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Posted on Mon, Sep 10, 2012 : 9:05 a.m.

Ann Arbor school board member to host monthly coffee hours

By Danielle Arndt

Have concerns about the Ann Arbor Public Schools?

Board Secretary Andy Thomas is ready and willing to hear them.


Ann Arbor school board secretary Andy Thomas will begin hosting monthly coffee hours with constituents.

File photo

The school board member will host a monthly coffee hour at various locations around the district to discuss with constituents their ideas, interests and complaints.

Times and dates are up in the air. Thomas plans to wait to see how the first meeting goes before planning others. The first coffee hour will be from 9 a.m. to 10 a.m. Tuesday at Sweetwaters, 123 W. Washington St., in Ann Arbor.

Thomas said this type of informal, open-to-all meeting has been something he has wanted to do since he was elected in 2010. With school starting up again, he saw it as the perfect opportunity to get the concept rolling.

He said the coffee hour is something he’s personally doing as a board member to get closer to the community. He is not doing it in his official capacity as secretary of the Ann Arbor school board.

“Basically it’s just an attempt to be more accessible and to provide a little more transparency,” Thomas said. “Sometimes when you have a one-on-one conversation with people you can get a much better idea of what’s going on and their concerns.”

The Board of Education permits public commentary at its meetings but per its policy, the 45 minutes it allows is divided among the number of people signed up to comment. Its policy also states members of the board and district employees will not answer questions during public commentary.

Thomas’ coffee hours will give the public an opportunity to have a back-and-forth discussion with a school official.

“Board meetings are not the place to engage in an exchange with constituents,” he said. “That’s what you can get in settings like (a coffee hour) — some exchange. People can ask questions and get a reply and explain things better and so on.”

Thomas will be getting the word out about his future coffee dates via emails to constituents and parent-teacher-student organizations.

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



Tue, Sep 11, 2012 : 2:24 p.m.

Coffee hour? More like a barroom brawl if things get heated. Sounds like fun. Won't see me there because nothing will get done with the ones he works with. Dug in heels anyone?


Tue, Sep 11, 2012 : 10:45 a.m.

I suggest that the school board take the time for the coffee get-together and use it by visiting all of the various schools during the noon hour to see just what type of chaos they have caused with privitization of those jobs.


Tue, Sep 11, 2012 : 2:23 p.m.

More like what they chaos they have caused in all directions. Won't happen.

J. A. Pieper

Mon, Sep 10, 2012 : 9:40 p.m.

Good idea, but try to consider those of us who work full time and might not be able to attend during the day. I could take a day off, but that is probably not wise since I am a teacher. And, could you consider a place that actually has parking?


Mon, Sep 10, 2012 : 9:01 p.m.

God help him if some of the regulars from this comment section show up!


Mon, Sep 10, 2012 : 10:37 p.m.

They won't.


Mon, Sep 10, 2012 : 5:04 p.m.

Thanks Mr. Thomas. This makes me glad I voted for you. Perhaps a running list of FAQs could be kept with your responses for those who are unable to attend and so you don't have to repeat yourself at future meetings.


Mon, Sep 10, 2012 : 1:51 p.m.

Great idea. Hope it works well. Thanks, Andy Thomas for continuing to be one of the Trustees most open to an exchange of ideas with community members. Please have at least a few of these forums during the evenings or on a weekend so that working parents can also meet you face-to-face and express their concerns.


Mon, Sep 10, 2012 : 8:21 p.m.

AMOC, you're absolutely right about Andy Thomas.


Mon, Sep 10, 2012 : 6:04 p.m.

It is a great idea, but I highly doubt any teachers are going to want to explain what is going on in their building, unless they can wear a mask and use a voice changing device, lol. At least that is the feeling I get from the school personnel who post on this site (to whom I am grateful that tell it like it is/not sugar-coat).

Danielle Arndt

Mon, Sep 10, 2012 : 4:03 p.m.

local, Andy told me he likely will vary the times so more people have the opportunity to participate. He just wants to wait to see how the first coffee hour goes and to get people's feedback. The suggestion about the schools is a good one. Thanks for reading!


Mon, Sep 10, 2012 : 3:50 p.m.

Great idea overall, but night time would great. This would be beneficial to do in the schools as well, give teachers an opportunity to explain what is going on in the buildings and to get a better sense of how the decisions they make truly affect teachers and students.


Mon, Sep 10, 2012 : 1:49 p.m.

Love the idea, hope the execution of the idea goes well.


Mon, Sep 10, 2012 : 1:21 p.m.

What a great idea!