Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Somehow I Missed Some Dexter and Chelsea News...

While I wasn't looking, Dexter's superintendent, Mary Marshall, left town for a Superintendent position in Pentwater, Michigan.

According to a December 20, 2012 article in the Dexter Patch:

Marshall, who will leave the district after 19 years for a job in Pentwater, Mich., served as a high school teacher, assistant principal at Dexter High School, sixth grade teacher, Creekside Intermediate principal, assistant superintendent, and superintendent at Dexter Schools.

The interim superintendent, Dennis Desmarais, was the former superintendent of the Riverview Community School District. According to a January 18, 2013 article in the Dexter Patch:

Desmarais brings 38 years of experience to his role as interim superintendent. In his time as an educator he has been a teacher, track coach, cross country coach, head football coach, high school assistant principal, athletic director, assistant superintendent, and superintendent. He retired as superintendent from Riverview Community Schoois in 2011.
From the article, it sounds like he has a six month contract.

Which raises an interesting question about the Ypsilanti/Willow Run Superintendent Search: Why didn't they look, explicitly, for an interim Superintendent, someone with the potential to be a change artist?

In other news: Lisa Allmendinger has been running Chelsea Update (, a news site. I guess she is now launching Dexter Update ( as well. Looking at Dexter Update, I found that four Dexter schools buildings as well as the transportation facility still do not have power this evening. Kids, you might have another snow day. Looking at Chelsea Update, I found that they are covering the Chelsea school board meetings (and I think Dexter school board meetings as well). That's a good thing!

Monday, February 25, 2013

Ypsi/Willow Run School Board Thinks They Thread the Needle, But They Don't

I went to the Ypsilanti Community Schools Board Meeting tonight where they were deciding about the new Superintendent. I've mostly just pasted in my tweets here, along with some additional commentary. 

First of all, when I got there, there were about fifty people out front. Only one of them had a sign, but it expressed the opinions of the others: 

Georgina Hickey's sign

Eventually, we filed into the auditorium. The meeting started a few minutes late.

The Board's First Turn

They added board comments before public comments. A little odd but apparently meant to be soothing. 

The board comments were mostly about how they really had listened to what people had said. How they needed involvement. 

It is a very big auditorium (quite nice too) and about half full.

Also, About 3/4 of the audience was white, 1/4 black; about 3/4 of the audience was women, 1/4 men.

Why does every bd member feel the need to comment "we hear you, we value you." The proof will be in the pudding. 

Public Commentary

30 minutes for public comment; 13 people signed up. 

Sunday, February 24, 2013

Interesting Meeting Choices Monday Night 2/25/13

Ypsilanti/Willow Run residents:

So you know, based on my previous posts [here, and here] that the Ypsilanti/Willow Run school board (the new Ypsilanti Community Schools school board) has an important decision to make on Monday night about the Superintendent choice for the new district. If you can come out and be part of the democratic decision-making process, that would be great. Here are the details:

2/25/2013. 7:30 p.m.. Willow Run Community Schools Auditorium, 235 Spencer Lane. 

Here is the agenda

Now, should you happen to be

Ann Arbor residents:

I got an interesting email and flyer the other day, it starts out like this:

“New Jim Crow” Injustice In Ann Arbor:  A case of selecting the most vulnerable and overcharging for a conviction

The cases that are being discussed here is fallout from the fall football brawl that happened the night of the Pioneer-Huron football game. If you recall (the information is all taken from the flyer that is linked to below),
The incident began when Vince Wortmann, an assistant coach at Pioneer shoved Huron
head coach Cory Gildersleeve. Wortmann believed Gildersleeve was physically
threatening Pioneer head coach Paul Test. Some say that Coach Gildersleeve pushed
Coach Test. This melee was started by the actions of the adults, the football coaches.
In spite of inciting what most would call riot-like behavior, only one adult was criminally
charged. Of a large diverse group of players, three students, all Pioneer teammates were
criminally charged. All three students are African Americans. At least two of the
students are economically disadvantaged.
Well now, none of the coaches have charges pending against them (one had some charges that were later dropped), but three of the students have had charges elevated against them, and in fact one of those three was not one of the twelve students that AAPS disciplined.

It's a complicated story, and you can get all the background if you read more here.

And there is an informational meeting on Monday night. Here are the details:
Call to Action
On Monday, February 25, 2013, at 7 pm, please plan to attend a community meeting
hosted by the Ann Arbor Community Center, 625 N. Main Street. We will address
any questions and hopefully have enough people to execute our action plan.
The group planning this (which includes AAPS school board member Susan Baskett) is trying to raise awareness; raise money for the students' defense; and put pressure on the prosecuting attorney.  For more information or to volunteer to help with fundraising and strategy development, contact: 734-478-3338 or

The State Budget from Saline's Perspective

Saline's superintendent, Scot Graden, does an excellent job of keeping his blog updated. In it, he recently described how even though supposedly Governor Snyder's budget increases state funding, for Saline, it will end up being a decrease of approximately half a percent in funding--which at first sounds like almost nothing, but when you run a school district turns out to be quite a lot of money.

