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Posted on Sun, Sep 2, 2012 : 5:58 a.m.

Ann Arbor schools will have larger class sizes in 2012-13

By Danielle Arndt

The past two weeks have been filled with new additions and reassignments at the Ann Arbor Public Schools.

And while the district says every classroom will be staffed on Tuesday morning for the first day of school, officials said large class sizes at some schools could result in still more changes.


Pittsfield Elementary kindergarten teacher Cathy Babcock unpacks a box of books in her classroom on Friday to prepare for the first day of school. Pittsfield experienced a few staffing changes this year as the result of declining enrollment.

Danielle Arndt |

District Spokeswoman Liz Margolis said classrooms district wide were finalized as of a staff meeting Thursday.

She said that while class sizes are larger than last year, they are within the AAEA’s contract specifications.

The district watches enrollment data “like a hawk” the final weeks before school starts to monitor which buildings and grades may need more teachers, Margolis said. About six teachers submitted late resignations in August, which caused some additional reassignments and late new hires.

Linda Carter, president of the Ann Arbor Education Association, said she received a “handful” of phone calls from teachers throughout the district, informing her that their class sizes were a concern.

Some felt the sizes were above the targets and maximums established in the AAEA’s contract, she said.

“From what I’m hearing, it’s clear that there are many instances where we will have to look at what needs to take place. … It’s sounds like we have to hire more teachers,” Carter said.

Per the AAEA contract, the class size targets for elementary rooms are 20 pupils per kindergarten class, 22 students for first/second grade, 24 students in third grade and 27 students in grades 4-8, Carter said. Subject courses at the middle school level vary, she added, explaining there can be a maximum of 30 students in math, science, English, social studies and art classes.

The contract specifies technology and shop-based classes can only have as many kids as there are workspaces, she said.

In high school, the targets are more complicated. Carter said the maximum for any one class is 33 students, with a number of exceptions.

Carter said she will be advocating on behalf of teachers for smaller class sizes. She said teachers have been hired and added weeks into the school year in the past, causing classrooms to be restructured. But often parents don’t mind because they like smaller class sizes too, she said.

“If we are going to educate all children fairly, we have to have more hands on deck to lower those class sizes. Our members can do a much better job with smaller class sizes.”

The AAEA’s bargaining team and the district’s bargaining team meet monthly for a “problem-solving meeting.”

“We really need to keep that issue of class sizes on the front burner at those (meetings),” Carter said.

But despite wanting smaller class sizes, Carter called it a "wonderful celebration, not a problem" that the district is growing in size, citing Ann Arbor's reputation for excellence as the cause.

The total number of new hires and last-minute reassignments was not available as of Friday. Requests for preliminary enrollment data by building also could not be met.

The district enrolled 16,589 students last fall. It opened enrollment to another 170 Schools of Choice students this year.

Margolis described the first few weeks of the school year as “fluid,” stating enrollment numbers change daily. More reliable enrollment data will be available on Student Count Day, which is Oct. 3 this year.

Margolis said overall, the number of reassignments and shifts in enrollment that some schools are experiencing is not abnormal.


Pittsfield PTO president Simone Samano-McDaniel and her fourth-grade daughter, Rory, help out at the school Friday by stocking and decorating display cases.

Danielle Arndt |

Clague Middle School and feeder elementary schools King, Logan and Thurston are seeing the greatest increases in enrollment, according to district leaders.

Logan Principal Terra Webster said her school saw its increase in enrollment in grades that previously were low, resulting in no split classrooms this year.

“Last year, our fourth grade numbers were low. But this year, we saw greater enrollment in fifth grade … making it a stellar year for us,” Webster said. “Everything fell right into place — which is not the norm, nor can you ever really predict this.”

Northside, which also feeds into Clague, experienced a drop in enrollment, preliminary reports indicate. Its decline is not inconsistent with previous years. Between fall 2009 and fall 2011, Northside enrolled 43 fewer students.

However, it appears Thurston is bucking the trend of recent years and adding students.

Preliminary reports from staff also indicate Pittsfield Elementary School will have fewer kids this fall, while Wines Elementary grew and needed to add a third section of fifth grade. A fourth-grade teacher was moved from Pittsfield to Wines to accommodate the fifth-grade growth, and a longtime second-grade teacher at Pittsfield was reassigned to fourth grade.

While the Pittsfield community was sad to lose its fourth-grade teacher, “we’re happy to be able to help out a school on the other side of town,” said kindergarten teacher Cathy Babcock.

The building’s lower enrollment also led to a split, first- and second-grade classroom, Babcock said. She added it originally was thought the first-grade teacher would “loop,” or follow her kids on to the second grade.

However, the numbers “didn’t work out” and there were fewer pupils in first and second grade than expected, Babcock said.

Margolis explained any staffing changes — grade or building reassignments, loops or splits — made in the final month before school starts are due entirely to enrollment numbers. She said the district checks this data on a daily basis as the first day nears to ensure there is a teacher for every class and enough sections of each grade.

Switching grades last minute is a challenge for teachers.

“They have to learn all new curriculum and new lesson plans,” Carter said.

However, teachers with a teaching certificate in elementary education are trained and qualified to teach any grade K-5, Carter said. The same is true of teachers with a certificate in secondary education, she said, explaining these individuals can teach any grade 6-12 in their subject.

“The administration has the right to move people where they are needed," Carter said. "There is nothing in the contract preventing this."

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


Ron Granger

Tue, Sep 4, 2012 : 10:51 p.m.

How much smaller could classes be if they reduced the millions upon millions spent on extra curricular sports? Is it a wonder that the board doesn't want to disclose the details in sports spending?


Wed, Sep 5, 2012 : 12:04 a.m.

Mr Granger - The general fund transfer to the athletic fund is just more than $3 million dollars. That is about 30 teachers for the district. Add the cost of field upkeep, heating and cooling athletic facilities (like the multi-million dollar locker rooms at the field), and other costs that come from the general fund in addition to the transfer, and sports cost the general fund between 5 and 8 million dollars a year. In addition $11 million in remaining bond and sinking fund money was spent on additional varsity only sport facilities in 2011-2012. This money could have accelerated the energy efficiency program and put an addition 5 to 7 teachers in the classroom with the savings on utility bills.

Danielle Arndt

Tue, Sep 4, 2012 : 6:10 p.m.

There are a great deal of thought-provoking comments here from readers. I'm pulling together a post right now based on some of your observations. Class sizes is a topic that definitely has our attention too and we will be working on follow up. I would be interested in knowing what you are seeing today at the schools and in your children's classrooms for the first day of school. What are teachers seeing and dealing with? How many kids do you have in your classroom/your child's classroom? The comments from AAPS staff and other teachers are particularly enlightening, especially those about how special needs children are counted in a classroom and the challenges teachers face when educating large groups of students. With the state's new Focus School designations and the requirement that students' achievement data be factored into teachers' evaluations, do you think there will be any sort of a greater push for smaller classes?


Wed, Sep 5, 2012 : 2:06 a.m.

My daughter's first grade classroom at Thurston has 26 children. Larger than I was hoping for, but the teacher is very experienced and I'm fairly confident it will be fine. Time will tell.

Joe Hood

Tue, Sep 4, 2012 : 3:49 a.m.

Danielle: There appears to be a lot of concern running through the comments, I hope is able to follow-up with a series. I'm sure Pat Lesko would be happy to lend you a hand.

The Secret Team

Tue, Sep 4, 2012 : 12:40 a.m.

The administration needs to do a better job.

Dog Guy

Mon, Sep 3, 2012 : 6:02 p.m.

Larger classes were always a blessing to us in the last row.


Mon, Sep 3, 2012 : 3:10 p.m.

When Michigan legislators voted to cut funding to public education by approximately $470/student to give a $1.8 billion tax break to businesses, everyone should have seen these larger class sizes coming from a mile away. Remember this when you go to the polls in November!

Joe Hood

Tue, Sep 4, 2012 : 3:46 a.m.

Nice job DonBee!


