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Posted on Thu, Apr 25, 2013 : 5:59 a.m.

Ann Arbor schools administration's budget proposal could result in teacher layoffs

By Danielle Arndt


Members of the Ann Arbor Board of Education and Superintendent Patricia Green, far left, listen to members of the community speak out on the budget proposals. School board trustees, from left, are President Deb Mexicotte, Vice President Christine Stead and Irene Patalan.

Courtney Sacco |

Nearly 50 teaching positions are on the chopping block in the budget that the Ann Arbor Public Schools central administration recommended Wednesday night.

And for the first time since the district's financial struggles began, AAPS may be forced to lay off teachers.

Eliminating the full-time equivalent of 32 teachers for a savings of $3.2 million was part of the $180.59 million expenditure budget that Superintendent Patricia Green and her team of cabinet members proposed Wednesday.

Reductions totaling $8.67 million are needed to balance the budget for the 2013-14 academic year. The administration's budget calls for $6.26 million of those cuts to come from instructional services, with the elimination of teachers to account for more than half of that amount.

Other instructional cuts the administration proposed that would require reducing teaching staff were:

  • Move Skyline High School from a trimester schedule to a semester schedule to save $300,000 by cutting 3 full-time equivalents.
  • Eliminate seventh-hour courses at Huron and Pioneer high schools for a loss of 5 FTE and a savings of $500,000.
  • Eliminate all 10 reading intervention teachers for a savings of $1 million.
  • Reduce the fine arts and physical education positions through attrition (3 FTE, to save $200,000).

This brings the number to 53 FTEs that the administration proposes to cut from its teaching staff.

Aside from staff reductions, the administration also recommended eliminating high school transportation; cuts to athletics, particularly at the middle school level; closing the middle school pools; and reducing funding for the district's theater programs.

Although what was presented Wednesday is the administration's recommendation and the board has the final say in what stays and what goes, it appears the Roberto Clemente Student Development Center program has survived another year. Administrators proposed in early March moving this program to Pioneer. Another program that survived the formal recommendations was the fifth-grade instrumental music program.

Eliminating 32 teachers was among the reductions proposed by administrators last budget cycle as well. However, when they presented their budget recommendations last April, the district already had received nearly 32 retirement notices from staff leaving the district.

So it was unlikely last budget cycle that the district would have to consider layoffs. Instead, AAPS was able to reduce the number of staff through attrition, and even hired replacements for some teachers by seeking inexperienced instructors, who cost the district less to employ.

But the situation this April is different.

To date, the district has received 12 retirement notices. David Comsa, deputy superintendent for human resources and legal services, said annually AAPS usually has about 40 to 50 staff retire.

As part of the budget cuts for the current school year, AAPS eliminated its early notification incentive for staff members who informed the district in advance of their intentions to retire. This saved the district $40,000.

"The fewer notifications could be a reflection of that," said Director of Finance Nancy Hoover.

"This budget year, I think, we really are going to be confronted with the problem of layoffs," board Treasurer Glenn Nelson said, adding this should really alert and alarm all school officials.

The Board of Education has until June 30 to pass a balanced budget for the 2013-14 academic year. A tentative second briefing and approval of the budget was set for May 22.

In the upcoming weeks, the board and administration will continue to work on tweaking and modifying the proposals brought forward.


Deb Mexicotte

Layoffs would come into play if the number of retirements and resignations ended up being fewer than the number of FTE reductions the board agreed to in its budget. Comsa said AAPS would have until the end of the current school year to issue pink slips to teachers.

Not laying off teachers has been a point of pride for the Ann Arbor Public Schools. Board President Deb Mexicotte said about three or four years ago was one of the few times the district has issued layoff notices. No staff ended up being laid off, but the process is "astonishingly complicated," she said. In this previous instance, the district had to notify about 200 teachers, despite only needing to find 30 positions to lay off.

Mexicotte explained this is because if the retirements don't match what the district needs, as far as teachers being able to teach certain courses, then officials must follow specific procedures to identify instructors with the correct credentials and to lay off those in other areas where the number of staff exceeds the need.

"You have to look at probationary teachers first," she said. "... Then you have to go through a very intricate seniority system, where it's done by building, by years in the district, by certification ... In many ways, you have to frighten a larger portion of your teaching staff around all of the moving parts."

Mexicotte said she is saddened that the district is a position where it must consider layoffs this year.

"It violates a long-held practice and philosophy in this district," she said. "It is something we have prided ourselves on. It is a partnership we have had with our teaching staff because we value them so highly. We don't want to lose a single one of them.

"We typically try to use them in different ways or we strive to get those positions through attrition. There have been times where we've missed our targets, and we've actually carried those additional teachers on as long-term subs or as waiting for positions to open up, but sometimes that just makes it even a larger number (of positions) that you have to absorb down the road."

Additionally, the board has opted to use money from its fund balance in the past to avoid laying off employees. However, that is not a favorable option this year for many trustees.

The district is projected to have $8.1 million in its primary savings account, or fund balance, by the end of the school year. It has been estimated the AAPS needs about $9 million in fund equity in order to make payroll for district employees during the summer months, without borrowing money from the state as other districts do.

Mexicotte said she is "disturbed" that cutting teachers — whether through attrition or layoffs — only further increases class sizes, which already is a concern of the community's and the board's.

The Ann Arbor Education Association, as well as the AAEA office professionals and paraeducators unions, agreed to a 3-percent pay cut last month to save AAPS a collective $3.4 million.

The district still is in negotiations with the Ann Arbor Administrators Association, which is for principals and assistant principals, and the central administration to determine what, if any, concessions these employees will be willing to make. Comsa said there definitely will be a pay reduction for the district's central administrators.

"But I can't give you a number now because we don't have it totaled," he told the board.

During the AAEA's update at Wednesday's Board of Education meeting, prior to the administration's budget presentation, union President Linda Carter said the teachers will be watching and listening carefully to the budget discussions in the coming weeks.

"We gave a lot of money to keep the quality of instruction for all students at the highest level. However, we cannot continue to see smaller paychecks," she said. "The AAEA bank is officially closed."

Carter did not stay for the duration of the meeting.

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



Sat, Apr 27, 2013 : 1:45 p.m.

Just seeing that picture makes me cringe.


Sat, Apr 27, 2013 : 12:10 a.m.

Eliminate all 10 reading intervention teachers? There are already so few reading intervention teachers that they rush from one school to another on a daily basis to help those kids most in need of one-on-one assistance in the most basic school function of all-- reading. And they say they are concerned about the achievement gap? That's been a front burner issue for years but now they are going to turn the burner off. Our school board is just as incompetent as the superintendent who leads them.


Fri, Apr 26, 2013 : 6:23 p.m.

If the BOE led by President Mexicotte ignores feedback from community, teachers and students, voters have the option to recall her position. I am curious if other board members would sign a recall petition for Mexicotte and/or Nelson and even be grateful to the community for generating this effort. In the meeting Wednesday night, it appeared that Mexicotte was strong arming other trustees to go along with her and she cuts off dissenting comment whenever it comes up by issuing thanks that sounds pretty insincere. Examples too many to mention, but wednesday night, her spacey commendation of the Tappan orchestra and then trying to bond with Trustee Thomas's history playing the viola very odd given the state of disarray in the district under her years of leadership. Steps to Recall an Official The Petition Form Recall petitions must conform to the specifications prescribed by the Secretary of State (168.952). A separate petition must be circulated for each officer whose recall is sought (168.958a). Recall language printed on the recall petitions that are circulated must be the same language approved by the Board of County Election Commissioners or Circuit Court (168.952).

say it plain

Fri, Apr 26, 2013 : 2:05 a.m.

The idea that Community High School needs to be downtown is silly. It seems the reviews of Skyline's experiments are mixed. The trimesters get mixed to negative reviews, except from the people who like the internal "magnets" Skyline has, and those apparently are only open to Skyline students anyway and have to use a lottery that leaves presumably some need unmet. But every year it seems Community has 4 applicants for every spot they can offer. That would put it at Skyline's building capacity if the total 'need' for Community were met. Why not move Community to Skyline and let all that need get met? So why doesn't the BOE run a survey and see what the customers think? Not just the current students and parents at CHS of course...but the whole AAPS system. Maybe the middle school parents and students too. Hey folks, would you not want to go to a Community that was housed instead at Skyline or Pioneer or Huron or whatever? Why not? What is it about Community that people find interesting and important? Is it really merely size of the school building and proximity to kerrytown? And is the fact that students can take courses or do varsity sports at the 'home schools' something that has to be maintained for people to still be interested in sending their kids to Community?


