You are viewing this article in the archives. For the latest breaking news and updates in Ann Arbor and the surrounding area, see
Posted on Mon, Jul 15, 2013 : 5:59 a.m.

4 things to know about the 2 AAPS superintendent finalists

By Kellie Woodhouse

It might be less than a week before the next superintendent of Ann Arbor public schools is named, or at least a finalist is offered the job.

Ann Arbor's Board of Education has chosen a New Jersey district superintendent and an assistant superintendent for instruction, curriculum, and student services in Colorado Springs as finalists for the top leadership position in the district.

Jeanice Kerr Swift, of Colorado, and Brian Osborne, of New Jersey, will introduce themselves to the public during meetings in Skyline High School at 7 p.m. Tuesday and Wednesday, respectively.

During initial interviews Monday, July 8, and deliberation Tuesday, July 9, the board seemed impressed by Osborne's budget acumen and by Swift's communication skills.

The board is planning to make its final decision on who will replace Patricia Green as Ann Arbor superintendent on Friday, July 19.

Here's four things to note about the two candidates. The information provides a snapshot of the two finalists before they visit Ann Arbor for their final interviews. has included a copies of their cover letter, resume and references.


Jeanice Kerr Swift and Brian Osborne


Jeanice Kerr Swift

Resume and references: Swift_Resume.pdf

1) What's her district like?

Colorado Springs School District No. 11 is the seventh-largest school district in the state of Colorado. The district teaches 28,500 students and directly employs 3,900 people, according to district figures. Comparatively, Ann Arbor has 16,600 and roughly 3,000 employees. In 2012 the district had 39 elementary schools, nine middle schools and 11 high schools, with four of the schools offering alternative education models. There are 21 students for every teacher. According to district documents, the district set a $367 million budget for 2012-13.

2) What's a challenge she faced?

Swift is experienced in consolidating schools, something Ann Arbor might experience in the near future. Swift's district has closed 12 school buildings since 2009, according to a Colorado Springs Gazette article from June.

During her interview, Swift said prior to consolidating schools her district held 12 meetings to collect ideas. Then after the district created a draft plan, it held another roughly dozen meetings to get community feedback.

"What's important is that we remember that we are all in this together. That sounds like a platitude but it's important to return to that," Swift said during her interview. Swift said that before a district closes a school it needs to have a plan in place for leasing or selling it.

3) Notable endeavor:

Swift has a strong background in curriculum. In her role she is responsible for maintaining and implementing a 'Playbook' of suggested instructional practices for teachers in her district. The document presents teachers with proven responses to scenarios they'll likely encounter, such as a student reaching subject proficiency faster than expected.

You can check out the playbook here: Playbook.pdf and Playbook2013.pdf

In the curriculum vein, Swift's district recently received an award from MIND Research Institute for improving elementary math achievement using a fictional character teaching tool.

4) What did her reference say?

"She is a master at building cultures, she is great at getting the most out of teams, she can be a bulldog to fight for approaches and programs to make sure our children are served and education. Jeanice is exactly the kind of person you want and need to lead your school district. She is a person that works well with staff, administration and parents. What sets her apart is her ability to use all these stakeholders to help her base her final recommendation on doing what is best for students." -Michael A. Poore, superintendent of Bentonville Public Schools in Arizona.

Brian Osborne

Resume and references: Osborne_Resume.pdf

1) What's his district like?

The South Orange and Maplewood School District in New Jersey is smaller than Ann Arbor. It's responsible for the education of 6,700 students and includes six elementary schools, two middle schools and one high school. For perspective, AAPS includes 16,600 students. The district had a $109 million operating budget in 2012-13. The district's high school is ranked 36th in the state in U.S. News and World Report's ranking. According to that ranking, minority enrollment in the high school is 62 percent and 43 percent of students take at least one AP test. District figures indicate there's one faculty member for every 10.6 students.

2) What's an accomplishment?

Osborne lobbied the New Jersey legislature for tenure reform in 2012. A 1909 New Jersey tenure law put a high burden of proof on districts firing teachers, making it difficult for districts to dismiss ineffective teachers.

