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Posted on Tue, Nov 8, 2011 : 11:02 p.m.

Andy Thomas, Simone Lightfoot retain spots on Ann Arbor school board

By Kyle Feldscher

Check here for election results from across Washtenaw County

Incumbents Andy Thomas and Simone Lightfoot won re-election to the Ann Arbor school board Tuesday night, despite the challenge of a crowded race that had four challengers.

With 63 out of 63 precincts reporting just after 11 p.m. Tuesday, Thomas had the most votes with 5,840 or about 24 percent, and Lightfoot finished second with 5,261 votes, about 22 percent.


Andy Thomas

Thomas said he was happy with how the vote ended up after a competitive race that saw six people competing for two spots on the school board.

“All six of us had to run very hard in order to get our positions out there and I’m very pleased that the voters have seem to have heard my message and are convinced I’m one of the people they want on the school board,” he said.

The crowded field included newcomers Lawrence Murphy, Patrick Leonard and Ahmar Iqbal. Those three candidates mounted the greatest challenge to Thomas and Lightfoot and picked up a significant amount of votes.

Murphy finished in third with 4,430 votes, Leonard finished fourth with 4,181 votes and Iqbal had 3,473 votes. Albert Howard, the candidate who once ran for president in the New Hampshire primary, finished with 854 votes.

Countywide, about 11 percent of registered voters cast their ballots on Tuesday. Districtwide vote totals were not available.

The election was the first real test for Thomas and Lightfoot in an election as relative newcomers to the school board. Thomas and Lightfoot were both elected in the 2010 election to partial terms, but ran unopposed.


Simone Lightfoot

Lightfoot said she was humbled when informed of the voting results late Tuesday night.

She said she’s looking forward to using her new term in order to take some of the lessons she learned during the election and put them into practice. She said the tight race gave her more of a sense on the need for board members to get out into the community and listen to their constituents.

“I want them to see their suggestions in our results, I’m ready for that level,” she said. “If people aren’t seeing their sentiments in the work that we do, it’s sort of lip service, so I’m looking forward to actually including the citizens and hearing from them.”

After a controversial year in which the school board had to make a number of unpopular decisions around budget issues and the salary of new superintendent Patricia Green, this election was expected to be hotly contested.

The uproar in the early part of the summer about the cuts to high school sports made by the district and the change to high school transportation also put more pressure on Thomas and Lightfoot as incumbents. Murphy said the race was more competitive than he expected and he was impressed with all of the candidates. He said he doesn’t believe the outcome of the election is the best for teachers and students and Ann Arbor voters will get more of the same.

“The people of Ann Arbor have voted for business as usual,” he said. “They are blaming Lansing for the teacher cuts, and not the board. Yes, Lansing has made the board’s job harder, but the board members could have done a better job of avoiding teacher cuts, at least fewer teacher cuts.”

Murphy said he is still confident that he was the best candidate to figure out how to get back the teacher positions the district lost in the past year, when 62.3 positions had to be eliminated to shrink a budget deficit above $16 million.

With both of them firmly entrenched on the board for the next four years, each has goals they want to accomplish.

Thomas said his main concern is keeping the district’s level of achievement up in the face of diminishing resources, but said he was also looking toward the technology millage that will be on the ballot in February and a possible countywide school enhancement millage.

“We’ve had two years of budget cuts and with Saline and some of the other districts that were very much opposed to it two years ago, they may have some change in position now,” he said, admitting that it was a long-range plan.

Lightfoot said her immediate plans were to work more with students and find out exactly what will inspire them to increase their achievement in school. She said she would also like to continue working on the district’s achievement gap plan, addressing the new cut scores on the Michigan Educational Assessment Program and Michigan Merit Exam and how the district shapes its budget.

“It’s not a lot of new stuff, the same things over and over, but I’m doubly committed to the work I’ve already been committed to,” Lightfoot said.

Leonard and Iqbal were not immediately available for comment Tuesday night.

Kyle Feldscher covers cops and courts for He can be reached at or you can follow him on Twitter.


