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 Tue, May 8, 2012 : 9:52 p.m.

Voters OK $45.8 million Ann Arbor Public Schools technology bond

By Danielle Arndt


Andy Thomas, Board of Education secretary, right, and school board treasurer Irene Patalan use an iPad to look at updated polling results of the Ann Arbor Public Schools technology millage at the Balas Administration Building Tuesday, May 8.

Chris Asadian |

Previous story: Ann Arbor Schools: Tech bond voter turnout likely to be less than 10 percent

With votes tallied in all 57 precincts, the Ann Arbor Public Schools $45.8 million technology bond is 70.35 percent a "yes."

"You can pretty much stick a fork in it," said school board secretary Andy Thomas, calling the election early at 9:30 p.m. with 42 of 57 precincts reporting.

A group of AAPS administrators, teachers, officials and parents advocating in favor of the bond proposal gathered at the Balas Administration Building at 8 p.m. Tuesday to watch the results trickle in.

Voters in the city of Ann Arbor carried the support, while support was down slightly in the townships, which is fairly typical, Thomas said. Eight precincts across six township accounted for 12.05 percent, or 427 of the 3,544 “no” votes.

The 1,746 absentee ballots came in mostly on the "yes" side of the vote, with 57.45 percent in favor of the bond and 42.55 percent opposed. Those watching the results at Balas were expecting absentee voters, generally categorized as retirees, to cast ballots against the bond.

The absentee ballots did account for 743 or 20.96 percent of the "no" votes, however.

In total, 9.21 percent or 11,953 of the 129,740 total registered voters within the Ann Arbor Public Schools district in Washtenaw County showed up at the polls Tuesday.

Thomas said school leaders and volunteers had to work harder to sell the idea of a technology millage to parents this year than with previous millage proposals.

"'We had a lot of people who were of the mindset that 'I'm inclined to support it, but you have to give me reasons it's needed and what it's being used for.' We had to really make a case for how it was going to be implemented in the classrooms," Thomas said.

Advocates also had to stress that putting more technology — and updated technology — in the schools was not going to take away from teacher-to-student learning or instruction, he said.

For Board of Education Treasurer Irene Patalan, the favorable vote on the millage reflects the Ann Arbor she has always known and loved — ever willing to give to its students.

"If it hadn't passed, I would have been befuddled as to what our community represents and stands for," she said. "I think people understood that — yay! — this is money that all comes from and stays in Ann Arbor."

The millage will levy, on average, an additional .51 mills per year until 2023. Taxpayers with a $100,000 to $300,000 home will pay an extra $26 to $77 per year.

The technology millage originally was planned for the November 2011 election. However, school officials decided in August to push it back so they had more time to prepare, research and present data to the public about the bond.


Steve Norton, Ann Arbor Citizens Millage Committee treasurer, left, and Christine Stead, Ann Arbor Board of Education vice president, check the results of the AAPS technology millage proposal as they trickle in at the Balas Administration Building Tuesday, May 8.

Chris Asadian |

The downside to being better prepared is AAPS has to foot the bill for the special election, which cost $86,000, said district spokeswoman Liz Margolis.

Some opponents of the bond accused AAPS of being fiscally irresponsible and trying to "sneak by" a tax increase during a low-turnout election. But to the naysayers, Superintendent Patricia Green said: "Everybody had the opportunity to cast their vote."

She said she and her team of administrators gave presentations at each school building, to the local chambers of commerce, the Ann Arbor Kiwanis Club and "anyone else who would listen."

Green added she is "thrilled" with the support of the nearly 8,500 people who showed up to vote and although this was her first school millage election, she said she was not nervous.

"I was confident that the community would come forward and see that this really was all about their children ... it was all about instruction," she said. "I am excited that (with this bond) we can continue to offer a 21st century education and ... work toward personalized learning."

The bond will allow AAPS to expand its wireless infrastructures, increase its bandwidth, upgrade server rooms and purchase new Mac computers, printers, iPads, document cameras and digital textbooks. It also will help the district to effectively assess students using the Measures of Academic Progress (MAP) test from the Northwest Evaluation Association.

The district's outdated computers created challenges in the testing this year, Green said.

