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Posted on Tue, Jan 12, 2010 : 7:02 a.m.

In defense of Community High School

By Jeff Kass

A recent article on detailing AAPS’ potential plan for slashing its budget elicited numerous proposals from readers to either move students from Community High School into a school-within-a-school at Skyline, or to eliminate Community altogether. I don’t teach at CHS, but I think closing it (or moving it) would be an awful idea. In many ways, Community is the perfect counterpoint to larger schools like Pioneer (where I teach), Huron and Skyline, and it provides the district with what I see as a very necessary balance.

While current trends in education call for aligning curricula and teacher-proofing classroom standards and practices so all students and teachers can be on the same page at the same time, Community High - while maintaining academic excellence and even managing to report high scores on standardized tests - defies such trends. That’s important. The truth is one-size-fits-all education doesn’t work for a lot of students. For those kids (who may not need the kind of additional support services offered at Stone School or Roberto Clemente), the quirkiness and flexibility at Community is precisely what allows them to succeed. Anyone who has ever had the privilege to attend a CHS graduation can attest to the fact that students often express a sincere affection both for their Forum leaders and for their overall high school career that’s profoundly moving. Pioneer, at times, can feel like a factory. I don’t think Community ever feels like that and I, for one, would like to see more of what happens at Community happen at the larger schools.

Don’t get me wrong, bigger schools have their strengths too. The extra-curricular programs at Pioneer and Huron are extraordinary (note to public - if you get a chance, check out Pioneer’s “Future Stars” Finals this upcoming Saturday @ 7:30 pm), as is the variety of electives and AP classes offered, and for some kids a bigger school is better socially as well. More opportunities to meet new people on a daily basis. Less chance of getting pigeon-holed into a clique. I personally enjoy teaching at Pioneer because I feed off the energy, the uncertainty and occasional befuddlement engendered by so many bodies bumping into each other. Nevertheless, one of the real benefits of the Ann Arbor district is its ability to offer both ways of life - the frenetic pace of what seems like a teeming city at Pioneer and Huron, and will eventually seem so at Skyline; and the more relaxed, casual rhythms at Community. Some kids need a place where they can feel comfortable playing Dungeons & Dragons in the hallway. The fact that our district manages to offer such a place is something we should celebrate.

I’m sure not everything at Community is perfect. Like at all the schools in our district (or anywhere else) there are likely to be areas where the teaching, classroom management and programs can be improved. Yet, I can say without reservation that in my limited experience conducting the occasional poetry workshop at Community or accompanying a guest writer to an assembly or class visit there, the learning environment has felt academically focused and vigorous. I don’t know a whole bunch of teachers at CHS but the ones I do know well - Tracey Rosewarne, Judith DeWoskin, Ellen Stone - don’t just teach for a living, they make a life out of teaching. They light up their classrooms with their passion and spend much of their time outside school figuring out how to become more luminous. They read and they write and they travel and they search and search and search for deeper ways to understand what they teach, and the result is that their students crackle with curiosity. And, yes, they would be great teachers wherever they taught, but that doesn’t mean they don’t love the building they’re in. That doesn’t mean they haven’t made that old creaky place their own. That doesn’t mean they haven’t turned Community into a downtown incubator that yields an annual flock of creative, innovative hatchlings.

Case in point - Davy Rothbart.

Davy’s the creator of Found Magazine, which, if you haven’t read, you need to pick up. I think Davy’s a kind of genius and Found represents a sort of contemporary above-ground archaeology. The “finds” on display in his magazine are artifacts, fascinating pieces of our zeitgeist, glimpses into our cultural handiwork. Oh, yeah, and Davy writes too. He won something like a dozen Hopwood Awards in Creative Writing as an undergraduate at U-M. I’m not saying he wouldn’t have created Found or become a terrific writer if he hadn’t gone to Community, but I am betting Community encouraged him to pursue the quirky meanderings of his mind. I am betting nobody at Community ever told him not to follow his muse, not to believe in the value of his voice.

Another case in point - Steve Hall.

