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Posted on Thu, Aug 1, 2013 : 5:59 a.m.

Foundation's money woes mean no late bus for Ann Arbor middle schools, loss of grants

By Danielle Arndt


An Ann Arbor schools student embraces bus driver Ken Cameron on the first day of school last fall. The district will be discontinuing its 4 p.m. after-school bus service at the middle schools this year because of a drop in funding from the Ann Arbor Public Schools Educational Foundation.

Daniel Brenner I file photo

Ann Arbor Public Schools will have to discontinue late busing for middle school students this fall and will miss out on hundreds of thousands of dollars in grant money due to a drop in donations to the Ann Arbor Public Schools Educational Foundation.

The foundation dropped financial support for the 4 p.m. bus that takes middle schoolers home from after-school activities as well as funding for the SchoolMessenger system, a web-based communication tool the district uses to send out automated news, weather, school closing and emergency alerts to parents.


Mary Cooperwasser

Courtesy photo

In an email to the district this spring, new AAPSEF Executive Director Mary Cooperwasser cited low donations as the reason for the drop in funding. The foundation's board of directors hired Cooperwasser in February after about five months without a leader. Former Executive Director Wendy Correll stepped down in September 2012.

"As you know, ... the absence of an executive director and fundraiser for the great majority of the year and the board's focus on the staff search for operational leadership and a full-time fundraiser have contributed to low fundraising dollars received to date," Cooperwasser wrote in her email. "Given these challenges, we're committing this year to rebuilding the organization and setting the stage for a more productive fundraising direction and efforts for next year and the years beyond."

In addition, the foundation also did not seek grant proposals last year for its Initiatives in Excellence grants. These grants are solicited during one academic year and awarded for the following academic year. So because the AAPSEF did not collect grant proposals in 2012-13, the district will not receive funding for the 2013-14 school year.

Initiative in Excellence grants generally exceeded $5,000 and were used to provide funds for launching new programs at AAPS, as well as to provide money for existing programs threatened by budget cuts.

Foundation Board Chairman Omari Rush said, before hiring Cooperwasser, the foundation was unable to focus on fundraising due to being a nearly all volunteer-run organization.

"We weren't able to raise as much money as we had in years past, so we didn't want to have the schools bring us tons of big proposals and have to say to them, 'You know all that work you did coming up with these great projects? It was all for nothing because we can't really fund them,'" he said.

So instead the foundation focused on reorganizing its committees, redefining how it accepts gifts and restructuring its bylaws — "things that strengthen us internally," Rush said.

The foundation employs a part-time bookkeeper, a part-time program coordinator and Cooperwasser, who is full-time.

As a result of the lack of funding, the Ann Arbor Public Schools will not be able to provide the 4 p.m. buses at the middle school this year and has been looking for other ways to provide funding for the enrichment and curriculum initiatives the foundation typically assists with, said spokeswoman Liz Margolis.

One such program is the fifth-grade instrumental music program, which received $4,000 from the foundation in 2011-12, according to its website. Margolis said she is unsure how this program will be affected as a result of the lack of funding.

The Board of Education technically cut the middle school extracurricular activity busing in June 2012, when it passed the 2012-13 academic year budget. However, AAPS was able to continue the busing, which primarily services students who stay after school for clubs, tutoring and academic programs, last year because of funding provided by the AAPSEF and the Ann Arbor PTO Thrift Shop.

Both organizations pledged up to $43,000 — for a total of $86,000 — to restore the late busing that the district cut.

As for SchoolMessenger, Margolis said the district will continue to fund this integral tool with money from the communications department's budget. It costs about $32,000, she said, with half of the funds coming from the Ann Arbor PTO Thrift Shop. Other spending will have to be adjusted throughout the year to accommodate the cost of SchoolMessenger, she said.

The district has been communicating with the PTO Thrift Shop to see if there is a possibility the organization would be able to fully fund the middle school busing and the SchoolMessenger system.

