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Posted on Sun, Jun 23, 2013 : 5:59 a.m.

Ann Arbor schools officials knew about current-year deficit 5 months before spending freeze

By Danielle Arndt


Ann Arbor schools Superintendent Patricia Green speaks during Skyline High School's commencement on Monday, June 10 at Eastern Michigan University.

Daniel Brenner I file photo

Ann Arbor Public Schools administrators knew the district was $1.3 million over budget in October, documents show — yet it was four months and another $1.2 million later before the Board of Education found out, and another month before a district-wide spending freeze was enacted.

When former Deputy Superintendent of Operations Robert Allen presented the district's first-quarter financial report on Nov. 7, 2012, both the report and a powerpoint presentation delivered to the school board showed the district was in line with its budget for the 2012-13 academic year.

Superintendent Patricia Green wrote in her memorandum to the board dated Nov. 2 that "the total budgeted revenues and expenditures remain unchanged for the first quarter."


Former Deputy Superintendent Robert Allen

However, one week prior to this board presentation on Oct. 31, Allen informed Green in his "weekly capsule report" that AAPS had exceeded its budgeted expenditures by $1.3 million, due to the district employing 11 extra teachers.

By the time the school board was debriefed on the budget situation on Feb. 27 in the second-quarter financial report, the number of additional staff had grown from 11 to 29 and the current-year deficit was up from $1.3 million to $2.5 million. obtained Allen's weekly capsule reports through a Freedom of Information Act request. Allen left the district in February to take a new job in North Carolina.

Every Wednesday, at Green's directive, executive cabinet members must submit a report to the superintendent of their division and the work they have completed.

Green then submits a compiled capsule report every Friday, with updates and additional information on her own tasks, to the Board of Education, summarizing the work of the district.

Ann Arbor Budget Crisis

Previous Coverage:

Capsule reports from October show the 11 teachers that were over budget were:

  • Seven special education teachers, as the result of more special needs students enrolling;
  • Four FTEs originally hired using Individuals With Disabilities Education Act grant money that had to be moved back into the general fund due to the grant money ending;
  • And three teacher assistants hired to conform with the Americans with Disabilities Act.

The additional 8 FTE from October to February were due to classroom overages and teachers requesting part-time teacher assistants, Allen said in February.

About three weeks after the second-quarter financial report — nearly five months from when the district first saw signs of trouble — Green enacted a spending freeze. Her capsule reports to the board, which were obtained by, show the first week of the freeze was March 18.

A history of not updating

School board members were surprised, disappointed and beyond concerned in February when the second-quarter financial report was given, showing the $2.5 million deficit.

Trustee Andy Thomas said officials reported the district's enrollment was stable this year, "but then we somehow missed our budget in FTEs in the opposite direction … and we don't learn about this until the end of February?

"To me this is unacceptable," he said at the Feb. 27 meeting. "This is one of the reasons we're in the financial pickle we're in. We need to do a better job of managing our expenses and managing our FTEs, and matching the number of FTEs with the number of students we have."

District spokeswoman Liz Margolis said in an interview Friday, Green did tell trustees about the initial budget shortfall in the fall of 2012 via her capsule reports to the board.

Vice President Christine Stead said Thursday in an interview, she was aware that a budget adjustment would need to be made second quarter because of some teacher FTEs. But a few of the staffing pieces and the exact extent of the problem trustees were not aware of until the February meeting, she said.

The first-quarter powerpoint presented by Allen on Nov. 7 showed 7 FTE, even though he had identified 11 in his report to Green.

Stead also explained it has long been the district's practice to not make budget adjustments after the first quarter. If officials see discrepancies in revenues or expenditures up or down from what they budgeted for, these typically are not reflected in the district's financial statements or corrected until the second quarter, she said.

Stead does not like this process at all, she said, and has voiced her frustration about this to administration numerous times. She especially feels it is necessary for the fund equity balance to be updated to what it actually is in every financial report.

"I hope we will change that practice because it is misleading," Stead said. "... If we know (expenditures and revenues will need to be adjusted), we should reflect them as we know them and how we know them, even if they change again later. ... I've said all along, I'd rather have surprises to the positive, than bad surprises. ... Especially since our capacity to address bad news — well, we just don't have it anymore."


AAPS Communications Director Liz Margolis

Margolis explained the first quarter runs from July through October, so because it is so early in the school year, many things still can change. For example: enrollment is still fluctuating those few months of school; student Count Day, which determines 90 percent of the district's state funding, is the first Wednesday in October, but then the numbers must be audited; and individualized education plans (IEPs) for special needs students still are being developed, which impacts staffing for special education.

The district did make a $1.4 million budget adjustment during the second quarter, in which it transferred money from the district's fund equity, or primary savings account, to the general fund, Margolis said.

Improving practices

When asked about the district waiting until March to implement a spending freeze, Margolis said aside from wanting to wait it out, knowing the situation still could change between the first and second quarter, the delay also partially was due to experience the district has had with spending freezes in the past.

"They haven't resulted in the numbers, or been as effective as we've needed," she said.

But when the district did implement the freeze this year, she said officials did it in a different way than before, with "very strong controls." All purchases have had to go through Green for approval first. She personally has been authorizing or denying requests in order to help control spending and to curb unnecessary purchases.

Stead said, ideally, if you know you are going to be over budget in some areas, you want to put a degree of financial controls in place as soon as possible. But she added: "I could see how they might think they don't need to go to that level yet and might think maybe there'd be some additional revenue coming in to offset (the deficit)."

"But I would err on the side of putting in more controls and being more aggressive on spending freezes," she said.

Margolis said a spending freeze or a transfer to the general fund are really the primary means the district has for addressing mid-year budget deficits. Officials also try to reduce costs any place they can throughout the year, every year — deficit or not, she said.

The majority, about 87 percent, of the general fund is for personnel costs. So Margolis said other districts have issued mid-year reductions when they have been over budget, however, it has been Ann Arbor's practice and preference not to do that due to the disruption it causes for students.


Vice President Christine Stead

The district is in the process of switching from bottom-line accounting to line-by-line accounting, a step initiated by Green. "And we all agree that is going to make a big difference in our budgeting at the beginning of year and for monitoring throughout," Margolis said.

At the June 12 regular school board meeting, Stead requested that the board add into the 2013-14 budget $80,000 for a performance audit of the district's operations, specifically in the areas of finance, human resources and instruction, where AAPS seems to repeatedly have issues with the budget and staffing needs not aligning.

"Why I wanted this audit done is I'm hoping we'll get some guidance and recommendations on our processes around, not just financial controls, but how we manage our budget on a daily basis" ... including best practices for financial statements, Stead said.

"Ideally, we can and want to staff to demand, right? So I'd like to see us get some help on how we can help all of our buildings do a better job managing to a budget," she said.

The issue of equity

The budget bad news kept coming for AAPS well after the second quarter. In May, the district's third-quarter financial report revealed yet another $1.3 million had to be added to the current-year deficit, bringing the new total to $3.8 million.

The Ann Arbor Public Schools' fund balance has been depleted from $12.69 million to $6.87 million this fiscal year. In the 2013-14 academic year budget approved early June 13, the school board agreed to use another $1.18 million in fund equity to balance the budget.

