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Posted on Wed, Apr 21, 2010 : 8:15 p.m.

Ann Arbor school board votes to issue 191 layoff notices to teachers

By David Jesse


Ann Arbor Superintendent Todd Roberts listens during Wednesday night's school board meeting.

Melanie Maxwell |

Michael Hagen spent several months last summer hoping his interview with the Ann Arbor school district would lead to a job.

He said he was excited when he was hired as a teacher in the district where he attended elementary, middle and high school.

But that excitement has now turned to fear that he’ll be unemployed in the fall.

Hagan , 29, is among 191 teachers who are to receive layoff notices Thursday morning informing them they’re out of a job at the end of the school year. He’s hopeful several factors will line up to allow him to return to teaching in the fall.

“I haven’t gotten a clear answer,” Hagan, a kindergarten teacher at Bryant Elementary School, said after school Wednesday. “But I don’t think they have a clear answer. It’s going to be a miserable summer.”

The Ann Arbor school board voted Wednesday night to issue the 191 layoff notices. That represents 16 percent of the district’s teaching force.


Teachers union president Brit Satchwell listens during the meeting.

Melanie Maxwell |

“Even if there are no layoffs, the turmoil, the stress this does to our community is unacceptable,” said school board Trustee Christine Stead.

No school officials - including Superintendent Todd Roberts, teachers union President Brit Satchwell and school board President Deb Mexicotte - can say how many teachers will be let go and how many who got layoff notices will be rehired. Not all 191 will lose their jobs.

As it stands right now the number of teacher positions eliminated could range from 50 to 90, depending on teacher contract negotiations. Retirements also could offset some or all of the positions eliminated.

Officials are not even sure what the district’s shortfall will be next year since the state sets the per-pupil funding. Like all districts across the state, Ann Arbor relies on that funding for the bulk of its revenue.

Roberts and his staff have prepared a worst-case budget scenario that shows the district about $20 million short.

To counter that, administrators unveiled a series of cuts last month that includes eliminating about 50 teaching positions. Those cuts result in about $16 million in savings.

Roberts wants concessions from the district’s union - most notably the 1,200-member teachers union - to help fill that $4 million hole.

Satchwell said he thinks the union and the district has a “very good chance” to solve the financial problems at the bargaining table.

Without concessions, Roberts is warning another 30 to 40 teaching positions will be eliminated. That could push the number of teaching positions axed to 90.

“It’s something as a superintendent I don’t relish sitting here tonight making this recommendation,” Roberts, who called the budget cuts the toughest decisions of his 21-year education career. “It’s what I have to do.

“I’m extremely disappointed where we are in the state and the inaction in Lansing.”

He pointed out that across the state, about 3,000 pink slips have been issued to teachers and other school staff members.

“From where I sit, that’s not acceptable.”

A number of other factors will influence the number of actual layoffs by the fall.

Some teachers will retire - perhaps more than 50, officials said - significantly reducing the number who would actually be out of a job. If the union gives concessions, the number could drop as well. And if the state doesn’t cut the per-pupil funding as much as projected, the number drops.

That uncertainly has parents and students across the district upset and frustrated.

“There’s just no answers, no way of knowing who’s going to be teaching my son next year,” said Lori Cole, who has four children in the district at various levels.

Adding to the confusion is the process by which teachers would be let go or rehired. Seniority matters. So does what grade and what subject a teacher can legally teach.

All the teachers on the list was called into their principals’ offices last week and told they were on the list. At the end of the week, Roberts sent a letter to the affected teachers, and earlier this week, district spokeswoman Liz Margolis sent an e-mail to parents.

As they wait for answers, parents and students have begun advocating on behalf of their favorite teachers.

Facebook groups have been organized. Letters have been written. And board members have been called.

“I don’t see why the union isn’t willing to make more concessions,” said parent Tim Eric, who has two students in the district. “We’re going to lose all our young, exciting teachers. That’s not right. We need these teachers here. This is really going to hurt the district.”

School board Trustee Glenn Nelson pointed out that if all 90 positions were eliminated, class size in grades K-5 would go up 8 percent; class size in middle school would go up 15 percent and class size would increase 18 percent.

Both Roberts and Satchwell have said they’re hopeful no teachers will end up losing their jobs, but they can’t make any guarantees.

“I have spoken with many of you these last two weeks by phone and e-mail,” Satchwell said in an e-mail Wednesday to those getting the notices. “I recognize that many of you have spouses who are unemployed. I’ve heard your young children in the background over the phone. I know that some of you are single parents.

“I know that in every case you are worried, losing sleep, are feeling depressed and may have more cynicism about AAPS and even (the teachers union) than you have hope today. I want to assure you that it is my goal and the common goal of our bargaining team and AAPS to have each of you recalled before this year is out.”

Still, actually getting the notice is going to hurt, Hagen said.

“It’s going to be really tough. It’s going to be crushing. I’ve worked so hard to get here. This is my goal - to be a teacher in Ann Arbor. I’m going to try to be hopeful, but it’s going to be tough.”

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


A Voice of Reason

Wed, Apr 28, 2010 : 7:44 p.m.

Brit, Since AAPS pays half of your salary and I hope you are not responding to comments on taxpayer time. I will respect your rhetoric that you are not merily a pawn of the MEA if I see following in the 2010-2011 contracts and yes, you have the power to re-open the contract (Saline union rep said it was against MEA policygive us a break). 1. Bid out BCBSM health insurance instead contracting with MESSA (very unethical to purchase insurance from a union who has a vesting interest and uses the profits (estimated $1200 per teacher) to pay you to lobby on behalf of the teachers. Brit, this is your chance to show your independence and credibility. 2.Get rid of tenure-for all teachersnothing should protect ineffective teachers. 3.No more pay for education only pay for merit (and not the MEAP-real assessments). 4.40% appointment teachers should not get benefits100% employment only! 5.Teachers should pay 30% of health care costs 6. A 3 month plan for fixing underachieving schools and pay teachers in these schools if they turn them around! 7.1 year plan for removing ineffective teachers. Until you are willing to stop protecting ineffective teachers, the union will always be criticized. Parent evaluation for teachers should be by all parents. Surveys by the district are not at all scientific and not valid in any way and the fact they are used in decision making is scary. Also, our achievement is not so great. Check of,1607,7-140-22709---,00.html Only ~ 60% of Huron and Pioneer grads are college readyscary. We know what happens to parents or people who go against the teachers unionthey destroy themlook at elected officials that disagreeJennifer Granholm paid dearly! Thank god for anonymity-maybe the other side will get out. Love to see that PTO Council picket the MEA offices asking for 0% increases health insurance vs. your agenda. In summary of your request to work with the AAPS on committees, ---Only yes-men should apply!


Wed, Apr 28, 2010 : 12:34 p.m.

to Nighowl: Decent salary, you bet. Consider the educational requirements. Not only does a teacher require a major for their BA/BS, they also require the requisite classes to earn their teaching certificate. This almost enough classes to hold a second degree. Then on top of that, more education is required to maintain their professional certification. You still think they are overpaid? Most other jobs that require this type of education pay at least twice, if not several times more. I don't think the pay is out of line. However, if you do, then let's lower the educational requirements and see what kind of teachers we get.


Tue, Apr 27, 2010 : 10:22 a.m.

Comment back to Owlnight: As with anything, you get what you pay. Teachers make a decent salary now considering the benefits that are provided. If the decision is made to decrease salaries, cut benefits, reduce pensions, etc., current teachers may begin to look for alternative careers. Love of children and the job only go so far. And future teachers will probably look for alternatives. What we wind up getting is less than the best. Do we want to gamble on the future with sub-standard teachers?

Steve Norton, MIPFS

Tue, Apr 27, 2010 : 10 a.m.

@aataxpayer, Not sure who is reading now, but to respond to your question: yes, I am quite sure that privatization of transportation and custodial employees was being considered regardless of what the AAEA would or would not do. AAPS officials looked at other districts and apparently found enough where the experience was positive to want to proceed. We've already been through this process with food service. From the district's point of view, the issue is not pay concessions for next year. It's the 17% and possibly soon to be 19% that they have to pay in matching pension contributions. (The exact situation is uncertain, pending changes to MPSERS currently in the legislature. But the district contribution is unlikely to fall very much for the next several years regardless.) In other words, shifting transportation and and custodial workers off the school payroll, even at the same pay scale, would save as much as 16% every year far into the future. Hard to compete with that. The one variable was how the Board of Ed and the community would feel about it. I believe that public reaction did make them more cautious about privatization and look more closely at other alternatives.

Jack Panitch

Mon, Apr 26, 2010 : 11:27 p.m.

Yes, owlnight. That's what I was referring to. greymom's post sounded very positive.

Jack Panitch

Mon, Apr 26, 2010 : 9:59 p.m.

aataxpayer: you got the reference, you identified yourself (as one of the two sightings), but you didn't provide the explanation. Anyway, some guy claiming to be YouTube's lawyer just nailed a TRO to my front door, so we had better conclude this quickly: Please reread greymom's comments and tell me what they mean to you. Who knows? I could be wrong. The second Latella sighting was YpsiLivin, that normally steady, reliable blogger who, momentarily I'll grant you, went off the deep, fearful end about the AAEA's attempt to stack the Board.

Jack Panitch

Mon, Apr 26, 2010 : 9:22 p.m.

No credit for a 1/4 correct answer. And no hints. I'm betting on Edward Vielmetti. I always wanted to buy that guy a beer.

Jimmy Olsen

Mon, Apr 26, 2010 : 7:43 p.m.

@Lisa, You really need to let go of some of the silly posts at before you jump into your MEa rhetoric. We all know teachers work hard, we wish we could pay them more, but we simply cannot. At the simplest level expenditures cannot be more than revenue - state law requires a balanced budget on June 30th. Will we know all the factors by then - no, but we have to do the best guesstimate. So, align your demands with a 'bonus' formula if revenues exceed a certain level. By Brit's own admission earlier - the AAEA will not give back one penny until they are absolutely sure they have to. This is playing out in almost every district in the state. Some districts have more realistic EA's that realize the economic crunch of every individual in this state. Now is not the time to draw a line in the stand and make a statement. People will remember how this plays out and any new millages in the future will depend on the AAEA actions. Think about this clearly. To quote the MEa "Enough is Enough".

Lisa Starrfield

Mon, Apr 26, 2010 : 7:27 p.m.

aataxpayer, Can you please find a quote from Todd Roberts promising NOT to privatize non-teaching staff if only teachers would take an x percent pay cut? No? Then you are putting blame on teachers without cause and nothing that comes of this negotiation will earn your respect unless we 'suffer' enough.

Jack Panitch

Mon, Apr 26, 2010 : 4:29 p.m.

@Thinking Outside the Michigan Box Let's set the record straight. Brit never, ever advocates for students: "We adults, ALL of us, got us into this mess... we passed Proposal A in 1994, we have not pushed Lansing hard enough to update our tax structure to match our economy's transition from industry to services, and we've settled for annual band-aid solutions rather than fix the core structural problems. To allow our kids to suffer now in order keep ourselves, the ones responsible for this mess, from finally paying the piper whom we knew would eventually arrive, would be tantamount to letting our past neglect become abuse. Our time is up. The fat has been cut. We can only downsize from here on out. Shame on ALL of us if we don't pass this millage in order to buy more time to fix our state's underlying problems. Kids don't get "do overs" when it comes to their education. If anybody has more than opinions woven from thin air about where efficiencies can be found without having to cut services and instruction, where have you been and where are you now? If you want fewer services and less effective instruction, what many have termed "scare tactics" is actually the menu of facts in front of your eyes. We will get what we pay for, no more, no less." Brit Satchwell commenting on "Foes, backers ramping up Washtenaw County school enhancement millage campaigns." "And most importantly, I will vote yes because our students don't get "do over" years; they are real children who are not the financial abstractions that are at the root of Ms. Geltner's very quizzical argument. I urge Ms. Geltner to cure her own self-imposed agony by supporting the millage AND working for revenue reform in Lansing. One of the public figures I referred to above recently did just that by changing her mind to support the millage AND revenue reform. Ms. Geltner should, too." Brit Satchwell commenting on "Proposed school enhancement tax would just feed the beast" These are just two quick examples. I don't want to run afoul of the discussion guidelines. You can find this stuff pretty easily using's search function. So don't go making yourself so sad.


Mon, Apr 26, 2010 : 4:25 p.m.

Snarf Oscar Boondoggle and others who want a cite on class size research: This summary is not great, but gives an overview and cites papers so you can find the details if you want. In case I screwed up the link, you can Google "Class Size and Student Learning - Class-Size Research (19782002), Translating Class-Size Research to Practice" at Bottom line, matters the most in elementary, is most effective if several years in a row and it does impact low income/at-risk kids the most. They seem to have 20 as a magic cut off. My Kindergartner has 21 and my second grader has 26, so I guess we are already over the cutoff. The authors of this review seem to have focused primarily on the very large sample, well known studies. A couple of years ago I read research in this area in more detail (my first kid was starting school and I wanted to know what to look for). There are a lot of studies, but much of the research is sloppy or very small sample (or both), so it seems there is an endless stream of papers to say the last person was wrong based on an "improved" approach. But it did seem like class size came through in a lot of studies and I did not see anyone who argued that bigger class sizes are better.


Mon, Apr 26, 2010 : 11:35 a.m.

I have read many of the comments and have come to the conclusion that most people really don't understand how difficult a teacher's job is. My wife teaches middle school. She is at work at 6:45am (or earlier. Lunch is working with students. She stays until 4 or 5 pm everyday to assist students, attend staff meetings, or work out issues with underperforming or behavior issue students. Evenings are spent grading papers, developing tests, re-working the seating charts, and reviewing homework. This is another 2 to 3 hours or "work time". Total time during the week averages about 12 hours a day. Then comes the weekend. Usually 8 to 10 hours is spent reseaching material, grading more tests and homework, entering grades into the system, contacting parents for students who are failing, etc. Then when there is some off time available, she is taking classes that are required to keep her certification. This cirle never ends. Maybe a few weeks off during the summer, but each year she is giving a new subject to teach. This requires weeks of review to acquire enough knowledge to put a good program together for the next year. When you start adding all of the time spent "working", it adds up to a full year. But given the educational requirements needed to teach, her salary is very low. Yes, some teachers are making a very good salary, but they have been in the system for many years. No other job requires the level of initial education and then additional professional training and university courses for the beginning salary. Based upon the level of pay and educational requirements, the pension program is just deserved. If we want the best for our children and our future, let's figure out how to pay for it. If mediocrity is sufficient, then get rid of the teacher requirements and be happy mediocre students for a mediocre future.

thinking outside the michigan box

Mon, Apr 26, 2010 : 8:48 a.m.

