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Posted on Thu, Dec 20, 2012 : 5:59 a.m.

Ann Arbor Superintendent: School closures, redistricting 'cannot be ignored'

By Danielle Arndt

Patricia Green.JPG

Ann Arbor Superintendent Patricia Green talked about redistricting at Wednesday's Board of Education meeting, calling it a "realistic option that needs to be explored."

A long-awaited report from a committee of 20-plus individuals commissioned to study the future of transportation at Ann Arbor Public Schools led to a discussion Wednesday night about the two “R”s — rerouting and redistricting.

Ann Arbor Superintendent Patricia Green told trustees Wednesday that rerouting and redistricting are “realistic” considerations that “cannot be ignored.” She highlighted exploring these concepts as “next steps” for administration.

The board will need to grapple with these ideas “sooner rather than later,” Green said. “And school closures are a part of the redistricting concept.”

The Ann Arbor Board of Education has weighed significant transportation cuts each budget cycle for the past three years now, trustees said Wednesday.

And once again, the board anticipates transportation will, in some form, fall prey to the district’s blade, as officials work to slice yet another $17 million from Ann Arbor’s $188.5 million budget.

In May, the board passed a resolution charging administration with establishing a “transportation working group” that brings as many stakeholders — students, parents, administrators, board members, city and county leaders, police and the Ann Arbor Transportation Authority — to the table as possible.

The goal was to gather a comprehensive representation of the community to ponder and research the financial sustainability of student transportation at AAPS.

To complete its mission, the group identified 12 possibilities for transporting students who qualify for transportation services.

It collected and reviewed information and data for each of the 12 options and analyzed the practicality and feasibility of them.

In its report, the committee recommended four of the options for the board’s further consideration.

Rerouting was the second recommendation the group gave the board. But it also drew the most attention during board members’ discussion.

The transportation committee’s report made no mention of redistricting by name, but Green said it was assumed that redistricting would have to be looked at as a subset of rerouting.

“Was there no loud opposition to redistricting?” Trustee Susan Baskett asked.

Green said there was caution — both because of the emotional component involved in redistricting and because redistricting was slightly outside the purview of what this particular committee was set up to do.

“But it’s all interconnected,” she said, during a break in the meeting.

The district would need to survey and gather information from the community, building staff, bus drivers and supervisors prior to making any rerouting decisions, said Deputy Superintendent of Operations Robert Allen.

He said the real savings in rerouting would come from collectively considering the greater use of common stops, changing start times and additional use of AATA bus routes.

Allen explained common stops are a single location where buses pick up and drop off students from a broad area surrounding the location. He said currently AAPS uses common stops for high schoolers, but added the transportation working group thought common stops could be initiated for middle schoolers as well.

Part of rerouting would be to review the boundary maps for the elementary schools in particular, Allen said.

Baskett pointed to the boundary map for Burns Park Elementary. She noted how currently students from West Clark Road, for example, are bused past four different elementary schools (Carpenter, Pittsfield, Allen and Pattengill) to Burns Park.

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Green said during a break in the meeting, the reasons for this well precede her history of the district but her understanding is this configuration was to solve issues of diversity.

The board directed administration to begin costing out some of the pieces of rerouting/redistricting. However, there was some disagreement about how long such a process should take.

President Deb Mexicotte asked if it would be possible for Green’s team to come back to the board mid-second semester for a more substantive discussion on transportation and redistricting. Green said she was not comfortable committing to a date or a timeline on the spot Wednesday.

She said sometime in January, after meeting with her staff, she would provide an update to the board as well as a potential timeframe for talking about redistricting.

“The redistricting piece has always been the big (elephant) in the room,” Green said. “And I believe it’s going to take at least a year to do it justice, if not more than a year. I believe it has to have big community involvement.”

Vice President Christine Stead said she understands why the administrative team is uncomfortable moving quickly on this topic, but added the district may not have a choice.

“The state has us all scrambling and the time we would typically like to have and spend, I’m not sure we have the luxury of,” she said. “… We would all like to have a few years to consider these types of changes. But given these kinds of stark realities, … a lot of these decisions … may need to be made much more fast than we would like them to.”

Green talked about the importance of having a third-party organization conduct a demographic and feasibility study prior to redistricting.

“It’s important that we’re not just looking at ourselves. The community would want to know we had experts working along with us on this issue,” she said.

Green also said the idea of moving or closing a school or redrawing a neighborhood boundary is emotional for people. She said board members only had to look back at last year’s proposal to combine the Roberto Clemente Student Development Center with either Pioneer or Ann Arbor Tech to see how supercharged these discussions become.

“When it comes to redistricting, people are either for or against it. Nobody is indifferent,” Green said. “It is not pretty. … I believe it can’t be done in a shorter period of time.”

Mexicotte said the district also must consider what it could lose — including students to charter and private schools — if it moves too quickly.

Green told during a break in the meeting, the next step is researching what experts exist in the Ann Arbor area to bring in to conduct feasibility and demographic studies. She added having a zero-based budgeting process in place also will help the district pinpoint where savings are.

AAPS is in the process of implementing a zero-based budgeting model, with the hope it can be utilized for the 2014-15 budget.

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



Fri, Mar 22, 2013 : 2:37 p.m.

The issue of "experts" has bothered me for years. If all the consultants were experts, would we be in the mess we're in now? This administration is the personification of "penny wise and pound foolish". There is an enormous amount of talent in the classrooms and it's administrative malpractice to ignore it in favor of Balas employees who don't have the expertise to do their own jobs.


Fri, Dec 21, 2012 : 10:22 a.m.

When you have to form committees and use "third party organizations" to fix your problems that is a sign you have people in administration who cannot make a decision. It is costly, it takes forever, and there is no guarantee that recommendation will be accepted or implemented. You have no way of knowing if such "experts" have any more expertise than what you have in place. Waste of time and money. I prefer administrators who will quickly analyze a problem and make a decision, then follow up with program evaluation so that if your solution isn't working you can alter it.


Fri, Dec 21, 2012 : 8:18 a.m.