Going into the next school year, AAPS will have $5.69 million in savings, just more than 3 percent of the district's $182 million in operating expenses. The recommended fund balance amount for AAPS is 15 percent of its annual operating budget.

Margolis said right now, district officials estimate that thanks to the spending freeze, $1 million will be added back into the district's fund balance at the end of the fiscal year, which is June 30. But, she stressed, because the fiscal year is not over yet, the district has not paid all of its bills.

It has yet to receive the final invoice from the Washtenaw Intermediate School District for transportation services; and in the third quarter, there were additional costs associated with substitute drivers that contributed to the district's $3.8 million current-year shortfall.

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


Jay Thomas

Mon, Jun 24, 2013 : 3:43 p.m.

The chickens have flown the coop...

Andrew Smith

Mon, Jun 24, 2013 : 12:08 p.m.

Things will improve when large numbers of voters take the time to inform themselves carefully, and then vote in School Board elections. Usually, very few votes are cast in such elections. Candidates need to know that they're stewards of the taxpayer dollar, and that the taxpayers are watching carefully.


Mon, Jun 24, 2013 : 4:13 a.m.

According to MI School Data Student Count Trend ( Ann Arbor Public Schools: 2012-13 / All Grades / Students with Disabilities / All Students From the 2011-2012 to 2012-2013 school year there was an increase in overall student population of 6 students (2011-2012 = 16846 students, 2012-2013 = 16852 students); concurrently the special education population decreased by 35 students (2011-2012 = 1873 students with disabilities, 2012-2013 = 1838 students with disabilities). Perhaps the state reporting is inaccurate or is it AAPS?


Mon, Jun 24, 2013 : 3:21 a.m.

Its Not childish. Look what you people have done. Not just the City of Ann Arbor, Michigan and the USA, too. Bankrupt policies, irresponsible 'leadership', tax and spend habits, poor accountability, unqualified personnel, and damage to schools, jobs, and the nation as a whole. And too cowardly to admit it. The only difference between Ann Arbor and Detroit is the payolla. Government and school boards populated by dreamers. And a press too biased to allow full discourse.


Mon, Jun 24, 2013 : 2:33 a.m.

@Wondering I understand that special education records are separate for a student's regular file; however, on a School of Choice Application, it asks if a student has an IEP or receives special education services. A school system would not request either files, the special ed or academic/student, until the student has been accepted by the receiving district. There are very limited reasons a school system can deny a student, but it does happen. And, they do indeed ask about IEPs.


Mon, Jun 24, 2013 : 1:31 a.m.

My 5 Cents - That is true in general of the statewide Schools of Choice program. The sending district must reimburse (or in Washtenaw allow WISD to reimburse) the receiving district for special education services the student receives in the new school district. However, Ann Arbor Public Schools does not participate in that program. The AAPS students with IEPs or 504 plans who are changing buildings are doing so either because the parents make a request and assume responsibility for transporting the student to the new school or because the AAPS Special Education Department recommends that placement. The school district remains the same.


Mon, Jun 24, 2013 : 12:01 p.m.

Wondering - Yes, 504 plans are general education, not special education and they are used in interesting ways in the district. AAPS, even though they get more reimbursement for special education chooses to use 504 for certain populations of students as frequently as possible to avoid IEPs.


Mon, Jun 24, 2013 : 2:47 a.m.

AMOC- Students with 504 plans are general education students, not special education students.


Mon, Jun 24, 2013 : 12:24 a.m.

"To me this is unacceptable," he said at the Feb. 27 meeting. "This is one of the reasons we're in the financial pickle we're in. We need to do a better job of managing our expenses and managing our FTEs, and matching the number of FTEs with the number of students we have." We're in a pickle? This grossly understates the extent of the problem. I don't see how the financial managers can keep their jobs after this kind of performance.


Mon, Jun 24, 2013 : 12:08 a.m.

When all is said and done, this school district joins so many other right brained liberal Democratic dynasties and constructs which have mismanaged, overspent, lied, cheated and stolen the funding for an essential social service. It takes brutal, unemotional and sometimes cruel policies and actions by groups of conservative financially responsible people called Republicans to rebalance the books, straighten the course back on track and recover the sinking ship. Only to be re-foundered by the next set of liberal social artists.


Mon, Jun 24, 2013 : 2:21 a.m.

So, Republicans wear white hats and Democrats wear black hats, huh? How childish.


Mon, Jun 24, 2013 : 12:03 a.m.

Here we go again let's start pointing fingers at everyone, Green should have said something allen should have said something and BOE and Liz should have said something, I have worked for the Ann Arbor Schools for 34 years and I have seen for 34 years the miss spending and waste going on and on in the schools if the pulbic really knew what was going on you would be floored. This should have been more of a problem years ago but no one was willing to tell and try to stop this so like anything else if you let me get away with it and I don't get in trouble for It, I will keep on going and I will even get brash with it. Its no surprise now that we are in this trouble when the Balas higher ups like from the superintendent on down spend freely and that goes back 34 years ago to now all they do is retire or leave and the next one that comes in takes right up where they left off, no one is accountable its like they feel like they have a big S on there chest. But instead of the S standing for superman it neeeds to stand for Sorry for they are a bunch of Sorry people that are in charge and let that power go to there heads.And before anyone say's something there are a few good ones but they get covered up by the bad ones it's a shame we are like this in the big bad Ann Arbor School system.

Dithering Ninny

Sun, Jun 23, 2013 : 11:16 p.m.

When did Nancy Hoover know about this? As CFO shouldn't the buck stop there? A whole lot of 'good ole boy' network in Balas it seems.


Mon, Jun 24, 2013 : 12:25 a.m.

I don't know how these people keep their jobs year after year. Is there no accountability? If the CFO doesn't know what's going on, then the CFO needs to find another job.


Sun, Jun 23, 2013 : 10:58 p.m.

"Seven special education teachers, as the result of more special needs students enrolling" What the AAPS isn't telling you is that more and more students are coming to AAPS from other districts who claim they don't have adequate services......well, maybe they should hire more special ed teachers so they can provide the services! Some of these students coming to AAPS are bused for long hours, from places like Lincoln, not a good situation for sp ed students for starters. Some are put into taxis on a daily basis. Also, there are "self contained" classes in most schools for students who need more assistance. But some AAPs schools have many students who would be better served at WISD, where the facilities are better and staff are better trained for severe disabilities. But some parents object and insist on keeping their severely disabled students in AAPS classrooms, which incurs significance expense, while the severely disabled students would be better served at WISD facilities out on Wagner. Lots of reasons that Sp Ed costs continue to increase in AAPS.


Mon, Jun 24, 2013 : 1:44 a.m.

JRW - You are aware that WISD operates and pays for several classrooms in the AAPS buildings right? That no AAPS money is involved and that AAPS actually makes a small profit from these otherwise empty classrooms? The Lincoln and other out of district students in self contained classrooms are in WISD's rooms not AAPS.


Mon, Jun 24, 2013 : 1:37 a.m.

