Ann Arbor Public Schools (AAPS) board of education regular meeting (June 10, 2015):
6:59 PM Skyline Auditorium: Board President Deb Mexicotte says she is “very happy” to see the turnout. Apologizes, saying that the trustees are finishing a pre-meeting and they anticipate being out in about 15 minutes.
7:13 PM Trustees Andy Thomas and Christine Stead sit down.
7:17 PM The rest of the trustees, along with Superintendent Janice Swift, join them.
7:20 Meeting is called to order. No changes to the agenda are made.
7:25 PM Dr. Swift honors Mr. David Leach, band director and department chair of Pioneer High School. Leach is a recipient of the School Band & Orchestra 50 Directors Who Make a Difference. The audience gave him a rousing round of applause and a standing ovation.
7:25 Swift welcomes partners from Chartwells, AAPS’s food supplier. Mario Demetrious, Assistant Superintendent Finance & Operation, introduced Chartwells. Chartwells will be donating $5,000 for a school project and is pleased to award a $5,000 student scholarship. Scholarship has been awarded to three students from Pathways to Success campus. All three students will be entering Washtenaw Community College (WCC) this next fall.
7:30 First Briefing Item presented (will not be voted on at this meeting): It is being recommended that Former District Superintendent Dr. Scott Westerman (1967-1971) be honored by having the Preschool and Family Center named after him. Lee Ann Dickinson-Kelley, Assistant Superintendent Instruction & Student Support Services, presented the nomination. She was “pleased to recognize over 40 years of dedication” to AAPS by Westerman. Former board trustees Henry Johnson and Glenn Nelson also spoke in support of honoring Westerman by renaming the preschool. Nelson noted that they were celebrating not only Westerman’s impact on education in Ann Arbor, but were honoring someone who cares for others, who is inclusive, and who is respectful, believing that “everyone has the capacity to learn.” Mexicotte noted that this was a first briefing item and will be voted on in two weeks at the next regular meeting.
Trustee Simone Lightfoot appreciated that Westerman was always willing to take on the “uncomfortable issues.” Mexicotte asked the community for comments, remembrances, and memories to support the naming.
7:49 PM Student Report: USA Hockey at Pioneer High School. Five students gave an overview of the program. USA Hockey, launched in 1996, brings in student athletes from across the country, training athletes on and off the ice. All players attend Pioneer and take college prep and Advanced Placement classes. At the end of the two-year program, all will be eligible to play Division I College Hockey. Team GPA has consistently been 3.4 or higher. Last week, 19 players graduated from Pioneer, 17 of whom graduated with honors. The players stay with families around Ann Arbor. One of the players noted he billets with Stead; another player noted he billets with a teacher in the district.
8:02 PM Public Commentary. According to board executive assistant, 17 people signed up. Forty-five minutes is allocated to public commentary. Each speaker will have two minutes, 38 seconds to speak.
John Turner: spoke about testing. we expect our students to be kind to each other, stand up for themselves when bullying occurs. Of our teachers, we expect nothing short of excellence. Teachers’ energy is finite. But teachers tap into that energy, more than most would. Instead of capitalizing on, the administration has ceased working with teachers. This negative publicity only lends to the narrative that public schools are dysfunctional. Would like the energy to be focused on the state level. Urge board, superintendent, parents, and teachers model the behavior: cooperate, be kind, stand up for ourselves and for others when they are being bullied. Received a standing ovation.
Alexandra Dey, parent: wonders why in a community that was founded on education can you not find an educator who feels supported. board policy anti-teacher policies, all teachers at Scarlett, Mitchell, and Huron will have to reapply for their jobs, why sacrifices made by teachers is not being honored, why for all the talk of collaboration is all the, parents treated like misbehaving children when they are why AAPS taxpayers are footing the bill for a Grand Rapids attorney. No one is more invested than teachers and the parents.
Katrina Stanczak, Ann Arbor Open student speaks: M-STEP too disruptive. some students spend over 13 hours preparing for and taking the tests. Over 100 Ann Arbor Open students opted out of the M-STEP. The board’s punitive policy towards parents who choose to have their students opt out of the test doesn’t make sense. Student wants the board to find a better test to use.
