You are viewing this article in the archives. For the latest breaking news and updates in Ann Arbor and the surrounding area, see
Posted on Fri, Jun 14, 2013 : 2:59 p.m.

By the numbers: 79 percent of Ann Arbor schools' cuts are staff reductions

By Danielle Arndt


Quinn Strassel, a pink-slipped English teacher from Community High School, speaks at Wednesday's Ann Arbor Board of Education meeting about the budget and discrepancies in per-pupil spending at the district's four primary high schools.

Danielle Arndt |

Nearly 79 percent of the approximately $6.88 million in cuts to the Ann Arbor Public Schools' budget for fiscal year 2014 came in the form of staff reductions, a review of the numbers shows.

The Ann Arbor Board of Education approved its budget — complete with a budget reduction plan — at about 2 a.m. Thursday, at the end of a seven-hour meeting.

The AAPS was facing an $8.7 million budget shortfall for the upcoming school year, which it took care of Thursday when the board passed a number of reductions and revenue enhancements, and approved using $1.18 million from the district's fund equity or primary savings account.

Employee positions accounted for about $5.43 million of the reductions approved, with $3.5 million (or 50.9 percent of the cuts) coming from a loss of teaching positions.

Here's a by-the-numbers list of all the items school board members approved as part of their budget reduction plan to balance the 2013-14 general fund budget. The budget was developed using a projected blended student count of 16,699 students for the 2013-14 academic year.

But first, one program that the board agreed to cut Thursday that does not fit into any of the categories below was the tuition preschools at Allen and Thurston elementaries. These programs are not financed by the general fund, but operating them has had significant implications on general fund money since their inception in 2006.

The tuition preschools are run and paid for by the Community Education & Recreation Department, which projected that due to their under-enrollment issues, the preschools would be operating on a nearly $66,000 deficit for the 2013-14 academic year if the program continued.

Rec & Ed officials proposed closing the program earlier this year and began informing families of the possibility in May. Five people attended Wednesday's regular board meeting to plead with school trustees to preserve the preschool program for one more year to give families the time to promote the program through marketing and, ultimately, increase enrollment.

However, AAPS Chief Financial Officer Nancy Hoover informed the board that the deficit the preschool program operates on has to be paid for out of the general fund each year, so the board decided the preschool program had to be cut.

A complete list of budget cuts and revenue enhancements is below.

Budget reductions:


Instructional services (43 FTE, 36 teachers):

  • 27 undesignated teaching positions — $2.7 million
  • 3 reading intervention specialists — $300,000
  • 3 teachers at Skyline High School, but allow the school to remain on trimesters — $300,000
  • 3 counselors — $300,000
  • 3 fine arts/physical education teaching positions (through attrition) — $200,000
  • 4 office personnel — $180,000
  • Shift the 1 theater technician position from the general fund to Pioneer Theater Guild — $50,000
  • Reduce noon-hour supervision and shift responsibility to staff (FTE impact unknown) — $71,000

Central office:

  • 6 employee positions and restructuring of work — $477,540

Special education and support services:

  • 4 to 4.5 teacher consultants, 2 to 2.5 teacher assistants and 1 speech and language pathologist (total of 7 to 8 FTE) — $125,000

Operations (17 FTE):

  • 1 crew chief — $80,000
  • 15 custodians — $600,000
  • 1 grounds employee — $50,000

Total: $5.43 million (about 74 FTE)

Physical fitness/athletics

  • Eliminate Ann Arbor’s extra half-semester physical education requirement — $400,000
  • Reduce transportation for team travel outside of Washtenaw County — $120,000
  • Reduce AAPS funding of equipment — $30,000
  • Reduce number of middle school club sports from 28 to 23 — $18,989
  • Close middle school pools (results in elimination of synchronized swimming and swimming and diving sports teams, as well as Rec & Ed swim classes and P.E. class lessons) — $70,000

Total: $638,989

Funding and spending reductions

  • Energy savings — $200,000
  • Freeze furniture and fixture purchases for 1 year — $200,000
  • Reduce library material purchases — $100,000
  • Reduce natural gas purchases — $100,000
  • Reduce theater funding at Community, Huron, Pioneer and Skyline (results in one less production per school) — $77,068
  • Eliminate discretionary food spending (including $5,000 BOE food) — $70,000
  • Reduce conference attendance and travel — $50,000
  • Suspend table rentals — $15,000

Total: $812,068

Revenue enhancements:

  • Charge students $100 per semester to take a seventh course at Huron and Pioneer — $100,000
  • Increase middle school pay-to-participate fees from $50 to $150 per student — $150,000
  • Increase high school pay-to-participate fees from $150 for the first sport to $250 per student — $150,000
  • Increase ice hockey fees to $600 per player to help cover rink rentals — $36,000
  • Increase golf fees to between $225 and $400 per player for tee times — $21,000

Total: $457,000

The grand total cut from the district's general fund in the budget reduction plan the Board of Education approved early Thursday is $7.34 million. Adding in the $1.18 million from the district's fund balance and the $270,000 in assumed concessions from the Ann Arbor principals, curriculum coordinators and tech support staff unions brings the total reduction to $8.79 million.

The board also approved adding an amount of $80,000 into the general fund budget for some internal auditing of the district's finance, human resources and instruction departments. This expenditure brings the net grand total of adjustments to the district's approximately $182 million operational budget to $8.71 million.

Budget documents provided by the district show the Ann Arbor Public Schools had to budget $2.76 million more than last year to accommodate employee salary step increases and increases to FICA, retirement costs and fringe benefit rates.

While employee reductions made up 79 percent of all the cuts approved to the AAPS budget for 2013-14, employee costs in 2012-13 accounted for 87 percent of the general fund budget, according to documents. Employee salaries were 57 percent of that cost and benefits were the remaining 30 percent.

Teacher salaries and benefits account for 75.77 percent of total employee costs, central administrators account for 1.85 percent, principals and other directors 4.8 percent, supervisors and curriculum coordinators 0.53 percent and other support staff/hourly employees 17.05 percent.

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


Danielle Arndt

Mon, Jun 17, 2013 : 4:26 p.m.

Just a quick response to one question I've received a couple of times about the $125,000 savings for cutting 7 to 8 FTE in special education services. The reason this cost savings is so small is because the district receives funding from state and federal resources for special education. So less is paid for by the general fund, therefore the savings is significantly less than when cutting a general education staff member.


Fri, Jun 21, 2013 : 7:59 p.m.

babmay11 - According to the BOE "It is all about the children" My response, based on this cut alone... "Yeah, right!" No administrator was harmed in the creating or passing of this budget.


Mon, Jun 17, 2013 : 5:13 p.m.

That is why it is one of the most short-sighted and frankly malicious cuts the BOE is making. They have to cut over $500,000 of services to students to save $125,000. First of all, it is illegal under the federal special education law IDEA to take away any individual students services that have been deemed necessary in their Individual Education Plan (IEP), so you cannot cut IEP services because you don't feel like paying for them any more. Secondly, it is not efficient to have to cut so many special education staff heads (7-8) to save such a low percentage. And one lawsuit or a couple of complaints filed by families could easily eat up that savings and cost more. Finally it speaks volumes about a board that is willing to shortchange these students.


Mon, Jun 17, 2013 : 1:13 p.m.

From the Michigan Department of Education website: I. General Fees A. School districts may not make charges for any required or elective courses such as for: (a) General or registration fees (b) Course fees or materials ticket charges (c) Textbooks and school supplies B. School districts may charge fees for extracurricular activities when students are not graded or evaluated and academic credit is not given, or for any activity in which participation is not required for obtaining a diploma. Provision should be made on a reasonable basis so that students without financial means are not exclude This looks as if charging for a 7th for-credit class is not permissible under Michigan regulations, and the Pay-to-Play fees for athletics call into question the long-standing AAPS practice of giving a one semester (0.5) credit in PE for participating in a sport. This document is very clear. Schools may charge to participate in a class or activity OR they may give credit towards graduation. They may not do both.

Chester Drawers

Mon, Jun 17, 2013 : 7:46 p.m.

AMOC, Students do not receive 0.5 credit for participating in a sport. They just get a waiver for 0.5 PE credit. The waiver does not decrease the 22 credit graduation requirement. Not sure whether or not this distinction would change what you have noted above.


Mon, Jun 17, 2013 : 4:16 a.m.

2.76 million in budgeted for salary increases vs. 2.1 million savings with 27 teacher layoffs Property owners and parents should be outraged at the continued salary increases while laying off teachers. Special interests are killing education with by "association" with the support of politicians who cater to their whims at taxpayer expense.


Sun, Jun 16, 2013 : 9:34 p.m.

