AAPS Board Approves Contracts, 2015-16 Calendar; Meeting Ends Abruptly Amid Chants of “Shame on You”

Ann Arbor Public Schools Board of Education regular meeting (June 30, 2015):

Skyline High School Auditorium:

7:01 PM Board President Deb Mexicotte thanked everyone for showing up and apologized, saying the board was going to be in executive session until about 7:15 PM. The board has been in executive session since 6:30 PM, for negotiation and attorney/client privilege.

7:13 PM Board members begin to file in. Mexicotte and Trustee Andy Thomas are first at the table.

7:17 PM Trustees Simone Lightfoot, Susan Baskett, Patricia Manley, and Donna Lasinski are also at the table. Vice President Christine Stead will not attend tonight’s meeting. She’s absent due to travel related to work.

7:20 PM Mexicotte calls the meeting to order.

Agenda Change

7:21 PM Lasinski asks to move approval of contracts to before Public Commentary.

7:22 PM Baskett asks to move Approval of School Calendar as the first information item, moving it up earlier in the meeting.

Unanimously approved.

Approval of Contracts

7:24 PM Baskett moves to approve tentative agreements between AAEA Office Professionals and AAEA Para Professionals for 15-16 school year.

Unanimously approved.

Public Commentary

Amy Osinski, executive assistant to the board of education, says there are ten people signed up. Each person has four minutes to speak.

7:26 PM George Feldman: current situation about teachers and board. Says it should be put in a broader context. Board has allowed themselves to think that their actions are protecting the district. Attack on the progressive bounds on the community you are elected to represent. An Attack on public education, an attack on teacher unions. Getting bad legal advice from a firm who is focused on labor busting. Care that they have turned to that firm in the first place. Is there a clamor in this community about how bad the teachers are? No – instead people pay money to get into this district. Why are they on the side of Stockwater, Bill Schulte, rather than the teachers of AA? If the board believes the people in AA are so wrong, only honorable choice is to resign. Which side are you on? Either you stand in the defense of AA values or you stand on the side of those who hate unions, destroy every protection working people have, who oppose public education. Do the right thing or resign. [standing ovation]

7:30 PM Deborah Katz, teacher, district parent: congratulating the board and the AAEA for collaborating on settling a calendar for the school year. has had opportunity to sit on both sides of the table. respect the challenging work the board does for the community. But never has been as baffled or troubled. Teachers have time and again worked to keep the district afloat. Understood the challenges faced and “knew they needed to do their part.” But now minutes away from the dissolution of the AAEA contract. Unilateral actions taken this spring don’t make sense. This dispute is hurting the district. Urge the board and superintendent. Press the pause button rather than terminating the contract. Take a slower, more collaborative path. All want solutions that result in a good, solvent district. Teachers, parents, board members care deeply. Listen to your heart, local community. Fear that if you terminate our contract, you’ll be embarking on an antagonistic path. First step: press pause. Let community wake up, knowing teachers still have a viable contract. [standing ovation]

7:34 PM Alec Doss, Community High graduate: Degree of respect between teachers and students at Community. Over the past few years, teachers have been distracted, by lack of respect from Lansing. But not about money. They love to teach. But hit by the added stress of inaccurate statements being made to the press. No need to threaten the teachers, no need to terminate contract. Have shown they’re willing to whatever it takes to keep the district healthy. Engage in a real debate. Have a conversation with the community. Make decisions while “this town is awake.” Was told by Swift at my graduation, I should find my place and once I found it, I would slide right in. You should do the same – and that place should be at the public round table. Engage in a true public conversation. [standing ovation]

7:39 PM Amy Emberling, reading a letter from Paul Saginaw (Zingerman’s co-founder): has helped start 11 businesses, has been a district parent. While there is always a hierarchy in an organization, there is no hierarchy of needs. He feels for the board. Pained by the intensity of the struggle, the polarization of the conversation, a court battle using resources. We can resolve this. Better relationships between our community. Much on this table is because of Lansing mandates. All parties would be better with greater listening. Rigidity comes form defensiveness. Let’s press the pause button. Take time to examine what’s at stake. Encourage consideration of mediation, the sooner parties enter mediation, the better. [standing ovation]

7:43 PM Ken McGraw: board has decided it needs a total reset on the money it owes teacher. If they did, worst case scenario would ensue. If this is all about money, then why has the district taken such an aggressive stance on students who opt out of tests. Bust up the contract, and if the union gets busted too, then that’s a cost that has to be paid. Families who second-guess the big tests would infect others around the district. Then the state would come in and the district would be destroyed. But sacrifices have to be made. There are two drastic flaws with this plan. Based on the false assumption: teacher contract = financial ruin. Either the board capitulates on all demands right now, or the board dissolves the contract. Another flaw: runs counter to values of this community. We want a real invitation to solve problems. By alienating us, the board has squandered the good will of this community. Might not be quantifiable, but counts for a lot. Real conversation is messy, unpredictable. But that’s what comes with genuine participation. You are not governors, not executives executing a corporate turnaround. By putting the ends before the meeting, you risk destroying AAPS. Not too late to change course. [standing ovation]