Elizabeth Stern: parent and teacher. Hears common refrain: this just isn’t how we do things in Ann Arbor regarding teacher contracts. District hired Grand Rapids attorney who works to “trample unions.” Were initially big fans of Swift because of big changes promised, but now reflecting on the changes. Do they include imposing a new authoritarian approach? We know you have a plan, but we need to know if your plan is in line with our community’s values.
Julie Roth: Ann Arbor Open parent. Haven’t heard that the tests provide great information so we can help our children learn, that they help our teachers best meet our children’s needs. What I’m hearing is we have to take it because Lansing says so. Hear you’re afraid of our reputation suffering because of red labels, but what I don’t hear you recognize that the current regime of testing is hurting students now. Teachers, classrooms, students are suffering. Narrowing of the curriculum, loss of classroom time. Plead with you to take inspiration from superintendents and boards around the nation who are pushing back from the over-testing of our students.
Leslie Rutkowski, parent of two AAPS students, product of AAPS herself: “I love Ann Arbor teachers.” Always inspired by their ability to work for their students. Spoke about her experience with Ann Arbor teachers and how they have worked. Not only are AAPS teachers professionals, they care deeply about their students. Remember teachers are the district’s beating heart.
Beth Harrington: AAPS teacher. It is the teachers who partnership with families, who provide the education for students, who Since 2010, teachers have made concessions of over $11M. Teachers have not had a pay raise since 2009. Honor the agreement to repay the teachers. Dr Swift, join the community members in Ann Arbor who respect and value their teachers.
Chris Buhalis: Ann Arbor Open parent. Understand the decisions made in Lansing that put this board in a terrible position. Looks to work with the board to help fight what is coming down from Lansing. Policy 5060 is “vindictive,” and he asks that the board tables the policy. The very board teachers took concessions from to help are now painting them as villains. We ask that you honor your agreement. Regardless of how the board votes tonight, my family vows to fight for free public education for all. We ask that you be part of the solution, not part of the problem.
Peter Ways: AAPS teacher and parent. Clark Hill manages many of the Super PACS in the country, including Jeb Bush’s Super PAC. When the district abandons its local legal counsel and employs an attorney with an aggressive track record of working against teachers.
Mike Smith: AAPS teacher. Would like to believe negotiations will be done with respect, integrity, trust, and honesty, but based on track record of board, does not believe so. District is looking for a way to not repaying the loan teachers gave in 2010. Contract I’m working under has not been honored.
Stephanie Teasley: parent. Research Professor, School of Information, University of Michigan, focused on teaching and learning. not here to convince you standardized tests are bad. But feel I must must object to Policy 5060. Advise that you can reduce opt-out by demonstrating value of the test, not punishing parents. Explain how it can benefit students. Parents have supported you with every millage. Asking you to support us.
Katie Oppenheim, not parent, not teacher, but nurse: Choose to live in Ann Arbor and pay Ann Arbor taxes because I support education. Advise the superintendent, who is new to the area, to listen to these people. Elections matter. Elections matter for the school board. We’re better than Lansing. To see this union busting in Ann Arbor is embarrassing. Board should be embarrassed.
Cynthia Bostwick: parent of student at Northside. Was his neighborhood school, now is STEAM. Met with the teacher, was shown the growth he has made. The human contact, the evaluation was meaningful. However, when his teacher asked if he would be returning to STEAM for sixth grade, her son said he was afraid he might be expelled from STEAM because he always opts out of standardized testing. Please do not enact Policy 5060. Need to establish your reputation, board, as leaders in education. We would support you in standing up to Lansing. In the meantime, I’m a lawyer. I can opt him out of sex ed, but I can’t opt him out of testing. If you try to expel him for the exercising of that right, I will fight with my last breath to keep him in the school that he loves.
Jeff Sabatini: Ann Arbor Open parent. Opted his child out of M-STEP. My daughter has learned about bullying, political clout, and union-busting over the past month, thanks to board. Sabatini will be teaching daughter lessons in civil disobedience and holding elected officials accountable.
8:49 PM Mexicotte asks for points of clarification. Thomas says that many of the comments made tonight and last week related to finances of district and budget. Last board meeting, there was a discussion of the 2015-16 budget. Included was a public hearing where public was invited to address the board. Only one person left in the audience by the time public hearing came around. Would like to invite everyone in audience to stick around to hear board’s discussion re: budget and proposed policy 5060. [Yells from audience, “Hear it now.” Mexicotte says they follow business meeting protocol.]