Doesn't Ann Arbor want to close the achievement gap? All the educational research shows that early childhood education is key. I've looked at the numbers for the tuition preschools, and these are minority serving program: 40% black or latino. This is part of why I sent my child there when he was 4. On Wednesday the BoE voted to keep the technician position at Pioneer's theater guild. Sounds like a great program, but how many minority kids does it serve???

A Voice of Reason

Mon, Jun 17, 2013 : 7:08 p.m.

There are tons of kids (minority too) involved in the theater program and about 1/3 are on scholarship.

Ricardo Queso

Mon, Jun 17, 2013 : 2:19 a.m.

Actually Head Start has been shown to offer no long term benefit. What does help is having a two parent household.


Sun, Jun 16, 2013 : 7:56 p.m.

You know if the Ann Arbor school staff and that means everyone would have come together a couple years ago and taken cuts and that means everyone takes a 4% a 8% or a 10% paycut and everyone takes the same in benefits cost increases and take cuts in vacations and sick banks to help out. But when it came time for your union's to say what they were willing to give up everyone's union say's not us we deserve what we get so we won't take anything but we are not going to give up anything either, then the BOE and the balas get together and start cutting. It always starts with the little guy then moves up first custodians and bus drivers and then now teachers and more custodians other staff. So now everyone starts looking around like how come they arent taking as much from them as there are taking from us, and we all start turning on each other. The last time I looked we are a educational system, but we sure do look stupid not looking down the road and seeing what was coming and not coming together as one. That does'nt mean that some programs still didn't need to be looked at, but we sure could have helped out ourselfs better then in this mess that we ALL are in now.


Sun, Jun 16, 2013 : 6:23 p.m.

Closing tuition preschools = closing Ann Arbor's best pre-K programs Any parent whose child has attended Thurston or Allen's preschool will tell you the same. I'm with Bryan: if Rec&Ed leadership cannot figure out how to market these preschools, or balance the preschool budgets, then let's change the leadership at Rec&Ed. A couple of comments above suggest that the tuition preschools have shorter hours than other centers in town. I don't get that. When my child was at Thurston's preschool, I could drop him off as early as 7:15am, and collect him as late as 6:00pm. I'm in a 2-parent working family, and this suited our needs just fine. We do, afterall, want to spend some time with our child each day.


Sun, Jun 16, 2013 : 6 p.m.

@DonBee, AMOC, and Trying: you suggest that there are other high-quality preschools available in A2 that are cheaper than the tuition preschools, and are open 52 weeks a year. I've looked, and they aren't out there. I didn't want glorified daycare for my kids when they were 4, I wanted a developmentally appropriate, educational preschool. The closest I found to the tuition preschools were the JCC and Gretchen's House. Both have really good programs. But the JCC is closed every winter break for a couple weeks, every Aug for a week, and every Jewish holiday in Fall. And Gretchen's House is WAY more expensive than the tuition preschool programs. Are there lower cost options in A2? Sure, with lower quality.


Sun, Jun 16, 2013 : 11:45 p.m.

Try Go Like the Wind or Allen Creek or Ann Arbor Cooperative. All three are excellent, all three have prices within $100 a month of the AAPS pre schools and have age appropriate programs. There are others that are as good or better and do not cost an arm and a leg.


Sun, Jun 16, 2013 : 3:15 a.m.

I looked closely at the top A2 preschools when my kids were younger, and was thoroughly impressed with Thurston's tuition preschool. I hear Allen's is just as good. AAPS did something right: used bond money to build pre-K classrooms within elementary schools. Parents who know these preschools rave about them. And according to economists, the financial pay-off of good early childhood education is huge: But now AAPS is thinking about closing its tuition preschools? Shutting down some of the best preschools in town, and letting all that bond money go to waste? You've got to be kidding me.


Mon, Jun 17, 2013 : 12:47 a.m.

All4thekids - Maybe I'm unusual, but I and all my friends found that the longer we could put off dealing with having 3 different sets of child care providers (school day, before & after care, and summer) the better we liked it. When the combination of the cost and the complexity was taken into account, no one I know well has decided in favor of AAPS's tuition preschools. Indeed, my own kids are old enough that my family opted out of AAPS kindergarten because a private K option let me deal with only 2 sets of carers (school year and summer) rather than the FOUR child care programs needed to cover half-day kindergarten and was almost 15% cheaper than "free" half day K, plus tuition full-day option, plus after-care. The quality of both programs was good, but the continuity and simplicity of the commercial program was important to me.


Sun, Jun 16, 2013 : 3:49 p.m.

@AMOC - I'm not trying to be argumentative, but this really is the strangest rationale I keep hearing about the preschool - that because it follows the regular school schedule, it's too hard for parents to work around. Don't two income families send their kids to K-12? Even single parent/single income families? Or does one have to quit their job for 13 years? If so, I missed the memo on that one. We're still working. Granted, I grew up in a single income family (though it was 2 income until I was in first grade) - but almost none of my friends with kids are in a single income situation. It's just not feasible anymore. But we still manage to send our kids to school everyday and hold down jobs. (Would I be in favor of this country aligning work times and school times - sure! But that is for another discussion.) As I mentioned in a reply earlier in this thread, a preschool family at AAPS would just have to face the dreaded "summer off" one year earlier. Get used to it, I'd say. :) And god forbid that sometimes we'd actually enjoy a day off to play hookey with a 4 year old. :)


Sun, Jun 16, 2013 : 1:47 p.m.

They may be excellent pre-schools, Concerned, but they are scheduled just like the public school system in Ann Arbor, which means you really need a stay-at-home parent in the family or an on-call sitter if both or the only parent is employed. And in spite of tax and bond-subsidized facilities, these excellent pre-schools charge at the high end of the market price for pre-school, meaning that many families who don't have two incomes are priced out of this program.


Sat, Jun 15, 2013 : 11:17 p.m.

allforthekids is absolutely right: the Board took no official vote on closing the tuition preschools, they took a "straw poll." Board President Mexicotte made clear that this poll was not official, not binding. I certainly hope not - they discussed the preschools for barely 1 minute before moving on to other topics. I think we can all agree that the education of Ann Arbor's four-year-olds deserves more than 1 minute of attention from our School Board. From what I know about Allen's and Thurston's tuition preschools, these are amazing educational programs. Let's keep them that way! If Rec&Ed has mismanaged them, then take these programs out from under Rec&Ed. These are, after all, educational programs - not recreation.


Sun, Jun 16, 2013 : 1:55 p.m.

Rec & Ed has met the BoE mandates that the pre-school break even on it's own, and that they must follow the school calendar. To do that (and meet the space and overhead charges imposed by AAPS) they have been charging fees at the high end of the market price in Ann Arbor which is substantially higher than just across the county line in Plymouth or Canton. However, because the school calendar is such that almost all employed parents must also make other child care arrangements, relatively few people who have the income to afford the program are finding it worth the hassle and expense of arranging the extra child care coverage.


Sat, Jun 15, 2013 : 10:05 p.m.

It sounds silly to create a $100 per semester fee for 7th hour yet to consider killing a pre-school program that has been poorly marketed by Rec&Ed yet is within reach of breaking even or becoming profitable. In the pre-school programs you have a parent base that expects to pay well above $100 per month per student to send their kids to pre-school. Dedicating more attention to this program, where families willingly pay multiple times the $100 amount proposed for 7th hour fee, makes a lot more sense. Who's crunching the numbers at Balas? They've got to start thinking about being more innovative instead of just cutting every year.


Sat, Jun 15, 2013 : 9:48 p.m.

Regarding the tuition preschools - I spoke with someone who stayed until the bitter end of the meeting Wednesday. They said the board made it clear (at like 1:30am or something) that any "vote" they made about the preschool was not an official vote, and therefore non-binding. So the preschools are in fact NOT CLOSED. I know for a fact there are still board members discussing options with Rec and Ed staff. The office is still taking names of people interested in enrolling (at least as of Friday). There has been a very active group of parents from both preschools advocating for the program. My understanding is there was no knowledge of the state of enrollment until May, so there's been little time to act. But the parents managed to get deadlines extended, 2 open houses added, a full report to the school board and parents and teachers speaking out at the board meetings. The rec and ed website doesn't say anything about the preschool being closed. So I think the journalist jumped the gun on that one. I made a comment earlier that they seem to be about 80% enrolled. That sounds like a little bit of marketing and word of mouth would close that enrollment gap in time for the school year to start. With a market the size of AAPS/UM/Ann Arbor - it can't be that hard. Why would anyone want to cut a program that could potentially be a *moneymaker* for the district?

Tony Livingston

Sat, Jun 15, 2013 : 3:07 p.m.

