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Posted on Thu, May 10, 2012 : 6:37 a.m.

Here are your chances to weigh in as Ann Arbor Public Schools budget talks continue

By Danielle Arndt

Related story: Audience demands answers from Ann Arbor school administration, board members on proposed budget cuts

Editor's note: This story has been updated to reflect a location change from Tappan Middle School to Balas for the May 16 Committee of the Whole meeting.

New Ann Arbor schools Superintendent Patricia Green has called this year the “tipping point” for the district.


Patricia Green

In an interview following her first six months at AAPS, she said students and community members are really starting to feel the strain from multiple years of cuts.

The 2012-13 proposed budget does not break from the trend of harsh realities but in fact “tips” the scale as AAPS deals with a $17.8 million shortfall by possibly eliminating more busing, cutting more staff and closing a building, among other things.

The Ann Arbor Board of Education has outlined its schedule for deliberating on and eventually approving the proposed 2012-13 academic year budget. There will be opportunities for the public to weigh in at each meeting as well as at a budget forum May 14.

Here is a breakdown of the budget discussions coming up:

  • 6:30 p.m. May 14 @ the Huron High School Cafeteria — Budget forum

The public can come and hear the proposed budget details and offer opinions, advice and solutions.

  • 5:30 p.m. May 16 @ the Balas Administration Building — Board Committee of the Whole meeting

The board will discuss at length the budget reduction and revenue enhancement strategies for the coming school year and into the future.

  • 7 p.m. May 23 @ the Ann Arbor District Library — First briefing and public hearing on the budget

Community members can comment specifically on the budget during this public hearing, which serves as a second 45-minute public comment period in addition to the period at the start of the meeting. However, issues other than the budget cannot be addressed during the public hearing. Audience members do not need to sign up in advance of the meeting, unlike regular public comment periods; anyone who is moved to comment during this portion of the meeting can do so.

  • 7 p.m. June 13 @ the Ann Arbor District Library — Second briefing and potential approval of the budget

The board could choose to adopt a resolution approving the budget.

To learn more about the proposed reductions, download a PDF of the budget presentation here, which Deputy Superintendent for Operations Robert Allen gave to the board on April 25.

Staff reporter Danielle Arndt covers K-12 education for Follow her on Twitter @DanielleArndt or email her at



Mon, May 14, 2012 : 8:39 p.m.

I am a Roberto Alumni. People have no idea what its like when a child cant learn in a "regular" school setting. Roberto isnt just for "bad/out of hand" student its for the kids who have hard times, face challenges, need more of that 1 on 1 teaching. It makes a huge difference when youre surrounded by people who go through the same struggles you face in everyday life. It makes an even bigger one when your teachers are understanding of that and though you may think of us as "thugs/bullies" its OUR place, our comfort zone..We had teachers who LOVE their job more than anyone I knew Ugly Mike, Sexy Lexy, Rude Rita..They made graduation possible for those who wouldve never been able to. AAPS wouldve NEVER done this back when JOSEPH DULIN was principal.. Im appauled that AAPS can moan and groan about having "outdated MACS" but has nerve to shut down a school that helps so many "out of place" students graduate. Roberto gives hopes when students dont have hope for themselves.

Danielle Arndt

Mon, May 14, 2012 : 7:15 p.m.

An FYI to readers, this story has been updated to reflect information received in an email from AAPS this morning stating Wednesday's Committee of the Whole meeting has been moved from Tappan Middle School to the Balas Administration Building. The time is the same. Thank you!

Steve Norton, MIPFS

Sat, May 12, 2012 : 4:52 a.m.

I don't mean to pick on Plymouth-Canton schools, but since DonBee makes a fetish out of comparing AAPS with PCCS, I want to set the record straight. Regarding free and reduced lunch: AAPS: 20.7% eligible for free lunch, 2.6% for reduced price lunch PCCS: 12% eligible for free lunch, 2.8% for reduced price lunch "Very close"? Hardly. Especially since AAPS, with some 1,800 fewer students, has over 1,200 *more* who qualify for free lunch. [Free lunch means income for family of four under $29K; reduced lunch income under $41K.] Source: CEPI Free and Reduced Lunch Counts Buildings: AAPS: 20 elementary, 1 K-8, 5 middle, 3 comprehensive HS, 3 alternative HS = 32 buildings PCCS: 16 elementary, 5 middle, 3 comprehensive HS, 1 alternative HS = 25 buildings "The building counts are within 2"? Not so much. Source: CEPI, based on building headcount database. Teacher longevity One interesting point is that, despite having roughly 2000 more students, PCCS had 100 fewer teachers in 2010 (latest longevity report). The rough average longevity of teachers in AAPS is about two years longer than those in PCCS. In 2010: AAPS: teachers with 10 or fewer years - 618; with more than 10 years - 576 PCCS: teachers with 10 or less - 700; with more than 10 - 390 Source: CEPI again, School Personnel Data, longevity reports. So, "sorry, I looked today" and "I double checked again" but yet your information was once again inaccurate, based on data from the source you seem to prefer (MDE). Lastly, you say "Since your business revolves around schools, I also worry about your objectiveness." Wrong again. My "business" has little to do with schools. My part-time work as executive director of Michigan Parents for Schools does, obviously, focus on schools. Since we are a public interest advocacy group, I think that's clear. And while I am an advocate, my colleagues and I take pride in trying to be as truthful as humanly possible and working hard to maintain our o

Jack Panitch

Sun, May 13, 2012 : 10:44 a.m.