For a Quarter Million Dollars a year, I had expected Better from Supt, Ms, Doctor (?) Green. This is - Simply Stated - "dizzying!" This is Not "leadership." This is not "decisive." This is a Very Transparent, Feeble attempt to "Spread the Blame" and "Pass the Buck" back to the Board of scrambled minds, of which, whatever her title is, "Green" is expert at manipulating. Totally and Completely Disgusting!!! It makes Washtenaw County administration look like the "Gold Stadard," and that's saying a lot . . .


Fri, Dec 21, 2012 : 4:20 a.m.

The real question on redistricting is whether the State of Michigan is ready for a bipartisan initiative to consolidate/restructure the 551 districts in Michigan? Do we need that many? We have a state curriculum and we no longer process our payrolls manually. If people truly want to save the public school system in Michigan, we need to redistrict as a State saving hundreds of millions of dollars- not supporting so many districts/administrators and the buildings that they work in. If you all truly want better student to teacher ratios, consider eliminating at least some of the hundreds of districts that we have and bring more teachers back into the classroom!The public school system is worth fighting for.


Fri, Dec 21, 2012 : 6:24 p.m.

So I see median household income in Fairfax county is over $100,000. and that about 80% of the money for the schools come from county taxes, and 85% of costs are for instructional purposes. Interesting. I'm sure when Washtenaw is splintered up by even more for profit charters, we'll be able to emulate them.

Joe Hood

Fri, Dec 21, 2012 : 3:24 p.m.

Please look at Fairfax County Public Schools in Virginia, for an example of what karendkerry is speaking of for a live working example. Then come back and say it doesn't work, because it does work.


Fri, Dec 21, 2012 : 12:38 p.m.

Right, so we can have really big districts with lots of layers and bureaucracy, because that makes the school district to dealing with kids oh so individualized and responsive.


Thu, Dec 20, 2012 : 9:36 p.m.

"solving the issues of diversity" is not a good reason to bus kids for a hour to a school on the other side of the city. Fix the neighborhood schools so they all meet high standards, and let kids go to school with their neighbors, rather than transport them miles and miles away to another part of the city to satisfy some administrator's idea of what a utopia looks like. The schools in the neighborhoods are fixable. Hire good people to lead them and give them the resources to update the facilities. Ask a kid if he or she would rather walk to a school down the street with his/her friends or be bused for a hour to a strange neighborhood on the other side of the city. Fix the schools and this will cease to be an issue.


Thu, Dec 20, 2012 : 8:35 p.m.

One more cannot cut your way out of a deficit.... (See Ypsilanti/Willow Run/Detroit P.S. as examples). The only proven way to solve this problem is bringing in MORE REVENUE. Michiganders need to look no further than California for an example. After decades of cutting public education K-12 and undergrad to the bone without any improvement, California voters in November approved a TAX INCREASE to help fund.....PUBLIC EDUCATION. Michigan is heading down a slippery slope when School Districts rich in potential revenue like Ann Arbor Public Schools, are going broke....


Fri, Dec 21, 2012 : 6:14 p.m.

YpsiGirl4Ever - Michigan is 4th or 5th in spending on K-12 schools based on percentage of GDP in the state. We need to figure out how to use the money schools have better and get better results for our spending. The US outspends most European countries on K-12 but does much worse in results.


Thu, Dec 20, 2012 : 8:14 p.m.

The sad part about this Ann Arbor P.S. will soon (if approved by its' School Board) will follow a pattern that has led to other School District's complete destruction. Think back Detroit Public Schools cut transportation, closed schools -- now have a emergency manager. Ypsilanti/Willow Run Public Schools --- now in a questionable merger that does not guarantee a better future for the "combined" district. My suggestion....A2 P.S. be careful in whatever decisions you make as the district now could have a direct impact on the districts' future.

Basic Bob

Thu, Dec 20, 2012 : 8:56 p.m.

It's the mother's milk leads to heroin argument.

Basic Bob

Thu, Dec 20, 2012 : 7:31 p.m.

It will be quite interesting to see what kind of gerrymandered redlining plan for redistricting they might come up with. In most places, people choose a school district for the quality of the schools, relative to what they are able to afford, commuting, family, etc. In Ann Arbor, entire parts of the school district are considered off limits because only one of the middle schools is majority minority, while the other four are comparable to each other. If you want to play football, you live within the Pioneer boundaries. Elementary schools like Northside and Mitchell are synonymous with low education and poverty. It should be very interesting to see how the administration will respond to sensitive boundary issues like Scarlett-Tappan, Burns Park-Bryant, and Huron-Pioneer. Some homeowners will be concerned because the schools affect property values and prestige. I expect nothing will happen while the current superintendent is working here. It is much easier to make vague generalizations and empty promises.


Thu, Dec 20, 2012 : 9:31 p.m.

I still maintain that kids should attend schools where they live and not be bused all over town for any reason. People buy houses and live in areas they are comfortable with and many choose neighborhoods for the schools. Homeowners will be hopping mad if they find out that the house they bought in a particular area that served a particular elem school is suddenly changed through redistricting, and their kids are subsequently bused across town. Not good for anyone concerned.


Thu, Dec 20, 2012 : 8:10 p.m.

Basic Bob - Only a few years ago - Northside was one of the best elementary schools in the district with a vital community supporting it. It is amazing how fast it has gone down hill because of a couple of staff changes.


Thu, Dec 20, 2012 : 7:47 p.m.

I'd think the schools would all survive, and the kids would be okay. Some adults however, maybe chagrined.


Thu, Dec 20, 2012 : 7:15 p.m.

Most teachers are worth their weight in gold. Just like any profession there some that need to be broomed. Much the same with the administration. There needs to be serious attention to the roles and responsibilities of the administrators. I am as baffled as others as to why we continually hire so called expert consultants to do the work that our supposedly top not administration should be doing.


Thu, Dec 20, 2012 : 7:06 p.m.

This latest round of cuts to schools can be laid directly on the Ricksters table. If the Republikans would like to restructure the business taxes in the state, do it revenue neutrally. But no, they just get rid of the old system, make a new 6% income tax on businesses and essentially lose $2B in taxes, while at the same time piling taxes onto many individuals who cannot afford tax increases like retirees. What a Sweet Heart deal for the people of the state. Now our school systems have to continue to lay off more teachers and cut the budgets more. When is enough, enough? $2B would do much to solve local school problems, but no, that cannot be done. The Koch brothers want their business buddies to have more money. The Walton family has more wealth than the lowest 40% of the people in this country. These are 7 or 8 individuals. Do they need more? They will get more if the Republikans cut the business inventory tax which they have said they will do and this will entail more local cuts. 2014 is not coming fast enough.

