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Posted on Wed, Jul 31, 2013 : 6:02 p.m.

Ann Arbor superintendent job to be offered to Jeanice Kerr Swift after split vote

By Danielle Arndt


Superintendent candidate Jeanice Kerr Swift answers questions from the public earlier this month.

Daniel Brenner |

The Ann Arbor school board voted 4-3 Wednesday evening to offer the job of superintendent to Jeanice Kerr Swift.

The offer is contingent upon reaching a satisfactory contract with her. Board President Deb Mexicotte was authorized to negotiate with Swift on behalf of the board.

Swift is the assistant superintendent of instruction, curriculum and student services for Colorado Springs School District 11. Swift was one of two finalists before the board decided July 19 to offer the job to Brian Osborne, superintendent of South Orange-Maplewood School District in New Jersey. Osborne turned down the district's offer over the weekend.

Wednesday's meeting was called for the sole purpose of discussing next steps in the district's superintendent search. The search began in April when former Superintendent Patricia Green tendered her resignation.

At that time, the board decided to conduct a quick national superintendent search, as long as there were good candidates available, that would yield a new top official by the start of school to lead the district through what is expected to be a challenging year, with some unpopular changes coming down the pike.

With that in mind, Mexicotte and trustees Irene Patalan, Andy Thomas and Glenn Nelson voted to offer the job to Swift. Trustees Susan Baskett, Christine Stead and Simone Lightfoot voted against it.

After the vote, the board discussed how to show support for Swift despite the split vote but decided against any additional motions. Nelson said trustees will vote again to hire Swift officially after a contract is negotiated and brought back before the board for consideration.

Lightfoot and Baskett stressed the board does not have a history of not supporting its superintendents. Both were quick to state they would welcome Swift and encourage and guide her, should Swift decide to take the position.

Lightfoot, Baskett and Stead advocated abandoning the board's original thoughts regarding a quick timeframe in favor of finding the absolute best-fit candidate. They wanted to keep an interim superintendent in place for a year and to conduct a fresh search at a later date. They expressed concerns about a community that saw Osborne as a clearly superior candidate and concerns about Swift's lack of financial acumen.

Trustees in favor of Swift highlighted her motivation and enthusiasm, her ability to make tough choices in light of budget constraints at her current school district and her experience in closing school buildings, leading a zero-based budgeting project, being a transparent and visible leader and engaging the community.

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



Thu, Aug 1, 2013 : 5:39 p.m.

You don't get it. She IS the next interim superintendent. And so the cycle of fumbling continues...


Thu, Aug 1, 2013 : 2:09 p.m.

The only folks who have come out looking pretty good on this superintendent search are the ones who seek to recall the school board, a move most would say is substantially more popular than it was a week or two ago.

Danielle Arndt

Thu, Aug 1, 2013 : 4:28 a.m.

Jeanice Kerr Swift accepted the job offer tonight! Here is the updated story: I've spoken with Swift and will have another story with insights from her in the morning.

Jack Gladney

Thu, Aug 1, 2013 : 4:12 a.m.

Oh boy, oh boy. A school district in the red. A superintendent who has a great track record and experience with finance and contracts, etc. Sounds about right for this bunch. So, the whole emergency manager thing, you know, um. When it comes to school districts, do the locals have a say in appointing one, or does the governor have the only input? But I guess Snyder's a local so it's if kind of a moot point. Do they feed emergency manager snacks at meetings? Who, me? Not much. Just working on my 2014 questions and comments for

Jack Panitch

Thu, Aug 1, 2013 : 4:46 a.m.

Sorry, but, I'm struggling with "A school district in the red." We still have fund equity. We have to grow that fund equity, not keep spending it down. But the "structural deficit" isn't a deficit. Many factors have contributed to the devaluation of our foundation allowance dollars -- each dollar is worth about .62 cents, and this problem can only be cured at the state level -- but your characterization of the District's finances seems off.

A Voice of Reason

Thu, Aug 1, 2013 : 3:47 a.m.

If the BOE was filled with intelligent people, then they would taken a informal poll in private and presented a united front to the public. What is the point of 4-3? It is only damaging. The woman is going to be offered the job and what do those 3 people who voted against her gain other than to go on record of their opinion and show the potential leader of the schools that 3 people did not want her? Not the most politically smart group and what a nice way to start a new job.


