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, Mar 8, 2013 : 2 p.m.

Ann Arbor fields 81 applications in first year of allowing transfers to Huron and Pioneer

By Danielle Arndt

Previous coverage:

Editor's note: Incorrect information about freshmen from outside of the district being accepted through open enrollment to Skyline has been removed from this article. District Spokeswoman Liz Margolis said the only students accepted to Skyline from outside AAPS are freshmen of staff members.

The Ann Arbor Public Schools fielded 81 applications from incoming ninth-graders in its first year of allowing in-district transfers to Huron and Pioneer high schools.


Ann Arbor Pioneer High School received the most in-district transfer applications from incoming freshmen for fall: 50, compared to Huron's 31.

Daniel Brenner |

The school board gave the green light in December for district administrators to experiment with open enrollment at Ann Arbor's two largest high schools.

The district opened 25 seats at both Huron and Pioneer for students wishing to attend one of the high schools but who live outside of the schools' attendance boundaries.

Eight students from Pioneer and 23 students from Skyline applied to attend Huron High School in the fall, for a total of 31 applications. Pioneer received 50 in-district transfer requests, 25 from Skyline and 25 from Huron.

Because more students applied than there were seats available, a lottery was conducted at the comprehensive high schools. The extra 25 students who were not offered placement at Pioneer will be placed on a waiting list until September and could have the opportunity to enroll should students among the initial 25 end up not enrolling. The same is true of the six students at Huron.

District administrators are concerned about the 48 students from Skyline who applied for an in-district transfer. There appears to be a trend of declining enrollment at Skyline.

Data show that from 2011-12 to 2012-13, Skyline had 22 fewer students enrolled. The number of open-enrollment applications also has decreased since the school first opened.

How many students applied to attend Skyline for the 2013-14 academic year through the open-enrollment process has not been made available yet by the district. For the current school year, just 113 incoming freshmen outside of Skyline's attendance boundary applied, and 72 of those students ended up enrolling.

Whether Ann Arbor Public Schools will open up any of its buildings or grades to Schools of Choice for the 2013-14 academic year is not known yet. The Board of Education must approve the Schools of Choice seats annually. The board has not received a recommendation from administration for Schools of Choice yet for fall.

Last spring, the district allotted 170 seats for Schools of Choice. Traditionally, it has not permitted Schools of Choice at its high schools.

School officials said the district will need to look into why it is losing students at Skyline and why the school is not attracting applications from out-of-district students as was intended.

Community High School, Ann Arbor's purely choice high school that does not have an attendance boundary, has seen an increase in applicants in recent years. The school fielded a record 454 applications from eighth-graders for the fall.

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



Fri, Mar 15, 2013 : 1:38 p.m.

i stand by my first opinion long ago when this skyline was being built......This new school is going to draw talent and resources away from the two main schools. it is my educated and social opinion that this new school should be the site of a NEW renovated Community High School. The numbers prove my theory correct... community cant house enough and present skyline has tooo many vacancies..its not too late for a swap!


Mon, Mar 11, 2013 : 2:49 a.m.

Transportation from other parts of Ann Arbor is a major reason for the drop in the lottery. The time traveling to Skyline via AATA is significant considering transfers, etc.


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

I should make it clear that I'm not opposed to Principal Jackson in general...I actually have next to no knowledge of her day-to-day abilites in the building (which may say something as a parent of 2 kids going there, or not). It may well be that she has great skills in some area other than public speaking and marketing presentations. My only experiences with her have been that particular presentation and the weekly "annoucements" which are ALSO poorly designed and written, not spell-checked, and often sent late, after events are already over. The public presentation of Skyline is not coming across at the quality I would want to see. Further, my students do like the Trimester format, although I have mixed feelings as I have yet to have a student try an AP class (that will happen year after next). We LOVE the sports folks, especially the off-season conditioning and weight-training staff. We like the teachers, the families, the students. The magnet programs are fantastic. The Robotics program rocks. The theater program is amazing. Skyline needs a wholesale overhaul of their presentations for in-coming students and weekly adresses. There must be staff somewhere, or even students, who can do it well!


