Friday, April 30, 2010

If You Think Languages Are Cool...

This is a totally awesome project.

I wonder what endangered languages can be found in Washtenaw County?

What's In A Name? DSM Changes May Have Impacts on Special Education

This is not an area I know all that much about, but from what I can gather, changes in definitions between the DSM-IV (Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorder--Version 4) and the DSM-V (Verstion 5) could have a significant impact on special education services.

According to this NPR story, since the mid-1990s the number of children diagnosed with bipolar disorder has increased by 4,000 percent!
In particular: have children been diagnosed with Childhood Bipolar Disorder when they actually have Temper Dysregulation Disorder?
If they used to be diagnosed as having Attention Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder, and then with Bipolar Disorder, or Conduct Disorder--what difference will it make?

And most importantly, what are the implications of these decisions for medication, treatment, and special education services?

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Thank Goodness?

No, don't thank goodness. Instead, thank the bargainers on both sides of the table.
And also thank the parents and taxpayers who repeatedly said, at every budget meeting, that they didn't want to pursue privatization.
According to this article, there will be what equates to a 10% reduction in salary and benefits, but at least the AAPS custodians and maintenance jobs will remain in house, and won't be privatized.

And 10% is a BIG sacrifice for the amount of money these staff are making.

Also from When the schools consolidate transportation, the average bus driver's salary will go down from $16.55/hour to $14.70 per hour, so they too will see a significant reduction in income.

Next up: teachers' and principals' unions.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010


In my last post, I wrote about 30/30 in April.
In May, we have 31/31. At least, that is what I'm calling the Commuter Challenge, because there are 30 days in April, but 31 in May.
During the Commuter Challenge, the goal is to get to work by biking, bussing, carpooling, or walking.

The program is sponsored by the Chamber's Get Downtown program and their real interest is in freeing up parking downtown, which--as you know, if you read or the Ann Arbor Chronicle, is a HOT topic. And personally, I find the downtown aspect of the Commuter Challenge a little short-sighted. I don't work downtown, so if it were just about getting downtown, a Commuter Challenge would not have too much meaning for me. And in my daily life, if I'm not in the habit of hopping on my bicycle or walking, I am not going to make it a habit when I do occasionally go downtown. I mean, this should be about the environment, right? And not just about parking spaces.
So I'm hoping that in coming years, the program (which is sponsored by the DDA, hence the downtown focus) will really expand the way they think about this.
BUT--those of us who don't work downtown are still invited to participate.
AND--I'm really interested in the sustainable commute. Last year, I put 500 miles on my bicycle between May and November (that's when I had the bicycle odometer tracking my mileage), and this year my goal is 1000 miles.
AND--Sustainable commuting is all about getting from Point X to Point Y. I am thinking that if I get in the habit, it will be easier to keep up the habit.
AND--if you bicycle one way, and it turns out that the weather is crummy on the way home, you can put your bicycle on the bus! Find bus routes here.
Last year I wrote about the Commuter Challenge, and I noted that only two schools were signed up for the Commuter Challenge. (Those two? Pioneer and Clague.) This, despite the fact that most of the schools have easy access to bus routes--yes, Ypsilanti High School and Tappan Middle School, I'm talking to you. I personally know teachers who live walking distance to Slauson and Pioneer, and there is even limited bus service to Rudolph Steiner School!
If you don't work at a school? I'm talking to you too--you can sign up your own workplace.
OK, so enough said about that. There is one more thing that I should mention. Every person who logs at least one sustainable commute (One. Measly. Commute. And that includes carpooling.) gets a coupon for a Washtenaw Dairy ice cream cone. That alone makes it worth it for me. Plus there are other prizes too.
I hope you sign up today. 
Here is the link to the Commuter Challenge web site. If your school or workplace has not signed up yet, then you can sign up the building--just let your coworkers know, and then they can sign themselves up.
My goal this year: one bicycle commute each week, and a couple of carpools as well. And for me, that is 24 miles round trip. I'm hoping to continue that throughout the summer. I will let you know if I make it.