The PTO Thrift Shop currently is crunching its own budget numbers and is waiting for final figures from the district regarding how much money is remaining from the thrift shop's annual $100,000 transportation fund that it established in 2010 to help the district with field trip and enrichment program busing costs, said Executive Director Ann Farnham. The organization gives AAPS $100,000 annually for transportation support, and the $43,000 it donated to the 4 p.m. busing last year came from this fund.

Information on how much money the Ann Arbor Public Schools Educational Foundation raised during the 2012-13 fiscal year is not available.

The foundation's fiscal year matches the school district's and runs from July 1 to June 30 of the following year. Cooperwasser told the foundation has "barely closed its books" and does not have its final revenues and expenditures confirmed with its accountant. So she said she could not provide an accurate estimate of how much in fundraising revenue the AAPSEF brought in during Fiscal Year 13.

According to its IRS form 990 from Fiscal Year 12, the most recent year available, between July 1, 2011, and June 30, 2012, the foundation had contributions totaling $492,664. That's up $66,576 from donations in 2010-11.

However, overall revenue in 2011-12 was down about $77,015 from 2010-11 because of a significant drop in investment income from $163,189 in 2010-11 to $9,581 in 2011-12.

Rush said he did not know what caused the decrease in investment income. He said the board treasurer recently revised the foundation's investment policies, so income could have been affected that year.

Total revenues and expenditures for 2011-12 were $530,155 and $434,442, respectively, according to form 990 information.

The foundation paid out $246,495 in grants and program services in 2011-12, down $124,838 from in 2010-11.

For 2011-12, the foundation had $1.13 million in total assets and $148,795 in total liabilities. In 2010-11, the AAPSEF had $1.18 million in total assets and $291,401 in liabilities.

Despite not awarding Initiatives in Excellence grants for the current school year, the educational foundation did award Great Idea Grants to teachers and staff. These grants are for up to $1,000 to help fund innovative classroom, grade level or building-wide programs.

Cooperwasser said she is hopeful the foundation will be soliciting proposals for its large-scale Initiatives in Excellence grants this school year for the 2014-15 academic year. However, she was not sure about a timeframe for when the foundation would start accepting proposals.

Some Initiatives in Excellence grants that have been awarded in the past include: $23,000 for elementary school enrichment facilitators, $8,000 for the Music Together Program at the Ann Arbor Preschool and Family Center, $23,133 for environmental science-related field trips and $50,000 for Air Tracks equipment for high school physics classes.

"It's been a very challenging year for the foundation," Cooperwasser said. "The foundation has been doing very well in many respects and I know that we will be back into soliciting the proposals very soon. Our fundraising never stops. I see so many positive signs in the strength of this organization. So I am very positive and encouraged."

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



Thu, Aug 1, 2013 : 9:53 p.m.

This is also going to cut into bus driver pay as well. But I hate to say it, people have come forward as late as the week before school starts and this is not cut. Good luck but I hate to say it this also could cut into after school team busing as well. Won't be a lot of hours in September for the drivers unless an unexpected windfall comes thru. Thanks for the bad news. I kind of expected it.


Fri, Aug 2, 2013 : 3:05 p.m.

If you look at the pay to play sports swimming and syncro were not cut. You just have to pay more for it. We are not going for any varsity sport since we can side wind that one and go straight to the source and pay less then what the schools are charging. So if you think about it, the Otters Swim Club charges $250 and the school charges $250 what will you go for if you have no transportation. Go figure. Especially if the child is already involved in the sport. Might as well stay with what you are already doing and avoid school sports altogether.


Fri, Aug 2, 2013 : 4:57 a.m.

My kid got a ride last year from school to sports, but we ALWAYS had to pick her up. Charter Busses were already shared between schools, at times delaying the start of games. There was never a bus available after the game back to the school. We carpooled. Self reliance is an excellent tool for kids to learn now. Not helplessness. Figure it out. Talk to other parents. Don't wallow in pity. I know i offered rides several times to other kids after school. There likely would have been less than 187 kids per semester riding this year, since the LARGE swim teams and synchro swim teams were cut. Many times when I picked up my kid from a sport, homework club was EMPTY- no one showed up. It really depends on if something - a club, a sport- is truly utilized, or just after school babysitting.


