Sunday, July 19, 2015

July 2015 News and Notes

Congratulations to Two New Nonprofits!

First of all, let's give big congratulations to two important, new local groups that recently got their non-profit status.

1. The E4DS Foundation, Excellence for Dexter Schools, is focused on raising money for regular operating expenses in the Dexter school district. There is also an Educational Foundation for Dexter.

Question of the Day: Is E4DS Different than the Educational Foundation of Dexter?
Yes. E4DS is the only group whose mission involves funding normal operating expenses associated with regular programming in our schools. The Educational Foundation of Dexter (EFD) provides financial support for teacher grants for innovative and creative educational projects that cannot be funded through the school district. E4DS supports the EFD and shares some Board members between the two Foundations. It is our sincere hope that the information you learn about the limitations of available funding will also move you to contribute and support the great work of the EFD!

Find out more at or like them on Facebook.

2. The CivCity Initiative (headed by Mary Morgan, formerly of the Ann Arbor Chronicle) also got non-profit status recently. What do they do? "CivCity is working to crack the nut of civic apathy, increasing awareness of how local government works and how each of us can participate in civic life."

I am hopeful that eventually they will take on some civic initiatives related to the schools--and considering that Linh Song of the Ann Arbor Education Foundation is on the CivCity board, I think that's a real possibility!

Find out more at or like them on Facebook.

National News

The US Senate has passed a version of the Every Child Achieves Act (successor to No Child Left Behind). According to Barbara Madeloni, president of the Massachusetts Teacher Association, who is quoted in this piece on Diane Ravitch's blog:

“The bill continues yearly testing in grades three through eight and once in high school, but leaves it to states to determine how to use those tests for school accountability. It removes the authority of the federal government to demand that teacher evaluations be connected to student test scores and gives more authority to states to determine specific standards and curriculum. 
In giving more authority to states, the bill loosens constraints on how funds will be spent, though fortunately the Senate rejected a voucher amendment. The Senate measure now goes to a conference committee, where senators and members of the House will mesh their bills and develop a final piece of legislation. If approved, that bill will have to be signed or vetoed by President Barack Obama. If Obama vetoes it, Congress would have to override the veto for the bill to become law.
Per Madeloni,
“It is a bittersweet victory to applaud the power of school accountability going back to the states, should this bill become law. While it would allow us to organize locally and make the demands we want for our students and our schools, others have noted that it would mean we have 50 battles to fight instead of one – and that some states are especially weak in their readiness to fight.”  
And the House version [which is called the Student Success Act] is different, but it also provides a means for students who opt out to not count against the 95% rule for participation. In other words, based on federal law, parents opting out their children will not affect Title I funding (to be clear--currently this has not affected Title I funding anywhere in the country, but theoretically, it could).

Do you want the details about the differences between the two bills? This blog post, by Mercedes Schneider, does a good job of explaining the differences around testing. She's got other good stuff on her blog too!

I won't pretend to have read the bill, but at least about this piece of the bill--which gives the ability to parents to opt out--I am pretty happy.

Michigan News

We've got a new State Superintendent of Education, Brian Whiston. Read more about him in Lori Higgins' Detroit Free Press article.

The number of new charter school authorizations is going down. Maybe charter school authorizers are starting to realize they actually need to be accountable for the schools. [Hope springs eternal.]

We have yet another new state law that will negatively affect schools. According to this press release from Miller Canfield:

PA 109 of 2015 amends the Revised School Code to require any district without a positive general fund balance of at least 5% for the two most recent school fiscal years to report annually by July 7 the budgetary assumptions used when adopting its annual budget to the Center for Educational Performance and Information (CEPI). The budgetary assumptions must include the district’s projected foundation allowance, projected membership, estimated expenditures per pupil for the immediately preceding fiscal year and the projected expenditures per pupil for the current fiscal year. Based on the report, the State Treasurer may determine if the potential for fiscal stress exists within the district.

Local News

And that new state law (PA 109) is one of the reasons why the Ann Arbor superintendent and school board have been so focused on fund balance. Here is the list of local schools (including charters) that need to report. [Most of our local charters are for-profits, and their management companies could be manipulating their fund balances to take as much as they can--maybe they'll leave a little more in the bank now.] Ann Arbor was at 4.9% fund balance this past year, and are projecting to be higher in the coming year.

