You are viewing this article in the archives. For the latest breaking news and updates in Ann Arbor and the surrounding area, see
Posted on Sat, Mar 19, 2011 : 5:59 a.m.

Ann Arbor schools and U-M officials continue to make progress on Mitchell/Scarlett-UM Partnership

By Kyle Feldscher

The partnership between Ann Arbor Public Schools and the University of Michigan to set up a K-8 campus at Mitchell Elementary and Scarlett Middle schools is expected to be ready for the next school year.

Kathy Scarnecchia, the AAPS administrative liaison for the U-M Partnership, said the committee working on setting up the partnership is waiting on results of a survey that has been available for parents to take until Friday.

Much of the survey focuses on the contentious balanced calendar aspect of the program. In December, the district announced the balanced calendar would not be put in place for the 2011-12 school year, but Scarnecchia said the committee is anticipating having it in place for the 2012-13 school year.

She said the results of the survey — which asks parents from Mitchell, Scarlett and the other feeder elementary schools, Allen, Carpenter and Pittsfield Elementary — their opinion of the balanced calendar.


Scarlett Middle School in Ann Arbor.

Lon Horwedel |

“We’re really doing exactly what we said we’d do,” she said. “There are a couple challenges that we have and we’re trying to be sensitive to feedback we got from parents. One of the things they said was ‘Tell us what the balanced calendar would look like early enough for us to adjust.' Even though we’ve tabled it for a year, we must be cognitive of the fact that they’ll want information as soon as possible.”

The Mitchell/Scarlett-UM Partnership will put U-M students in the classroom along with teachers from the schools to give them a chance to learn teaching skills while also giving students more personal attention from teacher candidates. The school district sees the program as a chance to increase student achievement and create a K-8 campus between the two schools.

According to the district’s website, the balanced calendar could include school starting in the first week of August, have breaks for one or two weeks at the end of September, a break the full week of Thanksgiving, winter and spring breaks at the same time as the traditional school calendar, with one added week, school ending later in June than the traditional calendar and a six-week summer break.

During the breaks, the partnership will offer inter-sessions that will allow for additional learning opportunities. Inter-sessions are optional activities planned and taught by teachers from the buildings with participation from U-M interns and faculty. Possible inter-session activities discussed by planners in the past are writing camps and science camps.

Scarnecchia, who was principal at Mitchell until January, when she took over her current role forming the partnership, said many other aspects of the partnership are taking shape and are already in motion.

In a document she shared with, Scarnecchia highlighted some programs that already are being offered, including the Mighty Mustangs math project, which had interns and classroom teachers work with students in an after-school math program; study groups focused on teaching English language learners literacy skills; a section of U-M School of Education students who worked in fourth-grade classrooms to prepare for a family math night on Dec. 7 facilitated by teacher interns and Mitchell staff, along with numerous other initiatives.

“We’re really proud of that,” Scarnecchia said. “By the end of April, beginning of May, U-M needs to know what it’ll look like for the fall so we’re hoping to have a plan in place for fall projects as well.”

Scarnecchia said the data from the survey will be analyzed and a presentation will be made to the Ann Arbor Board of Education’s subcommittees later this month. She said the planners of the partnership will be looking to trustees for further direction on where to go next.

She said parents and staff have been involved in every step of the process, including on the calendar committee that is planning the balanced calendar. Scarnecchia said she wanted to make it clear the planners were sticking to their plan.

"We're doing exactly what we said we were going to do and we're not trying to do anything different than that," she said.

Kyle Feldscher covers K-12 education for He can be reached at or you can follow him on Twitter.



Fri, Mar 25, 2011 : 5:15 p.m.

Thank you Kyle for following up on this. I am all for the balanced calendar concept but ONLY if implemented district wide. Implementing it only partially has so many flaws I cannot believe that it has gotten this far without total outrage from the community. Ms scarnecchia states that they are doing exactly what they said they were going to do in regards to implementing this plan. Really???? How did the aspect of the balanced calendar go from "being tabled" (the last official status from AAPS) to "planning to implement" for 2012 school year without any further discussion with the public???? One of the main objections from parents was "what if I have a child at carpenter or Allen or Pittsfield and one at Scarlett? Of course having your children on different school calendars would be disruptive to families to say the least. The solution is NOT to make all the Scarlett feeders go to the same balanced calendar as you will have the EXACT same problem when the Scarlett student goes on to Huron. This wreaks of deceptiveness and I am embarrassed for our community. Again, implement the balanced calendar aspect district wide or NOT AT ALL. So much for Ann Arborites being such a highly educated community. Utterly ridiculous!!!