Hi Brit, My name is Cheryl. My belief's are anti-tax and anti-union, but my primary concern is for the students. Not once in your entire post did you ever mention the needs of the students. That was very telling for me and very sad. My question was, "Who is advocating for the students stuck with the so called "soft apples"? I'm pleased to hear you are advocating for changing the teacher evaluations to become more objective, but...Who is advocating for the students needs? I admire your passion for the union...makes me think how great Ann Arbor Public Schools could be if you were working for the students instead of the union. I do hope in the true spirit of democracy, we will be encouraged to express our opinions,to have our opinions respected even if we don't agree and to learn from one another. Thank you for taking the time to read my opinion.

Snarf Oscar Boondoggle

Mon, Apr 26, 2010 : 2:02 a.m.

post script: just foudn this. Low Income, Top Scores: A School Defies the Odds -- Published: April 25, 2010 Fourth graders at P.S. 172 in Brooklyn outperforms its wealthier neighbors on state tests. i;ll be quiet now.

Snarf Oscar Boondoggle

Mon, Apr 26, 2010 : 12:38 a.m.

> Smart Oscar: There is not much definitive research on class size. (tnx, DagnyJ, maybe i;ll change my pseudo... Smart Oscar Boonswoggle... nah, jsut a thought.) frankly i;m aghast at this admission/revelation, really! i _DO_ believe you however, sad to say. think about this: evaluate an in-action teeter-totter by only observing 1/2 of it. evbaluate an equation by only working the left side of hte = sign. analyse an o'henry story without the last 2-3 paragraphs. analyize a psych patient (counseled student) w/o info about growing up, or home life. judge a painting that has all it;s color dropped out only leaving gray scale. conclude value about my thinking only considering my tpyoing. grade a chem exam but ignore the answers. rank a school but only count the number of students who enter, ignoring how many graduate or drop out or vice-versa. > The most famous, the Tennessee Star study, indicated that smaller class sizes (around 17) in elementary school could lead to greater student learning but only in certain situations.??could?? would you happen to have a pointer to this? oinquiring minds and all that.... > First, the teachers had to change the way they taught to make use of the smaller classes. If teachers merely taught they way they would with 25 kids, then the smaller class didn't matter. yup! > Second, smaller class sizes had an effect on student learning when the students were mostly poor/minority. Affluent, white students did not see greater gains in smaller classes. no wonder class size is ignored! glory be! > The upper class size was somewhere around 25-27 students per class, and the lower was around 17. > I have no idea about middle and high schools. i do. college too. and perhaps that;s teh elephant in the room as well, college? > I have read articles indicating the Catholic secondary schools in urban setting, with students who are poor/minority often have large class sizes and also have greater student gains. who;s running the asylum might have something to do with this. that covers deminimus research (maybe) factoring for only one of 3 relevant conditions. imo, a wholly defective evaluation scam/sham/thank you ma'am doing extrodiary disservice to teachers, students, tax payers adn teh educatoin system in general. eh, watt ol' boy? soem day i;ll tell you what i really thimk. in teh meantime, someone in your field might consider designing ti right next time.


Sun, Apr 25, 2010 : 9:41 p.m.

There are so many issues and opinions in play here and a lot of emotions about the current situation that we are losing and eye on what really going to happen within the classroom setting. Now that all probationary teacher have received layoff notifications the district is currently placing all of the tenured teacher in positions that they hold a certifications in. This means that they could place a tenured teacher in a position that they have never taught and don't want to teach. For those parents who have children that qualify under IDEA you had better get ready for a lot tenured teachers who are certified to teach special eduction but have little if any experience and understanding of special ed law or of the needs of your child. Be aware and know a good lawyer.


Sun, Apr 25, 2010 : 6:15 p.m.

Brit, Thank you so much for taking the time to post here thoughtfully and thoroughly. I really appreciate that. And I'm with you through most of your post, find no fault with your arguments, and I find them balanced and intelligent. With one exception, unfortunately. I work in health care. I have a master's degree, and I treat patients all day. What I do is important to the quality of people's lives and to our society. Nobody would argue with that. And I have not had so much as a cost-of-living raise in 7 years. Nothing, nada. So I am making less now than I was 7 years ago. Do I like it? NOOOOO! I do not. And I feel it, big time. So it's really difficult for me to hear that the teachers' union is unwilling to accept cuts in pay and benefits, when their pay has been nicely and steadily increasing. Yes, I do believe that everyone's pay should go up with inflation each year. No, this is not a "I am suffering therefore you should" argument... not at all! I desperately wish the situation were different. I voted for the millage, and I donate what I can to the schools. But the situation is what it is. And asking the teachers to take a little bit less now, to protect the quality of our schools and the size of our classrooms, just doesn't seem like such an bad idea. It seems like the best idea at this point, actually. Other cuts HAVE been made, so that argument doesn't hold up! We are bare bones now, Brit. Julie

Jimmy Olsen

Sun, Apr 25, 2010 : 4:09 p.m.

@Brit "once the district has made sufficient and necessary cuts, once we have spent enough of the money we're holding that the state gave to us to spend on this purpose, THEN teachers will do their part." Straight from the MEA playbook - exhaust all other sources, THEN, we'll do our part, afterall, we are entitled to deplete any savings for emergencies, etc. We wait for every other bargaining unit that has already given more to do so again. THEN, we'll do our part. My name is Jimmy Olsen

Brit Satchwell

Sun, Apr 25, 2010 : 4:06 p.m.

Ms. Murray, point well taken. Thanks.


Sun, Apr 25, 2010 : 1:41 p.m.

Smart Oscar: There is not much definitive research on class size. The most famous, the Tennessee Star study, indicated that smaller class sizes (around 17) in elementary school could lead to greater student learning but only in certain situations. First, the teachers had to change the way they taught to make use of the smaller classes. If teachers merely taught they way they would with 25 kids, then the smaller class didn't matter. Second, smaller class sizes had an effect on student learning when the students were mostly poor/minority. Affluent, white students did not see greater gains in smaller classes. The upper class size was somewhere around 25-27 students per class, and the lower was around 17. I have no idea about middle and high schools. I have read articles indicating the Catholic secondary schools in urban setting, with students who are poor/minority often have large class sizes and also have greater student gains.


Sun, Apr 25, 2010 : 1:18 p.m.

My suggestion is to sell off Pioneer High School to UofM (they will pay big bucks for that land!), Keep the elementary schools K-5, but turn the high schools into 10-12 (so that the 2 major high schools could accommodate all the students), and turn the middle schools into Jr Highs with 6-9 (since they are underpopulated). I live close to Pioneer and know that there are many in my neighborhood who would fight selling Pioneer, but frankly it makes the most sense (economically) is the oldest building with highly valuable land. And we have a half-empty new high school ready for students!

Jack Panitch

Sun, Apr 25, 2010 : 12:52 p.m.

DagnyJ: Thank you for your courtesy. I will read the brochure you posted.

Brit Satchwell

Sun, Apr 25, 2010 : 12:40 p.m.

My comments re teacher evaluations, "soft" teacher apples in the barrel and how to address them, and how that all should and must work hand in glove with an alternative compensation model have been posted if you missed them. Please scroll up. Recap: I am in favor of an objective model of teacher evaluations to replace our current rather subjective evaluation model that doesn't, in my opinion, adequately serve any desired purpose, whether from the student's, teacher's, administrator's or public's perspective. AAEA and AAPS are currently engaged in revamping our evaluation model and you can google "Charlotte Danielson" to examine her research-based model. So if you are still clamoring for teacher evals that work and for what some call "merit pay", I urge you to take yes for an answer. AAEA and AAPS have pledged to explore both, but will do both thoughtfully. To answer a few other questions that are pending (thanks for asking and for your patience): RE: "360 degree" evaluations where every possible stakeholder participates in evaluations, including parents. Bad idea. Woe be the airline industry when I begin to evaluate pilots from my total lack of expertise. Ditto dentists, concert pianists, a myriad other crucial and complex professions that require skill gained by experience and ongoing professional development based on ever-evolving research. Were I to evaluate them on the few (if any) criteria I am trained and qualified to assess, planes would fall from the sky, teeth would fall to the floor, and every pianist would get a huge bouquet of flowers after every substandard performance. There are ways for consumers to have input in every field, just as parents have re teachers, and they should take advantage of every such opportunity. AAPS surveys parents for feedback, they have scads of committees looking for participants. Students DO evaluate teachers! In the case of parents and teachers... contact your teacher directly first (!)... operators are (should!) be standing by (even if they are grading papers late into the evening). RE: AAEA (me in particular) "delaying" negotiations, thus "throwing" our transportation, custodial, and maintenance workers "under the bus". This is one of those nasty "Are you still beating your wife?" questions that tend to come disproportionately from those who hide shamelessly behind a blog nom de guerre... a "question bomb" with its own erroneous conclusion and agenda posed as a question. Sigh. God bless America... may the angry naysayer and blame shifter always be allowed to spout off and clog up the works as anonymously as the wanna be. Democracy ain't easy, as we ALL have noticed as of late. RE: "Delay". Both teams have been working days, evenings, weekends and over "breaks", either at the table or in preparation for the next meeting. Our train of pain, one that has been heading our way for YEARS, has finally pulled into our sad station. It will take a while longer to arrive at a tentative agreement that both our teachers and our trustees can endorse. The issues are complicated by their inherent nature (human development and state finances as they pertain to us are complex businesses), not by either team's choice, and are complicated further by the fact that we're dealing with an erratic reactionary state legislature that acts as if it is huge drunken dance partner liable to lurch in any direction at any moment. Even though our local legislators are the happy - if outnumbered - exception, local toes have been broken time and again, and we've chosen as a local community to not provide sufficient splints and bandages in the absence of the state's responsibility to make those splints and bandages unnecessary. If schools were roads, the public would have noticed long ago. As a community we (and all other Michigan and US communities) are now between the inevitable "WHAT!?!" and blame-shifting stages. Both of our bargaining teams are in the "OK, so how do we cope THIS time?" stage, and the magnitude of the crisis must be mirrored by our care and thoughtfulness... we have no room left for error. Those who accuse either side of dragging their feet only slow the process, encouraging one side or the other to devote time and energy to reaction rather than 100% of their time to proactive coping strategies (true SOLUTIONS can and must only come from Lansing). Our local collective bargaining process has served AAPS, AAEA, and our community well for decades... we are not as bad off as many of our neighbors because of those past negotiations. I know it's hard to have patience when hair is on fire, but stop drop and roll beat panic and undue haste right now. Process is important, even when it doesn't move quickly enough. RE: Transportation, custodial and maintenance workers. I bargain for the educators in MY unit. Those other units are different unions. I am not a party to their negotiations and do not represent them. Regardless, I have spoken and written, both in private and public, to support them in their efforts to avoid privatization. They have used some of my written thoughts on their plight in their own defense. But talk is cheap. I have offered them advice and assistance in their lobbying logistics (online petitions and strategy). AAEA has polled our members to see if they are willing to give a concession to put more room on the bargaining table they share with AAPS. I have encouraged our trustees to go beyond the "comfort" zone regarding "rainy day" reserves that has been pounded into their heads and every board's across the state by the Michigan Association of School Boards (MASB) as if that comfort level was holy scripture... do not cling to rainy day funds during a flood... rather, as our community's educational leaders, lead us now to Lansing. (I am proud to say that they are, both as individuals and as a group, ramping those efforts up! Thanks!!!!) And I will do my best to offer solutions at MY table that improve their chances of avoiding privatization. So let me ask aataxpayer who threw the question as a bomb (and who, while hiding behind a blog name that subtly implies that he/she pays taxes while you and I do not), what HE/SHE has done to further the goal posed by the question bomb? If we get no credible or on-topic answer here, it will, in my opinion, be because he/she may really not be sticking up for those poor union workers. Nor will it be because he/she is pro-education other than rhetorically. It will be because his/her agendas are anti-tax and anti-union, and that such question bombs try to leverage this discussion - and our schools - to further those agendas, as evidenced by his/her every comment in this and every blog chain, as well as by the name he/she hides behind. His/her question bomb is an attempt to pit union against union, thus weakening both. Eyes wide open, fellow taxpayers!!! But he/she can speak for him/herself. Sigh... that messy democracy thing. RE: The community has paid enough, it's up to the teachers now. OK. Don't pay more. But when it comes to PUBLIC education, we as the community (local, state, nation) will get what we pay for in this and all things. "Throw money at the problem"?? WE certainly haven't! We've cut and economized for many years. We've instituted financial "efficiencies" that have gone well past the point of educational efficiency, and we continue to do so. Michigan's Senate or House (I forget which) fiscal agency last year published a report stating that state support for schools has lagged behind median incomes by 2% for many consecutive years. Translation: even if you factor the recession in (!!!), we've chosen(!) as a statewide "community" to underfund public schools. Michigan is 37th in the nation in overall tax burden (numbers are a few years old). Every dollar spent on early childhood (K-2) education returns seven dollars to the economy. Education grows jobs and taxpayers. These are all true statements, but require a longer-term perspective (as with any INVESTMENT) that many who are now suffering cannot or choose not afford. Like I said, here we are, very late to class. So many folks are instead being very generous with how much I and my members (taxpayers and consumers all) should spend out of our own pockets to subsidize public schools not adequately funded by the public. I suppose this sort of infighting-after-the-fact is human nature (makes me think of passengers pushing each other aside in their frantic rush to the Titanic's lifeboats), but it only offers more ineffective coping strategies that actually make things worse while ignoring the root problems and solutions (our STRUCTURAL deficits, Lansing). I've said before and will say it again here... once the district has made sufficient and necessary cuts, once we have spent enough of the money we're holding that the state gave to us to spend on this purpose, THEN teachers will do their part. But teachers are not the public schools nor is our money the money the state has already sent to be spent... AAPS and a reasonable amount of that money will go first then we'll do our part. In this regard, progress has and is being made, and I have every confidence that AAEA and AAPS will continue to collaborate in a professional and positive manner to arrive at a settlement in the near future that both the teachers and trustees can vote yes on. Until then, I ask folks not to assume or judge positions that neither side has taken... those non-facts slow everybody up. This is my opportunity to urge those who voted for the millage (and especially those who stayed home) to donate what they would have spent had the millage passed to the Ann Arbor Public Schools Educational Foundation... your donation goes directly to student programs as a way to take the heat off of our budget. AAPSEF recently launched their "One Million Reasons" campaign to raise one million dollars. We have seen the cavalry and they are us, even if you don't urge Lansing to fix the mess known as the State of Michigan. Final word on "new" vs "veteran" teachers. A few veterans and parents blogged in to speak up for the veterans. Age does not necessarily correlate with energy or effectiveness in our or any profession. A "new" teacher is not necessarily a "young" teacher. In our 2009 group of hires, I was very pleased to see two parents of my former students... while they are not "old" by any means, they are not 22 either. Our more veteran teachers are feeling as if they have targets on their backs, because of both the retirement "incentives" being proposed at the state level (actually a stiff PENALTY if you don't hit the road) and unfair comments here in our community. I urge that we (students, parents, and TEACHERS!) allow our veteran teachers, many who have more energy and offer more value to AAPS than many of our "new" teachers (fewer years AND experience), the simple courtesy of deciding for themselves when they will call an end to their life's mission and work. After so many years of service in such a tough job, they deserve better than they are getting as others "rush to the lifeboats". I hope I wrote enough (yikes!) and answered the questions put to me. Thanks for reading all of this!!! Please go hug a teacher... those who got a pink slip deserve two hugs.