Not only is Steve one of the countless wonderful musicians to come out of Community, but he was also the driving teenage force behind the initial collaboration between the Neutral Zone and the University Musical Society - an alliance resulting in Ann Arbor’s yearly teenage talent extravaganza at the Power Center: Breakin’ Curfew. I had the good fortune of being present at the early meetings between the NZ and UMS, and it was clear Steve’s education at Community had not only provided him skills but also with a sense of possibility, a belief that any vision, with enough grunt and grease, could be realized.

The list of fabulous young writers I’ve been lucky enough to work with over the past dozen years who bear the imprint of teachers at Community is long: Lewis (Sailor J) Wallace; Evelyn Hollenshead; Dan Vellman; Sara Brickman; Maggie Klein; Nina Feldman; Jake and Rafe Scobey-Thal; Maggie Ambrosino; Allison Bondie; Angel Nafis; Aimee Le; Alia Persico-Shamas; Hilary Burch; Gahl Liberzon and Glenna Benitez, to name just a few. Each of these students shares a love for language and a desire to develop a unique voice. Community helped cultivate that love. It’s obviously a fertile field where students who want to write can find the sustenance to grow.

Conservative folks who think of Community as a boutique liberal playground should understand something else too. Out of all the high schools in the district, I suspect it’s the one most likely to inculcate a sense of personal responsibility. Unlike at Pioneer where punitive measures like tardy and homework sweeps intimidate students in order to keep them in line, students at Community must develop a greater degree of intrinsic motivation to attend class on time and to complete their work. Some kids may need the more stringent safeguards at Pioneer, true, but some may also come to rely on that kind of external taskmaster in order to accomplish anything. At Community, a kid in many ways has to be his own taskmaster. That too is an invaluable skill to learn.

Lucille Clifton, one of my favorite poets, is fond of saying Poetry is a house with many rooms. Well, education is a city with many buildings. Community High School is a thriving one. We’d be foolish to close it.

** NOTE - the next big poetry event coming up is when Ann Arbor Wordworks presents its annual poetry concert Homegrown at the Lydia Mendelssohn Theater in the Michigan League on Friday, Jan. 29th. A whole bunch of poets of tremendous talent - including Maggie Ambrosino, Mike Moriarty, Ben Alfaro, Courtney Whittler, Aimee Le, Fiona Chamness, Gahl Liberzon, Brittany Floyd, Daniel Bigham, Maggie Hanks, Lauren Weston, Mike Kulick, Peggy Burrows, AJ McLittle, Chris Moriarty and Anthony Zick - will be rocking the stage. The show promises to be spectacular. It’ll run from approximately 7-9 p.m. The Mendelssohn is @ 911 N. University Ave., in downtown Ann Arbor a short walk from CHS. Tickets will be $5 for students in advance, or $7 at the door. $10 and $12 for members of the general public. To reserve tickets at the advanced price or for more information, email me @ or call me @ 734-223-7443. **

Jeff Kass teaches creative writing at Pioneer High School in Ann Arbor and at Eastern Michigan University in Ypsilanti, and directs the Literary Arts Programs at the Neutral Zone, including the VOLUME Youth Poetry Project, which meets every Thursday night at 7 p.m. He will post new blog entries every Tuesday and Thursday morning throughout the school year.



Mon, Jan 25, 2010 : 12:50 p.m.

I am a current CHS junior and I'm really worried about all the talk that has been going on. I really love Community and I would be really sad to see it either shut down or moved in to Skyline. @ Craig Lounsbury: I just want you to know that I went on two middle school visits to talk about Community. We do NOT want to influence impressionable 8th graders; the reason we go to the middle schools is to give the 8th graders a better understanding of what Community is like. We had to go to a training prior to the visits and we were told several times that there should be NO bashing of the big schools. I'm not posting on this site to bash the big schools; but Community is just as important as the big schools are. I was bullied all through elementary school so my mom decided to enroll me at Ann Arbor Open. The small school environment really fit me so I decided that Community would be a good choice for me. The key part of that is that it was a good choice for ME. Community is not right for everyone but some people really need the small environment and the extra help from teachers. As a result of my experience at Community I am now looking for a small or residential college to earn a double major in math and chemistry and a minor in french.