Sun, Mar 20, 2011 : 1:34 p.m.

I am totally amazed at some of these comments complaining about schedules, inconvenience, the U of M etc. Public schools can't win - they are blamed because "kids aren't learning" and when innovation for increasing student achievement is suggested, people fight change. People say U of M should help the community, and when they do, their motives are questioned. Walk the walk; not just talk the talk - or home school your kids.


Sun, Mar 20, 2011 : 7:11 p.m.

Umm, you missed where many people said they're happy with the current traditional calendar. It's not the parents who are unhappy with their children's current education who are complaining about "schedules [and] inconvenience". I don't personally want the U of M to do anything for my kids except leave their school alone, thank you.


Sat, Mar 19, 2011 : 9:44 p.m.

I think that local offers valid concerns. Unfortunately, implementing this plan in its current offering will be a mess. What about a scenario wherein Michigan lets families opt in from those districts rather than opt out? Perhaps they could hold all of the classes for the opt-in group at the Phizer facility and bus the kids there. This scenario would address many of the initial issues and allow an effective pilot plan to be evaluated. Right now it seems like there is a benefit to both sides, but the inconvenience is really completely shouldered on the parents and school district teachers. Changing those dynamics could balance the equation and make the program something that would be more enticing.

Shawn Elizabeth Personke

Sat, Mar 19, 2011 : 7:49 p.m.

In the '70s I attended a "balanced" school program as a high schooler. It was great. We had some nice breaks from school, like those described in the article, just when you needed them.


Sat, Mar 19, 2011 : 7:18 p.m.

To quote Basic Bob "If this is such a great idea, they should implement it at Burns Park and Tappan, or King and Clague. These schools are practically privileged in comparison. We went to Mitchell for a year, because of the area there are a huge multicultural spectrum of kids, many of them have very poor English skills to start with. More help in these classes are needed and there is no more deserving schools in the district. You lift up the community from the bottom up not the top down.


Sat, Mar 19, 2011 : 10:06 p.m.

I agree with you. I think people are missing the point that this is where the summer programs are needed.

Basic Bob

Sat, Mar 19, 2011 : 3:45 p.m.

If this is such a great idea, they should implement it at Burns Park and Tappan, or King and Clague. This will force two-income families to *opt out* of Scarlett, and further increase the socioeconomic disparity between southeast Ann Arbor and the *nicer* parts of town. @Topher, look at the demographic data, or the free and reduced lunch numbers. Scarlett has nearly 3 times the minority students as the other middle schools. Mitchell is many times what you find at some other elementary schools.


Sun, Mar 20, 2011 : 7:09 p.m.

@Basic Bob, yes, I totally agree with you!! Yes, all the statements about socioeconomic data at Scarlett are true. But it's also true that the parents of many Scarlett students are much less likely to make a big fuss to the district. Burns Park, King, Wines - those parents would be up in arms and in force.


Sat, Mar 19, 2011 : 7:02 p.m.

There is a significant amount of research which shows that lower income students lose ground over the summer while middle and upper income kids do not. Scarlett has a much higher percentage of low SES students who might well benefit from a year round calendar.


Sat, Mar 19, 2011 : 5:16 p.m.

@Basic Bob - Yup, you're right that Scarlett has the highest percentage of minority students. It was hard for me to find a clear percentage who are free/reduced lunch from the data that I saw - let me know if you see it somewhere. I was looking at the middle school reports on AAPS's website. I agree with you that it will probably result in a larger socio-econmic disparity - it makes having control over education more difficult for people of lower socio-economic status. I hope that AAPS informs parents/community members well about their options and provides resources (but most of me thinks this won't happen).

Edward R Murrow's Ghost

Sat, Mar 19, 2011 : 4:21 p.m.

Basic Bob, You and I seldom agree, and here I agree with (what I think) are your underlying sentiments. But the schools you note do not have the student success problems that Mitchell and Scarlet have. People who truly understand the shortcomings of our educational system understand that the most difficult problem is in the students' home and community. This program, it seems to me, is an effort to change somewhat that environment--to create an educational environment that is more nearly year-round--in an effort to improve students success. It only makes sense that that effort be made in schools where student success is low. Good Night and Good Luck

Edward R Murrow's Ghost

Sat, Mar 19, 2011 : 3:43 p.m.