The bond plan will be phased-in over the course of 10 years in three separate series, spending $27.27 million in 2012, $10.57 million in 2015 and $8.01 million in 2018. The first series will be for equipment and infrastructure improvements primarily, while the final two series are not entirely planned out yet.

More than half of the $45.8 million, about $25 million, will be spent to replace the district’s nearly 8,250 computers — both laptops and desktops.

School officials said 99 percent of Ann Arbor’s computers are three years old or older. Sixty-six percent are five to six years old and 34 percent are seven to eight years old.

Voters approved a five-year bond in 2004 with $20 million going toward technology. That money was spent on new computers; assistive classroom technology, such as Smart Boards and sound amplifiers; and career and technical education equipment.

The 2012 bond increases the estimated necessary debt-retirement levy for all bonds the district currently has outstanding to 2.6 mills or less.

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


Jack Panitch

Wed, May 9, 2012 : 4:22 a.m.

Every school and every child in the District benefits from this plan. It is equitable on a socioeconomic level, but it is also equitable on a more basic level. Every learner both advanced and special?needs benefits: it's not one?size?fits?all but, instead, technology, if used correctly, better enables teachers and their extended teams to tailor programs to the needs of each individual learner. We are not talking about a common denominator here, but, rather, each child getting more of what he or she needs to maximize his or her individual potential. Many of us have important vicarious experiences: our faculty uses the aging technology we have now as an extension of their classrooms, for enrichment, for research, to enhance reading and writing skills, for state?mandated testing, for group collaboration, for real?time clarification of that great student question that comes out of the blue, the list goes on and on. And the beauty of this proposal is that group number one in ensuring the wise?use?of?technology is our faculty: local control by people we know and with whom we have a direct and immediate partnership. Teachers will, to a great degree, control how technology will be used in their classrooms. The District is attempting to align itself with state, national and international standards as part of the movement toward education reform, but in a way that puts control in the hands of the most important reformers: teachers. Teachers have to implement these strategies, unquestionably influenced by a whole team of thinkers and problem?solvers; but in the end, control and innovation remain very local. Someone recently told me "The best is yet to come." I often have a hard time believing that, but not tonight. None of the folks who regularly contribute to these pages [well, aataxpayer excluded (salute)], will reconsider deep-seated views, but maybe some folks will take the ideological blinders off long enough to consider the different possibilities.

G. Orwell

Wed, May 9, 2012 : 4:11 a.m.

@tim, I would not be surprised if one aspect of the technology investment is to track and spy on students. They did it in Pittsburgh and got caught. The school was watching students through the school issued laptops. How creepy is that. The school was sued by one of the students and paid out $60,000. Google it.

G. Orwell

Wed, May 9, 2012 : 4:06 a.m.

Foxconn in China must be delighted. They will make more money thanks to Ann Arbor voters. Foxconn better put up more suicide nets around the building. Can't have their slave labor jumping out the windows to commit suicide. Too much business coming their way.


Wed, May 9, 2012 : 3:43 a.m.

WHY? $45 million for Technology. I just cant wrap my head around why we need all this technology in buildings that are so massively out of date. It seems as though the money would be better replacing these 40 or 50 year old buildings that are sooooo massively in need of rehab. Turn off the football lights at Huron. So sad what we value as important in the U.S anymore. Our kids need us, we are so failing them.


Wed, May 9, 2012 : 4:10 a.m.

You must be kissing cousins with Mary Sue Coleman, sounds like the U of M rhetoric for building.

Alan Benard

Wed, May 9, 2012 : 3:53 a.m.

Buildings don't educate, and innovation does not come from buildings. People using technology leads to innovation.


Wed, May 9, 2012 : 3:28 a.m.

it should be illegal for any group to pay for and put on their own special elections. Year after year the schools have off season elections to pass requests for whatever they want. Less than 10 of the people vote, and what the schools want, they usually get. All they need to to is get all their friends and family to vote and presto, a new ipad, cell phone and computer to play with! Maybe they could buy one for me. I dont begude them their toys, but lets face, it would have likely failed in the fall-and they know it. Elections should be scheduled once a year when largest percentage of the poplulaiton votes. Don't mean to get off topic, but if you want to save some money, combine the high schools, and close community. you could also close the at risk high school with the lowest sucess rate. If you have to close Gaberial Richard, do it and let the principl of that school run the other one with the lower success rate. while I dont mind paying the tech thing, I still believe there is plenty of fat to cut in our school sytem.