By the way, if you commute Ypsilanti to Ann Arbor, well--Bike Ypsi might be able to provide you some company. They have a festival coming up on May 2nd, and Mark Maynard interviews some of the organizers here.

P.S. Riding? Wear your bicycle helmet!


April is Poetry Month, and some poets--and aspiring poets--that I know have taken on the 30/30 challenge. That is a challenge to write 30 poems in 30 days. That is hard!

I heard about an experiment (I don't know if this is true or apocryphal) where one group of student potters was asked to make 50 cups, and at the end, choose one to represent their work. The other group was asked to each make the perfect cup. Guess which group ended up with the better cups?

Which is to say, that Practice does make--if not Perfect--Improvement.

I've read some of those 30/30 poems. They are not all good, but a few of them are gems.
In honor of poetry month, here is a link to the Academy of American Poets web site, Treat yourself, and read a couple of poems today. (Or--write some!)
We have some excellent local poets. Take a look at the work of Keith Taylor or Thylias Moss.

And in May, we've got 31/31.

Michigan League for Human Services: Tax Policy

My son read my blog the other night. He said it was good, but a lot of it was about topics that he didn't find very interesting. I will bet that a lot of us have our eyes glaze over when it comes to tax policy, and I include myself in that category! (Even though it drives so much of the state decision-making!)

That is why I am thankful for the work for the Michigan League for Human Services and for Michigan's Children.
The Michigan League for Human Services just put out a startling report on how much money we are giving away (without getting much back in return). Read it and weep. Or--share it with your state legislators.

Here is the report: Silent and Stealthy: Michigan Gives Away $35 Billion a Year.
Hat Tip: Michigan Messenger.

(Speaking of the Michigan Messenger, you might also find this article about student anti-gay "Straight Pride" days interesting.)

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Things I Read Recently That I Liked

Time Magazine article on School Lunches
Blogging for Michigan post (mostly) on taxes
The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Society (book)
New York Times article on how to pronounce the name of the Icelandic volcano, Eyjafjallajokull
Today's Detroit Free Press article on the Kalamazoo Promise

Anonymity: Request

Dear Anonymous Commenters:
I've been allowing anonymous comments on this blog because I believe that people sometimes have good reasons for remaining anonymous, and right now, as long as everyone is respectful, it is okay with me if people don't sign in.
If you find yourself becoming a regular commenter.
If you comment more than once on the same post.
Find a way to identify yourself.
If there are three "anonymous" comments on a post, I would like to know if they were all three from the same anonymous person, or if they represent three different points of view. I think it would enrich the discussion.
So--at the end of your comment you could sign it Anon123, or you could say at the beginning of your comment, "In my previous comment where I said x." Or you could take the time to set up a Google ID or Open ID.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

The Read-Comment Cycle & School Finance

Steve Norton of Michigan Parents for Schools has done a sort of "meta-analysis" (a.k.a. "take a step back and describe what you see") of the comments on education stories found on local news sites and blogs. I often find that I have trouble reading the comments, and then every now and then someone like Steve Norton (no, he's not the only one) will have a really thoughtful comment. I would like to encourage you to read this entire post.

