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Posted on Thu, Nov 18, 2010 : 10:30 p.m.

Ann Arbor school officials present a clearer picture of proposed lab school program, listen to feedback

By Kyle Feldscher

Despite still having some issues to resolve, Ann Arbor school officials presented a clearer picture Thursday night of how the proposed lab school program at Scarlett Middle School and Mitchell Elementary School will work.

Thursday's meeting was the second of two parent forums, which administrators were using to get feedback on the initiative and to inform parents of affected students. Mitchell Principal Kathy Scarnecchia said she and Scarlett Principal Gerald Vazquez have already began using feedback from the Nov. 10 forum into Thursday’s meeting. More than 90 parents and students attended the forum.

“We wanted to make sure you knew what was happening and we’re taking feedback from both teachers and parents and we’re going to review them,” she said.

The program is a proposed K-8 campus between Mitchell and Scarlett through a partnership between Ann Arbor Public Schools and the University of Michigan School of Education.

The program would let teacher candidates from U-M work with AAPS teachers in classrooms and would “serve as an incubator of new ideas and approaches that support teacher learning and effective teaching practices,” officials say.

As a part of the program, the schools would adopt what's called a balanced calendar, in which school is in session from early August until late June with a six-week summer break and other shorter breaks throughout the year aligned with normal school vacations. The schools would offer optional "inter-sessions" in fall, winter and spring for students to participate in academic enrichment activities.

“There would be lots of project-based learning and camp-like experiences to help solidify what kids have learned and help to apply what they’ve learned when they go back to school,” Scarnecchia said. “We might have a writing camp before the MEAP or a computer camp in April or a science camp in January to get kids ready for a science fair at Scarlett.”

Transportation during the inter-session periods would be provided. The program is being paid for by the schools’ Title I funding, but administrators are applying for grants and other sources of funding.

Parents were concerned about the balanced calendar, especially those who have students at Pittsfield, Carpenter or Allen Elementary Schools, where the traditional calendar would be used. During the forum, a parent asked whether all four of the Scarlett feeder schools would go to the balanced calendar. Officials said it was an option being discussed.

“We’re looking at time differently and attempting to enhance student achievement for all of our students,” Vazquez said. “Students would have opportunities for additional learning with our staff and their peers and I think that’s important.”

Not all parents were happy with the presentation of the program.

Ellen Daniel, a teacher at Scarlett, spoke on behalf of a table of parents from Carpenter. She said the group felt everything was moving too fast.

“It feels like the timeline is too hurried for parents to feel confident,” she said. “Parents want it to be thoughtful and they want to feel confident about the research we’re studying.”

Other parents said they felt like they didn’t have a choice in the switch to the new calendar and they were simply being asked to adapt.

However, some parents were excited by the proposed program.

Sal Barrientes, a Scarlet teacher, spoke on behalf of a table of parents whose children do not speak English at home. He said those parents thought the program was attractive.

“Students will receive more help and support and will learn more, because their education will be supplemented by more than one person,” he said.

Summarized feedback from the two forums will be available on the schools' websites on Friday, Scarnecchia said. The Ann Arbor Board of Education will hear a presentation on the program at its Dec. 8 meeting. Scarnecchia said school officials expect to have more information available for parents by the district's winter break, which begins Dec. 18.

Kyle Feldscher covers K-12 education for He can be reached at



Sat, Nov 27, 2010 : 1:28 p.m.

@curio I'm still waiting for material promised me at the meeting too. After I requested it a second time, it still hasn't appeared as promised. Some days it's harder to support your local Ann Arbor school than others.


Tue, Nov 23, 2010 : 8:52 a.m.

The last paragraph notes: Summarized feedback from the two forums will be available on the schools' websites on Friday, Scarnecchia said. Five days later and I haven't seen any feedback on aaps site nor the Scarlett website.


Sat, Nov 20, 2010 : 7:45 a.m.

I have one question I would like to pose to Mexicotte et al who supported all of these initiatives going into place. what will the new superintendent have to do? Become a snake oil salesman.


Fri, Nov 19, 2010 : 4:29 p.m.

I was at that meeting, and there weren't really any concrete answers given, and it sounds like the planners were only taking input from the people who loved the idea in the first place. Funding was supposed to be from Title 1 for the busing and teachers for the inter-sessions, and then the rest come from nebulous grants. Grants are closed-ended, and should not be used to fund a program that they want to sustain. The calendar was still up in the air how are we supposed to handle having children on two different vacation schedules? And don't say that the feeder schools should go to the same schedule... Allen spilts to both Scarlett and Tapan, so that won't work there. And then Scarlett feeds to both Huron and Pioneer - again a dilema in scheduling. I didnt hear any answers to all the questions that the parents there had, and left with a very unsettled feeling. I dont like that Charter schools are taking students (and funding) away from the public schools, but when we are not given good options inside the AAPS, and the planning committees dont seem to have a good plan in place, what are our options?


Fri, Nov 19, 2010 : 2:09 p.m.

What I would like to know is: 1) If there are successful programs developed at the school, will they be rolled out district wide? 2) How will we measure success? 3) If Title I funds are going to be used here, where are they being taken from, or is this new Title I money?

