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Posted on Thu, Aug 22, 2013 : 5:56 a.m.

10 more teachers recalled to Ann Arbor schools; about 30 remain laid off

By Amy Biolchini

With one and a half weeks until the first day of school, 10 more teachers that had received layoff notices have been called back to work for Ann Arbor Public Schools, officials said Wednesday.

That leaves about 30 of 233 teachers issued pink slips at the end of last school year that still have not received notice that they will have a job with the district this fall.


Interim Superintendent David Comsa, far right, sits at the board table for the last time in his interim role Wednesday night at the regular Ann Arbor Public Schools Board of Education meeting at the Ann Arbor District Library.

Amy Biolchini |

“I’d say that I’m hopeful, but I’m not certain,” said Interim Superintendent David Comsa to on whether the approximately 30 teachers would be called back to work.

Comsa announced the recall of the 10 teachers during his final report in his interim role to the Board of Education during its regular meeting Wednesday night.

His time as interim superintendent ends when the district's newly hired superintendent from Colorado Springs—Jeanice Kerr Swift—takes the reins Aug. 27. Comsa will return to his role as legal counsel and deputy superintendent of human resources and legal services.

The district has been recalling teachers on an incremental basis this summer as the administration works to balance the retirements of 41 employees against the 40 positions cut as a result of the 2013-14 budget reduction.

“You may have a French teacher that resigned and you may have a math teacher that was laid off,” Comsa said as an example.

Cutting 40 staff positions accounted for $3.9 million—or 45 percent—of $8.7 million in cuts the district made from its operational budget in June. The budget was developed by district administration under the guidance of former Superintendent Patricia Green, who announced her resignation abruptly in April.

District staff have been working to match the laid-off staff with positions that they still have open. As of the regular Board of Education meeting 7 p.m. Wednesday, Comsa said one of the district staff members was still at the office working on the staffing plan to see if more teachers could be recalled.

“We’re looking at what classes are being offered, what the building administrators are suggesting, what the certifications and qualifications are of the laid-off staff, based on their seniority … on where we place them in one or two buildings or more, based on how we need them,” Comsa said.

The remaining pink-slipped teachers that have not been recalled span all grade levels and specialties, Comsa said.

There is no deadline for when the district must call teachers back, Comsa said—as enrollment figures after the start of school may present a different picture than the administration anticipated. Teachers could be called back after the start of school.

District officials declined to release to the list of teachers that had not yet been recalled.

Should the approximately 30 teachers not be recalled to their jobs, it will be the first teacher layoffs in the district's recent history.

Amy Biolchini is the K-12 education reporter for Reach her at (734) 623-2552, or on Twitter.



Mon, Aug 26, 2013 : 11:04 p.m.

I am just learning now the trade off was music for phys ed. So if you need a phys ed class you are going to need to look elsewhere. Good luck with that one.


Sun, Aug 25, 2013 : 10:41 p.m.

This goes on in lots of districts in lots of states. Most teachers have been through it before and are not surprised. It is indeed horrible that there is no better way to do this, but in order to keep the number of teachers we pay commensurate with the number and kinds of classes we offer, this is how it goes. Otherwise we would wind up paying too many teachers when numbers settle in the fall or not have enough teachers. How would you who are blaming the board and administration handle it? I'm sure they would welcome your proposals.

Dr. I. Emsayin

Sat, Aug 24, 2013 : 12:39 p.m.

Mr. Comsa suggested that teachers may still be called back. We will see teacher changes and shifts in classes in the secondary schools even after school starts. As new enrollees swell class sizes and student schedules become more accurately fleshed out, Mr. Comsa will allocate teaching hours from the pool of those laid off, if those teachers want such positions at this late date. Students should not imagine that their schedule is accurate until all the dust settles, which will be after school starts and numbers are clearer.

Ann E.

Fri, Aug 23, 2013 : 1:15 p.m.

School has essentially begun. High school students have already gone through registration for classes this week. Schedules could not be finalized without knowing what teachers would be teaching. Senior students and teachers are communicating about college applications and letters of reference. The school board should require of parents what they must for the sake of sufficient planning (a registration fee?), and get serious about meeting the educational needs of students. Teachers are professionals and should be treated as such.