Thu, Aug 1, 2013 : 3:17 a.m.

She was noted as being better suited as Director of Curriculum. What has changed that assessment of her skill level? Her 90 day entry plan was sub-par. Her q&a was weak and "wordy" without specifics, there was very little detail in anything she provided about what she would do in A2 beyond visits to schools. This is a poor decision in my opinion based on the BOE's own prior assessment.


Thu, Aug 1, 2013 : 3:05 a.m.

When the board got together to vote on the hiring of final candidates, why didn't they vote that both candidates were acceptable, and then rank the candidates in order of preference (which was Osborne)? That way when Osborne didn't take the job, the board would have already positioned itself to support Ms Swift as the obvious and welcome second choice. Now we send her a message-- from a split board-- that we'd kinda like her to come to Ann Arbor and deal with our mess, although we're really not all that united or sure. This is an example of horrible board management and it makes the district look very, very bad. It also puts the new superintendent in a really uncomfortable position. I hope Ms Swift does take the job, but I also hope the school board members have the dignity to resign and give her a fresh team to work with. It's time to hit the reset button with this lot.

Greg Shea

Thu, Aug 1, 2013 : 3:43 p.m.

As gently as I can say this... the whole idea of bringing forward "finalists" is that the hiring body would be happy to have either one of them, and that of these most acceptable candidates who we would be really happy to have, one of them might be a tiny bit better suited to our district than the other in some small way. The idea that a finalist, in retrospective consideration by the BoE, might not be worthy of the position once the first choice turns it down is mystifying to me.


Thu, Aug 1, 2013 : 10:50 a.m.

I don't think she's uncomfortable.


Thu, Aug 1, 2013 : 2:36 a.m.

She'll do just fine. It's the teachers and office staff that keep it all going.

Basic Bob

Thu, Aug 1, 2013 : 2:54 a.m.

And that gives us great concern as well. The district has been on autopilot for most of the last ten years and is drifting off course with an absence of leadership. Even the best employees need someone at the top to set a common direction and ensure that they all work together.


Thu, Aug 1, 2013 : 2:22 a.m.

Whether everyone is pleased with the decision or not, we need to give this SI all the support we can for the sake of a great school year. It's no secret that there are some significant challenges, but I'm going to give the next SI my vote of confidence until I have concrete reasons to believe otherwise.


Thu, Aug 1, 2013 : 2:03 a.m.

Although waiting for an "absolute best-fit candidate" is certainly optimal, the cynic in me wonders if some might hope by voting "no", they will keep going down the list of applicants until they get the one they wanted in the first place.

Basic Bob

Thu, Aug 1, 2013 : 2:51 a.m.

I'm not seeing a problem with people having divergent opinions on the matter - as long as at the end they support the decision of the group.


Thu, Aug 1, 2013 : 1:39 a.m.

I'm happy to see a vote of overwhelming support for the second place finisher. What could be better?


Thu, Aug 1, 2013 : 1:35 a.m.

As a mom of a soon to start 1st grader this is not making me feel very good about sending our daughter to Ann Arbor public schools. E-gads!


Thu, Aug 1, 2013 : 2:29 a.m.

Very true indeed. However with how she manages it will effect the adults that due teach my child. I wish her or whom ever takes this job much success -


Thu, Aug 1, 2013 : 1:39 a.m.

How about you sleep better at night knowing that, whomever the superintendent is, s/he won't have much at all to do with the direct education of your child.


Thu, Aug 1, 2013 : 1:19 a.m.

Our BOE is Big Time dysfunctional. How can they justify this type of hiring decision? The lady will be in over her head! A lot is at stake here (the next generation of citizens). Torpedo the offer. Do another Search!


Thu, Aug 1, 2013 : 1:07 a.m.

lol, what a joke the BOE has become.


Thu, Aug 1, 2013 : 12:58 a.m.