Unusual Suspect

Thu, Dec 20, 2012 : 11:56 p.m.

Koch brothers seem to be on his broken record as well.


Thu, Dec 20, 2012 : 11:03 p.m.

snooze...i dozed off after seeing "the Rickster". broken record.


Thu, Dec 20, 2012 : 8:08 p.m.

leaguebus - The number was 1.8 billion which ended up being about 1.4 billion because business actually picked up in the state. The 1.8 billion was a tax cut from 600,000 small businesses in the state that average $3,000 each in reduced taxes, the plumber I know, bought a new van and hired a helper because of the reduced taxes, which lead to more tax revenue for the state. The Governor also lead the charge to close loopholes and end tax abatements which this year should bring in another $400 million or so in business taxes. In many cases under the old law, years were spent with accountants getting to the number and taxes were not paid until the state and the company agreed on the total. Delaying the payment and running up the cost of governement. Most large business - Ford, GM, Meijer, etc. Paid more in taxes under the new law, but that does not match your mythology, so I guess you will ignore it. Yet, again.


Thu, Dec 20, 2012 : 7:01 p.m.

Nobody wanted Roberto Clemente students at their school because the students are (and lets not beat around the bush/equivocate here) labor-intensive and disruptive, with some with serious emotional problems, etc. Would you, as a parent, want those kids with yours? NO. If teachers are unable to properly discipline problems students, or separate students who need constant-attention from others, you can't combine programs/schools and have it work.

J. A. Pieper

Fri, Dec 21, 2012 : 2:19 a.m.

Under Dr. Green's new Discipline Gap policies, our hands are tied when it comes to disciplining specific students. It seems the idea is if we don't discipline, then there is no discipline gap! So, parents have to accept the fact that there may be some distractions in their child's classroom, and that their child might be afraid of other kids at their school, maybe even feel threatened. Everyone involved within the school just has to put up with this type of situation in AAPS these days.


Thu, Dec 20, 2012 : 9:26 p.m.

leaguebus, no poster said anything about locking up students who misbehave. It's good your son benefited from Clemente. There needs to be a school for students who can't succeed in a traditional comprehensive high school. That's not a slam, it's reality. Not all students can succeed in large schools of several thousand students. Nor should those students with serious behavioral issues be forced into large settings where they are destined to fail. It is, however, the responsibility of teachers and administrators to set behavioral standards and enforce them in all school settings in order to provide an environment conducive to learning. I can tell you that some of the comprehensive high schools in A2 do not meet the behavioral standards for maintaining a learning environment in all classrooms and common areas. Teachers and administrators need to maintain far more discipline across the board in the schools, in particular at the large high schools.


Thu, Dec 20, 2012 : 8:02 p.m.

leaguebus & A2K - Closing those programs makes no sense, but keeping AATech and Roberto Clemente in separate buildings does not either. Consolidation of the two programs under 1 administation in Stone School does make sense. There is enough room in the building that the the only things the two programs would have to share is bathrooms and a lunch room - with care the lunch periods could be separate and the standard class breaks separate, meaning very little interaction between the two sets of students. This does make sense to me from a budget and maintaining two vital programs.


Thu, Dec 20, 2012 : 7:13 p.m.

You are right, lock them up in a jail. My son went to Roberto and it was the best thing that ever happened to him. He is now a good citizen in our society. Please don't say we don't have the money to keep this program open, we cant afford to close it because its budget is nothing compared to what we will pay if these students end up in prison.


Thu, Dec 20, 2012 : 6:13 p.m.

If YPS is any guide, closing schools will not improve the budget. Any cost savings will be wiped out by the loss in revenue of students leaving the district for private or charter schools.

Joe Hood

Thu, Dec 20, 2012 : 5:58 p.m.

What ever happened to walking to school or riding a bicycle? Sure, not everyone has that ability but the majority does. How are we teaching kids to live sustainably when we are not?

Joe Hood

Fri, Dec 21, 2012 : 2:28 p.m.

Don, that's not a sustainable place to live! What's the percentage of kids that live way out there, I'm imagining it to be very small, the outlier of statistics. Looks like a decent shoulder for riding, from Google Maps. I wouldn't want to live way out there, though in the past I have done forty mile round-trip commutes to work in DC.


Thu, Dec 20, 2012 : 7:58 p.m.

Mr. Hood - Do this go to the corner of Gotfredsen and Plymouth-Ann Arbor and then ride your bike at 6:30 AM tomorrow to Huron. May the force be with you live another day. That location is on the very edge of the district, some other edges are even further out with less in the way of infrastructure to support bike or walking.


Thu, Dec 20, 2012 : 5:37 p.m.

Welcome to the party A2. Now you are learning how Ypsi feels. This is a bigger problem for all schools in our state.

Patricia Lesko

Thu, Dec 20, 2012 : 5:26 p.m.

A look at the most recent audit ( and it's clear our district is swimming in structural debt, and property tax revenues have dropped. In 2011 long term liabilities were $176.2M. In 2012 they increased to $185.6M. The BOE members and AAPS administrators did the same thing Hieftje and his political cronies did—over-borrowed, and now want to cut services to pay crushing ($15.9M last year) debt obligations. It might be convenient to blame teachers, the state (according to the audit, the 2010 state allocation was $4,023 per pupil; the 2012 allocation was $4,396), HS athletics, Community High School, or unions. However, VOTERS approved the spending, and debt payments now equal 20 percent of the District's annual General Fund revenue. Our 2012 property taxes levied paid $4,322 to the District's General Fund for instruction, another $955 just to service debt and $444 more to service sinking fund debt. What do we do? Change direction—the same thing that is happening in city government. Run for the BOE, and elect new leadership (4 seats open in 2014). Approve no new bonds or millages for AAPS until after 2022. Demand fiscal transparency from the AAPS. AAPS Credit card statements and the District's checkbook must be online. I FOIAed CC statements and in a single month one employee spent $5,000 on meals out. Then the Superintendent proposes we cut athletic programs funded with less than $5,000 per year. AAPS employees shouldn't eat out or stay at the Hilton on the public dime when we're $185.6M in debt. Roll back administrative raises, and freeze pay for all employees until 2014 (when the first of the many outstanding bonds is paid off and money will be freed up). End termination pay within the District, and the ability to cash out unused vacation and sick days (save $7M) .