JayJay: If you are still reading this thread, take one point Mr. Norton made earlier, and act on it. If he's right, and District officials don't read the commentary here, then make sure this isn't the only place you are voicing this important suggestion. You probably understand that, but I just wanted to get it out there. Mr. Norton, while he is one of the most important contributors I know to the well-being of our educational community, does not work for the District. When you ask "shouldn't someone be running this out?", that someone probably works for Randy Trent, so you might contact Mr. Trent directly and discuss this with him.


Sat, May 12, 2012 : 8:28 p.m.

Steve, take a look at the website. It is an education in energy efficiency. But what really is interesting is the information on environmental certificates from energy efficiency or renewable energy. It is a whole new revenue stream --is there a line item in the Ann Arbor budget for the positive impact of generating and selling these certificates? I think not -- maybe someone ought to take a look. The more a district has done and will do, the more credits they can generate. And the impact can be enormous. Shouldn't someone be running this out?

Steve Norton, MIPFS

Sat, May 12, 2012 : 5:10 p.m.

@jayjay - while I don't know about Dragonfly Solutions, I did want to point out that energy savings are already in the district proposal. If you look at the powerpoint, you'll find it in the Operations section of proposed reductions, under "Phase 5 Energy Services." I'll admit that's pretty opaque, but in his oral presentation at one of the meetings, Robert Allen indicated that this was the fifth phase of the district's efforts to increase energy efficiency. My memory is that they've been working with a consultant on this. The projected one-year savings from this fifth phase is $500,000. I also know that many of the sinking fund investments - in new boilers, and so on - are aimed both at reducing maintenance costs and increasing energy efficiency. This is an important topic, and it may well be that more can be done, but I wanted to point out that the district is already taking action in this area, with a pretty substantial impact.

Steve Norton, MIPFS

Sat, May 12, 2012 : 5:02 p.m.

DonBee - I respond to this because it directly impacts my credibility as a parent advocate for public education in Michigan. You say: "You have in the past taken contracts from the school district here and elsewhere to help with district marketing and millage support." No. I have never been paid for any of my work with AAPS or any school district for that matter. (I have not directly volunteered for other districts, for that matter, unless you wish to count the ISD.) I have served as the volunteer campaign manager for two local millage efforts, and have been involved in others. I have never been paid for any of this work - rather to the consternation of my family, as it happens. You have made comments similar to this before, and I respond now as then: you are edging onto libelous territory. Present your proof or retract every such statement in a public and prominent way. Since what you accuse me of is not true, you are either intentionally spreading falsehoods or acting with reckless disregard for the truth. The FRL counts and building counts are from the Fall 2011 data. Teacher longevity information is from 2010, the latest available. As to benchmarks, you can choose whichever district you like. But when you examine the differences in things like outcomes and spending, you need to be very clear about the difference in population, infrastructure, and so on that may be driving those outcomes. My point is that your argument - that AAPS is unnecessarily spending too much - relies on the assumption that the districts are basically the same. While they are similar in many ways, they are also different in ways that help explain the differences in spending. I do not argue that AAPS is perfect; I do argue that the people I have met in AAPS administration are acting in good faith, even if I sometimes disagree with their approach. Each community must choose their own path.


Sat, May 12, 2012 : 12:12 p.m.

It worries me that people seem to be obsessed with pointing finger and then the "pointees" becoming "pointers" in their own defense. Dear people, understand that this is a time to pull together and find solutions, not blame. There is plenty of time to ascribe blame, and if it stands up, those people can be voted out of office eventually. So let's look for solutions. The website I cited in my other comments,, provides a look at a unique company, Dragonfly Solutions, that appears to be able to help struggling schools. Take a look at it -- up to a 20% reduction on energy usage through efficiency actions and a new source of revenue, environmental certificates, that actually can pad the coffers. I have to believe there are other opportunities out there as well. Who is running the show to look at these? Why is everything "cut, cut, cut", and opportunities to avoid at least some cuts are not even considered? If AAPS could save even 10% on its energy bill (vs "up to 20%"), how much is that worth? And energy certificates -- what are they worth? Can someone find out? If all we do is cut, our children and their futures are reral losers, and we have only ourselves to blame!


