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Posted on Thu, Mar 21, 2013 : 5:30 p.m.

Ann Arbor school board outlines budget process, including 4 new community dialogs

By Danielle Arndt

The Ann Arbor Board of Education has outlined its process for discussing and passing the 2013-14 academic year budget.

This year's process will include four new "community dialogs" with school board trustees.


The Ann Arbor 2013 Board of Education with Superintendent Patricia Green.

From Ann Arbor Public Schools

The board announced Thursday four dates for principals, teachers, parents and community members to come and engage in two-way conversations with small groups of trustees about cutting $17 million to $20 million from the district's general fund.

School board trustees are seeking public input to develop the principles they should follow in making cuts and strategies to lessen the need for such cuts in the future, board members said in a news release Thursday. The format will be such that open discussions can occur, they said, but the content of each meeting will depend on the interests and questions of the attendees.

Board members expect the conversation topics could include:

  • Potential measures to increase Ann Arbor Public Schools' resources.
  • Ideas for improved practices in the AAPS.
  • The respective value of various programs and services.
  • Ideas for measures that would lessen the negative consequences of the budget cuts.

The community dialog dates are:

  • 7-9 p.m. Thursday, March 28Clague Middle School Media Center, 2616 Nixon Road. Board members expected to attend: Andy Thomas, Glenn Nelson and Deb Mexicotte.
  • 7-9 p.m. Tuesday, April 9Slauson Middle School Media Center, 1019 W. Washington. Board members expected to attend: Christine Stead, Nelson and Mexicotte.
  • 11:30 a.m.-1:30 p.m. Tuesday, April 16 — Fourth Floor of the Ann Arbor Public Library, 343 S. Fifth Ave. Board members expected to attend: Irene Patalan, Nelson and Mexicotte.
  • 9-11 a.m. Saturday, April 20Scarlett Middle School Media Center, 3300 Lorraine St. Board members expected to attend: Susan Baskett, Nelson and Mexicotte.

Trustee Simone Lightfoot could not commit to any of these dates or times due to her work schedule, said Amy Osinski, executive assistant to the Board of Education.

Nelson said the idea is school board trustees would hand out to community members a simple one- to three-page description of the district's budget woes and financial situation for 2013-14. Board members could make a brief introduction of the challenges AAPS faces due to decreased funding from the state, and then board members would open it up to the public, Nelson said.

"What are your ideas for additional revenues. Do we get more private giving to support these programs we value? What is the core you believe must be protected in this next round of cuts?" he said.

Lightfoot said at a recent board meeting she hopes community members bring ideas to the table the administration hasn't thought about. She said she wants the public to be "super creative" and to help board members determine ways to morph or modify programs to avoid cutting them.

Nelson said the board would welcome central administration to come to these community dialogs, but the board really wants staff to come.

"We want to hear ideas from them before the (reduction) options are put together," he said.

He added the board decided on the community dialogs this year because its more personal than hearing people's ideas during public comment at a board meeting and in an informal setting, the board actually can respond to the public, exchange suggestions and ask questions.

Other important dates related to the budget include:

  • 7 p.m. Wednesday, April 10 — Regular board meeting. The administration presents the district's projected revenues for Fiscal Year 2014.
  • 7 p.m. Wednesday, April 24 — Regular board meeting. The administration presents its recommended expenditure budget for FY 2014, including its recommended cuts and budget reductions.
  • Early May — The administration will conduct informational meetings for the community on the proposed budget cuts.
  • 7 p.m. Wednesday, May 8 — Regular board meeting. First briefing of the budget resolution for FY 2014.
  • 7 p.m. Wednesday, May 22 — Regular board meeting. Second briefing and potential action on the budget resolution for FY 2014.

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



Fri, Mar 22, 2013 : 1:52 p.m.