JRW - The only special ed students who come to AAPS from other districts are in self-contained classrooms operated by WISD but housed in AAPS buildings. These classrooms are generally the only or one of two that serve students with that particular disability profile within the whole county, and at least as many AAPS students are bused or taxied to special education classrooms in other districts. WISD manages this process and reimburses the district spending the money for services from the county-wide special education millage.


Sun, Jun 23, 2013 : 10:03 p.m.

AAPS are in desperate need of fiscal oversight. If the BOE doesn't take action and make significant changes in the current structure, AAPS may find itself on the list to have an emergency financial manager take over and run the entire district removing the power of the BOE and the district administration. The BOE needs to setup and outline their IMMEDIATE plans to take control of the finances of the district as well as their long term plans to return the district to one that is financially stable and can sustain the needs of the students. If the BOE is not capable or does not desire to take action, then they should resign their positions.


Sun, Jun 23, 2013 : 11:30 p.m.

They have proven numerous times that they are not fiscally capable nor willing to be fiscally responsible. They should be replaced.


Sun, Jun 23, 2013 : 8:41 p.m.

Left AA years ago because of this kind of incompetence and I see no change in the horizon!

Maria Huffman

Sun, Jun 23, 2013 : 8:30 p.m.

To AMOC, I think collecting this data is bigger than AAPS, and should be done at the state level, also.

Maria Huffman

Mon, Jun 24, 2013 : 2:45 a.m.

Well, certainly there's room for improvement...


Mon, Jun 24, 2013 : 1:40 a.m.

Maria - Ideally that would happen. I doubt it will, though. What passed for a State of Michigan Special Education audit is an absolute joke. They look at the files in Balas for 3 randomly chosen IEPs. Of course, if the file isn't in the drawer to be randomly chosen, well, it can't get audited and the district can't get in trouble.


Sun, Jun 23, 2013 : 7:29 p.m.

@DonBee, actually, I did have an IEP years ago, with my child. It was not being followed. I made one phone call to the then head of special Ed. The very next day, the missing part of the IEP (twice weekly access to a speech teacher in the classroom) was in place. I threatened legal action (as a single parent, with limited financial resources). I was willing to advocate for what my kid needed. I realize this was years ago. We also had the IEP updated regularly, but again, this was years ago. After the IEP was no longer needed, my kid had some different speech issues. I contacted the speech therapist and she was happy to sit in the classroom to evaluate my kid, as well as one on one. I guess what is different is the staff I worked with. It is my impression that not every school has teachers and/or principals that will truly advocate for the kids. Such a shame. On the flip side, I know some pretty awesome teachers and principals are out there, if parents take the time to look. Some are in a school of choice in AA, not necessarily one of the "coveted" schools.


Mon, Jun 24, 2013 : 12:03 p.m.

Hi folks, the point I was making above was that MY kids IEP was no longer needed, not that the IEP itself is no longer necessary. I think that was being read into my comment. My child no longer needed services. I think the IEP is great- if it's being followed. Many years ago, I was able to pursue making sure that happened.

J. A. Pieper

Sun, Jun 23, 2013 : 10:55 p.m.

DonBee, not enough parents are aware that they have to follow through and make sure the IEP is being followed, and this is the population that will not ever call AAPS on the carpet for these issues. It takes involved parents to have a successful child progress through AAPS, whether they have an IEP or not!


Sun, Jun 23, 2013 : 10:26 p.m.

The IEP was gone long ago, no longer needed. I understand the basic process, though, and can empathize. Did the mother ever consider changing schools?


Sun, Jun 23, 2013 : 10:05 p.m.

TryingToBeObjective - Good luck now, the mother in this case made numerous phone calls, visited Balas and wrote letters, as well as talking to the teacher and the principal. I know of several other stories that have been verified. IEPs are broken in AAPS.


Sun, Jun 23, 2013 : 8 p.m.

***meant for the above post to be part of the first thread.


Sun, Jun 23, 2013 : 7:05 p.m.

@Danielle, It would be helpful if you attempted to speak with each person involved: Dr. Green, Mr. Allen, each member of the AAPS school board. If anyone refuses, that should be noted as well. It would be helpful to know what each person knew and when they knew it and why they chose to cover up an unexpected deficit. It will be interesting to see who declines to speak to you. Keep those FOIAs coming and get to the bottom of it!


Sun, Jun 23, 2013 : 6:25 p.m.

So this is what you get for paying a new superintendent a record setting salary. It will be interesting to see what the next super will be paid and which house they studied in at Hogwarts, Slytherin, Hufflepuff, Gryffindor or Ravenclaw. Hope s/he remembers to bring their magic wand.


Sun, Jun 23, 2013 : 7:12 p.m.

Mick - Thank you, you made my day!


Sun, Jun 23, 2013 : 6:21 p.m.

". . . discrepancies in revenues or expenditures up or down from what they budgeted for, these typically are not reflected in the district's financial statements or corrected until the second quarter" There, in a nutshell, you have the root cause of the budget over-runs we've had in the last 2 years. And if someone were to dig back through time, I'll bet you dollars to donuts that the source of this practice of not adjusting the budget or being explicit about 1st quarter excess hiring was Mr. Robert Allen. Due to the timing of the fall count day in October, and the fact that under Governor Granholm, the legislature often had not passed their budget until well into October, the school district was often uncertain about their revenue, and the BoE was extremely reluctant to cut staff, especially teachers and TAs if they didn't absolutely have to. These last 2 years, we've had a budget from the legislature by 1 June, even though the BOE wasn't happy with the per student amount they were slated to receive. This year they assumed flat enrollment and they lost a very few students, less than 10 if I'm recalling correctly. But they also assumed that placing more autistic students into general education classrooms in their neighborhood schools would result in no net increase in TAs. That didn't happen. And now that Mr. Allen is gone and the legislature has a track record of passing timely budgets, it's certainly time to get a MUCH better estimate of the official student count, and a MUCH better handle on which schools have what staff members being paid from what segment of the budget by the end of the first quarter, even if it means the Finance Office staff has to work a little harder than they're used to.

Nicholas Urfe

Sun, Jun 23, 2013 : 5:48 p.m.

Spending like drunken sailors.

Nicholas Urfe

Mon, Jun 24, 2013 : 12:08 a.m.

You're right. I apologize to sailors everywhere, drunk or sober. It was not meant as a personal attack on sailors. Besides, sailors are binge spenders. Isolated on a boat or ship, you can't spend. You can't get anything. The school spending is not binge. It seems more like a continuous torrent. Would a better comparison be "spending like compulsive gamblers?"


Sun, Jun 23, 2013 : 6:45 p.m.

That's harsh ... towards drunken sailors.


Sun, Jun 23, 2013 : 5:23 p.m.

"AAPS's IEP process is broken and they like it that way." no truer words have been spoken....unless you have a good lawyer.


Sun, Jun 23, 2013 : 5:40 p.m.

oops, like danielle, this was meant for the first comment.


Sun, Jun 23, 2013 : 5:12 p.m.

The abrupt dismissal of Dr. Greene now makes perfect sense. A friend suggested there was a reason (or reaasons) for her firing. I agree with other comments; she should have been dismissed immediately for covering up the facts. Before I was an educator (for 22+ years) with AAPS, I worked in the business world for over 20 years. For several of those years i was fortunate to work for several fabulous bosses who KNEW how to run an organization ON BUDGET! If they weren't on budget, they would be out the door! AAPS needs a leader who can manage both fiscally and educationally. I agree. There is WAY to much "fluff" in the administration. The new super needs to look at some of the leaner districts in the area and take note. Hire a business leader, not an educator!