Matt Cooper

Mon, Jan 18, 2010 : 10:45 p.m.

sweetlife: Perhaps you simply di9dn't see whyere I said: "Inversely, I cannot in any way speak to the quality, or the lack thereof, of the educational experience at any of the other AAPS high schools because I never attended any of them. I'm sure there are hundreds, even thousands perhaps, of Pioneer, Huron, Clemente and Stone students and former students who will tell you they love their schools just as much as I do mine." I have said not one word to belittle anything about the other schools. If I speak so highly of CHS it's because that was MY experience while a student there. I love my school and make no apologies for that love. Furthermore, the analogy using the car example was just that, an analogy (defined by as "a similarity between like features of two things, on which a comparison may be based: the analogy between the heart and a pump."). This definition says nothing about one being better or worse than the other. Simply comparing one to the other. Personally, I think CHS is the best high school ever devised, and I don't particularly care if people like that I say that or not. As I've repeatedly stated here, I wouldn't have made it through high school were it not for the experience I had at CHS, and I'm sure, as affirmed by the many posts here, that there are many, many others who feel the same about their own high school experiences at CHS (and other schools).


Mon, Jan 18, 2010 : 10:01 p.m.

Matt - I missed your comment because it was deleted. I did feel that the car analogy was a poor attempt to belittle the quality of education at the other high schools. Perhaps silly was the wrong word and for that I apologize. But I stick with my contention that the intent of your comparison was to bash the other schools, not to say what is good about CHS. Again - I see no reason to close what is, by all accounts, a successful program at CHS for the students who choose to go there. I also see no reason to say that the other high schools aren't also successful. There are lots of smart, creative kids who don't even apply to CHS because it isn't what they are looking for. My concern is that many of the things that make the mainstream high schools a success for those kids - including the brilliant music programs, the large number of high level course offerings, and the incredible range of extracurricular activities - will also soon be on the chopping block. Let's look for other ways of balancing the budget that don't kill what is great about Ann Arbor schools, whether it is CHS or the mainstream high school programs.

Matt Cooper

Mon, Jan 18, 2010 : 8:33 p.m.

StefanieMurray, why not remove both comments then instead of just the one? I ask only because I suspect the one that was removed was mine adressing the 'silly' comment made by sweetlife. To be fair, the comment referring to my post as 'silly' should also be removed, for it was an attack that was off topic and uncalled for. I simply responded to it. People shouldn't launch verbal salvos if they don't want to be on the receiving end of them.


Sun, Jan 17, 2010 : 10:25 p.m.

Ironic- while the rest of the country is scrambling to reformat schools so as to retain their students and create interest and engagement from both students and community- in order to keep state and federal dollars n the public school systems- Ann Arbor considers essentially gambling with the integrity of one of the most popular and in-demand public schools of choice ever! OMG


Sun, Jan 17, 2010 : 10:15 p.m.

actually- CHS IS perfect in its kookiness and A2 needs it if you ever want to be that COOL CITY again....

Toni Wander

Sat, Jan 16, 2010 : 11:19 p.m.