". . . but everything stated below is teacher based." Indeed it is. But teachers are the ONLY ones being held accountable for student success. Not administrators. Not the community. Not parents. And certainly not the students. Want new programs that don't focus solely on teachers? Drop the fetish that blames only teachers and holds only them accountable when students don't succeed in the classroom. Good Night and Good Luck


Sat, Mar 19, 2011 : 3:24 p.m.

This sounds like a wonderful opportunity for the citizens of Ann Arbor. To be able to offer a different structure to education is wonderful. It's time to consider the students. If some students are not learning the way the teachers teach, then it is time to teach the way the students learn. This is an amazing opportunity for the community and the students will receive 21st Century skills to become successful contributors to society. I applaud the efforts and will be watching for the line forming out the door to enroll students.


Sun, Mar 20, 2011 : 7:06 p.m.

And the line of students leaving the district for charter and private schools because they don't want the balanced calendar and AAPS has not so far stated it will offer any ways to opt-out.....


Sat, Mar 19, 2011 : 2:37 p.m.

I am not against trying something new, but everything stated below is teacher based. Does anyone have thoughts about families having kids with completely different schedules (Carpenter, Pittsfield, etc..)? I like the last post, summer camps, family vacations in mid to late August, what about families who make that choice instead? Can I opt out as a family in this area? If so, can my kids get transportation to another school? Everything is so general right now, with zero specifics. I personally don't want my kids having one schedule for elementary and one for my middle school student. I want my kids to do summer baseball camp in late August, can we just keep them out of school to do this? Or the late family vacation we always take the week before regular school starts? Until the specific ideas and questions are addressed, it is hard to get behind it. And after talking about this now for about a year, I would expect AAPS and UofM to have more answers in place.


Sun, Mar 20, 2011 : 7:05 p.m.

@sh1 - no, they won't. They'll have a 6-week summer break and start school at the beginning of August. Not an intersession then, so families would not have August for vacations, camps, etc.


Sat, Mar 19, 2011 : 3:27 p.m.

These students will have the same holiday breaks as the other schools. They can attend the intersessions during the additional breaks, so it won't be that different from a typical school year.


Sat, Mar 19, 2011 : 3:16 p.m.

Local - You raise some very important questions. If there is an opt out for students, is transportation provided to other schools? (I believe that AAPS has school of choice) I am guessing that Scarlett has a higher percentage of lower income students (although I cannot find this date on AAPS' website) What is a lower income family to do if they can't drive their students to another school every day?

Dave Katz

Sat, Mar 19, 2011 : 2:30 p.m.

Has the university run out of laboratory space?

Dr. I. Emsayin

Sat, Mar 19, 2011 : 2:46 p.m.

AAPS and UM should look at the University of Chicago Lab School. It is highly innovative. It was founded by John Dewey. Ann Arbor Open purports to use the Dewey model as well, but not sure as well given fewer resources. With UM funding, the Scarlett/Mitchell School should be able to work miracles. Maybe all of AAPS should partner with UM! (Think of how it would save on taxes; j/k (Just kidding), as the kids say.)


Sat, Mar 19, 2011 : 2:07 p.m.

What about all of the transient students that seem to move into the area around Labor Day weekend when many of the apartments turn over? Are these kids then all going to be a month behind already? I haven't seen anything in the plan to address these issues. How will the program deal with social work, psychologists, school nurses, etc that typically are in multiple building? When I look at it, it seems to me that we want to turn these kids into guinea pigs, so UM students have a place to try what they are learning in class on them. Or is this happening so these schools have more adults in the classroom? More (adults, time) isn't always better. Maybe we just need some parent involvement, you know like getting kids to school on time, having kids do their homework, etc... My kids went to Carpenter, Scarlett and Huron and did very well, they continue to do well in the universities that they attend. I feel that AAPS achieved their mission statement with my children. If my kids were younger, I would definitely opt out, whether that would mean pulling them from public schools for 3 years or moving them to a different middle school. I really feel that kids need to have enough time in the summer to get good and bored so they will do a of self-directed, self-discovery. I also think summer camp is important, and not programmed summer camp in a hot school.


Sat, Mar 19, 2011 : 3:26 p.m.

The students you describe will be there whether the program exists or not; their parents may or may not be involved, as is typically the case. I don't see anything in this program that would hurt the students compared to what their years are typically like.


Sat, Mar 19, 2011 : 2:36 p.m.

Past success is not good enough anymore. Private and charter schools will offer programs that meet the needs of parents and children. If AAPS does not evolve it will lose students.


Sat, Mar 19, 2011 : 1:37 p.m.