@Chimay - I think it's not ok to comment on her make up. This would not be said about a male candidate who had anything notable about his appearance, e.g. unibrow, combover, etc. Also, if she gets rid of Everyday Math, that would be a good accomplishment Add to the list: --get the board to express their feelings less at the mike -- set up a quarterly "we are great" cheerleading session to group together all the accolades that bog down board meetings --reduce the number of times committees report to the board at every voting meeting and create a format for those reports so they take up less time, that would be a good --create a way to engage or give feedback to the public commenters who bring up important matters


Thu, Aug 1, 2013 : 1:47 a.m.

@aaparent - it's not okay to make assumptions about people. I would, and have been known to, comment on unibrows and combovers when I see them.

Widow Wadman

Thu, Aug 1, 2013 : 12:55 a.m.

If Ms. Swift accepts the position, then I hope that people give her a chance to fly by providing her with all of the assistance that she needs to get settled into the position and the community.... Is it common for school board terms to be for four years? It's disturbing that some people that are on the Board are going to be there for years to come.


Thu, Aug 1, 2013 : 12:40 a.m.

@Maizemama - do you really think that the spirit of the comments and concerns are a Debbie Downer problem? I see it as weary cynicism from a community and dogged teaching staff that did not think their collective jaws could drop any lower in shock as the elected Board makes its next befuddled move. The problem is how the board is handling this. I feel very sorry for Swift who walks into the job from a 4-3 vote and in the wake of Osborne rejecting the offer. Her presentations during the interviews were not strong on facts, but heavy on good cheer and wanting to have lunch or breakfast with "stake holders." I think the board sets her up for failure since school closings are on the horizon or re-districting and she has had experience with this. Don Bee pointed out that most superintendents leave pretty quickly after they redistrict or close buildings. The Board's process for handling such an important decision is poor, in my opinion. I give credit to Stead, Baskett and Lightfoot for having the integrity to vote No. I am appalled by the drooling pushiness of Mexicotte, Thomas, Patalan and Nelson in the live blog forcing the discussion towards hailing how terrific and nearly lovable Swift is and pushing a vote. Mexicotte said Swift is a "value added proposition." What does that mean? Her endorsement went on to sound much like her rec letter for Green written after the 1:30 a.m. resignation. Patalan chimed in that she never had any doubt ever that Swift could do the job. I guess we should all just close our eyes, hold hands and think positive!


Thu, Aug 1, 2013 : 2:32 a.m.

The problem is the board does what it does and the rest of the community deals with their ships that sailed. You are mixing up the idea of having a positive attitude with actually giving a new superintendent a chance to do positive things when a board operates in such a dysfunctional way. I respect your optimism but wonder if perhaps you have younger kids in the district and haven't seen enough of what happens to our valued teachers who struggle to do right by kids under the botched leadership of administrators. I have a lot of optimism towards teachers who are on the front lines with kids. Swift seems like she would be an excellent principal, classroom teacher or deputy superintendent, but I do not think she has the leadership style needed to guide the district successfully through really tough and divisive issues that lie ahead. WIthout some changes at the board level, I think Swift or any other superintendent will have a tough time being effective.


Thu, Aug 1, 2013 : 2:07 a.m.

I agree with Maizemama's attitude. Let's give the new SI our support until we have significant reason to do otherwise. It is in everyone's best interests to help her succeed.


Thu, Aug 1, 2013 : 1:22 a.m.

We can't undo what is done by the board. They are going to offer her the position and I think she will accept. So while you may be unhappy with the process, this is what we have. I don't think it would have been better to choose one of the other semi-finalists and I don't think it would have been good to have Comsa as interim SI for a year. I don't think there is any use in approaching the new SI with disappointment, or statements like "you're not going to last." Maybe there is high turnover after re-districting, but is it 100%? Probably not. Do we even need re-districting/closings? From my understanding, there is at least 1 elementary with a problem principal. Perhaps the new SI will replace the problem and enrollment will increase. Maybe she will look at where the most kids are leaving the district, either to private or charter schools. Identifying a problem point can lead to a solution. Maybe she will get rid of Everyday Math. We don't really know what she will do, but to approach her with an attitude of "you are going to do poorly and leave" will lead to a self fulfilling prophesy. So let's support her instead and give her tools for success, because that is really what we all want. We want excellent schools. She wants to lead excellent schools. Don't throw up road blocks, just get in there and help build to success. FYI, I was excited about Dr. Osborne, but that ship has sailed and a new decision has been made, so I will support the new SI until given reason to otherwise.