Scot is diplomatic, calling it a "good news, bad news" budget, but I'd say it's only "good news" in the sense that things could always be worse.

This is a highly readable blog post, even if you are afraid of budget numbers, and its implications are true for nearly every district in the state.

Read more here.

I guess the only good news piece is that this is still a proposed budget.

As usual, look for budget updates from Michigan Parents for Schools.

Saturday, February 23, 2013

Is the New Ypsi/Willow Run School Board About to Make A Boneheaded Superintendent Decision?

What, exactly, would be the advantage of hiring both superintendents, who ran the two "failed" districts?

I don't blame either Laura Lisiscki or Dedrick Martin for the failures of their districts, but they weren't able to turn them around either. Laura seems well-liked in the district but she also kept presenting budgets which assumed that more people would come back to the Willow Run schools, and the deficit in Ypsilanti has ballooned under Dedrick Martin.

What would make the new school board think they are capable of doing the work that would be required for consolidation? [In my opinion, it's possible that either of them could be a good assistant superintendent in the new district.]

And what--for crying out loud--would make anyone think that a co-superintendent setup would make sense in this setting? [See this article for background information. Read the comments, too.]

I don't know anything about Sharon Irvine. Maybe she would be good. It's heartening to me that the teachers' union likes her even though she got them to make big concessions. [They did not, as you might recall, take a stand on the consolidation.]

But. . . probably the school board should be taking a look around at a larger pool of candidates.

Definitely the school board should choose one person to be superintendent.

There is a special meeting to choose the superintendent(s) on Monday 2/25/2013. 7:30 p.m.. Willow Run Community Schools, 235 Spencer Lane.

Ypsilanti Community Schools Supporters facebook page is here.
An article (with links to another article) is here.

Mark Maynard's "What the hell is going on" commentary on the Ypsilanti Community Schools is here. He has included some excellent background information and lots of links.

[Updated: A friend pointed out to me that I should make note of the fact that the two Superintendents are the only ones whose contracts go past the end of June 2013, and that the fact that they will have to pay them anyway is likely part of the board members' calculations. Which is probably true. Even so, that might not be the best decision for the new district, and I believe they could press them into other roles in the new district.]

Friday, February 22, 2013

Ypsilanti Schools Shuts Down Facebook Page

To cut to the chase:

The new Ypsilanti Community Schools Board (the Ypsilanti/Willow Run consolidated school board) current Ypsilanti schools had a facebook page used for sharing information about upcoming events and activities. As you might expect, people commented on it.

When some board members from the new, consolidated school board--which is also functioning as the school boards for Ypsilanti and for Willow Run until the end of June--proposed the (truly idiotic) idea of hiring two superintendents (and yes, the same ones from the old districts), the facebook page came alive with comments. Some ones (I assume, some members of the new school board) didn't like the facebook page criticism and so they took down the page.

[Update: Commenters in say it was Superintendent of the Ypsi Schools Dedrick Martin who made the decision to take down the facebook page. I'm not really sure who did it, but he did say that communication has been a weakness of his. If it was him, that would make sense--communication really is a weakness of his.]

Luckily, an anonymous reader had copied the comments before it was closed down (Thank You!), and I'm posting the comments here. It's worth watching the video--which I hope come through on this site!

Also, some community members have started a new facebook page: Ypsilanti Community Schools Supporters. Feel free to give them a "like."

  • The Board of Education interviewed three candidates for superintendent for Ypsilanti Community Schools. The Board will meet on Monday, February 18, to discuss these interviews.
    20130214 WRCS YCS BOE Sharon Irvine Interview
    "20130214 WRCS YCS BOE Sharon Irvine Interview", a playlist created by WillowRunBoE
  • Meredith SchindlerEric Kasza and Katrina Nembhard like this.
  • Meredith Schindler The interviews were interesting and informative - thanks to YPS for posting this. Enrollment figures released by the district last year, and presented at a board meeting then, were alarming. Enrollment has declined 13% in the last two years, and would have declined even more except for the large school of choice student population that came from Willow Run. With us combining with Willow Run, these numbers will become more alarming unless something different is done to stem this tide.

WR-YPS unified board of education decides more time needed to make superintendent hire decision. Tuesday, Feb. 19 meeting is cancelled.

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

A Shout Out To Our Music Teachers

My son started humming a song today that I had never heard.

"What is that?" I said.

"It's a Woody Guthrie song, 'I'm Gonna Mail Myself To You.' My music teacher [from four years ago] taught it to me."