Please look at their schedule of meetings and "potential" action. They're clearly aiming to put off this vote until school is not in session--or close to it. In other words, they (the BOE) wants to delay it until there aren't many people around to object. Cuts have been coming and necessary for years, thanks to the Board's refusal to deal with the district's unreasonably large and expensive building infrastructure. Their proposed list of cuts came out in December. So where were those community meetings in the fall? All last year? Even in January? Now when the school year is getting close to over, they're now going to ask for input? I agree with Local---it's just a show---and a meaningless one at that. And Crayzee makes a good point, too---all constituent groups (teachers, building administrators, parents, citizens) deserve separate opportunities to give input. But sadly, it's way too late to start doing that now.....


Fri, Mar 22, 2013 : 1:27 p.m.

Many of the citizens posting probably haven't stepped foot in a school recently either so you know the challenges facing education. Once public schools become all charter schools run for profit, then maybe you will be satisfied.

Basic Bob

Fri, Mar 22, 2013 : 2:26 p.m.

I guess it's asking too much for the administration and board to actually operate the school district with the best interests of the entire community in mind, not just a few privileged groups.


Fri, Mar 22, 2013 : 11:04 a.m.

This is just a show folks. This BOE hasn't stepped foot into a school and asked teachers and administrators for ideas on this budget crisis either. Parents can go and express their ideas, but the BOE seems clueless in how to handle the situation. To say it clearly, the BOE doesn't want to rock the boat of families with specific interest in mind. They don't want to anger those who love the arts by cutting back on funding to those programs. They don't want to anger folks who value athletics by cutting funding to that. They won't even consider closing neighborhood schools, well because that would anger those who live in a specific neighborhood. Does everyone see the trend, this group just can't look out for the best interest of the district as a whole because they don't want to upset any one particular group. They caved last year to closing Clemente, and they would never consider closing Community (or move it) because those families would be in a uproar. It iss time to step up BOE and do the job your were elected to do. Four forums aren't going to change that, you still need to do something!

Claude Kershner

Fri, Mar 22, 2013 : 1:13 a.m.

A trustee that cannot commit to attending any community meetings to discuss the budget but CAN find time to attend meetings and involve herself in the work best left to the prosecutors office should resign. We deserve better representation!

Brent Richards

Fri, Mar 22, 2013 : 1:12 a.m.

From the letter/memo sent by the board, there is no mention of the Superintendent attending any of these mettings. I'm hoping that was an oversight. It has to be...It has to be.

Brent Richards

Fri, Mar 22, 2013 : 1:43 p.m.

After getting more info. from someone who has knowledge more than me, the BOE's plan is not to include Dr. Green because "She is not attending these meetings with board members because the board wants to know what the community wants apart from what Dr. Green may want to implement. Dr. Green said there would be similar meetings with her cabinet in the community." This seems like a sensible approach.


Fri, Mar 22, 2013 : 12:53 a.m.

Well, I'm going to try to attend. I appreciate that they are making the effort to reach out and hear ideas from the community, whether or not I agree with some of the other decisions that the board makes. The bottom line is that we have to all work together and come up with solutions or the kids will be the ones who really miss out...


Fri, Mar 22, 2013 : 12:30 a.m.

The meetings should involve the community, not those with personal agendas/interests. The board should elicit input from the community/taxpayers not employees. The input from the unions/employees should be at a different session and weighted less than the input from those paying the freight.


Fri, Mar 22, 2013 : 5:47 p.m.

hypatiajones - Since you are a teacher - I would suggest you would fit best in a small group that contained other teachers. Your small group would come up with different ideas that Parents who do not have the same insider knowledge that you do. Non-parent tax payers also have a different view from parents. The idea should be to get the views on the table. In the past groups have been heavily steered by staff members and the groups were told to summarize their input, leaving only the items that the staff member wanted to present. I want to see a more open process with real dialog, not a "plastic" meeting like the Skyline and Special Ed meetings were.