Here's a part I really liked:
And while we are on the theme of choice, let’s tackle a related strand of thought. In these difficult times, many citizens express anger about attempts to protect our schools from cuts. They say, in effect, “I’ve had to take big cuts and the schools should have to also.” It is a very emotionally compelling argument, but it does not stand up to close scrutiny. If your family’s income falls 20%, say, do you cut all your expenditures equally by 20%? Twenty percent from the entertainment budget, 20% from the food budget, 20% from the medicine budget, and so on? No family I know does this. Instead, we prioritize: we cut back on the things we can do without in order to make sure we protect the things most important to us – the well-being of our family.
Norton then goes on to tackle what he calls "planted assumptions."  Planted assumptions are
arguments that aren’t really arguments. People who use this method simply assume certain things are true on their way to making a separate argument. These planted assumptions come in a wide variety of flavors... [for example] If school officials can’t live within their budget, we should find new ones who can. (Assumes that the budget problems are the fault of school leaders.)
One point where I think I disagree with him--
Our schools haven’t even tried to fix X by doing Y. (Assumes that just because someone does not know the details of a district’s efforts to solve some problem, those efforts must therefore not exist. Schools have been singularly ineffective at communicating what it is they do, largely because educators are trained to do it rather than talk about it.) (Emphasis added.)
 I do agree that this is a planted assumption. I don't believe, however, that schools have been ineffective at communicating because educators are trained to educate rather than talk about educating. First--it's not teachers, it's administrators, who are responsible for communication. I believe that schools have been ineffective at communicating because (choose any or all of these):
a) Administrators don't really want to share the decision-making with the public--they would rather operate privately. Who has the locus of control?
b) Administrators haven't asked people what the public wants to know, and when they are told they often don't take time to listen, so the administrators consistently communicate the wrong information.
c) Administrators think the information is too complicated to explain to many people.
d) Administrators don't want to take the time.
e) Administrators and school boards haven't made changes they should have made years ago, so when questions (inevitably) get asked, they are put on the hot seat.
f) Administrators don't know what to tell people without blaming someone else, even if the blame truly belongs elsewhere. [This is ticklish, even though sometimes the blame clearly belongs on someone else--for instance, it is no school administrator's fault that the state budget wasn't set until well into the school year.]
f) Administrators are defensive.

Bottom line: Good administrators DO communicate. So let's not give those who don't a pass.

None of this takes away from Steve Norton's main point, which is:
We as a community need to be honest about our expectations for our schools, and then we need to be honest about what resources are required to provide the services we expect rather than engage in wishful thinking.
Bottom line: (This is me editorializing here) Education is expensive. Human services are expensive. Anything where people require time and attention is going to be expensive. But aren't our kids worth it?

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Charter School Evaluations

Western Michigan University has spent a lot of time on charter school evaluation. I went back to the very first report, and a lot of what they had to say is still true today. In any case, if you are interested in charter schools, here are some links:

Western Michigan University Evaluation Center
First Evaluation of Michigan Charter Schools (1999)
Second Evaluation of Michigan Charter Schools (2000)
Great Lakes Center for Education and Research (Charter Schools). Scroll down for the section on  Evaluating the Impact of Charter Schools on Student Achievement: A Longitudinal Look at the Great Lakes States (2007)
In particular, Appendix D focuses on Michigan, and says this:
Aside from the cap on university-sponsored charter schools, the Michigan charter school law is generally seen to be among the least restrictive. The Center for Education Reform consistently rates Michigan’s charter school law among the most permissive.2 Chi and Welner (in press)3 rated Michigan as one of the weakest charter school laws, because of issues related to equity of access, accountability, and proliferation of private interests. Michigan’s charter school reform is unique in that three-quarters of its charter schools are operated by for-profit education management organizations. Michigan is also somewhat unique in that the average size of charter schools in approaching the average size of traditional public schools.
Here is a Free Press article about Charter Schools and Segregation, and another one that suggests that charter schools (overall) do not live up to their promise.  What have your experiences been? I am hoping to look at each of the county's charter schools over the next few months.

Monday, April 19, 2010

Around the County

Manchester has a school board election May does Chelsea, which is also working on budget cuts...
Superintendent Robert Glass is leaving Dexter for greener pastures...(or at least, pastures closer to his Oakland County home)... yes, that is, he's going to the Bloomfield Hills school district, one of the premier districts in the state. There is also a lot of controversy over the Dexter student newspaper (I would love it if some of the students would comment about what is going on there.)
Doris Hope-Jackson did not get hired as superintendent in Harvey, Illinois...and Willow Run began an administrative hearing around Laconda Hicks...
Former Ypsilanti Superintendent James Hawkins is getting a Distinguished Service Award from the Ann Arbor-Ypsilanti Chamber of Commerce... Current Superintendent Dedrick Martin is terminating the contracts of all contract employees. That includes terminating the Ypsilanti High School principal and, I believe, the East Middle School principal. On the surface that makes sense (in that there will be layoffs of teachers, too, and these are former staff who retired and came back in contract positions) but on the other hand, there is some implication in this article that Martin might be hiring an old friend--technically not nepotism, but there is the appearance of something funky going on--perhaps because the article says that they have narrowed the Ypsilanti principal hiring choice down to two people but the person that Martin knows has already quit his job...and no, all I know is what I read in the "papers." It sure is confusing though!
Saline's got layoffs...Ann Arbor's got layoffs...
There's a great article about the last AAPS board meeting from Jennifer Coffman in the Ann Arbor Chronicle. Considering the number of new board members on the AAPS school board (yes, you can apply for the open position now), I thought it was funny that the most recently-appointed board member--who has been on the board for all of one month--felt she needed to reassure the public that “While we’ve had a lot of change, this board works well together.” Hmmm.