Sat, May 12, 2012 : 11:57 a.m.

Mr. Norton - You have in the past taken contracts from the school district here and elsewhere to help with district marketing and millage support. if you business no longer does that, then I apologize for the comment. As to your sources. I guess you and I are looking at different years, in the same database. I will again go back and look. As to not liking Plymouth-Canton as a benchmark - I will again ask, who do you want to benchmark against. If not Plymouth-Canton, then who? I suspect your answer will be "no one, AAPS is unique".

Steve Norton, MIPFS

Sat, May 12, 2012 : 5 a.m.

Hm, thought I had characters left. In any case, that last sentence should read: "And while I am an advocate, my colleagues and I take pride in trying to be as truthful as humanly possible and working hard to maintain our objectivity about facts."

Jack Panitch

Sat, May 12, 2012 : 3:17 a.m.

DonBee: Re: Plymouth-Canton -- FOIA this: possibly as a result of your commentary on, possibly not, I really don't know, the District under Dr. Roberts partnered up with a UofM B-School Professor and her staff of grad-school student researchers to look at Plymouth-Canton to determine whether it was an appropriate comparable for your intended use. I have it on reliable information that the results were not favorable to your methodology or conclusions. That may be one of the reasons the District doesn't listen. Re: Your accusations about the District's budget presentations. The District's method of financial presentation for the budget remains consistent year-to-year. And each year, you make a new set of sensational accusations that don't pan out, because you haven't bothered to go to the source and ask. Yesterday, you accused the District of making $12 million disappear. If anyone bothers to look, they will likely discover that the same theme repeats: the FID contains certain expenditures that aren't appropriate to include in any discussion of general operating funds. These expenditures will magically total the $12 million you accuse the District of hiding. The District uses an accurate measure for the issue at hand, and you point to some measure that includes items that would distort the picture. Then, you accuse the District of hiding stuff. This is an old pattern of behavior stemming from a doctrinal dispute and not even remotely arguably from any deception by the District. Now, about my fitness for service and what I do and don't care about. Don't try to bait me by putting words in my mouth. You have had enough experience with me to know that approach doesn't work. I actually think there is merit to some of your ideas, and I have said so upon occasion. But I would like to see a more responsible approach to "pitching" them.

Jack Panitch

Sat, May 12, 2012 : 12:27 p.m.

No. Don't stop. Keep posting the data. Keep asking the tough questions. You would disappoint a lot of folks if you didn't. Draw the tough conclusions, too, when you are sure you have all the data. Just be sure.


Sat, May 12, 2012 : 11:53 a.m.

Jack - If you take it as baiting, that is your perception. I apologize if that is the way you took it. As to consistency, yes Mr. Allen is consistent - he continually hides the largest administrative line and avoids talking about it. As to appropriate, well I guess you feel it is only appropriate to talk about lines in the budget the administration wants to cut. I think it is appropriate to show all the major lines and talk about what is happening with them. Building administration continues to climb (up over $2 million since 2003-2004) but then it gets hidden in the way the budget is presented. I don't want to see the budget cuts be dumped on the teachers and the classrooms, so yes, I constantly call out areas I think need a deeper look. But I guess that is the wrong thing to do, based on the feedback I get. I should just go away and stop posting any financial data.

Stephen Lange Ranzini

Sat, May 12, 2012 : 3:12 a.m.

@Steve Norton: Only units of government which are open, transparent and collaborative can be trusted. In my experience elected officials and government officials who aren't have something to hide. Sadly, the Ann Arbor Public Schools fail on this score. Their attitude towards FOIA requests is just symptomatic of their attitude. For example, the AAPS paid $766,800 extra to carry 200 ineligible dependents on its health care plan in 2010 and similar amounts in many prior years. How much of this money has been reimbursed? Have they even sought reimbursement? See: I've been asking publicly for months why Connected Mathematics is being used in the Middle Schools when the U.S. Department of Education indicates that the scientific literature indicates that this teaching program is detrimental to students ability to learn math, and the MEAP scores show the same thing. But no answer. When I was growing up in the 70s we tossed a corrupt Republican President out of office for his cover up and lack of honesty, integrity and transparency. When civic officials stop listening to the valid concerns and questions of citizens, they deserve the same!

Jack Panitch

Sat, May 12, 2012 : 9:11 a.m.

And here's the last part of the comment to Ruth: We need a better process, but we probably can't have one until the funding model changes. I remember sitting in my first budget forum with you under Todd Roberts' leadership, and nothing about the District's approach has changed since then, so I don't see why you are singling out Pat Green in her first year of leadership. But back to the real need for timely, relevant information: as a practical matter, all we have to do is ask the right questions. The people making the final decisions (our elected representatives) are watching and listening. If we make a request for necessary, relevant information, they'll want it too.

Jack Panitch

Sat, May 12, 2012 : 9:05 a.m.

