Thursday, July 31, 2014

Five Reasons I Support the Annexation of Whitmore Lake Schools by Ann Arbor

I support the annexation of Whitmore Lake schools by Ann Arbor schools--at least, conceptually speaking. I haven't seen all the details yet, but here's why I think it's a good thing.

1. I believe it will offer many more opportunities to Whitmore Lake students and teachers, without harming Ann Arbor students and teachers. For instance, do you know that Whitmore Lake High School students don't get a single AP course offering?

Whitmore Lake Elementary School sign
Licensed under Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons

2. I have thought for a long time that the Whitmore Lake school district is too small. Whitmore Lake's total school population last year--K-12--was only around 1,000 students. Whitmore Lake has been operating with the lowest level of per-pupil amount of funding, which has made things very difficult for them, and the size of the district means there are few efficiencies to be found.

3. If Whitmore Lake were to continue down this road we might find them with an emergency manager, and I don't want any of the school districts in the county to be taken over by emergency managers.

4. I am not interested in a single-county district or in growing for growth's sake, but I feel a lot better annexing a district and keeping it as part of the public school economy than I do with siphoning off their population as "schools of choice" students--that weakens Whitmore Lake, and at the same time, those students of choice only bring with them to the Ann Arbor school district the Whitmore Lake students' per-pupil funding balance.

5. The "weighted average" of the per-pupil amounts means that the per-pupil amount for the Whitmore Lake school district students will increase by about $2,000 per pupil. I believe that many students in Whitmore Lake who have opted out of the district will come back, and if additional development takes place outside of the Ann Arbor city limits, there is a good chance it will happen there.

P.S. I've been asked by someone why Ann Arbor schools didn't make this same offer to Ypsilanti. Well really, that's looking at things the wrong way--because to my knowledge, Ypsilanti did not ask to be annexed by Ann Arbor, and Whitmore Lake approached Ann Arbor about being annexed. I think the Whitmore Lake school board is brave and open-minded for asking, and being willing to give up their seats.

P.P.S. Now you'll notice that I said, "Conceptually speaking." There are a gazillion details to look at, but for right now I think I'll be a strong supporter.

Read some stuff from Whitmore Lake about the proposed annexation.

Read some stuff from Ann Arbor about the proposed annexation. (Have you used Board Docs? Go to the 7 p.m. meeting on July 30th, then view the agenda. If you click on an agenda item on the left-hand side, the resolution or document will come up on the right-hand side. At least, usually it will.)

Consider subscribing to Ann Arbor Schools Musings by Email!

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

There's a Fine Crop of Candidates! I'm Excited.

Unofficial lists of candidates are in for all of the local school districts (here) and I am sure I will have more analysis later, but for now I can say that we have a terrific group of candidates for the Ann Arbor and Ypsilanti schools.

In Ann Arbor, there are 

10 candidates for 4 positions, including two incumbent board members.

What's more, I think all 10 are really good candidates. I haven't vetted them all yet, so I'm not sure to what extent I agree or don't agree with their positions, but I do know that most of them have been invested in/following/volunteering in the Ann Arbor schools and the actions of the school board over the past few years.

Thank you,
Patricia Manley
Don Wilkerson
Christine Stead
Jack Panitch
Donna Lasinski
Susan Baskett
Roland Zullo
Jeffery Harrold
Hunter Van Valkenburgh
Deirdre Piper

In Ypsilanti, there are

4 candidates running for 2 full six-year spots.
8 candidates running for 3 partial four-year spots.
6 candidates running for 2 partial two-year spots.
(Remember, because this is the first time the board is being voted for, all seats are up for grabs and they had to be staggered.)

It's nice to see so much faith/willingness to roll up their sleeves and work for the future of the Ypsilanti Community Schools.

Thank you,

For the full six-year term (two spots available)
Brenda Meadows
Maria Sheler-Edwards
Gregory Myers
Bill Kurkjian

For the partial four-year term (three spots available)
Anthony VanDerworp
David Bates
Djeneba Cherif
Celeste Hawkins
Linda Snedecar-Horne
Ellen Champagne
Sharon Irvine
Mark Wilde

For the partial two-year term (two spots available)
Daniel Raglin
Don Garrett Jr.
KJ Miller
Sharon Lee
Ricky Jefferson
Meredith Schindler

As for the other school districts, it looks like the following districts will have uncontested elections.
Chelsea, Dexter, Milan, Saline

Lincoln has 4 candidates for 3 positions:
Jennifer Czachorski, Tommy Burdette, Jennifer LaBombarbe, Thomas Rollins

Manchester has 4 candidates for 3 positions:
Michael Austin, Rebecca Harvey, Dara Psarouthakis, Jill Corwin

Whitmore Lake has 4 candidates for 2 positions:
Kalyndra Craven, James Vibbart, Anne Iaquinto, Lisa McCully
(Given the proposal to have Ann Arbor annex Whitmore Lake schools, this may be a race to watch if the candidates do not all have the same position.)