Keep opposing privatization, please. I haven't gotten a single email back from my note to the Board of Education, but I hope you are having more luck! Write:

Search question (someone was looking for the answer to this) that I don't know the answer to: Why Manchester has decided not to join the consolidated bus transportation program. Actually, I don't even know if that is true, and I certainly don't know why. Do you?

Tardy or Absent

I've been getting several phone calls a week from the new Ann Arbor Public Schools phone system. "You have an important message from the Ann Arbor Public Schools. To hear the message now, press one."

I guess I'm an important person. I've been getting a lot of important messages.

Upcoming meetings? √
Grades are coming home with other handouts? √
Missed classes? √
Tardy or Absent?
What the hell?

If my child has an unexcused absence--also known as cutting--I do want to know about it. If they are a couple of minutes late, well...maybe I should care, but quite honestly, sometimes it's for a good reason (changing out of gym the book depository...) Also, some teachers mark attendance in the first minute of class, others wait a few minutes. So a student could be two minutes late, and in Class A they are marked tardy and in Class B they are not.

Anyway, the point of this all? If my child has cut a class, then I do want to know.
When I get a message that says "Your child has been tardy or absent from 5th hour" (and yes, I got three of those last week)--all it does is strike needless anxiety in my heart. Let's focus on the word "or." Tardy? It's not going to put me in crisis mode. Unexcused absence? That I do need to know. Now I need to have a "discussion" with said student. So--tardy or absent? That means I have to have the discussion, even though maybe I don't need to have the discussion.

Um, AAPS, in case you haven't noticed, teens and parents have enough issues to "discuss." Can you change the message? Call a tardy a tardy, and an absence an absence. Leave out the "or." Thanks.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Education and Civil Rights

If education is the civil rights issues of this generation, and states and districts will now have to compete for a significantly larger portion of their education funding, does that mean students are to compete for their civil rights?
That is a quote from the American Association of School Administrators' report on the state of school funding around the U.S. 
Read the press release and download the study here.
Thanks to SalineSchools for tweeting this.
I don't actually know that education IS the civil rights issue of this generation. I think there are lots of other issues--prisons, race, class, ethnicity, poverty--that could qualify. But it is a thought-provoking idea.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Tails, You Lose: Custodians and Maintenance Workers

I was happy when I left the Transportation breakout meeting last night. On the other hand, I was very unhappy when I left the AAPS Budget Meeting breakout session on Custodial and Maintenance. It seemed very clear upon leaving that the administration is focused on privatizing, and/or squeezing a huge amount of savings out of the maintenance and custodial staff in some other way. And this feeling that I got was confirmed by David Jesse's article today, Ann Arbor school administrators to recommend privatizing services.

Many years ago, in an environmental studies class, I tried to argue in a paper that organic agriculture could, would, and should win over conventional agriculture for moral and environmental reasons. My professor didn't like that. "No," he commented, "It's all about economics."

It's Not Just About Economics
And I fear that in this case, too, I'm not going to have success in arguing that what the administration wants to do is immoral. I may not be successful, but I will try anyway. The issue of privatizing custodial and maintenance work--an idea that has been pursued over and over by AAPS administration for at least 30 years--is being presented as if it is all about economics, but it shouldn't be, and--as it happens--I don't really believe that it is all about economics.
When we look at the big picture, it's very clear that a) a small group of workers is getting the very short end of the stick and that b) it doesn't have to be that way--even to end up with the same economic results.