Ann English

Wed, Nov 9, 2011 : 11:13 p.m.

I didn't know until this morning that my votes were cast to two candidates and not to any incumbents, but I think was impartial enough in each of six people's views; I don't see any subtle deception coming from the Left (liberalism) in yesterday's or today's coverage of the race. I have no regrets for voting for conservatives.


Wed, Nov 9, 2011 : 5:47 p.m.

What is most startling to me is that out of a school district with just over 131,000 registered voters only about 12,066 voters made it to the polls to cast their vote. Come on people, REALLY. These are our children we're talking about. Maybe could maybe mention that.

Thomas for BOE

Wed, Nov 9, 2011 : 4:42 p.m.

A word to those concerned, as I am, about increases in class size (not necessarily speaking for Andy here): Everyone I know who cares about education wants smaller class sizes, though lately it seems to have become the cudgel of choice to beat on our public schools. Where were the concern about class sizes when people called for more and more consolidation, economies of scale, and for voting down any millage? AAPS still has the smallest class sizes, on average, of any WISD district. But class sizes have been increasing for some time - the 2006-07 budget explicitly raised class size targets in much the same way that they were raised for this year. Administration is not being protected - a cursory but honest look at the last 5-7 years of budgets shows that central administration has taken a large portion of the cuts, with this past year the first time major programs affecting kids have been hit hard. It's easy for people to talk about cutting administration, but no one ever has any specifics - or if they do, they are wrong. (For instance, there is no bond office any more; there are no reassigned administrators working off their contracts at Balas any more, etc.) When one of the challengers in this election called for cutting administrative overhead in an op-ed article last summer, many of the positions he pointed to were people who provide special education services and are mandated by Federal law. I want smaller class sizes too. What are we willing to give up to do that? Or should we just ask teachers to give up yet more pay and ask them to do more? A tech bond would relieve the operating budget of some of the burden of replacing worn out technology purchased in 2004. If you want smaller class sizes, why oppose that as well? The central problem is in Lansing, and has been for years. To deny that is to choose to be blind to reality. If we want a good education as a state, we also need to be willing to pay for it.


Thu, Nov 10, 2011 : 2:33 a.m.

Can you provide the proof to your assertion that the administrative budgets have been cut - Note there are two - general administration and building administration. OBTW leave the custodians, bus drivers and other service people out of your numbers.


Wed, Nov 9, 2011 : 4:15 p.m.

So the net result - Two new millages will be on the ballot. The administration in the early budget review process will start with laying off another 70 to 100 teachers and protecting the aministration. The remaining teachers will all get raises (and special pay for having classes too large) and the class sizes will grow. The vocal lobby for Varsity sports will retain their 3 to 12 million dollar a year budget for university grade sport choices and facilities. Music and art will disappear completely and we will still run 6 high schools. The superintendent will get a bonus and raise. Sounds like a great outcome for AAPS to me.

Albert Howard

Wed, Nov 9, 2011 : 3:08 p.m.

Thank you to the 854 voters! Congratulations to Andy Thomas and Simone Lightfoot...Best Wishes!

Edward R Murrow's Ghost

Wed, Nov 9, 2011 : 3:02 p.m.

Greta wrote: "These are people who seem blind to the great damage larger class sizes are doing to the kids - AND the teachers." Indeed. Lightfoot's "reform" is to create lecture hall settings for AAPS HS students so that they be better prepared for college. Perhaps she ought talk to students and professors alike to see what they think of the experience of having students jammed into a lecture hall settings and of having little or no interaction between students and professor due to the size of the class. Congratulations, Ms. Lightfoot. You won. Unfortunately, the students in the AAPS lost last night. Good Night and Good Luck

Edward R Murrow's Ghost

Thu, Nov 10, 2011 : 6:25 p.m.

My post is about which environment is best for learning--large or small classes? How tests are administered has nothing to do with the learning that is supposed to take place before the class. GN&GL


Thu, Nov 10, 2011 : 2:52 a.m.