That's a comment I left for Ruth on another thread, but it applies equally here.

Jack Panitch

Sat, May 12, 2012 : 9 a.m.

I watched the give and take between Trustees Lightfoot and Baskett and Dr. Green, and I read your commentary here, and I think of Franz Kafka, and it all raises the image of a Mexican standoff prompted by sheer confusion. Here's the Michigan Legislature's stated purpose for enactment of the FOIA: "It is the public policy of this state that all persons . . . are entitled to full and complete information regarding the affairs of government and the official acts of those who represent them as public officials and public employees, consistent with this act. The people shall be informed so that they may fully participate in the democratic process." So, the FOIA, with all of its procedural safeguards is the Michigan legislature's attempt to get the people all the information to which they are entitled under the law to participate meaningfully in the democratic process. And when Pat Green responded to Simone Lightfoot's question, she was responding exactly the way an agency head is supposed to respond to that type of request. And then the fun begins. What blurs the lines for us, the public, is that the District seeks public input into the proposed budget but cannot anticipate the full spectrum of information the public needs to engage. It has to be a dialog, but it's more of a monolog with facilitators doing their best to shape the communication in a positive way. The model hasn't changed for four years, despite the fact that every member of the public who participates comes away feeling dissatisfied. The District can't do any meaningful budget planning until the information coming from the State gels into something better-formed than tea leaves, and by the time it all filters down to us, there isn't enough time to do much more than put on a last-minute show of involving us. We don't get full data, partly because the people presenting the plan aren't mind-readers. We don't know what fell on the cutting room floor and why. No real dialog ever develops.

Stephen Lange Ranzini

Sat, May 12, 2012 : 5:37 a.m.

@Jack Panitch: Perhaps when the Sunshine Review and the Mackinac Center hear about the following items they will revise their opinion: "Later in the meeting, Trustee Simon Lightfoot asked Superintendent Patricia Green about the process community members should employ to obtain information such as how much busing to AAO costs. Green said parents should use the Freedom of Information Act for these requests." "My FOIA request was partially denied because 'no witness statements exist in written format'. Apparently they only take verbal witness statements as to not leave a paper trail." "Then when you do FOIA, the administration uses privacy as a reason to deny the request." "After teaching in this district for 34 years and being so proud to call it home, I am very worried that we are rapidly disintegrating. We've been through ups and downs before, but the poor leadership and lack of communication are accelerating our demise. Help!!!" Those items above are just quotes from yesterday's story and some of the comments to it: We could also discuss the 2am raises after earlier in the board meeting the agenda item was discussed as being postponed and off the agenda, and hiring of key people without the board's approval or sanction, contrary to written board policy. Lastly, the board President's comment in a recent public budget meeting that she was unaware of a $5 million discretionary fund that exists in the budget and has apparently existing for some time.

Jack Panitch

Sat, May 12, 2012 : 3:31 a.m.

Mr. Lange Ranzini: The Mackinac Center and the Sunshine Review appear to disagree with your conclusions about the District's transparency. Would you mind taking a moment to explain the disconnect? Thank you.

Steve Norton, MIPFS

Fri, May 11, 2012 : 11:47 p.m.

All right, I'll bite on the Plymouth-Canton comparisons. Asked and answered previously. First off, demographics are not very similar - take a close look. Secondly, academic outcomes - at least by the measure of standardized tests - are not as similar as they appear - look at the breakdown of proficient and highly proficient on the MEAPs. Thirdly, they have fewer buildings than AAPS because their schools are newer and larger - especially at the elementary level. Fewer buildings = fewer principals and office staff. Fourth, all their high schools share a campus, which would offer other efficiencies. Fifth, since they are a large district that grew rapidly in the last decade or so, their teachers are not as far up the pay scale, on average, as in AAPS. If you look at the step tables, they are very similar. Finally, I have some friends and colleagues who work in or live in the PCCS district, and they have been going through some very difficult times themselves recently. I'm not sure I'd want their problems. DonBee, Steven Ranzini and others commenting here start from the presumption that government cannot be trusted and that even the smallest inconsistencies (different reporting requirements for different state and federal agencies, perhaps?) are a sign of mismanagement at best, and more likely malfeasance. All I can say is, it's a free country. You're entitled to your opinion. But I caution other readers to hesitate before accepting the innuendo as fact. And if you, Mr. Ranzini or DonBee, want responses to your questions, I suggest that you come and ask them in public. My impression is that most district officials (and staff) stopped reading the comments here long ago because all it gives is ulcers. I'm inclined to agree.


Sat, May 12, 2012 : 12:41 a.m.