Right now, there are fewer than 175 custodial staff, and on their backs we are trying to save $2,000,000. That comes down to trying to save over $11,000 per employee. Bear in mind that we are not talking about the highest paid employees in the district. I think we are talking about some of the lowest-paid employees in the district. Oh, and they "get" to lose their retirement.

Of course there are alternatives. There are 1200 teachers, and only 175 custodial staff. Instead of asking teachers and administrators to take a 4% cut, AAPS could ask everybody to take a 5% cut. Would that really be so terrible? Why should custodial and maintenance workers have to take cuts that are closer to 20% of their renumeration? Would the administration like to give up their retirement? That would be a modest proposal.

It's Not Just About Prevailing Wages and Benefits
(Superintendent) Todd Roberts tried to say to me that the "prevailing wages and benefits" for custodial work are lower than what AAPS pays. Well, first of all, who negotiated those wages and benefits? It does take two to tango, and unions don't make up their own compensation packages.
Second, maybe custodial staff chose to stay with the district because of the benefits--in other words, they may have chosen a (supposedly) secure job with retirement rather than take a different job with better wages but no retirement.
Third, AAPS teachers are also at the top of the county's teacher wage scale, so I guess the "prevailing wages and benefits" for teachers are also lower. That doesn't mean that they deserve less either.
AAPS has per-pupil funding that is also higher than all of the other local districts--by quite a lot. That doesn't mean that we deserve less per-pupil funding. It might mean that other districts deserve more.

So, in sum: Nobody "deserves" less. To ask everybody to sacrifice equally--that seems like the least we could do. 

There Are Other Things to Consider
I have a few other thoughts, too:
  • To the extent that some people end up in custodial and maintenance work because they have relatively low literacy--perhaps because they were not taught well (for example, dyslexia not identified), perhaps because they are immigrants--do the schools actually fail them twice?
  • To the extent that the people who are custodians and maintenance workers are more likely to be people of color--is this just incidental, or is the privatization discriminatory in practice?

Last, but not least: Do not tell me that "everybody else is doing it." I don't care. As a parent, that does not sit well with me. There are things I don't allow my kids to do, even if everybody else is doing it.

UPDATED 4/14/10: The proposal the AAPS administration is promoting does not even try to keep wages and benefits somewhat equal, as they originally said they would. [Why? Because that wouldn't save enough money.] This staff would lose between $2 and $6 per hour; and have a doubling of health care costs; and not get paid time off. This according to David Jesse's article here.

To the school board: I'm asking you to vote no on privatization, and to insist that all employee groups share the pain equitably. 
Everyone else: You can email the school board at

You can also read my earlier posts on privatization:
Privatization History--all the times it didn't work out
Just Say No to Privatization
Retirement, Privatization Details
The Bids Are In
Cui Bono?

Heads, You Win: Transportation and Consolidation

Last night, at the AAPS budget meeting, I went to a transportation breakout session. According to what I heard, the administration set a budget target of savings from transportation costs of approximately $1.5 million dollars. The privatization bids netted about $800,000 in savings. AAPS then tried negotiating with the transportation workers, who met the $800,000 savings in a tentative agreement--but the union membership voted the tentative agreement down.

Enter Option 2: Consolidate all transportation services countywide through the WISD. Drivers and aides keep their benefits--including retirement, because they will still be public employees--and the savings are still expected to exceed the $1.5 million dollars. The main savings will come from things like buying gasoline in bulk, buying parts in bulk, routing efficiencies, etcetera. There are still a lot of details to be worked out, and my guess is that eventually there will be some cuts in staffing among mechanics and administrators (although that was not clearly said). Right now, it looks like several districts are "in" (enough to make it a go--mostly from the eastern side of the county at this point) and that it will at least partially start up in the fall. The WISD has hired an "expert" consultant to iron out the details.

So that sounds good, right? I'm just left with a nagging question:

If it's not too good to be true, why didn't we do this five years ago? Think of all the millions we could have saved.
Or else--
It is too good to be true, and the savings will not be anywhere near the projections.