Thu, Aug 1, 2013 : 12:18 a.m.

Let's try to support her from the get go instead of expecting the worst. Maybe she will be great, maybe she will be the answer to the problems. We will never know until she has her chance at it. So instead of being Debbie Downers from the get go, let's look at it from the bright side: new ideas, outsider experiences, experience with school closings. Let her have a fair shot.


Thu, Aug 1, 2013 : 1:16 p.m.

Maizemama, It's not us. It's the vote of "not much confidence" from the school board


Thu, Aug 1, 2013 : 2:23 a.m.

Are you seriously asking the regulars here to stop ranting and complaining? What would they do with their lives?


Thu, Aug 1, 2013 : 12:11 a.m.

I can only think of one of my first reading assignments as a child...... Instead of "run Spot run", it should be "run Jeanice run". I would not touch this job with a 10 foot pole. She came in 2nd place in the Beauty pageant only to have the 1st place finisher bow out and NOW she gets the crown. No way Jose'.


Thu, Aug 1, 2013 : 4:31 a.m.

Really, I read in the NJ forum that Osborne has rejected more than one offer this year, one in CT and now one in AA. And he was passed up for another in NJ. He is great at interviewing and promoting himself. Swift may have more to offer than a great first impression! Give her a chance people, Please! She maybe the one in the fight that we need, and more than what we have right now. Everyone seems to love to condemn and insult the BOE! Before we really know what we have! Please, please, please...People give AAPS a chance! I LOVE, LOVE. LOVE, Ann Arbor! Always have! Lets Stop all this ugly talk! Civil conversation is good, opinions are good, ideas are good. One line insults serve no one and have no solution in them at all! Give a solution if you say you don't like something! I would be interested to hear it!


Wed, Jul 31, 2013 : 11:56 p.m.

In the poll, "none of the above" was second choice.


Wed, Jul 31, 2013 : 11:56 p.m.

I truly wish her the best and hope she is incredibly successful. I know of many instances when the 2nd best candidate for a job winds up with the role and has been very successful. There are two differences between those circumstances and this one. First, usually the person has no idea they were the 2nd choice. Second, they start with strong support from the people hiring them. I cannot believe the Trustees didn't vote 7-0 once it was clear she was going to be offered the job. They should have good discussions and debate, but once it was clear she was going to get majority support, those voting against her undermined her ability to be successful. This isn't a political campaign. The Trustees' job is to help her be successful. Not good.


Wed, Jul 31, 2013 : 11:52 p.m.

If I were in her socks and knowing I was #2, and approved by the board by a 4-3 margin I'd tell them thanks but no thanks. If she can't garner full support before she gets the job imagine the mess she will have a year from now.


Thu, Aug 1, 2013 : 2:20 a.m.

A year from now, if she takes the job, she will have won over the other three. Or not. Someone with a unanimous selection behind them will have lost the support of some board members. Or not. Sure, it is nice to be chosen unanimously. But the bottom line is how well she does her job, and how well she interacts with the board. And based on how that goes, her initial support level will fade into insignificance, no matter what it was.

Hot Sam

Wed, Jul 31, 2013 : 11:34 p.m.

I looked up "mistake" in my Funk and Wagnells, and found a link to this article....

Nicholas Urfe

Wed, Jul 31, 2013 : 11:33 p.m.

..."Votes 4-3"... "You have our complete confidence, number 2!"


Wed, Jul 31, 2013 : 11:28 p.m.

As other posters have indicated, being 2nd choice and with a split board, I wouldn't take it. Whoever gets this job eventually will need the unanimous support of the board and be the first choice among candidates. This will be a very tough job dealing with the necessary financial cuts and closing schools.


Wed, Jul 31, 2013 : 11:21 p.m.

So Ann Arbor is now happy with second choice? If they didn't want her in the first place why are they offering her the job now? What is wrong with the A2 School Board?! Wait, wait, wait!! Let's find someone we really want! What's the hurry?

Basic Bob

Thu, Aug 1, 2013 : 2:44 a.m.

She was a finalist after many were weeded out. Think of the dozens that they really didn't want. Should we bring them all back and offer the job to one of them?