Thu, Aug 1, 2013 : 9:03 p.m.

I guess when I get home I can tell my child entering Slauson in the fall that she can't play any sports or join any clubs with her friends because both myself and her mother have to work well over 50 hours a week. Really pissed off right now.


Fri, Aug 2, 2013 : 3:06 p.m.

Most parents I know would not let a friend stay at a friends house if the parents are not home. I know I wouldn't. Too much liability there.


Fri, Aug 2, 2013 : 4:49 a.m.

And her friends wouldn't possibly give her a ride home? Or let her stay at their house until you get there? Some friends. Wait til high school.


Thu, Aug 1, 2013 : 9:55 p.m.

The only thing that would work is a taxi home or AATA. Which is what AAPS is using now. I totally agree with you on this one. But there is nothing anyone can do at this point unless you want to take over the fund raising position yourself.

Susie Q

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

One way you can easily donate is through the United Way. My employer does payroll deduction for United Way contributions and I can designate all or part of my bi-monthly donation to the AAPSEF. It is VERY easy if your employer participates in United Way.


Thu, Aug 1, 2013 : 9:55 p.m.

Uh huh. 10% of it? Is not going to cut it.


Thu, Aug 1, 2013 : 4:13 p.m.

Coming from a similar school district in another state, I was surprised to find the AAPSEF in such a larval condition. In the town I came from, the EF was one of the cornerstones of the community and everyone went to the fundraisers. Here, the EF's profile is so low as to be invisible. This is especially surprising given the AA parent composition and the values mismatch between Ann Arbor and the state legislature. I made a donation in 2011, but no one followed up the next year to solicit another gift. If you are not following up with existing donors, you are mismanaging things, frankly.


Thu, Aug 1, 2013 : 4:03 p.m.

As far as the AAEF, well, you know here's a bunch of people who tried, they got volunteers, they hired people when they had to (you can't run something like that on free snacks) and it's not working the way they'd like. My hat is off to them for even giving it a try. It's a lot more than most people would ever think of. Their whole purpose was to prop up the schools that the state is slowly but surely abandoning. At least they TRIED. I think if it wasn't for the amazing and awesome PTO Thrift Shop the whole AAPS would collapse in a heap. Pretty soon we're going to start closing elementaries and holding classes in the Thrift Shop's furniture department.


Thu, Aug 1, 2013 : 9:16 p.m.

dotdash - maybe you mean "kvetching"?


Thu, Aug 1, 2013 : 4:36 p.m.

This is true, at least the AAEF is trying. Now I feel bad for kibitzing.


Thu, Aug 1, 2013 : 12:21 p.m.

How many students take the late bus, which is only three times per week? How many do just as a convenience, but have parents who could pick them up? There were limits to the bus, as seventh and eighth grade sports were five times per week, so kids had to get home those other two times somehow. It's a loss, but how much is to be seen.


Fri, Aug 2, 2013 : 5:02 p.m.

@Trying 2B Objective - not sure if you are only talking about select middle schools, but the student head count at the middle schools is nearly 3500 not 1500. Just FYI.


Fri, Aug 2, 2013 : 3:09 p.m.

Call transportation. The buses ran 4 out of 5 days.


Fri, Aug 2, 2013 : 4:47 a.m.