Mon, Sep 3, 2012 : 4:11 p.m.

maestra27 - It was a shame that the budget was cut for schools, but the tax reduction was mostly to small businesses who got about $1800 in tax relief. Not Ford, GM, Meijer or other large corporations, who all now pay the state more. The result of cleaning up the tax situation has been making it much easier to finish a tax year, meaning tax money comes to the state faster (not tied up in disagreements on who owes how much). This tax simplification has made it easier to start a company (rather than run a cash business off the books). The corporate tax income to the state should be up by about $700 million this year - enough to cover the new mandates from Medicaid/Medicare that the Federal Government is not paying. The bigger hole is the pension fund short fall that is coming due. The prior administration put NO money in the pension funds for a period of 8 years. We only owe the pension funds about $50 billion dollars and that is if the return on investments is 8 percent - if it is 5% the numbers are much, much larger.


Mon, Sep 3, 2012 : 12:22 p.m.

This article is a bit misleading. There are district "target" numbers and then there is the "Contract language" numbers which are much higher before a TA is offered and/or overage pay per student for teachers.(this info is not included) Having larger class sizes does seem to be the theme across the district and county. An organized, prepared, flexible teacher that has built a good class environment will be able to facilitate learning and build relationships in his/her classroom successfully. As a parent, you can be supportive and encouraging. Look back in history to the number of students in one-room school houses. Class size does not matter.


Mon, Sep 3, 2012 : 6:43 p.m.

How can it NOT matter? I'm an organized, prepared, flexible teacher and it matters a great deal to me. I have GREAT relationships with my kids - but life changes when you have 24 in a class vs. 32. How can it not!? Reading groups for 24 is much different than 32. Everything is different! There is only so much time in the day - and our curriculum is INCREASING - which means we have more to teach. What would you do if your doctor suddenly decided to plan 6 more surgeries on the day of your heart transplant? Sounds fine, after all, I'm sure he/she is organized prepared and flexible doctor. I'm sure they can squeeze them all in. No big deal.


Mon, Sep 3, 2012 : 2:40 p.m. you know what they probably did to students who misbehaved in the one-room schoolhouses? I doubt it was just filling out paperwork.


Mon, Sep 3, 2012 : 12:35 p.m.

For people who say class size doesn't matter when you have a talented teacher, I'm always curious if they are okay with classes of 35? 40? 50? Why not?


Mon, Sep 3, 2012 : 12:20 p.m.

As a teacher in the district the class size issue has been around for a while and yes they have and will continue to increase in this economic climate. The people at Balas are way over paid for what they do, I think most of the people posting on this article agree with that. The size of the class isn't always the issue, it is often the make up that makes teaching difficult. What i have found over my years of teaching is that I could have a class of 30 who care, want to be at school and learn and the year goes fine. I have also had years were my numbers were at 25, but you have 1 or 2 students who just don't get it, and the year is often miserable for the teacher and OTHER students. In these cases, I spend 90% of my time dealing with 1 or 2 students! Dr. Green is making this even worse with her discipline gap plan. The ability at the school level to hand down consequences is now gone. I have seen and heard students threaten other students and staff, kick and punch kids, and speak in a manner to adults that would have been unheard of back in the day. These behaviors need to be documented (takes time) and the consequence for these actions are very little if anything at all. As a teacher, when you see these consequences handed down and you realize they are a joke, it makes the job that much harder because the kids know they can get away with these actions with very little consequence. Clearly, I don't have the answers, but from someone on the front line of what is happening in many classrooms throughout AAPS daily, these things ARE happening and teachers are working through it without the support from those at Balas.


Tue, Sep 4, 2012 : 9:52 a.m.

Angry Moderate, Did you ever watch the movie Hairspray? That's was the education model then.

Angry Moderate

Mon, Sep 3, 2012 : 6:50 p.m.

Right on. We have a limited number of teachers. Let's move misbehaving kids, and kids who need extra personal attention for other reasons, into their own small classes. Let the rest of the students learn uninterrupted, even if they have to do it with 30 other people in the room. This is what the studies support--small classes for very young students and disadvantaged students, while class size doesn't matter very much for the rest.

Basic Bob

Mon, Sep 3, 2012 : 5:06 a.m.

It's doubtful the district can afford to buy out Dr. Green, or to continue to supply her with more overvalued ladder climbers from other districts. The board needs to make the best of it and insist that she show up to work and do her job.


Mon, Sep 3, 2012 : 11:56 a.m.

$500,000 more or less to buy her out, based on contract.

andy kelly

Mon, Sep 3, 2012 : 11:37 a.m.

You are correct in stating that the board cannot, and should not, try to by her out of her contract. However, what would happen if she quit? I imagine that with enough pressure from parents constantly demanding different direction or parental road blocks at every turn would either make her travel down a road of real change or find her own exit.


Sun, Sep 2, 2012 : 10:13 p.m.

When millages don't pass and the state government cuts funding for schools, class size will naturally go up. This isn't a surprise.


Mon, Sep 3, 2012 : 11:38 a.m.

elsie - All of the teacher reductions could have been avoided, by returning the administrative overhead to levels that were found in 2007. Right now AAPS spends 1 dollar in 8 for admin. Most districts are at 1 in 10.

J. A. Pieper

Mon, Sep 3, 2012 : 2:52 a.m.

Elise, I work in AAPS, know the waste that is hidden from the public. I am a parent, a tax payer. I refuse to give AAPS more of my dollars, especially when it would go to more administration. Some of us are just holding on to homes here, and mine is considered/labeled as affordable housing in this city. I will not support any millage for AAPS.


Mon, Sep 3, 2012 : 2:04 a.m.

Pass another millage and watch admin wages rise and staff increase.


Mon, Sep 3, 2012 : 1:16 a.m.

Red herring, all roads lead to administration flaws, imo.

Patricia Lesko

Sun, Sep 2, 2012 : 9:50 p.m.

Between 2003 and 2010, while total enrollment in Ann Arbor's middle and high schools fell, average class sizes increased significantly, and so have actual class sizes, resulting in classrooms stuffed with 10, 12 and sometimes even 20 students more than the District's class size targets. The AAPS administrators did not meet target enrollment numbers in the majority of middle and high schools last year. In fact, there were teachers in the District with math, science and English classes stuffed with 35-40 students at Clague, Scarlett, Huron, Community and Pioneer, among other schools. Community High School teachers, while working with a smaller overall number of students, carried some of the heaviest teaching loads in the District (and did so without their school being tagged by state officials as a Focus school). Using the Freedom of Information Act, A2Politico asked to receive EXACT enrollment data. The District first claimed the data didn't exist, then stalled for 72 days before finally coughing up the per school, per classroom, per teacher enrollment data. I wrote it here ( What the FOIAed data made clear is that while District officials talk to parents about "targets," officials go over and above those targets without parents knowing the big picture. Parents should be given exact enrollment numbers for every classroom in every school after the October count. Superintendent Patricia Green and the BOE members should be held accountable for the mess that they are trying to hide by feeding stories like this one. Parents with children at schools where officials are doing a particularly poor job of meeting "target" enrollment numbers who had regular access to actual enrollment data would be much able to better advocate for redistribution of district resources, including funding and teachers.

Angry Moderate

Mon, Sep 3, 2012 : 6:45 p.m.

towncryer - you are correct. Students who don't do well at Community are often sent back to the other high schools. CHS "picks and chooses" which students it wants to educate and count in its achievement statistics--the exact same thing that supporters of CHS constantly accuse charter schools of doing.


Mon, Sep 3, 2012 : 2:45 p.m.

I thought it had been stated in the past that students who are not "getting it" at Community wind up back at Pioneer/Huron. Would that not play into their Reward School status, or is my first statement incorrect?


Mon, Sep 3, 2012 : 11:03 a.m.

Pat- the achievement gap and BOE "focus" on equity in education dates back longer than 30 years. There was a lawsuit in the 1970s and a committee appointed in the 1960s that former mayor Al Wheeler was on to look at the school problems. This blog talks about some of the history. Class size inequities only worsens the pressure teachers are under. Based on what I have heard from Skyline parents, I don't think the mastery grading system at Skyline does much to hold kids accountable. Maybe you know more about this but I have heard that the grading system at Skyline is letting kids in that building earn grades by different rules than the other high schools. See J.A. Pieper's comments above that hint at the pressure teachers are under to cover up problems.

Patricia Lesko

Mon, Sep 3, 2012 : 4:25 a.m.

