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Posted on Thu, Mar 7, 2013 : 5:59 a.m.

Ann Arbor superintendent: School closures not realistic for next year

By Danielle Arndt


Superintendent Patricia Green reads "Pajamas Anytime" to students of Logan Elementary School in this 2011 file photo. Green said on Tuesday that school building closures are not on the table for the 2013-14 budget cycle, but will be in 2014-15.

Jeff Sainlar I file photo

Previous coverage:

Editor's note: This is the second in a two-part series stemming from an interview with Ann Arbor Superintendent Patricia Green on the district's budget. The first part, in which the superintendent pledged to take a pay cut, was published Tuesday.

As Ann Arbor Public Schools administrators wrestle with how to cut another $17 to $20 million from the district's budget, one thing not on the table for the next school year is closing school buildings, Superintendent Patricia Green said.

The district is preparing to consider several big-ticket items when it comes to reducing the district's overall operating expenses as it faces tight budgets over the next two years. Green has said previously that closing schools, redistricting and rerouting buses can no longer be ignored or treated as the elephant in the room.

But if the public expects to hear more about building closures and redistricting this budget cycle, it won't, Green said in an interview Tuesday with The interview also included District Spokeswoman Liz Margolis and Finance Director Nancy Hoover.

Green said it could take up to 18 months to properly assess and prepare for considering school closures.

Throughout the current academic year, Green and her administrative team have been working on a series of reports on the district's capacity and enrollment trends, transportation costs, building replacement costs and maintenance of the district's physical properties.

The last time district officials permanently closed schools was in the mid-1980s, Margolis said. Seven buildings were closed at that time.

In the past five to 10 years in Washtenaw County, Lincoln, Saline, Willow Run and Ypsilanti all have been forced to close buildings due to budget cuts. But Margolis said these districts also have had declining enrollment, whereas Ann Arbor's enrollment has remained steady.

"We don't have a building that could hold another entire elementary school or half an elementary school of students," Hoover said. "We are going to have to move these students around the district. And that's why it takes a long time to look and see where they can be moved and where lines can be redrawn."

AAPS has been criticized in recent years for not seriously considering school closures. Instead, the district has cut teachers, transportation, music and arts programming and extracurricular activities in piecemeal fashion to reduce its budget. And these items all are on the chopping block again for fall, as the district faces another $17 to $20 million in cuts.

District documents show closing three elementary schools could save $1.5 million, closing a middle school could save $1 million, closing Community High School could save $1.4 million and closing a comprehensive high school could save $3 million.

"There are staff members who are involved right now in developing the action plan … for the redistricting process," Green said. "It's for cost efficiency and that's the purpose of it. You don't just snap your fingers and say we're going to redistrict. It's something that takes time.

"… It will be something that we'll be looking at during next year's (budget) cycle."

Zero-based budgeting

For now, Green has set her focus on keeping cuts out of the classroom as much as possible for one more year — but it's not going to be easy, she said — and on reorganizing the district's budget process.

Because personnel is the largest part of a school district's budget, employee concessions are expected to be an important component of keeping cuts out of the classroom this year, Green said. School officials said last week, the district either can operate with fewer staff or the same number of less costly staff.

Negotiations are under way with the district's unions and Green also has committed to accept a pay cut to her $245,000 salary.

"We're looking at furlough days and any compensation type of activity. ... There is nothing that is going to be pleasant. Nothing. ... What it does now is it basically starts pitting program against program and people against people," Green said.

When it comes to budgeting, district officials want to flip that process on its head and, by the 2014-15 academic year, focus the debate on justifying expenditures rather than arguing about what to cut. In doing so, administrators hope to avoid budget surprises, like one the district recently got.

At a Feb. 28 meeting, administrators told school board members the district is employing 24 more teacher assistants and five more teachers than it budgeted for this year, causing the district to be $2.5 million over budget. Green said Tuesday restructuring the district's budget and reorganizing its budget process will help prevent such over-expenditures in the future.


Robert Allen

File photo

Part of Green's plan for streamlining the budget process is not refilling Deputy Superintendent of Operations Robert Allen's position. Allen resigned in February to take a job out of state. His responsibilities in the district were divided between Hoover and Executive Director of Physical Properties Randy Trent.

"What I want to do is flatten the organization a little bit," Green said.

Green said most school districts use a method of budgeting called bottom-line accountability. She said the Ann Arbor Public Schools is in the process of moving away from this method to line-by-line accountability — the first step in zero-based budgeting.

"It's more of a corporate model or a business model," Green said.

The district, led by Hoover and the finance department, is in the process of changing all of its budget documents and tools to account for every expenditure under each department and building budget. Every line item in the future also will have a detailed description of how the money is being spent and on what.