Consider subscribing to Ann Arbor Schools Musings by Email!

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

YCS Citizens Finally Get to Choose a School Board--Who's Running?

Because of recent changes to state law, we only get to vote for school board members every two years. And because of the Ypsilanti/Willow Run schools merger, in the last two year cycle the citizens of the respective districts voted for their own school board members, and then also voted to consolidate.

So the new school board trustees were not seated, and due to the consolidation, a combined school board was appointed by the Washtenaw Intermediate School Board.

And so, for the past year and a half, Ypsilantians have had an appointed, not elected, school board.

Therefore, it's a rather momentous occasion that in November of 2014, they will be able to elect a school board for the first time.

I imagine you know what that means. There have to be some candidates, right? I'm hoping that there will be more than a few candidates. [That is not always true. It's not like the job pays very much, and the hours are fairly long.]

In the case of Ypsilanti, because it is the first time that there has been an elected school board, and everyone will be elected at once, and the board terms are six years long, some of the positions are partial terms (2 and 4 years).

Candidates have until July 22nd (that's next week) at 4 p.m. to file their petitions or pay their money. From the County Clerk's web site:

By 4:00 p.m., July 22, 2014 Local School Board candidates and Community College Trustee candidates who wish to seek office at the November general election file an Affidavit of Identity and a nonpartisan nominating petition. (A $100.00 nonrefundable fee may be filed in lieu of a petition.) Withdrawal deadline elapses at 4:00 p.m. on July 25.
There is also an unofficial list, on the county clerk's web site, of people who are likely candidates for office.

So in Ypsilanti, who has already indicated interest in running?

Running. [For office, of course.]
Taken from
under a Creative Commons license.

[Before I tell you, note that this may be a partial list. Looking at the Ann Arbor list, I have heard of people running who are not yet on the list.]

Ypsilanti Community Schools - Board Member - Regular 6 Year Term

Vote for two

NameMailing AddressPhoneE-mail
Brenda Meadows410 N. Harris Rd.
Ypsilanti, MI 48198
Maria Sheler-Edwards51 Colony Ct.
Ypsilanti, MI 48197

Maria Sheier-Edwards is on the current appointed YCS board. Brenda Meadows is not.

Ypsilanti Community Schools - Board Member - Partial Term ending 12/31/2018

Vote for three

NameMailing AddressPhoneE-mail
Anthony VanDerworp1309 Kingwood
Ypsilanti, MI 48197
David R. Bates1208 Pearl St.
Ypsilanti, MI 48197
Djeneba Cherif948 Jefferson St.
Ypsilanti, MI 48197

Anthony VanDerworp and David Bates are on the current YCS appointed board. Djeneba Cherif is not.

Ypsilanti Community Schools - Board Member - Partial Term ending 12/31/2016

Vote for two

NameMailing AddressPhoneE-mail
Daniel L. Raglin6825 Textile Rd.
Ypsilanti, MI 48197

Daniel Raglin is on the current YCS appointed board. There is currently only one candidate listed as running for the two-year team.

I have heard a lot of grumbling over the past year and a half about the fact that the school board was appointed. This is not the fault of the WISD, or the Ypsilanti or Willow Run school boards--it was all a result of the decisions of the state legislature.

BUT--Ypsi peeps--don't you want more candidates? If the election only has three candidates for three slots (etcetera), that's not much of an election, is it? It's more like a walk in the park...

So consider running yourself, or recruiting someone to run. There's still (a little) time.

[Ann Arbor peeps--I have heard of several people who are running, so I'm pretty sure there will be a contested election. I don't know if that's true for other local elections--Lincoln, Saline, etc. because none of them at this point look like they will be contested, and I hope they will be.]

Consider subscribing to Ann Arbor Schools Musings by Email!

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Introducing a New Contributor, and a New Organization!

New Contributor

I am very excited to introduce a new guest blogger to Ann Arbor Schools Musings!

We'll be calling this teacher A3 Teacher, because he teaches in Ann Arbor, and would like to remain Anonymous.  For now I'll just tell you that he has several years of teaching under his belt, both in Ann Arbor and outside of Ann Arbor.