If you actually read the article Danielle has linked to, each school has between 1-3 busses. Due to timing, the majority of the riders would likely be sixth graders, since most seventh/eighth grade sports teams have practice long after the bus leaves, which means that the busses benefit a third or less of the population. Keeping ALL middle school pools open would benefit 1500 kids at a lower cost than the 187 kids that rode the bus last spring. I used a teacher salary AS AN example for cost comparison. Certainly 1.0 FTE could benefit more than one school. Sometimes parents need to try to work out a solution when it isn't handed to them. As a former single parent, I figured it out myself. A hand out is not a hand up. If parents don't start relying on themselves and working with other parents, they may be surprised if/when high school bussing is cut in the future. My car has over 100,000 miles on it, but I will figure out how to get my kids from point A to point B, without utilizing the AATA which doesn't reach our home. I also think with all the budget cuts, that money spent in the district should benefit larger groups of kids, such as pools benefitting 1500, vs. $43,000 spent on 187 kids. That's $229 per kid, spent on just those handful. Can the rest of us get that as a rebate towards our increased Pay-to-play fees this year? I think many parents who are used to being coddled through middle school will have a rude awakening when their kids get to high school and the bottom drops out. The bus only ran three days a week. What on earth did you do for the other two days? Figure something out? Carpool? What a concept.


Thu, Aug 1, 2013 : 9:58 p.m.

From what I understand Monday thru Thursday is when the after school takes place. From 4:30 to 5:30. From what I have seen each school has two buses. Each bus goes all over Ann Arbor within the radius of that school district. Of those two buses? Any where from 10 to 30 children could ride the bus. If all else fails? Ride share might come into play.


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

You got me, I am living a life of luxury here in Ann Arbor, with my high property taxes, and our two jobs, equalling just over half of the federal poverty line in income. You are looking a gift horse in the mouth here, for sure. You claim that the amount given by the PTO Thriftshop and AAPSEF could almost make up one teachers salary, which school should that teacher be assigned to? The mission of the PTO Thriftshop (from their website) is to support the Ann Arbor Public Schools, plural - that is, all the schools, equally. That is why they give to the schools equally, through every school's PTO, and not to the general fund where it might be spent on something that does not directly support student enrichment. If you are unhappy with this gift to the schools, and with the decline in services in general (like the closing of the middle school pools) consider taking your complaints to the Board of Education, who keep hiring superintendents at salary packages that could, by your logic, fund middle school bussing, keep the pools open, AND almost pay for one teachers salary. Now if you will excuse me, I am off to polish my Bentley.


Thu, Aug 1, 2013 : 6:15 p.m.

Just to clarify, DJBudsonic, there are only 1500 middle school kids, so there's no way to benefit 1000s of nonexistent kids. I noticed earlier post on the other link claims you "heard" there were 1500 individuals benefitting. Impossible. Only 20 kids at Slauson per day, two busses? Ten kids on a bus? Wasteful. You could almost keep another teacher for that amount. Priorities. Families with the luxury of two incomes should be able to figure it out. Not all of us have that luxury.


Thu, Aug 1, 2013 : 6:04 p.m.

So it's not 1000s of kids, it's 187 kids total in one semester, from all schools in the district, some of whom could get rides, the bus is just more convenient. My kids rarely if ever rode the bus due to timing and walking distance issues. Many sports run longer than 4:30, or had to be cut short just for the bus. As I said earlier, perhaps not having constraints on time will allow expanded programs. Wow, having read the link Danielle posted, mostly sixth graders on the bus. 37 kids per SCHOOL, with as many as three busses per school. A dozen kids on a bus? That's wasteful. Perhaps more kids were able to ride at Scarlett due to later time (5:15). With 1500 middle school students, only about 12% ride the bus, at a cost of $86,000 for the convenience, for primarily sixth graders. Middle school parents may want to start looking for other resources to transport their children if they don't want to or cannot themselves. Cutting high school bussing may be down the road, unfortunately. Bus ridership may have declined this year anyways, due to swim team and synchro swim cuts. If you not like the information, read the article linked by Danielle yourself. Could have kept middle school pools open for that kind of cash, and served many more kids (1500+), not only 187.

Danielle Arndt

Thu, Aug 1, 2013 : 4:19 p.m.

Last year when we wrote about the late busing, the district said the number of students who use the service varies per season (fall/winter/spring) as different clubs and activities are offered. In spring 2012, 187 students used the bus. Here's last year's article:


Thu, Aug 1, 2013 : 4:05 p.m.