For example, Green said, under the district's existing model, an expenditure such as lawn care service could fall under the broader line item of physical property maintenance. However by 2014-15, Green expects to pull out every expenditure into its own item.

"Basically it's a budget development process, but you have to go into a line-by-line format before you can get into the zero-based budgeting," Green said of the changes that are being made. "... And what it does is it identifies and prioritizes school system activities and our resources, so we know what we have, then it starts from zero and gets funded to the targeted … threshold of what your funding source is going to be."

Green said when one of her previous school districts switched to zero-based budgeting, it cast a spotlight on a $300,000 line item for music programming. She said she sent the draft budget back to the program chairman numerous times for more detailed descriptions of what the money was being spent on. What turned up was $100,000 for a top-of-the-line baby grand piano.

"Well, we needed a piano but we didn't need that expensive of a piano," Green said. "So we were able to make some reductions there."

In the district's revamped budget documents and processes, a line item for contingencies will be built in for addressing budget overages and unanticipated expenditures, such as the additional teacher assistants AAPS was required to hire this year.

AAPS is contractually obligated to provide either an assistant or extra pay when the target class size for a particular grade is exceeded in a teacher's classroom. Many of the 24 unanticipated TAs also were legally required to meet the Individualized Education Plans (IEPs) for special needs students.

Green said in the future, there also will be a single, one-line item for TAs. Currently, there are about 20 line items for teacher assistants that cross three departments — instruction, human resources and finance — as well as the building making the request. Dedicating one line item specifically for TAs will allow the district to track the need from year to year, which develops trend data and helps the district better predict its needs when budgeting.

Green and her administrative team will present their budget recommendations for 2013-14 to the school board in early April.

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



Wed, Apr 17, 2013 : 5:14 p.m.

AAPS doing what it does best. Scare the parents out of their wits by proposing huge cuts that directly affect their kids while making much smaller cuts regarding Administration. Parents are not stupid. Unfortunately the district gets away with it because we don't speak up nearly enough and fight for our kids.


Sun, Mar 17, 2013 : 7:49 p.m.

close a high school.u got to many.


Wed, Apr 17, 2013 : 5:26 p.m.

Don't close a high school. My son's classses are crowded enough.


Fri, Mar 8, 2013 : 9:28 p.m.

Having taken the time to look at the budget document in the link above, I think the administration did the board a disservice and through this together at the last minute. Don't believe me - look at the 6th column on the document and try to figure out what it means. Does it mean that is the percent of that line item cut - in some cases that makes sense (e.g. the athletic fund transfer from the general fund 33 percent is a $1 million reduction from a $3 and change million dollar line item). But then you look at media specialists with a 1% reduction that totals $1.2 million - does that mean that media specialists cost the district $120 million dollars. It also does not work for percent of total budget cut needed since the theater line is 100% for $200,000. There are other inconsistencies in the budget document that either indicate that significant amounts of money have been moved since the last public document from one line item to another or that the numbers used were not checked against the actual budget. In any case, I don't see a single board member who took the time to try to dig deeply enough into this document to find the problems with it. Nor do I see AA.Com doing that digging. The budget and actual accounting have been a mess, are a mess and will continue to be a mess. It was the way people inside wanted it so that no one could dispute that the district needed more money. This document is a DISGRACE to the community, the district and the board, and shows the disregard the administration has for the board and the community.


Fri, Mar 8, 2013 : 11:10 a.m.

Download and read the district's most recent budget presentation. The proposal includes eliminating 12 media specialists. Elementary media specialists have already been slashed to the bone and it seems that the middle and high school programs are next. Since there are 12 media specialists at those levels this would mean complete elimination of instruction and curriculum support. What are those people at Balas thinking and when is this going to be explained fully to the public.


Sat, Mar 9, 2013 : 2:11 p.m.

Roger, continued This role also encompasses many activities relating to technology including the integration of resources in a variety of formats: periodical databases; Web sites; digital video segments; podcasts; blog and wiki content; digital images; virtual classrooms, etc. School librarians are often responsible for audio-visual equipment and are sometimes in charge of school computers and computer networks. As program administrators, school librarians define, lead, and manage school library media programs by establishing library policies; overseeing the library budget; planning the physical and virtual library space; and maintaining a welcoming, positive, and innovative learning atmosphere.


Sat, Mar 9, 2013 : 2:10 p.m.

