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Posted on Thu, Jun 20, 2013 : 5:59 a.m.

Ann Arbor school board receives public input for narrowing down superintendent pool

By Danielle Arndt


Ann Arbor school board President Deb Mexicotte, right, attended several community forums Wednesday to hear people's input on the next superintendent. Current Superintendent Patricia Green, left, retires July 9.

Melanie Maxwell | file photo

Previous coverage:

The Ann Arbor Public Schools Board of Education is preparing to sift through applications to find the district's next superintendent.

To prepare, the board took extra measures—compared with its previous search—to seek public opinion on qualities and characteristics the community would like to see in a new leader by scheduling four public forums on the topic.

This is the Ann Arbor schools' fourth superintendent search since 2002. Superintendent Patricia Green submitted a letter of resignation to the board on April 11. She will retire effective July 9 after 43 years in public education.

Green's tenure in Ann Arbor was contentious at times, with the community criticizing her $245,000 salary; her Maryland second residence; and what some saw as her lack of approachability, accessibility and transparency. Overall, the public has appeared largely unsatisfied with her leadership, leading to the board wanting additional feedback from community members going into this next search.

Pioneer High School math teacher Michele Macke said at one of Wednesday's public meetings that Green started off at a disadvantage when she was hired because of her salary, and she also had tough shoes to fill.

"It'd be hard to follow (former superintendent) Todd Roberts," Macke said. Roberts left in 2010 to accept a job in North Carolina. "… He was well liked, he went into the buildings, people knew him and felt like he was part of the community. … I've never got the sense that the current superintendent, that people saw her as having a stake in the community."

Ann Arbor Superintendent Resigns

Previous Coverage:

In addition to the four public forums, the school board collected data and comments via an online survey. President Deb Mexicotte said nearly 50 pages of comments have come back to the board through that survey.

Macke asked Wednesday whether board members did site visits to candidates' districts during the last superintendent search, because she felt that was a critical piece that would allow the board to speak with employees at the various schools to learn about staff morale and how active the superintendent hopeful was in his or her buildings.

Mexicotte said the board seriously debated the benefits of site visits during the previous search. Some trustees felt there was value in the visits, while others felt strongly that the expense outweighed the benefits, she said. Trustee Glenn Nelson told Macke it is good to hear from the community their thoughts on this topic because it helps the board know what its constituents deem appropriate and necessary.

The board actually did not end up making the site visits last search because of a snow storm, Mexicotte explained. Trustees got as far as the Detroit Metro Airport when their flights were canceled due to weather. Mexicotte said the rebooking fees and extra expense of canceling the visits and rescheduling caused the board not to go.

Trustees did follow up with all of the people they were scheduled to meet at the candidates' school districts, however, she said.

Bryant Elementary School teacher Jeanne Kitzman, who is retiring from the district after 23 years, asked board members Wednesday about the idea of not having a superintendent.

"We've got a nice, strong cabinet right now. Do we really need a superintendent?" she asked.

Mexicotte said by law, school districts in the state of Michigan must have a superintendent. Macke said a superintendent is somewhat of a figurehead, but it is an important and powerful position, in that the superintendent is the public spokesperson "and can get the community to back the schools and support the schools."

Kitzman and Macke encouraged the board to ask other questions of candidates about their plans and goals to avoid another situation where the district is seeking a new superintendent within 2 to 4 years. Green is the fifth leader Ann Arbor has had in a little more than a decade.


Bryant second-grade teacher Jeanne Kitzman is honored at the June 12 Board of Education meeting with a Celebration of Excellence Award. She is retiring this summer but attended a public forum on the next superintendent Wednesday at Pioneer High School.

Danielle Arndt |

Macke said Ann Arbor is a high-achieving, intellectual and demanding community and being the superintendent here is different than it may be someplace else.

"Ann Arbor is a town full of experts who are going to nitpick any person to death," she said.