J. A. Pieper

Fri, Dec 21, 2012 : 2:11 a.m.

Lesko - I do not know of anyone in AAPS who has the ability to cash out unused vacation and sick days, unless it is those at the Balas Palace. I have a total of a year's sick leave because I do not use a lot of sick time, my choice. There is no reward given from the district - but the parents of my students appreciate my attendance. That is more valuable than anything the district has to offer me!


Thu, Dec 20, 2012 : 7:52 p.m.

Ms Lasko - The additional debt is all covered by sinking funds or building bonds, there is no operating debt on the books. I would suggest you take a good look at how school funding is handled, because there are statutory rules that the district has to follow. The structural issues are operational in nature, not building or technology in nature. The increase in "debt" is because the district had a technology millage pass last year and they had not collected the first year's taxes for it yet. Sinking fund and building bond money can not be used to pay for operations, but they could be much better used than they are - last year the district spent over $15 million in bond and sinking fund money on additional athletic facilities that were not in the orignal requests. That money could have been spent on energy efficiency - which would have reduced future operating costs, but since they built new athletic facilities - those will cost operating money to clean, light, heat and maintain in the future.


Thu, Dec 20, 2012 : 3:24 p.m.

In many cases, there is no "neighborhood" school. We live in one of the many newer subdivisions along the periphery of the AAPS area. There is no school withing several miles that we could walk to. If all the students from these outlying areas were simply bused to the nearest elementary, then all the students who are currently walking to that elementary would have to be bussed somewhere else to make room. There is no easy solution to this. I am personally opposed to elementary redistricting, but would be fine with middle school and high school redistricting/ rerouting. I'd also love to see all the students from an elementary school feed to the same middle school. Some schools do this, while others see their students split to 2 middle schools. In some cases, those middle schools then split to 2 high schools. With 5 middle schools and 3 high schools, there's no way to avoid that split, I know. But with 20 elementary schools (not counting AA Open) and 5 middle schools, why can't 4 elementaries just feed to each middle school, with no splitting?


Thu, Dec 20, 2012 : 3:25 p.m.

Oops, "within".

Peter Eckstein

Thu, Dec 20, 2012 : 2:55 p.m.

Fortunately, there are many dollars available for the busing of students, because AATA is awash in money. For example, it no longer has to spend the million dollars plus that it has been devoting to self-promotion and marketing the county-wide "Smart Plan," and it can eliminate the $750,000 that the board has allocated for subsidizing bus service to the airport. Busing children to and from schools would actually fall within AATA's mandate to provide transporation services within the city of Ann Arbor (as these other things do not). Some adjustment of school hours might be required so that buses and drivers meeting business rush hour demand could serve the schools in other hours--but starting high school after the morning rush hour might have educational benefits as well.


Thu, Dec 20, 2012 : 2:37 p.m.

Here's a thought, those who want to attend the luxury schools, Community, Ann Arbor Open, etc make them pay a substantial fees to attend. I would assume those who attend will be able to pay these fees. Then cut them loose from the Ann Arbor system. Redistricting is fine, you will never make everyone happy,stop worrying about it. It has happened many times and folks learn to live with it. Cut the inflated salaries at Balas and cut positions as well, since they do not seem to partake in any os the cuts. They should be able to do more than one position since they are asking everyone else to do that.


Fri, Dec 21, 2012 : 1:47 p.m.

Bballmom - "I would assume those who attend will be able to pay these fees." Why would you assume that? When my children attended Ann Arbor Open for a total of 12 years, there was a wide range of socioeconomic students/families, and many would not be able to afford to pay extra, on top of their school millage taxes.


Thu, Dec 20, 2012 : 9:16 p.m.

Ditto on cutting inflated salaries at Balas.


Thu, Dec 20, 2012 : 7:47 p.m.

gyre - If you add up building and general adminstration costs - the total in the last few years is trending up, the only major category to do so. I suspect you will find most of the people who used to work in Balas moved into some of the new offices in the high schools, so that they can be moved to the building administration budget category - which by the way is well over $12,000,000.00 a year now. This is about what all the high school teacher salaries total.


Thu, Dec 20, 2012 : 6:03 p.m.

If you look at where Balas was several years ago and the staffing levels now, you will see that there have already been substantial cuts. One administrator is overseeing several program where each program had its own administrator in the past. Not say that there may be room for more cuts, but you can't fault the administration for not addressing administration cuts.


Thu, Dec 20, 2012 : 2:23 p.m.

Privatize the bus system and charge those that use it. Those that don't use it should not have to subsidize it. Use smaller buses or vans, scale the transportation to the needs. Don't run huge polluting half empty buses that belch diesel exhaust around town. School secretaries should be organizing parent car pools for their elementary schools, rather than having so many cars dropping off one student at a time and creating congestion and chaos in elementary parking lots and in front of buildings. The budget cuts are real regardless of the reasons for them.

Unusual Suspect

Thu, Dec 20, 2012 : 6:46 p.m.

When exactly would the secretaries do this? The offices are already understaffed and the secretaries are already extremely busy.


Thu, Dec 20, 2012 : 5:41 p.m.

It's a good idea to have the school facilitate carpools, very cost efficient for those involved and would make pick up and drop off safer...It's all about solving problems, not just shooting down suggestions which is the easier thing to do.

Unusual Suspect

Thu, Dec 20, 2012 : 5:13 p.m.

The secretary is not a concierge or social planner. If people want to carpool - and wanting to is a prerequisite - they can organize it.


Thu, Dec 20, 2012 : 2:14 p.m.

"Green told during a break in the meeting, the next step is researching what experts exist in the Ann Arbor area to bring in to conduct feasibility and demographic studies. She added having a zero-based budgeting process in place also will help the district pinpoint where savings are". I thought we hired an expert when we payed $250,000 per year, WOW. Also post this on Facebook: Post my comment


Sun, Dec 23, 2012 : 6:40 a.m.