Roger- Teach and: The roles of the school librarian The school librarian performs four main leadership roles: teacher, instructional partner, information specialist, and program administrator. In the teacher role, the school librarian develops and implements curricula relating to information literacy and inquiry. School librarians may read to children, assist them in selecting books, and assist with schoolwork. Some school librarians see classes on a "flexible schedule". A flexible schedule means that rather than having students come to the library for instruction at a fixed time every week, the classroom teacher schedules library time when the expertise of the school librarian, library and information skills, or materials are needed as part of a learning experience. In the instructional partner role, school librarians collaborate with classroom teachers to create independent learners by fostering students' research, information literacy, technology, communication, and critical thinking skills. As information specialists, school librarians develop a resource base for the school by using the curriculum and student interests to identify and obtain library materials, organize and maintain the library collection in order to promote independent reading and lifelong learning. Materials in the library collection can be located using an Online Public Access Catalog (OPAC)

Roger Kuhlman

Fri, Mar 8, 2013 : 9:48 p.m.

What the heck are media specialist and why do the schools need them at all?


Fri, Mar 8, 2013 : 9:18 p.m.

InterestedReader - I did and I am now very confused. The column with percent of reduction is interesting. I know from prior budgets that the transfer from the general fund to the athletic fund this year was a little more than $3 million dollars and so the 33% in the column for a percent of reduction for a million dollar reduction makes sense. What does not make sense then is the media specialist line with a $1.2 million dollar reduction that is 1% of the budget - if that is true - then the media specialist cost the district $120 million a year. The column also does not work for a "percent of the total reduction needed", because the theater line is 100%. So I think someone did not do a very good review of the budget document, which does not surprise me, given the prior year documents and the holes in them.


Fri, Mar 8, 2013 : noon

I agree- eliminating media specialists is a bad idea. I think as a public, we could use more info on what "instruction and curriculum support" means and how it impacts tthe classroom. My impression is that these roles are critical supports for teachers who now have increased class sizes.


Fri, Mar 8, 2013 : 10:51 a.m.

Didn't they just put some big astro-turf thing in somewhere, and buys ome weird futuristic oil-pool cover system that turned out to be more expensive and not as effective as a normal cover? Maybe you could start trimming things like that. Do you have some team meeting every once in a while to think of new and interesting ways to spend money? Cut that team.


Fri, Mar 8, 2013 : 2:47 a.m.

Dr. Green is lowering Balis overhead, moving to zero base budgeting, lowering salaries, considering closing building and people are complaining?


Sat, Mar 16, 2013 : 1:20 a.m.

@DonBee No I haven't seen it yet. But I'm hoping she's trying to get there and that's why people are upset!


Sat, Mar 9, 2013 : 7:37 p.m.

Well, some central administrators and a few building administrators have been retiring. And Robert Allen has resigned to move away from Ann Arbor, possibly because he has been extremely resistant to giving the Superintendent and the Board of Education the level of detail they need to make "smart" cuts or move promptly to a zero-based budgeting system. Given the contractual obligations, it will take a minimum of 18 months before the Superintendent can build a case for anyone to be fired, demoted, or reassigned for cause. That's just about how long she'd been here now, and I'm truly hoping to see the end of this school year bringing some long-needed changes to AAPS.

Roger Kuhlman

Fri, Mar 8, 2013 : 9:46 p.m.

Words are all very easy to say.


Fri, Mar 8, 2013 : 9:11 p.m.

aataxpayer - I have heard the words, but in 20 months, I have not seen any results made public. Have you?


Thu, Mar 7, 2013 : 11:53 p.m.

Well, we needed a superintendent, but we didn't need that expensive of a superintendent, so we are able to make a reduction there!


Sun, Mar 17, 2013 : 7:50 p.m.

i agree but good luck with that one.


Thu, Mar 7, 2013 : 10:31 p.m.

18 months to assess school closings?!? It is clear this maple syrup speed would never fly in the private sector. No wonder our governments are bankrupt.


Sun, Mar 17, 2013 : 7:51 p.m.

should take about 18 minutes but in Ann Arbor everything has to be absolutely politically correct.


Thu, Mar 7, 2013 : 9:24 p.m.

Eliminating all of Balas just might do the trick - financially, for team morale, as well as allows the school administrators to partner with the teachers and parents to head this ship in the right direction. The school board can then watch in awe until their elected terms run out.

Roger Kuhlman

Thu, Mar 7, 2013 : 4:53 p.m.

I am confused about what are the facts about AAPS. This article claims Ann Arbor schools have steady enrollment levels but I thought I read the editor of recently saying in the print edition that the school system was serving 900 less students than last year. What is the story?


Thu, Mar 7, 2013 : 4:07 p.m.

"AAPS is contractually obligated to provide either an assistant or extra pay when the target class size for a particular grade is exceeded in a teacher's classroom". This is the second time I have seen this mentioned in an article. I believe that this option is only available at the elementary level. I don't think that middle or high school teachers have been given the option of having a TA when faced with larger class sizes. Would you please clarify this for us?