My son took the bus after a few different sports and clubs throughout the last two years. It has been extremely helpful to us, a working parent, and a parent at home with another child. Would we have been able to get our child home through carpooling? Yes. But I know many students who wouldn't. I know kids who played tennis, which meets at Veteran's park, who were walking home a mile or more because the after-school bus didn't pick them up there. Most kids won't do that, and will lose that opportunity. When you look at the bus as "just one thing we'll all get used to", it's not much, but combined with everything else, I'm no longer "getting used to" what's happening.


Thu, Aug 1, 2013 : 1:52 p.m.

As a middle school parent, i can report that that bus really worked for us, with two working parents. The bus rider count is hard to pin down, not because we don't know how many kids are on the bus everyday, but because the kids who do ride the bus change throughout the year, as the after school activities change. It may be (purely for examples sake) that 200 kids ride from all the schools each day. But it is not the same 200 kids a few weeks later, the middle school late bus might serve 1000's of individuals over the course of the year. And of course, allowing these kids to stay and participate with their friends and classmates serves the entire school system. The fact that the PTO Thriftshop stepped up to help last year, and is being asked to again this year, is, of course, awesome. Too bad it looks like they will have to go it alone, if indeed they do participate in funding this service.

Dan Ezekiel

Thu, Aug 1, 2013 : 12:10 p.m.

This is very sad news. My school, Forsythe, serves many dozens of students from Scio Farms Estates, a mobile-home park seven miles from school. Because of the "late bus," many of these students were able to be full participants in after-school study, clubs, and sports. Thank you, AAPSEF and PTO Thrift Shop for what you have done, and here's hoping that a way can be found to continue the "late buses" at middle school.

Paula Gardner

Thu, Aug 1, 2013 : 8:34 p.m.

The collaboration between AAPSEF and PTO Thrift earned an 'Deal of the Year' award from us last year, for the exact reason you give. It really touched many of the kids and families who are part of this community but don't have the flexibility to provide later transportation. It's disappointing to see that the funding collaboration won't continue.


Thu, Aug 1, 2013 : 11:51 a.m.

I consciously and deliberately ended my general support of the AAPSEF when they inserted "Public Schools" into their name in order to emphasize that not all publicly-supported schools in Washtenaw County (their original charter) would be considered for grants. That may have won them points with some charter school bashers. It does the opposite for me. Limiting AAPSEF support to a single school district makes me dubious about the duplication of effort between them and AAPS' PTO / PTOC. fund raising. There is a very valuable program which provides a Disability Awarenesss Workshop for 4th grade students in AAPS (and now considering other school requests) through the fund raising and volunteer support of the Ann Arbor Parent Advisory Committee for Special Education, which joined with the AAPSEF rather than create their own non-profit to solicit donations and grants-in-kind. I contribute to that designated account through AAPSEF and urge you all to consider doing so as well.


Mon, Aug 5, 2013 : 2:31 p.m.

Steve and Liz - I was here and paying attention when the Ann Arbor Education Foundation (old name) was founded, and I read that it's purpose was to "support public education in the Ann Arbor area". It was not until a few years later that the Foundation changed it's name to emphasize that they only supported programs and projects with Ann Arbor Public Schools. That action was in response to complaints from people associated with Honey Creek and the Ann Arbor Learning Community because they were bluntly told by the Foundation that, in spite of the fact that charter schools ARE public schools, that the Foundation would not consider their projects for funding. aamom - Foundation and PTO funds are quite separate, and they are used fro different programs. AAPSEF donations are definitively tax deductible, because AAPSEF is a registered 501 (c) 3 organization. Unlike national PTA affiliates, most school PTOs in Ann Arbor are not recognized by the IRS, though you will very probably get away with deducting any cash donations to them, even if you are audited. It is my understanding, the PTO Council does make a strong effort to redistribute funds among the various school PTOs to help correct the imbalance in fund-raising capacity you mention.

J. A. Pieper

Thu, Aug 1, 2013 : 9:21 p.m.