Snarf Oscar Boondoggle

Sun, Apr 25, 2010 : noon

thanks for taht report, it helps. and it also reveals n o t h i n g about "data showing the relatiosnhip between student age -vs- class size -vs- total students per teacher per year... and at what load the highly effective teacher is 'broken' down into a baby-sitter?" how glaring is that?


Sun, Apr 25, 2010 : 10:21 a.m.

Here is a report that is very accessible, created by a fairly neutral research group. It discusses the definitions and measures of an effective teacher, and what different evaluation methods might yield. Yes, it costs money at the outset if the state/district does not have the infrastructure in place and has not already been conducting observations of teaching practice. AAPS has a rather extensive infrastructure in place for managing data, so I suspect some of this is ready to go. Now, has the superintendent's cabinet been requiring principals to observe and write up evaluation reports of teaching? I don't know.


Sun, Apr 25, 2010 : 10:01 a.m.

Well, folks we need to now focus on saving our teachers! As of yesterday AFSCME Local 1182- which is Grounds, Custodial and Maintenance voted on the TA that was approved by the Board of Ed, we voted to except all the cuts we got in order to save our jobs and also to make it good for the kids in the schools that look to us for support, help and guidance. Many members have put their whole career into the District for ten or more years received a 8% pay cut, plus.46 cents on hour pay cut. For those who fall under that, it meant any where from 1.75 to 3 dollars an hour pay cut. We gave up some of our sick time, vacation time and pay more toward our medical benefits. There are several other small items we gave up but not worth talking about. We have only a two year contract and we know this has been a very difficult issue to get through but Management and our Negotiation Team got through it and we know the some of the Board really pushed for us to keep our jobs and for that we are forever grateful!!! It's nice that we have some that see we really make a difference in the District and play a vital role in the children's lives. We did all we could as a team of 173 but now my next goal is to support my teachers! I hope that those that have the years and age will go and retire and start living a wonderful life of travel and adventure so as to keep the newer teachers in the District. Trust me if I could retire I sure would!! : ) I personally am grateful to EVERYONE for all the support I was given from Parents and all the way up to the Board. I know things are tight but it really does take all of us to make this work!! I have a teacher in my building that got a pink slip that the kids love and respect a lot! Sal has been a wonderful teacher, friend, and support to all!!! It would be the biggest lose to our building and our kids to see Sal leave! So, now my new fight will be a help save our teachers because they matter to us and the kids!! I don't anyone saying what did they do to save your job because we saved our jobs and I am grateful for all of us. I will say the Staff in my building has been very vocal and supportive!!! Thank You for Your Support!!! Please keep Ann Arbor Schools at the top of your list to support!!

Steve Norton, MIPFS

Sun, Apr 25, 2010 : 1:59 a.m.

@aataxpayer: Most custodians will tell you that privatization of their jobs has been threatened for years. Privatization of food service went forward independent of any other labor negotiations. Whatever you may think of privatization, it's clear that this was an option pursued by administration independent of what the AAEA did or did not do. Their rationale is that they needed to focus resources on the district's core mission: the classroom. I'm not entirely convinced by this, but I am sure that the district would have pursued savings from privatization regardless. @DagnyJ, Well, please do share with us how all these things can be done so simply and cheaply. This is not just an Ann Arbor or Michigan struggle; school systems across the US are working to find evaluation systems that are meaningful and fair. And it's not just some huge union conspiracy that has prevented schools from adopting some "magic bullet" solution. Right now, we are cutting administrative and support staff. Who will do these evaluations? The overworked principals? Who will have the time, and how will we pay for it? And since you are familiar with testing and measurement, then you must also be familiar with the wide literature on the uses and limits of standardized testing? With the difficulties of using standardized tests as a measure of "teacher value added"? Of the incompatibilities of standards and tests focused on reaching certain expectations with the whole concept of measuring student "growth"? (For everyone else: if the test measures whether you have met a standard or not, a smart child might score at the top level one year and do so again the next. That child might have learned lots from her teacher. But the scores would show no "growth" because she had maxed out the scale to begin with. NCLB standards focus on meeting standards, not on measuring how far above standards a particular student might be.) The bottom line is that people seem to think that identifying the most effective teachers will save money. But that only works if you: a) fire the ineffective teachers and do not replace them, increasing class sizes and the workload on the remaining teachers; or b) leave the less effective teachers in place but pay them less. How do these solutions benefit us? The real importance of evaluations is to help make sure that ALL our teachers are effective: that teachers who need help can get it from their colleagues and administrators, that they get feedback on what parts of their work need improvement, and that those who simply are not working out can be urged to shift professions sooner than later. These are important and worthy goals. But achieving them will not make our budget issues disappear. In fact, achieving these goals will require rather more resources than are currently being spent, not less.

Snarf Oscar Boondoggle

Sat, Apr 24, 2010 : 11:51 p.m.

ok,DagnyJ, that;s good to know. where is your data showing the relatiosnhip between student age -vs- class size -vs- total students per teacher per year... and at what load the highly effective teacher is 'broken' down into a baby-sitter?


Sat, Apr 24, 2010 : 11:05 p.m.

If you 'would like to know more', there are many sources. It only matters if you are curious.

Jack Panitch

Sat, Apr 24, 2010 : 9:46 p.m.

Check this out:

Jack Panitch

Sat, Apr 24, 2010 : 9:41 p.m.

That's an interesting tid-bit but may not matter much.


Sat, Apr 24, 2010 : 9:24 p.m.

Thousands of private school leaders evaluate teacher performance every day. Fee free.


Sat, Apr 24, 2010 : 9:04 p.m.

"And the community has to fund it..."? "Doing it right will take resources."? Wrong. Excellent dancing around the issues though... The resources and abilities are in place; the will to act is not. AAPS employees are generously compensated; their average total compensation of over $100,000 per year exceeds 85% of the US workforce. Excuses, delays, obfuscation... standard fare for those attempting to maintain status. An increasingly elite status, at that. The behavior is predictable; privileged groups try to maintain their status by any means possible. Including the customers.

Jack Panitch

Sat, Apr 24, 2010 : 8:46 p.m.

DagnyJ: I would like to know more. What level of education are you involved in and what kind of institution, public or private? Theres a phrase in the law, standard of care that Im told translates into the term best practices in education terminology. Is there a standard of care, i.e., an approach that all experts would agree was the appropriate method for handling teacher evaluations? If not, why not? If so, what is it? What methods have you used and what has been your experience using these methods? Would best practices change depending on the instructional level and why? This is not my area of expertise and anything you can provide would be illuminating. From the literature I have read, complying with RTTTs requirement that every teacher be evaluated every year is an expensive proposition and an unfunded mandate. If it can be done in compliance with the requirements of RTTT in an inexpensive manner, I would like to know more. Is there any kind of bibliography you can provide us so that we can educate ourselves on this issue? Thank you.


Sat, Apr 24, 2010 : 4:44 p.m.

Steve: I work in a position where I do evaluations of educators and education. I know quite a bit about education, having worked in it for decades. I know about testing and measurement. I know that most teachers are rarely evaluated once they are tenured because it is so difficult to do anything about it. And I know that there are many reasons for that, including less-than-diligent administration, political pressure from unions, and other things. But I also know that teaching evaluations can be done, and don't cost a ton. And I know this because I know the work.


Sat, Apr 24, 2010 : 4:40 p.m.

Brit, it is so great of you to post here. I really like hearing what you have to say. I am reposting my question, to see if you can address it as well: Brit, There have been many comments and suggestions that the teachers (and others) accept a slightly larger across-the-board pay/benefit reduction so that we can maintain more teacher jobs, keep class sizes at their current level (which everyone wants!), and avoid privitization of custodians and drivers. Is this being seriously discussed and considered?

thinking outside the michigan box

Sat, Apr 24, 2010 : 4 p.m.

I would encourage those interested in learning more about teacher evaluations to google "The Widget Effect." It is a comprehensive national study,funded by The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. The study indicates effective teachers are the key to student success, yet our school systems treat all teachers the same.Exellent teachers go unrecognized and poor performance goes unaddressed. It concludes by offering some suggestions for teacher evaluation. Brit, In reference to your comment regarding the teachers not wanting to judge their "soft apple" colleagues's so they don't violate their "sovereignty"...I wonder.. Who is advocating for the students who are stuck with the so called "soft apples"? Why aren't the students needs being thought of first and foremost? To all the dedicated teachers, I hope you will encourage each other to judge the "soft apples" and use your "sovereignty" to put the students needs first. Thank you for taking your time to read my opinion.


Sat, Apr 24, 2010 : 3:47 p.m.

@Brit I agree with a lot of what you are saying, but a couple of points... "And the community has to fund it..." The community already provides excellent pay and benefits...I'm not sure we need to "fund" anymore. Do your job and you will be rewarded. The other item is the "institutional culture"...that also involves the MEA and the structure of current labor contracts...the "steps", etc.

Steve Norton, MIPFS

Sat, Apr 24, 2010 : 3:32 p.m.

Thanks, 40 Oaks. DagnyJ, I'm not saying that good evaluations can't happen. I'm saying that it is hard to do anything even "good" if you try to do it on the cheap and without really knowing the gritty details. (Most recent efforts from Lansing have been long on emotion and short on facts and resources.) I believe evaluations DO happen, though perhaps not every year for tenured teachers. Peer assistance and review systems are being considered here, though then you need to make time for the "master" teachers to work with their colleagues rather than their students. Principals are not simply sitting around and doing nothing; so adding more high-stakes evaluations to their workload without changing anything else doesn't seem so wise to me. Lastly, sure we can use test scores. Which ones? Kids take the MEAP from 3rd through 8th grade. Then there is the Michigan Merit Exam, which incorporates the ACT, taken in 11th grade. The MEAPs only test math and reading/ELT every year; science and social studies are tested only a few times in that time span. You might be able to say something about an elementary classroom teacher by looking at how test scores changed - but only about math and reading, and none of the other subjects they teach in those years. And, of course, you wouldn't be able to say anything about K-3 teachers, because you have to measure change from a baseline. What about art, music and PE teachers? Media specialists? So it's looking like test scores would give us a partial look at a minority of elementary school teachers, and elementary teachers make up more than a third of the teaching staff. Same problems at upper levels: you can test math, but what about Latin (or whatever)? Choir? Will all HS teachers be evaluated based on the MME, taken in 11th grade? Not everyone takes the AP exams, and even then you don't have a comparative baseline. How do you judge performance this way? (You can judge the performance of a district with this kind of data, and maybe even a school, but not individual teachers. And even then, what you're judging is the ability to bring students up to some standard rather than the ability to have every student make progress no matter where they started.) So I'm not saying it can't be done. I'm saying that it is a difficult and very worthwhile project to do it right. Doing it right will take resources. From where should they come? Doing it poorly won't just be "less good," it could really skew the incentives teachers face and make things much worse in the medium to long term. It doesn't have to be perfect, but it does have to pass muster as an improvement to the current system that won't have horrible indirect consequences. PS - to see what they have been working on, check out the most recent AAEA contract. Nearly the whole second half of the document is information about proposed evaluation tools and procedures. And I think they've done a lot more work since then as well.

Snarf Oscar Boondoggle

Sat, Apr 24, 2010 : 3:29 p.m.

School board Trustee Glenn Nelson pointed out that if all 90 positions were eliminated: class size in grades K-5 would go up 8 percent class size in middle school would go up 15 percent and class size would increase 18 percent "in the high school." since percentages mask absolute numbers, let;s contrast -both-, eh?........ delta.... 15-base.... 20-base.... 25-base.... 32-base k-5...... +8%.... 16 kids.... 22 kids.... 27 kids.... 35 kids middle.. +15%.... 17 kids.... 23 kids.... 29 kids.... 37 kids high.....+18%.... 18 kids.... 24 kids.... 30 kids.... 38 kids given the temperament of pre-teens, tweens and inbetweens, a gross class size larger than 24 would put me on alert and 27 or more would make me blanch and run to a different school, maybe even home. btw, $$ -- $$$, it appears generically approximate that 3 teachers ~= 2 administrators. fine, assign 2 administrators to take over 3 teachers' classes then! [oh,wait!]

40 Oaks

Sat, Apr 24, 2010 : 2:41 p.m.

@DagnyJ Either you're willfully misreading Steve or you're not paying attention, but Steve isn't making any excuses for the current teacher eval system; he's merely providing context so that when it's discussed, we can weigh the pros and cons with a little more care.

40 Oaks

Sat, Apr 24, 2010 : 1:06 p.m.

@DagnyJ Either you're willfully misreading Steve or you're not paying attention, but Steve isn't making any excuses for the current teacher eval system; he's merely providing context so that when it's discussed, we can weigh the pros and cons with a little more care.


Sat, Apr 24, 2010 : 11:35 a.m.

Steve, you have lots of reasons why teacher evaluations can't happen. Same old, same old. I think that we should not let "perfect" be the enemy of "good." Let's have principals/dept heads evaluate every teacher at least once a year, and maybe more times. Let's ask for 360 degree evaluations from parents/kids (these can be weighted so they are less important than principal evaluations). Let's allow for blind peer-review, so colleagues can evaluate each other. How about videotaping teaching and then using tapes for evaluation? And let's use test scores? While not perfect, scores do reflect a measure of student learning. You have lots of reasons why things can't be done. How about coming up with solution.

Steve Norton, MIPFS

Sat, Apr 24, 2010 : 9:33 a.m.

DagnyJ, The rules on layoffs originated from a time when teacher evaluations could be arbitrary and capricious, more the result of building politics than actual effectiveness. I think the seniority-based rule is lousy, but without a really thorough and fair evaluation process, I can see how teachers would see that as the most fair of bad alternatives. That said, under the current contract between AAPS and AAEA, there is a working group on teacher evaluation, which I understand has been developing broad-based and sophisticated measures to evaluate the performance of each teacher (there are "best practices" systems out there that they are emulating, but I forget the name). Many people on all sides of the "merit" debate agree that these kinds of multi-faceted evaluations, performed by teams, are the best tools we have. There have been two problems: the first, and bigger, one is that the evaluation system takes time and people. We've been cutting back on administration and loading more responsibilities on principals - how are they then going to have the time to make sure they get a full picture of a teacher's performance rather than doing what they call a "drive-by" evaluation? It's interesting that many of the same folks who have been loudly calling for merit-based pay and employment are also the ones calling to get rid of half the principals. The second problem, connected to the first, is that a lot of people are under the impression that we already have a sure-fire way to measure teacher effectiveness: standardized tests. But we only test a few subjects, and aside from math and reading we test other subjects only every few years. We also don't test really young kids, because the testing instruments are not very reliable with young kids (among other things, not all kids are expected to be able to read at kindergarten, for instance). In fact, our state legislature went so far as to propose making standardized tests count for 60% of a teacher's evaluation for pay and promotion. This law threatened to derail any local efforts to experiment with evaluation systems. Fortunately, the legislature was convinced to stick with the Federal wording that made it simply "significant." But the things we test make up only a fraction of what we expect our kids to learn; and for most of their school career, absorbing knowledge is only a part of the picture. Learning how to think, is one of the central goals. So, the point is, there are some very good ideas out there for evaluating teachers in a fair and accurate way. (Fair for the teachers, but accurate so that we end up keeping teachers who are really excellent and not just skilled at meeting narrow metrics.) But they take resources - principals and/or teams who are able to observe teachers over a period of time and evaluate their work across a wide range of important dimensions. And resources are something we are very short on right now. How do we move forward with making our schools better when we are under pressure to eliminate the jobs of the people who would be responsible for implementing new initiatives?