Mr. Norton - Sorry, I looked today. The free/reduced price lunch percentages are very close. The building counts are within 2. I double checked again. There is no reason that Skyline could not have been built on the Pioneer Campus, the land exists. The average tenure to the best of my ability to determine for teachers is close. Since AAPS will not release that information I have to run on best guesses. Mr. Norton, unless you can provide actual links to information, I will stick to what I can find on the State databases on MI.GOV. As to coming to meetings, if the economy were better, and I had an in town job, I would attend. I might even run for school board. And yes, based on broken promises and the way community input was run on things like Skyline, I do distrust this Board and the Administration it supports. Since your business revolves around schools, I also worry about your objectiveness.

Stephen Lange Ranzini

Fri, May 11, 2012 : 10:46 p.m.

@DonBee raises some additional very good points above how Plymouth-Canton Public Schools spend much less than Ann Arbor despite having 2,000 more students. It has comparable demographics, and achieves similar academic outcomes among its students. I would like to hear a response from Dr. Green, Mr. Allen and the AAPS Trustees to his comments. This response should include a report and analysis on what activity based cost benchmarking is done by the AAPS versus comparable school systems in the region.


Fri, May 11, 2012 : 11:22 p.m.

Good luck getting that (and i wish i were joking).


Fri, May 11, 2012 : 10:16 p.m.

DonBee makes a comment about spending general fund money on energy efficiency as it returns dividends each year in lower eenergy bills. There is a new energy efficiency group called Dragonfly Solutions that has an amazing energy efficiency program for K-12 schools. It even includes a possibility to generate new funds from certificates based on energy savings and renewable energy. I have yet to see this potential opportunity discussed anywhere. Please see their website,, and then ask yourself, "Why doesn't someone in the school administration take a look at this?" Can this be an opportunity to reduce some of the needed cuts and save some of the teachers and programs our students in Ann Arbor have traditionally enjoyed?


Fri, May 11, 2012 : 9:59 p.m.

Jack reminded me with his link that I once compared Plymouth-Canton's spending with Ann Arbor's. For those of you who are not aware, Plymouth-Canton has approximately 2000 more students than Ann Arbor. Here from the latest filing that AAPS and PCS are the differences in spending (total dollars). If the number is positive, Ann Arbor spends more. If the number is negative, Plymouth-Canton spends more. The ACT test scores between the districts and the free/reduced lunch percentages are very close between the two districts. Category Difference K-12 instruction 3,281,750.98 Pre-school 942,886.02 Summer School 52,425.25 Special education 3,051,753.93 Compensatory ed 1,651,759.45 Career tech 1,195,817.69 Adult education -1,398,502.75 Student services 12,948,359.90 Instructional staff support 152,674.20 School administration 3,724,066.01 General administration 484,406.19 Business office -1,414,250.89 Operations and maintenance 2,140,527.33 transportation -1,353,290.53 Other support 5,046,077.45 Community services -3,393,603.53 Total Expenditures 27,112,856.70 I note that Plymouth-Canton spends less overall with 2,000 more students - and more on transportation, adult education, and community services. They also spend more on their business office. Ann Arbor spends more money overall including on General and Building administration. The numbers speak for themselves. If I were a board member, I would want to know why we spend more on administration and other non-teaching areas than a district with 2,000 more students and roughly the same demographics. I hope you want those answers too.

Jack Panitch

Fri, May 11, 2012 : 8:01 p.m.

Deja vu all over again.


Fri, May 11, 2012 : 9:34 p.m.

Yes, Jack it is, and nothing I said then has been acted on. No school official has ever addressed the concerns I raised then or now. The district is still top heavy. Too many dollars going to administration and not enough focused on the classroom. If the administration has their way, up to 64 more teachers will be fired and no administrator will lose their job. But, you and others don't seem to care about that kind of issue. When you tried to join the school board as a member (and I appreciate that you did), I did not hear you taking on where changes needed to happen. So I have to assume you would have joined the majority in backing the administration's plan to cut teachers. Please, please tell me I am wrong.


Fri, May 11, 2012 : 2:28 p.m.

I can't make it to the meeting. So read my post.....clean out Balais. Not the school district.


Fri, May 11, 2012 : 6:58 p.m.

It is also time (past time!!) to have school elections at the same time as the other City/County Elections. Thousands of dollars would be saved if we only had one "local" election a year. One precinct during this past weeks election had a total of 5 voters.. yet they had to pay a minimun of 4 or 5 Election Inspectors. What a waste of our/your money!!


Fri, May 11, 2012 : 12:12 p.m.

CONTINUED FROM ABOVE Having come from a district out of state that was also top rated, there was also a call there for more transparency, and it fell on deaf ears. They also had 2AM votes, they also had question and not-answer periods where the public could comment and the board just smiled. At one point we staged a silent protest with signs that stated our issue and that the press then put on the front page of the newspaper, which finally got some change. The Ann Arbor School Board needs to show the public that they are in control, not the Administration, and that the public's concerns matter, are being responded to, and that responses to questions ALWAYS occur. File a FOIA request is NOT the same as "we'd be happy to give you the Transportation Budget".