Thu, Mar 7, 2013 : 3:22 p.m.

While I think building closures probably need to happen, the implications really have to be carefully considered. Most of the "good" schools are running at near or over capacity. I can't imagine they would close one of the better performing elementary schools. Most of the middle performing elementary schools don't have tons of capacity, and who wants to suddenly have their kid bused halfway across town, perhaps to a school that performs less well than your local school? As an elementary school parent, I'd accept redistricting to a nearby school that performs as well or better than my local one. I'll pull my kid from the district or employ schools of choice (if possible) rather than send my kid to a school with a bad reputation. I'm pretty sure I'm not the only one thinking like this. I don't envy the folks who have to make the decisions...

Jay Thomas

Fri, Mar 8, 2013 : midnight

Please... no more social engineering.


Thu, Mar 7, 2013 : 8:23 p.m.

So what do you think is the answer, Bob? My ideal answer is that they need to change the whole "which school has which reputation" by mixing everything up in the district, but I don't think that will happen.

Basic Bob

Thu, Mar 7, 2013 : 5:17 p.m.

Thanks for being honest. The pervasive distrust and fear of working families and minorities will prevent meaningful changes to the boundaries we have now. Your kids will be safe from my kids.


Thu, Mar 7, 2013 : 3:05 p.m.

Green is in hot and heavy with the BOE to make their dreams come true in 5 years. Get rid of the spokes, transportation and custodial and keep Balas safe. Close Balas and/or downsize.

say it plain

Thu, Mar 7, 2013 : 2:56 p.m.

I really hope that if AAPS considers re-districting and closing schools that they address the clear desire for 'alternative' programs. As I understand it, there are not only waiting-lists for Community that indicate more than 3-to-1 demand-to-capacity, but also for the elementary/middle-school alternative. Why not make redistricting part of a larger plan to meet demand? AAPS probably loses even more bodies to charters and privates by not meeting families' desires for alternatives at the *elementary* level than at any other. We could make any school closures and re-drawing of lines much more palatable I'd think if it came as part of a proposal about *giving* something to the community in terms of creating a caring community context for education and for students. This is not quite what is represented by the Scarlett-Mitchell program, whatever is going on with that these days.

say it plain

Fri, Mar 8, 2013 : 11:17 p.m.

@Don Bee, I will try and find those original reports about skyline at conceptual stages, but from what I understand about it now, the magnets are well liked generally by the families who lottery in (and I didn't even know that they were open at all to kids from other schools!), which isn't close to all the kids who *want* in, and nearly invisible to the kids who aren't involved in them. Even the trimesters...I think to the degree that there is support for it, it is among the families who are in the magnets, given that it would be hard to have them, so it is argued, without trimesters. What I would like to see AAPS do is make a Community-type program out of Skyline (or out of one of the other big schools, but since Skyline's location is sort of 'out there' anyway, maybe that makes the most sense)...keep the magnets if they feel the need as sort of 'themes' for the kids' studies, but not force lotteries into it...just a single lottery to get in to the school in the first place, as a replacement for Community. With space for 400 kids or more per class year, that might be all that's needed with minimal turning-away of kids who want the 'alternative'. They can still do all the 'alternative' stuff left at Community these days...the jazz and the dance and the no APs or ACs with instead funkier course offerings. They could turn the athletic fields over to more 'alternative' recreations and programs for fitness and field use. And they could keep the emphasis on creating smaller 'communities' with more attention to counseling and so on. Skyline isn't as 'alternative', so is my impression, as people want it to be, for those really looking for alternative. And the applicant numbers for Communiity show there is demand there. Maybe even the recently reported decline in the applicant levels for Skyline's open enrollment shows that people who thought it would be truly alternative are disappointed.


Fri, Mar 8, 2013 : 9:07 p.m.

say it plain - Go back and read the original reports on Skyline and how it was to be a magnet school with 3 programs housed in one building - each program would be open to the whole district. While it has "magnets" they are primarily available to Skyline students, only a few students were allowed to cross building boundaries to attend the programs and the programs are a shadow of what was promised as part of funding Skyline.


Thu, Mar 7, 2013 : 7:20 p.m.

Spanish-immersion or Mandarin Chinese immersion would be great, but I hear that there is no way the district will even consider it with budget cuts, etc. Now Lincoln schools has the new Spanish-immersion program, as they were the only school system willing to take the risk!! I hope it works out well for them!

Chris Blackstone

Thu, Mar 7, 2013 : 5:16 p.m.

Excellent idea. How about a Spanish-immersion school, or technical-focused school? There are innumerable options out there. To see how a comparable district does it, check out the Arlington, VA Public Schools ( They, along with Ann Arbor, are in the Minority STudent Achievement Network (, which means they're similar sized and situated. Arlington is significantly more diverse than Ann Arbor, yet provides many more options for "particularized" education.

