Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Dog Days of August

Why are they called dog days? I have no idea--I thought maybe because of the idea that dogs lie around and don't do anything?

In any case, if August has the reputation that not much happens, that hasn't been true this past week.

Here are a few things you can read about (with my comments after each link):

Todd Roberts is leaving as Ann Arbor superintendent. He is going to be the chancellor for the North Carolina School for Science and Math.
What do I think? I think Todd Roberts did a fairly good job here--not perfect, but being a superintendent in Ann Arbor is a lot like herding cats--and I'm glad he's able to make a job choice that will allow him to spend time with his (and his wife's) parents. I think I'd prefer naming an interim superintendent in order to not rush the job search.

Race and ethnicity sagas continue.
So the "Skyline bus fight" was not deemed a hate crime after all. (You can go back to this earlier post or this one if you need to refresh your memory.) Of course the big bugaboo in the room: how can we de-escalate tensions before they start?

And although Mike Madison made a mistake, he won't be disciplined. I'm glad about that. Let us learn from our mistakes, and move on. That's what we tell students to do, and honestly? We are all still learners. We still have an achievement gap...

And a Willow Run building supervisor is suing Doris Hope-Jackson and the Willow Run school district for race discrimination and for discrimination based on the Family Medical Leave Act. (Todd LaPrairie is white, Hope-Jackson is black.) Is it true? I don't know, but at this point, let's remember that the school board is trying to dismiss Hope-Jackson, and it's tempting to believe almost anything...but, that's why we have courts and due-process hearings.

In other news... has an extensive special report on the idea of consolidating school districts. The full study (done by Michigan State University) can be found here. The net result: if all of the districts in the state were to undergo some consolidation, we could save 4% of our expenses. My feeling is, it might make sense to consolidate some districts, but not others--size matters, local control matters. Having to drive hours to a school board meeting matters. Closing down charters would probably save more, but nobody is suggesting that.
I wrote about some of the roadblocks to consolidation in this post. Here are the roadblocks:
First, the districts considering consolidation (or annexation) need to have their school boards decide it is worth pursuing.
Second, the voters in each district need to agree. Jack Lessenberry had a good essay about
why the Montague and Whitehall districts (near Muskegon) voted no many years ago. And the moral is that both small and large things can deter people from voting yes. On the other hand, this seems pretty reasonable to me if a district is either merging or dissolving. The people should have a say. (Want to see what the county school district map looks like? You can find it here.)
Third, the way state law is currently written, the merged district gets the average of the per pupil allocations. And the districts don't have the same per pupil allocations.
In the article, former state superintendent Tom Watkins says that the consolidation push has to come from Lansing because local schools are "too close" to the issue. NO. That is rubbish. The consolidation push has to come from Lansing because the laws which set up the roadblocks are made in Lansing. The fact that the merged district gets the average per-pupil funding of the two districts (and not the higher per-pupil funding) is a disincentive even if the difference is $100/per pupil.

Last, but not least...

I keep seeing signs up for WISD hiring bus drivers, and I am pretty nervous that my kids' routes are going to be screwed up this fall. When I was in kindergarten, I took the bus for three days. The bus driver got lost on the way to my house all three days. After that, I walked or got a ride. I WANT kids to be comfortable using the bus.

Yeah, lazy, hazy summer...


  1. These are dog days because of the constellation in the night sky this time of year, not, like my friends and I believed when we were kids, because it's so hot the dogs don't even want to move.

  2. Thanks for the explanation! I just went and looked this up--the Dog Star is Sirius, the brightest star in Canis Major.