Fri, May 11, 2012 : 6:52 p.m.

I second this!! Clean out the fat in the upper echelons!! Merge some of the ..10 or 11 districts in this County and save all those expensive salaries!!


Fri, May 11, 2012 : 12:09 p.m.

I've not studied the budget nor compared year over year. However, when the head of the School Board expresses surprise at learning of a $5 million account, and then does not address that fact in further meetings explaining exactly what the account is for, who approves the expenditures, etc, that raises eyebrows. Further, when the public continues to have concerns that the cost of Administration in the district is too high, and the School Board continues to not address it, that raises concerns. Additionally, when the School District schedules a tax increase to be voted on during an election that is guaranteed to be the lowest possible voter turnout, and does little to notify those without children in the district, that raises concerns. Steve Norton - we've only been in the district for 5 years. We know an employee in the district, and have watched and learned over the past five years. Here's what we've learned: - The district seems to have loose controls over parts of the budget. - The district seems to have little / no controls over hiring and salary increases by the Superintendent. - The School Board seems to be providing an inadequate level of supervision of the district's finances, allowing district employees to present limited information in forms designed to make comparision to past periods difficult. - Monies seem to be reallocated to areas without necessary approvals taking place AND being documented. - No one from the district seems to have a single repudiation of Don Bee's points brought up time and time again. - There is considerable bloat and waste in the district, mainly in Administration. Yet nothing is done to reduce that bloat and waste, despite it being brought up time, and time again. I know of a direct contact with the principal of one of the high schools, and to Mr. Allen, of cost waste issue that wasn't even replied to. CONTINUED BELOW

Stephen Lange Ranzini

Fri, May 11, 2012 : 10:51 a.m.

@DonBee raises some very good points above and I would like to hear a response from both Mr. Allen and the AAPS Trustees to his comments.

Steve Norton, MIPFS

Thu, May 10, 2012 : 11:03 p.m.

DonBee - OK, well, I'm not a board member and I don't even play one on TV. But it seems to me that you are comparing the state filing, which is preliminary data for the 2010-11 fiscal year, with the numbers from the presentation, which is from the 2011-12 fiscal year. Seems to me we had to make some big cuts in the budget last year....


Fri, May 11, 2012 : 10:33 a.m.

Oh, you know me Mr. Norton, you just don't know it. I know Mr. Allen and a number of other professional administrators in the district and I don't give them the benefit of the doubt. The powerpoint does not follow the MDE format either. The bottom line, they are (and you do to) saying that the administration numbers are not out of whack. They are. If you choose to use the MDE 1014 numbers then you are using much less information than is available AND turning a blind eye to the information that exists. FID was created to provide transparency. I would suggest that any useful discussion start with the FID numbers, since there a deeper breakdown of the information available AND more history available than the MDE 1014 roll ups.

Steve Norton, MIPFS

Fri, May 11, 2012 : 1:32 a.m.

I haven't had a chance to examine the FID filing in full (takes a while for OpenOffice to load it), but I strongly suspect the definitions of the categories are different. For instance, in the MDE bulletin 1014, building administration is not broken out from instruction - just as in the district's powerpoint. There may also be different treatment of special education expenses which were reimbursed, and so on. It's a puzzle, but not, I submit, cause for paranoia. I know and have spent a good bit of time with the folks who do the districts finances, and unlike you I simply see no evidence that they are manipulating numbers for their own political or material gain. You are willing to believe the worst of them (and me, for that matter). Well, I know them, but I don't know you. Forgive me if I give your claims less weight.


Fri, May 11, 2012 : 12:33 a.m.

Like $12 million in building administration? Uh huh! I note that Special Education is completely missing from the second filing and with it the numbers would be higher as in 2011-2012. The numbers don't make sense at all Mr. Norton - there is no tracking from year to year, even with the cuts that were announced. I never saw a notice or even a comment that all the building principals and the office staff had been laid off. Big chucks of the overhead are buried, I suspect to make the overhead look leaner than it is. I suspect that is the intent of the April 25 powerpoint to get people to look away from administrative and overhead costs, and accept the only choice is to LAY OFF TEACHERS. I guess you go along with the cuts the administration is proposing and you want to lay all the blame on Lansing too.


Thu, May 10, 2012 : 9:22 p.m.

April 25 presentation: Basic & Added Instructional Needs $104,215,132 Adult Education 69,168 Student Support Services 43,282,570 Executive Administration 1,823,042 Central Administration 5,544,657 Operations & Maintenance 19,247,862 Business Services 2,209,507 Transportation 5,603,495 • Community Services 601,238 • Outgoing Transfers 3,218,329 Total $185,815,000 The difference between the two documents is HUGE. I would love for the Board of Education to explain the difference between the legal document filed with the state and the presentation at the board meeting. I know several board members read this blog, explain away board members!


Thu, May 10, 2012 : 9:17 p.m.