Roger Kuhlman

Thu, Mar 7, 2013 : 4:58 p.m.

If AAPS is losing students to charters and private schools, Ann Arbor schools should not be at capacity and then closing schools should be a sensible plan.


Thu, Mar 7, 2013 : 2:40 p.m.

It seems to be that families would be most upset by closing or redistricting elementary schools. Kids and parents are a part of an elementary school community for many years, and parents are also more likely to volunteer or be involved than they are at secondary schools. I know I'd personally be very upset if we had to switch elementary schools - there are several in our SE area that would make me consider switching to a charter school instead - but I don't care so much which middle or high school my children attend. I know that Scarlett middle school is barely over 50% capacity and has a very negative reputation in the community, so it seems to me that it would be a strong candidate for closure. However, I would bet a large sum of money that it will never happen, since the UM School of Education is now working with Mitchell and Scarlett - I can see AAPS considering closing any other middle school except Scarlett, which is sad.


Wed, Apr 17, 2013 : 5:23 p.m.

You should care most about the middle and high school your child attends. Having one child at Clague and one at Huron I used to think the elementary level was most important. It is important but middle school is where the social really kicks in and high school will determine college or career choice.

Basic Bob

Thu, Mar 7, 2013 : 5:11 p.m.

Scarlett does not seem to be as large as the other schools, but it is hard to get perspective. Tappan looks very big from the street. The Tappan-Scarlett boundary will be one of the most difficult. Tappan is overcrowded and Scarlett has capacity, but people living near the border tend to be opinionated about the difference between the schools. There is an overlap area now near Allen School, but I know only one student who chose to attend Scarlett.


Thu, Mar 7, 2013 : 4:12 p.m.

The program can move with the students - I don't see that as a sticking point. I don't know which school could absorb those kids, those.

say it plain

Thu, Mar 7, 2013 : 2:48 p.m.

Can anyone speak to how set-in-stone that partnership is? I recall a lot of talk about switching up the school-year and so on for that Mitchell-Scarlett situation, but then nothing for a long time.


Thu, Mar 7, 2013 : 2:28 p.m.

Schools closed were: Stone, Clinton, Bader, Newport, Freeman, Lakewood. Many students were moved around to optimize building usage and racial balance. The "super-pair" of Pattengill/Bader was created. Lakewood has reopened. Stone is used by the district. Clinton, Bader, Newport and Freeman were sold.


Thu, Mar 7, 2013 : 10:06 p.m.

Bryant-Pattengill is the "super-pair."

Danielle Arndt

Thu, Mar 7, 2013 : 6:29 p.m.

Actually AAPSHistory, the district still owns Freeman but it's rented by Go Like the Wind Montessori School:

Haran Rashes

Thu, Mar 7, 2013 : 5:54 p.m.

If I recall, Stone School now houses Ann Arbor Technological High School (AAPS owned and operated) 2800 Stone School Road Clinton was sold to the Jewish Community Center 2935 Birch Hollow Drive Bader was sold to Ann Arbor Hills Child Development Center 2775 Bedford Road Newport was sold to Rudolf Steiner School of Ann Arbor 2775 Newport Road Freeman continues to be owned by AAPS and is Leased to Go With the Wind Montessori 3540 Dixboro Lane Lakewood was shut down for many years, but has reopened as an AAPS Elementary School 344 Gralake


Thu, Mar 7, 2013 : 2:22 p.m.

So, if the process is not well underway, no school closings till 2015 ? I think the district is waiting for magic or a miracle. Meanwhile...


Thu, Mar 7, 2013 : 2:22 p.m.

Bader Clinton Newport Stone Dixboro Mack Lakewood (?)


Thu, Mar 7, 2013 : 3:22 p.m.

Angell was closed for a while, not sure when.


Thu, Mar 7, 2013 : 3:03 p.m.

Lakewood was closed for how long I don't know. I know in 2008 I think they reopened due to need to ease over crowding.

Ned Racine

Thu, Mar 7, 2013 : 2:31 p.m.

I don't think Mack was one. It now houses Ann Anbor Open (which transferred from Bach). The other six all closed in about 1985. Lakewood has been re-opened, Stone is now an alternative HS, the other four were sold /rented out.

Tom Todd

Thu, Mar 7, 2013 : 2:12 p.m.

Patricia Green you are supported 100%. you know what they about opinions.

Ned Racine

Thu, Mar 7, 2013 : 1:50 p.m.

Thursday morning trivia for you long-time Ann Arborites - name the 7 school buildings closed in the mid-eighties...