Sat, Mar 9, 2013 : 3:13 p.m.

Instead of looking at putting schools that are working on the chopping block, like Community, with block scheduling, which is WORKING, as evidenced by the increased applications and its status as the ONLY reward school in A2, why not look at what's not working. Unhappy staff are leaving Skyline, unhappy students do not apply for their lottery, and now a large portion of the incoming freshmen class is trying to go elsewhere, like Pioneer or Huron, as well as Community. Only an idiot would touch something that's working like Community. Trimesters aren't working- many students leave early since they have the credits, leading to lost revenue for AAPS. Cut the trimesters. Change the administration. Giving Jackson a prize a few years ago was a running joke. Really AAPS, if my middle schooler doesn't get into Community when it's time to apply, that kid sure wont be going to Skyline. An overhaul is a necessity for Skyline, before its too late. At this rate you'll have an ever declining population. I've had a kid at Skyline and a kid at Community. I can compare. I was disgusted with the LACK of communication at Skyline, whereas Community is almost always ahead of schedule putting out information. Really, it's common sense.


Sun, Mar 10, 2013 : 3:24 p.m.

aaparent - Huron High School has such a portrait of their current principal, Dr. Arthur Williams. And if you think Salura Jackson is bad at returning phone calls, communicating with parents or members of the public, or day-to-day relationships with students, then I invite you to take Dr. Williams, please. Several years ago when my eldest son graduated from Huron, the valedictorian made a point of mentioning he had not EVER been permitted to meet the principal of his school until he took the stage that evening. He made quite an anecdote out of it, with references to "Arthur and me" being an even longer tale than Michael Moore's . I found it very easy to believe, since Dr. Williams had repeatedly declined to meet with me or return my phone calls about three different issues during the 5 years the eldest attended classes at Huron. (He was accelerated and took Algebra and Latin as an 8th grader.)


Sat, Mar 9, 2013 : 3:59 p.m.

Do any of the other high schools in Ann Arbor have large photos of the principals or founding principals of the school displayed in the office or was that something that came with the award? Who are the past recipients of this principal award? I have heard for a few years that the principal was trying to look for work in another school but wanted to see the first class from Skyline graduate and then would be out.


Sat, Mar 9, 2013 : 2:08 p.m.

I have the same old question that many parents have asked before but no one at BALAS seems to listen anyways: Community has been in demand for many, many years. What measures has the district taken to expand its model in order to meet the customers' (i.e., families and students in the district) demand?

say it plain

Sat, Mar 9, 2013 : 7:39 p.m.

It is indeed *ridiculous* that the AAPS has not addressed this. it has been decades has it not?


Sat, Mar 9, 2013 : 1:51 p.m.

Reviews of Sulura Jackson can be found at It is painfully obvious that Sulura is bringing Detroit public worker corruption and incompetence to well meaning Ann Arbor.


Sat, Mar 9, 2013 : 12:29 p.m.

I think sports may play into this, but the trimesters could play into it as well. I have friends that teach at Skyline and they all say the same thing, leadership isn't good. The principal was an issue when they first hired her. The BOE loved her, but if I remember correctly, I had heard that our union leaders had done research as well and found that the district she was leaving was "happy" to see her go. That is never a good thing!!


Sat, Mar 9, 2013 : 1 p.m.

The Skyline school itself is a beautiful building, so it is too bad that students want to leave. Instead of simply opening up the "in district transfers", it may be wiser for the BOE & superintendent to investigate the issues with Skyline's perceived leadership issues and address it.


Sat, Mar 9, 2013 : 3:28 a.m.

How many Skyline seniors will be attending the 'graduration' this year, since so many are 'leavin'?


Sat, Mar 9, 2013 : 12:49 p.m.

lol !


Sat, Mar 9, 2013 : 3:25 a.m.