Fri, Aug 23, 2013 : 1:23 p.m.

Unfortunately, our BOE does not have these same thoughts or feelings. Nothing will change until they are replaced. Parents and community leaders need to rise up and band together to demand changes with our BOE. Only then will the teachers attain their true position - as the true value and core strength of our school system.


Fri, Aug 23, 2013 : 2:02 a.m.

There is really no excuse for this insanity. I have never heard of another large school district that lays off all the teachers, then calls some back, and then keeps others hanging until the start of school or thereafter. Total insanity. This is not good for teachers, their families, or the students. How are teachers supposed to prepare for the start of school if they are not notified until school starts or after? How are teachers supposed to plan for their teaching for the next school year? By waiting for AAPS to call them, or not? Just incredible. I'd like to hear of another school district of comparable size that operates like this. All districts have to deal with summer enrollments and families moving into and out of a district. Other districts seem to be able to have a stable number of staff that are notified will in advance of the school year whether or not they have a job that fall, and certainly I've never heard of a district that laid off all the teachers and then "hired" some of them back based on enrollment. Insanity and educationally irresponsible. I sure hope that these teachers who have been left hanging until the last minute have taken the opportunity to look for other positions in districts that are more stable and that are more fiscally responsible.


Fri, Aug 23, 2013 : 1:58 p.m.

I agree that it's outrageous, but it is not at all uncommon. Many teachers who I am friends with were routinely pink-slipped the first few years of their teaching careers (up to the first 5 or 6 years), and many were called back the week before, day before, or even a few days after school started. And unfortunately, there aren't more stable districts right now. No one is hiring.


Fri, Aug 23, 2013 : 8:22 a.m.

It all starts with our BOE who are inept, clueless, lost and arrogant. Not much will change to the good until they are replaced. It is sad and horrible how they treat the teachers.


Fri, Aug 23, 2013 : 1:16 a.m.

One thing I've realized reading education topics on this site is that everybody can always find a way to run the numbers the way they want to see them, whether it's AAPS is swimming in money or AAPS is broke. At the end of the day, most people don't really care the number per pupil that is being spent this year vs 2005 or whenever. What they know is that before Prop A people made choices to live here (knowing higher taxes) or not live here (the I shouldn't have to pay for your children crowd). This was another level of choice in the private vs. public schools. People with money didn't necessarily abandon public schooling altogether, they just seeked out communities who made it known that they invest heavily in it. Now, after Prop A, we can no longer afford the education we used to offer, there isn't any choice to sacrifice and move your family to a district who chooses to invest more and so people are abandoning the the public schools. Check Emerson, St. Francis or GreenHills and hear how enrollment is doing. When I toured I was told how each school had seen growing enrollment over the last few years. I am convinced that Prop A will lead to a tiered education system between the haves and the have nots. Don Bee if a federal judge was going to rule our funding mechanism to be discriminatory, why are other states still doing the same thing? Pennsylvania comes to mind.


Fri, Aug 23, 2013 : 6:54 p.m.

I would argue that it is a combination of money and people Bob. If Prop A money could fix urban schools, Detroit would be thriving by now. Just wait til the governor starts up the vouchers. Then you'll really see a tiered system. Idealistically, I understand what they were trying to do with Prop A. I just think there are a ton of unintended consequences and ironically the worst one might be that instead of making all public schools thrive, they will have chased everyone of any means out and abandoned the ones who can't afford to get out.

Basic Bob

Fri, Aug 23, 2013 : 4:07 a.m.

You seem to think willingness to spend money is what makes Ann Arbor better. It's not. It's the people. Prop A was designed to dismantle an obviously tiered PUBLIC education system, where children in the rural north and urban centers were left without adequate funding to PUBLIC schools.


Fri, Aug 23, 2013 : 3:32 a.m.

Sorry this was supposed to be under the first post.


Thu, Aug 22, 2013 : 1:22 p.m.

Amy -- Is there any news about who is filling the open principal position at Lawton? I'm am very curious to see if they fill with an internal candidate. I believe that they said that the position would likely be filled before school starts, which made me think that they had someone in mind.