@say it p. you're right about the demographics, to an extent. Commie does get its share of unprepared and under-prepared students, to be sure, but still ended up a Reward school. Skyline didn't get tagged as a Focus school; it has more serious problems, alas, in not meeting other important academic benchmarks. We live in the Skyline area, and I've not heard much positive feedback from parents whose kids attend the school. This may have to do with the fact that students are not only expected to pass classes, but also to master the material, two pedagogically different outcomes. The questions AAPS parents need to be asking loudly, and persistently, is why District officials are not held accountable by the BOE for failing so miserably to meet target enrollment benchmarks, and why District officials continue to try to sell this bill of goods (target enrollment numbers) year-after-year to parents. This Superintendent told the public she'll close the achievement gap. When the 2012 MEAP scores are released, we'll see what she's accomplished. Our city has had a pronounced achievement gap for three decades; a failure that has had profound social and economic impacts on those students in the bottom 30 percent.

say it plain

Mon, Sep 3, 2012 : 2:24 a.m.

What do you mean, regarding Community high's teachers, that they work with 'fewer students' but carry higher teaching loads? Do these 'teaching loads' numbers you mention include their teaching of "forums", which hardly is the same as the load of teaching other types of classes? Also, the reason CHS isn't a "focus" school is pretty easy to see--focus schools are those where there is an achievement gap of too great a size from the top-achieving to the bottom. CHS will necessarily have less of that gap, given their demographics and related factors. So many of the other schools in the district are designated focus schools, including Pioneer and Huron. But not'd implied on your website that Skyline has had lower per-class numbers than the other schools. I wonder if that has something to do with their ability to close 'gaps'? Perhaps all these "close the gap" gimmick-y programs could be replaced by a 'mere' attention to per-teacher student numbers? And to extra programs that help all kids feel valued in school, like those forums at Community?


Sun, Sep 2, 2012 : 7:49 p.m.

Per the AAEA contract, the class size targets for elementary rooms are 20 pupils per kindergarten class, 22 students for first/second grade, 24 students in third grade and 27 students in grades 4-8, Carter said. Subject courses at the middle school level vary, she added, explaining there can be a maximum of 30 students in math, science, English, social studies and art classes. The contract specifies technology and shop-based classes can only have as many kids as there are workspaces, she said. In high school, the targets are more complicated. Carter said the maximum for any one class is 33 students, with a number of exceptions. ************** The above "target" numbers are just not reality in AAPS. My daughter-in-law work for AAPS and I can tell you that many elementary classrooms have much higher numbers than those listed in the article. Some 4th and 5th grades had 30-32 students last year, and some 1st grades had 26-27, some second grades were 26-28, and so on. The high schools as well frequently have 35-40 in some classes. That's the problem with the AAPS administration. They just don't want to admit the real numbers. These huge elementary classrooms are just not manageable, even for the best teachers. The huge classrooms at Huron High school are crammed with students who are often unruly and not manageable. Some high school rooms are so crowded that it is impossible to walk across the room because desks are so close together and backpacks litter the floor. Think about what would happen in those situations if there was need for an emergency evacuation. Safety is an issue and cramming a large number of students into small rooms does not create a satisfactory learning environment at any level.


Sun, Sep 2, 2012 : 7:07 p.m.

With class sizes this big teachers cannot be expected to give all children the assistance they need. I would be looking at the charter schools for smaller class size, maybe even the private schools. When you pay a superintendent what AAPS pays theirs, how can they justify this?


Tue, Sep 4, 2012 : 2:17 a.m.

Since it seems you already took the time to read the corporate filings, Don Bee, could you save us all some time and share HOW much less they make? Is it significant or just a few thousand?


Mon, Sep 3, 2012 : 4:04 p.m.

maestra27 - If you read the corporate filings for the charters, you can deduce the pay. In the case of the Heritage Schools, with 115,000 students, the CEO and COO make less than the AAPS Superintendent.


Mon, Sep 3, 2012 : 3:03 p.m.

If you think Ann Arbor's superintendent makes a lot of money, you might want to check in on the owners and administrators in the charter schools. Charter school operators are lining their pockets with taxpayer money while paying the teachers and other charter school employees peanuts. Further, it will be very difficult for you to figure out exactly how much the high-paid administrators and owners of charter schools make because they aren't playing by the same rules as traditional public schools. AAPS is required to report the superintendent's salary. Charter schools are not disclosing that information even though the State is pressuring them to do so. Please watch the news report below. Those who support charter schools are effectively contributing to the destruction of our traditional public education system. If this wasn't bad enough, those who support and send their kids to charter schools aren't getting any better results than those in traditional public schools. In many cases, the results are worse. Interesting article from a group that supports charter schools:

andy kelly

Sun, Sep 2, 2012 : 7:54 p.m.

They cannot!!! The school board needs to be tarred and feathered for their idiocy and lack of fiscal restraint.


Sun, Sep 2, 2012 : 6:02 p.m.

The superintendent is starting off the year tying the hands of teachers by increasing class sizes and decreasing the control teachers can exert in their own classrooms. I agree with commenters above who state that the superintendent is on a self-serving mission to build her resume and take credit for appearing to resolve the longstanding discipline gap and achievement gap problems in the schools, that is also a problem nationally. She seems to be doing this by blaming the problems entirely on teachers and then she is rope-and-tying teachers so that they have less freedom to do their jobs effectively. The school board should be held accountable for blindly applauding her while she alienates the teachers. @ Danielle: Thanks for the news coverage on the schools. Here are some questions for the reporter to consider asking. For example: 1.) Aren't teachers or a building principal already required to write a report or fill out a form if they expel a student from a classroom for more than a short time connected to the current student code of conduct? 2.) Since the superintendent has arrived and started earning her bloated salary, how many Ann Arbor school buildings has the superintendent visited and observed? How many teachers does she know by name in each building and what their strengths are helping kids learn? Does she know the names of some of the kindergarten teachers in the district who students and parents love? Does she know the names of the some of the high school teachers who successfully help kids at all levels learn? 3.) Do parents who bring up issues or complain in public comments at board meetings ever receive responses back to their questions or concerns? Does the board secretary keep track of the answers or responses from the board or only keep the sign up sheet? 4.) Is the number of administrators and deputy superintendents at Balas comparable to other school districts of the same size?


Mon, Sep 3, 2012 : 4:01 p.m.

aaparent - Unless a specific board member agrees to get back to a parent - no one does. There is little or no follow up that is made public, questions are answered at best 1:1 with the person who asked it. As to a board member being an activist to fix things, not in Ann Arbor - the BOE is a pure rubber stamp. They will ask you for more money this spring and the large class size will be the major reason for doing so. Nothing will change with the administration - except more of them and higher salaries.


Mon, Sep 3, 2012 : 2:13 p.m.

@ DonBee - Thank you for this information. It's interesting. You seem really well informed and armed with information. It would be helpful if you were on the school board. Do you know about the process of how the board reports back to parents when they raise questions at board meetings? When you mention Robert Allen presenting the numbers to make the district's bloated administrative staff at Balas look slimmer, which current school board members should citizens write to who would be willing to take up some of these issues and hold the superintendent accountable? The board president and Glen Nelson seem to be the lead rubber stampers of whatever Dr. Green says.


Mon, Sep 3, 2012 : 11:32 a.m.

aaparent - 2) All of them at least 1 time for a building by building evaluation. 4) AAPS is about 40% higher compared to several districts for total overhead (the 4 FID accounts you can put administrative personnel in). If you purely look at the FID (state reporting system for finance) account that is for general administration, you find AAPS is lower - but if you look at the 4 accounts together - AAPS is much higher. Mr. Allen has done a wonderful job with moving people around in the accounts to make the numbers the administration reports look wonderful. It is only when you dig deeper you find out where he is hiding people for the administration.

J. A. Pieper

Mon, Sep 3, 2012 : 2:46 a.m.

We are not allowed to discipline, and now we are told that the scores we write on the elementary report cards related to Learning and Social Behaviors are all based on race. The schools presented us with the data showing that we give higher scores to one group of students, and lower scores to the two groups involved in the achievement gap. AAPS wants to look great on paper and say all of our students are well behaved, look at our data. We weren't told to lie specifically, but they want the higher grades given to the discipline gap students. At this point, I might as well mark all the report cards for the three marking periods now with the scores the district want to see. Why go through record keeping, when the powers that be don't want honesty? In the not too far future, AAPS will have every student on grade level, and no behavior problems, we will be perfect.