Fri, Mar 8, 2013 : 4:04 a.m.


Fri, Mar 8, 2013 : 3:57 a.m.


Fri, Mar 8, 2013 : 12:44 a.m.

Clinton, Bader, Newport, Freeman, Lakewood, Stone, and...

Urban Sombrero

Thu, Mar 7, 2013 : 10:52 p.m.

I only know one off hand----the elementary school I went to, Clinton. It is now a Jewish community center.


Thu, Mar 7, 2013 : 3:02 p.m.

They can get rid of Bryant and merge with Pattengill and Allen.

Dog Guy

Thu, Mar 7, 2013 : 2:28 p.m.

Newport School was given to R. Steiner for two cents on the dollar in support of private education. This gift helped lessen AAPS' achievement gap from the top down.

Ned Racine

Thu, Mar 7, 2013 : 1:56 p.m.

BTW - I can only think of 6. No fair looking it up - use your memories!


Thu, Mar 7, 2013 : 1:41 p.m.

This, as I see it, is the problem with Ann Arbor schools: our funding mechanism is out of line with our values. Ann Arbor parents value education, but our district's hands are tied by Prop A. I moved into my neighborhood so that I could walk my children to a small local elementary school. If the district can't afford to keep that school open (and others like it), then Ann Arbor has lost something very valuable. The fact that we can't increase taxes, even to keep the schools we love open, is a big problem.


Fri, Mar 8, 2013 : 8:22 p.m.

dotdash - So what you are saying is where you used to live the schools got north of $20,000 per student? I would love to know where that is because the US Department of Education doesn't show a state with that kind of funding. All in AAPS spends more than $14,000 per student. The $9,000 number that people who want more money love to quote does not include: 1) Bond millage (no it can't be used for salaries, but if you did not have it, you would have to spend general funds for buildings) 2) Sinking fund money (see #1) 3) Title 1 and title 2 funds 4) The parking funds from the UofM football games ( a cool $1 million) 5) Any revenue from admissions to events (plays, sports, dances, etc) 6) Parking permits for students 7) Special ed funds (e.g. the WISD millage, state reimbursement, etc) 8) Money from the thrift shop or the Eduction foundation 9) Other grants and money from non-tax sources 10) Misc other funds. We tend to focus on the Prop A money and think that is all that there is. It is not, there is much more money there than.


Thu, Mar 7, 2013 : 5:41 p.m.

Basic Bob: Yes, everyone deserves better schools. I would LOVE it if every district in the state would vote for more education funding (or even call their legislators and demand more money be put into the School Fund), but they don't and won't. So every school in the state goes down the tubes together. Not a great outcome. If property taxes are too high, it's not because the schools are getting the money. Our taxes are no higher than in the place I used to live, and school funding per pupil here is 40% lower. The money is going somewhere else, and it is a real shame.

Roger Kuhlman

Thu, Mar 7, 2013 : 5:09 p.m.

Sheez come on! Property taxes are already way too high. Some of us Ann Arborites live on low or medium income or fixed income and taxes hurt us badly. I ask you shouldn't those directly benefiting from the schools pay more than those who do not. Those wanting special luxury type schools should pay for them themselves and not force everyone else in the community to pay for these privileges.

Basic Bob

Thu, Mar 7, 2013 : 5 p.m.

You don't give residents of other districts enough credit. They also value education and are forced to make do without the extra money AAPS receives from the state. Just because we are richer does not mean we are more deserving. And just because our operating money is on par with other districts does not mean that we can't give our kids nicer facilities through local bond issues.


Thu, Mar 7, 2013 : 1:10 p.m.

Please discuss: Consider selling the Ann Arbor Pioneer property, at a multiplied premium, to UM for expansion of its academic and/or athletic campuses. The property is already out of the tax base, so no harm to city coffers. Then, the property will be well utilized. Then, assimilate Pi's mainstream students to other mainstream high schools. Maintain the successful specialty HS programs and buildings in their current configuration.


Sat, Mar 9, 2013 : 5:02 p.m.