Fri, Apr 26, 2013 : 11:26 a.m.

Having had a son graduate from Community and a daughter currently at Pioneer, I can tell you that the differences between the two are not very significant, especially in terms of academic experience. Pioneer's academics are sometimes more rigorous, but Community's environment is more relaxed. Both schools work. I'm not convinced that the extra cost, if there is any, is really worth it.

say it plain

Fri, Apr 26, 2013 : 1:14 a.m.

Until recently we were spending hundreds of Ks a year to bus Community students to those big bad old comprehensive schools and back again so that they could take APs and theaters and sports... How many 100s of Ks a year are we spending so that they can keep forums with the extra FTEs that entails? Does anyone know how much per year that costs? Skyline gives up trimesters, PiHi and Huron give up 7th hour, but CHS keeps forum and block scheduling --at what cost per year?! Danielle, do you know per chance? Shouldn't the forums be cut if the counseling staff at the big schools, which are already totally overworked and ineffective, are to be cut further?


Fri, Apr 26, 2013 : 1:11 a.m.

Do you realize that half the kids in AA are below average? That is a shame. But whatever you do, don't cut sports.

Judith H

Fri, Apr 26, 2013 : 12:30 a.m.

As a former public school teacher--teachers can teach without administrators; administrators would have nothing to do if the teachers were all gone. There needs to be significant cuts with the administrators before any more programs and teachers are put on the chopping block. I fear this school system has been mismanaged for years.


Thu, Apr 25, 2013 : 9:12 p.m.

ya gotta do what you gotta do.


Thu, Apr 25, 2013 : 7:48 p.m.

Why not go to county wide school districts in this state? The savings in administrative duplication would really benefit the students. They do this in other states with good results. Trim the fat at the top.


Thu, Apr 25, 2013 : 7:46 p.m.

"You have to look at probationary teachers first," she said. "... Then you have to go through a very intricate seniority system, where it's done by building, by years in the district, by certification ... This is a huge part of the problem. Cutting teachers is wrong to start with, but cutting the newest teachers first makes it even worse. The cuts need to be made based on performance, not seniority. Why keep someone who is underperforming rather than someone who is doing an excellent job, only based on the years in the district? This makes no sense on any level. Keep the best teachers if cuts have to be made. And let's see some real cuts in principals' salaries. End of story.


Thu, Apr 25, 2013 : 7:37 p.m.

Perhaps the public could be schooled on what exactly Reading Intervention teachers do before they are quick to judge. It is my understanding that this is a half-time position per school and mainly services twelve 1st grade students in groups of 2-4 at a time? Sometimes they may work with a 2nd grader or a kindergarten student, but primarily first grade. I would be interested in knowing facts. How many students per year? How many students per group? How many of these students remain in AAPS after intervention? What grade(s) receive tReading Intervention? I do know it's not 3-5. They have their own intervention which is usually the classroom teachers.


Thu, Apr 25, 2013 : 7:48 p.m.

My understanding is that these teachers are 1/2 day at one school, 1/2 day at another school. I don't know how the FTE adds up. The groups are very small, 2-4 students, for an hour, and then another small group of 2-4 comes in for an hour, or something like that. In a half day, they might see a total of a dozen students.


Thu, Apr 25, 2013 : 6:46 p.m.

I don't think anyone likes to see people lose their jobs, but if student counts are declining then teacher staffing levels need to decrease too. My local school district (not Ann Arbor) has reported student head counts reduced by as much as 40% due to Schools of Choice and Charter Schools outflow, yet the head count for Teachers and Administrators has not decreased. No wonder my local district is projecting a multi-million dollar deficit.

Dirty Mouth

Thu, Apr 25, 2013 : 9:49 p.m.

Explain a classroom size at Kindergarten level that currently has a 1:25 ratio? Explain please?


Thu, Apr 25, 2013 : 7:18 p.m.

AAPS student headcount is quite stable...


Thu, Apr 25, 2013 : 6:20 p.m.

This problem stems from the decisions being made in Lansing. All the anger and outrage seems misplaced to me. The underfunding of public education is what is making the mess here. We are left fighting over the crumbs. Write letters to your government officials and stop the gutting that is happening. Danielle where are the articles about Snyder's skunk committee on What about the new voucher system that is on the way in that will severely limit what can be spent educating our children?

Peter Nelson

Thu, Apr 25, 2013 : 6 p.m.

This quote shows how out of touch Deb Mexicotte is: "It is something we have prided ourselves on. It is a partnership we have had with our teaching staff because we value them so highly. We don't want to lose a single one of them." Really? I think if you surveyed the parents and students, there would be a quite a few candidates for dismissal. Oh that's right, you can't do that in this district.


Thu, Apr 25, 2013 : 5:27 p.m.

We know that high-quality teachers (and there are many) are the single most important factor in student achievement and learning (Private schools learned this a long, long time ago). Cutting more staff will most likely result in less learning and less student growth. Administrators and central administration need to step up to the plate and offer concessions (they are most likely waiting until The State decides what it's going to offer/cut in regard to its education budget in order to decide). This isn't fair to students, parents, and the teachers who could be laid off (and possibly rehired should admin. take concessions).

Dirty Mouth

Thu, Apr 25, 2013 : 4:34 p.m.

We had this very same discussion a 2-3 years ago and now were back at it; having to make terrible decisions that will negatively impact our kid's education. I find the lack of budgeting and oversight disgusting.

Dirty Mouth

Thu, Apr 25, 2013 : 4:26 p.m.

Darn it, where did I put that list of Ann Arbor's private schools? See ya AAPS.

J. A. Pieper

Thu, Apr 25, 2013 : 10:42 p.m.

As a teacher in AAPS, I don't blame you one bit! Wouldn't want my kids here either!


Thu, Apr 25, 2013 : 3:48 p.m.

I have always thought that Ann Arbor schools has an excess of administrative positions, which is often where the ideas for cuts originate. I'd rather see the schools cut Administrators than teachers and not hire an outrageously expensive Superintendant.


Thu, Apr 25, 2013 : 3:43 p.m.

Sell Pioneer to UM and Community to Zingermans. Take the cash and improve Huron. Take the teachers and redistribute them. Save on administration and support costs.

Jay Thomas

Fri, Apr 26, 2013 : 1:59 a.m.

Pioneer is huge. You can't just shuffle around its student base.


Thu, Apr 25, 2013 : 8:45 p.m.

Why, because Huron has such a stellar football program? Not.


Thu, Apr 25, 2013 : 7:44 p.m.

Not sure where all the students would go but interesting thought @ Community and the Zingerman Empire. They could really expand their zingtrain thing, and branch out in culinary education.

Tim Hornton

Thu, Apr 25, 2013 : 3:34 p.m.

Paying a teacher 90000 a year will get you in this mess.


Thu, Apr 25, 2013 : 3:50 p.m.

In 2007 the Ann Arbor News reported (by David Jesse) that scores of teachers in the Ann Arbor Public Schools District drew "salaries" of greater than $75,000. Finding an example of a 5th grade teacher drawing over $85,000 (in 2007!!) sheds light on the roots of the budgetary crisis being faced today. It took a Freedom of Information Act to get that information back in 2007. Maybe time for another reporter to replicate it today.

Nicholas Urfe

Thu, Apr 25, 2013 : 3:32 p.m.

So all that money for ipads and laptops. Where'd that go? Where's the impact from that? All the promised upside? How much of it is still sitting in storage?

Jay Thomas

Fri, Apr 26, 2013 : 1:58 a.m.

The money would have been better spent reducing class sizes.


Thu, Apr 25, 2013 : 7:41 p.m.

Firewall or not, let's see exactly where all that money for the tech bond went. My relatives who work at AAPS have not seen a dime for any new equipment in their classrooms.


Thu, Apr 25, 2013 : 4:33 p.m.

Those monies are restricted in how they can be spent. Someone else can fill in the details but there's a firewall around this money.


Thu, Apr 25, 2013 : 2:59 p.m.

And how big will these classes become after these cuts? Many elem classes are already huge and not workable, nor are they educationally sound. In addition, classes in the high schools are so large, it's impossible to even walk into a classroom with so many students jammed inside, sometimes 35+ in rooms built for 25. Cutting teachers is not the way to go on these budget cuts.