Mexico addresses contingencies in contract, which she noted “have not been met.” Members of audience have stood with their backs turned as Mexicotte speaks. Mexicotte notes, “This is a regular meeting of the board. If we cannot conduct business, we will recess.”
8:52 Mexicotte calls for each of the regular association presentations. No one is present other than Ann Arbor Educational Association’s (AAEA) President Linda Carter. Carter receives long applause. Carter notes she has used her time in previous meetings to highlight exceptional teachers. She notes the teachers in the district have “experience,” which is “well worth paying for.” She noted that many teachers hold Masters degrees and high level of education translates into better education policy in classroom. Go to overnight, conduct concerts, plant gardens, coach state championship winning teams, attend birthday parties, parole hearings, graduation parties. Teachers meet needs of every kind of student. High rates of student achievement is the result of talented staff. Ann Arbor has been a beacon of excellent public education for decades. Parents expect exceptional service. AAPS cannot be exceptional without paying its teachers. Recent action of BOE and superintendent is damaging. Demoralizing and punitive. Puzzling to teachers and community, alike. Thanks her colleagues.
9:04 PM Performance Committee report: no report from Thomas. Meeting will be held at a later date (on Board website).
9:05 PM Planning Committee report: Stead noted the committee met earlier in the day and discussed issues that will be brought forth as first briefings: Preschool renaming effort, EveryDay Math. Focused on renaming preschool after Dr. Scott Westerman. Talks over first briefing re: everyday math. Committee has discussed effectiveness of Everyday Math program. Also talked through bids for improvements to the Northside STEAM bids. Some of the bids received only one bidder. All dollars come from sinking fund [designated money for building improvements]. Talked about Rec & Ed lifelong learning contracts. Does not come from school funds. Will be updated by Jenna Bacalor, Executive Director Community Education & Recreation, later in the meeting. Next meeting June 17. Public is welcome to attend. Will talk through any other contracts needed to improve schools over the summer.
9:12 PM Governance Report: Mexicotte: Has heard significant input around Policy 5060 from public. Committee has tried to synthesize that input, and bring forth an amended policy. Changes are expensive. Maybe treat it as an item for first briefing, then treat it as a true second briefing June 24 [next regular meeting]. Also discussed public internet policy. No changes since last rendition.
9:14 PM No Board President report. Mexicotte asked if there should be recess since it is usual to take a short break around 9:00 PM. decided to press on for a while longer.
9:14 PM Superintendent report. Just over 1300 graduating high schoolers this year. Swift recognized several music programs, athletic programs, Pioneer Grammy award ceremony, Washtenaw County Elementary School Science Olympiad. She also noted the book release of Lantern of Fireflies, a collaboration between Mitchell Elementary and Huron High students. Mentioned TEDx conference at Skyline High School and the Legacy Project, a work of oral history, this upcoming Saturday.
First Briefings [are not voted on at this meeting]
First Briefing: Everyday Math, phase III (for grades 3-5)
Presented by Dawn Linden, Executive Director, Elementary Education, joined by Rosemarie Callahan. Demands of career have changed. Linden asserts that Everyday Math 4 (EM4) shifts instruction to “reflect increased rigor and current best practices.” Also notes that it provides alignment to the new K-12 Michigan state standards.
The EM4 purchase will include print and online access for staff, students, and families. Online resources will allow students to hear in either English or Spanish. Cost will be just over $91,000, and funds would come out of the General Fund. The purchase has already been budgeted for. Linden addresses the criticism of Everyday Math, that is an “endless cosmic spiral” but said that instead, it allows for opportunities to show mastery over the course of the program. She asserts there is very clear end of unit targets. Also addresses the issue of being “weak in fluency,” with students needing additional support outside of school from tutors or at home. Some new features address those issues. When Linden contrasted an EM4 math problem to a more traditional math problem, Trustee Simone Lightfoot expressed her incredulity at the difficulty of the EM4 problem. Linden noted that there would be more resources to help parents help their children, since the math was such a shift from how they had learned.
Everyday Math will be providing professional development for teachers to support them in teaching the EM4 program. The professional development will be provided at no cost.
9:40 PM Trustee Thomas asks if there is still confidence that Everyday Math is the best product out there. He notes that he sees it as an enhancement of a program we’ve had for many years.