I guess time will tell. I'm glad the bus drivers will have their jobs, with retirement benefits.

Conference: Educational Inequalities in Michigan

This looks interesting...from my email inbox.

The Jack L. Walker Conference on Political Affairs at the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor. The theme of this conference is Educational Inequality in Michigan - An Inequality of Opportunities. The conference will be held at the Annenberg Auditorium (Ford School) on April 14, 2010 from 4.15 - 7 pm. On April 15, 2010 from 3 - 5 pm., at the Blau Auditorium of the Ross Business School, Lt. Gov. Cherry and various community organizations will speak about their efforts to advance educational equality in Michigan!

The Political Science Department and the Undergraduate Political Science Association are proud to host this annual conference. The conference honors Professor Jack L. Walker, who encouraged students to organize an annual forum to discuss current issues.
The Walker Conference seeks to provide an arena for developing community among our students; to provide a forum for discussing critical issues of an academic nature; to enhance the value of the University of Michigan as a learning community; and to immerse students in an academic culture. Our goal for this year's Walker conference is to provide a sense of the central issues and the contextual factors that have shaped public education policy and the delivery of public education in the past decade, as well as the present prospects for the immediate and longer-term future.The conference will have four speakers, Prof. Gregory Markus, Prof. Brian McCall, Prof. Maris A. Vinovskis, and Prof. Elizabeth Moje, giving brief presentations on their academic research. The presentations will be followed by an hour long panel discussion. [I don't know about the others, but I have enjoyed hearing Elizabeth Moje speak in the past.]

Also, Lt. Gov. Cherry will serve as our Keynote Speaker for the event on April 15 3-5 pm in the Blau Auditorium (Ross School of Business). The Director of America Reads and Student Organizations such as Detroit Partnership will speak on their efforts in the hopes of helping to shape the future of public education policy in this state. We expect attendance this year to be the highest ever; in the area of 200 guests. We are already receiving inquiries from all over the state about the conference. In closing, we would be pleased and honored to have you join us at the the Jack L. Walker Conference this year.

Monday, April 12, 2010

Go! AAPS Budget Meeting Tuesday Night

The presentation and information tonight at the AAPS budget forum were useful and interesting. The presentation lasted around 45 minutes and then there was time to go to several small breakout sessions. The handout was very detailed. There were about 50 people at the meeting--I hope there will be more tomorrow night.

The Budget Forum will begin at 6:30 p.m.
Tuesday, April 13
Huron High School's Little Theater, 2727 Fuller Rd.
Oh--and in other news--Randy Friedman is the third board member to resign from the AAPS board in the last few months. Want to take on budget challenges and other activities? More details should follow soon.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

A Few Updates

Ann Arbor:
Budget Forums THIS Monday and Tuesday
The forums will begin at 6:30 p.m. at these locations:
Monday, April 12
Pioneer High School's Little Theater, 601 W. Stadium Blvd.
Tuesday, April 13
Huron High School's Little Theater, 2727 Fuller Rd.
Also, Schools of Choice materials are available now.

The Dexter Superintendent, Rob Glass, is a semi-finalist for the Bloomfield Hills school superintendent position. He is also having a "Coffee and Conversation time" on April 21, from 7-8 a.m., at Foggy Bottom Coffee Shop. So go ask him your questions.
I also like what he had to say on his blog post about the MEAP (and I like the title of the blog itself: Glass Half Full).
Then, after savoring the moment [good district MEAP scores] for a good 30 seconds, I came back to my senses, acknowledging that these scores are very limited in both their use and their meaning. After all, districts who ‘live’ by the sword of standardized testing should beware lest they ultimately ‘die’ by the same.
Congratulations to Saline Middle School student Jacob Tanner, who is Michigan's state geography champion and is going to the National Geography Bee. I probably wouldn't call that out, except that I love geography, once worked in a map library, and have an environmental studies degree. And geography is a lot more than maps!