Thu, Apr 25, 2013 : 8:56 p.m.

My youngest two kids got through elementary school with 25-30 in each class, including kindergarten. Some teachers have great classroom management skills, while others are lacking. The other actor is the actual composition of the class- how many behavior problems are there? My youngest had a rough crowd, while the second to youngest had a great group that was easily managed, even with remedial education needs by some.


Thu, Apr 25, 2013 : 2:59 p.m.

It's time to "rip the Band-Aid off" Desperate times call for desperate measures. Community High School is an unnecessary luxury we can no longer afford. Close Community and sell off the valuable property. Skyline high has more than enough capacity to absorb the community students. The redundancy and cost in having Roberto Clemente and Ann Arbor tech in separate facilities is ridiculous, combine them. This is not complicated, it's common sense.


Fri, Apr 26, 2013 : 6:57 p.m.

Closing Community would save money. If you look at the demographic makeup of Community you would see that it can never qualify as a focus school due to its low minority enrollment. No achievement gap there because of the low number of minority students. Close Roberto and AA Tech and move them into Community together. Also students attending Community now would just go back to the high school they are districted at, they would not all go to Skyline.


Thu, Apr 25, 2013 : 11:15 p.m.

Dirty Mouth, why do you consider Mack a joke? It's full. Like Community, it helps keep people in the district. If you want to look at performance data, Open kids perform very well when compared to the rest of the district.


Thu, Apr 25, 2013 : 7:51 p.m.

And I guess the ones who are dissatisfied with their districted school but don't win one of the magic Community slots can pound sand?


Thu, Apr 25, 2013 : 4:32 p.m.

Community is a big reason the district keeps some high school students. If Community goes away, it's likely some of the currently population leaves the district, making the financial situation worse.

Dirty Mouth

Thu, Apr 25, 2013 : 4:27 p.m.

Sell Mack first. That place is a joke!


Thu, Apr 25, 2013 : 3:30 p.m.

The students who attend Community don't want to attend Skyline, or they would. Its common knowledge that Community students are districted for Pioneer, Huron, or Skyline, but choose to go to Community due to a LACK of datisfaction with their districted school. That's common sense, and it's not complicated. Community works. The BOE is the problem.


Thu, Apr 25, 2013 : 3:07 p.m.

If you added 500 Community students to Skyline, then the attendance would be more than 2,100 students in a building built for less than 1,700.


Thu, Apr 25, 2013 : 2:59 p.m.

Whether teacher positions are eliminated through attrition or layoffs, the result is larger class sizes. Did the teachers know this when they agreed to take a pay cut? Sell Community High; this property is in a prime location and worth a bundle. The few students who attend this school could go to Skyline which seems to have plenty of room. The administration should take more than a 3% cut. Afterall, some of them received raises recently. Also, the lowest paid employees taing a 3% cut is felt more deeply than the highest paid employees taking a 10% cut. Why not ask the teachers, students, and parents what cuts could be made and actually listen to them and follow their advice? I don't know how they figure that the least senior teachers make $100,000 each even with benefits.


Thu, Apr 25, 2013 : 3:33 p.m.

It's also common knowledge that AAPS only owns the Community building, not the parking lot. Not as prime a property as you think.


Thu, Apr 25, 2013 : 3:27 p.m.

The 500 students who attend Community don't WANT to go to Skyline, or they would. Move the less than 100 Roberto Clemente students to Skyline. Plenty of room.


Thu, Apr 25, 2013 : 3:07 p.m.

If you added 500 Community students to Skyline, then the attendance would be more than 2,100 students in a building built for less than 1,700.


Thu, Apr 25, 2013 : 2:54 p.m.

Why is it always the governor and the states problem for school funding when it is the local school boards making the decisions on how the money they receive is spent? Ann Arbor is not the only school district top heavy administration in Michigan, along with most local governments. Until we start trimming from the top down the rich will get richer and us poor will be always on the bottom.


Sat, May 4, 2013 : 2:02 a.m.

I could be wrong Judy, but I'm pretty sure it has to be county wide if you want it to go into the general fund and not into a special building fund or something. Remember that countywide millage a few years ago that failed although the voters in AA voted for it? Since the county as a whole didn't pass it, we can't do anything about it. We are considered a "donor district" which means we send more tax money to Lansing for schools than we receive back. I have friends in Dexter who thought their community members were crazy for not voting for it because they would get back more money than they sent in. That's like free money and they voted it down!


Fri, Apr 26, 2013 : 6:58 p.m.

aamom, I dis-agree with you, as far as I know you still can vote for a special milage if you want more money for your schools. The AAPS school board as may post have stated are making the decisions and the administration in AAPS is top heavy, Prop A has nothing to do with that.


Thu, Apr 25, 2013 : 5:43 p.m.

I think the problem is Prop A. It used to be that there were good school districts and bad school districts. You could choose where you buy/rent based on how important the schools were to you. Now, in an effort to make things more "fair", people who want to spend more of their own tax money on their schools can't vote to do this. Instead they have to donate money to other school districts. The end result isn't that we have a state full of districts like AAPS used to be. The result is we are all crap and the lower school districts aren't doing any better than before. What a grand idea that was!

Nicholas Urfe

Thu, Apr 25, 2013 : 2:51 p.m.

Once upon a time being a public school teacher was a stable and respected job. Now it has been rapidly commoditized and demeaned into a "low bidder" mentality by those who just want compliant worker-bees to work in their factories. Advice to young people: don't seek a career in teaching.

J. A. Pieper

Thu, Apr 25, 2013 : 10:47 p.m.

I teach in AAPS, and can't imagine why anyone would want to become a teacher these days!

A Voice of Reason

Thu, Apr 25, 2013 : 2:48 p.m.

Please show me the math on how moving Skyline from a trimester to semester system will save $300,000. Struggling kids have a chance to retake classes with the block scheduling. I know many school of choice families that will not go there if you make this change.


Thu, Apr 25, 2013 : 4:30 p.m.

I believe the change means there will fewer sessions of classes taught over two semesters compared to the trimester scheduling. I don't know if this means some classes will see slightly higher #s but someone did the math previously and the change means fewer FTEs needed.


Thu, Apr 25, 2013 : 3:33 p.m.

It results in a reduction of 3 full time teaching positions - on paper at least.


Thu, Apr 25, 2013 : 3:24 p.m.

There are barely 100 school of choice families that apply to Skyline at this point, so no great loss. My kid went to Skyline, and in one class was one of the THREE students to EVER do the homework. What needs to go is this "mastery concept." The kids don't do the work in the first place, and still can get a B in the class. If a kid doesn't do the work and needs to retake a class, it should be on the parents own dime- in summer school. If kids are really struggling, there's always Roberto Clemente with plenty of openings.


Thu, Apr 25, 2013 : 2:41 p.m.

Save our teachers - reduce administration.


Thu, Apr 25, 2013 : 2:38 p.m.

Here's a thought: Layoff the under performing teachers and keep the good ones! ... that is, if the Union will allow it.


Thu, Apr 25, 2013 : 2:28 p.m.

Danielle, does the 32 number take into account the 12 retirement notices? I'm assuming yes. There's been no mention of what the district expects in terms of additional retirements. I know that's a big unknown. Given previous years data, does the district expect another 20 retirements? 10? It would also be interesting to know what the average years of service are at the various levels? Are elementary teachers trending toward fewer average years of service? Is high school math trending up? etc.

Haran Rashes

Thu, Apr 25, 2013 : 2:15 p.m.

With a five weeks left in this academic year and students having already met with their counselors for next year's academic planning, I think it is a little late in the game to change Skyline from Trimester to Semester for next year. To accommodate the electives she wants to have, my daughter took summer school last summer and is planing to do so again. We schedule our summer vacation around the summer school schedule and registration for summer school opens in less than a week, on May 1. It is not fair to students to change the rules so late in the game. The Board of Education knew these cuts were coming and even discussed changing Skyline to semesters in December, see . It almost May and our elected Board of Education is still studying the issues. Sorry, it is time for action or a commitment to inaction. Our students deserve better than this uncertainty.


Thu, Apr 25, 2013 : 6:44 p.m.

Anyone going into their senior year at Skyline should have most of their requirements out of the way at this point. My kid needs 1 English credit. Lots of kids graduate early since they ave taken extra classes with the trimesters. There are 7 weeks left to the school year, and anyone who has lived in Ann Arbor for at least a year ought to know that anything can be changed at any time.