She's trying to protect herself from any negativity...if an "expert" makes an unpopular decision, you don't have to hire them again, but if Green or any other administrator makes an unpopular decision, it is "off with their heads" type of reaction..and then we find ourselves in another "search" to replace the current Superintendent. We need someone at the top who will actually take control and REDUCE the overpaid administrators!!


Sat, Dec 22, 2012 : 3:22 a.m.

This is what we pay her for. To hire others to do her dirty work. She is no better then the high and mighty in Balas. Time to cut some riff raff outta there.


Thu, Dec 20, 2012 : 6:04 p.m.

I must agree. If we pay someone this level of salary, they should have plenty of ideas waiting in the wings.


Thu, Dec 20, 2012 : 1:53 p.m.

I thought the board and superintendent were the "think tanks" or brains of AAPS? I don't feel like being sick to my stomach for the rest of the day so I'm not going to add up all the salaries at the palace, BUT, in a budget crisis the solution is to hire out another consulting firm to collect data and analysis on the district? Is anyone manning the ship? You have taken from the kids, teachers, school administrators, school staff and parents. When is this community going to see cuts from the palace? Anymore cuts from the individual schools and you are going to drive pupils away from this district. AAPS isn't the only top performing district in the state anymore and people will take their kids elsewhere!


Thu, Dec 20, 2012 : 6:12 p.m.

Ahmen! Couldn't agree more. Top paid administrators in public institutions should do the work they are paid to do.....

Jim Mulchay

Thu, Dec 20, 2012 : 1:42 p.m.

I suspect the "experts" are primarily to consider the issues around diversity in the individual schools. I believe the AAPS has gone to a lot of trouble and expense to try to have a diverse student body in each building - an alternative with less transportation cost is "neighborhood" schools which (I would suspect) be far less diverse. Cost vs Philosophy


Thu, Dec 20, 2012 : 4:07 p.m.

It's not the schools; it's the kids. Too many stressed out, poor, exposed-to-violence kids in one place is bad. Other schools can absorb some of these stressed kids without losing their air of order and well-regulated learning. But you have to bus; hence the cost.


Thu, Dec 20, 2012 : 3:09 p.m.

JRW, Are you suggesting "separate, but equal" ? Don't think that worked out very well.


Thu, Dec 20, 2012 : 2:25 p.m.

Let the kids attend the schools in their neighborhoods and upgrade the "bad" neighborhood schools so they are up the same standards as the "good" schools. All the neighborhood schools should offer the same high quality education. It's better for the students to walk to a neighborhood school instead of riding a bus for an hour to another part of the city. Common sense.


Thu, Dec 20, 2012 : 1:41 p.m.

This is starting to get serious, the can can't be kicked down the road much longer. The only way this will be resolved is to piss a lot of people off; teachers, unions, administrators, the public, and the students will be angry if it is done correctly. The alternative is an emergency manager at some point who WILL make the hard decisions and not answer to anyone. Programs will have to be cut, pay and benefits of not only admiistrators but teachers and retirees need to be looked at, we are to the point where we will not be able to afford to educate our children. We have legacy costs, salaries, and benefits we can no longer afford. People will cry "we were promised this and that" and still go out and vote for the dinosaurs who created all of this mess. We'll do the right thing when the pain becomes too big to bear and that day is coming sooner than we would like. I'm sure some kind of a tax proposal will be floated out there after the administration comes back will their unacceptable "solution" and drops it on the public. To be continued.............


Thu, Dec 20, 2012 : 8:25 p.m.

To way this is SOLVED is to tailor policies and statues, providing ADEQUATE FUNDING for Michigan's Public School Systems. Until that is done, nothing will fix the problem with providing proper amount revenue for Public Schools oeprations.


Thu, Dec 20, 2012 : 1:40 p.m.

Transportation is not mandated by the state. Why not charge for it? After all, the district charges student drivers to park in school lots. They actually charge the students who DON'T ride the bus. What would the district do if every student who normally drives to school was waiting at a bus stop tomorrow?


Thu, Mar 7, 2013 : 2:34 p.m.

I had to buy bus tickets as a kid. Excellent idea. If its against state law, then change the law. If I didn't take the bus, I walked- over a mile one way. It didn't kill me, it was good exercise.


Sat, Dec 22, 2012 : 10:19 p.m.

While not mandated as a required service, if busing in offered it is mandatory by state law that it be free. I am doubtful that there would be a change to this provision of the law. Democrats would be likely see it as discriminatory; Republicans would likely see it as a 'new tax'.


Thu, Dec 20, 2012 : 8:21 p.m.

Let's charge for books, pencils to sit at a certain desk in the classroom.... Do you see the slippery slope this could easily lead too? And in the end, the Public Schools will STILL be broke. Policy changes in Lansing and Washington, D.C. are the only prescription to fix Michigan's Public School System funding resources.


Thu, Dec 20, 2012 : 2:09 p.m.

I could see charging for busing as long as they did like the lunches and allowed lower income families to ride at no charge, otherwise you are just dooming some kids to fail if they can't get to school. Also, if they charge, they would need to reroute so the high school kids aren't taking the bus an hour before the first class when the school is a 15 minute drive from their house.


Thu, Dec 20, 2012 : 1:27 p.m.

All public schools in Michigan have been hit with budget issues as the state grapples with massive debt problems inherited by the current administration. Ann Arbor has not been immune. Changes to the Ann Arbor Public Schools have been a major discussion point for quite some time now. Programs that once made Ann Arbor the envy of many other schools districts in the state have been cut. Families now pay more for outside classroom activities. Administration and teaching staff have been cut. Students per classroom have increased. Supplies and other items needed to provide a quality education have been limited or eliminated. Pay increases have been delayed. Yet all these changes still result in unbalanced budgets. What I don't understand is after all the cuts have been made yet it is not enough, why hasn't the school administration set up a public meeting with state education officials and members of the legislature to present "the facts" of all the changes that have been made, and then get input from the "experts" on where else to cut while still maintaining a quality education for the students? I firmly believe that the "bottom line" mentality of many legislature members tends to make them either ignorant or uninformed of what is needed to run a quality school system. Although many will say "cut teacher pay, they are grossly overpaid", I will pose this question. What other position requires an individual to personally manage the activities of potentially 210 people each day, ensure they maintain good behavior, inspire them to learn and be successful, help them through personal issues, deal with parents, meet state mandated requirements for student improvement, fund extras for the classroom out of their own pockets, continue their education process at their own expense, and then start the entire process again the next year? There is no other job that has that much immediate direct responsibility that pay less than $40K


Fri, Dec 21, 2012 : 12:59 p.m.

towncryer - you have hit the nail on the head regarding the problem with teachers. they are protected by the union and need to put your kids in their class to get their paycheck. The kids fail miserably with those teachers. I know some that have given up and dropped out because the school forced them into certain classes with these teachers. Unfortunately every school has them and nothing can be done about them. They ride it out until they retire and sail off into the sunset with your tax dollars providing them a decent retirement..............