Saline is getting an updated web site, according to the Superintendent's Blog. I already thought that the Saline web site was the best one among the local schools, so I'm looking forward to the unveiling. (No, don't get a swelled head, Saline-ites--it still had its share of broken links and missing information, but at least most of the time, if the information was there, you could find it.)

Notices have gone out to the Chappelle families about their choices for the upcoming school year. I will be curious to see how that goes. I've also heard a fair number of rumblings as to whether there really was an open process regarding the school closings, or whether "the fix was in" and the decision was made before the process. I'm hoping someone will FOIA the appropriate documents, and find out. If, in fact, the process was truly open, I think that would soothe some ruffled feathers. And if not, well--people should know.

Willow Run:
A book could probably be written about the trials and tribulations of this district. The school board appears to really be coming together, the district has joined the Early College Alliance, people seem to like the acting superintendent...BUT if the allegations from the past few years are true, then it is amazing the district is still standing!
To wit:
The detailed allegations against Hope-Jackson are substantial, AND that
The former board president appears to have signed a contract extension for Laconda Hicks AFTER she was no longer board president

But wait--with these allegations, and with the acrimony that she stirred up among faculty and staff, you would think that nobody would be itching to hire Hope-Jackson--and yet, you would be wrong.
Hope-Jackson, too, is a semi-finalist for a superintendent position. David Jesse at linked to this Chicago Tribune story that tells the tale. Yes, she is a semi-finalist in the Harvey, Illinois district, where she had been an assistant superintendent, and where she remained on the school board even while working as superintendent in Willow Run! From the Chicago Tribune story:
Four other candidates have dropped out, leaving Harvey Public School District 152 to choose between Harvey Mayor Eric Kellogg, the district's assistant superintendent, and Doris Hope-Jackson, a former District 152 assistant superintendent and school board member who most recently was in Michigan. . .
Without a search or an interview, the school board in November voted 4-2 to name Kellogg superintendent-designate and instructed Bridges [current superintendent] to train him to take over her job. Of the board members who voted for Kellogg, one is his sister, one is his cousin and two are on the city payroll, working under Kellogg, records show.
The board began a search after the Tribune started asking questions and requesting public documents in January...[Describes Hope-Jackson's career.]
In the last few months, Hope-Jackson was demoted to director of information and assessment and accused of giving perks to certain employees. For example, she allegedly allowed a friend who works as a student services administrator to receive extra pay for working weekends and after hours even though she is a salaried employee, according to a 46-page memo from Willow Run school board President Sheri Washington. Hope-Jackson allegedly allowed that employee to abuse paid sick leave and work shortened days, the memo said.
Hope-Jackson also is accused of belittling, bullying and disrespecting staff, parents and school board members...
In 2006 Hope-Jackson left the superintendent's job in Calumet Public School District 132 after she tried to fire the special education director for allegedly falsifying her resume. The school board then tried to get rid of Hope-Jackson.
In 2003, she sued Dolton School District 149 after she claimed she was put on paid administrative leave as superintendent for refusing to do political favors for some board members. But board members said they disciplined her for having a negative attitude and being brash with parents and staff.

In other words--Harvey, Illinois appears to be way more dysfunctional than Willow Run, and...
given Hope-Jackson's history of lawsuits, it seems clear that the WRCS board is very wise to proceed cautiously and...
Let's hope she's on her way out.

Washtenaw Intermediate School District
There has been a lot of talk about consolidation of services, and it appears that the WISD is the center of a lot of these discussions. But if you go to their web site, it is pretty bare bones. Sure, you can get student accounting numbers, but I couldn't find a list of board members, and I have no idea how you get on the WISD board. And based on news reports it seems likely they (both board and staff) have been discussing quite a lot of things--international baccalaureate program, transportation consolidation. . .

You might be wondering--what's with the Superintendent job-hopping? Yes, there is lots of movement in the superintendent arena. Remember that the Ypsilanti assistant superintendent was just offered a job in Niles, MI. All I can say is, it appears that a good superintendent can be hard to find.

Also--if you missed these two posts: Music and Autism Updates, take a look at them and add your comments.

