn't in the same district" I meant same attendance area; the home is still in the AAPS district (and through the gerrymandering that appears to have happened when Skyline opened, the house I'm looking at is closer to their schools than the one I'm renting)

  5. Anon--There are two ways to go about this. First, if the school you want to stay at is on the "Space Available In-District Transfer" list, you can just put in your application. (Let's say that you are moving out of the Wines area and into the Northside attendance area.) However, if you are moving from Burns Park to Northside, then you can't use this method because Burns Park is not on the list. [The list is found .] There also isn't a guarantee that you will get in this way, some schools have more spaces than others. The other option is to put in a special request, which I believe goes through the principal of the school whose attendance area you are leaving (they should, in any case, know how to handle this). Then it gets treated as an exception, and it depends on a lot of variables as to whether you can stay (for instance, it is likely--if your child is in 5th or 8th grade--that the answer will be yes. If your child is in 1st grade, that might be less likely). I couldn't find a special request form but there may be one. Let me know if there is.

  6. Sorry, that should say the list is found here:

    (I was trying to figure out how to embed the link, and I must have done it wrong.)