Mon, Jun 24, 2013 : 6:03 p.m.

a2retiree - You are certainly entitled to your opinion. Your scenario could explain the publicly known facts, but it doesn't match with most of what I have seen and heard around AAPS these past 2 years. My alternative explanation is that Dr. Green decided abruptly to retire when Mr. Allen's departure finally allowed the magnitude and extent of AAPS financial mismanagement to become known, along with the involvement of some "untouchable" AAAA members in the mess. The politics on the BoE and within AAPS make certain things un-sayable by certain people, even if evidence of deliberate wrongdoing (not merely incompetence) is extremely clear. Dr. Green's resignation would clear the decks for either Dr Flye (deputy superintendent) or her own successor to say and do what Dr. Green could not without igniting a firestorm of accusations of racism. To be very clear, the above comment is speculation on my part, is informed in part by hearsay and I do not have any *evidence* of wrongdoing by anyone. I'm eagerly looking forward to that independent audit of AAPS internal financial controls.


Sun, Jun 23, 2013 : 8:50 p.m.

AMOC-- The public "line" is that she retired/resigned and I initially bought it. However, I now believe she was asked to leave despite the positive review. SOMETHING major happened that caused her abrupt departure and I believe she was asked to leave. And now with these budget issues coming out, it was enough for the board to say "adios."


Sun, Jun 23, 2013 : 6:30 p.m.

A2retiree - Dr. Green resigned / retired. She was NOT fired. Indeed, she had a very positive performance review by the Board of Ed just over a month before she resigned. ViSHa - I suspect that your first thought is MUCH closer to the truth than your second one. Dr. Green's push for zero-based budgeting started very early after she arrived, and the push-back from the staff and AAAA seemed pretty extreme to me. Administrators didn't lie in ways that could be proved, but they made many, many misleading reports. I fear the best our community can hope for is that the new superintendent continues to press for zero-based budgets, continues with Dr. Greens efforts to hold staff members accountable for both financial and academic performance goals, and the internal audit Christine Stead championed is well run by a competent outsider with no ties to the current audit. or or Mr. Allen


Sun, Jun 23, 2013 : 5:43 p.m.

At first I thought possibly that Green left because she was butting heads with administration with her zero based budgeting and perhaps uncovered things some folks didn't want anyone to see. Now it looks like maybe it was the opposite? This whole thing is just sickening.

Shawn Letwin

Sun, Jun 23, 2013 : 5:11 p.m.

@SonnyDog09-Yes! All parts of the education community say..."problem is not what we do with money, the problem is that we don't have enough money..." to cover up incompetence of BOE/administrations mismanagement. In Dexter, we have a BOE that is the driving force in the fiscal incompetence, but with an administration that is complicit too. Last October, Marshall told the press that the loss of students was in line with the projections (27 versus 25) and then submits an amended budget 3 weeks later to the BOE stating that over 50 students had been lost. Meanwhile, the board had approved a budget last June with a deficit that then increased even more in November by over 500 million dollars. Wow. But the money continues to pour into a duplicate IB program. Dexter Kindergarten class sizes may exceed 26 but Dexter will get a new assistant superintendent this year. Teachers are promoted through the ranks into management to be in charge of tens of millions, if not hundreds of million dollar budgets (a system in which they set each other's pay, benefits, perks, etc.) and then leave a few dollars for the kids. Few administrators if any have had any real business classes or management experience (just lots of vision (sic)). But we get upper level administrators with a PhD in Education from colleges selling a program that only puts more money in their budgets and gets raises for ineffective administrators. Community members are elected to oversee school districts in MI that are managed essentially by from teachers to run 10 to 100 million dollars plus budgets is a system ripe for waste and self-serving interests. The education system in Michigan is a failed management model!

Shawn Letwin

Sun, Jun 23, 2013 : 5:19 p.m.

the increase in deficit between June and November was in excess of $500,000 not 500 million...

Danielle Arndt

Sun, Jun 23, 2013 : 5:03 p.m.

Maria, I am not sure offhand of the answers to your initial questions, but I will try to look into it. Don Bee, the capsules are not online so I cannot provide a link. They are considered internal district communications, not really intended for the public but meant to aid the internal functioning of the district. We FOIA'd several months' worth. Each capsule is quite lengthy, so my stack of them is quite tall. I am not sure if we have any immediate plans to put them online, but I'll ask about the feasibility of it. And to answer your second question, I believe the board intends to make the internal audit public when completed. But if they don't, we certainly will FOIA it.

Danielle Arndt

Sun, Jun 23, 2013 : 5:05 p.m.

Oops, sorry! This post was supposed to be filed under the first comment thread on the page. See, even we reporters mess up our comments from time to time! ;-)

A Voice of Reason

Sun, Jun 23, 2013 : 4:47 p.m.

Seems like the budget problem should have been identified last summer when they were hiring the 29 teachers they did. Also, grant money ending for 4 teachers seems like you would know this at least a year in advance. So, because IEPs are done in Feb. and the staffing required, these budget problems were known last summer if not earlier. It seems to me that the primary job of a finance person is to understand revenue (including when grants are ending) and expenses. Clearly Mr. Allen did not. Guess what...schools all over deal with enrollment fluctuations everyday. Why are we not very good at it in Ann Arbor? Ross School of Business needs to save us! Maybe the AAPS staff and principals need to work in June so they can finalize the budget for the following fall. Seems like the BOE & AAPS have wasted a lot of time trying to patch up budget mismanagement and the kids are the ones to suffer. Nice work!


Sun, Jun 23, 2013 : 4:09 p.m.

If we all shut up and send them more money, I am sure things will work out just fine.


Sun, Jun 23, 2013 : 4:04 p.m.

As a long time school board member from western NY (roughly 30 years) reading about the antics of the Ann Arbor School Board (where I grew up and went to school) over the years often leaves me shaking my head in disbelief. A couple of comments in this message thread are very germane: "Maybe our school leaders need to have business credentials, as well as education credentials." and "Memo for the new superintendent search: this time, hire a quiet, competent manager, not a visionary. Memo for the new superintendent search: this time, hire a quiet, competent manager, not a visionary." YES! Schools are big businesses and need great managers.


Sun, Jun 23, 2013 : 3:59 p.m.

Green is gone and so is the budget for AAPS. Sucks. Close Balas and recall BOE. I am done with this craziness.


Sun, Jun 23, 2013 : 3:56 p.m.

Special Education - $45,000 per FTE is spent. There has to be a more efficient way to spend money.


Mon, Jun 24, 2013 : 11:03 p.m.

DonBee- Here is a link to the state audit related to the "targeted resource rooms"


Mon, Jun 24, 2013 : 9:58 p.m.

DonBee- There are still rooms for students with autism. They are located at Burns Park, Haisley, and Logan. Students with autism also attended other self-contained programs. A list of what is available is in the link below.


Mon, Jun 24, 2013 : 11:58 a.m.