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Autism Updates

I've been meaning to do this for a while, but a facebook plea from a friend whose son has autism to "learn as much as you can" reminded me to post some of these links.
First, some analysis of the proposed changes in the new DSM (Diagnostic and Statistical Manual) to include Asperger's as part of the autism spectrum and not its own diagnosis--what does it mean?
From Nestor Lopez-Duran
From the New York Times (Roy Grinker op-ed piece)


Food and Autism
Discussion of enzyme supplementation (one theory for autism is a "leaky gut" theory). This study was plagued by small sample size, though--and statistical power can be really important. Anecdotally, several of my friends whose kids have autism have felt that diet changes have helped their kids. Do the studies measure the things that seem different to my friends?

Twins and Autism: Genetics or Environment?

The New York Times has a series of Voices on Autism
Last, but not least, MSU researchers are doing a comprehensive review of autism services in Michigan. They are calling it the ASD-Michigan study.

Want to know what I think? Probably the only teaching certificate area I would tell someone to get a teaching certificate in these days in Michigan are the special education specialties related to autism. That looks like a growth industry.

Thanks to Nestor Lopez-Duran ( and David Goodman for the links.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Thursday, April 1, 2010


Let's start with this interesting comment that I got the other day on my Cui Bono (Who Benefits?) post:
Speaking of Who Benefits, Pioneer has just won another award for their music program. I would love to see an expose of this program and who is benefitting. The orchestra is basically a public school forum for private music students. It has nothing to do with the school program that starts in 5th grade and doesn't teach enough for kids to suceed in high school. The teacher simply cherry picks the top students that have been privately studying music since a very young age, devotes all the resources to them, and literally leaves everyone else behind. The kids that can't play at a level well beyond high school are in a basic technique class where they can either accept their 2nd class status or quit. You never hear about them because they don't go anywhere beyond the school auditorium! The whole program is focused on winning and they are not about to let anyone in who can't do that.

I have mixed feelings about this comment.
On the one hand--point well taken. The top levels of the orchestra/band are very exclusive. At least one acquaintance has told me that the majority of the kids in it are taking lessons, outside of school, for at least an hour a week, from the very best teachers in town--no college music majors for them! I don't have personal experience of this because none of my kids has played past 9th grade (at least, not yet). But I believe the commenter when s/he says that many of the kids experience the lower levels of the orchestra/band as "second rate." And one of the reasons that I am happy about the presence of Skyline is that I believe this will make more room in those top bands (and Varsity athletic teams) for kids who are good, but not the very best.

On the other hand--this charge could be leveled not only at Pioneer but at other schools as well. They all use their music programs to attract students. I have seen articles about Huron, Ypsilanti, Lincoln, Willow Run, Community High, and even Stone School's music program. I think this is natural--although everyone thinks "basics" are important, it is the extras that draw people in to schools. And generally music is perceived as, and should be perceived as, value added.

And on the third hand (if I had one)--a friend of mine went, several years ago, to the NAACP annual dinner. She (a white woman, and a teacher) was seated at a table with several middle class African-American couples. The talk turned to school, and to the achievement gap. [And I would say that both my friend and I, as white women concerned with education, have been concerned with the achievement gap as a problem, but not as a problem that personally affected us. These families felt it affected them.] My friend reported to me later that the other parents were discussing their strategies for keeping their kids out of trouble and in with the top-performing kids. Universally, their favorite strategy--even for kids who weren't in advanced classes--was to keep their kids in the music program. So many of the advanced students are in Orchestra, Band, or Choir, that those classes end up driving a lot of class schedules. In effect: stick with Orchestra, and your kids end up being with hard-working students for the rest of the day.

Last, but not least--I really believe that when you learn music, you are also learning math (think rhythm, notes, spatial awareness) and arts (besides the beauty of music, it really is like learning another language). So I think it's important, despite the fact that my (older two) kids' interest in music peaked in 6th or 7th grade, and I want the schools to have good music programs.

Finally--I don't have much experience with the local music programs, and I would be interested in yours. Are they elite and snobby, or open? Does everyone benefit, or just a select few?