New Organization

For his first blog post, A3 Teacher would like to feature a new organization:

Michigan Teachers and Allies for Change meeting this Thursday

A new grassroots group organized by local teachers, families, and community members has begun in Southeastern Michigan  The group is called Michigan Teachers and Allies for Change (M-TAC for short) and in about a week and a half the group has swelled to just over 430 Facebook likes.  Following the recent investigative articles published by the Detroit Free Press on charter schools and the onslaught of for-profit schools in Michigan, this group seeks to inform citizens on the realities of public education in Michigan in order to best help students.  This non-partisan group is focused on positive action, both locally and at the state level.  

The group’s Facebook page states the description of the group as the following:

We are a grassroots group of teachers and allies working on behalf of public education. We are devoted to turning the tide against the for-profit and political forces in order to refocus our state's resources on students. We are dedicated to raising awareness and taking action based on what is best for our communities.

The group is holding an informational meeting in Ann Arbor on the evening on Thursday, July 10th at 6:00 p.m. for teachers, families, and allies of public education.  David Arsen, a professor at Michigan State University’s School of Education, as well as State Board of Education president John Austin will speak for portions of the meeting.  If you haven’t yet read David Arsen’s Open Letter to Governor Snyder, it is an interesting and powerful read.  Additionally, John Austin’s Michigan Economic Center recently released a short promotional film titled The Michigan Dream at Risk.  

Interested in the new organization? Check out the Facebook page or RSVP to the Thursday event here.  

Consider subscribing to Ann Arbor Schools Musings by Email!

Sunday, July 6, 2014

Schools: Plus Ça Change Plus C'est la Même Chose*

*The more things change, the more they stay the same.

Last week I wrote about Freedom Schools and the Freedom School curriculum, and I was looking for an Ann Arbor connection.

Didn't find a direct one (although if I had actually visited the Ann Arbor library I am sure I would have). I did find this interesting article in the "Old News" section at

I was looking for information on Freedom Summer Schools and I found that in 1971 Ann Arbor had a Black Liberation School.

"Members of the Black Liberation School staff requested permission to use the facilities of Northside school this summer without paying rent," arguing that they were serving the Northside school district.

[Was anyone who read this a part of that? Please post some information about the Black Liberation School in the comments!]

But also, there were many things that sound like the themes of the Ann Arbor school board meetings today: budget cuts, layoffs and resignations. When more people resigned than expected, Superintendent Westerman (who still lives in Ann Arbor and is on the Blue Ribbon Advisory Panel) told the school board, "We now have some freedom not anticipated to extend invitations to more of the probationary staff that were sent termination notices."

A citizen argued for transportation services to low-income students. "It is inhumane for the board to not at least give some assistance to these students." 

Last, but not least, the board recognized the retirements of custodians Clifford Bryant and Mikkel Thomsen, "for serving 'our school system with great loyalty and distinction.'"

Screen shot of a June 17, 1971 Ann Arbor News story.
Found online at:

I would be remiss, I think, if I didn't mention that the Ann Arbor District Library has a wonderful summer game, which you can play both off-line and on-line, and can be found at:

Consider subscribing to Ann Arbor Schools Musings by Email!

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Freedom Summer (50 Years Old) and Independence Day Thoughts

I was trying to think of an appropriate blog post in honor of Independence Day, when I heard on the radio that this summer is the 50th anniversary of Freedom Summer.

Ahhh. Something I know a little bit about. Something highly meaningful. Something with an interesting curriculum!

What was Freedom Summer? According to the Congress of Racial Equality:

