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Posted on Sat, Jan 7, 2012 : 5:59 a.m.

Ann Arbor school board to weigh six-year terms in light of election change

By Danielle Arndt

After snubbing the state in a symbolic gesture, the Ann Arbor school board will weigh extending trustee terms from four to six years for future boards.

President Deb Mexicotte said the board must make a decision on trustee terms prior to Aug. 14, the filing deadline for candidates. She said she would like to see the board address this topic at its organizational meeting Jan. 18.

The discussion is being considered in light of the Legislature passing a bill that sets school board elections for public institutions as the first Tuesday of November in even-numbered years. Ann Arbor has been holding school elections every year.

The law — which was signed by the governor Nov. 28, effective Jan. 1 — will cause significant strife for Ann Arbor, Mexicotte said, primarily because of the large, all-at-once turnover it will create.

The Board of Education changed its annual election date from May to November prior to the 2010 election. Trustee Christine Stead said the switch resulted in a yearly savings of approximately $90,000 for the district.


Deb Mexicotte

Mexicotte said an every-other-year cycle may necessitate the move to six-year terms.

“If we keep it four years, on an every-other-year basis, nearly half the board could potentially turn over,” Mexicotte said. “From a stability standpoint, if a board is putting all these policies in place and people are running along smoothly, and then an election happens and here comes another board — it’s just not a good way for the district to be managed.”

Currently, the board operates on a two-two-two-one rotation, meaning in a four-year period, two members are up for re-election every year until the fourth year when only one member is up for re-election.

Mexicotte said switching to six-year terms would allow the board to retain its two-two-two-one rotation. However, it would also cause current board members’ terms to run long.

But the new election law already will impact current board members’ terms.

Simon Lightfoot and Andy Thomas, who were re-elected in November, will be up in 2016, rather than 2015. Glenn Nelson and Irene Patalan also were scheduled for re-election in an odd-numbered year. Their seats now will be available in 2014, not 2013.


Christine Stead

“I think there is a lot of merit in not having a lot of turnover at one time,” Stead said. “With four or five new people on a seven-member board, the learning curve to be effective is very high. When really, once they’re elected, they’re expected to be making educated decisions.”

Stead said one downside to a six-year term is, well — “it’s six years.”

“The (United States) president doesn’t serve that long. The governor doesn’t serve that long. That’s a lot to ask of people,” Stead said.

She added citizens who have never served on a board before may be discouraged to run due to the length of time they would be required to commit and Ann Arbor may miss out on some very eligible candidates.

Also, current board members who have served for six to eight years already may be willing to commit to another four, but another six years might be too long, Stead said.

“Ultimately, we still have to discuss it (whether to switch to a six-year term) and to think about what’s really going to be best for the district,” Stead said.

At its December meeting, the Ann Arbor school board voted down a resolution to change its election date to the first Tuesday of November in even-numbered years, as mandated by the new Michigan law.

Not passing the resolution was more of a symbolic gesture and does not carry any weight, Mexicotte explained.

Don Wotruba, deputy director of the Michigan Association of School Boards, said the law does not require districts to pass a resolution, but many districts did so due to past practices.

“The important thing to note is that we, of course, are sworn to follow state law, whether we passed the resolution or not,” Mexicotte said. “This was just a little way for us to say ‘Enough already. We’ve had it with you guys (the state).’”

Mexicotte, who led the vote-no momentum, said she did so “on principle.”

“We are being bombarded by education changes, endless unfunded mandates from the state. That evening, they had just removed the cap on charter schools. They have continued this assault on education that has not improved the educational outcomes for children … but has led to socioeconomic and racial segregation,” Mexicotte said.

“(Not passing the resolution) was a way for us to speak to how embattled and how angry we are about this endless assault — without ever saying we aren’t going to follow state law.”

School boards may still call special elections for millage or bond proposals in February, May or August.

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



Sun, Jan 8, 2012 : 4:56 a.m.

If the voters feel you're doing such a bad job that they vote you out, then maybe have an "upsetting board" every two years is a good thing!


Sun, Jan 8, 2012 : 4:08 a.m.

So far 86% says no on the poll to 6 year terms, so think again. AA doesn't trust you to be in those positions that long so don't get that comfortable. We voted you in, but it isn't a decade long appointment!


Sun, Jan 8, 2012 : 1:14 a.m.

Power grab by those in power. Typical.


Sat, Jan 7, 2012 : 10:49 p.m.

