Thursday, August 5, 2010

Assorted Notes

Schools of Choice
Ann Arbor has a limited schools of choice open enrollment period again. That's because they didn't have enough kids apply in round one. It is only for students entering grades K, 1, and 6. It is for select elementary schools and all of the middle schools. Find out more here. Open enrollment period closes August 12th. Other school districts have broader schools of choice options available--check with the district for details.

Saline Schools Bond Vote
The Saline Schools bond lost by 153 votes--2782 to 2629, or 51.4% to 48.6%. This proposal essentially extended a millage that would have expired (and will expire, unless something changes) in 2025, in order to qualify for federal recovery funds (ARRA). I think it was probably hard to understand that it wouldn't cost anything immediately.

In any case, a friend of mine who lives in Belleville pointed out to me that all of the local school districts are coming around and asking for funding for infrastructure and technology costs. I believe that in Belleville (Van Buren schools, which draw a small number of kids from Washtenaw County) they are building, or have built, a new high school. "Now is not the time," she said.

It's worth looking at why these proposals seem to be becoming more frequent. I'll give two reasons, and there are probably more. 1) There are some projects (technology comes to mind), where funding could come from a bond issue, or from per-pupil operating monies. Since the per-pupil operating monies keep getting cut, it's not really an option to take money for these projects from those monies, and we cannot go to local voters and ask for an increase in per-pupil funding, thanks to Proposal A. In other words, it is a function of the state school funding climate. 2) In a competitive world of school choice, and a world where we like shiny new things, school boards and administrators believe that we gain a competitive edge with new and updated schools. In other words, parents will choose to enroll their kids in a school based in part on facilities and technology.
Do you agree? 
On the one hand, I think I learned perfectly well without computers or whiteboards in my classrooms--and I expect that I am not the only voter who wonders "do we really need" this technology? Couldn't we teach without it? (The answer is clearly yes.)
On the other hand, if you expect teachers to orient their teaching around technological innovations (which, increasingly, we do)--well, I can say that there is very little that is more frustrating for a teacher than having technology not work. If we want all kids to learn computers, we need to give them computers to use. And what about having a roof that doesn't leak? Heating and cooling systems that heat and cool?

The WISD Transportation Mess:
In the end, only three districts decided to join the WISD Transportation Consolidation Plan. Yes, that is the number 3 (Ann Arbor, Ypsilanti, Willow Run). Yes, they originally said they needed 5, minimally. I still don't have an answer on how the math works out for that. The WISD is now advertising for school bus driver applicants. Are we going to have a major snafu come September? It does seem likely. Other districts are trying some other ideas. Dexter is going to a one-tier bus system. In that system, school times are coordinated so that you only need to drive through a neighborhood once, rather than different times for elementary/middle/high school. The tentative schedule will be to have the school day running from 8 a.m. to 2:51 p.m. Lincoln bus drivers agreed to significant concessions.

Ypsilanti Superintendent:
Ypsilanti is evaluating new superintendent Dedrick Martin. Share your opinions with the Ypsilanti school board now.

Did anyone notice that the new Ypsilanti high school principal resigned before he started? And there are four new elementary school principals coming in to Ann Arbor. Three of them are from out of district. Do we really not have the skills and expertise in the district to hire from within?

Adequate Yearly Progress:
The state Department of Education has determined that most public schools in the county have made Adequate Yearly Progress. According to David Jesse at,
The schools that didn’t make AYP were Ann Arbor's Stone High School, Lincoln High School, Ypsilanti High School, Willow Run High School and Willow Run Middle School. Coming off the AYP problem school list was Ypsilanti's Adams Elementary School.
If you want to see the school-by-school details, you can find them on the state web site here.
I'm curious: those of you with fairly recent experiences at the schools that did not make AYP, have you been satisfied with your children's education? I have heard that some of these schools are "great for kids who need second and third chances" but are not doing so well with kids who don't need them. Do you agree?

If you want to look at a school district that is doing well in state rankings with limited resources (they are on the low end as far as per-pupil funding amounts), I suggest you check out the Manchester school district.

Budget and Salary Transparency Reporting:
I just noticed that the Saline and Manchester and Ypsilanti schools have Budget and Transparency Reporting up on their web sites. Look for it on their home pages, in a link. It turns out that it is a state requirement, to have this information posted on the home page of the district's web site within 30 days. When I first looked, I didn't see it on the Ann Arbor web site. When I read the state's documentation, that says it needs to be up and on the home page, I went back again. It is in the weirdest place on the AAPS web site, almost "off the page" on the far, far top right.

School Board:
If you haven't read my last post about school board elections, please do!


  1. I think it's really important to hire from other places as well as to promote within. AAPS has it's own culture, some of it good, some of it not, and fresh input would be good for the district. I totally agree with hiring outside the district. Why should all principals be AAPS employees? That's leads to insular thinking.

  2. You have a good point there. On the other hand, my stronger feeling is that there are not enough pathways to promotion (if you think of becoming a principal as a promotion) in the Ann Arbor schools, and I believe that opportunities for promotion create a better working environment and reduce opportunities for burnout. Employees shouldn't have to leave the Ann Arbor district to get those opportunities.

  3. That's the nature of the job. You're a teacher, and that's what you do. 30 years in a job can definitely lead to stale thinking and tactics, but there aren't enough principals slots to make it a viable option for teachers to move into.
    Maybe instead of rewarding endurance in a job by good bennies, teachers should get sabbaticals to go do something else and stretch themselves in different ways, maybe a couple years at a time, and then come back to teaching.