Sun, Sep 2, 2012 : 5:36 p.m.

We just met our teacher and my child's Kindergarten class at an Ann Arbor Public Elementary School has 25 students in it!!!! CRAZY! The poor teacher...she is wonderful but I think this is unfair to her and the students. It only takes one student to have a meltdown about mom leaving and the teacher has to attend to them. Last year there were 17-18 in a K class at this same school....I have no idea why the school allowed open enrollment for K with such large class sizes???!!!


Mon, Sep 3, 2012 : 6:15 p.m.

Andy Kelly, Dicken is a stone's throw from Lawton, and there will be two K classes with 26 and 27 students in them. Would LOVE if it was 16! First year of all day K and the class size is the largest to date - makes NO sense.


Mon, Sep 3, 2012 : 3:59 p.m.

maestra27 - We were assigned to a room, but spent more than 1/2 the day in other classrooms - teachers broke children up by subject, by ability and current knowledge in handwriting, reading and math. All the grades were mixed in these subjects. If you were reading at the 8th grade level or above - you spent reading time in the library with 1 person monitoring things, the same for math. Students moved between groups every 4 weeks - as they improved. By the end of the year, children in the lowest ability groups were typically in groups of 3 or 4 with a teacher. It worked very well. There was no social promotion, you had to be able to do the work to move up.


Mon, Sep 3, 2012 : 2:28 p.m.

@DonBee - I don't presume to know how old you are, but I'd have to guess that it's been a while since you were in kindergarten. I would also have to guess that the State didn't require all kinds of curriculum benchmarks and high-stakes testing when you were in school. Sure, you can put 43 kids in a classroom, but I doubt there will be much "learning" going on in there. There are some fantastic teachers out there, but ask any of them if they could manage 43 in a classroom and I doubt you'd find many to support your claim.


Mon, Sep 3, 2012 : 12:44 p.m.

Get over it. This is the new school system unless you home school or do it on line. Which is what mine is doing now. 2 classes on line. More to come if the class sizes continue in hi school. Teachers are compensated if the class size goes over 30. I also truly believe Eberwhite and Lawton should partner together to ease the class sizes. These are the only two schools in this section to handle the area. Angel is too far out and so is Dicken.


Mon, Sep 3, 2012 : 11:27 a.m.

Klayton - My kindergarten class (when I was small) had 43 students in it. Teachers can and do, do a good job with larger classes. It is difficult, but possible. Neither situation (mine or your child's) is ideal, but with a helping hand in the evening at home, your child will do fine.

J. A. Pieper

Mon, Sep 3, 2012 : 2:35 a.m.

AAPS is all about increasing $$$$$$, that is their bottom line. They don't allow some schools to have open enrollment, protecting their wonderful schools, special populations, you know what that means, some vocal parents!

andy kelly

Sun, Sep 2, 2012 : 7:50 p.m.

Klayton, Lawton Elementary School this year has 4 kindergarten classes this year with each class having 23-25 students (Almost 100 kindergarten students ion one school). Wow! Other elementary schools within stones throw of Lawton have less than 16 and only one class in the school. Once again, the administration needs to be fired and reorganized BY TEACHERS!!!


Sun, Sep 2, 2012 : 5:41 p.m.

Money !!!!!


Sun, Sep 2, 2012 : 4:04 p.m.

It's a good thing charter schools are taking some of the pressure off public schools. If not for them, class sizes would skyrocket.


Mon, Sep 3, 2012 : 5:47 p.m.

Apparently, you don't realize that the reason we have large class sizes is because of those charter schools. Repubs are taking money out of real public schools & funding the schools of their politically connected & unelected wealthy buddies to specifically crowd these classrooms. Providing a private education with public monies to destroy schools that educate everyone is wrong. Money diverted to pay CEO outrageous salaries, push inappropriate curriculum, push/encourage students that either have special ed or academic issues..thereby making good public schools the dumping ground. By the way, public schools have to use their resources to provide SPED services (from speech to others) for the few students they allow in their Repub fancy smancy building. Get real & vote out the repubs causing these overcrowded classroom situations.


Mon, Sep 3, 2012 : 2:22 p.m.

@Mike - You have this completely backwards. Charter Schools are putting MORE pressure on traditional public schools because taxpayer money earmarked for education is being diverted AWAY from traditional public schools and given to public charter schools. Now that the traditional public school system has less money, class sizes WILL skyrocket. Those who support charter schools are effectively contributing to the destruction of our public school system. A better solution would be to put all resources into ONE system to improve it instead of splitting resources to create two sub-standard systems. Charter schools are NOT the answer.


Sun, Sep 2, 2012 : 10:36 p.m.

Charter schools ARE public schools.


Sun, Sep 2, 2012 : 7:53 p.m.

The article states that enrollment at AAPS is actually up.


Sun, Sep 2, 2012 : 3:46 p.m.

Romney doesn't believe class size matters so most social conservatives don't thins as well, well if class size why do most social believe in home schooling where class size does matter.

Joe Kidd

Sun, Sep 2, 2012 : 7:50 p.m.

Fantastic post for a story on problems in education.

Linda Peck

Sun, Sep 2, 2012 : 2:42 p.m.

I like the wonderful charter school where last year's K-1 class my daughter attended had 17 with a teacher and an assistant along with volunteers present on a daily basis.


Tue, Sep 4, 2012 : 2:11 a.m.

I hope you aren't referring to my comment as being negative. I was only trying to show that you don't have to necessarily go to a charter school to find the classroom experience you describe. I'm glad your children are having a wonderful experience and am equally glad that we have had 6 great years in AAPS. I have learned over the years that one person's "worst teacher in the school" is another person's "greatest teacher ever." How we perceive the quality of our child's education is much more subjective than we often care to admit.


Mon, Sep 3, 2012 : 5:39 p.m.

Honey Creek is special & different from all the charter schools because it's run by Washtenaw ISD not a politically Repub connected school with a CEO making an insane amount of money, pushing a radical agenda, making political donations to politicians determined to destroy public schools with maligned standards to promote failure as a way to rationalize their quest for more charter schools & I believe the teachers are treated much better & not given unreasonable work standards. This is model of charter schools to follow...not the ones run by the unelected, rich, or politically connected or Devos agenda of pushing charter schools to make money off children, segregate/push out children they don't want or push a strange political or inappropriate curriculum.

Linda Peck

Mon, Sep 3, 2012 : 1:59 p.m.

It is interesting to me that my positive comments would evoke such negative ones. A lot of fear surrounds freedom. People feel comfortable when they cannot move too far in any direction. This is not the way I live. I see the rigidity in the school system and in people's homes and that is why parents feel more comfortable with the school system than other options that offer something different than that menu.


Mon, Sep 3, 2012 : 12:35 p.m.

Honey Creek ends at 8. The hi school starts at 9. Good luck with that one. As for Honey Creek? I had really bad results with that one that left a really bad scare on my child. Won't go near that school if you paid me.

Linda Peck

Mon, Sep 3, 2012 : 1:41 a.m.

p.s. My grandson has gone to school at this particular charter school since 1st grade and he has had great teachers and great classes every year. He is going into 7th now at the same school. Congratulations on a great school, Honey Creek Community!


Sun, Sep 2, 2012 : 11:57 p.m.

Enjoy your charter school. You will be in a public hi school in 10 with 20 plus children. There are no charter hi schools. We pulled ours out for AAPS and found better results.


Sun, Sep 2, 2012 : 8:07 p.m.

My sons kindergarten class in aaps had 16 kids with a teacher, student teacher and parent volunteers. Sometimes you get a really great year, sometimes you don't.

Northside Parent

Sun, Sep 2, 2012 : 1:55 p.m.

Northside Elementary needs help! Its students are hurting and need AAPS resources. At Northside, there is one fourth grade class with 29 students. And one fifth grade class with 28 students. Dr. Green: Northside needs you to hire a third teacher to teach a 4/5 split! Comparing classroom enrollment numbers between Title I (low income) and non-Title I schools is not a useful measurement. The following indicators are more telling: dollars earned by each school's PTO and the number students with Individualized Education Plans (IEPs). Federal law--and funding--requires AAPS to pay attention to vulnerable student populations. Northside kids need help. Invest in these kids now!