Bad board, bad idea

John Spelling

Sat, Jan 7, 2012 : 8:47 p.m.

First thing that came to mind - the board can determine their own terms? Don't believe the us congress, state legistlature, or even city council determine their own terms. School boards should be no different. The voters should decide this issue (unfortunately it would be the same voters that placed Mexicotte in office).

Monica R-W

Sat, Jan 7, 2012 : 8:21 p.m.

Just a thought. Maybe they should consider moving to two year terms. Six years on one board is too long of a initial term IMHO. I understand that they are making this change to accommodate Gov. Rick Snyder and his Merry Gang of GOP leaders change in the K-12 School Board Election periods. It not their choice nor fault. But, its a little much to have a school board member elected to a six year term. With such, I would opt for the shorter 2 year term, then the longer one.


Sat, Jan 7, 2012 : 5:28 p.m.

If two years terms are good enough for the US Congress it is good for the Ann Arbor school district. Change is important to education. i.e. learning to adapt and succeed in a changing environment


Sat, Jan 7, 2012 : 5:15 p.m.

Oh please. Ann Arborites would vote for a dead cat for the BoE no matter how incompetent, haughty, or irresponsible they were if they were part of the local elite. Look at the elections we have now and in the recent past. The paucity of good candidates, the 100 percent incumbent re-election rate, the top heavy gold-plated administration we have, the building of high schools we don't have the money to operate, the past midnight votes, huge salaries and raises paid out when the district is short of cash, and people on the BoE who live and send their kids to private schools in Birmingham just name but a few. I believe that in a democratic popular vote system of government that people get the kind of governance they deserve and I will masochistically admit that we in AA are getting what we deserve based on our attitudes, involvement, and voting choices.

Stephen Landes

Sat, Jan 7, 2012 : 4:18 p.m.

From the article: "The (United States) president doesn't serve that long. The governor doesn't serve that long. That's a lot to ask of people," Stead said. You're right, Christine, and it is a lot to ask of the voters, too. The school board has enough entrenched members of the "good ol' members" network to prevent real change without enshrining these people for six years. So the Board doesn't like all the pressure on them to do a good job? Too bad -- let them quit or not run again. The reason that there is pressure on public schools in this state and states across the country is that our public schools are not doing the job we need them to do: they are too stuck in a teaching model more than 100 years old, too focused on a solid union front, too focused on Democrat politics, too resistant to fundamental change. If the Board and the teachers' union want to compete with the rest of the world they need to address factors that drive the alternative education movement rather than complain about it. Accountability, yes. Longer terms, NO.

Billy Bob Schwartz

Sun, Jan 8, 2012 : 1:32 a.m.

Did anybody mention that the US Senators serve six-year terms?


Sat, Jan 7, 2012 : 3:55 p.m.

"will cause significant strife for Ann Arbor, Mexicotte said, primarily because of the large, all-at-once turnover it will create." Does not take a genius to figure out that this is not term limits! IF and that's a big IF the board is doing it's job there is no reason to expect "all-at-once turnover". Maybe some of the board members we have now should be attending night school!


Sat, Jan 7, 2012 : 3:46 p.m.

Just because you attended a school doesn't mean you know how they should be run. Parents, today, are irrational and over protective when it comes to thief own children. The father from who supported his son's assailing of the Superintendent as a matter of free speech. Dad should have been more concerned with teaching his son respect. Kids are well aware their rights these days...they're not so familiar with responsibilities that come with those rights. Dad had a great opportunity to address those responsibilities. I'm not a fan of the A2 school board and it's policies but you "experts" sound ridiculous. "being held accountable" sounds great. Believe me you'd be on hear "screaming" about the waste created in the inneficient way the district is run. From one initiative to the other. Meanwhile staff would be in a constant state of catching up to implement the latest board's agenda. "Run it like business" is the constant mantra...what business changes leadership every year? Get over yourselves Ann Arborites

J. A. Pieper

Sat, Jan 7, 2012 : 10:11 p.m.

History might show the AA community that Mexicotte got on the board to protect her issues about her children, as many board members have in the past.

La starry

Sat, Jan 7, 2012 : 7:39 p.m.