Thu, Dec 20, 2012 : 11:29 p.m.

@grye. I'm not sure if you will come back to this but I have a question, since you seem to either be a teacher or are close to some. What happens when, say, during the spring thru summer a school is getting calls/letters/emails requesting their child not have a particular teacher? Now i know it is subjective, but say in a middle school, the counselor or principal gets 25-30 requests that their child not have a particular teacher? Does anyone (principal, administration, etc..) look into this and see why so many parents do not want a particular teacher, or do they just try to honor the most squeakiest wheel's requests and not confront the teacher at all? I'm honestly just curious. I'm sure each school has "that teacher" or even more than one. Thanks in advance.


Thu, Dec 20, 2012 : 6:27 p.m.

Answer to your question: A plant manager who works 40+ hours a week on any average of 50 weeks a year. I agree with Mike swimthis: 60 to 70 hours a week during a school week then it should be spent "at the school." To count grading papers at home you need to not be watching your own children or doing "anything" else. Some teachers are worth the money they are paid, others just put there time in make the good teachers look bad. What I have found to often is the teachers who are not what I call "good teachers" are the ones who complaint the loudest. The teachers the would call good to great do their job teaching not sending home, homework for the parents to see to it the student gets down. grye: The problem is many never should of made it 20 years!


Thu, Dec 20, 2012 : 6:25 p.m.

And while I'm at it, great teachers are not overpaid, they should be paid more. But the cost of benefits is out of control. The price paid to the MEA for health care is bordering on criminal.


Thu, Dec 20, 2012 : 6:20 p.m.

More money for great teachers producing results. More money for needed programs that have been cut. But the cuts from the state last year were exactly 1%. Michigan funding per student is Top Ten amongst states and outcomes have been dropping the last few decades to between 30th and 40th. This is a long term trend that predates Snyder and even Granholm. We have built school palaces all over the state because operating budgets are constrained, but those are still real dollars. We've built Skyline as enrollment peaked and then cut programing. Teachers are not overpaid, at least not the many, many great ones. But the weak ones need to go. Overhead does need to be cut. Schools do need to be redistricted. Funding needs to be increased for Pre-K, that generates the best ROI. The dollars are there. The cuts last year were meaningless. The problem is all priorities.


Thu, Dec 20, 2012 : 5:56 p.m.

Thanks swimthis. Mike has no idea what it takes to be a teacher. His and others impression is teaching is a sluff job with lots of time off and practically no work. You are correct that the $39.5K is a starting salary and top end is $87.7K. After 20 years you should be expected to have earned that salary. Add all the other requirements to maintain certification and also deal with parents like "mike", some may question the sanity of teachers. Mike: you think being a teacher is so easy with all the time off, what salary do you think a teacher should get? Mind you that a Masters degree is eventually required and the hours worked during the school year (hours in and out of the classroom since you can't teach, plan, prepare tests, correct homework and test all in the classroom; many hours are spent working at home), usually exceed the average hours worked at any other full time year round job, and continuing education is required to maintain certification. My guess is you would like to see minimum wage. And how do you feel about firefighters sitting in the firehouse waiting for a call? Should they be paid when not fighting a fire or saving a life? Get grip. Services cost and if you want quality services, you need to pay good salaries.


Thu, Dec 20, 2012 : 2:14 p.m.

@Mike I'd much rather compensate our teachers than the administrators down at the palace. Teachers work upwards of 60-70 hours per week during the school year. As high as $87K? I would hope that someone working in a profession for 20+ years that has maintained credentials and CUs would be able to max out at the rate. Maybe it's time society start valuing education and the kids receiving it. Maybe then we would have such horrific acts of violence in the schools. Our elected officials make 75k per year, full benefits, pension, etc., not including income from other "consulting work" that goes on. We pay doctors upwards of 100-200k yet people scoff at the notion of paying teachers anything more than 50k. Please. You get what you pay for. If your child was dying I guarantee you wouldn't care or question the cost associated with getting them better yet we continually look down our nose at teachers. Why? They are educating our children. Shouldn't we as a society place the same value on teachers as we do other noble professions? I know I certainly do. I am thankful and appreciative of all my kids' teachers and have no problem with the salary scale. I value the teachers more than the highly overpaid administrators at the palace who continually justify the cost for consultants and studies. WHY? Isn't that what they are paid for?


Thu, Dec 20, 2012 : 1:47 p.m.

Not sure where you get your figures from but practically no teachers get paid less than $40K. The salary scale started at $39,500 and goes as high as $87,774 according to the link below. Not bad for 9 months of work plus vacations and holidays. You won't get much symapathy from those paying the freight I'm afraid.............


Thu, Dec 20, 2012 : 1:23 p.m.

New word: Balaise Remember you heard it here first.


Thu, Dec 20, 2012 : 1:22 p.m.

Isn't the issue that cutting busing means less diverse schools? Cut the busing and you run into legal, regulatory, and ethical problems with schools being more racially- and achievement- segregated.

J. A. Pieper

Fri, Dec 21, 2012 : 1:35 a.m.

Hey, look at it this way, we would have more segregated schools, so we would not have all our schools be "Focus" schools - there would be no achievement gap! Two problems solved at once, oh, excuse me three, forgot about the $$$$$ savings!


Thu, Dec 20, 2012 : 3:47 p.m.

Yes, look at Skyline - it was built in a high socioeconomic area and to make it more diverse, busing was provided from other Ann Arbor neighborhoods. When busing was severely reduced (or eliminated) last year, the school lost many students who were bused from other areas.


Thu, Dec 20, 2012 : 1:20 p.m.

