Monday, July 16, 2012

Calling All Ypsi Area Readers: Your Time and Thoughts Are Needed

Ypsilanti-area readers: Whether you live in Ypsilanti/Willow Run, or you are a staff person in one of the districts, now is the time to learn about, and put your two cents in about the proposed consolidation of the Ypsilanti and Willow Run school districts.

Yes, I know it's Art Fair, and I know it's the work day, but on the 18th and 19th (Wednesday and Thursday) there is a strategic planning retreat at Eagle Crest (8:30-3:30 p.m.) and I think it would be well worth your while to be there.

According to this article:
Download a copy of the preliminary data report here or visit the new task force website,, for more information about the consolidation effort.
An updated data portrait will be uploaded to the site Tuesday [note: yes, that is tomorrow] following the last session. Naomi Norman, director of assessment, planning and research for the WISD, said the public gave some very good suggestions during the first session and she will be adding some additional data to the report as a result.

 I recommend that you download the preliminary data report (or, better yet, the updated data report). The preliminary data report does not give very much new information.

We already knew that both districts have proud histories.
We already knew that the academic performance in both schools is well below the county averages. (The poverty rates are well above the county averages, too, but they don't talk about that.)
We already knew that although Ypsi kids choose to go to Willow Run, and Willow Run kids choose to go to Ypsilanti, more Willow Run kids choose to go to Ypsi.
[I didn't know that you can find the information about where kids are choosing to go at the website]
We already knew that both school districts are in deficit--Willow Run has been in deficit longer, and their downward enrollment trend has been going on longer.

I didn't know that Ypsilanti's high school enrollment trajectory has been going up.
I didn't know that the majority of kids in both districts who do graduate at least start college.

In the data report, they don't talk about any implications of consolidating. [Should they? The one area where I think maybe they should have, is if they were to share data about other districts that have consolidated. How has it worked for those other districts?]

I'm not going to the two-day retreat. I don't live in either district, and I don't (rightly) get a vote.
But if you ask me today, there is nothing that would make me vote for this--if I had a vote.
I do think that Ypsilanti is much the stronger district than Willow Run, but I wouldn't describe it as strong. So why tie two weak districts together? If they need partners, they should look for stronger ones.
Also--and this is a big deal--I understand that if they combine, they get an average per-pupil foundation allowance. That means their combined allowance would be lower, on a per-pupil basis. And since Ypsilanti has both the higher allowance and the higher enrollment, they would lose a lot of money.
I have said before that I think the Willow Run district should dissolve. The Willow Run school board's "last ditch" budget has them closing their high school. If I understand correctly, that would effectively close the district (a district is required to have a high school). On the other hand, they can choose to combine a high school without closing the district (and, I believe, without a vote). They could, for instance, send all the Willow Run kids to Ypsi High without consolidating the districts. That seems like a better option. But that's just me.

More discussion:

Mark Maynard: What the WISD got wrong in the marketing of their Ypsilanti, Willow Run consolidation plans

Mark Maynard interview with WISD Superintendent Scott Menzel about the proposed consolidation

[NB: What I like about Mark Maynard is that he obviously really cares about Ypsilanti and he is willing to share information and thoughts. Just realize that he lets his commenters more or less have free rein. There are some really great comments, and some that I could do without. . . Still worth a read, though. Who else is covering Ypsilanti?]

But Ypsilantians, what do you think? Would you vote for consolidation?

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