I cannot support the AAPSEF financially when I see how the AAPS does not have a good track record for managing its funding. As an employee, parent, taxpayer, I see too much waste, just look at the administrative salaries! Building level administrators have had way too much flexibility with their own budgets in the past, and if I shared some of the things our tax dollars have been spent on, the public would be aghast! Does anyone even consider that many of us are functioning within a limited budget, and we have to think carefully about how we spend our hard earned dollars? Who wants to give more to a foundation that supports AAPS when we have seen so many financial snafus recently?

Liz Margolis

Thu, Aug 1, 2013 : 4:54 p.m.

The AAPSEF was established to support the Ann Arbor Public Schools.

Steve Norton, MIPFS

Thu, Aug 1, 2013 : 1:14 p.m.

I'm 99% certain that the AAPSEF has always been dedicated to supporting the Ann Arbor Public Schools district students, since its creation. It was never designed to support any other public districts (others in the county have their own educational foundations) or other kinds of schools. AAPSEF is the main way members of our community can channel private giving to our local school district to make up for funding shortfalls from the state. PTOs are all independent groups and raise money for their specific school buildings. The AAPSEF can support district-wide initiatives as well as grants to individual teachers and so on.


Thu, Aug 1, 2013 : 12:30 p.m.

I'm not sure I understand your position. Do you mean you don't donate because your local school already collects for the PTO? Or did you mean that we should be giving out grants to other school districts around us? If it is the former, then I would remind you that some PTOs are funded as much as 3 times more than other PTOs just due to demographics of the school. The AAPSEF money helps the schools with less PTO money to still provide a quality education with enrichment opportunities. This is critical since PTO money isn't shared across the district. If it is the latter, then I would remind you that we are already a donor district and pay to help support our surrounding smaller districts.


Thu, Aug 1, 2013 : 11:33 a.m.

If the foundation got rid of most of its staff there would be money for the schools instead of questionable salaries.


Thu, Aug 1, 2013 : 10:01 p.m.

Same could be said for Balas. But have they done this? Nope.


Thu, Aug 1, 2013 : 11:08 a.m.

It is unfortunate that the AAPS have need to rely on outside funding to start with. Hopefully, new leadership will move the board to keeping its own house in order and providing the elements necessary for "excellence". That said, it appears that the Foundation has not been managed nearly as well as possible. Perhaps Ms. Cooperwasser will be able to right the ship, but she probably does not have much time to do so. While financials may not be complete just 30 days after the end of the fiscal year, estimated numbers should be. Failing to offer those estimates creates the of trying to hide something, even if that is not actually the case. The sad part is that AAPS students are the ones who suffer the failings of the "grownups" who don't successfully manage to keep the fiscal houses in order.


Thu, Aug 1, 2013 : 11:05 a.m.

So the foundation paid out less than half of its income in grants in the year that is presented in the article. 530,155 in revenue and 246,495 in grants. This puts the foundation in poor light based on the guidelines for giving at Yes, it is a small organization with only limited revenue, but these are numbers from before the fall off in revenue seen this year. It sounds like (no numbers here) the expense ratio is even higher in the 2012-13 school year. This is a problem if the foundation wants outside corporate grants.


Thu, Aug 1, 2013 : 11:03 a.m.

"Initiative in Excellence grants generally exceeded $5,000 and were used to provide funds for launching new programs at AAPS, as well as to provide money for existing programs threatened by budget cuts." $5000? That's just a drop in the bucket as I recall reading the School Board chair uttered when it came to ending meal subsidies for the Board meetings. I guess the $43,000 that won't be available for the afternoon bus is a little over 8 drops...

Jeff Gaynor

Thu, Aug 1, 2013 : 10:18 a.m.

Ouch! Inclusive sports teams, clubs, and tutoring are (were) a big part of the middle school day. Yes, some students live close enough to walk, and some others have parents who can pick them up, but many will lose out. The Opportunity Gap now becomes a chasm.


Thu, Aug 1, 2013 : 10:03 p.m.

It also comes down to who is a stay at home parent or a parent who can pick up their child after school so they can do these events. Going to be interesting to say the least.