So now it's my time to share. I am also a CHS alum, graduated in 1980. My story is different from many who have written here. At Clague Junior High, I was a straight-A student. I took 9th grade algebra in 8th grade, and was top of my class. I did not "need" an open school High School to do well academically, as some here have posted, but socially, I needed it badly. I was smart, but very shy and extremely unhappy. Your classic "geek." In 9th grade I joined a school called "Earthworks," which was another small school in Ann Arbor in the 70's with an open-school philosophy. Some reading this may be suprised to learn that there used to be more than one public open school in Ann Arbor - we had a choice! Although Earthworks had a unique culture and was different from Community, it also had many similarities including more involvement from the students in developing their own education and more informal, friendly interactions between students and teachers. I was immediately changed, drawn out of my shell by the encouragement of the teachers and students in the school. I felt accepted and happy for the first time in a long time, and was able to excell emotionally and academically. As mentioned by Matt Cooper above, there were no lotteries or waiting lists back then - enrollment was very low in open schools. The school district decided to do exactly what is being considered now: they embedded Earthworks into Community. Earthworks was supposed to maintain it's identity, and simply be "housed" in the Community building. This, of course, did not work - Earthworks was simply eliminated within a few years, and most people now do not even remember it. I graduated from Community, and I love the school for the experiences it brought, but I also mourn Earthworks. It breaks my heart to hear the exact same arguments now being used to move Community into Skyline. It will not work. Community will simply cease to exist. You cannot create a small school with a close-knit, family-style feeling while being embedded in a larger school. You will stop being a small school and become a subset of a large school. Isn't this fairly obvious? I realize there is a budget problem, but we MUST find another way to solve it. Many students thrive on smaller, more personal schools for many different reasons, and Commuinity, for all it's faults, works for those students. Having this choice available is vital to the type of Ann Arbor I believe in, and hope that we all strive for. I'm not saying anything against the larger schools in Ann Arbor - they have many advantages that Community does not have, and many students prefer them, I know. But some, like me, need a different type of experience. Ann Arbor used to have several open school choices, now we only have one: Community. The need for a lottery and waiting list indicates that it is a desired method of educating, one that is not more expensive per student than the larger schools, and generates higher test scores than the other schools. If this is what many of our children want, why are we thinking of closing the one school that provides it for them?


Sat, Jan 16, 2010 : 9:41 p.m.

I'm currently a freshman at Skyline. I applied to go to Community and ended up being one of the last people picked. I was DEVASTATED, I cried because I didn't get in. I don't work well in big schools and I've always encountered bullying and harassment from teachers in peers especially at Scarlett Middle School. I even had to deal with it at Ann Arbor Open. To me Community would be the place that I would thrive. Now, I have no idea how I'm going to survive highschool. I'm still upset over the fact I didn't get in because I don't fit in at Skyline. I have no support systems what so over. :(


Sat, Jan 16, 2010 : 6:03 p.m.

Matt - I really don't understand the rabid anti-CHS people here, but I also don't understand the need for CHS supporters to bash the other schools to make their case. And yes, the "factory" reference and the silly car analogy you used in your previous post, certainly sounded like you were bashing them. I am glad that CHS has been a good educational experience for you and for many who have gone there. That is reason enough to support it. CHS isn't for everyone - there are many who thrive in the mainstream schools, which is reason enough to say that more traditional approaches also work well here. Enough said.

Matt Cooper

Sat, Jan 16, 2010 : 2:05 p.m.

sweet_life, you are mistaken, my friend. To quote you, "OK so once again someone who supports CHS feels the only way to do that is to say how much better it is than the other high schools." In none of my posting have I said Community is better than the other schools. In none of my postings have I said CHS is anything but a very special school. And it is. And it's not only me saying it, but hundreds of students, former students and graduates that actually attended CHS. Did you go to CHS? Did you graduate from CHS? I did (class of '84), and therefore am at least minimally qualified to speak on what a wonderful school it is, and how amazing the staff of teachers, CR people and other staff that work there are. I can also freely comment on what an awesome exoerience I had while a student there and how I honestly don't think I would have graduated at all had I not had CHS and the people there to help me make it through. Inversely, I cannot in any way speak to the quality, or the lack thereof, of the educational experience at any of the other AAPS high schools because I never attended any of them. I'm sure there are hundreds, even thousands perhaps, of Pioneer, Huron, Clemente and Stone students and former students who will tell you they love their schools just as much as I do mine. My point in all my postings is not that Commie is better. It is that I don't understand why some people here feel a need to either dismantle CHS (and although they would never openly admit such a thing, some of the ideas posed here would result in the ultimate destruction of CHS), or failing that, to move it into another facility rather than simply leaving it alone. Why not just leave it be? As the old adage goes, "If it ain't broke, don't fix it!" I remember when I started at CHS in the fall term of 1980. CHS was NOT the school kids wanted to go to. There was no lottery and/or wait list to get in. There was no discussion whatever about "Geez, why can't all the kids go there?". And now that it's recognized as an overwhelming success some people want to alter it simply because their kid can't get in? I just don't get it.


Sat, Jan 16, 2010 : 8:52 a.m.