7:47 PM Ian Robinson: oppose anti-union, anti-public education policies coming from Lansing. That common position made it important to stay together, and did so until recently. Teachers made concessions and school board agreed teacher contract would stay in place until money was repaid. Until this spring. Board did this 7-0 vote. No justifications that hold any water. Vote tonight to stop the clock on unilateral contract termination. We need to work together to figure out how to give students best possible education and fend off the policies from Lansing. Lansing has targeted teacher unions because they stand in the way of their agenda. Act again as you have in the past in the light of that reality. [standing ovation]

7:51 PM Mike Smith, district teacher: respect – virtue that is hard to gain, easy to lose. contract termination: when privatized bus drivers, kitchen staff, custodial crew, grounds crew: done early in the morning, with respect, strictly business, nothing personal. He projects in the future: When they terminated the teacher’s contract, early in the morning, strictly business, nothing personal. Shortsightedness in Lansing does not mean we need to be shortsighted in AA. Have changed students into financial entities – only dollars. Teachers have taken pay cuts: each time any bargaining unit take a pay cut, did the district administrators take a pay cut and offer it to the district to with as they see fit.

7:56 PM: Andrea Klooster, parent, former student: has voted for many of you, supported every millage request. Attended Listen and Learn tour was impressed. Don’t understand the dramatic turn this year. Didn’t anticipate considering not sending my students all the way through their education, but now considering given the recent actions of the board and superintendent. Started having significant doubts. Administrators getting pay raises and hiring union busting laws. Have never before opted out of a test, but after taking M-STEP, chose to opt out her sixth grader. other districts have taken a stand. AAPS is in a unique position to stand up to Lansing, but instead voted to punish parents who chose to stand. And you voted it on a consent agenda, which is meant to be votes only for non-controversial issues. You are in a position to make a real difference, to support and keep our truly exceptional teachers. We are Ann Arbor. Please hear us. Represent us. Work with us.

8:00 PM Tad Wysor, community organizer: Actions of this board have impact far beyond school and boundaries of district. Take the time to sit down with teachers and community members, as we have seen before. [

8:01 PM Public Commentary concludes.

no points of clarification

AAEA Report:

8:01 PM Shawn Harris, treasurer and on problem solving team of AAEA. Excited to come off problem solving with admin with a tentative agreement for the calendar for the 15-16 school year. This is what can happen when we sit down together. Just asking to please pause and let us have the opportunity to keep talking. Serious about collaborating. No reason to race ahead and open our contract today.

Calls from the audience for “change the agenda.” Mexicotte says that if the audience won’t stop talking, they will have to recess. The board has approved the agenda as is. Frustrated, Mexicotte asks, “What do you think we need to change on the agenda? We don’t have anything on the contract on the agenda. Nothing has come forward from the board. And if we could go to my president’s report, maybe would have better idea.”

President’s Report: Official Board Statement

8:05 PM Mexicotte:  Last meeting of fiscal year, good time to make summative statements. This year, a lot to celebrate in the district. Have increased enrollment, implemented STEAM, IB program, etc. Community has responded by supporting millage. Stabilized district’s finance and added to fund balance first time in a decade. Have added teaching positions. Have continued work with Superintendent Jeanice Swift. Challenges: address guns in school, testing three different testing regimes, have had to outsource, consternation over policies board has enacted, and most difficult dealing with teacher union.

8:08 PM When the board reached agreement with AAEA last spring, it was with the understanding they would meet with AAEA again the next spring. So board was surprised when they began to hear “pay back what you owe,” in regardless to contingency clause. Readings of the contingency clause is the one they have most wrestled with, not a loan but a contingency. We knew that much of this was prelude to negotiations that would begin in earnest in the spring. When we formerly asked the AAEA to come to the table in April, informal financial discussions had been going on for months [shouts to the contrary]. June 30, we thought it was known contract would expire. An hour after such a formal meeting, the AAEA sent a press release to MLive saying they would not come to table, indicated they would file Unfair Labor Practice suit. So the board filed one, as well. Both parties want same goals: Need a substantial financial footing. Best educational environment for our students. Mexicotte refers to the recent Supreme Court decisions, saying, “This is how we sometimes need to get things done, through civil discourse and process.” Whatever the outcome, the board and the AAEA will move forward together. We have been good partners in the past and will be in the future. Board’s willingness to negotiate could not be clearer than all of our contract negotiations. 6/7 bargaining units, 1% raise. AAEA contract, that come July 1, very little will change. Salary, benefits, and working conditions will not change, Contingency clause will remain. Contract will be in a “stay-put” mode. What will change: prohibitive will no longer be part of the agreement. Teacher placement, evaluations, layoffs. Does not mean that due process won’t exists, but now a matter of board policy. We passed these policies in case of a void for everyone moving forward. Without a formal process in place, working with the AAEA offline to negotiate calendar. Pleased to report that an agreement was reached. Much to be thankful, and much work to do. Not just teacher contracts. Failure for the community is not okay. We are always stronger when we work together.