Thu, Apr 25, 2013 : 4:29 p.m.

If trimesters are eliminated at Skyline, I can't imagine they could do it for the upcoming school year. The trimester schedule can be tricky if a kid takes music, foreign language or is in one of the magnets. The rising seniors I know have very carefully planned their schedules to get all the required credits for graduation. These kids would need emergency sessions with counselors to try to figure out what to do if they suddenly could not take 1/3 of the classes they planned to their senior year.


Thu, Apr 25, 2013 : 2:11 p.m.

7 hour at Pioneer and Huron is educational centric and should not be pulled. That cutback does not make sense- First commonize the three schools. Keep the 7th hour as a additional paid crdit hour similar to going to WCC? Maybe have some need based scholarships. The focus should be the education of the children, and help them rise to their maximum potential.

Tom Joad

Thu, Apr 25, 2013 : 1:51 p.m.

The first thing to be cut should be sports. Students are there for education. If the district requires reading intervention teachers that means the district is failing in its essential obligation to teach rudimentary skills. Why compound that with the reduction of these teachers so that those students fall further back and perhaps not graduate at all?


Thu, Apr 25, 2013 : 11:13 p.m.

Tom, are you a teacher? Do you have any ideas why some kids have a hard time learning to read, or "get" math or another topic? If not, don't make the grand statement that the district or a teacher is to blame if a student requires more help with reading.

Nicholas Urfe

Thu, Apr 25, 2013 : 3:31 p.m.

Tom, they won't even disclose the details of the sports budget. That's how out of touch they are, and how much that sacred cow is protected. Additionally, there are vast sums spent on facilities for after school sports. Those are typically not included in the "sports" budget. They are talking about not bussing students to school, but are they still bussing students to after school sports events?


Thu, Apr 25, 2013 : 2:17 p.m.

I would not fully remove sports. Kids need some form of fitness to be healthy as a lifelong acpect of life. Just like learning how you work with your money, you need to learn how to treat your body so that it is sustained properly over the long term. Now, allocating the precious resources for select few for the school teams should be debated. Intramurals make sense - the emphasis on interscholastic play my be deemphesised

Nicholas Urfe

Thu, Apr 25, 2013 : 1:39 p.m.

It has become very apparent to me why what's her name decided to leave when the going got tough.


Thu, Apr 25, 2013 : 2:40 p.m.

Retire??? I wonder what kind of package she got???


Thu, Apr 25, 2013 : 1:30 p.m.

Ms. Green should not be part of this process. She no longer has skin in the game. The new 'internal candidate' superintendent can lead this budget process once in place. I believe that there are internal candidates and propose the following to put this position in place: Seeing that the Ann Arbor BOE is clueless when it comes to identifying internal talent that could fill the Superintendent position (the same applies to most Balas positions – clueless when it comes to knowing their own team members), what I have done successfully when confronted with a challenge such as this (having to pick a solution when I do not know the people) would be as follows: • Pick the best team facilitator in the current AA school system to facilitate a meeting • Invite the true talent of the AA school system to the meeting (all of them) – the school teachers • Notify the group ahead of time as to the objective of the meeting which would be to identify and select 2 to 5 internal candidates who would be a good interim superintendent • Notify the group ahead of time that this is the only objective for the meeting – identifying internal candidates • Provide lunch or breakfast for the group. Oh – yes, we have no money for this, but I'll bet that we could easily find several local businesses willing to pay for the meals on the basis that what is going to be accomplished is in the best interest of the community The end result of this activity would be identification of internal talent that can take the open position. Once filled this way, the group can then see if they just selected the permanent candidate based on interim performance. If the group likes this idea, I can then advise on how to pick from the 2 to 5 internal candidates identified by the teachers. Go figure!


Fri, Apr 26, 2013 : 5:43 a.m.

I had a clueless BOE once: he kept showing up everywhere like a whack-a-mole with flowers. Hit him over the head with my purse to make him disappear, but he kept coming back for more. Then I realized it was just some poor Ann Arbor dry cleaner: I had dropped my laundry list, so he took the liberty of suggesting improvements and was obsessed with returning it. Go figure!


Thu, Apr 25, 2013 : 2:19 p.m.

Maybe, you should run for office - since there are a lot of rocks being thrown around

Nicholas Urfe

Thu, Apr 25, 2013 : 1:39 p.m.

Agreed. Send the short-timer packing.


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

The issues with teacher layoffs could have been fixed in the new teacher contract, along with other issues, the BOE and the administration, decided they did not want to address any of these issues. The complexity that Ms. Mexicotte talks about is squarely on HER shoulders, she and she alone is the president of the board. She and SHE alone has to look in the mirror on this one. The whole process here is designed to inflict MAXIMUM pain on as many families as possible, with out driving too many of them out of the district. Then next spring they will do it all again and tell the people in the district "the sky is falling, the sky is falling,vote for the new millage and all will be well." AND of course for a year it will be and then we will be back to regular cuts because of the structural issues with the way the district is run. We could vote them 5 or 6 mils of new money (more than is allowed) and they would find ways to spend it immediately. That is our administration, pay raises all around, followed by yet more College level athletic facilities and new glass walls around administrative office areas, and... Then it would all be gone and we would be back to budget cuts again. The BOE had a real chance to fix the largest personnel contract they have and instead they locked themselves into a 5 year deal that offers no actual fixes for the situation and left in place a promise to the teachers to give them (the existing teachers) most of the money that the district gets in the future. Yes, Mr. Thomas points to technical reasons why they won't actually give the money, but knowing the BOE and their past actions, they will feel morally obligated to give the money to the teachers. So enjoy the pain Ann Arbor, the administration is safely tucked into their jobs and the board is blindly steering the ship to yet another millage increase and a big payday for the existing employees. To paraphrase David Farragut "Dam* the students, full millage ahead".


Fri, Apr 26, 2013 : 11:32 p.m.

agree with a2ed, more focus should be on principals and how morale is affected by ineffective/bullying principals. Right here in Ann Arbor, we have one that should have been fired and one on paid leave. Not to mention the principal shuffle that constantly goes on.


Fri, Apr 26, 2013 : 11:28 a.m.

sorry . . . . should read- principals.


Fri, Apr 26, 2013 : 3:13 a.m.

We hear so much about ineffective teachers . . . poor teachers . . . deadwood, etc. But why is it that we never hear about the real source of the problem: poor administration? Building principals set the tone for the school. And, contrary to popular belief, principles can get rid of poor teachers (especially now). The fact is, there is little incentive for principles to do so. What? . . . are building administrators wearing invisibility cloaks? Why do they get a free pass when they do so much damage??


Thu, Apr 25, 2013 : 5:22 p.m.

Doesn't any millage have to be county wide? That means it won't pass whether the board wants it to or not.

A Voice of Reason

Thu, Apr 25, 2013 : 1:11 p.m.

I think the new laws state that layoffs are NOT based on tenure anymore, so maybe we can get rid of the dead-wood!


Thu, Apr 25, 2013 : 3:02 p.m.

That would be nice, if AAPS could get rid of poorly performing teachers regardless of how long they have been in the district. Reading other comments, however, I don't think it will be possible.


Thu, Apr 25, 2013 : 2:44 p.m.

@Amoc -- so, we are still stuck with the 'Cat Lady' teaching english?


Thu, Apr 25, 2013 : 2:04 p.m.

Not yet, Voice of Reason. The new law adds "teacher effectiveness" including student learning gains on tests like the NWEA to the items that MAY be considered when having to lay off teachers. That means the decision on who to lay off is no longer required to be strictly "last in, first out", once the 2013-14 teacher evaluations have been done. That will help next year, but for now layoffs would be in reverse seniority order within a group of teachers certified to teach at a given level. Very little deadwood will be pruned; it will be the "fresh shoots", teachers who have been in the district for 3 years or less, who will be eliminated first. That said, the reason I'm saddest to see Dr. Green go is that her accountability system for school district administrators (building principals and Balas alike) was just beginning to have an effect. When tenured employees have clear annual objectives and requirements but do not meet them in spite of training, coaching and counseling, you have the evidence you need take action to reassign or remove them from their jobs. Change at that level is very slow, and when we change superintendents or have an acting super, I fear that momentum (and maybe even the documentation that already exists) will be lost.


Thu, Apr 25, 2013 : 1:46 p.m.