I am wondering if there is another way to have school sports that can be supported by a millage that does not come from the school budget. Is there a way to have a recreation millage in the school district and then run all of the after school sports programs with that money? The school facilities could be rented and the programs could exist in a manor very similar to what is currently offered. I don't think we can afford to support sports anymore through the school budgets but I know it is really important to a lot of people. There must be another way to do it financially. The amount of money used for sports concerns me especially when I noted that my child's team had a total of 16 participants and there was a head coach and an assistant coach. Meanwhile we are cutting reading specialists and loading up the classrooms with more and more students.


Mon, Jun 17, 2013 : 3:41 a.m.

Tony - In order to have a recreation millage separate from school funds, you need a recreation program separate from the school district. The right thing to do is to make all sports into club sports, and to rent the spaces on school athletic fields, gyms and pools to these clubs at the same cost as AAPS now charges Rec & Ed or independent community groups. The worst thing in my opinion about closing the middle school pools is that this will eliminate almost all Rec & Ed swim lessons, which have paid for more than half of the cost of the pools. So the savings will be much less than anticipated, because there was revenue that offset the cost of running the pools.


Sat, Jun 15, 2013 : 10:08 p.m.

Again, I wish Danielle would look into these details and make edits to the actual article. Once upon a time, journalists were required to do a better job fact checking before publishing articles. A straw poll and an official decision are VASTLY different. C'mon you've got to do better!


Sat, Jun 15, 2013 : 2:30 p.m.

Danielle - I'd also like to thank you for the detailed reporting. I have a couple of questions / topics that I've to have explored. I'm not sure if you have the time to do it, but these would be very interesting to me (and I think your readers) to understand the costs in the district. 1) We see comments all the time about the overhead that Balas represents, but I don't really know what Balas' structure looks like. I would love to see an article that shows the org chart for Balas and has a job description for each position and the associated cost to the district. I think that this might be shocking to your readers... and possibly to the board. 2) With the $80k that is budgeted for the auditing, will that include an audit of Balas? To whom will the auditing function report? I believe that the board needs some financial auditing to occur and that the auditing should be controlled by and reported to the board. 3) For the special education and support services, I understand that the district is reimbursed for a large percentage (80-86%) of the costs. What about the special education administration? We have a head of special ed and three department heads to whom all of the SP, Soc, etc. report. Does the district get reimbursed for any of the costs of those positions? What do they cost the district each year? You might know the answers to these questions already, but I would find the information very interesting. Thanks!


Sat, Jun 15, 2013 : 9:27 p.m.

The BOE is clueless when it comes to Balas staffing and the true needs of our education system and process.

Burr Oak

Sat, Jun 15, 2013 : 3:34 p.m.

Balas is like a cuban sandwich. Some of those layers provide value and are essential to our district. Others are condiments or distractions. They provide a layer of bureaucracy that muddle the flavors, interfere with the curricular mission, and are not directly connected to classroom instruction. Folks believe that Dr. Green hired quite a few new staffers who should be cut before any classroom teacher or custodian is cut. This appears to be especially true for special ed, but is also true for the gen ed curriculum. We can't expect Balas to volunteer cuts of these personnel. Just saying.

Chester Drawers

Sat, Jun 15, 2013 : 3:05 p.m.

I have, on several occasions, asked for an org chart of the AAPS central administration. They don't have one!!! I was assured about 3 years ago that it was a work in progress. Not much progress to report. If you can get your hands on a staff directory you can pretty much draw the chart, but of course the salaries would be missing.


Sat, Jun 15, 2013 : 2:09 p.m.

Counselors make $100,000? Are these the same type of high school counselors that existed when I went to school? Because that's WAY too much if so. Some of these salaries seem well above the norm. I'm assuming the benefits/pension packages are also STILL over the top, and will lead us to some wonderful borrowing in the near future as well. Is $40,000 typical for a custodian? I found this somewhere: A comparison of salaries as of 2012 shows some areas of the country tend to pay more. New York school custodians earned an average salary of $32,000, but those in Florida earned only an average of $26,000 a year


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

RUKidding - The savings listed for each of those positions are the average salary, health insurance and retirement costs paid by the school district for that group of employees. The benefits in these numbers are at least 30% of the total savings listed in the budget. Unfortunately, as was pointed out by Trustee Christine Stead, AAPS will have to pay unemployment insurance which will cost $8,000 for each of those $100,000 counselors and teachers who don't have a new job by 1 September. That's not to say that the salaries aren't high; AAPS is one of the most generous employers of teachers and other professional staff in Michigan, and one national teachers union ranks Michigan second in the nation for average teacher pay compared to cost of living. Many of the members of AAPS staff deserve every penny, but I'm not sure that Michigan taxpayers can afford to give any of our state and city government employees pay and benefits even more generous than the UAW used to get, back before all the auto industry bankruptcies and restructuring.


Sat, Jun 15, 2013 : 9:31 p.m.

I have trouble believing that 100K figure for counselors. Maybe the most experienced ones, but the newer hires (the ones that are being let go) certainly don't make near that even with benefits. Does anyone have a reliable source to estimate the average annual cost for benefits for counselors and/or teachers?


Sat, Jun 15, 2013 : 3:59 p.m.

This is the problem! Everyone in the public sector in Mich is overpaid. That's why property taxes are twice what surround states pay,someone has to cover health and pensions for our public servants?


Sat, Jun 15, 2013 : 2:59 p.m.

I don't think $40,000 is too much to pay for the folks who get there early, shovel the sidewalks, mow the lawns, clean the toilets, clean up vomit, mop the lunchroom, wax the hallways, empty the trash, get to know the kids, etc. etc., (and all without air conditioning). And they do work year-round.

Rick Stevens

Sat, Jun 15, 2013 : 1:39 p.m.

Let's see...$1.8 billion in tax cuts to there's no money for schools.

A Voice of Reason

Mon, Jun 17, 2013 : 7:07 p.m.

Please think about what you just said. Companies employ people, people get paid and pay taxes, people spend money that has a tax on it. If companies pay more taxes, they have to charge more for their goods which cost people more money! People and your retirement fund invest in companies and get paid dividends and stock goes up with helps you! Who exactly benefits from healthy, profitable companies, paying less taxes....we all do! Better retake that economic class at Pioneer H.S.


Sat, Jun 15, 2013 : 1:34 p.m.

Hello joejoeblow, What students held responsible? Heck not even the managers of this district have been held responsible for budgeting or much of anything else. Nothing new I'm afraid with not much changing.


Sat, Jun 15, 2013 : 12:27 p.m.

My wife and I come from a different part of the country. We are having trouble finding a school we like in your system. It appears that you have poor overall test scores and students seem to lack responsibility here with more attention paid to race quotas than quality teaching. We will be looking at private school only, as your school district doesn't have a real plan to deal with any of this. I'm sorry, across the board cuts won't help you. Does this community care about a comment like this? You all will say no, but you should. AA was once known for it's quality schools, no longer is that true.

Now Found

Sun, Jun 16, 2013 : 11:58 a.m.

Joe Joe Blow. Your name fits you most appropriately, as your comments seem to stem from a bag of wind that just wants to ruffle a few feathers. Really, now. My daughter just graduated from Pioneer High and never studied one moment for the ACT, scoring above a 30. She slid right into a very competitive medical program at the U of M, easily beating out a few thousand students who did not graduate from Pioneer High School who also wanted her slot. She got a scholarship, too. Poor test scores? Students who lack responsibility? Race quotas? If you are going to comment, please do so with an engaged brain. Maybe YOU need to go back to school so you can learn how to do research. As a suggestion, try Pioneer High School.


Sun, Jun 16, 2013 : 6:27 a.m.

JJB Your comment carries no weight. You admit you are new to the area, don't mention where you came from, and offer no way for anyone to understand what qualifications you possess to judge something you are unfamiliar with. Are you coming from Bloomfield Hills, or DPS? Without knowing your standard of reference, it is hard to to take what you say as helpful.


Sat, Jun 15, 2013 : 2:55 p.m.

Would love to see your research.

Basic Bob

Sat, Jun 15, 2013 : 2:24 p.m.

BTW, my kids went to the middle school with the statistically disproportionate minority population, and the high school with the statistically disproportionate minority population. They received an education as good as any in town, regardless of what some people might believe.

Kara H

Sat, Jun 15, 2013 : 1:49 p.m.

jjb: Of all the things potentially wrong with the AA public schools, racial quotas wouldn't show up on many root cause analyses. Hopefully you research your private school options more carefully than you have the public ones.

Basic Bob

Sat, Jun 15, 2013 : 1:11 p.m.

The two places we lived before Ann Arbor had substandard public schools and we willingly paid for private school. The church-affiliated schools were reasonably priced. When we moved to Michigan, we reached two conclusions: the public schools are much better than in most places, and private schools were unaffordable to the masses. In Ann Arbor, the schools are particularly good because of the successful parents, rather than some amazing and innovative educational system. In spite of all the funding challenges, the parents have not changed, and the schools are just as good as they ever were.