For the love of learning, lets try something new. This is a good first step at updating a 19th century education structure. There will be problems and issues like ones that Local pointed out. This is a tangible sign that the school district is beginning to acknowledge that the institution of education must evolve. The mission statement of the AAPS reads in part " educate and empower every student to succeed in a changing environment". In order for their mission to succeed, the changing environment needs to include the structure of the education institution, class schedule, teachers, and cirriculum.


Sat, Mar 19, 2011 : 4:31 p.m.

Eastern Michigan University did something similar (not exact) to this a number of years ago..the school was called Roosevelt. Which involved teacher students helping teach classrooms and other progressive ideas. <a href="" rel='nofollow'></a> This is not a new concept.

Dr. I. Emsayin

Sat, Mar 19, 2011 : 12:52 p.m.

Looks like a recipe for teacher burnout with no breaks because they will be doing the inter-sessions as well. If it is completely a school of choice for teachers, how will the process of hiring be done? It seems, as the other commenter suggested, that the teachers should not come from the general pool as the Skyline teachers did. If so, it means that a teacher for whom there was no available spot at their former school for the following school year would be forced to take a Scarlett job or have no job at all. This might be better than no job for the teacher, but how about for the students?

Dr. I. Emsayin

Sun, Mar 20, 2011 : 11:14 a.m.

Will every Scarlett/Mitchell teacher need to reapply for their current job? If a teacher opts out, and there are teacher surpluses at other buildings, might Scarlett/Mitchell be forced to take a surplussed teacher or does Scarlett/Mitchell have an immunity to what is going on at other schools? Does Scarlett/Mitchell have a right of refusal if the teacher is a bad fit even as teachers elsewhere are placed in schools with no right of refusal?


Sat, Mar 19, 2011 : 1:43 p.m.

I see this as better for teachers- they often don't have to teach the inter-sessions if they don't want to. And more frequent breaks means less teacher burnout.


Sat, Mar 19, 2011 : 1:24 p.m.

They posted the jobs early to prevent this from happening. There is a lot of interest from teachers in the district to join this program. As far as the intercessions, in many year-round schools teachers rotate this position, since only a fraction of them are needed during this time.

Barb's Mom

Sat, Mar 19, 2011 : 12:47 p.m.

I thought there was a State Law that School couldn't start until after Labor Day. Also if this is supposed to be in conjunction with U of M, they don't have classes all that time.


Sat, Mar 19, 2011 : 1:24 p.m.

Year-round schools can get an exemption.


Sat, Mar 19, 2011 : 11:57 a.m.

Interesting concept, but many flaws to the plan. 1. What if teachers want to leave due to schedule, does that mean these two schools will be flooded with the most inexperienced teachers because other teachers volunteered to leave (chose to leave) 2. Can families from Pittsfield and Carpenter opt out? If I have an elementary student at Carpenter with one schedule and my middle schooler at Scarlett with another schedule, seems like not the optimal situation. If they opt out, will transportation be provided to other AAPS school? 3. Can families from other schools opt in? If so, is transportation going to be provided? 4. Is the district paying more to cool these facilities during the early August and late June? 5. Since this is in partnership with UofM, all long will this be around before UofM moves on to their next project leaving AAPS to clean up a program they started? I really hope AAPS has thought this through. Cooling, busing, loss of families who say that don't want part of extended calender (specially if they can't go elsewhere, or transportation isn't provided to go elsewhere) With budget cuts looming, I sure hope UofM representatives haven't sold us on something that then forces the AAPS district to pay for it down the road.


Sat, Mar 19, 2011 : 6:53 p.m.

Our heat is turned off on Friday afternoon before breaks and turned back on Monday morning. In the winter, it can take a day or two before it heats up. I don't believe any of the middle schools or elementary schools are totally air conditioned. Some buildings have a few rooms that have AC but I know most of hte classrooms I have had in this district are often in the 80's in August/Sept./late May and June with the lights off.


Sat, Mar 19, 2011 : 1:52 p.m.

Most Ann Arbor schools do not have air conditioning. Not sure about Mitchell/Scarlett.


Sat, Mar 19, 2011 : 1:42 p.m.

As a teacher, I love the concept of a balanced calendar. Better for me, as it results in less burn-out, and better for students, with more frequent, shorter breaks. It would be incentive to work at that school. In my experience, even on the breaks, the schools I work at have run their air conditioning/heat because the custodians are in the buildings. So there really aren't cost savings there. Maybe AAPS is better at turning them off, though.


Sat, Mar 19, 2011 : 12:34 p.m.

You bring up some good points. I do know, re your first question, that the jobs have been posted to attract experienced teachers who are interested in joining this innovative program.