Freedom Summer was a highly publicized campaign in the Deep South to register blacks to vote during the summer of 1964.
During the summer of 1964, thousands of civil rights activists, many of them white college students from the North, descended on Mississippi and other Southern states to try to end the long-time political disenfranchisement of African Americans in the region. Although black men had won the right to vote in 1870, thanks to the Fifteenth Amendment, for the next 100 years many were unable to exercise that right. White local and state officials systematically kept blacks from voting through formal methods, such as poll taxes and literacy tests, and through cruder methods of fear and intimidation, which included beatings and lynchings. The inability to vote was only one of many problems blacks encountered in the racist society around them, but the civil-rights officials who decided to zero in on voter registration understood its crucial significance as well the white supremacists did. An African American voting bloc would be able to effect social and political change.Freedom Summer officials also established 30 "Freedom Schools" in towns throughout Mississippi to address the racial inequalities in Mississippi's educational system. Mississippi's black schools were invariably poorly funded, and teachers had to use hand-me-down textbooks that offered a racist slant on American history. Many of the white college students were assigned to teach in these schools, whose curriculum included black history, the philosophy of the Civil Rights Movement, and leadership development in addition to remedial instruction in reading and arithmetic. The Freedom Schools had hoped to draw at least 1000 students that first summer, and ended up with 3000. The schools became a model for future social programs like Head Start, as well as alternative educational institutions.Freedom Summer activists faced threats and harassment throughout the campaign, not only from white supremacist groups, but from local residents and police. Freedom School buildings and the volunteers' homes were frequent targets; 37 black churches and 30 black homes and businesses were firebombed or burned during that summer, and the cases often went unsolved. More than 1000 black and white volunteers were arrested, and at least 80 were beaten by white mobs or racist police officers. But the summer's most infamous act of violence was the murder of three young civil rights workers, a black volunteer, James Chaney, and his white coworkers, Andrew Goodman and Michael Schwerner. On June 21, Chaney, Goodman and Schwerner set out to investigate a church bombing near Philadelphia, Mississippi, but were arrested that afternoon and held for several hours on alleged traffic violations. Their release from jail was the last time they were seen alive before their badly decomposed bodies were discovered under a nearby dam six weeks later. Goodman and Schwerner had died from single gunshot wounds to the chest, and Chaney from a savage beating. (Emphasis added.)

Wait--there was a Freedom Schools Curriculum?

Yes--they took themselves seriously! There was a full and interesting curriculum.
The Freedom Schools met across the state of Mississippi, and you can access the curriculum right here.
Details of the curriculum and PDFs can be found here.

Take a Look

Here is a short excerpt from Unit IV: Introducing the Power Structure.

Concept: That there are many kinds of power we could use to build a better society. What is power? (Power is the ability to move things.) What kinds of power are there? Discuss.

MississippiPolice state
One party
No vote
Unjust laws
Citizens Council
control, banks, jobs etc

Physical Power(Power to coerce or frighten)

Political Power
(Power to influence)

Economic Power
(Power to buy)
Freedom MovementFederal intervention
Convention Challenge
Negro candidates

Do these “powers” balance each other? Do they succeed in bringing the two sides together or do they tend to pull apart? Are there other kinds of power?

Truth Power
(Power to Convince or Persuade)
Does persuasion pull people apart? Is it a different kind of power? Can we use truth to reveal the lies and myths? What happens once they are revealed? Once someone is convinced or persuaded, can they join with us? Is the better world for them too?

Soul Power
(The Power to Love)
Can you love everyone like you love your family or your friends? What does compassion mean? Is that a kind of love? Is there something in other people that is like what is in you? Can soul power change things? How?

The Freedom Schools had a convention in August 1964, and this was the Education Platform that resulted. A lot of it will sound familiar!

     In an age where machines are rapidly replacing manual labor, job opportunities and economic security increasingly require higher levels of education. We therefore demand:
1. Better facilities in all schools. These would include textbooks, laboratories, air conditioning, heating, recreation, and lunch rooms.
2. A broader curriculum including vocational subjects and foreign languages.
3. Low fee adult classes for better jobs.
4. That the school year consist of nine (9) consecutive months.
5. Exchange programs and public kindergarten.
6. Better qualified teachers with salaries according to qualification.
7. Forced retirement (women 62, men 65).
8. Special schools for mentally retarded and treatment and care of cerebral palsy victims.
9. That taxpayers’ money not be used to provide private schools.
10. That all schools be integrated and equal throughout the country.
11. Academic freedom for teachers and students.
12. That teachers be able to join any political organization to fight for Civil Rights without fear of being fired.
13. That teacher brutality be eliminated.

Why do I share all of this? 

Two reasons.

1. From the editors of Education and Democracy,

The Freedom School Curriculum is one of the best examples of an effective progressive curriculum whose goal was to give students academic as well as democratic citizenship skills.  This site includes the original curriculum with supporting primary source materials, a brief historical context (editor’s introduction) and suggestions for how to use the FSC as curriculum today. Among those that we hope will find this material helpful are people starting modern freedom schools, high school and middle school teachers as well as progressive historians and teacher educators.
Photo by Tom Arthur. Used under a Creative Commons license.
Found here:

2. It's Independence Day this week. While we are out celebrating with fireworks, popsicles, parades and barbecues, let's not forget that a lot of the history of this big and beautiful country rests on the right to vote. The original "tea party" wasn't about "no taxation." It was about "no taxation without representation." Voting--it's something we shouldn't take for granted.


Click here to subscribe to Ann Arbor Schools Musings by email!