8:16 PM Mexicotte says “That is the statement from the board.” After she finished, shouts of “Recall.” The board recesses for 15 minutes.

8:18 PM While the board is recessed, the audience, led by teacher Quinn Strassel, discusses:

Discussion held while board is recessed.
Discussion held while board is recessed.

If there was a declaration of finances in February, we need to make sure, we need to talk to folks. No discussion of money in February or March. Focus was on IB at the time. Understand why you are feeling angry. False information permeating the discussion right now. We said we would problem solve. If we formally bargained, it would open our contracts.

We need to make sure our behavior is at the highest quality that we can. We can hold signs, we can write whatever we want. We need to be polite.

If they keep saying things, then it will be recorded. But we need to act in an aboveboard fashion. Four board members and superintendent came out from behind the curtain. If there are four meeting together, it’s a meeting and it need to happen in public.

A community member walks behind the auditorium curtain to check.

8:21 PM A newer teacher, in tears, says she does not feel protection of her job. Another new teacher says that this whole thing is “unsettling,” but it’s important to be present.

8:22 PM Every single one of us needs to talk to our neighbors, friends, to let know what is going on. This is a public school, belongs to the community.

8:23 PM Sharman Speicer: there are community members here. We’ve got your back. You are not alone.

8:24 PM parent, work in district: has had lots of conversations with people in the district, people in the community support teachers.

8:26 PM should be talking to city council members, mayor, etc. to get them to take a stand in this issue. No reason city council members as individuals couldn’t speak at public commentary, just like Paul Saginaw.

Carla Szentkiralyi: Open parent: knew nothing about this issue until she opted daughter out of M-STEP. She offers her help, saying that most parents in the district don’t know.

Peter Ways: we should be polite. We can disagree in a different way. If they don’t change the agenda, we can politely disagree.

Community teacher: Can be civil. But the board is playing hardball. Gave a 1% raise to the 1% of the district [referring to the 1% pay increase to the Class 01 district employees]

8:30 PM Important to be polite, but important to let the board know there will be consequences. Don’t know how to recall, but this needs to happen. If they want to remain on the board, they need to know.

8:30 PM Wondering if we can stand up with signs that say “Press the Pause Button”.

Hand-drawn pause buttons are held up by members of the audience.
Hand-drawn pause buttons are held up by members of the audience.

8:31 PM These people are public servants. Elected to do what people of AA want. Should remain civil; however, they are out after money that belongs to you, the teachers. If it’s a recall, then it’s a recall.

8:32 PM Someone should text trustee to change agenda.

8:33 PM call for a dialogue. And if you ask to change the agenda, you should be specific to what you want.

8:33 PM Parent: Apologizes the teachers, saying “We don’t know. text your friends. ask them to bring you a granola bar.”

8:42 PM Board returns to the table. Mexicotte and Swift engaged in conversation with member of public in a blue Support Ann Arbor Teachers shirt. Several more people crowd around. Lightfoot also in the conversation.

A scrum of Deb Mexicotte, Simone Lightfoot, Jeanice Swift, and members of the community.
A scrum of Deb Mexicotte, Simone Lightfoot, Jeanice Swift, and members of the community.

8:56 PM out of recess.

Superintendent Report: moved for calendar info

2015/16 Academic Calendar

8:57 PM Swift appreciates the work of the two teams who worked together to get calendar together for 15-16 calendar. Will be published in the next couple of days. Asked Lee Ann Dickinson-Kelley and Jane Landefeld an overview.

David Comsa thanks AAEA for working together, hopefully a “harbinger of things to come.” Dickinson-Kelley: every level in school will end June 17, given late start of the school year. Met all state requirements re: increase number of minutes and days: 1098 minutes for all students. Consolidate records and professional development for all levels. Also able to maintain opportunities for all levels Pre-K – HS to come together. Maintain mid-winter break.

Annual Summer Custodial Cleaning Plan & GCA Update – Part 2

9:03 PM Tim Gruszczynski, Executive Director of Physical Properties, and four members of GCA team: VP of Operations, Midwest Regional Manager, Regional Manager for AA, District Manager for GCA.