Wed, May 9, 2012 : 4:09 a.m.

Off season? Do you have any idea of what has been voted on in May?


Wed, May 9, 2012 : 3:05 a.m.

Does this mean that Ann Arborites believe that computers are more valuable than honest-to-goodness flesh and blood teachers? Let's bring back more teachers instead of more machines!

Michele Dziubinski

Wed, May 9, 2012 : 3 a.m.

Hey, I wonder if the folks opposed to the technology bond have a clue? Have you heard, it's important for our children's future success! There are a lot of families that cannot provide computers for their children and isn't it nice that the schools will be given the chance to do so for a relatively small tax increase? Oh, and by the way, if they spend the money elsewhere within the district, it is still helping our children get a better education that most districts in the state.


Wed, May 9, 2012 : 4:08 a.m.

Tablets will be commonplace in 10 years. I don't play Miner but the AAPS taught it to me in 1978 on a commodore pet 1964.Shame on them for exposing me to the commodore. I should stll be relying on a typewriter and a mymiography(sp) machine for my data output.


Wed, May 9, 2012 : 3:43 a.m.

Please stop this tired posting about iPads and your inaccurate vision that the bulk of the money will be spent on them and that they'll be used for games. Enough.

Michael Shen

Wed, May 9, 2012 : 3:09 a.m.

This isn't going to provide any computers; it's mainly an upgrade of current systems. Furthermore, it would be providing iPads, not laptops, which, I'm sure most iPad owners would agree, is not for work. Children see an iPad and immediately think of which games they can play on it. The money should have been spent on keeping some great, young teachers who have unfortunately been laid off because of money shortages and their lack of tenure. iPads are not the answer for future success in schools.

Joseph Welch's Ghost

Wed, May 9, 2012 : 2:53 a.m.

Great news. Congratulations.


Wed, May 9, 2012 : 2:48 a.m.

Thank goodness we paid for a special election and didn't wait six whole months for the regular election day.

Michael Shen

Wed, May 9, 2012 : 2:46 a.m.

Computer/sound system upgrades sounded okay to me, but seriously, iPads?! As a student it's been painful to see great young teachers be relocated/laid off as older tenured teachers, some of whom aren't nearly as good, get to keep their jobs. This money should have went to keep those teachers. After all, what educational benefit does one get from an iPad that is not available on a computer...or by having another teacher?


Wed, May 9, 2012 : 3:48 a.m.

@A2anon: I can't tell if you're a troll or not. You seem to believe that M.S. is getting all his information from the comments for his opinion. Where does such an occurrence appear? His first "paragraph" is based off of information in the article. His second "paragraph" is based off his personal experience "as a student", and his opinion that the money should be given to the teachers (however impossible it may be, as implied by Chris' comment above) is based off his personal experience. Lastly, his last "paragraph" is a question for those who do support the iPad purchases. No gathering of information from comments here. To answer your question M.S., the only unique education value (or convenience, rather) that an iPad can provide (and a laptop or teacher couldn't) is for those students in the music department, as it provides an easy way to store and manage sheet music. iPads are very portable and small, making it feasible to put on a music stand, and they make music page flipping an ease (no hassle of falling sheet music and such). What if you need to make notes on your music? NO PROBLEM! With the iPad, music students will never need to ever remember their pencils again! Just write those in with your own fingers! The benefits of the iPad are great in solving the FIRST-WORLD-PROBLEMS of music students, which in essence, make iPads a pretty redundant educational tool (compared to laptops and teachers).

Michael Shen

Wed, May 9, 2012 : 3:38 a.m.

I don't think you understand; I fully support the infrastructure upgrades, but I cannot support this due to this perceived waste. iPads are no cheap drop in the bucket, cost-wise. I would also argue that these iPads would not be beneficial in any way to academic achievement, as you seem to suggest.


Wed, May 9, 2012 : 3:33 a.m.