With the 4 year process to fill Skyline finally complete, 3 years after the peak of student class sizes graduated, and Pioneer and Huron re-configured to hold fewer students, the 4 major high schools are at or nearly at their planned capacities in the new lower capacity configurations. With the building of Skyline and the transfer of students - almost all of the trailers (temporary classrooms) are gone - the ones that remain - remain for special purposes, not for general classes. Many rooms converted to classrooms in the buildings have been converted back to other uses, including space for Rec&Ed in one building. Several spaces were converted to hold additional administrative staff in Pioneer and Huron. None of the buildings is now over their planned (reduced) capacity at the high school level. The total reduction in capacity at Huron and Pioneer exceeds the total number of students at Community, AATech (formerly Stone) and Roberto Clemente.

say it plain

Fri, Mar 8, 2013 : 6:40 p.m.

good point, @Klayton... I just keep thinking about that Community High location...could they somehow keep that property and 'rent' it out as is?! That location is so desirable I'd guess. Office rental? Retail space? Do they have constraints on how they can 'rent' it given their status as a school district? It seems such a potential money-maker and I agree, it's *such* a potentially valuable location that it would probably be silly to just straight out sell it if they could rent at decent income especially. And they'd only have to move 400 students to get that done. Probably for the cost savings they could make the school to which the program is moved be something really interesting and exciting as a draw to AAPS. Time to move on, people. Doesn't mean an end to the alternative Community represents, but a re-imagining and expansion.


Fri, Mar 8, 2013 : 12:41 a.m.

I think AAPS should "rent" out properties rather than selling, their history of selling is that they often undersell...for example they sold Clinton in 1986 to the JCC for $200,000! Renting might be a better long-term monetary option.

say it plain

Thu, Mar 7, 2013 : 6:35 p.m.

You're kidding, right, @Roger Kuhlman? Until recently the kids at Pioneer were taking half their classes in trailers.

Chester Drawers

Thu, Mar 7, 2013 : 5:48 p.m.

Hey, Terry, you reported the score but neglected to mention which team won!

Roger Kuhlman

Thu, Mar 7, 2013 : 5:13 p.m.

Isn't overcrowding at Ann Arbor High Schools a very tired old myth?


Thu, Mar 7, 2013 : 4:10 p.m.

Pioneer is located within the community it serves - lots of the kids can get there on bikes or on foot. My sense is that Skyline does not have that advantage and is a nightmare of driving distance for many. To me, it would be a shame to lose a community school - if Ann Arbor parents wanted the mega-school blueprint they would have chosen to live in Saline. That being said, the decline of facilities that has been allowed at Pioneer makes me believe that there is a long term plan to get rid of it.

Terry Star21

Thu, Mar 7, 2013 : 3:09 p.m.

Chester is right, the Frieze building was swapped in 1953, but the agreement to share monies from Michigan football parking Saturdays was not in original agreement and came in 1971. BTW, the University of Michigan football team played Ann Arbor High School, nickname Pioneers, in 1891, to a tune of 62-0 (true story).


Thu, Mar 7, 2013 : 3:01 p.m.

I heard that ditty about Pi Hi. As for Pioneer? Get rid of Clemente and move them into Stone School. Reorganize Balas and leave the spokes alone.

Chester Drawers

Thu, Mar 7, 2013 : 2:42 p.m.

It may be interesting, but it's not true. Back in th 1950's the U of M and the AAPS 'swapped' the old high school building at Huron/Washington & State for the property at Main & Stadium that the 'new' Ann Arbor High School (now Pioneer) was built on.


Thu, Mar 7, 2013 : 2:39 p.m.

From what I've read in the past, the AAPS does own the Pioneer High School property, which was purchased from the University some time in the 1950s. There is some type of covenant in the deed of sale that requires AAPS to make the land available for parking on UM football Saturdays.


Thu, Mar 7, 2013 : 1:53 p.m.

Interesting. Please share more regarding UM ownership of Pioneer property.

say it plain

Thu, Mar 7, 2013 : 1:48 p.m.

Why not close Community instead, sell that to *expand* the AA tax base in its very valuable location, and move its mere 450 students to the other schools? That would surely be more can't fit Pioneer's 1600 students easily into Skyline and Huron. It would exacerbate the overcrowding SKyline was built to relieve. Make one of the schools, be it Pioneer Huron or Skyline *fully* alternative (Skyline would be easiest because it's already tried to work in some alternative-ness into its systems), and save more money by turning their athletic fields over into club sport/recreation/workshop/gardening/amphitheater/whatever spaces instead of high-maintenance 'turf' used by small numbers of students. Every year a whole large-high-school grade's worth of families try for the alternative of Community and only a quarter of them can go. Surely we lose some of those students to privates and charters, so *increasing* alternative capacity could help AAPS enrollment. Despite the constant claims about how important it somehow is for Community to exist within walking distance of zingerman's, I'd guess that it would work just fine in a different location (though I do buy that it couldn't work as a smaller program 'housed' within a larger one).


Thu, Mar 7, 2013 : 1:22 p.m.

I believe that the U-M actually still owns the property that Pioneer sits on.


Thu, Mar 7, 2013 : 12:43 p.m.

Patricia Green is the equivalent of that proverbial $100K piano: a top of the line piano will be something you can brag about to your friends/family, and may sound great, but there are many pianos on the market that will perform equally if not better, for much less.