She encouraged the board to seriously consider internal candidates and candidates with similar experiences of working in a university town, the latter of which the board did do when it was hiring Green.

Kitzman added that, in a way, Ann Arbor is run by special interest groups. She said all one had to do was attend a school board meeting during budget cuts to see how various groups rallied for their programs and how the loudest groups often won.

She said that in itself is a challenge for any leader to manage. But Macke said students and parents always are going to support the programs they or their children are involved in, no matter what. Macke said she believes this exists in other districts outside of Ann Arbor, too.

Kitzman emphasized hiring an in-state superintendent or someone with ties to the state.

"They need to have a heart with Michigan … to stick it out for the really hard times," she said, adding she believes the current state governor does not support public education and the legislative reforms being explored are going to drastically change the face of public schools here. She said the next superintendent is going to have to deal with redistricting, closing elementary buildings, continued decreased funding, more teacher layoffs and probably many more unforeseen challenges.

Experience in closing the achievement and discipline gaps between black, Hispanic, low-income and special needs student populations and their Caucasian counterparts is not as important of a superintendent quality to the public, Macke said, adding the board needs to get rid of this as a focal point when hiring someone.

But Mexicotte said it is important to the board — although, based on the feedback trustees have received from the community, perhaps it should not be as great of a driving force in this superintendent search as it was last time, she said.

The board hopes to have a new leader in place in time for the start of the 2013-14 academic year this fall.

A representative from Ray & Associates, the consulting firm AAPS hired to aid in the search, is expected to be in Ann Arbor June 26 to meet with the school board in executive session to discuss the applications that make it past the initial screening. Following the 2 p.m. executive session meeting, the board will convene a regular meeting, beginning at 7 p.m., at which the board will announce the semifinalists for the position.

The board is planning to schedule visits to the district and onsite interviews with each of the semifinalists the week of July 7, with finalists being announced at the end of the week and finalists' interviews taking place the week of July 14.

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


J. A. Pieper

Thu, Jun 20, 2013 : 11:06 p.m.

I love these comments from all of 2 people who attended the morning meeting! of course the high school teacher would indicate that other qualities were more important than the achievement gap, she certainly didn't appreciate having my high achieving child in her class, like maybe he was the wrong race, and did not belong?


Thu, Jun 20, 2013 : 11:05 p.m.

Wow, there are a few misquotes here. I did not say that we should consider an internal candidate. I did say that we need to try to find someone with experience in a university town, as I believe that to be different from other community settings. I also did not say we should get rid of experience in combating the achievement gap as a qualification. Deb. Mexicotte said that this qualification really stood out in Dr. Greene's resume and I said that I thought we should be looking for more. I do not think that skill combatting achievement gap is the most important quality in a future superintendent, but that does not mean I think we shouldn't be looking for that in a candidate.

J. A. Pieper

Thu, Jun 20, 2013 : 11:14 p.m.

And, as a teacher in AAPS, Green's Discipline Gap Initiative did nothing for the frontline people - teachers and students in the classrooms. When everyone has to put up with atrocious classroom behavior that causes distractions for students, and the feeling that they are not safe in their own classrooms, no one is learning!


Thu, Jun 20, 2013 : 4:53 p.m.

Once again I have to wonder about the decision to hire a consulting firm in these times of financial difficulties. The money would be much better spent on supplies/personnel that would directly affect our children's education. After 4 superintendent searches in 10 years, I would hope that the board would know what to do!


Fri, Jun 21, 2013 : midnight

it's a buy one, get one free deal since Green checked out in under 2 years. The BOE has to any expenses only this time, not the full tab. Of course, we do know the "quality" or lack thereof of the candidates this firm gave them the first time.

Maria Huffman

Thu, Jun 20, 2013 : 4:18 p.m.

I wouldn't say all parents only support programs their children are in. It's just as likely some do and some don't, although it's likely that parents are more apprised of the programs their children are currently involved in.