Of the 4 quadrants of the district, I'd say the SE is the most densely populated, but it is the only one without a major (large) public school. Right around the time Skyline opened, the News ran an article about the high cost of busing. This is ironic since Skyline is in a far corner of the district, in an area where the homes are spaced far apart; it takes a lot of energy to bus many of the students there. I wouldn't want my children going to Skyline because it is so far away and inconvenient. In such an environmentally -conscious and PC community, I'm mildly surprised that the district did not open a school where the population is more concentrated. But as usual, it is about the haves and have -nots. We here in Title I territory know our place. I know the district had that land for awhile before building,, but for example, we had an abandoned golf course over here. If this principal cannot spell well, she'd be at least the third one in the district that I've seen.


Sat, Mar 9, 2013 : 6:51 p.m.

Thank you Chester Drawers and kuriooo...that was really the point I was trying to make. She may have wonderful skills in something, I just haven't seen it. And what I have seen is, well, unprofessional. My sense is that there are many folks, even current students, who could do a wonderful job of presenting their positive experience at Skyline.


Sat, Mar 9, 2013 : 6:29 p.m.

I think the location of the school had more to do with finding enough available land to build a full-scale Class A school with athletic fields etc. I seem to remember there were only about 3 options but I don't recall if any were near the SE area or not. There is also the possibility that there was much expected growth in the NW area; growth that may not have happened because of the recession. Also remember that vacant land isn't necessarily available land if the current owner doesn't want to sell or if the asking price is too high.


Sat, Mar 9, 2013 : 12:59 p.m.

I agree with Chester - it's not the spelling 'ability' or your ability to not make typos - the point is that we all have the tools to run spell check and read something out loud to catch errors before presenting or sending. In the professional world, these kinds of mistakes reflect poorly on your 'attention to detail' and if you continue making such errors, your supervisor will chat with you about why you aren't putting forth a professional image. A good administrator may not be a great public speaker, but as mentioned they are responsible to make sure things look as professional as possible, whether they are presenting, sending communications, or finding the most capable person to do so.

Chester Drawers

Sat, Mar 9, 2013 : 12:33 p.m.

The inability to spell well should not necessarily disqualify a person from being a good principal, especially if s/he has other great qualifications. However, the inability to recognize this weakness in oneself and take steps to correct it certainly should.

Tony Livingston

Sat, Mar 9, 2013 : 3:11 a.m.

It is a pity that they are only letting next year's freshman choose their high school. I know kids who are already in high school who would move if they could. If Skyline is not as popular right now, so what? Let kids pick their school All 3 are different and students should be able to choose.


Sat, Mar 9, 2013 : 3 a.m.

I have been consistently horrified listening to the public presentation skills, or lack thereof, of Principal Jackson. She needs to learn, as does the principal at Huron, that public speaking is not their strong suite and they need to appoint a different spokesperson who can convey their thoughts in a more professional manner. Regardless of "style," Skyline is missing the mark in very fundamental ways. I agree with previous posters who are pointing out that it all looks good on paper but implementation has been poor. I cut this school some slack when it first opened thinking that in a few short years it would pull itself together, but this has yet to happen. I was also at Curriculum night and was appalled to hear outright lies about the ways Skyline works to make a big school small and intimate (small learning communities and skytime). Scheduling classes is a frequent mess and I am left to wonder why after 5 years this hasn't been corrected.

Sam S Smith

Sat, Mar 9, 2013 : 1:41 a.m.

I'm kind of surprised at the low number. I would think it would be higher.

Nishant K.

Sat, Mar 9, 2013 : 1:32 a.m.

I'm a Skyline student, and on the whole I've been very satisfied with my education there. Yes, I've had some good teachers, and some bad ones, but I've also had great ones like Mr. Neaton and Mr. Pachera (math and engineering). I don't know much about the presentation from Curriculum Night LDR referenced, but I'm happy at Skyline. However, I do have to say sometimes the leadership has been... dissatisfying. I can't say it's overwhelmingly bad, but I haven't encountered enough positive experiences with the administration to balance out the negatives.