S Jackson

Fri, Nov 19, 2010 : 11:56 a.m.

Shocked by the initial article on in Sept, I was concerned about this program. But having been to a few meeting about the lab school as a concerned Mitchell parent, I can say this program is being established with a great deal of thought. Program discussions started last spring between Dr Roberts and UM School of Ed Dean Deborah Lowenberg Ball. The adminstrators met over the summer. Parents and staff have taken trips to Grand Rapids and Holt to talk to other parents and staff about the pros/cons of the balanced calendar. Mitchell teachers had opportunities to voice their opinions about the changes. The administrators understand there are lots of issues to work out and after last nights meeting, it's clear they are listening to the parents. Compensation (Title 1 funding), a/c, feeder schools. opt-in/opt-out enrollment, transportation are just some of concerns we presented last night at the meeting. Many items, including what seems to be the biggest hot button, balanced calendar, will be addressed before the winter break. The lab school idea is not just balanced calendar. It will bring more people into the schools to help the children, and not just low achieving. I may have my rose colored glasses on here, but I can say the motivations and hours of work put in to create the program are to benefit the children. @beth - it was made VERY clear to us at Kindergarten Round Up that all day Kindergarten at Michell is an option and NOT mandatory, 1/2 day is an option. From my understanding, Kindergarten is not mandated by the State. I don't see why you would have to send your child to another district. You may want to check with your principal.


Fri, Nov 19, 2010 : 10:57 a.m.

Many people are unhappy with the "balanced calendar", especially those of us with children that wil also be at Allen, Pittsfield, Carpenter, and Huron. @Tony, you're so right about people moving to the attendance areas of their choice while others are just stuck. Not everyone who lives in the SE is low income and in need of assistance, and lots of us have kids that are already doing well in schools. And not all the people who want and could benefit from this program live in the SE. I would LOVE to see this offered as an opt-in magnet school. They could give priority to those in the Mitchell and Scarlett areas if they wanted to, and then open slots for other interested families around the district. This would also let those of us who DON'T want this to opt out. There is already a huge discrepancy in what is offered across the district. Allen, Bryant, Carpenter, Mitchell, Northside, and Pittsfield only offer all-dak K, at no charge. I know many parents in the rest of the district who are frustrated that this has not spread to the other elementaries - they know there is solid research to support the benefits of all-day K, and they're tired of paying for half-day care. On the flip side, there are those of us in the SE that do NOT want all-day K, but our only option would be to send our kids to another district school far from home. And now they want to make just the SE on a different calendar? That's unfair to all the other district families who would like to see some resources and programs offered in their areas, and it's unfair to the families in the SE to single us out and run those schools as if they were a separate district. We bought our house 10 years ago for AAPS schools, and at that time we were happy with our neighborhood's assigned schools. If I were looking now, I would never buy a house in the SE part of town - I'd look somewhere like the NE or NW, where these programs are not being proposed. I'm also curious what will this do to our real estate values - will it make it harder to sell a house in the Scarlett area? I urge you all to contact the Board of Education with your concerns - - before the 12/8 Board meeting. I also urge you to attend that meeting, even if you don't wish to speak. Some parents already do plan to speak there, to show the planning committee how many families care about and are affected by this, and how many of us want to see options offered.

Tony Livingston

Fri, Nov 19, 2010 : 10:25 a.m.

AAPS is struggling to stay in the front and attract students so they are fast tracking this program and the IB program. But, does anyone remember the discussions about building a new high school? It was supposed to help Pioneer. But now that Skyline is open with a magnet program, a mastery program, neighborhoods, and a brand new building; what exactly is helping Pioneer? It was all dropped and forgotten about as soon as the district got their new state of the art high school with programs that follow the latest educational research findings. New people coming into the district simply can move into the school boundary area of their choice. The rest of us are just stuck with the left overs while the district moves on to the next big thing.


Fri, Nov 19, 2010 : 7:52 a.m.

I seem to recall years ago that UM partnered with Carpenter Elementary and brought in all sorts of great new programs. Then BOOM, the funding dried up, UM was gone and there were a bunch of great new ideas that vanished... I do not have children that will be affected by this, but personally I feel that kids needs to get a little bored during the summer, I think it helps them become creative and discover things about themselves. That is something that school programming just can't do. Are they going to install air conditioning in both of those buildings? Late June and early August can be very hot and humid...


Fri, Nov 19, 2010 : 7:16 a.m.

All this without very little thought from those in the district. What if I have a child at Mitchell or one of the other feeder schools to Scarlett, can I opt out of this calendar? If so, where am I allowed to take my child and will transportation be provided? How will teachers be compensated for the extra schooling? Where will the funding for transportation and extra teacher time come from? It said they are looking for grants, etc..., but those can dry up at any time. Seems like this whole thing is moving way to quickly and for what, so UofM can put there student teachers there. If this is the push, then UofM should pay for it, all of it.


Fri, Nov 19, 2010 : 6:59 a.m.

All this without the blessing of the new savior, I mean superintendent. I did not think we could do this type of thing without paying someone $265,000.