“It means people get away with too much,” he told in 2010.

During his interview before the Ann Arbor Board of Education, Osborne emphasized the importance of officials using their role to lobby lawmakers.

"I do think it's important that you as elected officials from Ann Arbor, and your superintendent, that we've very vocal," he said.

3) What's a challenge in his current role?

It appears that Osborne has been heavily focused on reducing the achievement gap in his district. According to a Patch article, his district reduced the gap between black and white students who score well on a standard New Jersey English test from 28.1 percent in 2010-11 to 24.6 the next year. In a math assessment, that gap narrowed 1.3 percent, Patch reported.

He has made it a goal of the district to increase the number of white students taking AP tests by 10 percent and the number of black students taking the test by 20 percent, although his district has struggled to make gains with black students. During his interview Monday, Osborne said that if a student does well in at least on AP course, it's an indicator of academic success.

4) What did his reference say?

"I have also seen him work with people and show humanity and toughness and understanding all at the same time. I believe he is uniquely principled in how he approaches his job. When I am in a moral or practical quandary, I call him." Andres Alonso, CEO of Baltimore City Public Schools.

Kellie Woodhouse covers higher education for Reach her at or 734-623-4602 and follow her on twitter.


Dr. I. Emsayin

Tue, Jul 16, 2013 : 4:30 a.m.

@Don Bee: I read thr Broad Academy website. I could not read between the lines clearly. I hear local criticism of it at meetings as being anti-public education. What do people have against it?

Cendra Lynn

Tue, Jul 16, 2013 : 4:18 a.m.

Not hiring someone local who knows what they're getting into? Well, here we go again!


Mon, Jul 15, 2013 : 9:30 p.m.

I went to the link where she explains STMath and I read a little bit more about the STMath program. It sounds interesting and like something that my kids would probably enjoy. I wonder if she would try to add this to the Everyday Math Program (which I don't like) or totally supplant it with a new program. I wonder if either candidate would be able to get rid of the administrative excess. Also, it would be interesting to ask what they would do re: underutilized buildings: would they try to close them via redistricting or try to reach out and get back kids who had left by getting rid of problem employees.


Tue, Jul 16, 2013 : 2:04 a.m.

J. A. Pieper - My comment on "afraid of math" is not from me, but from one of the principal authors of EDM. He indicated that it was designed to support the teachers who did not want to teach math or were afraid of math. Yes, Balas loads the dice in their favor every time.

J. A. Pieper

Mon, Jul 15, 2013 : 10:34 p.m.

DonBee, I have to disagree with part of your comment related to the Everyday Math Program. I do not believe that it is the best math program, but saying it is designed for teachers who are afraid of math, that is wrong. The program AAPS had before EDM was equally horrible, they had us teaching out of several different programs, and nothing was consistent, or coordinated. When AAPS made the switch to EDM, the relief was having something that was organized, and we could have all the materials readily available. AAPS depends upon small groups of teachers who pilot such programs, and since Balas people select the program, they also select the teachers to pilot programs who will support their decisions. Many AAPS teachers will agree that this is not the program for our students, for various reasons!


Mon, Jul 15, 2013 : 10:12 p.m.

I would bring a barrel to help burn the Everyday Math books, if the district would dump them. It is the worst math program that any education pundit could design. It is designed for teachers who are afraid of math, not to teach students. Even the National Association of Education (Teacher's union) does not like it.


Mon, Jul 15, 2013 : 9:21 p.m.

Osborne might be the right person to overhaul the evaluation system and make an effort to get rid of poorly performing teachers, something AAPS needs. Also, the fact that his current district is 62% minority is a plus, given the demographic changes that are coming down the line. For him, it's a step up to a larger district, which makes sense career-wise. For Swift, going down to a much smaller district doesn't make sense for her career. Just my 2 cents.


Tue, Jul 16, 2013 : 2:48 a.m.

Don, good info. I didn't know about Dr Swift's record in terms of career opps. Having been a finalist elsewhere but not selected is interesting and something that AAPS should take into account.


Mon, Jul 15, 2013 : 10:10 p.m.