Sat, Jun 15, 2013 : 12:06 p.m.

What cuts are the administrators taking??????????

Fat Bill

Sat, Jun 15, 2013 : 10:43 a.m.

That's right, keep racing toward mediocrity. But hey, we can use the tax savings to buy a new snowmobile every ten years or something else just as meaningless...


Sun, Jun 16, 2013 : 10:31 p.m.

Thinking one - My grocery bill has not tripled, my car payment has not tripled, the cost of clothes have not tripled. In most cases those other bills have increased over 20 years by roughly 50% - not 300%. There is a limit to how much of my income can be spent on taxes. Right now the township levies a tax on my cable bill, the federal government levies a couple on my mobile phone, the state on my license plate, gas and drivers license. Everywhere I look the government is nickel and diming me to death. In that 20 years my income has not tripled either, so as a percentage of what I make, taxes are the fastest rising cost I have. Vacations? Yeah, I wish, since the downturn vacations are not in my plans, McDonalds, hey that is my fancy place to dine most of the time, no more Red Lobster or Great Lakes Seafood. I am not exaggerating anything, I went thru records the other day to clean up old tax files and was amazed at how much my taxes have increased compared to everything else.


Sun, Jun 16, 2013 : 6:21 a.m.

Don Bee Just for arguments sake, you say your mortgage payment hasn't changed. So why do compare things to it? Has your grocery bill not changed in 20 years? Your car payment? Your income? The amount you spend on vacations? The price of hamburgers at McDonald's? I would venture that for most people, the only thing that hasn't increased over a 20 year period would be their mortgage. So why do you use the exception as the comparison? By doing this, trying to make the exception look like the normal, you can exaggerate anything.


Sun, Jun 16, 2013 : 1:14 a.m.

Fat Bill - 20 years ago my property taxes were equal to 2 months of mortgage payment, now they are roughly 6 months of mortgage payment - and my mortgage payment has not changed. How much more money is there, before taxes drive more people out of the area?

Charles Curtis

Sat, Jun 15, 2013 : 11:49 a.m.

What tax savings do you speak of?


Sat, Jun 15, 2013 : 4:16 a.m.

What percentage of the administrative staff cost was cut? Compare that to the percentage of the teaching staff cost that was cut. What does this say about the educational priorities in the system?


Sat, Jun 15, 2013 : 3:27 a.m.

We all need to pay higher taxes maybe triple of what we pay now then no cuts will be required, teachers can get the pay they deserve and better benefits, and we can have any program we want fully funded. I can't believe the people of Ann Arbor, who value education very much, would not agree to something like this.............Let's get something on the ballot and save all of this wrangling over cuts

J. A. Pieper

Sat, Jun 15, 2013 : 10:24 p.m.

Mike, many AA residents do totally support education, but we cannot be the endless supply of tax money for a school district that is not a good steward for our money. AAPS hides money, and is certainly not transparent in how it uses our tax dollars. I am an educator, and I cannot support additional taxes until this school district starts to monitor what it spends. AAPS has to make some cuts, although they seem to be focused on the ones at the wrong end!


Sat, Jun 15, 2013 : 3:29 p.m.

Mike, is your summer vacation off to a good start?

Basic Bob

Sat, Jun 15, 2013 : 1:04 p.m.

@Charles Curtis, Equalization of spending for education across the state should be a goal of any real liberal. Your reverse-Robin Hood approach would take money out of poor districts to give to the rich, ensuring that decent public education is only available to the richest of us. As if that is not already true.

Charles Curtis

Sat, Jun 15, 2013 : 11:48 a.m.

A good chunk of Ann Arbor taxes as paid now go to other districts. I dont want to pay more so other districts get more funding. Ann Arbor cannot increase taxes to increase funding for public schools the way state law is set up. Prop A and Headlie need to be repelled or changed.

Basic Bob

Sat, Jun 15, 2013 : 3:53 a.m.

inflation beating raises and guaranteed benefits for life plus low cost healthcare for their non fanily members. otherwise they couldnt afford the lake house all summer.


Sat, Jun 15, 2013 : 3:21 a.m.

They will mostly retire and collect their pensions which we can't afford either...................just saying


Sat, Jun 15, 2013 : 3:01 a.m.

Until AAPS closes some schools and consolidates, no meaningful cuts will take place to put the district on a path to a balanced budget. Fewer teachers translates to bigger classrooms, which is not in the best interests of the students. Principals need to make meaningful cuts to their salaries, such as a 5% reduction for starters. Not every elementary school building needs a full time principal. All of them seem to function quite well with "part time" principals already, as the number of hours spent in off site meetings every week is astonishingly high. Fewer meetings and shared principals. I still recommend that the financial managers for the district be replaced with competent professionals that can manage a complex budget and make cuts along the way that don't lead to a crisis. Every line item needs to be examined and evaluated. Underperforming schools and programs need to be closed, and Community High is no longer a luxury the district can afford for a handful of students. Sell the Community High property and put the program inside one of the other high schools.


Sun, Jun 16, 2013 : 4:56 p.m.

@BasicBob, there is a form to follow which lists all of the gradation requirements. It's in English, and does not require a counselor to translate. There's also a course catalog which lists all courses available at each high school, as well as their descriptions and prerequisites. My kid just looked at it recently prior to registration. Never saw a counselor about it either. Common sense.

Basic Bob

Sun, Jun 16, 2013 : 3:34 p.m.

@TryingToBeObjective, "My kid has determined his own schedule needs every year." As does every other student who intends to graduate. The counselors are not helpful, and in fact they are in most cases obstructive. I have never had a positive experience with them until I explain to them that I am going over their heads. Then they suddenly find a way to be more flexible. Two of our children had to take summer classes at our cost because the counselors fail to consider subtle concepts like prerequisites and graduation requirements. They must learn something in their masters program about being oppositional and condescending, because it is a common trait.


Sun, Jun 16, 2013 : 6:58 a.m.

@sayitplain, once again, Community won't fit into another school in more ways than one. I pay taxes, so I pay into the sports, etc at other schools, including MANY things my kids do not utilize. I'm glad "you've heard" that significant numbers of Community students do theater at the other schools. Not sure how that's possible, since "significant numbers" of the small population at Community do theater productions AT Community. Can't be in two places at once. If you had ANY clue as to why Community functions so well, you would know that it is because it maintains a smaller school status. Moving it into a building away from the community where it is would destroy what makes the school special. But then, that's what you're after. Every student can utilize resources at any school in the district. Community runs the online and CR program that the ENTIRE district utilizes. The cost is attributed to Community. But I guess that's okay, because "that's different." What about the kids across the district that use online, CR, jazz, dance and other resources at Community????? What about the personal "attention" Skyline receives EVERY week during Skytime? And the 20% of the district that has been taking an Extra class at the expense of the 80% of the rest of the district? My kid has determined his own schedule needs every year. He doesn't have a babysitter in forum to do it for him. Kids at Community are self reliant. Do the kids at other schools require a separate course to teach them these skills?

say it plain

Sun, Jun 16, 2013 : 12:10 a.m.

@TryingtoBeObjective, Demand for Community is high enough for the program to be 4 times larger, so why not do that? And costs per student at Community includes the personal-attention of their forums, right? But *doesn't* include the costs they create at the big schools as they do the varsity sports there, and the APs there, and the music and theater programs there... I'd guess that close to none of the students in the theater program pictured here at Community are from the other schools. But I've heard that a significant number of Community students do Theater Guild or whatever at big schools. I don't think that gets counted in their 'costs'. And the APs. And the sports. I don't see why we can't consider moving it.


Sat, Jun 15, 2013 : 9:57 p.m.

Community is not a luxury. Cost per student almost same as Pioneer and Huron. The program at Community won't physically fit into another high school, and itvlso wont function the same there. Community is not underperforming, or underenrolled. You need to look elsewhere. Pioneer is the far more prime real estate by U of M. I don't see kids lining up to get into Pioneer. But there are increasing applicants every year at CHS. We can go round and round on this, but Roberto Clemente is half empty. Sell it. Northside is half empty. Close it and sell it. The BOE made a mistake in their math. You might want to read about it. What does cost more is the 20% of the district taking a seventh hour- now that is an extra luxury that will have to be paid for. More staff, more classrooms, for 20% of the district.


Sat, Jun 15, 2013 : 11:43 a.m.

JRS, I'm assuming that building consolidation (if it happens) will be part of the redistricting plan that they will roll out next year. This makes sense to me - if they are going to take a year to evaluate and re-define the attendance boundaries, this is also the right time to decide what to do with certain structures.