I agree that a lot of complaining happens by people sitting back on their couches and not being willing to step up to the plate themselves. There are a lot of parents out there that have taken parenting to an extreme and complain and worry incessantly and think their child is 'gifted' so they deserve more. Parents who applaud their children speaking disrespectfully to an adult should be ashamed of themselves. Parents who speak disrespectfully to or about others in front of their children should be ashamed of themselves as well. BUT --- big BUT ----- the fact of the matter is ..... the school board is doing a crummy job and some of the public schools around ann arbor are horrible, and teaches are depressed and not teaching at their potential........ theres a lot to complain about. When is the AAPS going to listen to people's concerns and actually act upon them so that parents feel like their voices matter? I'm tired of being pegged as a complaining neurotic parent whenever i ask a question or show some concern at my childs school. Ridiculous. We all want the best for our kids. That's what it all comes down too. So this Ann Arborite , respectfully, is NOT going to get over herself .


Sat, Jan 7, 2012 : 3:37 p.m.

one 6-year term every two years = three members two 4-year terms every two years = four members Maximum replacement in an election is three out of seven for stability; six out of seven could be replaced in four years (two elections) for accountability.


Sun, Jan 8, 2012 : 2:06 a.m.

Eminently logical.

Dog Guy

Sat, Jan 7, 2012 : 3:23 p.m.

Six years? Why not for life? How about a hereditary office with family names carved in stone?


Sun, Jan 8, 2012 : 12:46 a.m.

Go Kim Jong un

Stephen Landes

Sat, Jan 7, 2012 : 4:20 p.m.

When will they ask for tenure?


Sat, Jan 7, 2012 : 3:22 p.m.

" a way for us to speak to how embattled and how angry we are about this endless assault " Looks like the drama department is still fully intact.


Sat, Jan 7, 2012 : 2:54 p.m.

The board/Mexicotte didn't mind &quot;racial segregation&quot; a year and a half ago. In fact, Baskett &amp; Lightfoot had this suggestion: &quot;Support those who step up to take initiative, such as Mike Madison, principal at Dicken Elementary&quot; <a href="" rel='nofollow'></a> This action does not surprise me in the least. Stability is code for &quot;keeping with our agenda whether anyone likes it or not&quot;.


Sat, Jan 7, 2012 : 3:17 p.m.

Mexicotte is blaming the state in this article for causing socioeconomic and racial segregation, yet AAPS is the only district to violate the state law against discrimination (to my knowledge). Her acting on principal is grandstanding.


Sat, Jan 7, 2012 : 3:06 p.m.

oh brother...rabble rousing at it's lowest form


Sat, Jan 7, 2012 : 2:35 p.m.

Six years is just too long. As much as Christine Stead is right, that there is a learning curve, six years is a problem for the trustee and for the community. Big turnover is not optimal, it would be better for there to have someone show people the ropes, but it does leave open people getting reelected if people like someone. It's not an easy job, it's a demanding school district, and anyone who thinks differently is just out of touch. With that lift on the charter school cap, it's going to be extremely difficult going forward...


Sat, Jan 7, 2012 : 2:33 p.m.

I hope someone is preparing to challenge the constitutionality of the new state law mandating every other year school board elections. Neither 6-year terms nor elections every other year seems desirable. Every other year elections with 4-year terms and a 7-member board allows for the possibility of a take-over of the board in a single election by a narrow one-issue group, a group that would then have control of the board for four years--perhaps what the state had in mind. Four years is more than enough time to totally dismantle a system of public eduction. And Deb Mexicotte has a very good point about stability--if you wanted to destroy public education, what better way to do it than to have your board majority (and therefore board direction) change every other year, with inexperienced new board members dictating the changes. Either the crazy dictates of inexperienced trustees or the crazy changes of direction caused by the flipflops of leadership every two years would have the very real potential to destroy a system of public education that requires at least some stability and continuity to survive. On the other hand, 6-year terms imposes tremendously on the time of board members. In a fairly transient community like Ann Arbor, the number of board appointments to fill terms that could not be completed would grow tremendously. And what if a board member were not doing an appropriate job--the only recourse to 6 yrs of incompetence would be recall. Thus, every other year elections, 6-year terms, board appointments to fill uncompleted terms, and increased numbers of recalls would all seem to conspire to create the impression of a board very insulated from the &quot;will of the people&quot;--again very undermining of the idea of public education. If I had wanted to destroy public education, I probably could not have devised a more effective way to allow it to seemingly self-destruct. There must be a good way to address these issues. Any creative legal minds out there?


Sun, Jan 8, 2012 : 4:22 a.m.