Sat, Apr 24, 2010 : 8:07 a.m.

Ms.Webster I am in total agreement with you. I have taught in the AAPS for 21 years and absolutely love my job. I love teaching and monitoring children as they progress to amazing heights. The children are thrilled to learn and especially when everything begins to "click" for them. I thank God everyday for all the wonderful teachers that helped me get to where I am today. By the way I was educated by way of the AAPS and am proud of it.


Sat, Apr 24, 2010 : 7:56 a.m.

@MsWebster and others, I guess the problem is that layoff notices are given to all new teachers, rather to poorly performing teachers. There are some amazing veterans in the district. But my now HS-age children have had some rather lousy teachers in the 12 years they have been in the district. They know, and I know it, and every parent who has had the teachers knows it. Why are these teachers still in classrooms? Why does the union protect these teachers over those who are doing a better job promoting student learning? Here's what's sad: there's a math teacher at a HS who did a poor job teaching. I got my child out of the teacher's class. And so did every other parent with the smarts, knowledge, and wherewithal to do that. The kids left in the teacher's class are those whose parents are too busy working two jobs, or unaware, or lack the skills to push for a switch. Those kids will learn less through not fault of their own. And the AAEA defends this type of thing, and supports this teacher. I'm not a teacher basher. I think teachers work incredibly hard at a tough job. BUT...I am dismayed at what I see happening today. My kids have come to see unions as something bad, and frankly I find it hard to argue. Is that what the teachers in this district want to have happen?


Sat, Apr 24, 2010 : 7:35 a.m.

Bravo MsWebster. My daughter has one of the "bright young teachers" on the layoff list. His class is known as a "total slacker class". Meanwhile, her favorite "totally awesome" teacher is in her 50s and a long time veteran AAPS teacher. There is a lot more to teacher quality than age!

Brit Satchwell

Fri, Apr 23, 2010 : 10:49 p.m.

Dagny, Thanks for your very relevant question re teacher evaluations, and thanks for not saying "get rid of 'bad' teachers". I have many alligators to go before I tackle this one head on, but allow me to expand on comments I've previously made. I don't equate seniority or tenure with the question of evaluating teachers. Seniority runs deep in any labor contract, ours included, and I'm OK with that. Tenure runs VERY deep in state and federal law. With those said, some teachers are better than others, regardless of age and even (to a lesser degree) experience. Teachers, as apples in the barrel, don't like the few soft apples, but we will not say so because "Who are we to judge?" To judge out loud would be to violate a colleague's "sovereignty"... teachers WILL NOT go there out loud, but they WILL and DO go there in the privacy of their own thoughts. We don't like those very few "soft apples"... they make life much harder for all of us and give the profession less than the stellar reputation it deserves (see teacher bashing comments here and elsewhere). Our current teacher evaluation model has the best of intentions by asking administrators to subjectively evaluate everything a teacher in a perfect theoretical world could possibly do at every evaluation, even though it is not possible to observe 1,001 points of edu-perfection in a few short observations... it isn't reality based or effective, does not promote professional growth, gets done once every three years and then gets filed in a dark cabinet until the next Evaluation Kabuki Theater three years hence. It's sort of like my "first kiss" in 6th grade... let's not but say that we did to take the heat off. The evaluations sometimes spike up or down whenever a new principal with a new educational philosophy or agenda enters a building. It is institutionally taken for granted that new teachers cannot get excellent evaluations and that veteran teachers will... the system insidiously "reaffirming" itself... if it were otherwise then teachers and principals would have to come to grips with the fact that teacher effectiveness (also the responsibility of the principal as the instructional leader in the building!) is not in reality a steadily upward-trending line (spikes due to a new principal notwithstanding). If this sounds a bit cynical re our evaluation process, you get my drift... I see it as little more than happy wallpaper in most cases. A great principal or a great teacher can overcome the evaluation's inherent flaws. But even in even those cases, the problem is subjectivity... it's unreliable over time. We need and are in the process of looking at a cutting edge evaluation model that is purely objective and research-based. AAEA welcomed this commitment in our last contract. The new model does not ask the teacher to be all things every time... where would there be any room for true professional growth over time? It asks the teacher to start at a baseline of competency and then constantly improve, often in targeted areas in partnership (rather than in fear or dread) with the principal. To learn more, google "Charlotte Danielson". If we can adopt her, or a similar, purely objective model, all questions of subjective bias go out the window, along with all doubts about accuracy and validity. It is so objective that a teacher should be able to be evaluated by different trained principals and get the same evaluation... evaluation CSI, no subjective judgments. So why am I so hung up on objectivity? Because if we adopt an objective model that can be TRUSTED by both teachers and principals alike, that trust will allow teachers to rise or fall on their OWN merits regardless of seniority or tenure. And once you have such a trusted model that incorporates a professional growth component, it can be worked into an alternative compensation model... a more accurate way of naming what many call a "merit pay" model. Evaluation and compensation should go hand in glove in practice because they do in common sense and reality. Now a word about "merit pay". Teachers flinch when those two words appear together, because almost everybody, both teachers and public alike, don't know what the phrase actually means. They assume it means individual standardized test scores tied to individual teachers. Not so... that is what should be called a "serendippity" model... they have crashed and burned wherever they have been attempted in a blind rush to establish some facade of "accountability" to appease the cynics. So-called "merit pay" is better termed "performance pay". In every district where it has worked it includes factors such as extra education, improvements in evaluations, extra committee assignments, assignments to buildings where there are more challenged or at-risk students, in addition to some form of AGGREGATED test scores that force teaming among rather than competition between teachers. And in the best of those models that have worked, the teacher gets to choose from a menu and get paid a "bonus" or pass and settle for wage scale base pay. A good example of a model that has worked (with 80% approval from both teachers and administrators alike) is in Denver, a model they call "Pro-Comp". But the community had to pass a millage to afford it... teacher pay went up along with ALL measures of student achievement, not just test scores... graduation rates went up, truancy went down, post HS education went up... This will take time. We have an institutional culture, both among teachers and principals, that will take time to change. And the community has to fund it... whether you call it "merit" or "performance" pay, teachers have a lot of both. Give me, my colleagues, and the district a year or two Dagny. We have a culture of denial in our state legislature to overcome first... we don't fund even the basics in Michigan anymore, let alone alternative compensation models. But as even the Mackinaw Center says... teachers should be paid much more if the "soft" ones are addressed. (God help me, I just quoted the Mackinaw Center!) I hope this answers your question. I enjoy the chance to talk about where we need to go. It's a nice change from wading through our current mess.


Fri, Apr 23, 2010 : 7:55 p.m.

Jen, You say "We lose the young, bright, enthusiastic teachers like the one my daughter had for kindergarten last year at Allen, and we lose people who will make our kids excited about school and eager to learn." I have been teaching 15 years in AAPS and I can say that I may not be as young, but I AM bright and enthusiastic AND when I am no longer making the kids excited about school and eager to learn I will quit. When my students aren't motivated and are not performing well on standardized tests and any other measures that exist to monitor student progress then I will step down. There are hundreds of teachers like me in AAPS, and regardless of our age, we go to work for a single reason - to make a difference in the lives of our students, who just happen to be the children of the people who are complaining about us and our chosen profession.


Fri, Apr 23, 2010 : 6:58 p.m.

WLD1 Yes, continuing education is very important. It would be every teachers dream to have 2 1/2 months off in the summer, but actually it equates to about 3-4 weeks. The teachers work week is very intense and they generally put in about 60 hours a week. Many professions spread out their work hours over the year where teachers put in the same amount of hours in 10 + months. If teaching is so easy come on over and get educated. This will prepare you for the profession and then you may have a new respect for what teachers do.


Fri, Apr 23, 2010 : 6:32 p.m.

For what it's worth, Lee Miserables, I moved TO Ann Arbor from one of those lauded smaller districts and one of the main reasons was to send my kids to Ann Arbor schools. Now my 1st grader doesn't have a 60-minute bus ride to the one elementary in the district; she walks two blocks to her elementary school, which has three classrooms per grade. She is in class with children from a variety of ethnic and cultural backgrounds, which was another big draw. And although we have only been here a year and half, we know most of the teachers, aides, office workers, and volunteers by sight if not by name. The principal knows all the kids and most of the parents by name. Big district doesn't necessarily equal big, anonymous schools, and I resent the accusation of lazy parenting had anything to do with my choice of schools for my child. We lose the young, bright, enthusiastic teachers like the one my daughter had for kindergarten last year at Allen, and we lose people who will make our kids excited about school and eager to learn. Class size goes up, quality of instruction goes down, and Ann Arbor students start losing the things that make our public schools effective. And that hurts everyone who lives here, not just those of us who have kids in the public schools now.


Fri, Apr 23, 2010 : 1:57 p.m.

Brit, There have been many comments and suggestions that the teachers (and others) accept a slightly larger across-the-board pay/benefit reduction so that we can maintain more teacher jobs, keep class sizes at their current level (which everyone wants!), and avoid privitization of custodians and drivers. Is this being seriously discussed and considered?

outta the box

Fri, Apr 23, 2010 : 1:20 p.m.

Instead of bashing teachers let us get to the root of the problem, state government. The only legal job of the state legislature is to approve a budget. They have avoided all bills that could lead toward solving the budget problem. Check out their benefits..... for life cadillac benefits after one term. Check out their vacation time, Tuesday noon until Thursday evening when in session and speaking of.. when are they in session, they have more time off than any teacher. What have they accomplished since returning from spring break April? they have passed separate versions of the texting bill, Slammed Granholm for going to Europe to recruit businesses to Michigan and informed her they will not let her make any more appointments. They could have worked on a bill to move 43000 state employees out to pasture and allow room for many young people to find jobs and be come tax paying residents of the state. They will probably find time this session to vote on the raise they have been talking about, but will they have a budget that supports the needs of this state by July?

thinking outside the michigan box

Fri, Apr 23, 2010 : 1:02 p.m.

Why is it so much time and energy is devoted to defending the union and tenured teachers? Why isn't there more discussion about the students needs instead of the teachers needs? Why as taxpayers are we being held hostage by the teacher's union? How will we not confront this same situation year after year? These are the questions I ponder and after living in places other than Michigan have come to realize the only way out of this mess is to abolish the unions. Why in this day and age would a union be needed anyway. And what are we teaching our children in this global world by supporting a union? Teachers are so very important to the future of our children and community. I believe they should be paid a good wage based on performance just like the private sector.For example, one of the moms posted stating her child wished he/she could have a vote on which teachers remain. Why shouldn't the students have a say, after all who knows the teachers better than the students. And where does the opinion of the parents come into play? This structure seems so backward to me. And it is because of the union. Until structural changes are made the band-aid will keep being applied to the hemmorhage. Thank you for taking the time to read my opinion.


Fri, Apr 23, 2010 : 12:20 p.m.

@Jon... It has nothing to do with a fear of something foreign. I'm not sure why you would drop such a derogatory term in regards to supporting our domestic economy. I was unaware America was not competitive in an industry. Our economy used to provide pensions, solid health benefits, solid pay that led to 2 car families. But - you are right - that is not competitive with the rest of the world. So, if you think we need to create an environment where we cannot afford our teachers, where people cannot afford the quality of life (homes, health, food, etc...), then I guess we did that with Detroit. The rest of Michigan is following along quite well. It is not xenophobic - it is patriotic and caring about the economic and social future being created for the next generation. Actually, this generation is not doing to well either. So, if you think buying that foreign product is the best sollution - the way to ensure our taxpayers can afford out teachers - that is dissapointing. Clearly, our education system is missing on some fundamental economics.

Jon Saalberg

Fri, Apr 23, 2010 : 10:57 a.m.

School board Trustee Glenn Nelson pointed out that if all 90 positions were eliminated, class size in grades K-5 would go up 8 percent; class size in middle school would go up 15 percent and class size would increase 18 percent.To the Editor - I assume we're missing "in the high school" in the last part of that sentence?Skyline was necessary, even if the city's population remains constant - Pioneer and Huron are overcrowded, and have been for decades.The xenophobic attitude that leads to "buy American" will only put America further off track in its need to maintain competitive status with the rest of the world's economic powers.CHS is a critical necessity for the hundreds of students who attend it - it provides an alternative to the huge, less personalized structure that cannot help but result from schools that try to attend to the needs of thousands of students. And CHS has more than shown its worth with the academic results of its graduates.

Steve Norton, MIPFS

Fri, Apr 23, 2010 : 9:26 a.m.

@DonBee, Funny you should ask..... I have indeed looked at the contracts and compared the data. For the findings at the three major step levels in each district, please visit this page on our Ann Arbor Parents for Schools web site: You'll find a graph showing the step "curves" for AAPS and Plymouth-Canton Community Schools for the three principal education levels for 1-14+ years of service. The differences in the step scales are insufficient to explain the differences in reported average teacher pay. The largest differences occur for teachers with graduate degrees, where AAPS pays a growing amount more for years 2-9. However, PCCS teachers with graduate degrees catch up in a sudden jump in year 10. AAPS teachers do end up narrowly ahead, once the "L2" step kicks in at year 14. In contrast, teachers with a BA are paid more in PCCS at every service level. Your conclusion is that "One of the long term solutions to the problem is to reduce the step table back to levels of other school systems." AAPS has a number of education levels that apply to very few people. The "bump" at the L1 and L2 levels are relatively small, and serve to avoid having to bring salaries up to their final level by year 10. I must conclude that you mean that AAPS step pay at each level should be reduced until it matches those of neighboring districts. As you can see, the actual differences (with Plymouth-Canton, at least) are minimal. P-C will eventually end up with AAPS-like salary levels if they stop adding teachers and keep the pay scale the same as it is now. That then brings us back to the basic question of how much teachers should be paid. Many on this site and in our community inexplicably think that teachers deserve to be paid less. I'm not sure that applies to anyone who is working hard, but I particularly don't think it applies to people who are providing a critical service and where demand for that service remains as great as ever. (A nod here to "Thinking of the students".) As to the "compensation debate," I have never said that MPSERS contributions do not represent a cost to the district. I was simply pointing out that MPSERS contributions are not saved for any individual employee (and do not in fact guarantee that the system will be solvent when current employees retire). Like FICA, this does not represent usable "compensation" for employees. We should not be batting around "teacher pay" numbers that are inflated by including these contributions.


