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Posted on Tue, Jul 16, 2013 : 5:58 a.m.

Ann Arbor superintendent hopefuls present 90-day plans to board, community

By Danielle Arndt

Previous coverage:

Ann Arbor Public Schools superintendent hopefuls Brian Osborne and Jeanice Kerr Swift each have one final shot to impress the community and school board Tuesday and Wednesday.


Jeanice Kerr Swift and Brian Osborne


The two candidates are visiting the district this week to meet in more intimate settings with trustees, teachers, administrators, union officers, local philanthropists, business leaders, elected officials and other prominent members of the community.

Included in the days' events will be a second round of questioning from the board and a presentation before trustees and the public on the finalists' 90-day plans, which they would carry out during their first three months if selected as the next superintendent.

There also will be an opportunity for community members and the general public to ask questions of the candidates both days from 7-8:30 p.m. at Skyline High School, 2552 N. Maple Rd.

The Ann Arbor Board of Education is slated to select the district's next leader on Friday. Former Superintendent Patricia Green retired from AAPS July 9 after two years with the district.

Swift, of Colorado, and Osborne, of New Jersey, were chosen, along with four other semifinalists, from an initial pool of 61 applicants. The six semifinalists were interviewed on July 8 and 9, after which the board named Swift and Osborne to advance to the next stage of consideration.

Swift will tour the district and visit with key leaders on Tuesday, while Osborne will do the same on Wednesday. The schedule will be the same both days, with the public invited to attend two portions of the day-long events: the final presentations and board interviews from 1:15 to 2:45 p.m. at Skyline, during which the finalists will share their 90-day entry plans, and Q-&-A sessions from 7 to 8:30 p.m., during which community members can ask the candidates any questions they may have.

Board President Deb Mexicotte said a 90-day plan is a very typical thing for a superintendent candidate to develop when vying for a leadership position in a new district, and a required thing to create when offered the job and preparing to take the reins in that district.

Mexicotte said the board generally has received 90-day plans without asking from its finalists and even many semifinalists in previous searches; however, the board has not required the candidates in the past to present them publicly. During the superintendent search that resulted in the board hiring Todd Roberts, the superintendent prior to Green, the board had the finalists give a presentation to trustees and the community at a public meeting, but the presentation could be on a topic of their choosing, showing how they use data to operate the district and improve the education of children, Mexicotte said.

This time around, the board thought it prudent to have the finalists present their 90-day action plans to communicate thoroughly with the board and the community how he or she would "come into the district, build confidence, learn what (he or she) needed to learn and get to tackling some of the key areas" of need at AAPS, Mexicotte said. She added by presenting the plans publicly, stakeholders will be able to see and compare the leadership and communication styles of the two finalists.

Following the presentations, the Board of Education will engage in a second interview with the candidates that Mexicotte described as more individualized.

In the semifinalist stage, the candidates were asked a core set of 20 identical questions that emphasized visibility, communication, redistricting, finances and making tough decisions. In the finalist stage, the questions will be targeted toward Swift and Osborne's unique traits, experiences, philosophies and leadership styles, and the format will be less formal, Mexicotte said, adding trustees can ask questions about topics dear to them as well.

She described the second-round interviews as being an opportunity to get down to the "nitty gritty," to figure out what sets these two candidates apart and to explore the candidates' "fit" with the district. Topics that could be discussed include special education, transportation, human resources or personnel management, magnet programs or alternative schools, Mexicotte said.

"I think we are really, really lucky to have these two candidates in our final pool," she said. "Both are accomplished leaders and, in my opinion, both can do the job and both would be assets to our district...

"Now it's about finding the mutual fit we’re looking for. If both fit really well but maybe in different ways, it will be about weighing the better fit and weighing what we want and need, given the challenges facing our district right now and in the foreseeable future."

The evening community Q-&-A session will be facilitated by the board and the public will be encouraged to ask questions of the candidates. Each finalists also will be permitted a few minutes at the start of their session to introduce themselves to the audience and highlight a few points about who they are, why they want to be in Ann Arbor or their experiences.

Mexicotte said it will be long days for Swift and Osborne, days packed with meeting many new faces and answering many questions.

"I'm expecting really informative, action-packed fun days," she said. "... I hope it's a fun day for them. ... Interacting with the community in these kinds of settings should be fun and I think the right candidate for our district will think it's a fun process on some level. It's serious business, but I do think it's fun for them to see some of our schools and meet with the great people in our community."

Swift and Osborne will begin their respective days by having breakfast with a sub-quorum group of board members. Then Mexicotte will take them on tours of the district, stopping by several schools and meeting with some staff members and union representation from the various collective bargaining units, Mexicotte said.

Another small group of board members will have the opportunity to meet up with the candidates for coffee around 11, followed by lunch with the core members of the central administration team.