I have to agree that CHS supporters tend to explain why it's good by saying the other high schools are bad. So, without talking badly about other schools, what is good about CHS? And can we be realistic about what might not be so great about CHS, just as we are with other high schools? Like, it has great test scores because it has the wealthiest, whitest student population in the district? (And there is plenty of evidence nationally that these students score well on tests regardless of what school they attend.) That the lauded science program is quite weak in some areas? That CHS offers no AP courses, and students hoping to do well on AP tests to get college credit must take these courses at the other high schools? (A cost that is not actually charged to CHS.) Same with sports, band, etc. CHS also can kick out poorly behaving students and has done so, leaving it with a very select group of students by 12th grade. I'm not sure that addressing teachers by their first names or eating lunch in Kerrytown defines quality education. Nor does block scheduling. Also, students from all over the district can use the CR program. I know of several at the "big" high schools who take courses at local universities. That feature is not unique to CHS. That said, CHS has some aspects that are important. It is small, which is very important for able students with learning or behavior problems. I am assuming that these are the kinds of kids at CHS. It's also possible that the small size facilitates social aspects for students, although I can also see that CHS is alienating to kids who don't fit in. Given the vast differences in the educational program there, it's nearly impossible to know exactly how good the teaching/curriculum really is, given that the school has a select and privileged student body.


Fri, Jan 15, 2010 : 10:47 p.m.

OK so once again someone who supports CHS feels the only way to do that is to say how much better it is than the other high schools. Different - yes. Better for some kids - yes. Better overall - no. I defy anyone to attend a performance by the PHS, HHS, or SHS bands, orchestras, choirs, or theater groups and argue that these kids are being warehoused in a factory school. I defy anyone to look at the curriculum for the Humanities class or the material in AP Calculus and tell me that the kids at the mainstream high schools aren't getting a good education. I heard that last year's senior class at Huron had more than 160 students accepted at UM. Isn't that some indication that the system at the mainstream high schools also works for a large number of kids? None of the high schools are perfect - and I am sure that CHS has its faults too. Perhaps the fact that CHS students would not be able to participate in AP classes and first rate music programs (with the exception of jazz band) if it wasn't for the mainstream high schools is one of them. But CHS supporters do themselves a disservice when they make their case by putting down the other schools rather than simply focusing on the value of having diverse educational options in our community.

Matt Cooper

Fri, Jan 15, 2010 : 9:45 p.m.

The bottom line is that if you move CHS into another school, you only accomplish a few noteworthy things: 1. You create an even bigger divide between the "factory" students and the CHS students. Commie students can leave the building for an hour to go to lunch. How do you then explain to the Sky High students that, no, they don't get to leave with them? They have to stay where they are. If my information is outdated, I apologize in advance, but when I was in high school, Pioneer, Huron and the other school students had to stay at school during lunch. Not so with CHS. 2. You create a situation where the Sky High (for example) students and CHS students take some of the same classes, as suggested a few times here, while CHS students take the CHS classes apart from the other students. Ok, how do you decide which classrooms to use? Which teachers on the Sky High faculty will be willing to give up their classrooms for a large portion of the day so CHS students can have their space? And how do you tell the Sky High kids that no, you don't get to take American Humor (that's a class we had when I was at CHS) because that's a Commie High class and you aren't a Commie High student. 3. Finally, and I think most importantly, you take that special intrinsic quality, that specialness, that family feel along with the uniqueness that makes CHS a special place and dilute it such that I'd be willing to bet in less than 2 years it won't even look, sound or feel like Community High School in the least. And everything, every quality that makes Commie High the Commie High that is so loved by current and former students, and CHS graduates for the past nearly 40 years is gone forever. And what good comes from basically dismanteling a school that works and trying to assimilate it into the other schools? How does that best serve the the student body of all the Ann Arbor high schools in general? It doesn't. If people are truly interested in raising the academic bar along with improving the high school experience for all Ann Arbor high school students, do not try to attempt this nonsensical school-within-a-school bunk. Rather, take the elements that make CHS such a great school and and put those actions, ideals and concepts into practice there at Pi High, HHS and Sky High. Not everybody gets to drive a Lexus. But that doesn't mean we stop working to improve Ford, Chevy and the others and incorporate the things that make Lexus a great car into them so as to make them all better overall. And you certainly don't make Ford or Chevy better by blowing the motor out of a Lexus simply because you can't drive one.