Danielle Arndt

Sat, Mar 9, 2013 : 12:07 a.m.

Information about freshmen from outside of the district being accepted through open enrollment to Skyline has been removed from this article. District Spokeswoman Liz Margolis said the only students accepted to Skyline from outside AAPS are freshmen of staff members.


Sat, Mar 9, 2013 : 3:55 p.m.

I would be pretty surprised if any AAPS teachers had their kids at Skyline. I heard that a few Skyline teachers have kids enrolled in private schools. This superintendent has a chance to show some leadership in how she addresses the problems with the Skyline Experiment. It is terrific some students have done well and are doing well but that does not seem to be the norm.


Sat, Mar 9, 2013 : 2:52 p.m.

That they know of. They accepted someone outside county and district. They don't check. Anything to up enrollment at Skyline. Definitely not AAPS employee parents either. Clueless.


Sat, Mar 9, 2013 : 12:04 a.m.

I'm not a parent of a Skyline student, but I wanted to comment that not running spell-check before a presentation or sending a mass communication doesn't give me a great impression. It's a simple step that I have to do in my professional life to be taken seriously, why should I not hold administrators to the same standard? Also, I believe part of the job of the higher administrative folks is PR and marketing, to the intended audience of parents and students.


Fri, Mar 8, 2013 : 10:33 p.m.

I like skyline and so does my son I really think it might be sports, but I love the education my boy is getting he plays sports,but that's not why we choose SK. As far as I'm concerned the less kids the more individual attention my kid can get so we are good being eagles.


Fri, Mar 8, 2013 : 9:57 p.m.

I can confirm that the Skyline presentation was done very poorly. My son asked to leave early and declared he did not want to go to Skyline. Community does such a good job showing you the benefits of education there--that I'm surprised the numbers are not higher. Even though I have heard very positive statements about the teachers at Skyline--I am surprised how many parents who have kids there also talk very negatively about it. The magnets alone should be a major attraction. We are districted for Skyline and will not be attending. The trimester system seems to also be an issue with parents.


Fri, Mar 8, 2013 : 9:42 p.m.

I suspect many of the transfers from Skyline to Huron have to do with the ridiculous way the boundaries were drawn. We are in the Skyline district (20 trip) but are 3 minutes from Huron by car. We will be looking to start our daughter at Huron when she leaves Clague next year.

Silly Sally

Sat, Mar 9, 2013 : 10:30 p.m.

This does explain why so many are leaving Skyline I'm so glad that while growing ith my parents, I aways attended a school instead they "started me" or "sent me" as if I were a dog or a piece or property.


Sat, Mar 9, 2013 : 12:49 a.m.

should read '20 minute trip'


Fri, Mar 8, 2013 : 9:03 p.m.

"Community High School, Ann Arbor's purely choice high school that does not have an attendance boundary..." Not sure what that statement means, but to attend Community H.S., one must live within the AAPS boundary. "Skyline's open-enrollment process, unlike Huron and Pioneer's, accepts students from beyond the Ann Arbor Public Schools district as well." Really? That's the first I've heard that students living outside of the AAPS boundary can attend Skyline. Please elaborate.

Danielle Arndt

Sat, Mar 9, 2013 : 12:06 a.m.

Apparently there was a misunderstanding. I will continue to look into this. In the meantime, this story has been corrected.

Liz Margolis

Fri, Mar 8, 2013 : 10:44 p.m.

Danielle's statement is not accurate. AAPS has not opened up School of Choice for out of district students at Huron, Pioneer, Skyline or Community. Only in district transfers were accepted between Huron and Pioneer this year thus far.

Danielle Arndt

Fri, Mar 8, 2013 : 9:38 p.m.