9:04 PM VP of Operations goes over specifics of summer clean-up goals. Apologizes for the “rough start.” Some of the things they will do for the summer clean-up:

  • strip and wax all floors
  • disinfect restrooms
  • deep clean offices and classrooms
  • clean walls, clean windows
  • clean trash receptacles

Distributed summer cleaning plans in June. GCA met with each building principal. Summer clean-up checklist goes on each door. Says they’re training all custodians to buy into a consistent standard district-wide. District admin will walk schools weekly to monitor progress with GCA. Superintendent, Assistant Superintendent, Executive Director of Physical Properties. Some of the ways they improve: Joint Review Committee Meetings are held quarterly, principal report cards, training.

Year Two expectations: all buildings 100% ready for admin/student arrival, improve principal survey grades and increase customer satisfaction, reduce employee turnover, continue to develop employees.

9:12 PM Lightfoot asks that GCA let them know when they need things. [shouts from the audience: “Change the Agenda”] She urges them to keep recognizing their staff. Staff stability: maintain consistency. She’s concerned with the number building managers are responsible for.

9:15 PM Thomas likes that they “aspire to all As.” But restroom and classroom cleanliness were identified as the biggest problem area. Wondering what their plans were to address those two areas.

GCA: brought in new leadership to address, George Holiday, someone who has expertise in training and development. They will bring in extra equipment to take care of those issues, as well.

9:19 PM Baskett asks who is onsite. Holiday, along with Ann arbor Regional Manager, is generally onsite. Baskett says they “will hold them accountable.”

9:22 PM Mexicotte moves up voting items on the agenda. Changes the agenda “per the board’s will.” Board changed the agenda because they need to do business this evening.

Special Briefing: Northside STEAM Electrical Utility Easement 

9:24 PM Gruszczynski says : in order to increase the electrical power capacity to STEAM at Northside, DTE has requested an easement to install the upgraded underground utilities. It is recommended the easement be granted to DTE Energy.  By granting the easement, DTE Energy assumes all responsibility for future maintenance and repairs.

Unanimously approved

Resolution to Approve Summer Purchasing and Hiring Authority

9:25 PM “As is customary at the last meeting of the school year,” Swift asks for authorization to “conduct the business of the district,” which would mean she could make purchases up to and equal to $100,000 per transaction. Superintendent is required to provide a detailed report of hiring and purchases at the August 26 meeting.

Unanimously approved

In-District Transfers / 105 & 105C Update – Landefeld

9:29 PM Mid-June, mid-July window opened to accommodate summer mobility that occurs in Ann Arbor.

[papers rustle – people in the audience have papers with pause buttons hand drawn on them – it’s getting loud. A group of students walk to the front of the auditorium – ask for trustees to change the agenda.]

Nine students approach the board and ask for an agenda change. (not all students pictured)
Nine students approach the board and ask for an agenda change. (not all students pictured)

9:30 PM Mexicotte says that they have completed all their business and that it is clear they will not be able to complete their agenda. With shouts from the audience, the trustees vote to adjourn the meeting. [boos and shouts from the audience. Chant of “Shame on you” fills the auditorium – continues for several minutes]

Meeting adjourned. 

9:35 PM After board files out, amid shouts of “shame on you,” people continue talking. Space #35 on Maynard – can march in support of Ann Arbor teachers at the 4th of July parade. Join or like the Support the Ann Arbor Teachers FaceBook page.

9:38 PM It’s absolutely right to speak up. Funnel that into community outreach. A teacher says: We can’t bargain, we can’t negotiate, that lets everything go. If they formally negotiate, it “sets traps.” People say they want to make sure MLive is reporting the teachers’ position, not just the board’s. Teachers are staying to meet with interested community members – ordering pizza.

The pizza delivery guy said,
The pizza delivery guy said, “They ordered a whole lot” of pizza.
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7 thoughts on “AAPS Board Approves Contracts, 2015-16 Calendar; Meeting Ends Abruptly Amid Chants of “Shame on You”

  1. I am disappointed the board has never answered the question “why?” Their only public statements have been to chastise the AAEA and a statement from the last meeting “expressing their full support for ” Swift. I just don’t understand. They have uttered not one word in support of the teachers. Not one. Why would I ever support the BoE after today? They are simply a rubber stamp for Swift at this point and as mentioned above, have destroyed any goodwill.

  2. Sorry to say, I can’t wait for my son to be done with AAPS schools. I no longer have faith that the students or education are the number 1 priority.

    • They gave their statement regarding the superintendent’s eval at last week’s meeting. I don’t believe they ever intended to vote on it. It would have just been an information item tonight [which I actually would have been interested in hearing].

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