Sun, Sep 2, 2012 : 7:57 p.m.

Northside's problems start with the principal. Change the leadership and many problems will be solved.

Basic Bob

Sun, Sep 2, 2012 : 3:42 p.m.

AAPS is trying to maximize the number of Title I schools so they can get more state and federal funding. Gerrymandering and redlining should be stopped.


Sun, Sep 2, 2012 : 3:03 p.m.

Won't happen. To save money they could just take some of those children out of there and send them to those other two near Clague and Priarie. Good luck with this one. Won't happen as long as AAPS budge battles and Balais is the winner.


Sun, Sep 2, 2012 : 2:28 p.m.

My daughter's 4th grade class had 30 kids at Wines.

andy kelly

Sun, Sep 2, 2012 : 2:27 p.m.

Fire the administration, hire more teachers, let the teachers teach and take over some of the administrative work, and Northside will improve greatly. How? It is actually very simple - unofficially organize parents and march on the administration and school board. A wake up call is overdue!

Jim Mulchay

Sun, Sep 2, 2012 : 1:09 p.m.

It is interesting to a non-educator the the middle school maximums for the math, science and english classes is 30. I'd think at a middle school level smaller class sizes would enhance (improve?) learning in these areas - especially since these are critical to future educational success.

andy kelly

Mon, Sep 3, 2012 : 6:29 p.m.

aaparent, I know that it is hard for people to realize that there could be blatant favoritism and racism occurring but this is just another day in the system. For example, the superintendent stated through verbal communication (written would be to obvious, don't you agree?) to every elementary teacher that they can longer recommend African American children for special needs, even if they really do need it. Secondly, have you ever wondered how class lists are made? While teachers give recommendations to their principal about which teacher would be suit each child the following year based on personalty and teaching/learning strengths the principal ultimately chooses using information gathered from balais. This information includes test scores, special needs status, race, socioeconomic status based on address. These examples are just the icing on the cake. This has been going on for years. This administration is just larger and has a greater weight on the backs of all teachers. Do parents need to come to head with teachers? No! They need to go after Balais and Dictator Green. If the opportunity opens for teachers, without retaliation from the administration, to discuss what REALLY happens behind the wizards curtain, the parents will have an army of teachers to force real change in the schools. But first parents need to understand that teachers have been broke down over the last few years. We have been beaten mentally by an administration hell-bent on illustrating a broken system. And, it is working, because the public is placing the blame on the backs of teachers. The solution for Dictator Green? Fire all the teachers and hire inexperienced people, outside of the union, who will fall in line with every duck step commanded. Welcome A2 to your new public schools - it is happening.


Mon, Sep 3, 2012 : 3:52 p.m.

@ Andy Kelly, J.A. Pieper, Joe Kidd -- How are teachers to know which students are from economically disadvantaged or economically well-to-do families? Did the superintendent say to teachers in a staff meeting or in a written memo that students should be treated inequitably based on a printout of presumed family income or based on teachers' best guess about a student's family situation? The union president, Linda Carter, who replaced Brit Satchwell has been in the district for years and is very experienced and was the union president before Satchwell. If the superintendent is asking teachers to discriminate based on personal opinion of family income level or is this referring to knowing which kids are on the lunch program? If this is true, parents should be expecting big conflicts with teachers very soon .Now I am wondering if the superintendent is threatening to fire everyone and replace them with younger teachers fresh out of school and with less seniority to help solve the district's budget problems. Board Member Glenn Nelson has referred several times to hiring less experienced teachers to help the budget, which is short-sighted.

andy kelly

Mon, Sep 3, 2012 : 12:05 p.m.

DonBee, you are correct in stating that the punishment for an unruly child needs to be more than just removal from a classroom. BUT removal form a classroom is required to keep order in the class FOR the other children. Reports are written and actions are taken now and years prior to the rise of Dictator Green. Cette it is commendable, naive, but commendable that you support our superintendent with such fervor. Dictator Green does not present a solution, only a band aid of silence and advanced issues. If a child is misbehaving we are privately instructed to overlook that child IF they are from a economically challenged family. I believe, as I hope most people would as well, that children from economically challenged families deserve the same respect given to all children. And yet, this must balance with behavior. If a child from a well-to-do family has an unruly outburst I may remove them from the room and write my report and call in their parents to help find a remedy for the situation. Although, if the same unruly behavior came from an economically challenged child Dictator Green have stated that I must not initiate any "documented" corrective actions so it is left off the public books. THESE CETTE, IS ARE FACTS THAT WE ARE WORKING WITH. Where are your facts coming from? Have you discussed this privately/off-the-record with a teacher or are you blindly drinking the punch served up from Dictator Green?


Mon, Sep 3, 2012 : 3:22 a.m.

To JA Pieper guy,I'm not African American, and I'm not administration and yes, I like the idea of what Pat Green wants to do.I'm just a parent watching some really bad staff behaviors through the years and would like to see the district not be so destructive to vulnerable kids. I do like teachers, and I'm sorry you think the only way you can handle behavior issues ultimately is to get someone to file a police report and you think the district will never give you a TA to help in your classroom, no matter how much you document misbehavior, and you will never support a millage to fix things in the district. AAPS has got to be a tough gig for you.

J. A. Pieper

Mon, Sep 3, 2012 : 2:59 a.m.

If your child is assaulted in any AAPS classroom, no matter what the grade level, file a report with the police department. The schools will ignore the problem due to the new policies to eliminate the discipline gap, but they won't be able to if there is a police report. Oh, the schools might solve the issue by moving the student to another classroom, but there still may be contact with your child. FILE A POLICE REPORT IMMEDIATELY!

J. A. Pieper

Mon, Sep 3, 2012 : 2:28 a.m.

Cette, once again, your comments are not based on any facts. Those of us who are teachers deal with this issue on a regular basis in our classrooms. You say in one of your posts that you like teachers, but it is not evident in your posts. What is evident is that you are very fond of this superintendent because she says she is going to fix the discipline gap, and for some reason ( which I know but can't mention here) you believe in what she is doing. I do not mind writing about misbehaviors, because I believe documentation is necessary. But the district is not going to give teachers a TA , and the laws regulating special education students are federal, which we are expected to follow. What I have found is that the only discipline a student receives is if he physically hits/kicks the building administrator, then he/she can be out of the classroom.


Sun, Sep 2, 2012 : 9:28 p.m.

Mr Mulchay - My oldest son (now graduated) figured out that all he had to do was slightly misbehave and he could be out of classes he did not like and in the library. Some teachers did not even try to keep him in class - they just sent him to the library at the start of the class. For some children being sent out of the room is the reward they want. There has to be a better way, I know when I was in school, if we misbehaved, we were staying after school until 5:30 or 6:00 and then our parents were being called. I did it one time, between having to sweep the gym under the watchful eye of the janitor, and then having my parents show up at the door, I never did it again.


Sun, Sep 2, 2012 : 9:24 p.m.

I like teachers quite a bit. More support is needed across the board for these kids and for teachers, not for teacher's unions or administrators who don't document.

andy kelly

Sun, Sep 2, 2012 : 8:12 p.m.

Cette, again you are speaking without ANY facts, only empty teaching-bashing opinion. Come into any class for a day and you will recognize that our hands are tied by the very person you are commending. We have always had to write reports this is nothing new. What is new is the fact that now we cannot even write a report about the behavior because of the possible racial issue surrounding the achievement gap. I speak from hands-on experience and fact - where is you information coming from?


Sun, Sep 2, 2012 : 7:58 p.m.