Fri, Apr 23, 2010 : 9:26 a.m.

@stunhsif: "90 jobs lost in the public sector ( that is 90 teaching positions) could be saved if your unions ( the MEA--SEA-YEA-AEA) didn't throw them under the bus" I'm sorry, whose unions? I know it's impossible to believe, but I am indeed not a teacher nor a member of any of the unions you mention. "My" union didn't throw people under the bus. Young teachers' unions may have, but why does that mean they don't even get a "gee that's tough"? Do you really think that a first or second year teacher has the power to get the AAEA to do something different? All I'm saying is that 90 lost jobs is bad for our community, period, just as 90 new jobs is good news for our community, period. Teachers are not separate from us, they are us (even though I'm not one). Their paychecks create business at our local shops just as much as mine or yours or anyone else's, and the loss of those paychecks hurts us as a community.


Fri, Apr 23, 2010 : 9:22 a.m.

Steve Norton, MIPFS The fact that Unions like the teacher unions, that care more about getting money then the well being of our children. If they cared about the well being of our children then they would not strike until summer. The more you keep children away from education the less they learn. Like I said these teachers are being paid by tax dollars and with the economy failing like it is. The property values plummeting. It has gotten to the point that instead of doing good the unions have started hurting America. They are selfish and have no respect for anyone or thing except themselves and their bank account. All They want is More Money, Us tax payers are sick of paying more taxes to keep the unions happy. I think the State of Michigan would be better of a right to work state. the cost of living would be lower.


Fri, Apr 23, 2010 : 9:10 a.m.

Rose, Every Job I know that requires a license, Doctor, Realtor, Mechanic, EMT, Paramedic, Nurse, etc... requires Continuing Education. Yes, I use to date a public school teacher and she always started getting things together 2 weeks before school Started usually really doing something 2 hours a day rest was play. Most licensed professions don't get 2.5 months off in the summer either, and get paid less.

Steve Norton, MIPFS

Fri, Apr 23, 2010 : 9:03 a.m.

@Gloriagirl, That may be true, but here we are discussing the financial situation of the AAPS district and its teaching staff. We need to say grounded in the realities of our local situation. That said, you should know that the source you cite is compiled by the Mackinaw Center, a conservative think tank based in Midland, MI. They are non-partisan, but just barely. They also have an ideological commitment to reduce or eliminate the role of unions in the state. As such, we should all be cautious when using their data and especially their interpretations.


Fri, Apr 23, 2010 : 8:54 a.m.

Teachers do not contribute to the cost of their own premiums in more than 300 plans. District-provided employee insurance costs Michigan taxpayers nearly $2 billion per year,said. This database ( provides many important details about how that money is being spent at the district level. For instance, the 2008-09 average annual premium for 602 family plans offered to teachers was $15,786, and the average annual employee contribution to these plans was $665, or 4.2 percent. Teachers in 301 of these plans make no contribution to the cost of their insurance premium. These numbers stand in stark contrast to statewide averages. The Kaiser Family Foundation reports that the average family premium in Michigan in 2008 was $11,321. On average, employees contribute $2,522, or 22 percent, to the cost of their monthly premium. Rising health insurance costs combined with declining enrollment and state-based tax revenue makes it imperative for schools to explore new ways of reducing employee insurance costs," Van Beek said. "This database can assist school districts in that endeavor." The database can be found at: Source:


Fri, Apr 23, 2010 : 7:20 a.m.

Brit: I will support you to the end IF.... You allow the board/administration to layoff the least effective teachers rather than the new teachers. You and I (and everyone here) know that the longest employed teacher isn't necessarily doing a great job, while a new teacher might be. Why not let go of tenure and seniority? If you do, I will support the AAEA entirely. It's sad when even the students know that this has nothing to do with teaching and learning. I know a HS student who is now vehemently anti-union and anti-tenure because he has seen has most effective teacher get pink slipped and has worst teacher skate by. That's not the kind of response you want from future voters/taxpayers.


Fri, Apr 23, 2010 : 6:57 a.m.

Steve Norton - I am sorry your logic does not work. For the total compensation to not include the contribution to the retirement fund, the teachers would need to never draw a retirement. I know that some never will, and that is a fair statement. But your logic is that since dollar "A" does not directly go into an account for teacher "A" for retirement, that dollar is not a cost of having that teacher as an employee. The formula for the retirement fund is based on the total number of dollars that spent to pay the teachers, pay them less and the dollars go down. Just like Social Security does not actually go into an account for the individual employee, but the employer still pays it based on total payroll. Since employees in the private sector pay about half of the social security tax and the employer pays the other half - that half the employer pays has to be added to the total compensation of the employee if you want an apples to apples comparison. As to health care - just because I pay a portion of my health care, it does not magically reduce what goes on my W-2 for gross pay. I get less, because it is deducted from my pay, but it still costs my employer that gross pay amount to pay me. So yes my take home pay is less, but my cost to the employer does not go down. Now that having been said, total compensation is an unfair way to compare one person to another person using data that can be found on the internet or in jobs databases. However, it is a useful number when you are looking at budgets, because that total compensation amount is what it costs to have that person around next year. As to your assumption that P-C and Dexter, etc all have the same pay scale as AAPS - I would suggest you look at the contracts (I have) - there are no L1, L2 steps in the step table, AAPS has them. The step tables are not as wide (education adders for new degrees) as AAPS. So no, they will not reach the same level as AAPS in a few years. Over time, steps in both longevity and education achievement have been added to the standard step table in AAPS. One of the long term solutions to the problem is to reduce the step table back to levels of other school systems. Then you look within the steps themselves and many of them are larger steps than surrounding schools. In some cases a couple thousand dollars larger than other schools per year. I would suggest you take the time to look, rather than assuming.

Thinking of the students

Fri, Apr 23, 2010 : 6:48 a.m.

@slp "Why is 90 teachers out of work more palatable than 90 factory workers?" When any community member is laid off we as a community feel it, we worry about them and their families. In this case yes we also worry about the teachers and their families. However the bigger picture here is not the employee or their families but that when a teacher is laid off it directly affects our students, our future. They don't have a voice therefore we must be a voice for them. When an assembly line worker is laid off cars aren't made, the reason cars aren't made is because they are not selling them thus we don't need to make them. When a teacher is laid off children are placed into larger classrooms thus getting less of an education. The same curriculum will be taught however teachers will not be able to reach out independently to students like they can now. A teacher having to conference with every student over a written essay takes a long add 10-15 more students at 10 min per student we are talking another hour and 40 min - 2 1/2 hours....they don't have that extra time in a week and this is just one subject, what about math, science, reading... If you add on time for each subject you will quickly see how meeting individual needs will no longer be part of the students education. Again I am not saying that assembly line jobs are not important or the people working them however it is about supply and demand if we aren't selling the cars then we don't need to make them which means we don't need as many on the assembly line. If we were loosing students then yes we would have to lay off teachers because we would not have a demand for them. less students = less need for teachers less cars being sold = less people needed to make them... In this case there are not less students therefore we can't afford to jeopardize our children's future by taking them away and cramming as many student bodies into a classroom that will fit without regard to how one teacher will meet all of their needs. I know there is not an easy solution however taking away our children's future should not be the answer. Our economy is bad we know this, one draw Ann Arbor has is the reputation of how incredible their schools are. This attracts families, are we willing to give that up? Just thinking about the big picture!

Jimmy Olsen

Fri, Apr 23, 2010 : 6:24 a.m.

@Brit - "That our trustees would suffer such insinuations as appear here... that they are "bought" by union thugs or have sinister agendas... is beyond the pale by any measure." Your insinuation that local EA's don't try to influence their local boards "is beyond the pale by any measure", almost laughable. Let's look at the 2010 MEA Bargaining, Political Action and Public Relations Conference held in February - they teach sessions called "Politics: A Bargaining Strategy That WorksSchool Board Elections" and "I Brought You Into This World, I Can Take You Out! - How to Run a Successful Board Recall Campaign". AAEA always has an interest in who runs for the Board - it is a well known tactic to "pack" the board with people who are former teachers, etc. (just look at the Saline Board).


Fri, Apr 23, 2010 : 2:43 a.m.

Wow, I see the problem. People think education is revenue generating. It is not. Comapanies that generate revenue and pay taxes allow for a strong education system. That is fundamental and basic economics. Not to pick on a brand - but anyone who thinks buying a toyota - or any product made by a foreign company - is more value added than a product made by a michigan company, here in michigan - is telling themselves what they want to hear. It is simply false. Michigan is in the economic mess because of this. Our number one source of revenue - the auto industry - has been taken over by the global economy. If our education system were the number one driver of our economy - as Steve mentions, and which I totally dissagree with - then it and the people working in it should be laid off based on Michigan's current economic dissaster. Clearly, they have not been doing a good job educating the masses. But, I don't believe that. I believe the economics lessons has clearly shown that the best way to support our teachers is to support our economy and companies paying the tax bills. GM was the first company to pay over $1 billion in taxes. Now, they can barely earn $1 billion. Toyota is just a name representing all foreign vehicles. So, don't kid yourself - buying foreign is not part of the sollution, it is the source of the problem. Educated people should know that.

Jack Panitch

Fri, Apr 23, 2010 : 12:04 a.m.

aataxpayer: I once had a childhood friend who fell in with a bunch of Pentacostals and then tried to convert his dad -- a lifelong Protestant -- to true Christianity. My point is I can't follow you into the breach if I'm already there. However, I will not scapegoat teachers ever. That's just bad and wrong.

Brit Satchwell

Fri, Apr 23, 2010 : 12:02 a.m.

OK, here goes... even though my comments are likely to be received like chum in shark infested waters... "The video with Brit explaining how the AAEA has three eyes struck me as funny." Thanks for noticing! My next line in the interview was "Notice that makes three eyes!" but it didn't make the cut. For the record: Teachers DO have three eyes, as any student will tell you. One in the back of our head for when we are facing the board. It's an acquired skill. In response to AAEA's agenda to "pack the Board", Mr. Thomas has graciously offered that his experience as a candidate proves otherwise. As a matter of fact, one candidate asked for my recommendation as part of the application process, which I advised against (see vitriolic blog comments by anonymous angry people). That our trustees would suffer such insinuations as appear here... that they are "bought" by union thugs or have sinister agendas... is beyond the pale by any measure. re: "Brit is talking to the School Board and administrators every day and has nothing else to do but to direct this school district the way the MEA thinks it should be directed, more teachers jobs..." I want to correct this wild statement while verifying other comments made in this chain about staff reductions: AAPS is being urged by AAEA to REDUCE(!) staff by 100 teachers over the next two years. AAPS and AAEA are in general agreement on this. It has to happen, in part to allow the district to live within a budget that will be about $10 million/yr less (that "third eye" of AAEA trained on helping the district achieve a sustainable budget). The trick is to achieve this downsizing, both in staff and budget, on a smooth glide path that doesn't unnecessarily impact programs or instruction. So we do indeed expect to end next year with 50 less teachers, all by attrition, then repeat that the following year. This would set the stage for no layoffs mathematically. However, one wild card is how many will actually retire and from what positions... this latter factor is key and MIGHT force a handful of layoffs if the retirements don't happen in the right positions as compared to instructional needs. I hope this helps clarify the difference between "staff reductions" and "layoffs". BTW, I will let AAPS know that the district is under my direction (I feel 20 years younger already!) And FYI, AAEA is what is known as a "local option" office. We, not MEA, run our own affairs. MEA sometimes wishes we were less autonomous, but they respect our autonomy nonetheless. (Now THERE'S some chum for the union cynics!) I must also comment on the assumptions expressed in this and other chains that somehow "new" teachers are better than "old" teachers. "New" teachers DO(!) bring energy and idealism to our profession, but there is no substitute for experience, as many new teachers will tell you by the end of their first year. Some new teachers are better than others, some veteran teachers are better than others... we mirror every workplace in America. But in no case should anybody's opinion about experience vs efficacy have any bearing on when a teacher should decide to call an end to their life's work. A lot of our veteran (and most effective!) teachers are feeling like they have a target on their backs these days. I have yet to hear one of them comment in these blogs about when others need to retire. Many here would benefit from their example in terms of temperate courtesy and basic manners. If you will not heed my words that negotiations are proceeding in a positive manner, then take the other team's word for it. Dr. Roberts and I have both said that we hope to have every teacher recalled before the end of the year. The layoff notices are NOT a result of either side dragging their feet. They were the result of an arbitrary state deadline re notification coupled with the district's need to proceed with their worst case scenario... they have to run the district next year and beyond regardless of what happens at the table. The last insurance company to report its new rates will do so tomorrow... insurance is part of the compensation puzzle. In the meantime, know that no teachers are being notified of impending layoffs in June because they are "bad" teachers. Layoffs, in any situation, whether in the public or private sectors, are the result of bad management, in this case the state's, as Dr. Roberts and anybody else playing a positive role in these discussions has repeatedly noted. We can no longer "cope" with a structural deficit on a local level; the solution is at the state level. Final word on positive vs negative comments: Many here have commented repeatedly in the past under assumed "blog" identities. They throw a disproportionate number of misinformed emotional bombs as compared to those who, regardless of position, use their given names. If you "frequent bashers" would comment with enough personal integrity to stand by your words using the names your parents were proud to give you at birth, you would have an incentive to be more constructive, hopefully even civil. Both AAPS and AAEA have informed you that talks are moving along in a positive manner. If positive news from both sides of the table that progress is being made is not what you want, then you can only want something else, and are grinding an axe that is really based on another agenda. This important topic suffers from it and from you. My name is Brit Satchwell. What's yours?

Steve Norton, MIPFS

Thu, Apr 22, 2010 : 10:58 p.m.

stunhslf, Your description makes it clear that you feel you get absolutely no benefit, directly or indirectly, from schools. I would disagree. I assume that you prefer to have police able to respond to calls, firefighters able to respond to fires, sanitation workers picking up trash, and so on. These are all public sector workers. What is the consequence of laying off many of these workers? Our community gets less safe and less clean. We may save tax money, but there is a tradeoff. The same is true for schools. I argue that we are all better off scrimping to pay the money now than to deal with the downstream consequences for the next ten to twenty years.

