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Posted on Tue, Jul 9, 2013 : 9:49 p.m.

Ann Arbor Board of Education picks 2 out-of-state finalists for superintendent role

By Kellie Woodhouse

Ann Arbor's Board of Education has chosen a New Jersey district superintendent and the assistant superintendent in Colorado Springs as finalists for the top leadership position in Ann Arbor public schools.


Jeanice Kerr Swift and Brian Osborne


The board interviewed six candidates, including three from Michigan, and narrowed the pool to two: Brian Osborne, the superintendent of the South Orange-Maplewood School District in New Jersey who worked for the New York City Department of Education, and Jeanice Kerr Swift, the assistant superintendent of instruction, curriculum and student services for the Colorado Springs School District in Colorado.

The interviews took place Monday and Tuesday and the board made its decisions on finalists Tuesday evening.

The board did not chose local candidates Sandra Harris, Benjamin Edmondson or Henry Hastings; or Richard Faidley of Hershey, Pa.

The board expects to visit the finalists' school districts later this week. While in finalists' current districts, board members will seek references for the candidates.

Then early the next week the board plans to bring candidates to Ann Arbor for questioning. During those days there will be a session where constituents can ask the finalists questions.



Wed, Jul 10, 2013 : 2:18 p.m.

Do these two candidates know anything about fiscal responsibility and controlling out-of-control school spending? After all they are supposed to be representing the Public who pays for all of AAPS activities.


Wed, Jul 10, 2013 : 2:53 p.m.

Roger - If you read state law, you will find that it is the job of the superintendent to run the schools to the best of their ability (lots more there but that is what it boils down to). The BOE on the other hand is supposed to represent the tax payers and provide governance on how to use the resources provided by the tax payers. I will let you take it from there.

Usual Suspect

Wed, Jul 10, 2013 : 1:29 p.m.

I want to know their answer to this question: If given the job, are you going to Ann Arbor or commute from New Jersey / Colorado?


Wed, Jul 10, 2013 : 2:51 p.m.

Dr. Osborne indicated he would move his family here and put his 2 children in the local schools. I did not see the question asked of Dr. Swift.


Wed, Jul 10, 2013 : 1:22 p.m.

Kellie, admittedly, I haven't kept up with all coverage, but to your knowledge (or anyone's), do either of these finalists come from a school district that embraces the Glenn Singleton PEG "courageous conversations" training? Or the "discipline gap" philosophy? thanks.


Wed, Jul 10, 2013 : 2:50 p.m.

towncryer - The questions asked did not cover PEG, they did cover the achievement gap, and both candidates gave "non-answers" to the question, general education jargon, the BOE let the answers go with no follow-up. But then none of the candidates, beyond Dr. Osborne had any real detailed answers to most of the questions. Ms. Woodhouse's blog is a wonderful review of what was said. The discipline gap got very different answers from the two candidates. In general the two approached almost every aspect from different places. So it will be interesting to see. Neither candidate has an extensive on-line record that is easy to google, mostly you can find school board minutes or some meetings they attended. There is very little that is easily available to give you a more complete picture. I am hoping the BOE takes the time to talk to people who are not the ones the candidates suggest or setup. Including former board members in the districts these people have worked in. The interviews were too softball, more like a beauty pageant than a real job interview.


Wed, Jul 10, 2013 : 2:27 p.m.

I hope not


Wed, Jul 10, 2013 : 12:45 p.m.

This is a recipe for disaster. First, hire someone from out of state with no knowledge of the AAPS. Second, give them a long term guaranteed contract. Third, wonder why the new hire is "all talk and no action". Fourth, wonder some more why the new hire leaves or gets fired and gets a huge severence package. Fifth, do it all over again. The solution is to develop talent locally and have them serve without a contract. Why is this so hard to understand?


Wed, Jul 10, 2013 : 4:33 p.m.

Serve without a contract? That seems like a really bad idea to me. Can you cite any other superintendents in similar situations who have done a great job without a contract?


Wed, Jul 10, 2013 : 4:54 a.m.

Glad to see the board is conducting on-site due diligence for this very important decision. I hope they are able to get 100% comfortable with one of them. If not, I hope they have the guts throw both out even if that causes painful delays. Much better to have no-hire than a bad-hire.


Wed, Jul 10, 2013 : 3:55 a.m.

This article is from 2009, but says something about Osborne's passion for his job at South Orange-Maplewood. Also, I had not realized that he had taught in Harlem before working as an administrator in NYC and, then, when in his current job as Super, had donated his 3% raise (given because they thought he was doing a good job, apparently) to the district's Educational Foundation. What I read there does not comport with the description offered by the self-described parent who says he had children there. Some people think many of us would not like someone from NY/NJ, but I think we need someone a little brash who can stand up to the interest groups in our system and to the school board when warranted and do what's right for the district. I do not like the idea of a local Washtenaw-area person who has ready-made allies and supporters. The school board members fill the local role quite sufficiently.