Sat, Jun 15, 2013 : 3:22 a.m.

More teachers at less pay per teacher and things will work financially, sort of what the private sector has been doing for the last 8 years...................


Sat, Jun 15, 2013 : 2:42 a.m.

And yet, the principals haven't put forth any agreements with specific numbers of % reductions in their salaries to help balance the budget. What are they waiting for?


Sun, Jun 16, 2013 : 1:10 a.m.

That is what Mr Comsa was brought on board to do. He is now the interim superintendent. Let's see if he is worth the 2AM raise?


Sat, Jun 15, 2013 : 2:55 a.m.

They are waiting for this to blow over, then they can get by with no cut, as planned. Someone at Balas or BOE needs to stand up to the AAAA, not only regarding their pay, but their protection of their employees that have long-since outlived their welcome in our district.


Sat, Jun 15, 2013 : 2:38 a.m.

All I can say is this. The students are going to be pleased as punch when they hear they can skip PE. But when it comes to team travel. Looks like school buses are going to be used more so then the privately owned buses. Can't wait to see how this all plays out.


Sun, Jun 16, 2013 : 1:37 p.m.

How much a bus driver school wise is worth versus a private bus driver. Take a look at Trinity. Ypsilanti uses 2 or 3 of their buses every year at a cost of over $180,000 a year. Plus they come over to Ann Arbor when WISD can't do it all. Interesting. Do the math and then do the savings. BOE can't.


Sun, Jun 16, 2013 : 6:11 a.m.

Please enlighten us all, since no one seems to understand what you are talking about, how you are coming to your conclusion, what data you are working with. Especially the part about a bus driver being worth $350 and a student being worth $20.


Sat, Jun 15, 2013 : 4:44 p.m.

Wrong, The school buses will be used more because they cost less to use then private ones. Although I wonder by how much when a bus driver is worth $350 and each student $20? Interesting.

Charles Curtis

Sat, Jun 15, 2013 : 11:45 a.m.

I believe the district is reducing the busing for team travel, so more likely going to see students drive themselves or car pooling among families involved. The private buses have been cheaper than the public busing in the few trips I have been involved with when we had a choice.

Basic Bob

Sat, Jun 15, 2013 : 1:13 a.m.

Much of this stress could have been eliminated had the district been able to close excess buildings. But it will take two years of ego stroking and story fabrication to pull that off.


Sun, Jun 16, 2013 : 1:08 a.m.

Basic Bob - Fixing the administration in a couple of buildings will probably bring the district 200-300 additional students or between $1.8 and 2.7 million in additional revenue. But that will never happen.


Sat, Jun 15, 2013 : 1:37 a.m.

I'm assuming that big moves like closing buildings will come along with redistricting. From the previous tone of the articles, my impression is that this will probably take place around the 2014-15 time line...


Sat, Jun 15, 2013 : 12:44 a.m.

The State of Michigan requires a 1.0 in Health and PE. AAPS required the students to have a 1.5 credit of Health and PE and had one of the better programs in the state by offering that additional .5 credit. That was true until Wednesday when the board decided to reduce the elective portion of the PE credit. Way to go AAPS lets do our part to help with obesity in America!!! The PE department was already taking a hit with retirements that were not being replaced, and now that department will get a double whammy with the board removing the additional PE credit- which will reduce 4 more PE teachers. It WILL have a huge impact on other courses in all of the high school buildings, all of those kids who would of normally would of been in the PE facility will now have to find a seat in the classroom, look for even larger classroom numbers now! The article has a picture of Mr Strassel (who I have heard is a wonderful teacher) and his student's at Community, also it mentions theater and the pre-school. But the article failed to mention all of the staff and students who spoke and were at the BOE meeting to support PE! It is a shame...


Sun, Jun 16, 2013 : 7:14 a.m.

Have some common sense, @havecommonsense. You know as well as anyone that ANY kid can do a sport as waivers for fees are available. This credit is not REQUIRED, and therefore it is an extra that had to go. If you weren't a PE teacher, I'm sure you wouldn't be biased. Rec and Ed also provides scholarships to those who are needy. The only "forgotten ones" here are the FACTS. I wouldn't expect anything "free" from the PE teachers. It was a suggestion, to be part of the solution,instead of part of the problem. I know of many other teachers that do "extra" things, like help for students for "free." I certainly don't expect it, but I do appreciate their dedication. I would think you'd be glad they didn't cut busing, otherwise you might not have anyone to teach.


Sun, Jun 16, 2013 : 2:07 a.m.

Aspects of obesity are taught in health and the other PE class. But really, you expect PE teachers who are told you aren't important and we are going to stretch your department even more thin than what it was before and you have taken numerous pay cuts already-but please stay after school for free to offer a free club... Yes I'm sure they want the kids to have exercise, but really do all of this for free, I don't think that is fair. Also as I understand the waiver, kids who play a sport can have that elective PE class waived, so they aren't talking about the kids who play sports, they want the kids who aren't maybe getting as much physical fitness to take this additional class. Not all kids can pay to play sports and not all AAPS kids can afford private club and recreation memberships. But once again those are the forgotten kids.....


Sat, Jun 15, 2013 : 12:29 p.m.

One semester of PE will not make a real impact on obesity. What about the other 3 years with no PE? My kid had the "extra" semester waived, due to playing numerous sports. Perhaps an after school club could be formed if teachers want to "contribute" to the obesity problem. If they keep cutting sports and increasing fees, which students can play for FOUR years, not one semester, that will be a far bigger impact. Students who really wanted that extra easy "A" in PE can play a sport if they want. Of course, it won't help their GPA. If you want to actually have an impact on obesity, TEACH about it in health class. Or start a club.

Bettie Dodd

Sat, Jun 15, 2013 : 12:40 a.m.

We do not need FEWER teachers, we need MORE teachers. How BIG are these classes? How many good teachers are staying? Assumed conc essions are written into the budget? Can ALL the students afford the Enhancement Classes?


Fri, Jun 14, 2013 : 10:17 p.m.

"...the tuition preschools at Allen and Thurston elementaries. These programs are not financed by the general fund, but operating them has had significant implications on general fund money since their inception in 2006." Then later, "AAPS Chief Financial Officer Nancy Hoover informed the board that the deficit the preschool program operates on has to be paid for out of the general fund each year, so the board decided the preschool program had to be cut." Just so I am clear, that means if the preschools were to run in the black, then no money is used from the general fund, but when they run in the red (which seems to have been frequently) they use money from the general fund? Is that the interpretation of everyone else?


Sun, Jun 16, 2013 : 10:24 p.m.

I see several of you don't like my truthful comments. If the pre-school wants to work for all parents, it needs to fix the way it runs, otherwise, many parents cannot and will not select this. I made this point several times before they were built, to no avail. I understand you love it, and that you have the flexibility to handle the time off, many families do not. Spending money on a program that is not mandated, is losing money and has reasonable private alternatives takes money out of the other classrooms. Running a pre-school for a couple of dozen families, while laying off teachers does not compute.


Sun, Jun 16, 2013 : 5:01 p.m.

If parents utilize one of the numerous local day cares that is more cost effective,they don't have to deal with days off. I'm assuming not every kid in preschool has older siblings as well. DonBee also makes a point about cost and convenience.


Sun, Jun 16, 2013 : 1:11 p.m.

@Trying - my point was actually that there are kindergarteners, 1st grade, all the way up through high school kids that have parents with full time jobs. Those parents *also* find ways to take care of their children on service days, holiday breaks and summer vacation. For 13 years! So the preschool family does that one summer earlier than most. No one magically gets summers off when you have a kid in school. (I wish!!! - haha) I'm a parent in a two income situation, and when time and money and vacation days permit, it's actually kind of nice to spend a day off with my child. :)


Sun, Jun 16, 2013 : 7:28 a.m.

That would be "in service days, not "ask service"


Sun, Jun 16, 2013 : 7:27 a.m.

@allforthekids and @bryan, you are missing the point clearly illustrated by DonBee. The preschools are closed when the schools are closed, which includes vacations as well ask service days and over the summer. If you have A "friend " that has a job, it's super that he/she is able to take that many vacation days to compensate for the numerous days that the preschool is closed. But that's not everyone. That's ONE. @Bryan, if they've been running in the RED for 7 years, lets not jump to the illogical conclusion that in our current super duper economy that will be changing anytime soon. Also, another word you mentioned was "logical", in the same sentence as "administration." If YOU have been part of the district for any length of time, you would already know that these two words, "logical" and "administration", do not apply in this district.


Sun, Jun 16, 2013 : 2:30 a.m.

