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Posted on Wed, Dec 9, 2009 : 10:08 p.m.

Ann Arbor school board weighing move to November election cycle

By David Jesse

The Ann Arbor school board will vote next week on a plan that would move its elections to November each year.

At the end of a study session tonight on the issue, school board President Deb Mexicotte said she would make the formal recommendation to the board next Wednesday.


Ann Arbor school board President Deb Mexicotte

Three school board members - Mexicotte, Glenn Nelson and Irene Patalan - attended the single-issue study session.

District administrators asked the board to look at moving the election date to cut money from the district’s budget, which is facing an $8.5 million hole this year and up to a $20 million hole total in the next two years.

“Under the circumstances, the potential cost savings are significant,” Superintendent Todd Roberts said, especially when considering the cost of the election against teaching or other staff jobs.

The district currently holds elections in May and pays about $90,000 for each election. Switching to annual November elections would save the district $164,500 every two years.

Having annual November elections isn’t the only election change the district is considering.

If the board switched to only having elections in odd-year Novembers, it could get about $155,500 in savings every two years.

The additional savings by having annual elections results from piggybacking on other elections, including city, state and national ones. Under the plans, other municipalities would have to pay the bulk of the cost of the election.

Board members spent about a 90 minutes discussing the various scenarios, which could also call for extensions of board terms.

Board members discussed whether being on the ballot in even years during national elections would cause the school vote to be buried on the ballot, resulting in fewer votes, and whether school issues would get lost in conversations about other races on the ballot.

A public hearing on the change will be held Wednesday.

Also in attendance at the meeting were three candidates hoping to be appointed to the board on Wednesday to fill the seat vacated by Helen Gates-Bryant. Those were Jack Panitch, Margy Long and Andy Thomas.

David Jesse covers K-12 education for He can be reached at or at 734-623-2534.


Lisa Starrfield

Fri, Dec 11, 2009 : 1:31 p.m.

Toomuchtodo, We don't like merit pay for many reasons. 1. We know it will most likely disappear in just a few years. Merit pay was a promise in NC that is gone now. 2. It will be used as a justification to cut pay or avoid increases. "Oh, the good teachers will get better pay" but when #1 comes true, our pay is lower than it was. 3. There is no way to do it reasonably. No state wide test is given for music and art at the middle school or elementary level. Science ans social studies tests are not offered yearly.. who gets the blame if kids do poorly then and who gets the pay? What about other electives which are not tested? What about the early grades where there is no standardized test? It's a bad idea whose sole purpose is to cut pay.


Thu, Dec 10, 2009 : 7:49 p.m.

Moving the elections is a great idea, and should have probably been done last year, or even the year before. Regarding teacher merit pay (a sub-topic here for some reason), I'm all for it. Teachers will find a million reasons to dislike it, but the fact is, their job is to "teach". If their teaching skills have negligible impact (ie., kids in their class don't learn) then there is a problem. The only way to determine whether teachers are fulfilling their job responsibilities is to actually find out if their students learned anything, ie., a test. Teachers themselves rely on testing their students to determine their grades. If standardized testing was such an unfair type of assessment, then it wouldn't be so popular. Of course, merit pay must be implemented carefully. But it is one of the few reforms that has been proven to improve student outcomes. See


Thu, Dec 10, 2009 : 7:45 p.m.

I am all in favor of this saving of tax payer money. I am in favor of the money being spent in the classroom and not on extra elections. Well done.


Thu, Dec 10, 2009 : 7:40 p.m.

What I don't understand is how anyone could think that holding school elections in November, when typically 3-5 times more voters show up at the polls than in May or August would result in fewer votes on the school ballot issues such as election of school boards or millage questions. I vote in almost every election, and in my precinct, the school elections usually see fewer than 150 voters and often fewer than 100, while even the non-presidential elections in November attract 300+ and November of 2008 attracted over 800. From chatting with the election workers, the same pattern is typical of the other precincts at my polling place. If our school boards really want wider community participation in school issue elections, they should save the money and hold their elections in November, when the most voters come out. It's the right thing to do, even though it will mean the school districts will have to communicate the issues to the whole community, not just school district employees and parents.


Thu, Dec 10, 2009 : 7:11 p.m.

I would not support moving elections to November because the school board candidates get pushed to the bottom of the ballot. Combine the city election with the school election and hold both in May. We had a very bi partisan competitive city election when they were held in April. I think a spring time school/city/library board/ election would be good for our community.

Lynn Lumbard

Thu, Dec 10, 2009 : 6:02 p.m.

What I find interesting, is that this article is about changing the school election cycle. Except for Tom Bower, most the other posts have used this forum to berate (anonymously) school teachers. Let's stick to the topic

Lisa Starrfield

Thu, Dec 10, 2009 : 6:01 p.m.

Mr. Olson, There is a process for evaluation and there is a process for dealing with bad teachers. Bad, tenured teachers can be and are removed if the administration follows the proceduret. Believe me. if someone doesn't belong in the classroom, we don't want them there either.

The Grinch

Thu, Dec 10, 2009 : 4:19 p.m.