Linden notes that in 2010, search for better program conducted. Based on their search, they are still very confident one of the best programs in the market. Looked very seriously at the program when it was still in design phase two years ago. Time and training has been spent on delivering the program. Would be costly to transition away.
9:44 PM: Lightfoot asks if it aligns with the M-STEP and the new standards coming out of Lansing. Linden notes they still need to see the results from the M-STEP. Lightfoot asks about parent and teacher reaction to Everyday Math. “While we may be forced to comply, doesn’t preclude us going to Lansing and vigorously protesting these things.” [applause from audience] She spoke about her own experiences regarding helping her daughter with Everyday Math.
To answer, Callahan focused on the online support that will be available to parents to help their children.
9:51 PM Trustee Donna Lasinski asked if there was a change in the structure of the program. She also asked if report cards would be changed, based on the programs. Linden said they would need to be reworked.
9:55 PM Lightfoot asks about the adjustments made based on grade level. Asked how the district was working to meet students at their individual levels. Asked about “the gap,” that she and Baskett talk about all the time. Students are expected to already “know” things coming into class. She asked what are we doing to get those students up to speed. Linden states the online access to tools will be key for teachers. They will have access to lower levels and can help bring students up to a higher level. Linden said they “couldn’t be more excited” about the progression of the state standards, how concepts will be built upon. Lightfoot brought up parity – acknowledging that not all students have access to the internet outside of school. Linden noted they will work with community centers to provide online access, as well as having print copies of materials.
10:00 PM Mexicotte asks Linden to speak to the text-heavy nature of Everyday Math and the lack of rote memorization in the program. Linden says traditional practice sheets will now be available. Online tutorials will be available, allowing students who learn better aurally to have that available to them.
10:02 Stead asks to move up for consideration Draft Policy 5060 and Draft Budget for 2015-16, instead of moving on to the next first briefing item. [applause from the audience] The motion was seconded. Baskett and Manley were not available for the vote, but a quorum was present for the vote. The vote was unanimous. Also a motion for a five minute restroom break before discussion began.
10:20 PM Mexicotte brings the board back to order, confirms that Stead’s intent was to focus on budget first, then move to Policy 5060. Swift noted that the Michigan legislature has finalized the budget, pleased to note that it should be a “break-even” year.
Second Briefing: 2015-16 Budget
Presented by Marios Demetriou, Assistant Superintendent Finance & Operations.
Mexicotte clarifies that a break-even year means there is a net-out of a flat budget. While there is a slight increase in the foundation allowance of $50, the state has taken away performance funding of $100/student that has been given in previous years in addition of a reduction of best practices funding of $30 per pupil. She says “they give with one hand, and take with the other.”
2015-16 budget includes the cost of new programs, preserves and adds 17.5 teaching positions, maintains teacher pay, and builds a fund balance. 2015-16 Budget Proposal
Increase in revenue:
- Foundation Allowance increase of $50 per pupil
- Equity payment $80 per pupil
- additional 250 students at $7,500 per student.
Including the sale of the Roberto Clemente building for $1.1 M (sale closing in July)
Reduction in revenue:
- Reduction of Performance Funding ($100) per student
- Reduction of Best Practices Funding ($30) per student
No change in MPSERS rate of 25.78%
Lasinki clarified that the loss of both the Performance and the Best Practices funding was because not that the district does not meet the standards, but that the state reduced the funding across the board.
Stead mentioned that several districts similar to Ann Arbor, such as Rochester and Bloomfield Hills, are now in the position where they are laying off 87 and 33 FTEs respectively. Stead emphasized that AAPS is not laying off teachers this year. In 2014-15, the board asked teachers to stay at the same rate. Other districts cut teacher salaries. Last year, seven new programs were put in place.
Stead spoke directly to the audience and to the public. While the district lost over 200 students in 2013-14, they gained 350 students in 2014-15, teacher salaries stayed the same. Fund equity was added to. She noted that the district was more financially secure this year because things were turned around. The board had considered closing Northside campus, and now, “we can’t grow it fast enough.” Districts around AAPS have “cut, cut, cut,” but Ann Arbor is in a different position now. She asserted that it was the work of the board to help the district grow strong. “If we can continue to grow, it is only when we get there that we can talk about giving money back,” that they can talk about increased pay.