Fri, Aug 23, 2013 : 2:58 p.m.

Let's hope the new principal holds teachers accountable.

Basic Bob

Thu, Aug 22, 2013 : 5:40 p.m.

The administration and board can blame whoever they like, but they will still have to pay damages. It would be so much easier if we had actual "at will" employment contracts and they could simply let him go without specific details. The board has no one to blame for putting themselves in this corner.


Thu, Aug 22, 2013 : 4:04 p.m.

@ J.A., rumors and hearsay won't hold up in court, only the truth, which from your comment it sounds like many people are speculating about what is actual and factual and don't know. It sounds like the district reacted to quickly to the allegations made against that principal. As a result, he will wear a scarlet letter in this district and any where else he goes regardless of whether the rumors turn out to be true or not. If the district can't win this at grievance hearing expect them to be paying a hefty sum in economic damages/loss of income in a subsequent proceeding. On the bright side, the administration and the board can blame it on Greene, the former superintendent.

J. A. Pieper

Thu, Aug 22, 2013 : 3 p.m.

They should fill this position with a local candidate, and by local, I mean someone already working for AAPS. They still have to deal with the principal from Carpenter who is on paid administrative leave. There are rumors out there among parents and teachers that are scary!


Thu, Aug 22, 2013 : 11:51 a.m.

Comsa should not have allowed his staff members working on the staffing to go on vacation until every last teacher was recalled, earlier in the summer. Now they are scrambling last minute, and it's not fair to the teachers. He was paid extra to do a job. He should have been at Balas overseeing staffing plans early on to make sure it got done, lending a hand if he could.


Fri, Aug 23, 2013 : 1:03 p.m.

Schools close in June, and do not reopen until mid August. How does student enrollment change mid summer, when new students cannot enroll until the school reopens? What is in staff members control is when they take vacations. No excuses.


Thu, Aug 22, 2013 : 2:58 p.m.

Who trained Comsa?


Thu, Aug 22, 2013 : 1:01 p.m.

Recalling teachers often has to do with fluctuating student enrollment, which takes place all summer and even into the first weeks of school. Parents' decisions to enroll/dis-enroll their students is not in Comsa's or any other staff member's control.


Thu, Aug 22, 2013 : 11 a.m.

This is no way to run a school system.


Thu, Aug 22, 2013 : 2:55 p.m.

@ Goober, usually agree with all your posts, but due to the fact that some people wait till the last minute to enroll their children it is impossible to get a head count for each building until the last minute.


Thu, Aug 22, 2013 : 10:46 a.m.

"The remaining pink-slipped teachers that have not been recalled span all grade levels and specialties, Comsa said." vs. "You may have a French teacher that resigned and you may have a math teacher that was laid off," Comsa said as an example." If the first was completely true, than the second should not be a problem. The mis-matches probably exist, and the remaining laid off teachers may not have the right certifications to match the remaining openings. This means three things in my mind: 1) Some of these teachers are probably not coming back in 2013-14. 2) The first day or two of school will mean substitutes and massive classes in some cases. 3) The district will have to hire some teachers to fill the gaps that are not in the remaining 30 To my mind, and I know this is not the way the union officials think, with the cutting of specific positions, the district and the union should have been able to sit down and look at the specific people in those positions and worked thru the bumping, prior to lay off notices being issued, and targeted only the teachers that could not bump to another position. Instead the union contract requires the district to create chaos for hundreds of teachers by laying off everyone junior to the teacher that is the most senior in an eliminated position. For the sanity of everyone involved, this needs to change. But, with a 3 year contract that really has not had the work rules looked at in more than a decade, nothing will change in 2014-15, we will be reading these same stories this time next summer, which is sad.

Jack Panitch

Fri, Aug 23, 2013 : 9:04 p.m.

Sorry, "deeply affect" not "deeply affects." (Bad proofing)

Jack Panitch

Fri, Aug 23, 2013 : 9:01 p.m.