Dr. Swift has not been able to move up to the top job in her current district and has been a finalist elsewhere several times. Dr. Osborne says: "10 years" is his intention.


Mon, Jul 15, 2013 : 6:55 p.m.

Holy buzzwords, Batman! Listening to that video clip, can anyone tell me that they did not just spout the same recycled rubbish that we hear from every candidate?


Mon, Jul 15, 2013 : 10:09 p.m.

LOL - Welcome to softball interview jargon 101.

Dr. I. Emsayin

Mon, Jul 15, 2013 : 5:46 p.m.

Can someone explain how Broad Foundation trained superintendents are different from other superintendents in terms of philosophy? People thought Dr. Green's top down approach was Broad inspired. How might either of these candidates be different once in the Ann Arbor position? How necessary is redistricting for Ann Arbor and how eager will each be to put redistricting on their résumé?


Mon, Jul 15, 2013 : 10:08 p.m.

Your answers are here - when the server cooperates.


Mon, Jul 15, 2013 : 3:40 p.m.

Oh la la. pricey and pedigreed. Do they do windows?

Usual Suspect

Mon, Jul 15, 2013 : 2:16 p.m.

Has anybody asked yet whether, if given the job, they will be moving to Ann Arbor or commuting from Colorado or New Jersey?


Mon, Jul 15, 2013 : 10:07 p.m.

Asked and answered in the initial interviews. Dr. Osborne will put his children in AAPS. Dr. Swift does not have school age children.


Mon, Jul 15, 2013 : 9:30 p.m.

Is that legal ?


Mon, Jul 15, 2013 : 2:07 p.m.

The employee to student ratio difference in Colorado, New Jersey, and Ann Arbor is striking. While the latest available from the National Center for Education Statistics is the 2009-2010 year AAPS had 964.21 FTE teachers and 17.39 students per teacher 652 limited language (ELL) and 2037 individual ed..(IEP) students CO had 1845.93 FTE teachers and 15.98 students per teacher 2632 limited language (ELL) and N/A? Individual ed.(IEP) students NJ had 520.60 FTE teachers and 12.71 students per teacher 87 limited language (ELL) and 1001 individual ed (IEP) students Notice the difference in limited language students (those who don't communicate in english very well or LEP), Pretty surprising for NJ given Osborne was a Spanish teacher in Bronx and was his forte. And the amount of attention given to special education programs (IEP) or Ann Arbor gets another top ten prize. Maybe Colorado does not need no special education?

J. A. Pieper

Mon, Jul 15, 2013 : 10:24 p.m.

Donbee, you are correct about the fact that there is limited 1:1 Special Education instruction these days. But a part of this that most people are unaware of is that due to extensive meetings, tons of paperwork, and severe behavior problems, many IEP'd students miss out on a lot of their "scheduled" times to work with these teachers!


Mon, Jul 15, 2013 : 10:06 p.m.

LXIX - One of the reasons that Colorado can maintain more teachers is that the salary is $10,000 less per teacher on average than Michigan. The New Jersey average is higher than Michigan by about $8,000, but AAPS is above the Michigan average by about $9,000 per teacher for salary. (This according to the National Education Association - one of two national teachers unions - the other is the AFT). The Michigan State average revenue per student (all sources) is $9,630, but Ann Arbor's is north of $14,000 per student (again NEA numbers). Michigan is tied for second in expenditures per $1000 of personal income in the US when comparing states (40th in personal income, 12 in school funding). All three states offer similar benefits, but in Colorado you have to be at least 60 to collect. In Michigan with careful planning you can retire as young as 42, but most can't until they are 50. In New Jersey (NEA) again minimum retirement for new teachers is also 60. Yes, we need more teachers, and less overhead - but it will never happen in AAPS. AAAA (the principal's union) is too strong and holds too many cards. There is very little 1:1 Special Education instruction anymore - now it is all about "group" with 3 to 8 students in a room with the special education teacher for 45-50 minutes one time a week, for most of them.


Mon, Jul 15, 2013 : 7:59 p.m.