Fri, Jan 15, 2010 : 8:08 p.m.

After reading the articles and comments here and talking to parents of kids at CHS, I agree that CHS provides a great learning options for some kids. The fact there is unmet enrollment demand for CHS indicates to me that there are good reasons for keeping it. However, I am a bit offended by all of the references from CHS supporters to the three mainstream high schools in town as factory schools, warehouses, etc. My children have received an excellent education from two of those high schools as have many, many other children in Ann Arbor. Huron, Skyline, and Pioneer all have great academic opportunities, phenomenal music and theater programs, and an amazing range of extracurriculars such as athletics, robotics, social clubs, etc. CHS may be right for some kids, but many others thrive in the environment at the bigger schools. Regarding Skyline - yes, they are taking a somewhat different approach than at Huron and Pioneer, with an emphasis on smaller learning communities within the school, as well as a series of magnet programs. I don''t know how well it will work as the school gets larger, but it is a worthwhile experiment. Many people here worry about how CHS would be changed if it was moved to Skyline. I worry just as much about how Skyline would be changed. I don't see a good fit either way.


Fri, Jan 15, 2010 : 8:07 p.m.

Mixed stock -- see my post above re: Skyline. Isn't that what they are doing there?


Fri, Jan 15, 2010 : 7 p.m.

Woman in Ypsilanti, you are absolutely spot on. Using CHS as a template and creating smaller communities of learning would have been a wise move. But the powers-that-be chose instead a route that now has them pondering whether to dismantle a popular, working program like CHS in favor of large, impersonal schools that few wanted in the first place. :(

Woman in Ypsilanti

Fri, Jan 15, 2010 : 12:56 p.m.

In my earlier comments about a school within a school, I was not suggesting that because I think CHS should be closed. I agree that its location and small size are important. I was more thinking about ways to meet the demand for that type of program. If they have to have a lottery for admission into CHS, it probably means that it would be a good idea to expand that style of education into other areas in the district.


Fri, Jan 15, 2010 : 8:29 a.m.

I'm curious about the Skyline comments -- just another big school like PHS and HHS.... I know that in creating Skyline, folks worked hard at integrating progressive ideas into the structure, like "small learning communities" to make it seem less huge and impersonal; and magnet programs. I thought these ideas sounded great. I know there are only two grades there now, but it will be full in two more years! I don't understand the comments about using extra space, either.... what extra space? It will be gone very shortly. Is anyone currently going to Skyline, or a Skyline parent, that can speak to the SLCs and magnets so far? Are these things that could be incorporated into PHS and HHS successfully?


Fri, Jan 15, 2010 : 1:09 a.m.

Eric P... you are exactly right. When I said the school-in-a-school concept doesn't work I was in fact thinking of MYA when it was "housed" at Forsythe. MYA hated being there and the Forsythe kids didn't much like having to share "their" school either.


Fri, Jan 15, 2010 : 1:01 a.m.