Wondering - The K-2 rooms were closed. The state had NOTHING to do with it. It was all about saving money. If you have any proof that the state said or did anything, please post it. I have had conversations with many people directly involved in the decision and parents of students in the resource rooms. As to my calling them autism rooms instead of targeted resource rooms, my bad, most of the people I spoke with used that term, and so I continued to do so, so that people who were not on the "inside" would know what I was talking about.


Mon, Jun 24, 2013 : 2:31 a.m.

Unless you have a child with a disability or work in the field, then you would not know much about how special education works. Children with disabilities are in every classroom in the district. I teach special education and see students daily for reading and math if they qualify in those areas. There is a lot of paperwork but most of mine is done at home between 9pm and midnight when my own children go to bed. DonBee: "Autism" rooms were not closed. There were 2 classrooms that were called targeted resource rooms. These were not programs. Most of the students in the rooms were in their grade level classroom for 80% or more of the day. The state said that this was not least restrictive environment, which is what needs to legally be provided. The district had to close the targeted resource rooms and allow the students to attend their home schools.

J. A. Pieper

Sun, Jun 23, 2013 : 7 p.m.

Special education has become one thing - PAPERWORK! Out teachers do not have as much time to see the students because they are overwhelmed in completing paperwork. If some did not have Interns ( a special education student teacher?), then the students would rarely get any service. So, are the students really benefitting? Most parents do not check up on how much service their child is actually receiving, so it just happens, and nothing changes. when there is a very special needs child in a classroom, the TA is very important in helping make sure the child's needs are met, and that the classroom remains a positive learning environment for all students. It the student ends up requiring most of the teacher's time, then what is your child gaining from their educational experience? Reading Teachers are not Special Education. They are either Reading Intervention ( some cuts in budget), or Title I services. Notice the district has not shared anything publicly about the drastic cuts in Title I funds from the federal program yet, and they knew about them before the last week of school.


Sun, Jun 23, 2013 : 5:10 p.m.

At $45,000 per FTE - that means $38,250 in reimbursement or a cost to the general fund of $6,750 - of a foundation grant of $9020 for that student. Now how FTEs are counted is a bizarre and arcane procedure which includes how many are out of class for services on count day, or in self contained classrooms or... the rules run several pages and have NOTHING to do with how many students actually receive services. The number in most schools runs around 12-15% of the population or about 2,500 students who see a speech teacher or a reading teacher once a month or... The fact is because of the Durant Settlement and the WISD millage, special education students print money for the general fund, not take it. The efficiency is a question, but closing the autism rooms and spreading the students out, actually will cost MORE in the long run, both in lawsuits and staff. But then I don't expect that AAPS can do the math to do the right thing anymore.

Basic Bob

Sun, Jun 23, 2013 : 4:31 p.m.

That has to be like a hospital charge that no one actually pays! Most special education students get only a few hours a year.


Sun, Jun 23, 2013 : 3:35 p.m.

If Green covered it up who cares? There is no accountability or penalty for poor performance, that's the way the system is set up. She's leaving and will collect whatever is due to her as negotiated by the union just like other public officials have done in the past. Taxpayers continue to support this type of behavior and continue to elect those who build these governmental machines at the expense of the taxpayer. Just get out your wallet and write a bigger check, that seems to be the answer.The schools are run to some degree by the school board but the major clout belongs to the unions. The hands of the school district is tied by union agreements so many things that could save money are not possible...........Not enough taxpayer outrage or pain yet but we're starting to get close, nobody is talking about the next budget..............


Sun, Jun 23, 2013 : 6:33 p.m.

There should have been a clause in her contract that negates "..whatever is due her as negotiated..." for not reporting key information like a huge budget shortfall. Hope that is included next time.

David Cahill

Sun, Jun 23, 2013 : 2:48 p.m.

This is great investigative reporting, Danielle! Keep digging. When the new superintendent comes in I hope s/he adopts the "new broom sweeps clean" approach and gets rid of all the administrative staff. They all must have known of these budget problems, and they decided to cover them up.


Sun, Jun 23, 2013 : 2:21 p.m.

no wonder she is leaving. did a poor job of managing the schools.


Sun, Jun 23, 2013 : 4 p.m.

Taking the budget with them. Sad state of affairs.

Retiree Newcomer

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

This is a bizarre story. If Superintendent Green hid or minimized the quarterly fiscal reports, she is guilty of malfeasance and misfeasance and the public should demand accountability in terms of her severance package. If trustees were aware of the looming deficit problem and participated in minimizing it, voters need to make them accountable at the ballot box. In addition, why is only one trustee, Ms. Stead, quoted in this story? Were other trustees contacted, or did reporter Arndt attempt to contact them? Did they refuse comment? If not contacted, what are their feelings about the situation? And, why is the communications director, Ms. Margolis, the only administrative person commenting for this story? Was Superintendent Green contacted? Was she "unavailable" or did she refuse comment? And what about the incoming interim superintendent? This is a significant story. The public interest demands more accountability and transparency from both the board and the administration! It is also important enough that commenters on this page should sign their real names. I am Richard Osborne of Ann Arbor.


Sun, Jun 23, 2013 : 8:16 p.m.

To Retiree Newcomer: "Bizarre" indeed. Welcome to Ann Arbor. Don't give up on the probing questions you asked, though. All are well put and deserve honest answers. Thank you for taking the time to write your reactions and questions. I apologize for not being as comfortable as you are in signing with my real name.

Danielle Arndt

Sun, Jun 23, 2013 : 5:20 p.m.

Hi Richard, thanks for signing your name. I want to just point out briefly that according to the district and Christine Stead, this practice of not updating the financial statements first quarter began long before Patricia Green was hired. Also, two other trustees were called Thursday evening/Friday but I did not hear back from them in time for my deadline. Additionally, I know Liz Margolis did speak with Pat Green and CFO Nancy Hoover prior to responding to my request for comment on this story. So it is my understanding that Pat and Nancy both provided Liz with some additional information and that Liz communicated it as the district spokeswoman. I hope this answers some of your questions! Thanks for reading and commenting.


Sun, Jun 23, 2013 : 2:13 p.m.

Many organizations have a policy of establsihing a budget contingency because of the difficulty of keeping real time track expenditures when there is no software in place to track all spending commitments and when unexpected costs are likely. An auditor or financial consultant is likely to recommend enterprise software for expenditure control (among other things) but that will require added expenditure and a trained, skilled,committed organization to use it. In the mean time a contingency can be established by the Superintendent on a department by department basis or by the BOE. Continued blasting of the administrators is not helpful. Need to get the new leadership in place and establish a direction stakeholders can and will support.

Basic Bob

Sun, Jun 23, 2013 : 3:08 p.m.

There is software in place, and we can assume the employees are trained and skilled, if not committed to solving the budget mess. Those who are unwilling to support the goals of the district should be strongly encouraged to start looking for a different job.

Susie Q

Sun, Jun 23, 2013 : 1:52 p.m.