Common bus stops for high schoolers and middle schoolers might be just fine inside city limits. A little further out into the periphery of the district, they are quite dangerous, since students must walk up to a mile to reach the bus stop, and there are no sidewalks, no streetlights and 45-55 mph traffic on the major roads. Since the morning bus runs for HS and MS are during hours of darkness for 6 or 7 of the 9 months school is in session, Mr. Allen and the transportation committee needs to rethink this false economy. We've already had one Ann Arbor student struck by a car where the driver ignored the flashing red stop signs. Imagine this happening on Plymouth, Geddes, or Jackson Rd, when some commuter is running late and trying to phone the office . . .

Basic Bob

Thu, Dec 20, 2012 : 4:11 p.m.

The student who was struck by a car wasn't on a busy road. It could happen in any neighborhood within feet of the house. Also inside city limits in a dense urban neighborhood.

Nick Danger

Thu, Dec 20, 2012 : 1:15 p.m.

Than you Rick Snyder. Your cuts to public education continue to devastate our local schools. Of course this never bothered you ,all your kids went to private schools


Fri, Dec 21, 2012 : 10:10 a.m.

I suppose you have not noticed cuts were made everywhere, not just education. I support more funding for education but only to districts that do not waste it. AAPS spends too much on administration. And as we see over and over these people with bloated compensation are not doing any better than anyone who would take the job with far less pay.


Thu, Dec 20, 2012 : 7:40 p.m.

Mr. Danger - His son did all of his schooling in public schools, his daughter was in public schools until the end of middle school. It was her request to join her friends at Greenhills.


Thu, Dec 20, 2012 : 1:54 p.m.

Not that I am sticking up for Snyder in any way, but just so your facts are right, his son did go to public schools and is a graduate of Huron High School. His daughter chose to attend Greenhills because her friends were going there.


Thu, Dec 20, 2012 : 12:55 p.m.

IMHO, there's a huge gap between the number of "students who qualify for transportation services" and the number who actually use transportation services. In part, this accounts for the massive traffic jams (and associated risks) at and near so many schools at the beginning and end of the day with parents delivering students to schools, one student and one car at a time. Maybe that's an issue that also needs to be looked at???


Thu, Dec 20, 2012 : 3:37 p.m.

When AAPS eliminated the "express" school bus that took students from Pioneer H.S. to Skyline H.S. this year, they replaced it with very poor options: this year the school bus departs Pioneer at 6:15 am and makes 7 stops before arriving at Skyline. Another stop near our neighborhood departs at 6:00 am and makes 9 stops before arriving at Skyline. By offering such poor service, it's likely that many choose not to use the school bus. Then the Administration can say, "let's cut high school busing, no one uses it anyway". Catch 22.


Thu, Dec 20, 2012 : 2:04 p.m.

@ AMOC, I think that is the case for many this year, the earlier/longer bus rides are causing many who can to drive just for the extra sleep. Maybe that was part of the plan?


Thu, Dec 20, 2012 : 1:28 p.m.

The transportation services being provided for some high schoolers this year are actively unsafe and extremely inconvenient for those who live in the periphery of the district, jmt. My choices are to drive my kid to the bus stop for a 6:25 am pick up, or drive him to Huron for a first hour that starts at 7:30. It takes roughly 15 minutes to drive directly to Huron; 5, because of two left turns, to get to a safe parking area at the bus stop. My student should not walk to the bus stop; it's a half-mile away along Plymouth Rd, where there are no sidewalks, no street lights, and 50-60 mph traffic. Sometimes we opt for the extra hour of sleep.


Thu, Dec 20, 2012 : 12:07 p.m.

My favorite line was that she couldn't commit to a timeline. Why exactly? You expect your teachers to commit to timelines! You expect bus drivers to commit to timelines! The board should have put her in her place last night when she made that comment, enough with the "okay let us know as soon as possible." The board should expect a high paid "Super" to do her job in the timeline they set. These decisions need to be looked at, discussed, and decided upon. The board should also expect the "Super" to look at issues, not an outside firm. The "palace that is Balas" continues to get no push back from the board and seem to be able to pass the jobs along from person to person. I am thinking being an administrator is the way to go!!


Thu, Dec 20, 2012 : 11:53 a.m.

Ms. Green needs to do her job, not hire experts to spend OUR money and do it for her. No, you can't have a year or more.


Sat, Dec 22, 2012 : 3:19 a.m.

If you read and re read every article on what she does? You will see she does not do her job. She makes others do her job. Gee sounds like someone who wants a paycheck and not do any work. Thank Balas Ms Green. O wait, you are more yellow then green.


Thu, Dec 20, 2012 : 2:25 p.m.

With the salary she makes she should fund her experts...Cut the fat at the top needs to be priority one..


Thu, Dec 20, 2012 : 11:44 a.m.

Once again - the discussion avoids talking about the Administration and the overhead that they are on the district. Mr. Allan and the other very highly paid executives in the district are avoiding any pain for themselves and their cronies. When will the board have the guts to tackle this issue? OBTW - the board created this issue with 2 AM pay raises and a search for the highest paid superintendent in Michigan (rivals superintendents in NYC and Chicago for pay, she does). Let's take the first 5 million out of the building and central administration and the other places that Mr. Allan has cleverly stashed his crony costs.


Thu, Dec 20, 2012 : 1:14 p.m.

Administration overhead is still safely on the list of things that will continue to be ignored for as long as they can get away with it.


Thu, Dec 20, 2012 : 11:42 a.m.

well, it likely needs to be done within a year, but that will be upsetting to some. I don't think it takes away some kids need the bussing to get to school reliably, who aren't special needs kids. But who are you kidding? That's still not going to save enough money. The goal of Snyder's administration is to have teachers working for $50k a year, and private companies taking the rest of the money. We need a different leadership in Lansing to solve the education problems. Let's go back to more local control.


Sat, Dec 22, 2012 : 10:10 p.m.

Don (continued) Lastly, you reference the superintendent's contract. That may have benefits in it that the school system is supplying outside of what the state retirement system provides. Again I am not totally familiar with it, but it would not surprise me if that were the case. As I see it right now, you are partially correct due to the 5-year universal buy in. A teacher starting their career at 24 could indeed retire at 59, but without full benefits. A teacher would have to start teaching at 22 to retire at 47 as you mention. Probably possible, but unlikely. However, that depends upon the 80 / 85 rule you have mentioned that I am unfamiliar with. The whole issue is moot at this point anyway, since any new hires are no longer offered this retirement system. Thanks for the info...