ERMG - I would far rather see large lecture and smaller lab or recitation sections in Ann Arbor high schools than the current AAPS practice of cancelling an entire weeks' worth of classes at the end of each semester (and at Skyline apparently at the end of each trimester) to schedule two 2-hour long exam periods on Tuesday through Thursday, and one on Friday. This is a huge loss of potential instructional time, and for what? Supposedly it's to get the kids "ready for college". But all the colleges I know of have up to 4 exam slots per day, and schedule them over a maximum of 3 days.

Edward R Murrow's Ghost

Wed, Nov 9, 2011 : 5:43 p.m.

You have identified Ms. Lightfoot's goal. And, if it is an appropriate goal----wonderful. But the question, it seems to me, is whether or not this is an effective model for instruction at any level. I know no one--NO ONE--who thinks it is. The three service academies--USMA, USNA, and USAFA--have not a single lecture-based course, NOT ONE. ALL classroom instruction takes place in sections containing no more than 15-17 students apiece, and many sections have fewer than 10. These schools are consistently rated as being among the nation's best. We ought consider that one reason for their rankings is the student-instructor ratio in the classroom. Good Night and Good Luck

Stephen Landes

Wed, Nov 9, 2011 : 5:30 p.m.

As a high school student in Livonia more than 40 years ago I was part of a program called "modular scheduling" which resulted in us having both large (more than 100 people) lectures and small (a dozen or fewer) recitations with a teacher. My day included regular classes, lecture/recitations, and open periods which I had to learn to manage. When I arrived at U of M as a freshman I was well prepared for the university model. While initially a bit confusing in high school I really grew to enjoy that daily structure and found it worked well for me for three years. It was a good experiment and one that I believe made the day more interesting. It was certainly out of the box thinking for the time.


Wed, Nov 9, 2011 : 2:57 p.m.

I wish would do a story on the LDFA, which apparently takes tax dollars away from AAPS and gives them to business development. This from a2politco: The LDFA, a tax-increment financing authority established in 2006, has one purpose: It captures property tax money due the Ann Arbor Public Schools and gives the money to Ann Arbor SPARK in the form of a contract-for-services scheme. ... In 2011, it is projected that Ann Arbor taxpayers will pay the LDFA $1.4 million dollars that would have otherwise gone to the public schools to buy things like books, teacher supplies and, well, teachers. I would love to see people who want more education dollars for AA to take on the city council about this blatant diversion of funds from school kids to businesses.

Thomas for BOE

Wed, Nov 9, 2011 : 4:22 p.m.

Campaign volunteer, here. I'm not specifically familiar with LDFA, but any funds that would have come from AAPS operating millages would not end up increasing the school budget at all. The state legislature sets our annual per-pupil funding level, and if local revenues increased they would reduce our state aid payment by exactly the same amount. However, you might be right about millages for capital spending, which are not capped.


Wed, Nov 9, 2011 : 2:29 p.m.

I am terribly disappointed with the School Board results. These are people who seem blind to the great damage larger class sizes are doing to the kids - AND the teachers. We don't need studies on achievement gaps and we don't need new technologies in the school system. We need our teachers back and classes that are small enough so that the kids can learn and the teachers can focus on the students, not managing a large group. Pathetic, and we moved here largely for the schools. Ugh.


Wed, Nov 9, 2011 : 3:37 p.m.

Agree. They can hire all kinds of fancy consultants and try all kinds of "out of the box" thinking (i.e. segregation), but these large class sizes are one of the biggest impediments towards closing the achievement gap.

Rod Johnson

Wed, Nov 9, 2011 : 3:19 p.m.

I agree about large classes, but what's your solution? People who think we can fix the crunch merely by cutting some overhead are dreaming (or, like Ahmar Iqbal, are really stealth Snyderites).


Wed, Nov 9, 2011 : 2:52 p.m.

I agree that we need our teachers back and classes that are small enough so that the kids can learn! But who do you think can deliver that? The rhetoric about small classes came from Iqbal, who also refused to condemn Snyder's reforms. I think Lightefoote was right that getting better schools in AA means working in Lansing. Since our funding is dictated from there, and money can be diverted from K-12 willy-nilly, we do need to be fighting in Lansing. We probably also need to be fighting at the county level, since getting more dollars for AAPS is tied to votes outside AA (witness the "It takes a millage" failure).