Thu, Aug 1, 2013 : 2:17 a.m.

This makes absolutely no sense. They are already on record as preferring Osbourne. So, anyone else will be "second choice". It would be idiotic to start a whole new search if they feel that their second finalist would be excellent, even though she came in second in the search.


Thu, Aug 1, 2013 : 2:04 a.m.

The problem is that they have to want us. Kind of like dating...


Thu, Aug 1, 2013 : 1:39 a.m.

What is wrong with the A2 School Board?! It would take far longer to list everything wrong with the BOE than it did for the BOE to see how quickly they could select a superintendent candidate and now a second candidate.


Wed, Jul 31, 2013 : 11:07 p.m.

I liked a lot of what she had to say. She has done nearly every position except SI. This may give her an advantage over those people who zip up the ladder with only a few years teaching or being a principal before they move up. I wish her much success if she chooses to join us. Also, given all her experience with curriculum, I hope she throws out everyday math!


Thu, Aug 1, 2013 : 3:36 a.m.

I so agree with you aamom! I wish her much success and hope she joins us!


Thu, Aug 1, 2013 : 12:39 a.m.

Yes, get rid of Everyday Math. I think my kids would like her little penguin program.


Wed, Jul 31, 2013 : 11:07 p.m.

Second choice with a split vote, seems like an insulting offer to join a toxic environment. Restart the new search with a new firm.

Basic Bob

Thu, Aug 1, 2013 : 2:43 a.m.

And would they come up with better or just different?

Michigan Man

Wed, Jul 31, 2013 : 11:06 p.m.

Oh my! Really, really weak Ann Arbor Public Schools Board - they seem lost, confused, without a strategy and kind of in over their heads.


Thu, Aug 1, 2013 : 2:14 a.m.

How do you figure MM? THey did a search. They came down to two finalists. One turned down the job, the other is offered the job. How is that "lost", "cofused"? Without a strategy? You seem to be ranting on fumes...


Wed, Jul 31, 2013 : 11:12 p.m.

Inept, clueless, lost and arrogant, they are.


Wed, Jul 31, 2013 : 11:04 p.m.

Already the second choice and she only gets a 4-3 vote to offer a contract. Doesn't seem like a healthy work environment already.


Thu, Aug 1, 2013 : 10:22 a.m.

I certainly agree


Wed, Jul 31, 2013 : 10:55 p.m.

Superintendent Swift and her associates will do just fine. For the kids


Wed, Jul 31, 2013 : 10:53 p.m.

Well with a non unanimous board, It certainly isn't a place I would want to be at.


Thu, Aug 1, 2013 : 2:12 a.m.

I guess we are lucky that they didn't offer you the job then...


Wed, Jul 31, 2013 : 11:26 p.m.

Totally agree


Wed, Jul 31, 2013 : 10:47 p.m.

What an utter mess. I'm not sure which would be less appealing - taking on the operational dysfunction of the schools, or the relational dysfunction of the Board. Yikes.


Thu, Aug 1, 2013 : 3:20 a.m.

I am all ears to hear how you think the past few years, and especially the past few months, reflect "a good job of it" by anyone involved. Until the Board can admit how poorly all of this was handled and get an outside team to help them heal the issues that divide them, this is all on a train headed off a cliff. I've never seen so many rose colored glasses worn by an organization. And through it all, NOTHING of substance is getting done. Nothing.


Thu, Aug 1, 2013 : 2:11 a.m.

What mess? They did a search. It seems they did a good job of it. They chose someone unanimously who a majority of even the people on this comment board favored. That person turned the job down. Why does that equate to a "mess"?


Wed, Jul 31, 2013 : 10:32 p.m.

Can we find any one local?


Wed, Jul 31, 2013 : 11:24 p.m.



Wed, Jul 31, 2013 : 11:11 p.m.

Too late.


Wed, Jul 31, 2013 : 10:26 p.m.


Wed, Jul 31, 2013 : 10:16 p.m.

I always thought she was more genuine then Osbourne. Hoping she accepts.


Thu, Aug 1, 2013 : 3:50 a.m.

Me too!


Wed, Jul 31, 2013 : 10:15 p.m.

Sorry, but part of me is really hoping she turns it down.