I wouldn't be in the least bit shocked about the disruptive behavior that goes on in the middle schools. What's disheartening is general ed staff's response to it, and the lack of resources available to fix it. The superintendent is right, you have to document what the heck is going on,because if you don't write something down, in a school system, it never happened. And if you are going to fix something, you have to know what exactly it is that needs to be fixed before anyone can fix it. Teachers shouldn't shy away from documenting what is going on, they should write what is happening as clearly as they can. Then it's up to administration to give them the support and guidance and staff to correct the problem. There's a lot of administration bashing on this article, and I got to wonder if union supporters first and foremost, are maneuvering to more money, less time in the classroom, less special ed kids in a classroom and teachers and kids are caught in the crossfire between the union and administration. If the unions promise things like easier classes, not smaller classes, or help get rid of difficult kids, and more days off, well, they are not being helpful to the overall mission and they are playing a very active role in the existence and maintenance of the achievement gap and poor work environment of their members. Just 'cause someone says they are working for you, doesn't preclude the possibility they are actually making your work life harder with their efforts.

andy kelly

Sun, Sep 2, 2012 : 7:56 p.m.

Well stated Joe Kidd!

Joe Kidd

Sun, Sep 2, 2012 : 7:46 p.m.

I substituted for a while and A2flow and AndyKelly are absolutely correct. Cette needs to go sit in some classes. I was shocked at the disruptive behavior of kids in middle school on up in AAPS schools. I would not return to one school. It is unbelievable to read Cette thinks sending kids out of class is over used. It is far underused because nothing happens. As Andy pointed out, when you speak to teachers about it, you hear all about it. One teacher told me they not only don't address the disruptive students they also keep passing them when they fail. The superintendent needs to make it easier not harder for teachers to remove disruptive students. That is not for the benefit of the teacher, it's for the benefit of the students in the class and their parents who expect a good, safe learning environment. A2flow I don't see an issue with documentation. Your union rep should be telling you to document as much as possible on anything that is an issue. By the way, all the teachers I subbed for were fantastic teachers. IMO it is not the teachers, its the administration. I teach in other districts and all the other schools have far less disruptive students. I think AAPS's obsession with their supposed learning gaps is in play here.


Sun, Sep 2, 2012 : 5:49 p.m.

Well, if it was your kid either receiving or giving the punch, what would you want to know about what happened? Look at it that way.


Sun, Sep 2, 2012 : 4:54 p.m.

Okay, punch in the face. How specific, the nose, mouth eye??? Again, stays in the class or is sent out? Is there some "line" that delineates whether a behavior warrants ever being sent out? I hear different answers from different sources, and you seem to know a lot about it, cette.


Sun, Sep 2, 2012 : 3:58 p.m.

Look at it this way A2flow, that breather that kid "needs" is really an out the kid wants and gets, until the next"breather" they really need, for even longer periods of time, for all the building stress, because, how else are they going to get out of work, out of class? You gotta document the pattern of escape before anyone is going to allocate resources to the kid and begin the process of figuring out what driving that train(behavior). I agree, it's possible a teacher does the documenting and then gets nailed(blamed) by the administration, in fact, that's a very real risk, but if you do the documentation well enough, they won't be able to get away with that nonsense.


Sun, Sep 2, 2012 : 3:41 p.m.

I would agree with Andy. For one, Cette, there is always an explanation given by past practices. We have to write VOE's (middle school expectations) every time we remove a student. So your comment (assumption) is incorrect. Secondly, sometimes, a kid needs a breather to collect themselves so they don't escalate their behavior. I have had students that might have blown their top, and it wasn't directed at me, if they weren't given some time to calm down. Now, it's either the counselor or we let them blow. A small percent of the kids really do not function well in the school system. In theory this sounds great, and it will be fine for the majority of the kids that behave themselves. I do fear though what will happen for the small minority of kids that cause the problems. I have a class where it will be challenging to say the least. In last year's class, they routinely acted out, were disrespectful, and generally were poorly behaved (some of them). In short, the class I teach is one in which no one wants to teach because the issues you encounter are as I just mentioned. This year, I will likely spend all my time documenting why the student blurted out something disrespectful repeatedly, walked out of class without permission, or did something equally wrong. And who knows, maybe even told that I am the problem by the administration. There is a good reason that no one wants to teach the class, and it's because of policies like this and the lack of support we receive.


Sun, Sep 2, 2012 : 3:27 p.m.

Let's keep it specific, a punch to the face, not "some other physical altercation" Clarity, please.


Sun, Sep 2, 2012 : 3:18 p.m.

Question: kid punches another kid in the face or some other physical altercation. Is he/she removed from the room or not?


Sun, Sep 2, 2012 : 2:35 p.m.

Teachers are just so used to sending a kid out that the practice is much abused. I don't feel sorry for teachers having to do the writeup, although I will sympathize with any teacher that doesn't get proper supports in place to fix the problem once identified, ie TA for the room, special ed kid that needs better accommadations, SMALLER CLASS Sizes, not more days off, or a stipend per kid above 30 (those last two can be filed under how teacher's union fail children)or not reporting the kid who is repeatedly being removed and that problem and that kid's other problems get swept under all the adult's rugs in the system.

andy kelly

Sun, Sep 2, 2012 : 2:24 p.m.

Cette, while the philosophy of the write-up is valid the practice is much different. Our beloved superintendent has made it mandatory that no matter the behavior of the difficult child they cannot be removed from a class. This is an example of how euphemisms are displayed in public, but the realities in the school are MUCH different. Gain the trust of a teacher privately and you will hear the difficulties that our beloved superintendent has bestowed upon us.


Sun, Sep 2, 2012 : 2:15 p.m.

The superintendent is making the correct call with having people write up why a child is being removed from the classroom. I completely agree with it. It is a the equivalent of a freaking five alarm fire when when kids are removed from the classroom for misbehavior and there's no explanation given, nor any attempt to correct what happened, other than the worn out, get 'em out of here, I can't take that kid anymore..


Sun, Sep 2, 2012 : 2:03 p.m.

Good point, Jim. And our beloved superintendent is only going to make our jobs harder. We have been told this year that we cannot remove any students from class for misbehavior without having to write up a long document detailing why we removed the student. Effectively, she is going to make it painful for the teacher, so the teacher just tolerates the kids that won't/can't behave themselves. This includes even giving them a time-out to gather themselves (no longer allowed). This is what Superintendent Green means about the "discipline gap." This way she can clearly show how wonderful she is. I can almost see it now..."Well done, the best staff in the state of Michigan. In just one year, we have solved the discipline gap, all thanks to me of course! The kids in Ann Arbor never misbehave, which of course is thanks to me, and yes I am worth so much more than Todd Roberts!" HA! Where have you gone, Todd Roberts, a community turns its lonely eye to you...

Ned Racine

Sun, Sep 2, 2012 : 12:59 p.m.

And the Northside population continues to plummet. Already the smallest elementary school, it now has reportedly lost another 30 or so students to hover near the 200 mark, about half of capacity. Many of the talented teachers have left. What used to be an exciting, energetic and fun school is now on life support. It would be interesting to know how many students at the growing King, Logan and Thurston live in the Northside area. The district, and the parents who have pulled their kids out, know the reason behind this dramatic loss. To reveal the reason here would probably get the comment pulled but the district does not have the will to take the necessary action. So sad.


Mon, Sep 3, 2012 : 12:32 p.m.

Let me guess, we are talking the bullying issue? That everyone is skirting around? Or something else. Because most of the children I have seen there seem nice enough. It is others that are scary.

J. A. Pieper

Mon, Sep 3, 2012 : 2:10 a.m.

Ned, everyone in the district is aware of the problem at Northside, and also knows that AAPS will do nothing about the situation. AAPS lets this happen at various schools, my school put up with it for almost 15 years. This is one reason why AAPS is losing students, but they won't acknowledge this at all.


Sun, Sep 2, 2012 : 9:23 p.m.

Ned Racine - The BOE and the Administration will not fix the problem, because it would cause more problems with one of their unions, so Northside will continue to decrease in size and teachers who have any choice will avoid the building. Anyone who has spent any time in the building, knows what the problem is, and how to fix it. Northside would increase student body size by 50 children in 2 weeks if the problem was fixed.

Basic Bob

Sun, Sep 2, 2012 : 3:40 p.m.

The population is self-segregating, and the school board is not about to get in the way. Savvy parents know where the good schools are and choose to live there accordingly. To redraw internal boundaries of the district would upset some vocal parents who can afford expensive homes and have free time to meddle in the operations of the school and school board. Northside is only one example of this problem. We need to break up the cabal and draw reasonable attendance boundaries that are not guaranteed by some socioeconomic plan.