I have long suspected that political problems prevented the Superintendent from recommending more extensive cuts during the discussions for the 2012-13 school year budget. It would have been very difficult to recommend deep cuts after she had given substantial raises to some Cabinet members (at 2 am at a BOE mtg), hired others at higher salaries than those they replaced and filled a very expensive position at Balas that had been vacant for about three years. And, of course, the BOE had brought her in at a salary FAR above what Dr Roberts had been paid. While I can lament that the BOE was kept in the dark about cost overruns; I believe they are partially responsible for allowing these huge administrative salary increases at a time when parents are being asked to pay more for 7th hr, athletics; transportation possibly eliminated, higher class sizes, etc. Even though these administrators are also taking a 3% pay cut (not the Superintendent), I am quite sure they are still making more $ than before their raises.


Sun, Jun 23, 2013 : 1:43 p.m.

Liz Margolis should be dismissed. There is no reason to have a PR flak protecting those behind the curtain. What is her salary? No doubt north of $100K. Turfing Margolis will send a strong symbolic message that belt tightening starts at the top.


Mon, Jun 24, 2013 : 1:12 a.m.

Tagging Liz with this makes no sense. Now you can make the point that a good spokesperson needs to be honest, avoid spin, yet make lemonade when handed lemons. Still you are stuck with what you can run with and these lemons are pretty bad. Kind of like Jay Carney...

$5,000 is just pennies

Sun, Jun 23, 2013 : 10:22 p.m.

The Last info easily accessible on the Director of Communication for AAPS was in 2006. The position paid W-2 wages of $82,405 at the time.


Sun, Jun 23, 2013 : 4:01 p.m.

Liz had nothing to do with this. It was Green and the BOE that had a lot to do with this budget snaff fu. Now we have to fight a budget that is pretty much going to squeeze all of us into a very tight corner. Close Balas and recall the BOE and see what we can do about Green.

Charles Curtis

Sun, Jun 23, 2013 : 1:10 p.m.

This is great to hear, the super flat out lied to the BOE. They ought to terminate immediately and remove any and all perks that they have in her contract. Unfortunately I doubt to could bring charges against her since government employees seem to always be exempt. If Mr Allen filed false reports, he ought to be sued for any money/benefits he received after the date of that report. But our BOE president will likely release another glowing review...just shows how screwed up the public is in who they vote for. Maybe we all ought to vote for a person and not a party affiliation. All party affiliation means is the candidate has a financial backer. How is that working here?


Sun, Jun 23, 2013 : 12:51 p.m.

in·com·pe·tent Adjective Not having the necessary skills to do something successfully. Noun An incompetent person. Synonyms incapable - unfit - unable - inefficient - unqualified

J. A. Pieper

Sun, Jun 23, 2013 : 2:29 p.m.

Add to the synonym list - BOE, administrators in AAPS

Elaine F. Owsley

Sun, Jun 23, 2013 : 12:49 p.m.

Surely there is some kind of penalty to be levied on Ms. Green for withholding information from the board, the taxpayers, and everyone else. A cover-up of this magnitude deserves some kind of punishment.


Sun, Jun 23, 2013 : 3:03 p.m.

Goober and Ms. Owsley - The fact is that the capsules had the information in them - the BOE did not read or react to them. Look at boarddocs - it was there in October.


Sun, Jun 23, 2013 : 2:41 p.m.

Assuming all that we read is fact, the AA BOE should suspend Ms. Green without pay pending further investigation, kick off the needed third party audit and let the facts dictate actions. If a coverup did happen as reported, the book and all legal actions should be thrown at the offenders. Others should know of their part in the coverup so that they can never work for the public in a similar position ever again.


Sun, Jun 23, 2013 : 1:09 p.m.

The same applies to Robert Allen and anyone else who was part of the coverup.

Burr Oak

Sun, Jun 23, 2013 : 12:26 p.m.

Since this was kept undercover, few people in the district made small economies, which would add up due to the scale of the system. Turning off lights, watching paper and copy use, catering meals, forgoing furniture and locker purchases and the like could have been encouraged. PTOs could have been forewarned and built up nest eggs. Rec and Ed seems to spend with abandon. The discretionary funds for school budgets are usually under the principal's control. Certainly they should have been notified. It would be very helpful if the schools could carry over their budget surpluses from year to year. This is certainly more than a red flag for the board and a warning that the current superintendent should not be empowered to offer more than input in the search for her replacement. The climate of fear noted in a previous post does permeate the district. Folks hesitate to express their opinions for fear of retaliation. Feeling hopeful that we can turn this around with leadership such as Christine Stead's and a new truly collaborative spirit of engagement with staff at all levels.

Maria Huffman

Sun, Jun 23, 2013 : 1:23 p.m.

To Burr Oak, All that, and waiting on what Quad A will agree to. Their decisions will directly impact how many layoffs proceed forward.


Sun, Jun 23, 2013 : 12:49 p.m.

Burr Oak - One point you make that needs addressing. Rec&Ed charges fees that cover their programs. In the last 5 years the difference between fees and costs is typically less than 0.1 Percent (1 dollar on a thousand) and if it is low one year it is high the next. For not knowing how many people will take what class or sport, Rec&Ed does a masterful job of balancing the books. The administrator of Rec&Ed might be the most competent person the district has to run the district. As to the rest of your comments, to a large extent you are right on the money.


Sun, Jun 23, 2013 : 12:25 p.m.

And they want us to lobby Lansing for more money? I'm beginning to see the governors point.


Sun, Jun 23, 2013 : 6:46 p.m.

I have a lot of classroom experience and I know that AAPS class are way too large. If they can't hire more teachers, and obviously they can't, they need a TA in classes above a reasonable number of students. Currently I believe that number is above 30 but it should be much lower, around 25. The issue of course is figuring out how to do it with available funding and that has to be considered first, not salaries on top execs who fool amateur elected officials they are peaches and cream I do not care about how they can only use such and such money for such and such projects, but when I read about spending almost one million dollars on a synthetic sports field from the district's sinking fund, it makes me sick. There should be a sinking ship fund where this kind of money can be transferred to the essential service, education when a district is sinking like AAPS is. I partly fault Lansing for not enacting strict spending criteria so that students get a chance at a good education. Otherwise the next step is an emergency financial manager.

J. A. Pieper

Sun, Jun 23, 2013 : 2:27 p.m.

AAPS is gearing up for more money in an election during the fall, 2014. It will be the county wide millage that failed all around us the last time, although the city of AA passed it. I am hoping that we all remember what AAPS does with our money when we give it to them, just keep this article and all of the budget ones in mind when you go vote! The more and more and more money that AAPS has enjoyed over the years has lead us to this situation, and current administration wants to get back to that protection of - Administrators & Balas! Surprise, surprise...


Sun, Jun 23, 2013 : 12:47 p.m.

More and more and more money would not solve the problems now being exposed.


Sun, Jun 23, 2013 : 12:22 p.m.

@ Deb Mexicotte-AAPS School Board President – Again, you have been lied to and misled by people at Balas. Who are you going to fire? How are you going to do you due diligence if you are consistently being lied to? Until the School Board pulls up their 'big boy' pants and terminates people for incompetence you will continue to be lied to over and over again.


Tue, Jun 25, 2013 : 1:15 a.m.

@Basic Bob, I hadn't connected those dots but I think you are right. Absurd

Basic Bob

Sun, Jun 23, 2013 : 8:51 p.m.