Philly, to address your first statement, no one can automatically attend Community based on where they reside. You are correct that they must live within the AAPS district, however, the school only obtains student through a random lottery. No one comes to the school based on where their house is located, like Huron, Pioneer or Skyline. Sorry if that was confusing. Within the district, they call these attendance boundaries. On your second question, yes, I was just as surprised to hear this. I didn't realize it before either. At last week's school board meeting, it was said that this was originally permitted to hopefully attract out-of-district students that may have been interested in attending one of the private or charter schools on that side of town. Skyline was thought to be a comparable choice for those students.


Fri, Mar 8, 2013 : 8:49 p.m.

It would be interesting to check how many going to Pioneer are looking for winning sports teams vs. for better academic opportunity. I knew peoplt that moved into Pioneer's district just to be on their swim team in the past. Everyone has their own reason for choosing. My younger child had a good Skyline experience and my older one had a horrible Pionner experience. Opening the schools up affords some degreee of tailoring the educational experience to meet your childs needs. Given our Pioneer experience we would have definitely lotteried out, so I am for all of this choice.


Sat, Mar 9, 2013 : 1:23 p.m.

It is the reason we chose Pioneer as well. The choir, the sports and the teachers. Although I am now questioning the validity of some of the teachers. Otherwise, the school has some great ideas and classes.

Ricardo Queso

Fri, Mar 8, 2013 : 11:27 p.m.

I think you hit it right on the head.

Kyle Austin

Fri, Mar 8, 2013 : 9:16 p.m.

Mike, I wondered the same thing. It seems like it's an issue that always comes up when students are allowed in-district transfers.


Fri, Mar 8, 2013 : 7:39 p.m.

Skyline's failure to retain neighborhood kids (transfer apps away from) and attract magnet enrollees is the direct result of the nearly incomprehensible, typo-filled, poorly constructed, and unfriendly "presentation" given by Principal Jackson during the open enrollment period. The one bizarrely-enough called "Curriculum Night" , not to be confused with the actual curriculum night in the fall. It is just about the worst presentation I have ever seen in my life. After seeing it the first time, I came away shocked at the poor quality of the audio-visual materials, the rambling non-message, the complete ingnorance demonstrated as to the nature of the audience watching it (she certainly was not speaking to me or my students in any meaningful way). If we were not part of the neighborhood and had friends and some knowledge of the wonderful quality of the teachers and programming at Skyline, but were either new neighborhood parents or potential enrollees, we woud have run screaming away never to return. Fortunately, we DID know many of the great teachers and were familar with the roaring success of the DTEP program for pre-engineering students. This year, with our second student beoming an incoming 9th graders, we knew better than to attend that so-called "Curriculum Night" in February. We were even able to warn some new parents that the presentation does NOT represent the quality of the Skyline program. If the school board or community wishes to understand the enrollment "problem" at Skyline, all you need to do is attend that "presentation" to witness a truly unfortunate and disappointing "representation" of AAPS programs.


Sat, Mar 9, 2013 : 6:45 p.m.

I should make it clear that I'm not opposed to Principal Jackson in general...I actually have next to no knowledge of her day-to-day abilites in the building (which may say something as a parent of 2 kids going there, or not). It may well be that she has great skills in some area other than public speaking and marketing presentations. My only experiences with her have been that particular presentation and the weekly "annoucements" which are ALSO poorly designed and written, not spell-checked, and often sent late, after events are already over. The public presentation of Skyline is not coming across at the quality I would want to see. @vox rationis I do agree that the Skytime thing has not panned out to be even close to CH's Forum, I remember Pioneer also tried a fake Forum for awhile. It's basically just a homeroom-type turn-in-papers thing.

Silly Sally

Sat, Mar 9, 2013 : 1:22 p.m.