Sun, Sep 2, 2012 : 3:01 p.m.

There are a lot of elementary schools that really need to be consolidated. Northside with that other one on Nixon and Prairie. Or split the school in half. Pittsfield, Carpenter and Wines could even out their schools to make it all work or better yet? Close one of them. Ann Arbor needs to start closing schools to save more money in the long run.


Sun, Sep 2, 2012 : 12:53 p.m.

Not so impressed with having a union rep talk about class sizes, because after all there can be a maximum of 30 students in middle school math, science, english, social studies and art. Hmm. What's left? Not much left after those classes. That 30 students a kid level was not adhered to, how well we know, so does the union preferentially advocate for smaller classrooms or do they advocate for keeping their members salaries up with a wink and a nod to keeping caps around that are suggestions, not realities? Or is Linda Carter willing to negotiate more days off in lieu of passing on the big classroom experience for kids?


Mon, Sep 3, 2012 : 12:33 p.m.

Furthermore, JA Pieper, I have just got to wonder if you're the kind of teacher who knows how to game the system, knows how to get rid of special needs kids. Do you deliberately provoke those kids, humiliate them, and then write them up, and make sure you get rid of them as fast as you can? Is that why you don't get the TA for your room? Do you make absolutely sure you don't need a TA in your room?


Mon, Sep 3, 2012 : 12:20 p.m.

To JA Pieper, criticize what I write any way you want, I shudder to think how you must treat children with issues and disabilities in your class. You use public humiliation as a tool of control, if you can't get someone else to call the police on a kid and that doesn't say much about your teaching skills.

J. A. Pieper

Mon, Sep 3, 2012 : 1:52 a.m.

Your post is confusing, and not very well worded. This leaves me to believe that you either do not know what you are talking about, or you have difficulties putting your thoughts together in a coherent manner. Sometimes things are best left unsaid!


Sun, Sep 2, 2012 : 9:59 p.m.

What part is she so wrong? Asking for documentation about why a kid has been the room? I'm not seeing that.IThe kids are supposed to be in class. Period. Is she wrong about trying to id if bad behavior gets a kid out of work or class so as to prevent rewarding the bad behavior any further, so it doesn't work to gain escape?, no, she's not wrong about that, so long as that's what the kid is angling for? Is she wrong about not hiring more teachers, ...well, is it all her decision? We clearly need more teachers, but people can't be coy and not write down how many kids they actually have, or not document how much trouble they are having with the kids they do have. Okay, if you want more money and teachers don't want to take any more cuts, which I can totally agree with, where's the money coming from? Balas is the magic answer? I can't see all that money coming from Balas, much less even a substantial amount.Teachers still get paid fairly well. We going to need a millage and/or some new state legislators before the schools get real relief. But getting more days off or playing games with bigger classes,(and refusing to give straight answers on the actual size of all classes) is counterproductive, and will make it harder to really fix any problem, because no one likes to played for a fool, especially the folks footing the bills.

andy kelly

Sun, Sep 2, 2012 : 9:11 p.m.

You are correct Cette that the schools SHARE a responsibility for working with a disgruntled youth rather than a permanent label. However, with a superintendent who is fighting for more administrative personal (and winning) rather than smaller class sizes, how is a teacher supposed to work with that disgruntled youth to correct the issue? By spending a large amount of time with one child the other children in the class, in my experience as a teacher, are enticed to act out as well so that they will receive fair attention. This is an endless cycle and the superintendent is wrong, overpaid and fighting for administration not the teachers, and certainly not the children. With much sadness, it is the children who are losing in this fiasco.


Sun, Sep 2, 2012 : 8:39 p.m.

I am all for more money for schools, and removing kids who are disruptive happens, but it's after that episode that the district fails, and that's what the super is trying to correct. Why is that kid disruptive and how can that be fixed? Okay, here's where I take a different view. Just because a kid is disruptive at one point in time in their school career, does that mean that kid is always a disruption. In fact, it's up to the adults to change how they manage that kid to change that kid's destiny, and while parents have much influence, so do schools. If the school has given up on a kid, the kid will know, and get even more disruptive and the parents will become more marginalized and disenchanted, and any influence another adult could have possibly had to change the trajectory of events positively is lost. So when the teachers union agrees to things like less workdays, paid or otherwise, and doesn't back helping kids that they too view as hopeless, what a mess is made. Are teacher's taking it on the chin? Yeah, I can't say that isn't so, but so are kids, so now what folks?


Sun, Sep 2, 2012 : 8:08 p.m.

Cette, teachers having unpaid days off IS a pay cut. The money was taken from the teachers in lieu of days. I personally have lost $10,000 over the course of 2 years due to unpaid days, reduction in indexes and hold back of step increase for part of each school year since we last negotiated the contract. Class sizes have remained significantly above contract language (30 in middle school) with no reduction in sight. The district pays overage for students over 30 - a pittance compared to doing what's right for the students and hiring enough staff. Balas is balancing the budget on the backs of the STUDENTS.

andy kelly

Sun, Sep 2, 2012 : 8:07 p.m.

Cette, you analysis is fair given the fact that you have probably not stepped foot in a teachers position. So, for your own education you might wish to survey a class at an elementary, middle or high school for a day. After this brief dose of reality you will most likely choose a different angle. This is not a cultural issue or socioeconomic, this is a citified issue. If unruly children cannot behave their removal from the class to a more unpleasant situation must be instituted. It is simply not fair or just to the other children in the class! The issue is not how a teacher handles the situation, for our power to do ANYTHING of consequence in or out of the classroom has been stripped by the administration and the state. The solution begins at home and is put in balance by the school.


Sun, Sep 2, 2012 : 5:46 p.m.

Okay, I sit corrected. You accepted more unpaid days off instead of a paycut. Still, not a good deal for anyone, as I see things. Kids are going to be more unruly with the teacher out more, and class sizes are still way too high. I don't think that's the way to try to fix the high class/behavior issues that plague the teaching and classroom experiences here in the district.


Sun, Sep 2, 2012 : 4:56 p.m.

Burden of proof should be on the one stating things as fact.


Sun, Sep 2, 2012 : 4:50 p.m.

I can't prove a negative. Here is a link to the contract: Let me know if you can find the place where teachers traded days off for salary hikes and larger class sizes.


Sun, Sep 2, 2012 : 4:27 p.m.

Cette, unless you can provide other information, I would say you are incorrect about the union requesting days off for larger class sizes. I don't remember any conversation even close to that. The only days off we have added to our contract was by the request of the administration, not the union, and these are UNPAID. Basically, it's an unwanted pay cut.


Sun, Sep 2, 2012 : 3:32 p.m.

Sh1, if I am incorrect, please correct me. Pull up that last contract and show me I'm wrong, and I will happily concur, with apologies.


Sun, Sep 2, 2012 : 3:24 p.m.

Cette, where do you get your information about teachers taking days off instead of having smaller class sizes? At this point they are getting neither. And it is via local negotiations that teachers agreed to pay and benefit cuts in the last contract.


Sun, Sep 2, 2012 : 3:09 p.m.

@ Suzi Q, what we need is real transparency, not the explanation that it's not rare and it's not always. It's about when is it and what can we do to fix it? Real data, really.


Sun, Sep 2, 2012 : 3:06 p.m.

I think the union could negotiate better, and not ask for days off, and enforce class size restrictions, Instead, they took the easy way out when negotiating, taking those days off and sucking up the bigger classroom sizes, and ultimately made the classroom experience worse for both teachers and students...teachers have been taking cuts via the state, not through local negotiations. Step increases have stayed in place.

Susie Q

Sun, Sep 2, 2012 : 3:04 p.m.

The "target" class size is just that.....a target. As state revenues have fallen, those targets are met less and less. The maximum class sizes in the contract are also somewhat fluid. Those maximum numbers are often subject to "overrides" by the principal if there is nowhere else to place that student. Teachers with larger than max size are paid a very small "overage" amount to compensate them for the larger class. Class sizes of 34-36 are not the rule at the high schools, but neither would I characterize them as rare.


Sun, Sep 2, 2012 : 2:43 p.m.

Teachers have been taking cuts, not raises, over the last few years, so I don't think much "winking and nodding" is going on.