5 years under the new contract with the AAEA and then the contract can be discussed again. Until then, we live with the contract the BOE approved.


Thu, Apr 25, 2013 : 12:57 p.m.

I actually watched the WHOLE meeting on TV last night. It really made me look at some of these Board members in a different light---some good and some not so good. One thing that was frustrating is that a few of the Board members took SO LONG to make their point or ask a question---we don't need to hear anecdotal stories or comments feathered with ego stroking---move it along! No wonder they want to put a time limit on it! Second, as the evening wore on (and maybe that was part of the problem) I definitely got the sense that there was contention in the ranks of the BOE, not necessarily outright, but definitely felt like an underlying factor. This made me feel like anything the BOE needs to accomplish will always be an uphill climb, no matter how big or small. While I have not been happy about some of the things the BOE does and I especially despise the use of PEG in the schools, I do appreciate that a few of the BOE are genuinely concerned for low-income and special ed students, seniors who need extra counseling, etc.. and are constantly bringing that to the forefront when budget cuts are being discussed. Now if they could just do something about staff placements in the trenches and Balas that are either not working or are wasteful...


Fri, Apr 26, 2013 : 2:20 a.m.

This is why Detroit got an EFM. Because Detroit City Council fought the mayor and wanted to keep things the way the are now. Sad but true. This council and Detroit are no better off 6 months ago then they are now.


Thu, Apr 25, 2013 : 1:45 p.m.

barb - Last night was tame.


Thu, Apr 25, 2013 : 12:45 p.m.

Pay the Superintendent more money. Yeah, that's the answer. She is so good she will figure out a way to save teachers jobs, that why she is worth so much money!


Thu, Apr 25, 2013 : 12:44 p.m.

The U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) states that its function is to provide "economic, development and humanitarian assistance around the world in support of the foreign policy goals of the United States." While the effectiveness of foreign aid remains up for debate, the United States recently has continued to pump around $50 billion in aid to other countries each year. Not to worry that was in 2012 and we'll be giving more this year.


Thu, Apr 25, 2013 : 12:37 p.m.

And when all the teachers are gone, the atheltic departments eliminated, music and arts thrown out the window, all that will be left are the bureacratic administrators. Wake-up Ann Arbor!!!


Thu, Apr 25, 2013 : 12:26 p.m.

I see major flaws with this budget process. First, the administration needs to take the lead on cuts, not sit back and follow Lansing's idea of shared sacrifice (everyone else shares, but we don't). I don't hear much in the way of cuts from the administation side of things, but the district expects the teachers, coaches, officials, and other non-administration positions to take huge cuts. Second, I know the AAPS has avoided layoffs since this crisis began, but the question is should they have. How have enrollment levels changed over the previous several years when the school knew there was a financial crisis on the way. According to the information I have found, the school district had 16952 students in the 06-07 school year and has dropped to 16544 students in 2011-2012. The 2012-2013 enrollment was 16546. Should cuts have been made to the number of teachers over this time, or were these cuts all accomplished by retirements? Finally, are the proposed cuts and changes really making the best use of the staff? To me the reading intervention positions are rather important. Are these more important than having some teachers teaching elective classes? Is the district making the best use of the teachers they have. Moving Skyline to a semester format might be better for education, but does it make the best use of the staff.

J. A. Pieper

Thu, Apr 25, 2013 : 11:07 p.m.

Voice of Reason, forgot the Reading Intervention teacher, the Title I teacher, and the ESL teacher. Not to mention the Physical therapist, and the Occupational Therapist (these specifically work with special ed students), so our teacher/student ratio would drop closer to 1:11.

J. A. Pieper

Thu, Apr 25, 2013 : 11:03 p.m.

Voice of Reason: When counting teachers, the district just uses the Full Time Equivalent, or FTE. There are 16 classroom teachers in my building, but then we have teachers for:art, music, gym, library, a social worker (not full time in the building), a speech & language teacher, a full time special ed teacher, and a half time special ed teacher. So if all our staff was included in the teacher/student ratio would be about 1:15, which is similar to your figures, But believe me, it isn't that low, it is just short of 1:23. To truly figure out the teacher/student ration, one should only count classroom teachers.


Thu, Apr 25, 2013 : 5:03 p.m.

There is something else to consider. State law does not manadate the pupil teacher ratio for a general education classes, but for special education classes the ratio is set. IIRC the ratio dependings on the classification of students. The most students in a single room can be 10-1 or 12-1 with a single teacher IIRC. More severe impairments require a a larger staff-student ratio. Most schools also have paraeducators along with the teachers in a classroom, but those don't count in the ratios. 12 students in a room with a teacher and para is still a 12:1 ratio. What we have seen in recent years (15-20) is an explosion of special education students in my opinion. When I was in school we had two special education teachers for a 3 grade middle school (6-8). The same school, while slightly larger in terms of enrollment, now has 6 special education teachers. We had ZERO parapros in my class, but now those teachers have at least 1 if not more with them.


Thu, Apr 25, 2013 : 2:20 p.m.

It's easy to interpret data in a # of ways. The 16:1 ratio may be "true" but it's across all types of classrooms. Should a Kindergarten class have 35 kids in it? My child at Pioneer can barely fit into her desk for Spanish. The class is PACKED. Is that conducive to learning?


Thu, Apr 25, 2013 : 1:44 p.m.

The "teacher count" is everyone in the AAEA. A couple of years ago AnnArbor.Com posted a spreadsheet with numbers in it. The building by building look was short about 200 people (I did not go back and find the exact number - you can if you want) between "teachers" in the buildings and members of AAEA. No one on the board, or the administration ever explained where these 200 people were. The education reporter at the time filed two or more FOIA requests to find out and was turned down. I still have no clue where these people are.


Thu, Apr 25, 2013 : 1:04 p.m.

I could be wrong, but I thought AAPS uses a very loose interpretation of the word teachers--i.e. that "1000 teachers" are not all classroom teachers. I think another poster had more detailed information about this.

A Voice of Reason

Thu, Apr 25, 2013 : 12:50 p.m.

Great question: 1000 teachers and 16,000 students = 16:1 student to teacher ratio!


Thu, Apr 25, 2013 : 12:25 p.m.

I have yet to hear or see any plan or suggestion of consolidating all support services with the surrounding school districts. Combining purchasing, human resources, custodial operations, maintenance, and even th e possibility of steamlining the education program for the basic requirements could potentially save millions of dollars accross the school systems. I have recommended this in the past and even brought it up with Deb Mexicotte at the Clague meeting. This suggestion is serious and should be reviewed, not just sluffed off as a whiney voicing an opinion. There are ways to cut back through consolidated operations.


Thu, Apr 25, 2013 : 1:40 p.m.

gyre - I and others have proposed that several times, I gave up after last year. The quick back of the envelope calculations that a central purchasing system through WISD for all standard items would save about 20% on purchasing based on volume, competitive bidding, zero inventory delivery to the schools, and other standard practices was ignored. Not only ignored but the person suggesting it was told they were "stupid" to even thing that way. I have never seen that Director of Purchasing who has won a number of awards for their innovations at another meeting. The administration and the board do NOT Listen.

Chris Blackstone

Thu, Apr 25, 2013 : 1:35 p.m.

I asked this of the trustees on Saturday at the community dialogue at Scarlett and Trustee Nelson made a reference to around $1,400 that AAPS gets as long as it's NOT part of a countywide district and how difficult it would be to loose that money. However, I think that money could easily be made up if less money were being spent on administrative costs by each district and instead shared county-wide.


Thu, Apr 25, 2013 : 12:21 p.m.

Close Community. Waste of money.


Thu, Apr 25, 2013 : 12:21 p.m.

Gees, You missed the part about blaming it on the sequester......


Fri, Apr 26, 2013 : 2:18 a.m.

O I forgot about that one. Yes, lets blame that one too.


Thu, Apr 25, 2013 : 12:18 p.m.

How much savings if you cut football entirely? Its demonstrated long-term bad health outcomes alone should put it ahead of everything else on the cut list. Wouldn't that be great? To choose reading over football?


Fri, Apr 26, 2013 : 7:21 p.m.

I don't think the football program accomplishes what you suggested. I was at a Pioneer game 2 years ago. Pioneer stands were virtually empty. The opponents side was filled with people, including a student only cheering section and a section for their marching band. I don't know if this is typical, but it was embarrassing for Pioneer. This was a post season play off game.