@Topher: I don't know if you are still monitoring this thread, but I want to support your comments. Many commenters take the District to task for lack of transparency while leaving completely opaque, unexplained, conclusory comments. This story is about laid off teachers. Total funds available to pay teachers and total funds are not the same number. Due to MSPERS and inflation, the purchasing power of a dollar of foundation allowance – the unrestricted funds the District can use to pay teachers -- viewed with reference to 1994, now buys about 66 cents of labor. This phenomenon affects not just Ann Arbor but districts state-wide, and I doubt anyone in Lansing is laughing about the subject, regardless of the speaker. The problems leave too widespread a stain-on-legacy and deeply affects folks, not just folks with public school kids -- in a party-blind way. I wish you the best.


Thu, Aug 22, 2013 : 5:41 p.m.

Topher - The numbers out east are not up, I just looked at the US Department of Education numbers, they are flat to slightly declining. There are restrictions on how some of the money out east is used too. And there are limits on how long you can let maintenance and replacement slide. While you may argue that the restrictions on money on "dumb" the reality of it is, if there were not restrictions people would let the buildings slide into dis-repair and get them condemned by the fire marshal. Then we would have real fun. As to spending this year it will be roughly $14,900 per student, based on the budget documents that AAPS has published so far, the approved 2013-14 budget is NOT posted on the website as of this morning, the 2012-13 one is the one that is posted. The latest financial reports are also missing. You have to go into the boarddocs site to find any of it, and even there the final approved budget is missing. Missing from the site are the grants received so far for 2013-14 (roughly $10 million last year) and a number of minor items like Medicaid reimbursement (about $500,000), and updated figures on the State and WISD special education reimbursement (the WISD amounts are increasing based on WISD's comments). So there may be as much as another $800 per student that is not reflected in the budget numbers. Getting timely financial information up for the public, as promised by the board would make it much easier to have an intelligent discussion about financing. Current year projections put AAPS ahead of the state numbers in all but 4 to 6 states, depending on what the missing numbers for revenue are. It also puts AAPS $4,000 above the state average for school districts. It puts AAPS in the top 1,000 districts nationwide (This is based on national data that was self reported on a voluntary basis by school districts and AAPS did not report to this system) without the missing numbers.


Thu, Aug 22, 2013 : 3:49 p.m.

@ DonBee - I should have clarified that 15k was back in 2005. They spend much more now. Last I saw Ann Arbor was around 13.5-14 k per student. Even 1000 more per pupil nets AA around 16 million. Also remember that money in Michigan can only be used very specific purposes. We may have awesome technology coming in, but less teachers to engage students with the technology. This wasn't the case when I taught in another state.


Thu, Aug 22, 2013 : 2:29 p.m.

Topher - Sorry to disappoint, but AAPS already is near that $15,000 per student number, when you add up all the funds that come into the schools, which the East Coast schools do - they don't have a dozen different funding sources. Charles Curtis - Proposition A was a step in front of a lawsuit for discrimination that would have put a Federal Court in charge of funding for schools in the state. If you go back into the archives and look at the news stories you will remember that. Would you rather have a federal judge deciding how much each district gets? I can promise you there would have been no hold harmless money for Ann Arbor, or the other "rich" districts, far more of your money would have gone to places like Detroit than does now. Prop A is not perfect, far from it, but a federal judge would have been far worse, and it would have never ended. The ability to pass local bonds, sinking funds, ISD wide special education and enhancement millages have brought thousands of dollars per student into AAPS and other schools from local millages. If anything all the local millages and the continuation of hold harmless funds puts the state at risk of the very type of lawsuit that the original proposal was attempting to avoid. You want more money for schools, think about this of the roughly $90 billion dollars spent in Michigan in 2012 by state and local governments - roughly $30 billion when to education. Of this more than half came from the various local millages. In 2002 the AAPS total budget (all sources) was $190 million dollars, in 2012 it was over $240 million dollars. That is more than 27% in revenue growth on a tax base that grew less than 20%. If we were on the old property taxes alone, that number would have been about $10 million less, and the district would have been struggling even more.

Charles Curtis

Thu, Aug 22, 2013 : 2:06 p.m.