Latest AAPS FID filing (A state mandated legal document) K-12 instruction 85,163,435.99 Pre-school 1,106,086.02 Summer School 363,024.62 Total basic instruction 86,632,546.63 Special education 16,630,683.79 Compensatory ed 4,447,821.64 Career tech 1,513,646.97 total added needs 22,592,152.40 Adult education 212,128.78 Total instruction 109,436,827.81 Student services 22,910,680.09 Instructional staff support 9,131,017.80 School administration 12,797,029.00 Total instructional support 44,838,726.89 General administration 1,976,390.33 Business office 2,090,271.27 Operations and maintenance 19,042,403.24 transportation 7,409,134.94 Other support 9,254,470.89 Non-instructional support total 39,772,670.67 Community services 851,594.88 facilities acquistion 0 Total Expenditures 194,899,820.25 I apologize for the format


Thu, May 10, 2012 : 6:03 p.m.

It would be very helpful if could post the proposed budget online. This would allow citizens to review the document and be able to make informed suggestions instead of off-the-cuff comments at the meetings.


Thu, May 10, 2012 : 8:41 p.m.

Ms. Arndt - Thank you. The numbers filed with the state in the FID database (2011 preliminary) are SO different from what is in this presentation that it is not funny. The administration numbers filed with the state exceed $14 million dollars for 2011. The presentation shows more like $5 million. I wish would extract from the state filing and post it to this article. I find that it is interesting that a state filing would be SO DIFFERENT from what is presented at a board meeting. Not a single number in Mr. Allen's presentation comes close to lining up with what they filed with the State of Michigan.

Danielle Arndt

Thu, May 10, 2012 : 7:22 p.m.

grye, thank you for the suggestion. A PDF of the budget presentation given by Deputy Superintendent Robert Allen on April 25 has been added to this story.


Thu, May 10, 2012 : 1:15 p.m.

Until the board and Lansing take on the tough subject of the unsustainability of the agreements that have been signed with the teachers unions over the years we will be having these types of meeetings and forums until the school system is finally broke and an emergency manager is assigned to make the tough decisions. I can understand that fact that people don't want to take this on and have their families marched upon and threatened, their names and reputations smeared, and their lives turned into living hell by organized labor. But until someone like that or a group like that comes along this will be the story line until it all comes crashing down or you sign your paycheck over which will quite things down until that is spent. The taxpayers all know how to live within their budget but our government and many others around the world do not.


Sat, May 12, 2012 : 8:19 p.m.

Yes, the automakers had to do that. But they are a business and have nowhere near the impact on ourt future and that of our children. When cars become outdated due to new technology, whatever and whenever that might be, the automakers will be gone -- but our teachers will still be here. It all comes down to our priorities as a society. Everyone talks about how we are falling behind the rest of the world. Cutting our teachers and our programs will only hasten that slide. Education will keep us competitive long-term; cuts to salaries and benefits may have short-term positive effects, but their longer-term effects can be devastating. By the way, it was product that allowed Ford to survive and outright prosper.. And it was lack of product that put GM and Chrysler in the tank as much as anything. It was not the union and union benefits that drove them downhill by themselves, nor was it cutting them that in and of itself saved GM and Chrysler. Bad management more than anything was the real culprit -- sound familiar?


Sat, May 12, 2012 : 5:11 p.m.

The automakers did the same thing, went broke, then renegotiated their contracts with the union to make themselves sustainble. We're in a global economy and that had to happen. As far as teachers go, I think a good one is worht $100,000 per year but if you can't afford that amount and most districts can't then the market demands that you revise the promises made in order to save the institution. We don't live in the same world we used to, many have seen there incomes cut in half. Teachers have not really had to face that and are paid extremely well by anones' standards for 8 months of work if you include all their paid time off.


Sat, May 12, 2012 : 12:28 p.m.

Once again teachers are to blame for our problems in schools. Isn't it amazing how we have managed to employ bad teachers everywhere -- who made these hiring decisions? If they cannot hire better teachers, fire those people, too. Since teachers seem to be the problem everywhere, who is to blame? Let's get real. Our teachers and their contracts are nothing more than a reflection of our society. If they have unsustainable contracts, it is because we pushed them in that direction, and we agreed to those contracts. So since we do not like them, does that mean we can just tear them up and tell the teachers to go to h... Teachers are the future of our children and our country. You get what you pay for. You want baby sitters -- keep going the direction you are going, because that is what you will get. Do you want a future? Then let's pay our teachers to be just that, teachers. And let's keep programs in place that teach our children to think, not just memorize information so we can look good on standardized tests. How can you accept that football players, actors/actresses, CEOs can get the money they get, and yet their impact on society is so minimal when compared to that of our teachers? All great empires eventually fail, and it is because they fail to provide for their own future. Live for today, and the US Empire will eventually go the same way. The lessons of history will never be taught if we do not have relevant teachers, and those lessons are the key to our future. Just look at the past -- examples abound. What future do you want -- start asking yourself. Baby sitters or teachers -- I want teachers, I want a future for my children and grandchildren.