Jack Panitch

Thu, Apr 22, 2010 : 10:53 p.m.

aataxpayer: my dad (my hero) always said, "Look for the best in others, and that's what you'll usually find. The few times you don't, well, learn from it, and move on. Be charitable to all, but try not to be too gullible." There's a lot more candlepower there than I could ever hope to find in myself: he's a pretty savvy guy, and no one crosses him more than once. And while sometimes I think my life could be retitled "Gullible's Travels," I hope I have learned something from him in all departments. I have met Dr. Roberts, Robert Allen, Liz Margolis and numerous others, I have spent time with Brit Satchwell and each of the trustees, and I have witnessed them all in action for countless hours of local American government at its finest. I'm not trying to sell you on this view, but I still believe that if we rally around this extraordinary group of people and provide them whatever little support we can, we are going to get the most favorable possible outcome we could hope for under less-than-optimal, but by no means bleak, circumstances. I provided the procedural time-line, mostly just to give us all a more realistic sense of where and when it looks as though this cycle will end, but also to motivate people to make any responsible views known before it is too late. Are we all sitting back in our electron-towers and shooting ideas into the ether as a cosmic societal venting, or are we making an honest effort to educate ourselves so that when we speak from the heart what comes out the mouth will actually be worth something in the marketplace of ideas and push us all forward? My first post was during the time of the failed millage. I was new to blogging, and I got my feet wet with the pseudonym "Garcia Disciple." I chose that appellation for a line from "I Will Survive:" "I see you have your fist out, Say your piece and get out." A lot of people bang the table with strongly held opinions. All are worth listening to once. Then there's the Grenade-down-the-hole approach: I don't think the image of my kids' first and third-grade teachers -- two of this world's most wonderful souls -- banding together with the rest of the teachers in this district to throw anyone under the bone-crushing and uncaring steel wheels of a fast-moving, fifteen ton machine is worth thinking about for more than a split-second. I understand the important sentiment expressed by the speaker, but I don't believe that he or she would repeat it upon proper reflection, and I surely hope it never comes up again in conversation. Again, I understand the important sentiment. I also understand that it's difficult to tell what road we're on these days with so many folks of good intention. Maybe I'm one of them. Stick a pitch-fork in me. I'm done. Only good will, aataxpayer. You are one of the responsible voices, and that's why I place so much effort on changing your mind.

Andrew Thomas

Thu, Apr 22, 2010 : 10:48 p.m.

Steve: Well said. The problem is not teachers, and it is certainly not teachers who buy Toyotas. The problem is, we need to prepare our children for a rapidly-changing world. For this, we need high-quality education. I remember a conversation at one of our Burns Park PTO meetings with an individual whose business is recruiting biological engineers for high-tech companies in the biomedical field. Of his last 18 placements, not one was educated in the USA -- they all came from Japan, China, Korea, Singapore, India and Pakistan. It wasn't that these US firms didn't want to hire Americans -- it was that there just weren't any highly qualified Americans available to fill these jobs. We need to be thinking about how to ramp up our educational system to meet the demand for jobs like these, not lamenting over the long-gone days when Detroit was pumping out 18 million gas guzzlers per year.

Steve Norton, MIPFS

Thu, Apr 22, 2010 : 10:47 p.m.

As to the "total compensation" debate: We're not going to get the quality schools we need unless we pay the professionals who make them work a competitive salary. AAPS teachers do, on the whole, get decent compensation - and that's largely because our community put a priority on being able to attract and retain the best teaching staff possible. Back when we still had the option to control our own revenue, that was our priority. Now, just to shed some light on this topic: Using the step table and information on the number of teachers at each step, the average salary for a certified teacher in AAPS for 2009-10 is just over $73,000 per year. Our pay scale is not significantly different from other districts frequently held up for comparison, such as Plymouth-Canton. It's just that we have made an effort to retain high quality teachers, and that shows in the fact that the vast majority of our teachers have at least 10 years of service with the district. Other districts, such as Plymouth-Canton, Saline and Dexter, have seen their student populations grow dramatically over the last ten years. That means they were hiring lots of new teachers, who started out on the bottom step. Other things being equal, these districts would end up where we are now in a few years, now that the growth has slowed. To that $73,000, add a district contribution for health care (medical, vision and dental) of $12,600 per year (for 2009-11), or a little over $1,000 per month. So make that a total compensation package of about $85,000-86,000 including insurance. Certainly not bad, but also not way out of line for white collar professionals with a minimum of a college degree and, on average, at least 10 years with their current employer. Keep in mind, also, that there are no step increases after 13 years of service. It's COLA or nothing. Now to health benefits: the district will contribute a bit over $1,000 per month over the 2009-11 contract as it is currently written. That basically covers the cost of the Priority Health and Blue Care Network HMO options for a family. Teachers who take the MESSA PPO plan instead will pay a further $410 per month, or almost $5,000 a year, out of pocket (in addition to co-pays, etc.) for a family. Those who choose the MESSA "Super Care" option, a traditional fee-for-service plan, pay an extra $550 a month for family coverage, or $6,600 a year. This would bring net compensation back down to about $80,000 for teachers who choose the MESSA plans, which (as PPO and fee-for-service) are less restrictive, and also have added benefits such as case managers and layoff coverage protection. The rest of the supposed "compensation" most people quote comes from the 17% of payroll the district must contribute to the state pension system, MPSERS. However, that contribution is not going to anyone's individual account. Half of it helps keep the system solvent (sort of) and the other half goes right back out to cover health benefits for current retirees. Do MPSERS contributions represent a cost to the district? Sure. So do Social Security and Medicare contributions. But do you usually consider your employer's FICA payments on your behalf to be part of your compensation package? Probably not, especially since that money is in no way being saved for you personally. The same applies to MPSERS. Hoping to shed light rather than heat.


Thu, Apr 22, 2010 : 10:37 p.m.

SPJ, It is a lot easier for us taxpayers to accept 90 teachers losing their jobs versus 90 jobs lost in the private/manufacturing sector because the 90 jobs lost in the public sector ( that is 90 teaching positions) could be saved if your unions ( the MEA--SEA-YEA-AEA) didn't throw them under the bus. As well, losing the teaching positions means my taxes won't go up. Michigan has lost ONE MILLION manufacturing jobs in the past 10 years, that is an average wage of over 50K. Those lost positions are being replaced by an average salary of 23K with most in the service sector. Now tell me how jobs have been lost in the public sector and I beg you to show me that those in the public sector have had their pay cut by 50%. no sympathy from me, none!

Steve Norton, MIPFS

Thu, Apr 22, 2010 : 10:13 p.m.

Wow, I think I see part of the basic problem here. "Belboz" writes: It wasn't education that build this country, it was manufacturing. Education followed and improved many things, but without jobs and a solid tax base, Michigan will continue to have this discussion every year regarding teachers. I'm sorry, but that simply is not true. A commitment to public education was a hallmark of our country since independence. Read some of what Thomas Jefferson wrote when he pushed legislation creating public school systems in Virginia and across the country. In fact, access to education (back then, basic stuff like literacy) was one of the key things that set our priorities apart from Old World countries where education was a privilege of the wealthy (or reserved for those studying for the clergy). The very laws which created the framework for the state we live in, the Northwest Ordinance (one of the first major acts of the new US government) set aside a certain section of land in each township which would be used for supporting a public school. The system of government we have today in the Great Lakes states is a direct consequence of decisions made in 1789. Manufacturing helped build America in the 20th century, that is true. But one of the reasons why is that it brought many people from rural areas into urban centers where access to things like education was more routine. And if you really want to think about what built post-WWII prosperity, think about the huge impact of the GI Bill and the flood of vets who went to college after the war - people who would largely never have been able to afford higher education before. Now we face a future where manufacturing jobs will not be the pillar of the economy they once were. Most manufacturers, whether US or foreign, are shifting their manufacturing to low-labor-cost countries like China and SE Asia. Even most imported cars are not primarily made in Japan or other wealthy countries. Once, you could finish high school and get a good job in the US auto industry that would guarantee you a middle-class living with a pension; those days seem gone forever. A quality education is the only way out. Education helps people have the flexibility to deal with change, to be able to find new opportunities rather than be trapped in a declining industry. I am proud that the people of this part of the country helped America prosper by actually making things - whether it be automotive components or high quality agricultural products. But even family farmers often went to get agriculture degrees. We will still have an advantage in the making of things, but they will be different things, and the new industries will require more and better education. That is why our public schools are an investment in the future, for all of us.


Thu, Apr 22, 2010 : 10:04 p.m.

I find it truly remarkable that when a plant closes, or a company goes under and people lose their jobs, the commenters here are full of lamentation for the horrible state of the economy. When almost 200 people, the lowest paid and the least able to afford it, are notified they may be laid off, with an almost certain loss of 50-90 jobs, it's "too bad it's your own fault" because they are teachers. Do you not think that these teachers are part of our community? Why is 90 teachers out of work more palatable than 90 factory workers?


Thu, Apr 22, 2010 : 9:27 p.m.

WLD1 Teachers work much before the school year begins and ends. It is incorrect to say that teachers work from September to June. They are working two weeks before school starts and then add another week of Staff Development. As the school year closes teachers are continuously working on extending their learning through Staff Development opportunities. Yes, you could say that they are not teaching children, but they are working.


Thu, Apr 22, 2010 : 9:25 p.m.

@TruBlu... Well, looks like my data didn't get approved - too off topic. In 1980, GM had over 618,000 us employees and 48% of the market share. Toyota had less than 5% of the market and essentially zero US employees. Now, Toyota has about 40,000 employees, and GM has about 80,000 employees. GM and Toyota are both at about 18% of the market share. So, we gained 40,000 Toyota Jobs as they took an additional 13% market share over the last 30 years, or about 3,000 jobs per market share. GM lost 31% market share and 538,000 jobs over the past 30 years, or 17,000 jobs per market share. So, for every 1 Toyota job gained, we've lost over 5 GM jobs. I'm sure it is not that simple, but that is the general point - we don't gain the same amount of jobs from foreign companies as the US manufacturing sector is destroyed. What that has to do with teachers is that, as people lose focus on what builds a strong economy, we lose what our strong economy is able to provide citizens - a strong education. It wasn't education that build this country, it was manufacturing. Education followed and improved many things, but without jobs and a solid tax base, Michigan will continue to have this discussion every year regarding teachers. So buy Big 3, specifically that which is built in Michigan....


Thu, Apr 22, 2010 : 9:21 p.m.

Aataxpayer - Valid concerns...and good points. Certainly most employees tend to relate to their 'gross pay' level, however it's good practice to clearly inform employees how much they are actually earning-total compensation-on a regular basis. As you likely know, most are surprised to learn their true compensation is substantially higher than their gross pay. Fair to compare teacher wages? Maybe. Wage comparisons do appear to be a useful benchmark at least. If we don't compare, how can we confidently assess value? Thanks & good luck.


Thu, Apr 22, 2010 : 7:43 p.m.

Thanks aataxpayer "Alpha Alpha, Nobody has advocated harder than I for a 7-8% salary concession, but please stop suggesting teachers are making 100K. They're not. The 100K figure includes every fringe, pensions, etc. The real W-2 gross income figure is in the 70's for the average teacher and typically in the 80's for most teachers with advanced degrees and extra responsibilities (e.g. coaching)." It's no suggestion that the average AAPS employee total compensation is ~$100,000 per year, it is a fact. The numbers have reliably and repeatedly been calculated and referenced on this site. Total compensation is what it is. It's the cost to the employer, and the customers. You would certainly use the total compensation value if you wanted to hire even a single employee to work for you... no different with public employees. All- The degree status of a teacher is largely irrelevant to their teaching ability, and likely should be discarded as a compensation metric. An advanced degree makes for a nice title, but, as another commenter wondered, where is the evidence showing teachers with advanced degrees actually improve educational outcomes? The key fact many customers seem to be expressing is that perhaps AAPS employees should earn a bit less than twice the national average wage...


Thu, Apr 22, 2010 : 7:14 p.m.

Tony Dearing Sometime what may appear to ignorant people as off topic are actually Part of the topic. This is the problem with people in ann arbor, MI. They cannot look outside the box. That is why our teachers need to get layoffs.


Thu, Apr 22, 2010 : 6:08 p.m.

Lisa Starfield, were you going to make a poine regarding Bachelors and masters degrees? Jimmy Olson - The reasoning behind paying teachers more for having a masters degree is to encourage them to further their education and learn how to be a better teacher. It's no guarantee that all will become better teachers, but would as many teachers further their education at their own expense if there was no reward. Don't know that answer, but I think they deserve the extra pay.


Thu, Apr 22, 2010 : 6:06 p.m.

@ stunhsif, crazy talk. Who voted down the millage? The Teacher Unions? No, it was the citizens of Washtenaw county, who, according to the latest statistics, don't have enough education to peel an egg! My goodness.


Thu, Apr 22, 2010 : 6:01 p.m.

AAW - Here's hoping you're not a Math Teacher :) 20% of the Health cost is not a 20% cut in pay. It is a significant expense, but let's not paint it worse than it is.

Jimmy Olsen

Thu, Apr 22, 2010 : 5:56 p.m.

@Lisa Can you show us some statistics where a person having a masters degree is actually a better teacher? The fact that someone can achieve this, doesn't mean they teach better and deserve more salary. I would look at the same statistics for the county - I think they would be significantly higher.

Lisa Starrfield

Thu, Apr 22, 2010 : 5:30 p.m.

For those of you complaining about teacher's making more than the average Michigan worker, consider this. Less than 25% of Michiganders in 2007 had Bachelor's degrees. Less than 10% of Michiganders in 2007 had Master's degrees. (source:


Thu, Apr 22, 2010 : 5:09 p.m.

Do people forget that most teachers only really work from September To June. And Have many breaks, Holidays on top of vacation days. Considering How much they make. They do not need any more raises. They make enough. There is a reason why the teacher unions are scared of school vouchers. They would lose a lot in dues. These teachers Work less and make more then a lot of executives I know.


Thu, Apr 22, 2010 : 4:08 p.m.

@belboz I would like to see some facts to back up your statements. Toyota uses many of the same suppliers that the Big3 do. Also I am all for buying local products made in Michigan but that means many Fords and GMs are out because they are made in Mexico and Canada.


Thu, Apr 22, 2010 : 3:20 p.m.

Yes - stop buying Toyota. For every 1 job they create (or 1,000), we lose many more jobs. Compared to the hundreds of thousands that the Big 3 has let go over the years, that 1,000 is a pretty poor way to make it up. Just take a drive through Detroit or any other city that has close plants because people are busy buy cars made overseas. The token hirings do not make these foreign products a value add when compared to the jobs that are lost. So, if you want to help Michigan - just like the Michigan ads say - buy something made in michigan. Be it Cherry's or a shiny new car. It is pretty basic economics. But, kids don't learn that these days in elementary. They're busy taking spanish.

Jack Panitch

Thu, Apr 22, 2010 : 2:13 p.m.