@LDR - I thought that you wrote an excellent piece that gives a great insight as to why parents may be driven away from sending their children to this school. I do hope that the school board reads it. It seems as if this principal is a BIG factor. @ Jay Thomas - How did she get her job? I do not know, but the school board is obsessed with certain topics and will often judge a person on other things other in addition to just ability. They could have wanted a person wth a desired image.

vox rationis

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

I agree that Ms. Jackson makes for a very poor public face of Skyline and concur with your observations. I would also add that the concept of "relationships" she touts that spring from SLC (small learning communities) is an absolute joke. My oldest child, who graduated last year, never had the same team of teachers, nor had classes in the same SLC from term to term or year to year as Ms. Jackson would have you believe. Further, the concept of Skytime, which Ms. Jackson would like the audience to believe is just like Community's forum, is just that...a concept. Looks great on paper like many things at Skyline, but in actuality is a hot mess. The principal stated to all that students would be in the same Skytime all 4 years with the same instructor and classmates. Ha! All 4 years with new teachers and completely different classmates each year. She is trying to sell the public on a lot of nice concepts but in actuality this school is not delivering. Count me among the families applying to go elsewhere when it is my next child's time.


Sat, Mar 9, 2013 : 12:42 a.m.

Wow. I attended this fall and had a very, very, very different reaction. I was super-impressed by Sulura Jackson's presentation, her knowledge of the research regarding ideal education for students, her approach to the school and curriculum, and her overall presentation. I have continued to attend PTSO meetings and she has attended and presented at several and has continued to impress me with her approach. My child considered transferring only because she went to a middle school where most of her friends were in the Pioneer district so she had to make new friends at Skyline, but it had absolutely nothing to do with dissatisfaction with Skyline. We have been exceedingly happy with leadership at Skyline.


Sat, Mar 9, 2013 : 12:24 a.m.

Another question - why were there so many presentations on different nights at Community and only one at the bigger schools? We also got multiple separate emails about the several options to attend a presentation at Community. The presentations at the other schools were the subject of a single email sent many weeks before the presentations. There were near constant reminders of the multiple meetings at Community. We found it bizarre and so one-sided.

Jay Thomas

Sat, Mar 9, 2013 : 12:17 a.m.

How DID Principal Jackson get that job...

Danielle Arndt

Fri, Mar 8, 2013 : 8:06 p.m.

LDR, thanks for sharing your observations and thoughts. I'm curious if there are any incoming freshmen parents out there that did attend this year's information/curriculum night at Skyline? Did you have a similar experience or what was it like? ... I'm also curious if there are parents who attended multiple information/curriculum nights. Are the formats similar? I wonder if AAPS will ever do anything like it did with kindergarten roundups. Making them more uniform and improving the structures seemed to work really well: Maybe an approach like this could benefit the high schools?


Fri, Mar 8, 2013 : 7:44 p.m.

"ignorance", lol.


Fri, Mar 8, 2013 : 7:43 p.m.

Yes, go ahead and correct my spelling if you must. It is a first-draft response though, writen without spell-check or editing, and I am not a High School Principal addressing several hundred parents and students who is supposed to be a professional educator. "would" and "grader"

Martha Cojelona Gratis

Fri, Mar 8, 2013 : 7:29 p.m.

Skyline sounds like the polar opposite to Community High. One has freshmen dying to get in, the other to get out.. or so it appears.


Sat, Mar 9, 2013 : 1:06 p.m.

You are correct. Wouldn't you think the BOE would be asking the same question. Instead, they just open up "in district transfers" and the problem goes away :(


Fri, Mar 8, 2013 : 7:11 p.m.

I would love to see some follow-up coverage regarding Skyline's declining enrollment. I've heard plenty of rumors about leadership problems there, but some actual evidence/information would be great.


Fri, Mar 8, 2013 : 8:27 p.m.

all-blue: I have no idea what that award means and who determines who wins such an award. See comment by LDR below - I have heard much more of the same. There must be some reason that students are leaving.


Fri, Mar 8, 2013 : 7:35 p.m.

CLX, How could there be leadership problems. There Principal just 3 years ago was elected administrator of the year. It didn't matter that Skyline was only 1/2 full at the time.