@DonBee - "schools close for. In short it means any 2 income family has a hard time using the pre-schools." Interesting. My friend who signed up for tuition preschool is in a two-income family situation. And by that logic, how could *any* 2 income family have a kid in any public school? That's why the before/aftercare programs exist, and they are open to all ages, I think - including preschoolers. Looking at the pricing, even adding full time tuition with aftercare, it still comes to less money than several other local programs cost, and I'd reckon its a much better kindergarten prep than some of the daycare as preschool options.


Sun, Jun 16, 2013 : 1:06 a.m.

The pre-schools are not 52 week Monday thru Friday efforts, like most commercial pre-schools. They run on the school calendar for the building they are attached to. That means that several weeks a year you need to find alternate care for your pre-schooler. There are many days that are "In-Service" days that the pre-schools close for. In short it means any 2 income family has a hard time using the pre-schools. Add to that the the pre-school hours tend to be shorter than most of the competition and it becomes hard to make money. Since the additions were not put on separate heating and cooling systems, keeping them open means having heat in the whole building, and most of the thermostats are manual rather than set back automatic in many schools. So fixing this as part of AAPS means not only a change to the contract for the pre-school teachers, but plumbing work to change how the heating system works, or a change in thermostats so they are tamper proof and set back automatically. I had 3 objections to the 2004 bond fund, this is one of them. The making Skyline a comprehensive high school was the second and the major upgrades to Varsity sports only facilities was the third. The district is now paying for these decisions with their budgeting issues.


Sat, Jun 15, 2013 : 11:11 p.m.

@Trying - I believe the preschools were built from 2004 Bond, if I read the info correctly. Payback all the past years in the red? I don't think that is how budgets work. And if enrollment went from 10 to 33 in a few short weeks, I'd say the efforts the parents have been doing since May seem to be working to great effect. Keep 'em open!


Sat, Jun 15, 2013 : 10:20 p.m.

"Trying to Be Objective" if you've been around the district for any length of time, you'll understand there have been budget cuts for the last few years with no end in sight. Every year the Board and the Administration says they are open to any revenue ideas and usually there are very few credible ideas presented. Your assertion that "they haven't made it profitable to this point = too little too late" is short sighted. If I'm a CEO of a company with diversified businesses, I'm going to look at the ones that make a profit, the ones that aren't profitable and can be made profitable and the ones that will never turn a profit, and decide which business to cut based on that assessment. It seems logical that the Administration would take a similar approach. I think all these programs that people are passionate about are good programs for the kids. Many of them are never going to help offset cost no matter what the administration does. The Preschool program is well positioned to make a profit. If the Rec&Ed leadership can't make it profitable, it would make more sense to find leadership that can. Otherwise you eliminate one of the few opportunities to actually MAKE money in a cash strapped district.


Sat, Jun 15, 2013 : 10:04 p.m.

If they wanted to put the word out, it's too little, too late. Haven't they been running in the red for a few years now? " The deficit the preschool program operates on has to be paid EACH year. Who paid for the buildings? Has the district been reimbursed? No, I thought not. Is that $66,000 times how many years in the red? How many years to pay back all the years in the red? Not as simple as " putting the word out." A few short weeks ago, the enrollment was about 10 kids. Too little, too late.


Sat, Jun 15, 2013 : 9:25 p.m.

That would be true. Tuition preschools cost AAPS nothing. It's tuition based - paid for by parents and nothing else. "Few" (enrollments) is a pretty subjective word. Don't believe everything you read. At the board meeting the director said there were 33 kids enrolled between the two classrooms. A $66k deficit would be - what, 8 more full time kids? That sounds like they are at 80% enrollment to me - and its not even September yet! Putting the word out should be able to fill that gap no problem. And imagine, it MAKES money if you get a 9th kid! A possible profitable venture? Why would you cut a possible money maker for the school system (or at least Rec and Ed)?!?


Sat, Jun 15, 2013 : 12:31 p.m.

@Basic Bob, yes, similar services and ones that are not closed for every break of the school year. Agreed. At least the district finally said enough is enough to under enrollment, and cut their losses.

Basic Bob

Sat, Jun 15, 2013 : 1:10 a.m.

It's a shame they added on to the buildings to build preschools. Especially when there are so many others providing similar services.


Fri, Jun 14, 2013 : 10:43 p.m.

That's a big IF. There were very few applicants for the preschool, apparently.


Fri, Jun 14, 2013 : 9:57 p.m.

Pioneer Theater Guild was one of the largest student organizations at Pioneer. You didn't need to have expensive music lessons or athletic ability to be part of the program. There was a place for everyone. The cost was reasonable and the scholarship program was generous. My neighbor kids loved the tech aspect. Theater Guild made high school a welcome and exciting place for hundreds of students. So many students turned out to the BOE meetings and gave moving testimonies of what PTG meant to them. The BOE has effectively killed Theater Guild by assuming that it could afford to take on the $50,000 cost of the salary and benefits of the technician, 20% of her job as PTG related. It is a sad, sad day in Ann Arbor.

Brandon Angelini

Mon, Jun 17, 2013 : 2:27 a.m.

@Concerned Parent123 I recognize that this is the position you've been given by the PTG, but there IS in fact similar demand at the other schools. We can talk percents if you prefer, you named 5 things that she does at the school. 4/5 or 80% of her job functions are also conducted at the other high schools without the additional help ("sports meetings and banquets, assemblies, music concerts"), but you're correct that there are more professional development events at Pioneer. I respect that you believe the position PTG has given you, but if you delve deeper into their argument it falls apart rather quickly, how is it that Huron and Skyline don't have these other events? Best of luck to you all at PTG moving forward.


Sat, Jun 15, 2013 : 10:10 p.m.

@Tony, if you think that sports have no value, you must have some non-athletic kids. My kids get leadership skills, hard work ethic, dedication, and many other things in sports that they don get in the classroom. If YOUR kids Rent getting anything out of sports, perhaps they aren't making the effort. Oh wait, that's another academic concept.

Concerned Parent123

Sat, Jun 15, 2013 : 3:09 p.m.

@ Brandon Angelini This position is not a Theatre Guild position, as the many speakers tried to convey. This position is a building and district position that manages and facilitates ALL non-athletic events that occur in the building, including teacher PD days, sports meetings and banquets, assemblies, music concerts, etc. And these events total considerably more than the other three high schools combined. It would only be "equitable" to have Pioneer Theatre Guild support the 20% of this position that is theatre guild related-not have PTG financially responsible for staffing and facilitating the hundreds of building and district events that this position handles.

Tony Livingston

Sat, Jun 15, 2013 : 3:01 p.m.

I totally agree Alden. One thing I will add is that Theater Guild is extremely educational and academic. In this time of texting and speaking in an abbreviated manor, the English language training this program provides is priceless. Even if someone is on a behind the stage crew, they are continuously listening to the play. I am also not sure that people realize that Pioneer has a student productions program. This is where students write short plays and then a few are selected and the students run everything about the production. So high school students are writing plays and performing them. Compare this to sports where a ton of money is going. There is no academic value and students are constantly being pulled out of class for competitions. Personally, I would have preferred that the cuts come from the non-academic areas.


Sat, Jun 15, 2013 : 1:24 p.m.

PTG can still exist by doing shows that don't require elaborate sets and over the top costumes. Mysti Plummer designs the sets. There are many capable students at U of M or area professionals who would, for a small stipend, design and guide students and parents through a build. That program can survive with creative leadership. The teacher at community, Quinn Strassel, a Community High teacher and the head of their theatre department, is a creative leader who has directed/produced their productions with a much smaller budget than Pioneer. Their productions are wonderful even though they may not have all the bells and whistles that Pioneer has.


Sat, Jun 15, 2013 : 9:45 a.m.

Is the Theater Guild position the board cut for Misty Plummer an add-on to her salary as an employee in the building? I thought she had a clerical position at the school and helped with PTG similar to how a teacher might be an athletic coach. There were so many students and parents who spoke out in support of PTG and her job and role. I don't understand the details of this cut.

Basic Bob

Sat, Jun 15, 2013 : 1:09 a.m.

It makes you wonder if a paid theater technician is even required. Two or three of our budding theater professionals could learn the ropes.

Brandon Angelini

Sat, Jun 15, 2013 : 12:27 a.m.

I'm all for support of student organizations, but why is it appropriate for PTG to have this position funded by the district when there's no equivalent position being funded at Huron or Skyline? I love Pioneer theatre guild, and am incredibly impressed by every show I've ever seen by them, but when cuts are necessary, there are more important things. Like the funding of the music programs in general.


Fri, Jun 14, 2013 : 11:03 p.m.

This program was an excellent example of what can be done to assist hundreds of students in becoming better citizens who enjoy and support the arts. The productions were very professional and lead many students into careers where they could excel. I still think the majority of the BOE needs to be replaced with citizens who truly care about OUR CHILDREN's education, and not about the food they get at their Board meetings!!