10:46 PM Demetriou notes that despite the $50 increase, the foundation allowance of $9,150 per student for the 2015-16 year is still lower than it was in 2003-04.
The fund balance is expected to increase from $13.3M in 2014-15 to $13.5M in 2015-16. The increase is partly due to projected increase in enrollment and the one-time sale of the Roberto Clemente building.
Mexicotte noted that in 2013-14, the district had “found the bottom” of the fund balance when it was at $8.8M. There was concern that there would be sanctions from the state if districts had less than 5% in their fund balances. The board has focused on growing the fund balance.
10:55 PM Stead said that because enrollment increased last year by over 350 students, the district was able to add teachers. Class sizes slightly decreased this past year. Tying this issue to Policy 5060, she said that if “we have a failing district from a metrics perspective,” the district might lose enrollment.
10:58 PM Mexicotte asks for any other questions regarding the second briefing of the 2015-16 budget. Thomas notes that they’ve heard from a lot regarding the sacrifices teachers have made over the years. He asked if the calculation had been made if the 3% pay cut to teachers, steps, and lane changes were reinstated. Thomas clarified that it would be an additional roughly $7M expense. And that expense would stay with the district each year.
Mexicotte keeps mentioning “collaborative problem solving” when talking about working with the amount in the bucket of money allocated to teacher pay. When looking at concessions and stay-puts, really part of the conversation she is looking to have.
11:06 PM Manley asks everyone to really look over the budget, because “we are at a crisis point, and we need to make a sound decision.”
11:06 PM Mexicotte notes that the budget is up for approval at the end of the meeting.
Second Briefing: Policy 5060
11:06 PM: Mexicotte notes that the Governance committee met to talk over the policy of testing within the district. She says it has been a “balancing act,” balancing the demands of the state with the wants of the parents. The district has sometimes struggled meeting the standards of 95% of students having been assessed, especially at the high school level The Governance committee brought forward Draft Policy 5060 to ensure that the message of testing was as clear as possible through policy and how do they adjust district behavior if they struggle to meet testing targets.
Mexicotte notes that Draft Policy has created a significant amount of consternation and the board has also received input on the policy. Taking that into account, in consultation with the Governance committee, Mexicotte has put forward an amended policy.
Amended Draft Policy 5060: Takes out language that penalizes specific application-based programs (such as Ann Arbor Open, Northside STEAM, Community High School), and replaces it a more generalized statement: “Failure to participate in all state and federal assessments will result in the Board taking any additional actions deemed appropriate to protect the district. “
Stepped back and said if there is problem with participating with the state and federal assessments in the numbers we need, the district will take the necessary actions to protect it.
11:18 PM Manley says that the amended policy is clearer. That every student who opts out could hurt the district, that it does not penalize solely students in application-based programs. Lightfoot agrees and says that the board has the job to oversee the whole health of the district. Does not mean that the board should not take a leadership role in opposing the tests, or that they should not work collaboratively with other districts.
Lasinski asserts that when she asks parents if they feel AAPS teachers “teach to the test,” the resounding answer is no. Not testing to the test, and not evaluating teachers with standardized testing. The district began five years ago to work with teachers on creating a teacher evaluation, based on classroom observation.
The consequence of not meeting testing goals, Lasinski noted, could be the State taking away 25% of Title I funds if schools do not meet proficiency levels shown by the standardized testing. Title I funds directly impact students who receive free or reduced cost lunch. While she said she is willing to allow that this year was a learning experience, she is not willing to put other students at risk when they can work towards other ways of challenging this.
11:30 PM Thomas is concerned about misinformation re: consequences of not meeting the targets for participation (95% per school). Asked for clarification from Swift. Swift says she has “never known a year without sanctions based on how we perform.” She explicitly heard from the US Assistant Secretary of Education that there will be sanctions on schools, districts, and states that have not carried out due diligence on students who could be assessed.
Thomas asked her several times to clarify that at some point, there would be withholding of Title I funds. Swift emphasized that there generally are a couple ways districts are sanctioned: by withholding money and by taking away local power.
11:40 PM Stead said the State had the opportunity to course correct when choosing standardized tests several years ago, but chose not to. She said the state was not making good education decisions. She asks the public to work with them, and articulate concerns to the State. “We live here, too. We didn’t think it was a good idea, either. Let’s keep Ann Arbor strong together.” She wants to keep local control over the district.