I've seen no numbers like that. But even if the 1000 number was true, do you have any idea how many kids are in the aaps? There are 500 in our school alone. So I would bet that if iPads were a part of the package, it would be for a small segment of kids who could benefit from that type of technology. The biggest chunk of change is going to updating infrastructure, which nobody denies is a huge need. The iPad thing is a distraction you throw out there to lead people away from the real issues. But that's ok.... Your tactics did not work. It passed.

Michael Shen

Wed, May 9, 2012 : 3:21 a.m.

It's clearly stated that they will buy a thousand iPads for student use? I don't know where you're getting your information from.


Wed, May 9, 2012 : 3:10 a.m.

Are you seriously getting you information from the comments section of, and then assuming truth? Seriously? Is this actually how people form opinions?


Wed, May 9, 2012 : 2:36 a.m.

Oh my gosh, they let people exercise their suffrage today? I am so appaled at that. It is May for crying out loud. Don't they know we have more important things to do?


Wed, May 9, 2012 : 4:19 a.m.

More important than exercising the right to cast a ballot, a right cherished and fought for defended for generations ?


Wed, May 9, 2012 : 2:29 a.m.

What a shame. iPads instead of teachers.... Great educational tools? Haven't seen a computer being used in either of my high school kids calssroom in 8 years. (other than the teachers on their laptops!)


Wed, May 9, 2012 : 3:05 a.m.

This district is FORBIDDEN BY STATE LAW from gathering funds via a millage/bond/etc. to pay for salaries/benefits. The "computers instead of teachers" mantra is tired, and wrong.

Alan Benard

Wed, May 9, 2012 : 2:36 a.m.

Tech Ed is a regular part of my kid's school week, and they have to ration use of the computer in my son's classroom. Sorry about your (imaginary) school.


Wed, May 9, 2012 : 2:22 a.m.

textbooks are technology? huh?

Susie Q

Wed, May 9, 2012 : 2:21 a.m.

Well, the cuts won't need to be as severe as they might have been w/o the millage.


Wed, May 9, 2012 : 2:14 a.m.

Once again, a clear-cut example of how the comment section is basically the polar opposite of the actual will of Ann Arborites. Just in case anyone didn't know that.

Stupid Hick

Wed, May 9, 2012 : 3:54 a.m.

I picked my screen name because I felt it would be thematic for this site.


Wed, May 9, 2012 : 2:31 a.m.

Touche Alan B.! Touche! I haven't laughed that hard in a long time!


Wed, May 9, 2012 : 2:30 a.m.

Alan, HA! I don't know you and yet, I am very very glad I live in the same county as you :)

Alan Benard

Wed, May 9, 2012 : 2:25 a.m.

Reading most any newspaper's online article comments is like staring into a portable toilet. Fascinating and repulsive at the same time. The comments on this site are particularly horrible. I am actually concerened that I live in the same county as these people.

Andy Price

Wed, May 9, 2012 : 2:21 a.m.

Good point! :)


Wed, May 9, 2012 : 2:09 a.m.

I sure am glad we're getting those iPads; when you see an iPad, the first thing you think is high quality education. Because, you know, iPads have pretty much proven that their entire purpose is to educate. I'm also happy the wee hours of morning votes to give raises never really caused much hullabaloo either. The problem is that the people who vote for this crap assume it's actually going to better education, and won't be wasted. They'll keep piling on millages, and all they have to say is "'s for education..c'mon."

Stupid Hick

Wed, May 9, 2012 : 3:51 a.m.

"The problem is that the people who vote for this crap assume it's actually going to better education, and won't be wasted." Conversely, many of the commenters who are against it seem to have a sociopathic notion that taxation is somehow equivalent to theft, and they assume that any taxes collected will be wasted.

Ron Granger

Wed, May 9, 2012 : 2:03 a.m.

La la la tax and spend tax and spend Millions for after school sports

Marvin Face

Wed, May 9, 2012 : 2:02 a.m.

Excellent news. I knew sanity would prevail.


Wed, May 9, 2012 : 1:58 a.m.

Well thank god for that. We saved some administrators jobs and helped pay for our $285k/year gal. - Don't kid yourself, the money is one big slush fund - sure it says technology millage, but the money in your right pocket spends the same as that in your left.