Stephen Lange Ranzini

Fri, Jun 14, 2013 : 9:15 p.m.

They could have avoided losing a single teacher position including the special education and teaching classroom support staff had they eliminated the $4.5 million dollars budgeted to be spent annually from the building operations discretionary fund. In an era of tight finances shouldn't the school board decide ALL line item expenses and how the money should be spent down to the penny? This is a basic principle of line item budgeted and zero based budgeting. Nothing should be left to discretion. If the choice is between paying for trips to Cedar Point and pizza parties or more teachers who would argue for fewer teachers? But, maintaining ANY discretionary funds essentially chooses these fripperies over teachers. All the AAPS teachers I've talked to support this proposal. Of course this will require the PTOs and perhaps generous individual and corporate donors to step up (as I have in the past) through the education foundation to help truly needy students and worthwhile causes more, or require the superintendent to make the case to the AAPS Board for specific items previously funded from discretionary funds that ought to still be funded, but so be it!

Stephen Lange Ranzini

Sat, Jun 15, 2013 : 8:19 p.m.

@TryingToBeObjective wrote: "If you want a true gauge of teacher interest, would you consider developing some sort of survey?" First of all, thanks for the dialogue. I am busy and don't always have the luxury of timely answering every comment or question when I make a post, though I do try to, since the point of posting is to have an exchange of ideas and get feedback and improve mine. I am also happy to exchange ideas off line via email at If the Superintendent or the AAPS Board wants to do a survey of its staff on this issue, I am sure they don't need my help since they have people they pay who do surveys, but I would suggest they could use a free survey if they don't have a better option already. In my posts and my public comment to the board, I've already given them the language they could use, and most importantly, I don't have the emails of all the staff to send the survey out, but they do. Some of the trustees I've talked to appear not to actually want to fix this problem (that they are budgeting a reduction in teachers and teaching support staff), but just want to stir up parents and the voters so that they can pass a countywide millage they intend to put on the ballot in November.


Sat, Jun 15, 2013 : 12:46 p.m.

@Stephen, thank you for finally answering the question. It puts it in a better perspective. So does your position of seeing people every day at your job. But honestly, I don't think an post is a true gauge of parent interest, or what people are willing to do. Plenty of people on this forum spout out suggestions, but the majority will do nothing. Some are here to create trouble. Some have nothing to do with the schools. I also don't think eight teachers is a true gauge of teacher interest. I've spoken with several teachers about various budget cuts. None of them reads One thought the district was charging $1,000 per class for seventh hour, not $100. Big difference. If you want a true gauge of teacher interest, would you consider developing some sort of survey? I also think PTOs are already really stretched. I have personally sent in extra supplies for classes that I know the teacher would otherwise have to purchase, due t a lack of funding from the PTO. Some of the classes aren't ones my kids are in, I just have the supplies, and know there is a need. Also look at the down votes I get for merely asking you questions to clarify your statements. Tells you some people don what to know the answers, they just want you to wave your wand and fix it. I'm trying to educate myself with information to understand. Ignorance is bliss.

Stephen Lange Ranzini

Sat, Jun 15, 2013 : 12:23 p.m.

@TryingToBeObjective: 1) As a bank president, I talk to a lot of people. They want me to keep their information confidential, so I won't tell you the names of the AAPS teachers I talked to about this idea. 2) I ran the idea by three teachers, one of whom was given a layoff notice, two current & two former AAPS trustees, & the husband of a teacher who was given a layoff notice. Again, I won't tell you at what building these teachers work or who the trustees & former trustees were because then I won't be able to have confidential discussions with them again on any topic & our bank might even lose a few customers. I also spoke privately with @DonBee about it, since @DonBee is very tuned in to budget related issues. 3) To judge the credibility of my proposal, I have posted it on at least five AAPS articles about the budget & given public comment on it at the most recent AAPS board meeting. To date not a single teacher (even someone anonymously claiming to be a teacher) has commented against the idea. I suggest that if you want to judge the credibility of the idea, you ought to ask all the teachers you know what they think of the idea! 4) Many PTOs are customers of our bank, so I am intimately familiar with what they do & how they work. I completely agree that many parents are overextended, & that is why I have opposed every recent millage campaign. Literally some families are one car break-down away from losing their homes & one senior I know literally lives on cat food because that's all they can afford when their social security runs out each month. However, many families are doing very well indeed & can stump up some extra funds for a class trip or some extra & being generous souls even would be willing if asked to stump up some more. 5) My intent here is to provide suggestions & alternatives to firing teachers & critical support staff. I have a full-time job so no I don't want AAPSEF's Mary Cooperwasser's job.


Fri, Jun 14, 2013 : 10:20 p.m.

Again, who are "all the AAPS teachers you've talked to?" How many, exactly? And who do you think funds the PTOs? Parents who are already overextended. Do you plan to personally seek out these "generous individual and corporate donors" yourself? Just asking.

Stephen Lange Ranzini

Fri, Jun 14, 2013 : 10:06 p.m.

@lynel: There is a big difference between $31,000 to $62,000 and $4.5 million! This is the same fund that the board president said in the prior year budget discussion, "What we have a $5 million discretionary fund?" It was chopped $500,000 or 10% last year, but is still alive and kicking despite the plans to fire teachers and classroom facing support employees instead.


Fri, Jun 14, 2013 : 10:02 p.m.

SLR, I have followed your posts and for the most part agree with them. You have repeatedly mentioned the Building discretionary fund. I assumed it was $1,000 to $2,000 per school, which I feel is needed. BUT $4.5 MILLION, I don't think so!!!


Fri, Jun 14, 2013 : 9:04 p.m.

Too bad about the middle school pools, now the only kids that can swim are those that can afford private clubs.

Chester Drawers

Sat, Jun 15, 2013 : 2:49 p.m.

I've lived in several school districts in different states, and this is the only one that has pools in middle schools. Kids can swim in those places, too!


Sat, Jun 15, 2013 : 12:53 p.m.

Okay, it was a suggestion. But apparently there are always complaints. These aren't lessons. This is a membership. That way it's more flexible. Carpool. Not my fault the pools were closed. It's only a suggestion.


Sat, Jun 15, 2013 : 2:51 a.m.

Its not the pool they are losing access too, (well it is the pool but also) it is the opportunity to be on a team sport in the middle school years, the 6-7-8 swimming years are like the farm club for the high school teams - we will probably see a decline in the competitiveness of this sport in Ann Arbor, after years of dominance.


Fri, Jun 14, 2013 : 10:57 p.m.

Replying to "Trying to be Objective": But there are also expenses in getting to the Y for every lesson. Some families just don't have those extra funds, or the money to buy a bicycle/other transportation/skate board, etc., or to pay someone to transport child to/from Y for every lesson.


Fri, Jun 14, 2013 : 10:14 p.m.

Ann Arbor YMCA membership is $10 per month. No enrollment fee, and I believe scholarships are available, if you know someone who needs it.


Fri, Jun 14, 2013 : 8:42 p.m.

Looking at some of the salaries, it's no surprise. "3 reading intervention specialists — $300,000" "4 office personnel — $180,000" "3 counselors — $300,000" "1 crew chief — $80,000" "15 custodians — $600,000" "1 grounds employee — $50,000" Most of these services can be subcontracted out cheaper. On top of that, just read an article on Mlive yesterday about how Michigan's youngest resident population has dramatically decreased over the years. Simple math really or supply and demand.


Sun, Jun 16, 2013 : 3:30 a.m.

People, there are benefits, payroll taxes, workman's comp insurance, and so on that go into the cost of an employee. That is what is meant by the earlier comment about "fully burdened". Those HR burden costs are typically anywhere from 20 to 30 percent of the base salary. Depending on the position, you may have to take into account other costs to support the employee like computer, truck, office, phone, etc. All together the burden costs plus support costs can amount to the same as the salary. For example that crew chief which probably has a truck to drive around might only be making $40 - 60K per year and the rest is all burden costs.


Sat, Jun 15, 2013 : 3:52 a.m.

JRW- Most of the custodians work throughout the summer.


Sat, Jun 15, 2013 : 2:52 a.m.

djacks24: If you read the comments before posting you would have realized those numbers were not salary alone.


Sat, Jun 15, 2013 : 2:48 a.m.

$600,000 for 15 custodians translates to an average salary of $40,000. Not bad for school year custodial work. $80,000 for a crew chief? Nice.


Fri, Jun 14, 2013 : 10:48 p.m.

So true. I'm sure the person making minimum wage will do an outstanding job when teaching kids how to read.


Fri, Jun 14, 2013 : 8:29 p.m.