Baskett noted that the first draft of Policy 5060 was lacking, but now the policy is clearer. They expect all students to take the test. The policy has been reworked to make sure they weren’t targeting any one group, but anyone who chooses to opt out. “There is no ‘opt-out’ here.” Basket says they are not being complicit, but they are setting the policy first.
Mexicotte noted that the board is operating within the environment of the whims of Lansing. The board needs to work to “keep the wolf from the door,” given the way the State deals with districts like Ann Arbor and other districts around the state. As stewards of the district, the board know the kinds of things that can and have happened (such as focus school designations – that resulted in the district needing to hire an academic consultant).
11:54 PM Mexicotte asked if the amended policy be kept in a first policy briefing mode, then moved to a second briefing mode at the following regular meeting. The motion was passed unanimously.
11:56 PM Mexicotte asked for a motion to extend the meeting to 1:00 AM. The board has a policy to not go past midnight without voting on it. The motion was passed unanimously. At this motion, most of the sixty or so people in the audience left. About six people remained in the audience.
First Briefing Item: Northside STEAM bid pack 4 [voted on at next meeting]
Presented by Executive Director of Physical Properties, Tim Grusczynski. Funded through the Sinking Fund, the work would be for making improvements to the Northside STEAM building, specifically on the second floor. There will be new ceiling tiles, new floor tiles, paint color will match the rest of the school. Improvements will be made to match or complement existing structure.
Lasinski asks if the renovation of Northside has stayed on time and budget. Baskett clarified that the work will begin as soon as the Board approves the expenditures. Swift affirmed that the renovations is on time and on budget. The old Northside gym will be kept in service until the new gym is ready.
First Briefing: Rec and Ed Life Long Learning and Team Sports Contracts [voted on at next meeting]
12:09 AM Just as Bacalor began her presentation, the lights dimmed in the auditorium. The meeting is now being conducted in the dark. The only light in the auditorium is coming from computer screens and flashlights on phones. Mexicotte was quick to note that Skyline High School was a LEED Silver certified building, and the lights dimmed was undoubtably part of the cost saving measures.
Bacalor presented four contracts for board approval, with a total cost of $245,000. Expenditures for the Rec and Ed contracts come from the Recreation Fund, not the General Fund. That means that funds for instruction will not be touched.
First Briefing: Tech Bond Purchase: Elementary Project Lead the Way [voted on at next regular meeting]
12:15 AM Presented by Merri Lynn Colligan, Executive Director of Instructional Technology & Information Services.
Collegian presented a request for a total of $186,033.60 for implementing Project Lead the way at Abbot, Bryant, Dicken, Eberwhite, Pattengill and Thurston for the 2015-16 school year. The following hardware is required to implement Project Lead the Way program:
- Teacher iPad with cases
- Student iPads with cases
- Charging Cart for storage
- VEX kits for construction, robotics,
The funds would come from the 2012 Technology bond.
12:19 AM Mexicotte quickly went through all of the second briefing items, hearing no comment from the trustees.
Amy Osinski, executive assistant to the board of education, read through the consent agenda. Nothing was removed. The consent agenda was approved unanimously.
The board approved two executive sessions before the June 17 and the June 24 meetings. These meetings are for legal counsel and for superintendent evaluation.
Board retreat scheduled for August 19. No meetings are scheduled for the month of July. A regular meeting is scheduled for August 26. Mexicotte asked the board to keep their Wednesdays free, but for now, the agenda is set.
12:25 AM Thomas thanked the five people in the audience who “stuck it out to the bitter end.” He also thanked the people who stayed through the discussion of the budget and the draft policy 5060.
Lasinski gave a “shout out” to her son, who graduated from Skyline this year. She was grateful for being able to attend graduations as a first year board member. Lightfoot also congratulated her daughter for graduating. Manley highlighted the accomplishments of this year’s high school graduates.
Lightfoot made mention that she and Stead enjoyed speaking with the public this past weekend, and she hopes to continue those conversations in the future. Stead agreed.
Stead noted WESO (Washtenaw Elementary Science Olympiad) has expanded even more this year, so much that they believe it is the largest of such in the world.
Meeting adjourned: 12:35 AM