Thu, Apr 25, 2013 : 2:18 p.m.

I guess I don't see it as stupid. Yes, I know it's tradition, and feeds college programs which amke money, and creates school spirit. BUT. It's an extremely expensive sport, involves a lot of violence, and fosters some pretty negative social attitudes as well. If we are going to think outside the box, this is a great box to think outside.


Thu, Apr 25, 2013 : 12:29 p.m.

I will be honest, your idea is stupid. Yes football does have some potential health risks, but so does soccer, swimming, basketball, volleyball, and every other activity. Should football be maintained without cuts while reading intervention positions are eliminated? No. The district needs a solid balance, and better facilities usage within the district.


Thu, Apr 25, 2013 : 12:17 p.m.

@ Danielle - in your story you quote President Mexicotte saying "probationary" teacher positions will be looked at first. What does this mean? Is that a teacher with a poor personnel record or does it mean teachers hired during a probation period in a temporary position. If the latter is the case, what are the number for teachers who are long-term subs but considered probationary hires or new grads from ed school at the bottom of the pay scale? Her quotes to me boil down to: it's going to be really bad Ann Arbor. Tax increase on the ballot ASAP. 2.) Also, at the beginning of the school board meeting last night, Mexicotte commended administrators or was that commending clerical/administrative positions. She was absurdly cheerful, in my opinion, asking for a second to her proposition and then inviting colleagues to be "unanimous" right team? 3.) The parent who spoke at public comments, Ms. Malcolm, really told the board the key things they need to address to repair public confidence. Do you know if any trustees ever answer Ms. Malcolm? Another commenter, an older gentleman who identified himself as a tax payer, advised the board to exercise more careful "introspection" about why the district is in the state it is in. Do you think following up with some of the public commenters at the meeting, especially ones like Ms. Malcolm, who return to speak, might help the community understand what the BOE does with the feedback it receives? 4.) I do not see many ideas from the budget forums incorporated in these new recommendations. Why did the BOE hold these forums if suggestions, many of them valid and thoughtful, were not considered or an explanation not provided for why they are rejected?


Thu, Apr 25, 2013 : 7:47 p.m.

There needs to be a "really really good evaluate system to know if teachers are good or bad?" And there needs to be a really really good administrator who KNOWS if a teacher is really good or bad and is not afraid to mark them as so!


Thu, Apr 25, 2013 : 6:19 p.m.

Also, Snyder essentially did away with tenure, but because AAPS hasn't changed their contract (because of the stagnation (and lowering of) of wages, tenure is still in place. Also, there needs to be a really, really good system of evaluation to know which teachers are "good" or "bad" - a simplistic system (like most) aren't really fair or accurate evaluations.


Thu, Apr 25, 2013 : 6:16 p.m.

Yup, probationary is now 5 years. This DOES NOT necessarily mean that they are new teachers, as anyone new to AAPS is probationary. A teacher could come to AAPS with experience elsewhere and still be probationary. Instead of solely looking at probationary teachers, it would be nice if tenured teachers could be cut as well, but that's one thing that the union protects.


Thu, Apr 25, 2013 : 4:06 p.m.

Ms Webster - Thank you for the update. I was working off an old document.


Thu, Apr 25, 2013 : 3:25 p.m.

Don Bee, Not under the new state tenure laws. New teachers are probationary for 5 years then they must be rated effective or highly effective to receive tenure, if they do not receive the rating then they are not granted tenure.


Thu, Apr 25, 2013 : 1:36 p.m.

aaparent - You are a probationary teacher for your first 3 years, then you get tenure and are almost untouchable.

Basic Bob

Thu, Apr 25, 2013 : 12:16 p.m.

Can we possibly frighten any more people? Pink slipping hundreds of people who are not at risk of losing jobs is grandstanding and poor management, plain and simple.


Thu, Apr 25, 2013 : 3:10 p.m.

babymay11, could you please tell me what law you are talking about? The company I work at "never" has given people 60-90 days before a layoff.

A Voice of Reason

Thu, Apr 25, 2013 : 12:48 p.m.

Bob, it is a game and we know what they really want...a Millage!


Thu, Apr 25, 2013 : 12:29 p.m.

It's the law you have to give something like 60-90 days notice to anyone who possibly might be laid off. With not knowing the numbers of retirement until August, and with the complex seniority rules in place, they have to send notices to everyone who possibly could be affected.


Thu, Apr 25, 2013 : 12:16 p.m.

This report is sickening to read. Really? Cut all the reading intervention teachers? Cut more teachers? How far removed from reality are you??? I agree with all of the other comments regarding administration cuts...not just at Balas... across the district! Danielle, can you please report how many exactly are on payroll as administration? What are the costs for Balas alone? How many are housed there and their salaries? Why do we never hear any details about what goes on there? I disagree vehemently with the proposed cuts from Dr. Green and her staff. Why are we still asking for her recommendations??? She's leaving!!! Please focus on what's important for the students who are directly affected and for the community that has funded this district. I pray that the BOE can come up with other solutions to the budget issues and have the guts to cut administration. I'm saddened to see programs cut every year in this district. I chose to live here for the quality of our schools years ago, and now that I have kids old enough to go through the is a shame that they are not receiving all the opportunities that used to exist here.


Thu, Apr 25, 2013 : 9:09 p.m.

Reading intervention teachers only work with 1st graders and sometimes an outlier 2nd grader. They are no benefit to new kids who move into the district who are older than 1st grade.


Thu, Apr 25, 2013 : 3:08 p.m.

LuvAA, why not not develope a program where kids help kids. When I was in school many years ago students got credit for being "student teachers". These were older students that did not need to be to sit in a classroom going over things they already knew so they went to other classroom to help other students and the teachers. Off course with teacher unions so strong now I am not sure it is possible todays for this type of program.

A Voice of Reason

Thu, Apr 25, 2013 : 2:47 p.m.

Sorry, it is Title 1 not Title 9 (college sports for women)... I am not sure, but it would be good to know the answer. There is federal and special education money involved and it is protected, but I am not sure if there are redundancies.


Thu, Apr 25, 2013 : 2:24 p.m.

@Voice of reason - while I would normally agree with your statement, that students have services through Title 1 or special ed, what about the kids who don't meet requirements for either of those services? My son has had reading intervention in elementary but due to district cuts, etc., he lost services in the latter years of elementary and no longer qualifies in middle school, because he is right on the border with grades and SRI scores and just passes the AAPS district guidelines for services (even though external testing suggests he needs help). So unless, I spend more money for outside tutors and therapy, which I already do for some subjects, he is lost in this system. Now that doesn't mean that all teachers and / or reading intervention teachers are competent either. Both of my kids have had excellent teachers for most of their years, however there are a few questionable. For you to say that "good classroom teachers can teach all the kids to read", the operative word is "good". Who makes that call? Some are great! If I could request every teacher I wanted that worked well for my kids, that'd be awesome. It doesn't work that way. Next, what happens when a teacher has close to 30 or 30+ kids in his/her classroom??? Where do you expect that teacher to find the time to teach a specific child to read? Can I expect them to stay after school to help my kid? Can I expect them to NOT teach the other kids in the classroom, because they are doing fine, and concentrate on the special needs of my child? That would be unreasonable of me and for every other student. Reading intervention teachers serve a purpose...we may not need all 26 if they can consolidate services, and we can trim any that are not qualified to do the job. This is where the importance of performance reviews comes in...for everyone in the district to be held accountable, not just the teachers.


Thu, Apr 25, 2013 : 2:14 p.m.

And Title I funds are only available in schools that have been identified as Title I. That's important. Voice, are you a teacher? It's trite to say a teacher should be able to teach all children in the classroom. We don't know about any special circumstances for any given child that may be impacting their time in the classroom.


Thu, Apr 25, 2013 : 2:09 p.m.

yes, definitely chester drawers, thanks for the correction :)

Chester Drawers

Thu, Apr 25, 2013 : 2:04 p.m.

I think you guys are referring to Title 1, which are federal funds for low-income, underperforming students. Title 9 addresses equality between men's/womens' athletic opportunities.


Thu, Apr 25, 2013 : 1:01 p.m.

@Voice of Reason: so reading intervention teachers are different than Title 9 teachers? I guess I thought they were the same. thanks for the info :)

A Voice of Reason

Thu, Apr 25, 2013 : 12:47 p.m.