So here is a shout out to all those music teachers who teach our kids music that they actually remember four years later. Thank you, elementary music, choir, band, and orchestra teachers!

This song is essentially a love song from Woody to his children, so music teachers:

Happy Valentine's Day!

[Interestingly, one commenter on Youtube said, "I remember singing this in elementary school on Valentine's Day.]


Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Luck, Reprised

Here is the link to get to the Community High School lottery list.
If you didn't get in, remember: there are lots of other good schools out there.

The rest of this post is reposted from 2/17/10.

The year my oldest got into Community High School, he was #6 in the lottery. I remember this because people talked about it as if drawing this number was a result of something we did.
"Wow, that's so great. He got number 6! You must be really proud." 
Sure, we did go to the orientation. We did fill out a couple of sheets of paper. But other than that, nothing separated him from the 200 or so other kids who applied and didn't get into the school.
Except luck.
The Community High School lottery list came out today. 
Congratulations to the kids who got in. I think it's a wonderful school.
For the rest of you, those of you now on the waitlist, remember--it's not about you. It's about luck.

The odds of getting into Community are still better (much, much better) than buying a ticket in the lottery. Ironically, if you buy a lottery ticket, you will be supporting the state's schools. . . one dollar at a time.

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Are You Following the NWEA MAP Controversy In Seattle?

Over in Seattle, ALL of the teachers at Garfield High School have agreed to boycott the NWEA MAP test. They have the backing of the PTSA, and it appears most of the parents and students are backing them up. A couple of other Seattle schools have joined them.

You can follow what is going on there in a few ways:

Facebook: Solidarity With Garfield High School Testing Boycott

A web site devoted to the controversy:

Apparently the district administration is trying to implement the testing schedule, but not very successfully. Most students are not going along with it. According to this Diane Ravitch post,

Wednesday, Feb. 6th, 2013 is the National Day of Action to support Garfield High School and the other MAP test boycotters who are facing possible 10 Day Suspensions without pay for refusing to force students to take an unfair, counterproductive and bad standardized test.
[Editor's Note: That's today! Links from Diane Ravitch are below.]
Information about the Day of Action can be found here: http://scrapthemap.wordpress. com/2013/02/02/national-day- of-action-to-support-seattle- map-test-boycott/
Share the Facebook Day of Action page here by going here: events/366568146775772/
Sign the Support the Seattle Teachers Petition here:
Call, email, and write to Seattle Public Schools Superintendent José L. Banda to let him know that you support the boycott:
Superintendent José L. Banda
 Meanwhile, I was very taken by this photo, posted on Facebook:

I got that photo from the Facebook group called Change the Stakes, which reported:

Here's what happened at Garfield today: Admins came into classrooms and tried to pull students out to take the MAP test in the library. Students stared straight ahead, and wouldn't budge.

In a library with about 60 computers stations set up for the MAP, there were single digit numbers of students sitting at computers. Of those, many sat at the computers and refused to press even a single button.

Meanwhile, I will remind you that you can help change the stakes here as well.
1. Sign the Ann Arbor STOP petition: Stop Overtesting Our Children!
2. Join our Facebook group, Ann Arbor STOP.

Monday, February 4, 2013

Your School Should Have One Too

You School Should Have One What Too?
One Town Hall Meeting.

Tonight Ann Arbor Open gathered for a Town Hall meeting, organized by the Ann Arbor Open Coordinating Council (our PTO). It was really positive. That is good because I think in the coming year we'll have lots of bad news.

The Town Hall meeting was called: 30th Anniversary of Ann Arbor Open! Where have we been and where are we going?

The meeting officially began with someone giving the history of Ann Arbor Open. The history of Ann Arbor Open is a little different because it is the history of a program and not a school, but every school has an interesting history.

[Side note: In fact, just the other day Ed Vielmetti posted a fascinating piece about the building of Ann Arbor High School (now Pioneer High School), with a film and everything! Find it here.]

Then we moved into small groups (assigned by colored dots on our name tags) and were asked to discuss these six questions and report out. There was a good mix of parents, teachers, and even a few kids (two of whom reported out for their group!).

I think these questions could be used, with only slight modification, by most of the district's schools.

1. What can parents do specifically to support teachers with increasing class sizes?
2. What can parents do specifically to support specials teachers, staff and administration?
3. How can we lessen the impact of testing on the project-based learning in our school?
4. What methods of promotion (PR) do we use to educate prospective families and the general community about Open Education? How do we provide a common message?
5. What do we do well at our school that we can promote to the greater Ann Arbor community? Multi-cultural fair? The incredible projects that happen in classrooms every day? Others?
6. What does it mean for a family to be part of the Open School?

Anyway--although students were invited--I couldn't interest my son in coming with me.
On my way out the door, though, he asked, "Are other schools doing this too?"
"I don't know," I said.

But now that I've been to one?

I hope so.