Sun, Sep 2, 2012 : 12:50 p.m.

This District is top heavy, and continues to grossly overspend on admin & staff, while understaffing the classroom. Parkinson's law at work. There should be an absolute rule on the ratio of admin to teachers, and it should never be more than one admin per 5 teachers. Put the resources where the services are delivered--not at the top. Admin bloat in this district reminds me of GM before the crash.

Basic Bob

Sun, Sep 2, 2012 : 3:34 p.m.

One admin per five teachers is excessive. Sad that we can't even achieve this modest goal.


Sun, Sep 2, 2012 : 2:58 p.m.

i could not agree more. Balais needs to clean house. When is it going to happen?


Sun, Sep 2, 2012 : 12:46 p.m.

Ms. Margolis' statement that class sizes are within contract specifications means nothing, since the contract allows overages at all levels with a small stipend for each additional student teachers receive over the maximum. This is much cheaper to the district than to hire new teachers.


Sun, Sep 2, 2012 : 1:54 p.m.

*should have said another teacher was over 10-12.


Sun, Sep 2, 2012 : 1:53 p.m.

SH1, absolutely correct. I was over last year with the overages factored in. Special needs students are factored + 1 because more attention needs to be paid to them. About five years back when I taught an academic at the high school, they put so many special needs students in my one hour I was about 7-8 students over the max. I believe another student was 10-12 over for one hour. It truly doesn't benefit anyone. It makes it harder for me and less learning for the students. There is a real disconnect from Balas to the frontline. Much of the teaching staff views the central administration with disdain. We just love when they take our budget money and then promptly add to the administrative staff and then give 12% raises.


Sun, Sep 2, 2012 : 12:52 p.m.

sh1 - True and they used that last year, instead of dealing with new teachers.


Sun, Sep 2, 2012 : 12:40 p.m.

I see the targets listed but not the maximum. My daughter's second grade class has 28 kids -- seems like way too many for second grade.


Mon, Sep 3, 2012 : 12:04 a.m.

O boo hoo. It is not about exploits but about who is exploiting who. Children are being exploited by the top heavy brass and not getting much out of anything and this includes a good education. Once Ann Arbor realizes it then maybe the children can go back to learning. But I don't see this happening any time soon.


Sun, Sep 2, 2012 : 3:20 p.m.

No, it's not about how bad off WR or Ypsi are, (for God's sakes), and aren't we lucky?It's about our kids and our money, that we the taxpayers pay, and the kid's outcome, and we have good things occur when we make smart decisions that don't let one group exploit the other.


Sun, Sep 2, 2012 : 2:57 p.m.

I would not complain. Ypsilanti and WR are way above the 30 class size and most teachers are taking the pay over a teachers aide. That is what one teacher told me. So when teachers complain in Ann Arbor about class sizes? I tell them to take a look at other districts east of them and just be lucky they have what they have.


Sun, Sep 2, 2012 : 12:50 p.m.

28 is the max in second grade, but the teacher would receive a small stipend if the count goes above 30.

Dr. I. Emsayin

Sun, Sep 2, 2012 : 11:47 a.m.

While certification allows teachers to teach new grade levels or new preparations from year to year or day to day, teachers do spend summers preparing for the next school year and having only days to adjust for something could result in less than stellar preparation and resulting student and parent complaints. Is there a way potential need can be assessed earlier at the district level?


Sun, Sep 2, 2012 : 5:01 p.m.

I thought you were referring to when, for example, a teacher has been preparing themselves and room to teach one grade, say, 1st and then is switched to, say 2nd during first week of school. Or switching subject matter at the last minute in the higher grades (to be fair, I only personally know of the first example occurring, not the second).

andy kelly

Sun, Sep 2, 2012 : 2:30 p.m.

Very good point. This is an unfortunate issues with a city that has such a transient population. Yet, if the administration were fired and more teachers hired, any overload could enable teachers to carry more administrative responsibility for that year.

Dr. I. Emsayin

Sun, Sep 2, 2012 : 2:06 p.m.

At what point between when students sign up for classes for the next year and the beginning of the school year do school administrators become aware of the need for new sections due to new enrollments or class size? If classes are staffed based on requests in March, there must be a point at which administrators realize that class sizes are going to get larger if more teachers are not added. If classes could be staffed for probably overload, maybe changes would not need to occur once school has started, thus disrupting students and teacher classes.

andy kelly

Sun, Sep 2, 2012 : 11:49 a.m.

Can you clarify your statement?

andy kelly

Sun, Sep 2, 2012 : 11:46 a.m.

Parents need to unofficially organize into something with a voice. At the end of the day the PTO operates a thrift store and for extra funds - commendable, but not progressive, not changing. Just ask Principal Conway at Lawton Elementary if the unofficial parental mob forced her into sleepless nights enough to demand change and make it happen. Having been a teacher for years I can attest to the fact that both the union and administration need to be demolished and rebuilt with teachers - not overpriced administrators who know NOTHING about being in the classroom, yet make all the decisions. Want real change? Unofficially organize and majorly disrupt EVERYTHING administrative - the board meetings, the union meetings, and of course every word that comes out of that dictator superintendent Patricia Green.

andy kelly

Mon, Sep 3, 2012 : 11:47 a.m.

DJBudSonic, yes the thrift store operates as a different legal entity. Although that is not the point of stress. The main function of the PTO is fundraising with a vague statement along the lines of "building the kind of school community where teachers and students can do their best work." While I see the need, and have respect for the mission of the PTO, especially since budgets keep shrinking, I currently see a greater need for a organization with a voice representing change and demanding it.


Mon, Sep 3, 2012 : 3:29 a.m.

Actually the PTO thrift shop is not run by the PTO's but is an independent 501 c3 charitable organization, overseen by a board of directors, that distributes its earnings through the PTO's of all schools. It operates independently of the AAPS or any individual schools. As far as the nature of the shop, I would say it is very progressive, essentially turning a good-will, donated waste stream into cash for vital programs which the school board is unable or unwilling to fund, to the tune of several hundred thousand dollars a year.

Wake Up A2

Sun, Sep 2, 2012 : 10:31 a.m.

The funny thing is during the good years, when ann arbor could afford them, they had curriculum coordinators. When they had hard times, and needed money, they canned them. Fast forward 10 years....They now have two levels of coordinators or district department chairs that are costing approx. 3 million dollars a years which we can't afford. That money could go to having more teachers in the classroom. These folks were added because a short timer at Balas was ineffective.

Dhurandar Bhatavdekar

Mon, Sep 3, 2012 : 5:27 a.m.

Bloat of administrative staff is something that is being observed at every education level. This is slightly off the topic, but in recent years even UM has seen a significant rise in suit-clad administrators who do nothing other than boss around the people who actually do the work! In this case, the bloat is costing us our kid's futures ...

Wake Up A2

Sun, Sep 2, 2012 : 1:11 p.m.

Don, When you have 2 dozen district chairs at .6FTE each it takes .6FTE out of the classroom which you have to back fill with more teachers which cost money. The last several years have seen the teaching ranks in A2 drop. There are other spots at BALAS that could go as well. How many deputy supers do you need? Or how many assistant directors do you need? add in a secretary for each..... Green could walk through Balas in a matter of minutes and save the district millions....but she won't. Her mantra has been add more levels between teachers and her, so much so, she has no real teachers on her committees......


Sun, Sep 2, 2012 : 12:51 p.m.

Wake Up A2 - Put them back in the classroom. Then fix the $4 million increase in overhead that has occurred. While the district has cut janitors, bus drivers, and teachers - no administrator has been harmed. In fact many have nice new raises. Some given at 2AM... Can anyone say priorities?

Wake Up A2

Sun, Sep 2, 2012 : 12:44 p.m.

When you add the 3 million from this issues, with the 3.5 million from the new retirement law, you could easily save RC. $6.5 million is a serious cost savings. Maybe even added middle school busing back instead of asking for a grant to do so.

andy kelly

Sun, Sep 2, 2012 : 11:36 a.m.

You have stated a very serious truth that needs to be addressed immediately! Fire the Curriculum Coordinators NOW and let the teachers actually teach - no longer read a script like an actor. Moving in this direction would illustrate good leadership for the school board, but then again they might just be too weak for real sustaining change.