Don, nobody is crying poor in Lansing, but the issue remains far more of my property tax that goes to school funding goes somewhere else in the state than is spent in A2. I have an issue with that since we moved here because of schools, quality of life etc., then the state decided to take over school funding and my taxes goes up, but very little comes back. If the state wants to take from those that have more to give to those that have less, then the chunk they give away ought not be more than what is spent here. I believe AAPS get about 40% of the taxes collected here for school funding, that number should be much closer to 75%. I don't mind helping others when we can afford to, but it needs to be modified from what we have now. I do think the unions have some blame, but it goes to the lack of policing their membership. Their pay and benefits are a bit better than average, but the job is too. If they weeded out the teachers that perform below average, with no enthusiasm, or whatever, they would have lots more support. But with the current system, they never do anything but protect those that need to go. It would be nice to say our school teachers are members of union ### and have that mean quality, and that is not the case now.


Thu, Aug 22, 2013 : 1:28 p.m.

@ DonBee - but if we were to do away with barring complete local control of money, AA would be a much stronger school system - much like many of the east coast schools that are spending around 15k per pupil. I'd rather that Ann Arbor could choose how to spend its money, raise its own funds, and use them how we wanted to.


Thu, Aug 22, 2013 : 1:24 p.m.

Susie Q - 1) The state has done better the last 3 years at letting the districts know what the state funds will be - think back 4 or 5 years when the budget was not approved until July or August. The governor has made it a priority to get school funding set before the legal deadline, the rough numbers were known by the district in February. The final numbers were actually better than the February estimates. 2) I am not "blaming the union" - I do think the contract needs work, and I do think the district could have, given they had projections in February, done a better job with more flexibility in the contract language. The district did nothing with the new contract to make the situation any better in the future. 3) I really feel for the teachers that had to wait all summer, I would have liked to see the recalls go faster, I know, I know, it is too complicated to go faster. In the last decade, the changes to the number and types of certifications and qualifications increased, and nothing has been done about the contract language, so there is a mismatch now that hurts the rank and file teachers. Topher - Actually there has only been 1 decrease for AAPS in funding. Like it or not, 20+ years ago the district was promised a temporary "hold harmless" transition amount, 20+ years later the district still draws more than $2200 a student more than the lowest funded districts. Plus a number of millages that did not exist back then. As well as spinning out the library and making them get their own millage, while keeping the money that they used to get for the library - in the way of hold harmless money. Like it or now, the state will continue to bring the lowest funded districts up first, then provide more money for the highest funded districts. Of more than 500 districts in the state Ann Arbor's state funding is in the top 15. Ann Arbor crying poor in Lansing will only get chuckles.


Thu, Aug 22, 2013 : 1:10 p.m.

@ Susie Q - I agree with you - either way it will be chaotic. If the district and union didn't use seniority, but factors such as performance, student growth, and evaluations, it would probably take just as long. The bigger issue, as David Comsa pointed out, is that per pupil state funding has diminished. Additionally, it is illegal for districts to raise their own money for teachers (unless through a county millage, which is difficult to pass when those districts have conflicting perspectives and priorities). Friends in other states are shocked when I tell them this. The next few years will bring about many cuts and downsizing. I was talking with a family from Los Angeles who was considering moving to AA - their biggest factor in deciding whether or not to move was a quality public school system. They know that they will not be able to afford private K-12 and university for their children - they want to be able to save for college and want to advantages of diversity that public schools bring. Contrary to what Lansing may think - this family wanted a traditional community school, not an online/blended school.

Susie Q

Thu, Aug 22, 2013 : 11:34 a.m.

Donn, I wish it were that simple "look at the specific people in those positions and worked thru the bumping, prior to lay off notices being issued, and targeted only the teachers that could not bump to another position. ". The Board did not decide on the budget until the end of June, the gov't in Lansing doesn't provide a budget that early in the planning cycle, the retirements/resignations trickle in and there is a legal deadline for layoff notices to be issued. So the district and the union can't do all that re-configuring until all those things are known. I know it is fashionable to blame the unions for almost everything......and it is true that working within a contract DOES sometimes slow things down. But in this case, I do not think this is the teachers' union's fault. They are providing 45% of the savings with losing educators and they took the same 3% pay cut as everyone else. And they are the ones in the buildings right now, two weeks before school starts, to get ready, amid this chaos, to educate AAPS students.