Stephen Lange Ranzini

Thu, Mar 7, 2013 : 12:31 p.m.

"The district, led by [Finance Director Nancy] Hoover and the finance department, is in the process of changing all of its budget documents and tools to account for every expenditure under each department and building budget. Every line item in the future also will have a detailed description of how the money is being spent and on what." "Green said most school districts use a method of budgeting called bottom-line accountability. She said the Ann Arbor Public Schools is in the process of moving away from this method to line-by-line accountability..." Translation: the current budget documents are for show and sit on the shelf collecting dust after approval by the AAPS BoE and are quite useless. It will take us a year to create detailed budgets that we can actually use to track expenditures at the level of detail required to actually know what we are spendig the money on, how much each school actually costs to run and to catch waste.

Stephen Lange Ranzini

Thu, Mar 7, 2013 : 6:44 p.m.

@noreaster: Yes, this is actually progress. Now, why it would take a year when it means they can't make critical decisions until then, and why it took so long to figure out this is a problem, and when they will address the lack of an effective system of internal audit and internal controls are all questions I cannot fathom. P.S. "spendig" should be "spending". Sorry! Sigh.


Thu, Mar 7, 2013 : 2:11 p.m.

Correct me if I'm wrong here, but are you saying the superintendent is causing something to happen that should have been done long ago? Somewhat like Randy Trent's new comprehensive report on physical properties presented at the last board meeting? Wow, it's starting to look like the superintendent is actually earning her keep, and staff are being made to get off their comfort zones. Methinks that's a good thing!


Thu, Mar 7, 2013 : 11:57 a.m.

Green is not a stellar leader, deserving of one of the highest salaries of this position in the state. Based on her record and our experience with her, nothing she says has credibility. Not knowing that your system and group was over budget financially, as well as over budget on head count is inexcusable. Go figure!


Thu, Mar 7, 2013 : 11:56 a.m.

Let's kick the can down the road until her contract runs out. The BOE members fear the accountability of an election- school closing would come in the areas with the most frequent voters. No one is willing to make the tough decisions. In other districts a decision is made, a letter goes home and it is a done deal. Ann Arbor never makes the hard cuts. We built Skyline because it was to hard to say no. We have too many teacher assistants because no one can say no. We have underpopulated elementary schools and middle schools because no one can say no. We have had counselors on the block for the last five budget cycles but no one can make the cut. This is one time that the parents in Ann Arbor need to look at the big picture. It's not about your child attending a building that everyone in the family for three generations attended. It is not about your kid having a new high school building with all the bells and whistles. It is not about your kid having their own personal escort to classes. It is about all the kids. Dr Greene, paying a teacher more to cram one more student in their room is not best practice. We pay you big bucks to make the very big cuts. DO IT. Close three elementary schools now. Close a middle school now and yes look at the sacred cow Skyline and re design it as an all alternative high school. Look for the $100,000 dollar pianos. We have been studying these problems for eons. We have turned out more data on building usage then any other district in the state. We have data on cost per building, we have data on cost per student we have data on cost per subject we have studied this problem forever and the data doesn't change. The only thing we haven't done is make the tough cuts. Oh, and equitable across the board cuts come at all levels if we need to cut 10% from the teachers every body in the district including the very top ( that would be you Dr Greene and all your new hires) need to take the same cuts.


Fri, Mar 8, 2013 : 3:15 a.m.

Why would we sell Pioneer? Where would all the kids in the area go to school? It's not feasible to send all the kids to schools in northern Ann Arbor


Thu, Mar 7, 2013 : 7:40 p.m.

Thanks for your post. I agree with you except I think AAPS should sell Pioneer to UM and keep Skyline. Also, the district must renegotiate the teachers contract. I don't have the data but I'm willing to bet Ann Arbor teachers are among the highest paid in the state with the most time off.

Roger Kuhlman

Thu, Mar 7, 2013 : 5:19 p.m.

I will bottomline it. AAPS spends way too money and needs to make big cuts in spending now.

Susie Q

Thu, Mar 7, 2013 : 2:49 p.m.

Actually, I think the folks at the top should take a higher percentage cut than the owest paid employees, like the custodians, teaching assistants, etc. The custodians took an 8% cut two or three years ago and pay a higher rate for insurance. Those folks making over $100,00 a year can afford a larger cut than someone earning $22,000 a year.


Thu, Mar 7, 2013 : 1:39 p.m.

olddog; Well said. The right choice is never the easy choice, but it IS the right choice. It it time to close some schools and lay off all of the associated Administration.

Basic Bob

Thu, Mar 7, 2013 : 11:17 a.m.

"Green said it could take up to 18 months to properly assess and prepare for considering school closures." Then you better get started.