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Posted on Mon, Aug 19, 2013 : 5:57 a.m.

Ann Arbor school board member to resume regular coffee hours

By Danielle Arndt

Ann Arbor Public Schools Secretary Andy Thomas will resume his regular coffee hours with the public this fall.


AAPS Board Secretary Andy Thomas file photo

The school board trustee started hosting informal, open-to-all meetings last September at coffee shops around town and at various times of the day, to give community members the opportunity to have small-group or one-on-one dialogues with a trustee.

People can come to ask questions or express concerns about any topic regarding the schools.

"Basically it's just an attempt to be more accessible and to provide a little more transparency," Thomas said last September.

Thomas had four coffee hours last school year and found them to be very beneficial. He stopped conducting them in the late winter to early spring as the board began having more frequent community forums regarding the budget and, later, the superintendent search.

With Ann Arbor gearing up for another school year — the budget and superintendent in place — Thomas wanted to start hosting the coffee hours again, he said.

The first edition of Thomas' 2013-14 coffee hours will take place from 7 to 8:30 p.m. Tuesday, Aug. 20 at Sweetwaters Coffee and Tea, 123 W. Washington St.

The Board of Education permits public commentary at its meetings but, per board policy, the 45 minutes of allotted time are divided among the people signed up to comment. The policy also states trustees and district employees will not answer questions during public commentary.

Thomas' coffee hours will give the public a chance to receive replies and to have back-and-forth discussions with a school official.

"I'll be there to talk about whatever people have on their minds," Thomas said Aug. 13.

"... I also expect people will want to know more about our new superintendent. But there is no agenda, and we can talk about just about anything related to the schools."

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



Mon, Aug 19, 2013 : 1:49 p.m.

I would encourage everyone with interest to attend. I learned a lot in just 1 hour about how the school board and superintendent system work. It was very educational, and I like the idea about expressing thoughts in a more personal, conversational context. As a parent of a child in a "low-enrollement" school that will likely be targeted for some kind of redistricting, I will be sure to attend one of these coffees to express my thoughts.


Mon, Aug 19, 2013 : 12:45 p.m.

Thank you Mr. Thomas.


Mon, Aug 19, 2013 : 11:29 a.m.

I think the coffee hour meetings are good. The process used during board meetings, however, seems too confining and emotion impact to be effective. Why can't the School Board provide a spot on the school's website where the public can submit questions and school can provide answers. The website can contain submission/response rules, and question type selections for efficient hand off to experts. If is staffing is a concern, seek a volunteer ... I am sure there are qualified parents or retirees that would assist as well as students going into a communications field who could earn extra credit for the work.


Mon, Aug 19, 2013 : 12:49 p.m.

dia - The best thing that could happen is to provide that avenue, with the questions and the answers made public on the website. The second best thing that could happen is to not let 3 people gather around the speaker in the meetings. The rule should be "one person may stand and approach the microphone, should anyone else wish to support that person they may do it from their seats by raising their hands in support." Time is lost gathering people and it is intimidating to see the people crowd around, but of course intimidation is what the speakers want. This raises the emotional stakes of the meeting in ways that are not good for good decisions.