Bottom line, if we let public education go down the drain, we will be no better than a third world country where the rich get educated and the rest buy guns. The idea that competition in education is as big a fallacy as saying that raising taxes on the rich will stifle job creation.


Sun, Jan 8, 2012 : 2:05 a.m.

Actually, it really should be two-year terms not four or six. But irrespective of that, merely turning over half the board every two years is not a big deal. We potentially turn over the ENTIRE United States House of Representatives every two years. In our case, we're talking about a school board. Moreover, the &quot;problem&quot; of turnover already exists. Every two years, currently, there is the potential for half the board to be replaced. Nothing is changing except that two members may lose out on a year to get up-to-speed. This is very silly reasoning or justification to go to six year terms. Arguing to the ridiculous, it makes more sense to go to elections every six months so we could really get board members up to speed.

Billy Bob Schwartz

Sun, Jan 8, 2012 : 1:24 a.m.

My comment was @Wondering.

Billy Bob Schwartz

Sun, Jan 8, 2012 : 1:20 a.m.

Very well said.


Sun, Jan 8, 2012 : 12:43 a.m.

Yea Monica, let's get it back to fiscal irresponsibility and throwing money at everything that doesn't work so we can be driven right back to having nothing but oh yea I forget, since I work hard and have money, I'm supposed to give it to everybody that won't work and doesn't work. Plus I'm just supposed to accept blindly at throwing money towards this failing public school system down here because people like you scream bias and racial segregation and every other buzz word that might turn heads. Thanks but no thanks.

Monica R-W

Sat, Jan 7, 2012 : 8:34 p.m.

Not a legal mind but, as in the case of Public Act 4, Michigan Voters could (possibly) overturn the law by starting a Constitutional Referendum petition drive. If the minimum number of signatures required are obtained, the law would be put on hold until the people decide if they prefer to keep it. Now only thing is, our Merry Band of GOP leaders have added language to measures in the past six months or so, to make them Referendum proof. I would not be surprise if they did it to this bill, based on the logical argument you made above about why this law is a threat to K-12 Public School Boards statewide. The only other resource if the law is referendum proof is either challenge the measure validity in State Courts or, wait until upcoming election cycles to remove the &quot;leaders&quot; that voted this mess into office out of their positions.

David Cahill

Sat, Jan 7, 2012 : 2:25 p.m.

I agree with Steve Ranzini: four year terms, with half the board elected every two years.

5c0++ H4d13y

Sat, Jan 7, 2012 : 1:55 p.m.

So the only problem being solved with 6 year terms is that if half the board turns over every two years can be upsetting? But of course voters can take that into consideration when they vote. So why take that choice away from them?

A Voice of Reason

Sat, Jan 7, 2012 : 1:52 p.m.

With all the problems facing our district, this what our school board is spending their time discussing?

A Voice of Reason

Sun, Jan 8, 2012 : 5:27 p.m.

Currently, school district can hold elections at any time they want which cost a district $50,000 or more.-or the salary of one teacher. Seems like someone needs to be the grown-up, Monica and protect mismanaged school districts from wasting money--I guess if the Gov. needs to do something as simple as this, then so be it. Makes more sense to hold the millage elections during regular election times--unless you are trying to hide something from the tax payers.

Monica R-W

Sat, Jan 7, 2012 : 8:25 p.m.

They have no choice. It was a Legislative (i.e. Lansing, Michigan mandated) change in the K-12 Public School Boards election laws. If you want someone to blame for discussing this issue instead of needs in the classrooms, write a letter to your Gov. Rick Snyder. He signed the law.


Sat, Jan 7, 2012 : 3:06 p.m.

kind of important in a big picture way


Sat, Jan 7, 2012 : 1:46 p.m.

I am amazed and humbled by the fact that there are hard-working, intelligent, thoughtful people willing to serve in such a thankless job that requires so many hours. I am hugely appreciative of the people who run for and serve on the school board. It's a ton of work, taking folks away from their families and lives to participate in a really important part of public service, while irritable and often ignorant critics point fingers from their couches. I would support the move to 6 year terms. My only concern would be that of Stead.... it's a lot to ask of people.


Sun, Jan 8, 2012 : 3:18 a.m.

BBS, I totally agree with you regarding the soldiers. It's not a strange way in the sense, everyone wants to tell you how &quot;hard&quot; their job is and how tough it is to have all these finger pointers. Oh the psychological trauma. Must be horrible. Making it sound like it's so noble of these school board members taking on this monumental amount of stress with little reward or praise. you are right though, unless you've been there, no one knows what it's like to be a wartime soldier. Stand up, applaud and stick up for them, not some school board.