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

I am a teacher, a community member and a taxpayer. Which meeting would you suggest I attend? I have a stake in the outcome of this process as an employee and as some one "Paying the freight."


Fri, Mar 22, 2013 : 12:49 p.m.

Mr Richards - I have been to many meetings where the people taking the notes and leading the meetings were all school employees. Even when we broke into small groups. What the summary for the small group said and what was said in the small group differed like night and day. I appreciate, having done a number of these meetings, Mike's feelings. If you want input, separate meetings for teachers, principals, and parents or allowing the small groups to self organize, is a much better way to get input that actually reflects what the various groups want to say. I understand that no teacher or principal would want to be in a meeting where they could be identified as having said "X", but I also think that changing the output of a group to match what the "professionals" want to say on a subject, leaves other ideas behind. I watched this in spades with Skyline. Having attended a large number of the meetings for Skyline, not once was the vote of my small group, what was said by our district appointed "leader". In two cases the vote was unanimous and that statement was not what was read to the room, instead, the "leader" said "We agree that the district should go ahead with..." which was the complete opposite of our vote. So forgive some of us if we have a desire to see actual open meetings where parents have a real chance at input. The special education report delivered last week at the school board meeting is yet another example of asking for community input and then ignoring it. I laughed and cried as I watched the parents read their statement about the report on CCTV.


Fri, Mar 22, 2013 : 2:08 a.m.

Mike, we all have personal agendas and hopefully a common bottom line goal: Make the school experience the best possible for our students and get the most value out of each dollar spent. As a parent, I want the teachers and staff to have input as well, they also all have a vested interest in making the system work - no one wants kids falling behind or missing great opportunities for lack of resources. As an aside, many teachers participate in committees, PTO meetings, fundraisers and other events that aren't part of their "official" job descriptions but do so because they care about the success of the school. Whether they live in AA or not, many of them are "paying the freight" in other ways behind the scenes ....

Brent Richards

Fri, Mar 22, 2013 : 1:41 a.m.

That sounds like a great idea. Certainly the teachers and school administrators will not be impacted by these decisions. Nor would their input be of any value as the experts reside in all fields besides public education. This time of year, I'm sure most of the gluttonous teachers are setting their sights on summer break so they can go yachting around the world on taxpayer-funded paychecks. Promise that students interests are left out as well. If open and honest dialogue between all parties can be avoided, only then will sound decisions be reached.


Thu, Mar 21, 2013 : 11:49 p.m.

Looks like a Christmas card photo from a realtor.


Fri, Mar 22, 2013 : 12:39 a.m.

"Whereas" they are supposed to be ordinary citizens and reflective of the community. Wait, better not go there...


Thu, Mar 21, 2013 : 11:35 p.m.

Another "put a nice face on it", "we are listening" set of sessions. They will use these sessions to push on more revenue, not to listen to sensible suggestions for changes in the budget. Then they can claim to have gotten community input, just like they did with Skyline and so many other things that the community said "North" and the board went "South"


Thu, Mar 21, 2013 : 11:23 p.m.

It makes no sense to combine principals, staff, and parents in the same sessions. Totally different perspectives, and none will get their due if they are all jammed in the same short session.


Thu, Mar 21, 2013 : 11:36 p.m.

They don't want real input crayzee, only to make it seem that way.


Thu, Mar 21, 2013 : 10:59 p.m.

Maybe they can take more time out of their schedules to weigh in on more pending criminal cases with prosecutors office. Since they have the whole budget thing squared away.

Ted Annis

Thu, Mar 21, 2013 : 10:35 p.m.

Danielle, Your article should have included a two-year recap of Revenue and Expenses. Ted Annis

Danielle Arndt

Mon, Mar 25, 2013 : 6:21 p.m.

Hi Ted, thanks for the suggestion. This article actually was intended to be more of a quick reference for people to refer back to to see the upcoming opportunities that exist for public input on the budget. It also was meant to outline the important dates and meetings related to the budget process.