Usual Suspect

Wed, Jul 10, 2013 : 1:31 p.m.

56K dial-up MODEMs work fine, too, but most of us have upgraded by now.

Are you serious?

Wed, Jul 10, 2013 : 12:03 p.m.

Nothing wrong with the URL. Works fine. You just have to copy both lines.

Stephen Lange Ranzini

Wed, Jul 10, 2013 : 10:40 a.m.

@a2xarob: I suggest you use to get your link posted properly so we can all read it.


Wed, Jul 10, 2013 : 2:42 a.m.

Do the teaching staff and other district staff get a voice in the decision-making process?


Wed, Jul 10, 2013 : 4:08 p.m.

@Basic Bob, can you elaborate a little further please? Where I teach, the school board runs the show. How do the district staff have influence over the school board in Ann Arbor?

Basic Bob

Wed, Jul 10, 2013 : 3:52 a.m.

Well of course they have influence over the board of education in spades. Sorry if that is insufficient, it is more than us lowly taxpayers, constituents, residents, parents, and students get.


Wed, Jul 10, 2013 : 3:04 a.m.

Yikes. That's a lot of professionals without a say in who their leader will be, which could negatively affect staff buy-in. I hope it works out for the best.


Wed, Jul 10, 2013 : 2:57 a.m.

No, they don't.


Wed, Jul 10, 2013 : 2:29 a.m.

Interesting negative comment about Osborne on the other article from a current parent in his district. Apparently all is not as it seems with him.


Wed, Jul 10, 2013 : 2:23 p.m.

"Apparently all is not as it seems with him." Is this a sexist put down? It can be read that way. Just asking.


Wed, Jul 10, 2013 : 3:26 a.m.

I am not sure that the comment came from a parent in the district. It may be someone with sour grapes from their candidate not getting picked, but the BOE will have to dig deep in his current and prior jobs, not just meet the people he wants them to meet.

West Side Mom

Wed, Jul 10, 2013 : 2:12 a.m.

Osborne and Swift? Is this a consensus decision? Is the BOE just going through the motions by inviting two back? Is BOE divided? These two candidates couldn't be more different. I prefer Osborne to Swift, but am not convinced of that choice. Before moving forward with final interviews, I wish the BOE would ask Ray & Associates to suggest 3 or 4 more candidates to interview and direct them to select candidates with particular qualifications. IMHO, the initial interviews felt like tire kicking, not informed shopping.


Wed, Jul 10, 2013 : 1:18 p.m.

West Side Mom, I like your "tire kicking, not informed shopping" analogy. Spot on.

Kellie Woodhouse

Wed, Jul 10, 2013 : 3:46 a.m.

I am covering for a colleague so I am not so familiar with the BOE that I know about voting patterns. I do know that five of the seven board members chose Osborne as their top choice.

West Side Mom

Wed, Jul 10, 2013 : 3:23 a.m.

Thanks Kellie, it certainly has been a long day for you. Amazed you are still at it. Did you get the sense that the different factions of the BOE backed one or other candidates?

Kellie Woodhouse

Wed, Jul 10, 2013 : 3:09 a.m.

Sorry, I mean a 5-2 vote. Long day!

Kellie Woodhouse

Wed, Jul 10, 2013 : 2:26 a.m.

It was a 6-2 vote, with Lightfoot and Baskett voting no in part because they wanted a third candidate to be named a finalist.


Wed, Jul 10, 2013 : 2:10 a.m.

The two finalists are Ying and Yang. So far apart in manner and responses, it is almost amazing. The BOE should have a very clear set of differences to base their decisions on. I wish the candidates the best and want to thank all the people who applied for what will be one of the toughest jobs in the state over the next 2 to 3 years.


Wed, Jul 10, 2013 : 2:08 a.m.

Ms. Woodhouse - Well done! Well done! Without your work, most of us would be completely in the dark about what happened. I hope your boss takes you to a nice lunch as a reward.

Kellie Woodhouse

Wed, Jul 10, 2013 : 2:27 a.m.

Thanks for the kind words!


Wed, Jul 10, 2013 : 1:56 a.m.

Great coverage, Kellie. Now I hope you can get some rest. What a marathon!

Kellie Woodhouse

Wed, Jul 10, 2013 : 2:30 a.m.

Thanks. There will be a more detailed follow up in the morning. The experience has given me major respect for my colleague Danielle Arndt, who covers BOE meetings regularly.