I would like to go back to Basic Bob's comment in the lead-off position, because there is an important point to be made here. The quote attributed to Trustee Stead in Mr. Jesse's article is a sound bite taken from a greater body of commentary the Trustee made. Last night's entire meeting must have lasted approximately one half hour, not a marathon by any measure. Any community member who wants to judge for him or herself the entire content of Trustee Stead's commentary (or the words of any other speaker) may do so with ease by turning on the television and watching a rerun on Channel 18. I will warn you that if you do so, two things will happen: 1) you will be hit head-on by the very appropriate somberness and absolute gravity of the moment; and 2) you will start to humanize the community leaders you speak about. Negotiations continue, but no one is going to pull a rabbit out of their hat. It's a poly-centric puzzle with shape-shifting pieces due, in part, to games of political chicken in Lansing. For that reason, nothing appears likely to get done until it absolutely has to get done. No amount of union-bashing is going to change that. As a former negotiator (not labor, but deals generally), I would squirm pretty hard if my client asked me to do something before I knew what the ramifications were. In the end, I would do what I had to in terms of drafting for contingencies, but I would probably be doing all the back ground preparation I could to be ready to put a deal in place quickly at the eleventh hour. (I am no expert on labor negotiations, and I know nothing of the history of the District and these bargaining units' past dealings, so take what i say with a grain of salt.) Important dates to keep in mind: May 26th, the Board will host its own budget meeting and receive a "first briefing" of the District's 2010-2011 Budget Plan at that time. The Budget Plan will come up for "second briefing" and a possible vote on June 9th. However, the Board President reminded the Trustees at the last meeting that the drop-dead date is June 30th, the implication being that the Board has until the 30th to take final action. Lastly, to Chris, consider turning that disgust into something positive. Contact any of these four organizations and get involved: 1) Ann Arbor PTO Council (ask for the Advocacy Committee) 2) Ann Arbor Parents for Schools 3) Michigan Parents for Schools 4) SOS Michigan


Thu, Apr 22, 2010 : 1:32 p.m.

The same bill that creates this increase in the amount that teachers pay into retirement, limits the cost to districts (to about 17.01 percent, down from the 19.4 or so announced) for the 2010-11 year. So that would reduce the cost to districts. Also, this 17.01 is the maximum, so it could be lower, but not likely since I am also thinking it is underfunded.

Steve Norton, MIPFS

Thu, Apr 22, 2010 : 1:05 p.m.

@PhillyCheeseSteak, Once again, those capacity figures are not meaningful. They figure capacity based on how many *rooms* a building has. It only really matters if buildings are over capacity, because then you literally have people tripping over each other (as at Pioneer until recently). However, these buildings below "capacity" could not be brought up to capacity without hiring new teachers or shifting teachers and their classes from other buildings. Adding kids to existing classrooms will only marginally impact capacity figures but WILL definitely erode the quality of education. Unless you eliminate classroom teachers and increase overall class size, the savings from closing a building are minimal. Remember: AAPS does not pay rent or property taxes on their buildings. How many private firms would sell off property in this market if they owned the property free and clear and moreover had to pay no taxes on it? On the other hand, the likely cost of the redistricting which would be required would be high. If 60 students left AAPS as a result of the turmoil, the savings from closing an elementary school would be wiped out.

Jimmy Olsen

Thu, Apr 22, 2010 : 12:35 p.m.

@Clear The extra 3% is a feeble attempt to shore up the pension fund. The district will not pay 3% less, they got a whopping increase for next year and will continue to have to give more.


Thu, Apr 22, 2010 : 12:25 p.m.

Everyone seems to forget that for years teachers have routinely given up salary increases (or accepted reduced percentages) to maintain health care. This bill to force educational personnel to pay 10-20 percent of premiums would nullify those actions. Also, remember that in the future we want to attract the best individuals to the teaching profession and making the salary and benefit package less attractive will not help. Having the state mandate that teachers pay an additional 3% of their salary (which means most will be paying 6.9-7.3 percent to fund retirement with no gain in benefit to the employee) only makes it cheaper for the districts. Their amount to contribute goes down, again, without any benefit to educational employees (not only teachers but all school employees). Just last month the US government sent out information to share with high school students about the benefits (income) that will follow the average person who invests in their education. It claimed that the average worker with a Master's degree or higher makes almost $80,000. You'll find that very few educators in Washtenaw County make that much but almost all teachers with five years of service have attained that level of education.


Thu, Apr 22, 2010 : 12:06 p.m.

Thank the Unions. They negotiated these high salaries. Guess What? Where Does the money come from, to pay these high salaries? That's right! Us Tax Payers. With the fall in home values. The government is getting less money. Not to mention we are sick of paying these high taxes. Isn't greed great, it helps you become unemployed. And Stay Unemployed. Keep raising the minimum wage, there will be less jobs out there. Lower minimum wage there will be more jobs out there. That is not speculation it is fact. Every time Minimum wage goes up, more companies close because they can not keep up with payroll.

Steve Norton, MIPFS

Thu, Apr 22, 2010 : 12:01 p.m.

@MSG, Not all teachers are that highly paid, but AAPS teachers already do pay for a portion of their health care. The district contributes a fixed amount, which is indexed to the cost of a BCBSM POS plan offered to other district employees. Teachers who choose one of the MESSA plans pay more - a lot more. Those who choose one of the HMOs are covered. Any rate increases from MESSA, above the rate of increase covered by the district, will be paid by teachers. And all this talk of moving Community High assumes that Skyline will only ever be half full. That's nonsense. In two years, Skyline will be full, and Pioneer and Huron will be back down somewhat closer to actual capacity. If you think that doesn't make a difference, you cannot have talked to many parents of recent HS students. If Pioneer were still going to be the size it was before Skyline opened (the largest in the state) when my kids reached 9th grade, I would have had serious hesitations about sending them there no matter how much I support public schools. We simply have not and will not lose that many students that we could afford to keep running two gigantic, factory-style high schools. Spreading enrollment across three main buildings makes AAPS secondary education a whole lot better. The only sad part was that, thanks to our state's system of school funding, we could tax ourselves to build Skyline but NOT to staff it. Only a few staff have been hired for Skyline; all others have come from other buildings.


Thu, Apr 22, 2010 : 12:01 p.m.

In 2 years all the high schools will be at capacity, barring unforeseen population declines. BUT, does Ann Arbor NEED 5 high schools: Huron, Pioneer, Skyline, Community, Stone, Clemente? It would be more efficient to close some of the under-capacity middle and elementary schools. Together they are under-capacity by over 2,000 students. (Based on 2009 headcount numbers and capacity info. cited in the User Friendly Guide to the 2009-2010 Budget.) For example: Bryant Elem. has capacity for 450 students and currently has 315 students; Scarlett M.S. has 538 students but has capacity for 893. A.A. Public Schools need to run as efficiently as possible, with as few "expensive" building administrators (principals) as safety and common sense allow. Our legislators need to do their work in Lansing and determine how much the "Per Pupil" amount for next year will that ALL Michigan's schools can reasonably make their budgets.


Thu, Apr 22, 2010 : 11:56 a.m.

@ Chris who said : "you really think laying off 200 full time teachers is the answer?" First off it won't be 200 and secondly the teachers and their union will be the ones laying themsevles off, not the school board. The school board must balance their budget. The teachers can either take reasonable cost concessions on pay/pension or they can lay their least senior teachers off. Their call, not the school boards or the taxpayers. Taxpayers have empty pockets and already have taken huge pay cuts and increased costs for healthcare. Their solution is staring them in the face--that is if they will look in the mirror!!


Thu, Apr 22, 2010 : 11:35 a.m.

Renegotiate contracts in all districts. It is unacceptable for teachers to pay less than 20% of health care costs. University of Michigan staff (even the lowest paid) pay, on average, 20% of their costs. This amounts to about $3,000 per year. Ann Arbor teachers are highly paid and can afford this expense. Another important savings: sell one of the high schools. UM would love to buy Pioneer High and has the cash to do it. The voters were sold a bill of goods by George Fornero. We do not need three high schools!


Thu, Apr 22, 2010 : 11:28 a.m.

@ TruBlue, ahem, I never said money, you did. You really think laying off nearly 200 full-time teachers is the answer? I can't even imagine all of the kids that will now fall through the cracks or the increased size of the class sizes... Education was the holy grail (in A2) and we've just gutted it of teachers. Money is just the means to an end, TruBlue, it's the teachers that made the real difference.


Thu, Apr 22, 2010 : 11:22 a.m.

@ Andrew Thomas, I hope you are right, though, I still think we're damaging ourselves in the long term. Now, we have fewer and fewer things that make Ann Arbor unique and special in Michigan. So, what's the point in staying in this armpit of the US?


Thu, Apr 22, 2010 : 10:59 a.m.

My mistake, however, without knowing what the natural attrition rate will be following the school year, it's impossible to say how many jobs are really at stake here. Whatever the number is, it's not 191.


Thu, Apr 22, 2010 : 10:58 a.m.

regarding income declines in 2009: According to the Bureau of Economic Analysis, personal income in the U.S. declined by 1.7% in 2009. In Michigan, the decline was 3%. Per capita personal income fell 2.6 percent nationally in 2009 after rising 2.0 percent in 2008. The 2009 decline in Michigan was 2.7%. Does anyone expect 2010 to be better?

David Jesse

Thu, Apr 22, 2010 : 10:47 a.m.

@Ypsilivin: Brit's comment was aimed at the teachers who are getting the pink slips. He wants them recalled, or rehired.


Thu, Apr 22, 2010 : 10:43 a.m.

YpsiLivin: Isn't that an email Satchwell sent out to the union members, in the sense that he wants to get them all recalled from layoffs? I'm pretty sure he was referring to layed-off teachers, not school board members...

just a homeowner

Thu, Apr 22, 2010 : 10:43 a.m.

aataxpayer: So CHS needs to be downtown to work. OK, then I think students who want that should not also be able to enjoy the benefits offered by high schools without the privilege of the downtown location. Like sports. You want your kids to go to school downtown, fine. But then live with the advantages and limitations of that choice.


Thu, Apr 22, 2010 : 10:41 a.m.

@Chris Let's just keep throwing money at a problem, that will fix everything...right. I think we can come up with a better solution. @The buy American crowd Toyota employs over 1000 people in Washtenaw county. Should we stop buying their cars so all those people pack up and move?


Thu, Apr 22, 2010 : 10:39 a.m.

@Andrew Thomas, My suggestion that the AAEA has dedicated itself to interfering with the results of the school board election comes from Brit Satchwell's quote, in which he stated publicly and unequivocally: "I want to assure you that it is my goal and the common goal of our bargaining team and AAPS to have each of you recalled before this year is out. If the AAEA wasn't interested in getting "friendlies" on the board last year, they've clearly changed their strategy. (See above.) Their union rep has stated in no uncertain terms that the union's goal and intention is to remove the school board. What more do you need?

A Voice of Reason

Thu, Apr 22, 2010 : 10:38 a.m.

First, the School Board negotiated a teachers contract that we, Ann Arbor, cannot afford. AAPS has been giving away the shop for years. The teachers union had in their power to finish negotiating their 2010-2011 contract in Jan. Instead, they are willing to put our community, teachers and especially or children through this stress and gamePolitics 101. Where did the amount of $4 million in requested union concessions come from? Why not 10 million or $2 million? Someone is telling the school district what the union will agree to do and it is the MEA leading this game. Brit is talking to the School Board and administrators every day and has nothing else to do but to direct this school district the way the MEA thinks it should be directed, more teachers jobsnew high school, pre-school, no accountability, allow ineffective teachers to keep jobs, etc. There are fancy PR campaigns, articles, ads, etc. all trying to make you think the MEA & Britt, etc. are nice guys and care about your kids education. With $300,000,000+(MESSA) in assets made on the backs of your hard earned tax dollars used for overpaying for MESSA insurance, a 5-7 person staff in Washtenaw County, a $1,000,000 credit union building, etc. and a ~$2,000,000 lobbying and marketing budget in SE Michigan, and no accountably for our children to learn, parents need to demand change. MEA financially supported several of the school board members so they are recalling their own pals. Brit Satchel (president) is acting like an union thug with his tactics and Ann Arbor people are above this game, sorry Britt go back to your migrant workers. Saline parents have demanded that teachers take concessions. We need to demand accountabliy and will not stop until that is achieved.


Thu, Apr 22, 2010 : 10:18 a.m.

Illinois dealing with this issue today: "Thousands rally at Illinois Capitol for a tax increase",0,7136469.story

Andrew Thomas

Thu, Apr 22, 2010 : 9:55 a.m.

@ Chris, I feel your pain, but I think you're overreacting. The $20 M in budget cuts were very carefully developed to minimize the impact on classrooms, and to a significant extent, that has been achieved. Negotiations with AAEA are ongoing, and when the dust settles, I would be very suprised if more than a handful of teachers actually lose their jobs. This is still a great school system, we have much to be proud of, and we can make it work. Please be part of the solution.


Thu, Apr 22, 2010 : 9:25 a.m.

It is sad that Mr. Hagen got a layoff notice. He is a wonderful teacher and AAPS needs him badly. It's also sad that the Senate & House aren't allowing the multiplier to be raised for retiring so that more "senior" teachers would retire since they are eligible and allow for the "young" blood to enter the teaching profession.


Thu, Apr 22, 2010 : 8:57 a.m.

Ann Arbor Superintendent Todd Roberts is clearly doing the bidding of the majority of the Washtenaw County residence who voted down the millage. Yet, the fallout of this will destroy Ann Arbor's reputation as a family friendly environment with a great school system. There is no reason to stay here anymore. We can get a jobs anywhere and if we have to pay for our kids education we can do that anywhere as well. This is the most pathetic event that has ever happened to Ann Arbor. People in Wastenaw County overwhelmingly no longer care about giving our kids the tools to compete in the global market place. Time to move.

Jimmy Olsen

Thu, Apr 22, 2010 : 8:53 a.m.

The 15,000 you are using for health care costs probably doesn't include the 13% increase MESSA just announced. Move away from MESSA to find "affordable" premiums and the impact of the 20% is not as bad as it looks. ObamaCare will change the whole landscape of health care shortly, so keep those wallets open.

Andrew Thomas

Thu, Apr 22, 2010 : 8:34 a.m.

@ dakabk: Just how much have private sector employees seen their pay decline? According to data available from the Social Security Administration on "average indexed earnings", wages rose from $32,154 in 2000 to $41,335 in 2008 (the most recent year for which data is available). That's an increase of 28.5% over an 8-year period. Granted, this is national data, and does not reflect the downturn of last year. Still, the overall trend seems to be toward stable to slightly higher wages, and certainly not a significant decrease. There have been numerous posts to this web site by individuals who stated they suffered wage reductions in the 20% range. While this may be true, it does not seem to be representative. Claims that virtually everyone in the private sector has suffered wage losses of this magnitude are just plain wrong. In the spirit of full disclosure, the Social Security figures do not reflect changes in benefits, so they do not include such things as loss of employer-paid health insurance, higher employee premiums, employer contributions to 401 plans, etc. So it may well be true (and probably is) that private sector employees have given back a significant amount in these areas.