@Betty, Deputy Superintendent Alesia Flye and Assistant Superintendent Dawn Linden were hired in 2011 by Dr. Green to replace one person who worked here 38 years and was paid less money. Mr. Allen and Mr. Comsa were bumped up by the board to match Flye.


Sun, Jun 23, 2013 : 8:29 p.m.

I don't know anything about a single 'replacements from outside', nor double digit raises for anyone. Our schools are hurting financially and a skilled administration is required to handle this. Regretfully Dave Comsa is the "Micheal Scott" and the balance of Balas is the balance of 'The Office'

Basic Bob

Sun, Jun 23, 2013 : 12:36 p.m.

Green contributed to the problem by replacing retirees with higher paid replacements from outside the district, and then was compelled to grant double digit raises to people who had not earned them. All administration jobs are safe. They require no initiative, don't have to meet any practical goals such as keeping to a budget, and are guaranteed to receive generous raises and reviews until they leave for their own superintendent job in another district. At this point, the best thing to do is to let a few contracts lapse and replace those people with those who want to do the job.


Sun, Jun 23, 2013 : 12:04 p.m.

This kind of incompetence at Balas does not surprise me. I have worked with Balas off and on for over a decade. In my experience with the HR, Finance, and Executive staff, they are overstaffed beyond my ability to express. No one has the ability to get something done, yet everyone has the ability to stop something from being implemented. They routinely make up overly burdensome procedures in an effort to justify the bureaucracy. They are aggressively closed minded. Every minor change is bogged down in political infighting and undermined with cynical lethargy. I don't see a solution short of wholesale termination so the districts administration can have its needs and functions thoroughly reconsidered. Fire everyone in Balas and start fresh.

Maria Huffman

Mon, Jun 24, 2013 : 12:51 a.m.

To Betty, Thanks, I'm glad someone got the joke.


Sun, Jun 23, 2013 : 8:25 p.m.

@ Maria You made coffee come out of my nose...made my day

Maria Huffman

Sun, Jun 23, 2013 : 12:31 p.m.

I can't imagine any forum in Ann Arbor where minor change is bogged down with political infighting and underminded with cynical lethargy.


Sun, Jun 23, 2013 : 11:57 a.m.

Who has time to worry about pennies when there is visionary work to be done and societal injustice to be remedied?


Sun, Jun 23, 2013 : 11:42 a.m.

Memo for the new superintendent search: this time, hire a quiet, competent manager, not a visionary. We all know there are severe budget problems and the fund balance is almost depleted. The reasonable thing to do was slap a spending freeze in place as soon as you got the news. Spending freezes haven't worked out that well in the past? You need better management. You need to hire someone whose job is to say "no", who is actually good at it. Ms. Stead - you are the Board members. It is your job to change long-standing practices when they no longer work. How about a few simple policies: "AAPS Policy XX.XX: Whenever the fund balance is below 10% of the operating budget, the AAPS Superintendent shall provide the Board Finance Committee with budgetary reports, to include cash flow and budget vs. spending, each month." and "AAPS Policy XX.XX: Whenever the fund balance is below 10% of the operating budget, the AAPS shall not proceed more than 30 days from the date of discovery of a structural deficit without making spending adjustments and reporting the deficit and corrective measures to the Board Finance Committee."


Sun, Jun 23, 2013 : 12:54 p.m.

How many times do you allow someone to lie to you before you stop trusting them?


Sun, Jun 23, 2013 : 12:23 p.m.

"You need better management. You need to hire someone whose job is to say "no", who is actually good at it." Someone such as Governor Snyder?


Sun, Jun 23, 2013 : 12:13 p.m.

I wish it was this simple and this was just an isolated incident. I assure you it is not. The level of incompetence and bureaucratic blame shuffling is far beyond this article. For example, the people whom the board rely on LIED to the board. Will anyone be fired for that? Of course not...and thus the problem continues.


Sun, Jun 23, 2013 : 11:38 a.m.

While these expenditures exceed budget figures, they are directly related to educating students. Does the district still have a long list of consultants as in the past that charge the district for services not related to the classroom? How about the board putting a moratorium on consultant contracts and let administration take on this work, because that's what they get paid big salaries and benefits to do. In the past that's been the protocol. Spending money on teacher assistants and staff for students with extra needs is what the community would expect the district to do, invest in all our children's educational needs at the classroom level.


Sun, Jun 23, 2013 : 12:44 p.m.

Gloriagirl - Want some fun - count the cars in the Balas parking lot at the beginning of the school day. On occasion this spring I have done so, it impresses me that there are 40-60 cars in that lot. That is a non-trivial amount of people working on pure administration. Now the question is how many of those belong to employees and how many to consultants.

Maria Huffman

Sun, Jun 23, 2013 : 12:02 p.m.

Agreed, except I'm not sure it's all about administration taking on the work.

Linda Peck

Sun, Jun 23, 2013 : 11:37 a.m.

Maybe our school leaders need to have business credentials, as well as education credentials.


Sun, Jun 23, 2013 : 11:19 a.m.

Things like this leave me speechless. Incompetence seems widespread.


Sun, Jun 23, 2013 : 2:37 p.m.

I agree, J.A., but the first change has to start at the top. Once in place, the new BOE can clean house, eliminate most of the Balas positions, replace teachers recently displaced, etc. The new BOE can then partner with the teachers and the community to lead our school system.

J. A. Pieper

Sun, Jun 23, 2013 : 2:16 p.m.

But it is not just the BOE, AAPS seems pretty adept at hiring incompetent people, especially considering some of the characteristics they consider important


Sun, Jun 23, 2013 : 1:05 p.m.

Welcome to the AA BOE and the team that they lead, develop and manage. The AA BOE is inept, clueless and lost. They should be replaced.


Sun, Jun 23, 2013 : 11:12 a.m.

If a coverup did happen, an independent party should investigate the facts and report back to the BOE and the public. Those involved with the coverup should be punished, even if retired or they left the school system. The punishment can include a letter of the investigative findings as part of their permanent employment record.


Sun, Jun 23, 2013 : 6:55 p.m.

ViSHa and Goober - If and ONLY if the internal audit results warrant it, the only recourse the BoE /AAPS has against those who are not current employees is to file criminal complaints for embezzlement, conversion, or misappropriation of funds. If any then-current employees are shown by the audit to have misused funds, some form of payback can be arranged by withholding a portion of their salary in addition to recording the impropriety in that person's personnel record.


Sun, Jun 23, 2013 : 5:26 p.m.

If the board feels they were mislead, do they have any recourse through the state as far as having an audit, or is the audit only they can put the wheels in motion for and would they want to do that?


Sun, Jun 23, 2013 : 12:42 p.m.

The internal audit that Mr. Ranzini has been pushing and that $80,000 was allocated for should do this. It has to be done right. It has to have the right oversight. If either of these are missing, then the result will be a whitewash that wastes the money. If it is done right, then the issues should come to light.


Sun, Jun 23, 2013 : 10:59 a.m.

One of the great loses in the last year has been Robert Allen. It concerns me that he informed Green of the deficit and it was covered over. It sounds like he was coerced into making a report that allowed Green to look good. How many other of her cabinet members notified her of problems and were ignored. July... what ever the end date is ..cannot come soon enough. I really hope the board is not bamboozled again by this search company. The board needs to be extra vigilant on this search lest we end up in bankruptcy court and a future consolidation move. The district could hinge on this next superintendent.