Well, good teachers should be able to teach all children in their classroom. I have had children in Reading Intervention and I am not sure where it gets them. The kids who need reading intervention will get it through Title 9 or special education services. Reading is taught best in groups where kids can learn from other kids--kids who really have learning issues or reading challenges will get what they need. Reading Intervention teachers are nice to haves. Good classroom teachers can teach all kids to read.

Chris Blackstone

Thu, Apr 25, 2013 : 12:14 p.m.

People very quickly suggest cutting Balas staff. Is there any actual data to suggest that 1) Central administration is over-staffed? 2) Central administrative staff are overpaid relative to their job description, experience, or comparable jobs? 3) Central administration is intentionally wasteful or not currently working to cut costs and gain efficiencies? Without those kind of details cutting central administrative staff won't necessarily make a different if it then requires more staff at the school level to accomplish necessary tasks. Now I'm not saying Balas should be held harmless in all this, but a simple "Cut Balas" isn't the answer. Danielle, are there any plans for to take a comprehensive look at AAPS central administrative staff vs. that of other comparably sized school districts to determine if AAPS is in line with what others are doing. As to the proposed cuts, the board "seems" to be taking the easy way out by cutting programs whose loss or diminishment won't create a lot of furor. People associated with sports will be concerned, but they have the fundraising resources of booster clubs to make up shortfalls. Programs like reading intervention are imperative to prepare students for the future and should be one of the last on the chopping block, unless there is data to show that these programs in AAPS are ineffective and that the instruction available in a regular classroom will do a comparable, or even superior, job. The board should have thought larger and much more unconventionally to ensure the focus of AAPS remains education 1) Move all sports to intra-mural 2) Eliminate AAPS-provided busing for HS students. Provide students instead with AATA pass 3) Change school boundaries, consolidate and close schools.


Thu, Apr 25, 2013 : 2:33 p.m.

20% overhead - wow! Has AAPS done a study to assess the business core relevance of each position within the organization. Ford, GM , and Chrysler had to do it - why not the city and AAPS. The three auto companies have to pay out of pocket health expenses first before the insurance kicks in. This is on top of there monthly premiums. It is called belt tightening. We have all done it. Some of us had a net 40% drop in salary - Can you say the same for the yourselves!


Thu, Apr 25, 2013 : 1:34 p.m.

Mr Blackstone - If you take the 4 overhead accounts for AAPS reported in the State FID database and compare them to the other schools in the county, the overhead is about 20% above other schools on a per student basis. Is that enough of a reason to look at overhead cuts?

Letitia K

Thu, Apr 25, 2013 : 12:05 p.m.

I suppose I shouldn't be surprised that there is nothing in the budget about Administrators taking the same 3% pay cut teachers have - what a short sighted budget. Class sizes in AAPS - especially the high school and middle schools - are at an all time high. I have spoken with teachers who have anywhere between 33-38 students in a class; this is completely unacceptable. The idea that we would even think about cutting reading intervention teachers, which will widen the achievement gap between those that have and those that have not, is short sighted at best. I watched the meeting last night and heard them all discussing how to implement the ideas that the community has suggested at the various budget forums - figure it out already! For a community that is rich with critical thinkers our BOE is awash of inside the box mentality. Parents, staff, students, and taxpayers need to let the Board hear their voices - enough is enough! "Exceptional Education" is becoming a distant memory.


Thu, Apr 25, 2013 : 12:33 p.m.

The only way to not layoff any teachers and preserve class sizes is for the teachers to take a bigger pay cut than they already did. I believe in the link Danielle posted above, they are cutting some Balas positions. Supposedly administrators are taking cuts too, though they have not determined how much yet.


Thu, Apr 25, 2013 : 12:04 p.m.

This is not my idea - I read it in a comment elsewhere. Close Balas - spread those people around and get them in the schools working directly with students and teachers. They are insulated and redundant. I know layoffs are hard, but the people that have the least impact on students need to go first. Why do some people keep harping on Gov. Snyder? The Michigan economy has been in decline for years. There are greater tax demands on fewer people making less money.


Fri, Apr 26, 2013 : 2:17 a.m.

Me and a few others who are too small to name on this board because we get over looked.

Danielle Arndt

Thu, Apr 25, 2013 : 12:04 p.m.

This story outlines the complete list of proposed budget reductions:


Thu, Apr 25, 2013 : 1:32 p.m.

Thanks Danielle - Now there are 8 or 9 threads that this is cutting across, so there is no one place to see the whole story or the discussion. You have been busy the last 2 days. I hope that gets your page views up.


Thu, Apr 25, 2013 : 11:52 a.m.

wow great idea. graduate kids that can not read or go to higher education because of it. nice move lets reelect snyder or send him to washington.

Jay Thomas

Fri, Apr 26, 2013 : 1:35 a.m.

When housing values went down so did the taxes collected for education. Blaming Snyder isn't going to help and it wouldn't have been better with Granholm (there were cuts under her as well which people have forgotten). At least housing values are now climbing again (so the worst is probably over).

Freight Train

Thu, Apr 25, 2013 : 6:18 p.m.

@ Judy. Snyder cut 1.8 billion dollars from education. He invested 0.8 billion in business and then bragged that the state had a surplus of 1 billion. Many would agree (myself included) that AAPS was not managing the budget well, but this new shortfall is directly related to Snyder. I wonder if his 0.8 billion generated ANY revenue. Yes, you say? Show me exactly how and where.


Thu, Apr 25, 2013 : 4:35 p.m.

Why is it always the governor and the states problem for school funding when it is the local school boards making the decisions on how the money they receive is spent? Ann Arbor is not the only school district top heavy administration in Michigan, along with most local governments. Until we start trimming from the top down the rich will get richer and us poor will be always on the bottom.


Thu, Apr 25, 2013 : 11:48 a.m.

Nooo!!! Cut student services--so much for sports and the arts! Leave salaries and benefits and pensions alone.


Thu, Apr 25, 2013 : 11:35 a.m.

Am I the only one that can do simple division, and come up with salaries of $100,000 for each of the teacher positions and reading intervention positions that may be cut? Outrageous! Guess that includes insurance, retirement, etc too?


Thu, Apr 25, 2013 : 6:37 p.m.

A2reality, Voice doesn't know the difference between Title 1 and Title 9, so there's your answer. If more parents would support their teachers, maybe Balas would get it. I thank my kids teachers regularly. Anyone can see that our teachers are undervalued by the principals and administration!!


Thu, Apr 25, 2013 : 3:06 p.m.

Voice of Reason: Please stop posting your repeated rhetoric. You've made your opinion known that you believe teachers should be paid in peanuts and that they work a handful of hours for a portion of the year. Clearly, you've never taught and have absolutely no idea what it entails. If you think it is such an easy gig, I suggest that you get your teacher's certificate and apply.

A Voice of Reason

Thu, Apr 25, 2013 : 12:42 p.m.

And, that $100,000 is for 65% of all possible working days, so if they did not have summers off, that would be $135,000 per year. The great ones are worth every penny, average or below average teachers are not worth it.


Thu, Apr 25, 2013 : 11:55 a.m.

Thinker - The $104,000 average cost of a teaching head that AAPS uses for budgeting purposes does include salary and benefits. The breakdown for government employees is right around 65% salary, 35% benefits, which includes employer-provided retirement coverage. In private industry, the breakdown for professionals at that income level is typically closer to 75% salary to 25% benefits.


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

Who needs teachers, we are building wind generators to teach the kids!


Fri, Apr 26, 2013 : 2:16 a.m.

And around she goes, where she stops nobody will know. Kind of scary to bet an education on a windmill.


Thu, Apr 25, 2013 : 11:19 a.m.

Close Skyline High School. It's not necessary and never was. That would go a long way toward solving the financial woes of Ann Arbor Schools.


Fri, Apr 26, 2013 : 2:53 a.m.

Voice - if Skyline is so great, why are scores of students wanting to leave to go to Pioneer and Huron?? Why are Skyline's test scores so low (lower that Pioneer's and Huron's), and, lastly, why are so many of Skyline's teachers wanting to transfer out? The truth is that Skyline is the weakest of the three comprehensive high schools on every level.


Thu, Apr 25, 2013 : 7:47 p.m.

Community has many bright students - it also has a higher percentage of kids with special ed. needs compared to other schools.


Thu, Apr 25, 2013 : 6:32 p.m.