Ann Arbor has a third in-district transfer/schools of choice window. This might be good news for you if (as happened to a friend of mine) your landlord decided to sell the place you are renting and you might want to not be restricted to a single school area, but you want your kids in the same school as last year...

In the past several months, Ann Arbor has now hired four principals from other local school districts--two from Plymouth-Canton (Megan Fenech for Ann Arbor Open and Karen Siegel as assistant deanat Community High School), one from Northville (Alison Epler for Bach Elementary), and one from Farmington (Jerry Morrissey for Forsythe Middle School). I wish them all good luck! [Fenech and Siegel both live in Ann Arbor.] The Community High assistant dean position was filled in April, and is a new position that is being funded because Community High is adding students, and evening classes.

Ben Edmondson
Ypsilanti Community Schools hired Ben Edmondson as their new superintendent. (He is a former Ann Arbor principal, as well as candidate for Ann Arbor superintendent.) Read his 90-day plan here. (It looks ambitious to me, but it probably needs to be.)

Summer Fun:

Are you playing the Ann Arbor summer library game? I am! If you are, I am going to give you five six! leads on ways to get some points and codes. [If you're not, it's not too late to start! Visit, there are both traditional and online versions.]

1. Visit, which is the Washtenaw Health Plan's site about health care coverage. Specifically, visit this blog post for a code, and a clue for another code.

2. Help out with Arborwiki, our local wikipedia. There's lots of work to be done, and lots of points to be gotten. And I registered and updated a page--it really was pretty easy! (On the page, it explains how to get the points.)

3. CivCity is "sponsoring" a bunch of badges. I think you have to go to meetings to get them... Go to and scroll down to CivCity.

4. Go into any local branch, walk around and look for the different codes. That's what I did today at West Branch, and here's a clue to one of the spots.

5. Read. Yup. Whatever you want. You can also get points for commenting on the books, rating them, and tagging them.
The last four books I read? (Which is probably more than I read January through April!)
1. Paper Love: Searching for the Girl My Grandfather Left Behind by Sarah Wildman (non-fiction/memoir/genealogy search)
2. A Man Called Ove by Fredrik Backman
3. Battle Magic by Tamora Pierce (young adult fantasy)--I liked some of her others' more
4. I'm in the middle of The Extraordinary Education of Nicholas Benedict by Trenton Lee Stewart (kids' book, part of the Mysterious Benedict Society series)

6. Staff codes--some of the library staff have special codes they can give you. Ask them!

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1 comment:

  1. Ruth, thanks for the Summer Game plug in general and the CivCity badge series within the game in particular!

    To clear up any uncertainty, yes, some of the badges can be earned by attending meetings of various public bodies. Names of those badges are "Commission Possible", "Commission Accomplished", "Body Electorate" and "Down for the Council."

    But for those meetings that are broadcast and/or recorded, the game codes are presented in a way that you don't have to physically attend in order to acquire the game codes. (Someone will hold up a sign with the game code and say it aloud.)

    The whole badge list is here:

    Some other badges you mentioned involve making contributions to ArborWiki: That might be a little daunting, but to help folks who might know a lot, or be great at researching, but not so great at dealing with an online editing interface, we scheduled some sessions called BlogWarts to help folks with that. (250 points are also available just for attending!) Info on the final BlogWarts session:

    A parting plug for ArborWiki: If you have even just a handful of folks working in a focused way on a specific project within ArborWiki, it is stunning what can be accomplished.

    For example, let's say you wonder if the age of city councilmembers has changed much over the years. For example, is the average age of the current city council much different from the average age of the city council of 1959? For one person to start that project from scratch would be a monumental undertaking. But a lot of the required information is already in ArborWiki: Names of all the councilmembers. At the beginning of July we had a table with zero dates of birth for those councilmembers. Now look at the table:

    (You don't have to play the AADL Summer Game to make contributions to ArborWiki. Maybe somebody reading this blog is still in touch with Ron Suarez, or Tobi Hannah-Davies, or Ann Marie Coleman, for example, and can slot their year of birth into the table!)