Billy Bob Schwartz

Sun, Jan 8, 2012 : 12:59 a.m.

Neph...try being a regular soldier in wartime duty. That's kind of a strange way to answer the comment. So long as you can find someone whose job is harder on them, then nobody else has a hard job? A2anon ....I agree with you on this. Board members spend a lot of time at this, have to listen to anyone with a grip, spend vast amounts of time and effort on the phone or answering emails or talking in person with community members, parents, and many, many others. What is the pay for being on the A2 Bd. of Ed.?


Sun, Jan 8, 2012 : 12:37 a.m.

HA....try being a police officer.


Sat, Jan 7, 2012 : 4:28 p.m.

I don't think of myself as one of those &quot;irritable and often ignorant critics&quot;... who &quot;point fingers from their couches&quot; sort of taxpayer and citizen of this community. I read, analyze, and engage in critical debates and positions with other informed persons, and arrive at conclusions based on these discussions. If Mexicotte ever decides to run for any higher public office, I would not vote for her. I find her to be utterly offensives in the positions she takes and the way she supports them that under no circumstances does she represents the views I consider to be appropriate for the district.

Stephen Lange Ranzini

Sat, Jan 7, 2012 : 1:18 p.m.

I suggest four year terms with half the Board being elected every two years.

Stephen Lange Ranzini

Sun, Jan 8, 2012 : 2:59 p.m.

@Brad, thanks very much for your kind comments here and elsewhere, it's very kind of you. @Jeff Gaynor: there really isn't a need for an even number of board members. Ties could be broken by written appeal to city council or the superintendent. I would hope that a 2/3rds consensus could be reached for all decisions impacting our children with few exceptions.


Sun, Jan 8, 2012 : 1:57 a.m.

It's actually in the article above, Deb Mexicotte just doesn't like it. Potentially turning over half the board every couple years is not a bad thing.

Jeff Gaynor

Sat, Jan 7, 2012 : 5:49 p.m.

3.5 people elected every two years -- good trick. (My Dad used to tell a great joke, about which half... but it's not appropriately told here. :)


Sat, Jan 7, 2012 : 3:23 p.m.

Sounds eminently reasonable - which is probably why Mr. Ranzini came up with it instead of anyone on the board.


Sat, Jan 7, 2012 : 1:18 p.m.

If they move on this, then ALL of them should be up for re-election in the next election cycle regardless of when their term is up. Then taxpayers of Ann Arbor can decide which of these folks is worth being on our school board for 6 years. Top cat is correct, less accountability in the making.


Sat, Jan 7, 2012 : 1:01 p.m.

Once the hogs start feeding at the public trough why would they want to leave..besides they make the rules...duh....

Top Cat

Sat, Jan 7, 2012 : 12:52 p.m.

Translation......We do not like being accountable to parents and taxpayers as we have our own agenda. So here's a way to be less accountable.


Sat, Jan 7, 2012 : 12:29 p.m.

So Mexicotte felt the need to act &quot;on principal&quot; due to the endless assault on education which has resulted in &quot;socioeconomic and racial segregation.&quot; I wonder if that is the same principal that made her sneak in that 2am vote to give out 7% and 12% raises while the system faces a $15 million deficit?

Danielle Arndt

Sat, Jan 7, 2012 : 8 p.m.

Thanks, Anne, for catching the typo and bringing to my attention. It has been fixed.


Sat, Jan 7, 2012 : 1:56 p.m.

It's principle. Come on Ann! This is an article on education and you can't spell? Remember, principal is your &quot;pal&quot; and therefor the one that runs your school.

Alan Goldsmith

Sat, Jan 7, 2012 : 11:53 a.m.

Deb Mexicotte and several other school board members have clearly shown they DO NOT deserve six year terms. Maybe there SHOULD be more turn over. This is more about protecting HER political future than what matters for students and voters of the District. Why does she fear letting VOTERS decide? I'm thinking there should be TWO year terms. Problem solved.


Sat, Jan 7, 2012 : 5:35 p.m.

Honestly, they are talking about what to do as a board..


Sat, Jan 7, 2012 : 4:26 p.m.

Protecting her &quot;political&quot; future? This is a local school board. This isn't the Senate or Congress. Goldsmith obviously know very little-- if anything--- about board membership.