Voice, anyone can enter Community's lottery. There are several kids with learning disabilities, autism, etc. One of my kids went to Skyline, where he was one of three kids who ever did homework in class, due to the "mastery crap". Instead, everyone else coasted because they could just take tests and get a B-, which is apparently just fine for some parents. The teachers my kid had there were unhappy, and went back to Pioneer or Huron as soon as they could. It's no mystery why the lottery for Skyline has very few applicants, whereas Community has more who apply each year. If you don't pull your weight at Community, you are "asked to leave." At Skyline, you just get to retake that test, or retake that class. Don't dothe work in the first place.

Freight Train

Thu, Apr 25, 2013 : 6:13 p.m.

@ a voice of reason. Skyline practices "mastery learning", where kids can re-take tests until they "master" the material. With this system you will have few low grades and hence you will never be listed as a focus school. Does it work to master the material? Compare SAT/ACT, national merit scholars and AP scores from skyline with Huron and Pioneer and you will see that Skyline is at the bottom of the heap. I say your lack of Focus designation is just a numbers racket.


Thu, Apr 25, 2013 : 2:12 p.m.

Voice, Community is a self-selected group of students, so of course you're going to see higher test scores, achievement, etc. It's apples to oranges to compare that program to the comprehensive high schools.

A Voice of Reason

Thu, Apr 25, 2013 : 12:39 p.m.

Community High School works because the kids are smart. Average MEAP score of 9th graders coming in is top, so you have easy to educate kids and small class sizes and this is what you get=easy success! It doesn't need a special building to be great. 500 of the best and brightest students apply and the teachers are the best there too. Funny, because Skyline is the next best school academically and is not seeming to get any attention. Pioneer and Huron are Focus Schools and Skyline is not.


Thu, Apr 25, 2013 : 12:20 p.m.

Vida, you obviously have no clue what the concept of Community High is. I suggest looking up the word community in th dictionary. It has nothing to do with being in the middle of nowhere at Skyline. Community is one of the few things in the district that is working- it is the ONLY reward school.

Claude Kershner

Thu, Apr 25, 2013 : 12:05 p.m.

To all the Skyline haters: it's not going to be closed. As much as you hate the idea of the place being built that ship has sailed. Skyline has been a benefit in countless ways to the entire Ann Arbor community much in the same way that Community and Clemente have been. Do you really think closing Skyline, home of nearly 1,800 kids is going to happen?


Thu, Apr 25, 2013 : 12:02 p.m.

Can't close it now, that train already left the station a long time ago. The funding used to build Skyline should have been spent on renovating and expanding Huron, Pioneer, and Community. That idea was shot down despite the writing on the chalkboard indicating a future financial fiasco.


Thu, Apr 25, 2013 : noon

They could move community students into Skyline and rent out Community for some purpose. Skyline is totally under utilized.

Bob Loblaw

Thu, Apr 25, 2013 : 11:36 a.m.

Where would the Skyline students go? Aren't Huron and Pioneer already at capacity?


Thu, Apr 25, 2013 : 11:07 a.m.

Cutting reading intervention teachers is only going to hurt the most vulnerable students!


Thu, Apr 25, 2013 : 3:04 p.m.

That one made me sick to my stomach. My son greatly benefited from a reading intervention teacher who was/is stellar.


Thu, Apr 25, 2013 : 1:21 p.m.

Those are valuable positions, they have helped my family and many others, I am sad to see this considered. My only hope is that some of these cuts (if they happen) to supplemental instructional services can be filled by more active volunteerism and parent participation.


Thu, Apr 25, 2013 : 12:58 p.m.

Which is NOT congruent to closing the achievement gap!!!


Thu, Apr 25, 2013 : 10:48 a.m.

No surprise here, all cuts affect teachers, students and families. Yet, not one mention of cut at Balas in man power or pay!! Comsa says their will definitely be cuts, but can't give everyone a figure. Why not? You folks knew this was coming, this should be an easy number to figure out. Balas saves itself yet again!!


Fri, Apr 26, 2013 : 2:14 a.m.

I have heard teachers call it Palace Balas. And the BOE is its slaves.

J. A. Pieper

Thu, Apr 25, 2013 : 10:48 a.m.

I am hoping that there will be cuts to the administration also. It seems through what has been reported here, that the cuts will only affect students, and specific teachers (Reading Intervention). When will this district understand that their consumers, the tax paying community, want equitable cuts involving administration. And please don't waste your time trying to separate the two levels of administration, those at Balas and at the building level, they ALL are administrators, and should face direct cuts as their front line staff are facing! It is obvious that the Quad A is procrastinating in finalizing their contract just to see how they survive through this process unscathed. I am sure this will further the relationships among principals and their staff ten fold! Oh, and don't for a minute think that teachers are not signing up for retirement because the district removed the $1,500 incentive. To take advantage of this, one had to file in February, which is sometimes too early for people to make the decision. I think many teachers are waiting to see the path the district will be taking through these budget cuts and at Balas before they decide to take this step. You want more staff to retire? Keep making poor building level administrative placements, such as what several buildings are experiencing due to moves made by Dr. Green. Hear lots of staff want to leave that school!


Thu, Apr 25, 2013 : 1:28 p.m.

There are several buildings the staff wants out of as you well know J.A.Pieper. Not just Pioneer. The board and the administration have done nothing to fix 2 or 3 schools for years and not only do the staff want out, but the families are leaving in droves for other AAPS schools or charters. Fix those schools, by biting the bullet and dealing with AAAA, and you could probably add 100 students to the district, but only if the fix was in now so people could see the new environment before school is out. Otherwise there will be a 1 year lag.

Let me be Frank

Thu, Apr 25, 2013 : 10:32 a.m.

Since the list of proposed cuts does not include reductions in the top heavy administration levels, it's clear that the AAPS organization values bureaucracy over education. Cut the fat, not the muscle: teachers and other direct educational rresources.


Fri, Apr 26, 2013 : 2:46 a.m.

Right on.


Thu, Apr 25, 2013 : 2:11 p.m.

Totally agree.


Thu, Apr 25, 2013 : 10:25 a.m.

The amount of waste in the administrative areas is a big issue. Report cards used to be (our kids have been out 3 yrs) mailed in a large envelope that required excess postage. Siple example, save tens of thousands. Lots more.


Fri, Apr 26, 2013 : 2:13 a.m.

I could not agree more. Why 5 half days? Just do it in one fell swoop like they use to. I agree, this is way too much.

Nicholas Urfe

Thu, Apr 25, 2013 : 1:37 p.m.

"And now it takes our teachers days to do these silly reports which don't give you any useful information except reading level and written comments if the teacher has been kind enough to provide those." My sixth grade teacher hated that garbage and would also do a 3x5 card with letter grades for each subject. I'm sure he would be drubbed right out of the system today. Probably escorted from the building.


Thu, Apr 25, 2013 : 1:25 p.m.

Try the whole high school end of semester testing scheme, LOL talk about a waste of school days and time. 5 days for end of semester testing, where most of the students are in school 2 to 4 hours. 10 days out of 178 that the students are not learning and people complain about standardized testing that eats 2 to 3 days a year....LOL


Thu, Apr 25, 2013 : 11:37 a.m.

Seriously! This is so true. And now it takes our teachers days to do these silly reports which don't give you any useful information except reading level and written comments if the teacher has been kind enough to provide those.


Thu, Apr 25, 2013 : 10:14 a.m.

Any news on Balas layoffs or cutbacks yet?


Thu, Apr 25, 2013 : 5:59 p.m.

Need to do more then cut back. Cut it in half. There is too much over lapping. This will save double. OMG Can't wait to see what is left of nothing in September. Is this part of paying off Green once she leaves? Too scary.

Chester Drawers

Thu, Apr 25, 2013 : 1:46 p.m.

Not only will they have to get their own coffee, but just watch the actual amount of real work output plummet when the secretaries are not there to do it.


Thu, Apr 25, 2013 : 1:23 p.m.

477,540/6 = 79,590 per position, taking the benefits ratio, the average salary is under $50,000 per position, so yes, secretaries and assistants, not actual administrators. The administrators are safely tucked into their jobs with no impact on their membership at all. They may actually have to go get their own coffee though.

Danielle Arndt

Thu, Apr 25, 2013 : 12:02 p.m.

Reducing six central office positions and restructuring was on the list of recommended budget cuts. (You can now see that complete list here: But no details were available about what positions those might be. The reduction, though, if approved as part of the budget, is expected to save $477,540, so I'm guessing secretary staff or other director positions.