Wed, Nov 9, 2011 : 1:23 p.m.

I'm glad Thomas won a seat because he is the only sitting board member that voted against Balas largess. The number 1 obstacle our students face is the bloated, bureaucratic bungling mess that is the central Balas administration building. Don't believe me? Just ask any teacher or principal about Balas' dysfunction. The bureaucrats there have absolutely no idea what's going on in the classroom, nor do they have common-sense solutions that the community deserves. I have always watched with, sad amazement, the school board consistently enable Balas' expensive & dysfunctional "leadership." How is it possible that a university town with a supposedly educated electorate can produce such an expensive, ineffective and sub-mediocre central leadership?


Wed, Nov 9, 2011 : 12:58 p.m.

854 people actually voted for Howard? That's terrifying.

Rod Johnson

Wed, Nov 9, 2011 : 3:16 p.m.

I know, right? Did those people actually know what he stood for? Actually, judging by the regulars in the comments here, maybe they did.


Wed, Nov 9, 2011 : 12:57 p.m.

While I have nothing in particular against the re-elected incumbents, I am disappointed that the voters seem to have opted for "more of the same" in our Board of Education. And I second Larry Murphy's comments about how those voters who turned out are blaming Lansing, not the Board of Education for the unpopular effects of several decisions made by the Board. Could the support for the status quo have something to do with the fact that all AAPS schools took this election day off? The schools don't always close for elections. Only presidential elections or the ones in which a school-related issue is at stake.


Thu, Nov 10, 2011 : 2:46 a.m.

Folks, I have been watching this issue for some time now, and my statement stands. AAPS closes school / has students stay home for 1) presidential elections and 2) elections when a school "issue" will be voted on. Last November, a mid-term election with no school issue on the ballot, there was school on Election Day. School is also scheduled to be in session during the election days in February and May of 2012. How much is anyone willing to bet that if the Technology Bond had actually made it onto the ballot for February of 2012 that the an adjustment to the schedule would be made?


Thu, Nov 10, 2011 : 1:30 a.m.

We are far more conscience about safety these doesn't make sense to have school OPEN for election day. People are in and out of the building all day - it's simply not safe. We spend the rest of the year monitoring who comes in and out of the building for the safety of our children - an impossible task when the lobby of an elementary building is a polling place. And, we certainly didn't take the day "off". We had meetings and spent time writing report cards.

Rod Johnson

Wed, Nov 9, 2011 : 3:16 p.m.

Schools everywhere close periodically for professional development days. It's a truth that working parents have had to deal with since forever. It's smart to schedule those for election days, clearing the building for use as a polling place. There's nothing sinister or underhanded about it.


Wed, Nov 9, 2011 : 2:35 p.m.

Local, If that's the case, schools should no longer be considered appropriate to serve as polling places since the work of the school district apparently needs to stop to accommodate an arguably unrelated governmental function.


Wed, Nov 9, 2011 : 2 p.m.

Teachers had to report to school for professional development seminars. Only students were given the day off.


Wed, Nov 9, 2011 : 1:19 p.m.

yes they do, they have been closing for years now on election day. Many schools are polling places and safety of kids was taken into account when making decisions. So your sense of because of one, leading to another, is wrong.


Wed, Nov 9, 2011 : 12:55 p.m.

Fantastic! The race to the bottom is ours to lose!

John B.

Wed, Nov 9, 2011 : 7 a.m.

This was a tough election, choice-wise, but thank goodness none of the whackos got elected!

say it plain

Wed, Nov 9, 2011 : 11:41 a.m.

So far as I could tell, there was only one candidate whose views had an "out there" vibe..the rest were far from "whackos" I think. They might have made for some change, shaking things up a little with their new energies and feelings about transparency, priorities, etc... I don't have anything too particular against the two incumbents, but I'm sort of sad that there wasn't at least *some* change from the current scene on our School Board.