A Voice of Reason

Thu, Jun 20, 2013 : 1:25 p.m.

Gary Court! Outstanding person and leader. Parents and teachers both agree. He improves any situation he is presented.

Silly Sally

Thu, Jun 20, 2013 : 11:56 a.m.

" closing the achievement and discipline gaps between black, Hispanic, low-income and special needs student populations and their Caucasian counterparts is not as important of a superintendent quality to the public, Macke said, adding the board needs to get rid of this as a focal point when hiring someone. But Mexicotte said it is important to the board" No, what is important is that help is provided to ALL students who need it, regardless of their race or ethnicity. The AAPS should not pander to one group and discriminate against another. Help all students. There will be a gap if factors outside what a school can provide are the root cause. The job of the AAPS is to educate all students, including providing help to the struggling ones. The institutions that are provided should have inviting names, not names such as the "Girls Club" or the "Academy for African Americans", as someone who is neither may not feel welcome.

Maria Huffman

Thu, Jun 20, 2013 : 4:33 p.m.

I think it would be helpful to define terms more clearly. How do you define the child who is struggling and needs assistance, for example?


Thu, Jun 20, 2013 : 11:54 a.m.

Kitzman retired from teaching second grade at Bryant, not fifth, as the photo caption states. In fact, there is no fifth grade at Bryant.

J. A. Pieper

Thu, Jun 20, 2013 : 11:10 p.m.

And it is Kitzmann...

Danielle Arndt

Thu, Jun 20, 2013 : 3:07 p.m.

Thanks, Jen. The caption has been fixed.


Thu, Jun 20, 2013 : 11:43 a.m.

"Trustees got as far as the Detroit Metro Airport when their flights were canceled due to weather. Mexicotte said the rebooking fees and extra expense of canceling the visits and rescheduling caused the board not to go." What airline was the BOE flying? Airlines generally waive rebooking fees, especially in the winter for bad weather when they cancel flights. Have the BOE members never traveled by plane? What a lame excuse for not doing a thorough job of interviewing candidates for the position.

Silly Sally

Thu, Jun 20, 2013 : 11:57 a.m.

My thoughts exactly as I was reading the article. A very lame excuse, indeed!


Thu, Jun 20, 2013 : 11:23 a.m.

It is awful to have these forums. The BOE makes it seem like they want feedback, but in the end they are going to pick the person they want regardless. You have great quotes from educators who are in the classrooms daily and understand what is needed, but in the end it won't matter.


Thu, Jun 20, 2013 : 11:19 a.m.

How about Gary Court as the superintendent? He has roots here, is an excellent principal and is engaged in the community. He would kill me for putting his name out there and probably isn't even interested but I believe parents, teachers and administrators trust him for his ethics, concern for students and basic decency, as well as his skills.

Maria Huffman

Thu, Jun 20, 2013 : 3:33 p.m.

Whoever takes the position has to deal with current behavior theory which is the underpinning of positive behavior support. This will prove, I believe, to be a humans right issue, so it's an issue all should take seriously.

Blazingly Busy

Thu, Jun 20, 2013 : 2:23 p.m.

@local - I like Kevin Karr. @Silly Sally - would YOU take a job with a lot more responsibility at your current salary? THAT is an unrealistic expectation. Perhaps taking the position at a lower salary than target, but to ask somoene to increase their responsibility and subject themselves to the venom that spews out of the mouths of the citizens of Ann Arbor but not increase their salary is ludicrous.

Silly Sally

Thu, Jun 20, 2013 : noon

Would he do the job at his existing pay, or do we still need to double it?


Thu, Jun 20, 2013 : 11:25 a.m.

Gary Court, Kevin Karr, Ben Edmonson, and so on; there is a nice pool of internal candidates available if the BOE decided to inquire within the district. Instead, we will have a search firm look nationally for someone, when that someone is probably already in our backyard.