Thu, May 10, 2012 : 12:32 p.m.

One question: I have not attended a "Board Committee of the Whole meeting" before. Is it true that the public is welcome? Will there be any opportunities for public commentary? Thank you.


Thu, May 10, 2012 : 1:40 p.m.

Yes, these are open to the public and do have public commentary opportunites as well. They are usually on Wednesdays as well, but in idfferent locations so you have to check the AAPS BOE webpage for the calendar and locations.


Thu, May 10, 2012 : 12:13 p.m.

Let's talk about a different agenda for cuts: 1) $5 million dollar discretionary fund (including PEG and the Southfield consulting crew) 2) $3 million dollar transfer from the general fund to the athletic fund 3) Spending the sinking fund on energy efficiency for the next couple of years (beyond any needed repairs) - since that returns dividends each year in reduced energy bills 4) Consolidation of purchasing at the county level for all schools 5) Take 25% out of the $13 million (+) general and building administration 6) Move busing to a single run past each house - per the unreleased busing study 7) Raise rents to market levels for all the leases on district buildings (e.g. Dixboro) -OR- sell the property 8) Stop providing free maintenance to any building that is leased out with district employees 9) Close and sell the pre-school (it was supposed to break even and never has) - there are great providers of pre-school education in the district who could run the facility well 10) Move very small classes to Michigan Virtual High School - that would both provide more class offerings and reduce the number of very small classes. For instance put 3 different small math classes in one room on computers to Michigan Virtual with 1 teacher to help if needed. With the exception of the last item, none of these impact the classroom. The last item may even be positive, because of the wider array of offerings that are possible. The work that needs to go with Lansing is 3 fold: 1) reform the retirement and health care programs - they need to be sustainable 2) change the MEAP to the Iowa Basic Skills tests, reducing the cost and providing a better test 3) increasing the overall funding to all schools in the state in a fair and honest way


Fri, May 11, 2012 : 10:13 p.m.

DonBee, your suggestion on point #3 to spend the money on energy efficiency is a great suggestion. Go to the website,, to read about a company, Dragonfly Solutions, that is offering a unique energy efficiency program for K-12 schools. Has this been considered by the AA school administration; I have seen no mention of anything like this? A school district can even generate new funds by selling certificates based on their energy savings, and isn't what AA needs is to look at any and all sources of funds? Maybe it can offset some of the cuts and save a few jobs or programs.


Thu, May 10, 2012 : 8:16 p.m.

commoncents - If my job ever lets me be in town for a meeting, I will go. But I have to feed my family first.


Thu, May 10, 2012 : 4:55 p.m.

Don: Will you go to one of the meetings ?


Thu, May 10, 2012 : 12:23 p.m.

In addition, let's look at the cost of Professional Development. AAPS has highly educated staff - let teachers and administration within the buildings conduct professional development. In the District where I teach we have only one county wide inservice and all our other professional development is run by building administration and teachers with expertise in the subject matter. That ought to save the DIstrict about $200,000 (plus).


Thu, May 10, 2012 : 11:42 a.m.

I understand what the Clemente students mean when they say Huron and Pioneer are dropout factories. For many students, our big high schools work quite well, but for others the size, the numbers, the chaos at class change time are overwhelming. I cannot support the closing or disruption of schools like Clemente and Community that give these students a predictable and stable environment. Why does it seem we are always cutting services and facilities for the most vulnerable of our students. They are the ones who need continuity, extra help, less distraction, etc. I do not understand the priorities of the administration and board if this is where they decide to start their cuts. Clemente seems to be working! If it ain't broke, don't fix it!

Tony Livingston

Fri, May 11, 2012 : 1:52 a.m.

So take all of the cuts at Pioneer, Huron, and Skyline? There are many at risk kids in AAPS high schools and most of them are at these 3 big schools. Why make them worse? Everyone needs to tighten the belt and share the misery.


Thu, May 10, 2012 : 1:54 p.m.

I agree although "vulnerable" is not how i would necessarily characterize all the Community students.

Kathy Sabol

Thu, May 10, 2012 : 11:52 a.m.

EXACTLY! The success stories coming out of Roberto are proof. I think it was great for past students who are leading successful, productive lives to come share their stories at the meeting, if I recall correctly the principal of Pattengill is just one of those.


Thu, May 10, 2012 : 11:16 a.m.

People who have thoughtful comments and suggestions? Please attend these forums. People who just whine about everything the schools do? Please continue to use the comments section.


Thu, May 10, 2012 : 10:14 p.m.

pot meet kettle!


Thu, May 10, 2012 : 1:53 p.m.

Or just use the comment section as a way to jab other commenters. Either way...