Thanks Don Bee you always make good points - The reasoning is as follows - More teachers per kid are needed. Both Ann Arbor and New Jersey have about 163 kids per 1000 with LEP/IEPdisabilities. New Jersey however is able to provide at least one FTE teacher per 12.71 kids.How can they do that? Obvious, they hire more teachers. The low student/teacher ratio is critical in early education to get kids "in tune" with the learning process. AAPS has even fewer IEP special ed kids per 1000 than NJ but still unable to provide one teacher per 12 kids (and some have since been fired) let alone 17. When people say there are 30 or more kids in current AAPS classes, then the conclusion is that the school resources are disproportionately going to admin (number of employees vs FTE teachers) and special ed one-on-one teaching at the expense of most others. While there may be a kick-back, that is still precious funding and it hasn't translated yet into what is really needed here - more teachers. Colorado may lump everyone into the same 'EP' basket of 92 per 1000 and only say "0" special ed. I don;t know. What is clear is that they do have fewer "EP' kids and maintain a better student/teacher ratio of 15.98 than Ann Arbor's 17.39. CO. has 7.30 kids per empoyee. AA has 5.53 kids (meaning more employees). Again, if the teacher ratio is worse in Ann Arbor yet it has more employees than CO per 1000 then that implies a fat administration bureaucracy. Colorado has fewer admins and more teachers. Either way it is obvious from the numbers what the new SI has to do here. Did I say hire more teachers?


Mon, Jul 15, 2013 : 4:18 p.m.

LXIX - Lets try it another way: Per 1000 students CO - 92 Limited Language students - unknown IEP students MI - 40 Limited Language students - 123 IEP Students NJ - 13 Limited Language students - 149 IEP Students So Colorado has the highest level of limited language students NJ - the highest level of IEPs Based on per 1,000 students. With the reimbursement of 85% for special education - the district should encourage more special education students - since they get $9020 and if the average FTE cost of special education is $40,000 - then the reimbursement is $34,000 meaning the balance from the foundation grant is $6,000 leaving $3020 in extra foundation grant money. So where is this problem with spending too much on special education - it seems to make money for the district - not cost money. Looking forward to your reasoning LXIX.


Mon, Jul 15, 2013 : 2:31 p.m.

Sorry, for those who don't like numbers the striking conclusion is that comparatively AAPS spends way too much on administration and special education period. Fire half the admins, sut out most special ed programs, and hire more teachers for back-to-basics (read science-based) education.. Or look for another SI who used to work at the Federal Reserve and knows the secret ink and paper types used to print more money.


Mon, Jul 15, 2013 : 1:01 p.m.

So why do they want to leave their current districts?


Mon, Jul 15, 2013 : 8:25 p.m.

$$$$$$ New district, new retirement.


Mon, Jul 15, 2013 : 12:28 p.m.

A 3.5 point improvement in English scores and 1.3 point improvement in Math scores across an entire school district is "minuscule"? Ann Arbor should be so lucky to have that level of improvement in ONE YEAR, as was the case in Dr Osborne's District.


Mon, Jul 15, 2013 : 11:11 a.m.

That's quite a difference in staffing to student ratio between A2 and Swift's district. We've got quite a bit more staffing per 1000 students, or however you care to slice that. An interesting bit of info would be a comparison with a lot of other schools; what's the typical staff per student in a similar grade system, and where does A2 fall in that? I've seen many posts (a few of them mine) about the staff levels seeming wasteful. Some actual data about this would be great. This whole achievement gap thing is getting tired. How much more effort/money/time can be spent on this before something works or we start concentrating on areas where we CAN make a difference? It's apparently been a priority in AAPS for THIRTY YEARS. And the progress Osborne made seems miniscule.

J. A. Pieper

Mon, Jul 15, 2013 : 10:18 p.m.

The achievement gap will always be there because there is so much that is involved - schools, teachers can do everything possible while we work with students, but we cannot replace what is happening at home. Unless we can affect a change in the home environment, there will always be an achievement gap. No amount of money, obviously no current programs (and this goes for anywhere around the country) are having success eliminating this persistent problem.