Thu, Apr 22, 2010 : 8:33 a.m.

lee miserables, lemme guess... Manchester? If you think you're in a perfect school district, you are mistaken... every district has its issues and that one has plenty of its own. And insulting AAPS by making baseless claims does nothing but bolster the appearance of your lack of understanding about how this all works.


Thu, Apr 22, 2010 : 8:08 a.m.

@AAW You're right for a teacher making $70,000 a year that may not hit them hard. But for a teacher assistant who only make between $18,000 and $26,000 it is a LOT. This issue doesn't only effect the teacher but everyone. Please do the math. Even at a $25,000 base - the 3% paycut amounts to $750. Add in the 20% cost share on $15,000 health benefits and its a total cut/cost share of $3750 on a base of $40,000 which is a little over 9%. As I said earlier, its nowhere near 28% and pretty comparable to the cuts that nearly everyone in the private sector has experienced in recent years.


Thu, Apr 22, 2010 : 7:59 a.m.

dakabk You're right for a teacher making $70,000 a year that may not hit them hard. But for a teacher assistant who only make between $18,000 and $26,000 it is a LOT. This issue doesn't only effect the teacher but everyone.

Andrew Thomas

Thu, Apr 22, 2010 : 7:46 a.m.

@ Ypsilivin' Don't know where you got the idea that AAEA is trying to "pack the court" by replacing current school board members with ones approved by their union. As a two-time (unsuccessful) candidate for the open BOE positions, I can attest that I was never questioned about my relationship with AAEA, was never approached by any AAEA representative (other than a routine "good luck" handshake by Mr. Satchwell prior to the BOE meeting), and I am quite confident that none of the other candidates (including the two successful ones) were given any sort of litmus test by AAEA. If it was really their objective to "pack the court", the opportunity to place three appointed (rather than elected) Trustees would have been too good to pass up. @Basic BobZ: Yeah, go ahead and throw tomatoes at our latest school board member. This is an unpaid (OK, they do get a whopping $140 per month), time-consuming, generally thankless job, especially from people like you. Let's look at the record: Over the past year, there have been 6 openings on the Ann Arbor BOE. Two were filled by incumbants who ran unopposed. One was filled by a candidate who won despite trying to withdraw from the race. In the past 6 months, three BOE members have resigned for personal reasons. Eleven very fine candidates, including Ms. Stead, stepped forward to fill these vacancies at great personal sacrifice, motivated by civic duty to serve the District in a time of extreme need and turmoil. I didn't notice YOU throwing your hat into the ring (although since you choose to post anonymously, I guess we don't know for sure). You should be grateful to Ms. Stead for her willingness to take on this task. EMoneyy975: I too was puzzled at first why 191 lay-off notices were sent out when the actual number of expected reductions is only 90 (even under the "worst-case" scenario) and the actual number of lay-offs (after retirements, etc.) will probably be much lower than that, perhaps even zero. The answer is that lay-off notices were sent to ALL probationary teachers. Within that group of probationary employees, the District will need to sort out who is certified for what grade or specialty, and various other factors (including, yes, job performance). So this figure is best looked at as a pool of potential lay-offs. The purpose was definitely NOT to provide "shock value" but to be as fair as possible, and to make sure the most qualified of the low-seniority teachers are retained.


Thu, Apr 22, 2010 : 7:38 a.m.

I don't want to "mess" with Community High. I just want to move it so it can be more cost effective. That way we can keep the programs everyone loves, but cut costs by having CHS share a library, nurse, and other support functions/facilities. Plus, it frees up the board to sell an older, costly-to-maintain building. Or...does CHS depend on kids being able to eat lunch at Kerrytown?


Thu, Apr 22, 2010 : 7:37 a.m.

@EMoney975 "Does anyone else think that the 191 "potential layoff" notices are a strategic move by the board to make the situation look bleak (and scare people into action against the state)?" The school board is legally required to inform (pink slip) any employee whose job might be in jeopardy. Given that we don't know what will happen at the state level, or with union bargaining, they have to send out pink slips for the worst case scenario.


Thu, Apr 22, 2010 : 7:12 a.m.

@AAW There is a bill in the senate now I think it is SB-1046 that would require all state employees to pay 20% of health benifits. This includes teacher, so does that mean that teachers should take a pay cut of 3-8% plus the 20% for a possible total of 28%. Who out there can afford that anyone, anyone? OK, time for a quick math lesson. Lets say a teacher's base salary is $70,000 - a 3% cut equates to $2100. If Health Benefits cost $15,000, a 20% premium share equates to $3000. So in total, thats $5100 in cuts/cost sharing against a total base of $85,000....which is 6%. Nowhere near to 28% and seems pretty reasonable in this environment.


Thu, Apr 22, 2010 : 6:54 a.m.

There is a bill in the senate now I think it is SB-1046 that would require all state employees to pay 20% of health benifits. This includes teacher, so does that mean that teachers should take a pay cut of 3-8% plus the 20% for a possible total of 28%. Who out there can afford that anyone, anyone?


Thu, Apr 22, 2010 : 6:33 a.m.

Okay, let's say teachers take a 10-20% pay cut this year and you all can celebrate. What about next year? And the following? This is a long-term problem created in Lansing, but they're all too busy campaigning to keep their jobs rather than working on a solution to this problem.


Thu, Apr 22, 2010 : 6:12 a.m.

I don't feel like my interests are being represented by the union. I understand these are tough times for the people of Michigan, and I would prefer a modest salary concession to layoffs, increased class sizes, cuts to electives and extracurricular activities, fewer counselors, and less money for textbooks and supplies. Other teachers I have talked to feel the same way.


Wed, Apr 21, 2010 : 10:15 p.m.

There is a NY Times article today that is worth reviewing. It talks to the National Reduction in teachers and school staff. This is a national issue, not just an AAPS or Michigan issue. It turns out that K-12 schools (according to the NYT) take about 25% of the total state budgets and it looks like about 300,000 school personnel could be laid off this spring nationally. There is a $39 Billion (the "B" is not a mistake) bill in congress to provide assistance to the states for education costs for the 2010-2011 school year. If you think schools need more money, call your Congressman in Washington. This bill will help in 2010-2011, but it will not permanently fix the problem of school costs or funding. Both costs and funding need to be fixed all across the nation. Regardless of what happens this spring, we will be back discussing this again next year and probably the year after. We have a lot of work to do to fix the problem at all levels.


Wed, Apr 21, 2010 : 10:05 p.m.

We could save a lot of money by firing the overpaid administrators and using their wages to fund those teachers being laid off. I think it's more important we keep educators in the state happy rather than dealing with some slimy business types.


Wed, Apr 21, 2010 : 10 p.m.

Hey! You should buy a Toyota. Toyota employs a lot of people in this county (including me). Does anyone else think that the 191 "potential layoff" notices are a strategic move by the board to make the situation look bleak (and scare people into action against the state)? I guess the school board does say that this is a "worst case" scenario, but I just don't understand the thinking here if it's not purely strategic. The union is like a person that won't go on a diet (pay concessions) to lose weight, but instead cuts off a limb (layoffs). But then again, maybe they are just waiting till the last minute too....hoping that the State will come through so that they can minimize any pay concessions. I sincerely hope that these layoffs don't happen as my son's teacher received a letter..... And just for the record, I took a 20% pay cut so that my fellow workers could keep their jobs.


Wed, Apr 21, 2010 : 10 p.m.

"I want to assure you that it is my goal and the common goal of our bargaining team and AAPS to have each of you recalled before this year is out. Presumably, the AAEA's goal is to replace each school board member with an AAEA-approved substitute. While "packing the court" is one way to get what the AAEA wants, Brit Satchwell and Co., would do well to figure out how to work with the board instead of against it. The system works best when all views (including those of the electorate) are represented on the board. To have the school board become nothing more than a mouthpiece for the teachers' union would be a genuine tragedy.


Wed, Apr 21, 2010 : 9:55 p.m.

And we determined that the average teacher total compensation is what, about 100K per year? Which is about twice what the average citizen customer earns? 11% reduction? Easy.

Jed I Knight

Wed, Apr 21, 2010 : 9:40 p.m.

"An additional 3% of their salaries will be going to fund the state pension." Thats their pension or no? How is that a pay hit?


Wed, Apr 21, 2010 : 9:33 p.m.

Folks need to realize that the teachers are already taking a payroll hit before the union even begins to negotiate. An additional 3% of their salaries will be going to fund the state pension. Thinking that all teachers should accept an 11% salary hit next year (3% to pension + 8% as noted in these posts) is quite liberal. It's always easier to volunteer other's money rather than your own. How 'bout everyone in Ann Arbor take a 0.2% salary hit and we keep all of our teachers employed?...nah, let's make sure that we keep those property taxes low for McKinley. Also, please keep in mind what happened to the Ann Arbor Firefighters these past months. They banded together, accepted a significant pay decrease to avoid lay-offs and then were subsequently blindsided with deep lay-offs anyway. Everything about this situation stinks, especially the posts from all of those angry individuals who want teachers and everybody to feel the same pain that they do.


Wed, Apr 21, 2010 : 9:24 p.m.

I can guarantee that the strongest union in the nation will not lay off 191 people in Ann Arbor. This will never happen so lets save the time and money fighting about it.

Basic Bob

Wed, Apr 21, 2010 : 9:19 p.m.

@bamwow, "We saw this coming two years ago" - why didn't you warn us? Those gigantuan (sic) schools are doing a fantastic job for a large number of students. If you want a small public high school, there are hundreds in Michigan. Maybe Willow Run would be good for you. The rest of us should not have to suffer the cuts alone while CHS drains the admin, maintenance, transportation, and support budgets.

say it plain

Wed, Apr 21, 2010 : 9:12 p.m.

Once again, to the folks who are commenting about the "half-filled" skyline...please please come to understand it... Skyline is only half filled because they chose to have one class at a time enter the school. So, they started with a freshman class of 400, and the following year, this year, added another class of 400. Next year another, and the year after that another, to reach their intended 'full' capacity. This was a thoughtful decision about how to start a new school, about how to create a good school culture, about how to do a little modeling after some of the good principles in place at, say, Community High School. The other comprehensive high schools are over-crowded still, but they are getting closer to their desired 'full' numbers, and will get all the way there as the classes from the pre-skyline-catchment days graduate and are replaced by the new and improved smaller intake numbers that skyline's existence allows them to have.

Jimmy Olsen

Wed, Apr 21, 2010 : 8:55 p.m.

I'm surprised that everyone is so stressed and is making "the toughest" decision" - we all knew this would come. The AAEA - any EA in the state will hold out until the very end. All part of the MEA strategy. This state leads the nation in every bad economic category, yet all the EA's think they are above cuts, etc. How is it that almost all of the other bargaining units have given? Enough is enough!!

A Voice of Reason

Wed, Apr 21, 2010 : 8:44 p.m.

I wish the teacher's would vote out their Union President and union. Seems like our teachers are above this behavior. Brit's comment was scripted by his union or he is playing a game-heaven forbid that they reduce pay, benefits, give incentives for early retirement, etc. Watch, it will be more like 50 teachers when all said and done. There are a lot of teachers that are not teaching or not needed.


Wed, Apr 21, 2010 : 8:33 p.m.

This seems reasonable to me. If you refuse to make necessary changes in the contract, you will be laid off. No more living in "la-la land"........this is the real world now. Make small concessions, or accept a layoff with nobody to blame but yourself.


Wed, Apr 21, 2010 : 8:27 p.m.

So what did we figure... a compensation reduction of about 8% would eliminate all these layoffs? Let's hope the members can accept a small wage cut to avoid layoffs...


Wed, Apr 21, 2010 : 8:21 p.m.

People always suggest messing with Community High. It would have been smarter to model the new high school after CHS, not the Gigantuan PiHi and Huron. Now we've got a half filled school-Skyline-and a lot of nervous, pink-slipped teachers. We saw this coming two years ago.


Wed, Apr 21, 2010 : 8:18 p.m.

Could someone please confirm: On Friday, letters were sent notifying that teachers MIGHT LIKELY be laid off. Today, notices were sent to say that unless there are concessions and negotiations, the teachers will definitely be losing their jobs. I know I should be able to absorb this information quicker. Just say yes or no. Thanks...


Wed, Apr 21, 2010 : 8:12 p.m.

Why not move CHS to Skyline, and with one easy move we could fill an empty school and sell the property in Kerrytown? Plus, CHS could share a library with Skyline, and might be able to share a principal as well. I think it's a win-win for everyone.


Wed, Apr 21, 2010 : 8:11 p.m.

The best thing people in Michigan can do is buy products (i.e. cars...) that are made in Michigan. It is critical that every dollar we can keep in Michigan stays in Michigan. This means every foreign car dealership should have zero business. Why anyone in Michigan would buy a BMW, Toyota, Mercedes, Volkswagen, etc... is beyond me. We've got the Mustang, Cadillacs, Dodge and Jeep, Sebring, Ford Focus, many GM products - all available, and all keep people in Michigan working. When Michigan is working, the state gets taxes, and teachers get their salaries. But, when school parking lots are filled with Hyundais and the like (as with many other parking lots), it is no wonder we are in this predicament. Time to realize we are all part of a Michigan economy. When it tanks, everything that relies upon it tanks.


Wed, Apr 21, 2010 : 8:04 p.m.

Everyone remember,these are only "potential" layoffs and this type of advanced notice is brought on by the contractual agreement signed by the teachers. As such I have no sympathy for any stress felt by the teachers who receive a notice but aren't laid off as their own Union created this!


Wed, Apr 21, 2010 : 8:02 p.m.

Oh, I forgot: how many equivalent teacher salaries have been spent on extravagant fees for consultants hired by the School Board and School Administrators in the last 5 years? Hired to do what the Board and Administrators were elected/hired to do in the first place?


Wed, Apr 21, 2010 : 8 p.m.

And so the future of Washtenaw County and its residents begins to contract along with its key educational resources.


Wed, Apr 21, 2010 : 7:55 p.m.

Brit Satchwell said: "I want to assure you that it is my goal and the common goal of our bargaining team and AAPS to have each of you recalled before this year is out". Actions speak louder than words Mr. Satchwell. At this point I see no reason to believe you.


Wed, Apr 21, 2010 : 7:53 p.m.

nice budgeting! thanks for the new high school, too. that turned out real great. this is ridiculous.

Basic Bob

Wed, Apr 21, 2010 : 7:48 p.m.

Even if there are no layoffs, the turmoil, the stress this does to our community is unacceptable, said school board Trustee Christine Stead. What about the stress and turmoil when major employers such as Pfizer and Visteon lay off thousands? Is this somehow more acceptable? Is it acceptable when a small business has their revenue drop by half in one year? I'm stunned that Ms. Stead applied to fill a vacant seat on the board *twice* in the last year given the likelihood of layoffs. Perhaps the stress and turmoil of being a school board member are more than she bargained for. Of course she could have voted against issuing the layoff notices, but that would be pointless.