Sat, Dec 22, 2012 : 10:07 p.m.

Don You can indeed buy years. The max you can buy that does not require any service of any kind is 5. All other buy-ins to my memory require service elsewhere. As an example, military. If you serve in the military for 4 years you may be able to purchase 4 years credit. However, if you did 4 years somewhere else, that still ages you 4 years. But you are right about that 5 years of universal buy-in; that would not age someone. I do not see what teaching summer school has to do with anything. The most credit you can get for any year of work is 1 year. So if you teach one year and teach 2 months over the summer, you still only get 1 year credit. And there are limits as to how much work qualifies for pension eligibility. There are weekly limits, bi-weekly limits, monthly limits and quarterly limits in addition to the overall 1 year limit. This prevents someone from working like crazy for a few months and getting a full year's credit, etc. I am unfamiliar with the 80 / 85 rules; I will try to look them up. I will also have to check into your claim that working in the reserves qualifies for additional time worked. If that is correct, then that could give someone additional credit without aging. Four other points: Buy-ins are not cheap. Although it does not figure into the age of retirement, please understand that it is at a high cost. Of course, if as you say they are planning it from day 1, then the cost would be less as the purchase prices are age based. Also, buy-ins affect pensions, but not necessarily medical benefits. To my understanding, you won't get those benefits until the time you would otherwise qualify without any buy-ins. Thirdly, anyone currently under this system will have their contribution go up significantly beginning in January. Again, this doesn't affect age but I think it is important to mention. see next comment...


Thu, Dec 20, 2012 : 7:38 p.m.

ThinkingOne - I am not going to quote the state laws again. You can go back and find the posts by looking for the retirement of the Pioneer Principal. I will provide a rough short summary: 1) buy years 2) teach summer school 3) put time in the military reserves 4) take advantage of the 80 and 85 rules. If you work everything out perfectly you can retire at 47 with a full pension - BUT you have to plan from day 1 and do all the right things at the right time. Most jobs will not let you buy years of service, they will not give you extra retirement credit in a year where you are teaching full time for a summer school session. Few professions outside public service offer retirement with defined benefit pensions anymore, even fewer offer any kind of retirement at full benefits prior to 65. This is a 50 year old legacy from when people mostly did not live much beyond 60 or 65.


Thu, Dec 20, 2012 : 6:32 p.m.

Don Bee Please explain to me how a teacher can structure their career to retire before age 50 without requiring a medical retirement. And I would be shocked if NO other professions follow guidelines identical or similar to what teachers follow.

Unusual Suspect

Thu, Dec 20, 2012 : 1:36 p.m.

I was reading your comment and taking it seriously up until, "The goal of Snyder's administration..." That's when I realized it wasn't worth reading.


Thu, Dec 20, 2012 : 1:32 p.m.

And DonBee, you don't really want fast change, there needs to be thoughtful input and careful monitoring of changes that are implemented, there's the reality of unforeseen consequences, of personal failures etc. You always go after administration, but there are lots of issues and kids to take of. Nobody is happy with they have to do with less, and it's going to be a wrangle. Lansing is very active these days, precipitously so, with high risk hoping for high reward, but the truth is that's all about Rick Snyder's way, his temperment. The truth is venture capitalist fail often, and they keep rolling hoping for the big payoff, but usually, they get their money, if they can, at the time of liquidation. Kids can't/don't deal with liquidation of systems well.


Thu, Dec 20, 2012 : 1:15 p.m.

"Smaller, faster, better, cheaper" off Rick Snyder's facebook page... of course he wants to cut the teachers pay... yes,there are structural issues,that need to be resolved, but going to for-profits is not the way to go, 'cause, guess what?, they do everything to make sure they get a profit..and yes,I know the argument, better a company that can be fired than the MEA, who is so entrenched and unresponsive to the shifting realities everyone else is dealing with, but he's doing a squeeze play,done at the kid's expense, with RTW, the same amount of money,(but given inflationary pressures, really less money every year) and down the pay will go and the less farther it will carry employees ability to keep up with expenses. Redistricting will work some, but that's not the final answer, and it will be hard for some families.


Thu, Dec 20, 2012 : 11:53 a.m.

cette - I truly doubt Governor Snyder has a goal for teacher pay. Given the unfunded mandates from Washington DC and their annual increase, combined with a long term drop in what the average private sector worker makes in Michigan and the massive unfunded pension liabilities for public employees (including teachers) there is a limit to what is available. Next year a large number of tax abatements that were given in the Granholm administration will expire, that should lift state revenues further, maybe even enough to deal with the increases in Medicare and Medicaid that the federal government is mandating, but not paying for. As a level of percentage of GDP in the state going to K-12 education Michigan ranks 4th or 5th in the nation, depending on the source you look at. First is only a small amount ahead of Michigan. Unfortunately there are structural issues that need to be dealt with, including how the pensions and benefits get paid for and retirement ages. No private pension today offers the ability to retire before age 50, which if you structure your career correctly you can do as a teacher. These are not "nice" issues to talk about, but eventually the discussion needs to happen. Right now based on the current teacher's contract the teachers get a major percentage of any new revenue that comes into the schools. So passing a millage will not automatically mean that more teachers are hired or class sizes get smaller, what it will mean is that existing teachers will get more money. Time for the board to tangle with this issue before there is a millage vote. Yes, I am sorry I just made you angry again, but these issues need to be transparent and decisions need to be made.

Janet Neary

Thu, Dec 20, 2012 : 11:20 a.m.

Why does the school district need to find "experts" in the issues involved in redistricting schools? Shouldn't that be something that school administrators know about (and can read some books and articles about if they need more expertise)?


Fri, Dec 21, 2012 : 10:06 a.m.

It has nothing to do with neutrality. It is because they are clueless, they simply can't do it. And I suppose it is easier to waste money on "experts," since wasting money is what they do.


Fri, Dec 21, 2012 : 2:44 a.m.

So that they will appear neutral. When these decisions are made, the neighborhoods with money often "win" because they are the most vocal. I think that's why Community is such a sacred cow.


Thu, Dec 20, 2012 : 10:54 p.m.

I agree with Ms. Neary 110%!