Then the 1:15 p.m. public meeting will take place, at which the finalists will present their 90-day plans to the board and answer questions. The meeting will be followed by another meeting with people from "all walks of our stakeholder groups," Mexicotte said, including parents, business owners, elected officials, community center leaders, philanthropic leaders, partners from the University of Michigan and others. will be live blogging from both the 1:15 p.m. meeting and the 7 p.m. community Q-&-A. Check back closer to the meeting start times to catch the live blog.

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



Tue, Jul 16, 2013 : 4:22 p.m.

Focus on Education - forget acheicement gap and extra emphasis on subject matters not related to education. Cummunity High is not the only game in town. pioneer, Huron, and Skyline produce more and probably better for an all rounder. Move to intramural sports activities to allow a larger participation of the gereral population in each sport season, with school sports using pay to play funds. High emphasis on AP activities

Basic Bob

Tue, Jul 16, 2013 : 9 p.m.

Some people believe that they benefit from attending a 75% white school. They should move to that place and not depend on AAPS to provide it to them.


Tue, Jul 16, 2013 : 2:47 p.m.

What a bunch of BS. The first 90 days will be spent learning about AAPS since neither candidate has any prior knowledge of it. This type of process to select a candidate will yield someone that "talks" a good story and demands a great severance package. AAPS needs to develop and retain competent leaders from within the organization.


Tue, Jul 16, 2013 : 1:53 p.m.

"Take the reigns" - nice pun in the typo!!

Danielle Arndt

Tue, Jul 16, 2013 : 3:53 p.m.

Oops, pun not intended. Thanks for pointing out the typo, it's been fixed.


Tue, Jul 16, 2013 : 1:46 p.m.

90 days?!? how about a 1 yr, 3 yr and 5 yr plan? These people will be in the job more than 90 days! It will take way more than 90 days to truly understand how the AAPS works!

Basic Bob

Tue, Jul 16, 2013 : 4:08 p.m.

the first 90 days are important because we have been on autopilot for the last 3 years

Usual Suspect

Tue, Jul 16, 2013 : 1:05 p.m.

I'm interested in their ten-year plan. I'm also interested in whether they will be moving to Ann Arbor or commuting from their current location, like our last trainwreck did.


Tue, Jul 16, 2013 : 10:10 p.m.

Usual Suspect - Dr. Osborne stated in his first interview (check interview blog) that he planned to enroll his two school age children in AAPS. He also indicated he thought that 10 years in the district was a reasonable time period for him. Dr. Swift indicated she would move here.


Tue, Jul 16, 2013 : 11:20 a.m.

All this for 2-5 years employment.


Tue, Jul 16, 2013 : 10:31 a.m.

@Danielle & --thank you for planning to do live coverage of these presentations. Will Kellie be doing the blog again or will Danielle? Will Kellie do the blogging again, so that readers would get the same person's perspective on round 2 and it might be helpful. @ Danielle -- were you able to ask Mexicotte what exactly she means by "nitty gritty." Mexicotte's language tends to lack specifics and as board president, this is a problem. Will Mexicotte be the only board member taking the candidates on their visits? Can you get a list of which buildings they will visit, which union reps and which community leaders. Will notes be kept from the sub-quorum meeting with board members that can be FOIA'd? I cannot attend the public question sessions and would like to know both candidates plans for working with the media. Will Swift and Osborne regularly speak to reporters or only allow a communications person to do the information releases? Will Liz Margolis remain in her position as spokesperson or shift to doing general communications and public relations work?


Tue, Jul 16, 2013 : 10:08 p.m.

Danielle & Kellie and AA.COM - Thank you for the coverage, without it 99.9% of this process would be hidden from the public view. The service you are doing for the community is enormous.


Tue, Jul 16, 2013 : 5:26 p.m.

Thanks for the additional information and keeping my questions in mind. I think the sub-quorum get togethers and conversations among trustees outside the formal interview session are important. I was interested in board member notes on these informal get togethers, not the candidate's, but would be interested to hear what they each think of our elected board members.

Danielle Arndt

Tue, Jul 16, 2013 : 1:57 p.m.

aaparent, I will be doing the live blogging today. Kellie just filled in for me while I was out of town. She did an excellent job and I plan to follow her style and format, so hopefully readers will still appreciate the perspective they gain from the live blog. As for your questions, I will keep them in mind and see if I can have them answered. Your question about notes being kept at the sub-quorum breakfast and coffee, the answer is no. These are really just informal gatherings and a chance for board members to chat and get to know the candidates and have more personal conversations. Candidates could, I suppose, jot down a note or two for their own purposes. But I get the sense this is much less formal and more about seeing how well the candidate jives with trustees. The trustees will be asking their primary questions about district operations during the second interview at 1:15. Also, the nitty gritty Mexicotte was referring to was the topics such as special education, transportation, human resources or personnel management, magnet programs or alternative schools, as stated in the article.