One-third of all new teachers leave after three years. One half of all new teachers leave after five. Guess that's because they are overpaid and their jobs are too easy.


Thu, Dec 10, 2009 : 3:49 p.m.

Right on, Lisa Starfield. Many of us left 20-30 years ago. I have met so many good teachers that have left Michigan. It is the hatred of the profession by so many Michganders that is bringing down the system. It's is and has been for decades, jealousy! "If I can't have it, neither will you"! The educational system is dying a slow death, although it seems to be rapidly accelerating.

Jimmy Olsen

Thu, Dec 10, 2009 : 1:05 p.m.

@Lisa Starrfield "good teachers do make a difference. You get what you pay for." So tell me how do we know what we are paying for? What tells me what a good teacher is? Parents at the bus stop? No, my students inter-action with the teacher - did they learn something. Many of our teachers are failing - protected by tenure. There has to me a method to review teachers - they all act great when the evaluators are in the room - but all of us have heard stories when things go wrong. I'll gladly pay them, but throwing good money after bad isn't the way.

Tom Bower

Thu, Dec 10, 2009 : 12:18 p.m.

It's about time --- a savings of more than $70,000 per election cycle is not chump change. All districts in Washtenaw County should have done this by now. Saline is going to the November election. Every dollar saved counts.

The Grinch

Thu, Dec 10, 2009 : 11:31 a.m.

Ypsitucky, How to measure performance? A study conducted by the Bush Administration (yes, the Bush Administration) found that when controlled for socio-economic factors, charter school students actually did no better or slightly worse than public school students on standardized tests. See: So it seems to be a fair conclusion that what goes on in the classroom is far less important to student success than what goes on the other 18 hours per day that the student is somewhere else (not to mention those days and weeks where the student is not in school at all). This is not to say that teachers should not be held accountable--they should be. But to suggest, as many do, that teachers' careers (and therefore their families' welfare) should depend solely on the performance of students whose lives outside of the classroom they have no control over, is worse than ludicrous. It is unfair.

Lisa Starrfield

Thu, Dec 10, 2009 : 10:55 a.m.

Ypsituckey, No, I will not get rid of my union. My union does a lot of good work despite your belief otherwise. When you talk about paying for performance, it makes me feel like you don't know much about education. First of all, new teachers are evaluated by observation multiple times a year for their first four years. Tenured teachers are evaluated on a rotating basis by observation and other means. I am assuming that when you say performance, you mean test scores. That's awfully complicated. How do you evaluate Science teachers when Science is only tested 3 times? Who gets the credit and who gets the blame? How do you evaluate Music teachers or special ed teachers? How do you compare teachers who have very different groups of studnets? Or how do you account for the bizarre fact that every class has a personality? This years 5th graders may be young, but last years were rough and the current 4th graders are kinda weak (just an example, not a description of a real group). How do you account for things forced by administration? Class sizes way too large, or a cluster of highly impacted students. Do you pay the math teacher than the music teacher? Do you pay science more than social studies? Too many tangles. This pay for performance is simply designed to lower our pay and promise bonuses or what have you that will too eventually disappear. North Carolina promised bonuses for performance on end of year tests. If your school met a certain goal, you got a bonus. Those are gone. We aren't that stupid. Pay for performance is just another attempt to cut wages and we won't fall for it.


Thu, Dec 10, 2009 : 8:48 a.m.

Lisa Starrfield, then get rid of your union and be paid for performance. Good teachers are not replaceable-everyone agrees and many teachers in this country make a lot less than you do and are just a great. We, citizens of Michigan cannot afford to pay you the same rate any more. Our state is falling apart. There are many teachers waiting in the wings for jobs in A2.


Thu, Dec 10, 2009 : 8:07 a.m.

Let me raise one question to the board. Would changing the voting date for new school board members really make that much of a difference in the education of our children? I've always thought it makes sense administratively to change the date to coincide with other local elections. You probably wlll get a better turnout not to mention the cost savings. However, do you really have to make such a big deal out of it given the fact that the district is faced with so many other critical issues?

Lisa Starrfield

Thu, Dec 10, 2009 : 7:02 a.m.

Ypsituckey, Fight for the kids, that's right. Fight for them to have crappy teachers because when teachers lose their benefits, their decent pay, they won't all be staying. In 10 years, when the best new teachers have left the city and maybe the state, leaving Ann Arbor with the less desirable to choose from, think back to this day. Despite the common belief here that teachers are replaceable, overpriced commodities, good teachers do make a difference. You get what you pay for.


Thu, Dec 10, 2009 : 12:29 a.m.

Sharpening every pencil all the way down to the end will not do it! Open-up and re-negotiate a contract that we can afford. The BOE made a mistake and now must have the courage to stand up to the MEA. Be brave School Board, be brave. Fight for the kids for once. Live within your means. Finance 101. Are there any business people on the board? I am sure that most companies do not set the pay for their employees and hope revenue will meet it or cut their product or service to make payroll. Expense cannot exceed revenue--that will land you in state receivership!