Sun, Jun 23, 2013 : 12:40 p.m.

olddog - I disagree, Mr. Allan moved money as he saw fit to keep any "bad news" from coming to light at the board meetings. There were constant surprises when someone asked just the right question to force an answer. He did not post the checkbook, as the board asked, he did not make the quarterly reports any more detailed or transparent then absolutely required. In short he tried hard to make the district finances a black box that only he understood. The departure of Mr. Allen is to my mind a good thing for transparency in the long run.


Sun, Jun 23, 2013 : 11:05 a.m.

If Green covered this up, then Allen did nothing to make others aware of the growing fiscal issues? I don't buy it! Both should be held accountable for covering up the financial issues - again, if this is true.

Maria Huffman

Sun, Jun 23, 2013 : 10:39 a.m.

Danielle Arndt, are the increases in special needs enrollment analyzed via grade? Are there more special needs coming from the preschool, or from higher grades, and if so which ones?


Mon, Jun 24, 2013 : 2:14 a.m.

MyFiveCents: School districts cannot release special education paperwork without an additional consent form. Special education information is kept separate from the main school files. AMOC: Ann Arbor IS open to students not within the district. Maria: I was responding to Basic Bob's comment about students with IEP's need to live within the district. TryingToBeObjective: An IEP is done annually. Transition IEP's to another building level are done after Feb 1 but before May 1. Students are referred throughout the year. There cannot be a cut-off date for initial IEP's.


Sun, Jun 23, 2013 : 7:49 p.m.

I believe when it comes to SOC students with IEPs they do indeed ask when applying. From what I have heard, the residing school district has to "release" the SOC student because they are still obligated to pay for his/her special education costs. Therefore, there are schools who won't release students with IEPs as they don't get to claim the foundational allowance and need to pay for any costs above and beyond what the receiving district incurs. So, I guess, bottom line is that it should not cost AAPS money for SOC students with IEPs as far as I have understood the rules.


Sun, Jun 23, 2013 : 7:10 p.m.

Olddog and Maria - Ann Arbor Public Schools does NOT participate in cross-district Schools of Choice. The program they have allows families who live in the AAPS attendance area to apply for a limited number of openings in schools which are not their "neighborhood" school if they are willing to transport their students themselves. Although I second Maria's comment that our Assistant Super's for Elementary Ed and Secondary Ed should sit down with Special Education Director Elaine Brown to look for patterns in which schools special needs students transfer from and where they are asking to go to. Even better, look for patterns in their academic performance and how well our Special Needs students meet annual IEP goals.


Sun, Jun 23, 2013 : 7:06 p.m.

Danielle - Thank you. I would love to go thru the capsules and see what other "gems" are buried in them. Keep up the good work.

Danielle Arndt

Sun, Jun 23, 2013 : 5:22 p.m.

Maria, I am not sure offhand of the answers to your initial questions, but I will try to look into it. Don Bee, the capsules are not online so I cannot provide a link. They are considered internal district communications, not really intended for the public but meant to aid the internal functioning of the district. We FOIA'd several months' worth. Each capsule is quite lengthy, so my stack of them is quite tall. I am not sure if we have any immediate plans to put them online, but I'll ask about the feasibility of it. And to answer your second question, I believe the board intends to make the internal audit public when completed. But if they don't, we certainly will FOIA it.


Sun, Jun 23, 2013 : 3:07 p.m.

TryingToBeObjective - Try getting an IEP updated, or carried out. Talk to some of the parents that have IEPs. One that I recently listened to has a child with a hearing issue, deaf in one ear. Three hearing tests, two paid for by the parents to get the school to accept the documentation. The teacher then proceeded to tell the parents it was too much work to either use the classroom speaker system or to make sure the student was seated so the good ear was to the classroom. The teacher preferred alphabetical seating and that put the student on the wrong side of the room for the good ear to be where it would be of the most use. The IEP process - 2 years plus, to get it properly documented. AAPS's IEP process is broken and they like it that way.


Sun, Jun 23, 2013 : 1:55 p.m.

Does anyone know if it would help, or is it possible, for IEPs to be updated quicker in the beginning of the school year? It seems that a lot if the additional staff needed was special Ed, and after count day, so does that impact reimbursement from the state? If IEPs were finished prior to count day, would that help with staffing, even if additional staff was initially necessary in order to complete the process?

Maria Huffman

Sun, Jun 23, 2013 : 1:12 p.m.

To Don Bee, don't forget the autism tsunami.


Sun, Jun 23, 2013 : 12:36 p.m.

Please remember with the Durant settlement and the WISD millage, more than 85% of the special education costs are reimbursed. If the average budget number of $40,000 is correct, then the reimbursement is $34,000. That means of the $9020 foundation grant to the schools the student only costs the schools $6,000 of that, leaving $4020 as "free" money. Like it or not special education is not "stealing" money from general education. What I don't understand is the amount of overage for special education teachers - that should have been mostly reimbursed by the state and WISD, so what really changed to make the numbers go up? I am looking forward to the audit. I am hoping that they do not hire Plant-Moran to do the work, since the relationship is so cozy. If you go North on State to Balas, you pass a Plant-Moran sign within a 3 minute walk of Balas. There is no way an internal audit by people that tightly integrated with the school district will be objective. Danielle - I hope you plan to both publish the capsules or links to them now that you have them and to FOIA the internal audit when it is done if it is not published by AAPS.

Maria Huffman

Sun, Jun 23, 2013 : 12:22 p.m.

To Wondering, Nor should they.

Maria Huffman

Sun, Jun 23, 2013 : 12:21 p.m.

Oops, since I can't edit my comment, let me rephrase it. The only way to know where students live, and what grades and schools they were attending the previous year and are attending currently is to collect data consistently. Another thing that would help clarify is to share that accumulated data with the public every 6 months. That way if kids are changing schools due to poor special ed services being delivered, the offending school district can be identified and that district can start to fix their own personnel and process issues.


Sun, Jun 23, 2013 : 12:21 p.m.

When students apply from out of district to attend AAPS the district cannot legally ask if the student has an IEP.

Maria Huffman

Sun, Jun 23, 2013 : 12:16 p.m.

To Basic Bob, the only way to know where the students live, what grades they are in currently are where they were before is to collect data consistently. The other thing that would clarify is to share that data with the public on regular basis, say every 6 months. That way if they are changing schools due to poor special ed services, that can be discerned in a timely manner, and the offending school district can work on fixing their issues.

Basic Bob

Sun, Jun 23, 2013 : 11:50 a.m.

@olddog, Most of the special need students live in the district legally. I imagine it is a destination for them just as any other family.

Maria Huffman

Sun, Jun 23, 2013 : 10:59 a.m.

To old dog, I would add useful data also to include to understand all this better is what school the child attended before, if any, and reason is the child no longer attending that school.


Sun, Jun 23, 2013 : 10:49 a.m.

I would also add to that are they living with in the district or are they coming via school of choice. What is our % of special needs students compared to other districts in the state or county.