Regarding special education and support services: $125,000 will not begin to touch the FTEs claimed. Please check that number. Jim.


Sat, Jun 15, 2013 : 12:49 a.m.

The reason for this is that something between 75 and 80% of the cost of special education staff members who interact with students is reimbursed to the district. Cutting that many teacher consultants, teachers aides and other staff members who deliver IEP services to special education students requires that you cut 4-5X as many FTE to get the same dollars of savings.


Fri, Jun 14, 2013 : 10:03 p.m.

Jim - Because $0.86 on the dollar is reimbursed, if you cut $1,000,000.00 in special education, you only save $140,000 in budget dollars. The number probably overstates the actual budget savings the district will see, and of course, since they did not spend the money, they will not get the reimbursement.

Danielle Arndt

Fri, Jun 14, 2013 : 8:20 p.m.

I received some additional information from district officials about noon-hour supervisors and the 6 FTE from central office, which are being achieved mostly through attrition, that I wanted to share. Spokeswoman Liz Margolis said the reduction to noon-hour supervision is in hours, not employees. She said the district does not anticipate anyone losing jobs, but they likely will lose hours. The 6 full-time equivalents in central administration will be the following positions: Robert Allen's deputy superintendent for operations job, which won't be refilled; a grants coordinator from the communications department; the assistant director in human resources (who also left and the position will be unfilled); a student intervention and support services office professional; the elections coordinator (a retirement that won't be refilled); a part-time office professional in finance; and a receptionist/executive secretary position (this person also is retiring). The receptionist/executive secretary position will be refilled as an office professional/receptionist role at a lower pay scale, rather than the higher-paid executive secretary role.


Sat, Jun 15, 2013 : 9:55 p.m.

Perhaps these updates should be be added as updates to the article and not included in the comments section. That way, any inaccuracies won't be overlooked if someone doesn't read through all of the comments.


Fri, Jun 14, 2013 : 9:56 p.m.

1 FTE "election coordinator" WTH!


Fri, Jun 14, 2013 : 8:18 p.m.

Whoa. 3 reading intervention specialists — $300,000? Is that a fully burdened cost or just the salary?


Sat, Jun 15, 2013 : 12:45 a.m.

That's fully burdened. AAPS teachers cost an average of $104,000 each in total compensation, i.e. salary, retirement and health insurance benefits paid by the district.


Fri, Jun 14, 2013 : 10:48 p.m.

I raised my eyebrows on that expense also!!! $100,000 per specialist??? WOW!!

Chester Drawers

Fri, Jun 14, 2013 : 8:16 p.m.

Does anyone know how much it costs to rent the EMU Convocation Center for the 3 comprehensive high schools' commencement ceremonies? Can't be cheap. It may just amount to some more of Deb Mexicotte's penny-ante expenses, but my mama told me that if you take care of the pennies, the dollars look after themselves. How many other small potato items are out there that don't impact the classrooms?


Fri, Jun 14, 2013 : 8:43 p.m.

When I graduated high school we just used the Gym. And we had a graduating class of over 600 people.


Fri, Jun 14, 2013 : 7:31 p.m.

All of the kids behind Quinn- that's one reason why Community is so awesome! Mutual support!! Go Quinn!!


Tue, Jun 25, 2013 : 10:56 p.m.

Mr Rubenstein - 9 days after the discussion, you jump it. It is nice to know that Mr. Quinn finished in his 3 minutes, but these support displays take time to start and end, even if he finished in 3 minutes even, how long did his cheerleading team take to retake their seats or leave, before the next speaker could be heard? As to the Community cost debate, it is full of numbers that no one agrees with and should not be trusted. Neither the administration nor the school staff know what the real numbers are, and ferreting them out of the numbers that AAPS keeps is almost impossible. The numbers offered by both sides this year are so different from the public numbers released 2 years ago, that it would have taken wholesale staff reductions and turning off the heat in the building to make the numbers work. Until the internal audit is done and the zero based budgeting is done, there is no way to know what Community or any other building actually costs.

Dan Rubenstein

Mon, Jun 24, 2013 : 5:14 p.m.

TTBO - Ignore these critics. Quinn started immediately and was under his allotted 3 minutes. And if they'd been there and actually heard what he was saying they would know that the district has presented no evidence CHS is comparatively costly. So any argument that it should be moved or closed is based on reasons outside finance, most likely some personal animus.


Sun, Jun 16, 2013 : 12:52 a.m.

Someday the Community building will be too expensive to heat and maintain. That may be in 10 years or 100 years, no one knows what new regulations (Like the Americans with Disabilities Act) will come along. Has anyone thought about what happens then? Even if a bond is passed to replace the building on the same site, it will close for 3 or 4 years to demolish the current building and replace it. So where does it move and why does it move there. Once you have answered this question, then you can have a rational discussion about Community. The numbers that were presented by both sides at the board meeting don't match previously released numbers, maybe the internal audit can find the real numbers. OBTW - I am not saying that anything should happen to Community, only that too many pieces of the puzzle are missing to be able to have an honest discussion. As to the picture with all the students, the board should be smart enough to start the clock on the speaker as soon as they are called, so if they want a crowd around the microphone, they shorten the speaking time. It would be far faster to give people signs they can hold up from their seats. Of course 99 percent of the people leave as soon as public comment is over, meaning that the board does not have to face them when they make decisions.

say it plain

Sat, Jun 15, 2013 : 11:45 p.m.

Exactly, @BasicBob... It seems like such an obvious idea (to move Community to one of the big schools, not necessarily the brand new Skyline with its ohmy-fields easy access off the highway for all varsity-comers, because apparently there was some kind of demand for amazing new jock-facilities...but one of the places where demand for the style of education could be met. And then allow demand to be met for Community, which I'd guess would enhance AAPS revenue as well as save the money of operating it as another building. Why do we *never *see a cost-benefit analysis on that? Ever? It seems so obvious...

Basic Bob

Sat, Jun 15, 2013 : 1:04 a.m.

Change the name of Skyline to Community. Allow everyone who applies to attend. Sell the undersized building to a greedy developer.


Fri, Jun 14, 2013 : 7:50 p.m.

We do know Cummunity High is so special - sacarsm intended - Lake Wobegon-eh! Move Community a section in Skyline and or Pioneer. Skyline already has magnets. You do have to question the Skyline decision time and time again. Wrong place, wrong time wrong everything. Clear case of keeping up with the Jones and not being able to afford it.


Fri, Jun 14, 2013 : 7:29 p.m.

I agree with DonBee, payroll is where the cuts had to be. However, to show leadership, the administrators should have taken the same percentage cuts of the rest of the personnel.


Fri, Jun 14, 2013 : 8:54 p.m.

Never happen. EVER.


Fri, Jun 14, 2013 : 8:03 p.m.

And they should have done it first.

Ruth Kraut

Fri, Jun 14, 2013 : 7:12 p.m.

Danielle, How does cutting the PE requirement actually end up saving money? Those students still need to take a class (elective or core), correct?

Danielle Arndt

Fri, Jun 14, 2013 : 8:39 p.m.

Ok, so I was able to confirm that the district expects to reduce a full 4 FTE by eliminating the extra-semester-of-P.E. requirement. And yes, Ruth, the students will still need to take another class, but according to officials, the high schools believe they will be able to easily put students into another class without creating an issue of classroom overages where teachers would receive additional pay or a part-time teacher assistant. At the board meeting Wednesday, school board Vice President Christine Stead was skeptical of this explanation and the reality of this happening. But district officials have said the schools have been studying this for the past couple of weeks and because students already have registered for class for fall, they've been able to work the numbers around and say it is feasible. I don't have much more than that to go on right now. I really just wanted to make sure I was correct on the reduction of FTE. I hope this helps a little bit.

Danielle Arndt

Fri, Jun 14, 2013 : 8:22 p.m.

Ruth, I'm seeking additional information about this. I have a basic understanding of how district officials expect to achieve the savings, but I want to clarify a couple of points with the district before I respond to this question. I don't want to put out misinformation, so I'm going to double check and then get back to you.


Fri, Jun 14, 2013 : 7:09 p.m.

Danielle - Thank you for the follow up article, I appreciate the summary. All - Remember that the General Fund is now almost entirely used for personnel costs, technology is in a bond, maintenance is in the sinking fund, and so forth, so it is not surprising that the cuts are personnel related. It is too bad that the Teachers suffered, but the administration skated. This is the second year in a row where no cuts to administration that were meaningful were offered or taken. Rather the major cuts are focused on the classroom and students.

Danielle Arndt

Fri, Jun 14, 2013 : 7:50 p.m.

Don, I'm so glad you made the added observation about how the bond money is now used to supplement other costs that previously would have had to come from the general fund. Thanks so much for making this point! And for being a consistently engaged reader.