The school-within-a-school system doesn't work and plopping CHS into Skyline on the outskirts of town would render CHS just another school at the end of the day. CHS works, in large part, because of its location IN THE CITY for all of the reasons others have already stated. If you don't understand that then you really should spend a day at CHS, follow some kids around, and see why the location issue is so important to their education. As for the shuttles, let's not forget that not all homes in the AAPS district are served by the AATA. Our neighborhood is not on the bus line (the nearest AATA stop is 1.5 miles away) so the kids who attend CHS have to hop the bus to Huron and then take the shuttle to Community. (And yes, I suppose they COULD walk to the bus stop... I used to walk a mile to school every day in the City of Detroit, but out here the road our kids would walk is extremely busy, there are no sidewalks, and they'd be making this trek in the morning darkness. So please, let's not go there.) Kids at CHS come from every background and socioeconomic status. They live in middle-class neighborhoods, huge expensive homes, apartments and subsidized housing. There are graduates who go to U-M and Ivy League Schools and others who attend community college or trade programs -- just like any other school in the district. If any particular race is underrepresented it is either because they aren't entering the lotto to begin with or their number hasn't been selected. It's a crap shoot, plain and simple. The CHS lotto system is both economically neutral and color-blind and, in my mind, fair. Should the district have set up several small schools like Community instead of building another behemoth like Pioneer and Huron? Well, a lot of residents in the district hollered that message from the tops of their lungs, pointed to the research that clearly shows smaller high schools produce students with higher scores, but the district chose to go ahead with another large school anyway and now we have Sky High. But that is not surprising, at least not to someone whose been around a while. This district doesn't listen. They didn't in the early 80s or the late 90s when they restructured the schools. And they won't now. You all can go to all of the meetings you like, and you might have the perfect solution to get us through this budget crisis, but trust me, they have already made up their minds on what they are going to do. Sadly, there is nothing any of us can say that will change their minds so save your breath -- and just hope it isn't YOUR school that will be screwed and your kids offered up as the sacrifice.


Thu, Jan 14, 2010 : 9:41 p.m.

I am not so negative about the concept, but I am negative about the probability of change/something new. The only place this could fly would be Skyline. It is a new school so nothing is entrenched. However, it looks to be shaping up to be a mainstream school, just starting out one grade at a time. The time for change is now, but I think the budget crisis will focus attention on cost-cutting not new ideas.

Eric P

Thu, Jan 14, 2010 : 9:30 p.m.

@Woman in Ypsilanti- in theory the school with in a school should work. In practice it is problematic. See MYA at Forthsye in the 80s for a perfect example of what CHS at Skyline or where ever would look like.

Woman in Ypsilanti

Thu, Jan 14, 2010 : 9:10 p.m.

I am not so sure that the "school within a school" concept is necessarily flawed. I went to a high school where the set up was that students picked a curriculum and each one was a little bit of a school within a school. Everyone took basic classes together but attended the classes within their curriculum with other students in the same one. It allowed a very large school to feel a little bit smaller. There is no reason the big high schools have to limit themselves to one "school within a school" or that such a think has to be unequal. They could divide a student body of 2000 into four programs of 500 students each. One could be like CHS with an open classroom. One could be super strict. One could put a heavier focus on science and math. Whatever. The possibilities are endless and the end result would be to have different styles of education. Different people thrive in different situations.


Thu, Jan 14, 2010 : 8:44 p.m.

I agree with Eric about the difficulty of moving the "best ideas of CHS" to the larger high schools. One important component of CHS is that the teachers self-select to teach there. Over time, a new teacher may end up there just because there is an opening at that school and no where else, but most of the teachers chose to teach there. So, there is a core of teachers who really all work together/communicate with each other even though they are in disparate disciplines. Without bashing teachers at the mainstream schools, I think it is harder for a burned out teacher to exist at CHS, just like it is hard to be a "lost/ignored" student at CHS. By burned out, I mean a teacher who year in and year out is a terrible teacher - not just bad for a year when who knows what is going on in his/her life or what the classroom environment is like for that one year. Thus, the teachers and their feeling of a community of teachers would be really hard to transfer. That said, there are plenty of excellent teachers in the mainstream high schools. My mainstream high school child had some great teachers. However, I think that's where you will also find the burned out teacher who is just marking time, making it difficult for the rest of the teachers and for the unfortunate kids who get assigned to that teacher. The teachers at Pioneer/Huron are not empowered and that makes a difference in their energy, self-regulation, and comaraderie with the rest of their colleagues.

Eric P

Thu, Jan 14, 2010 : 7:25 p.m.

read through the comment here it seems like there are two big points of contention. 1) that the limited number of slots for students at CHS is unfair to those who would like to go there and don't get in. Well, almost every high school in the country has the same issue when it comes to classes. Not every student is able to get into the class that they want when they want it and have to make other arraignments (this happens at CHS as well). It's part of life, and if the argument is going to be made that every student should have a slot in what ever program they want, where will that stop? Should everyone that tried out for Band or Football be allocated at slot? 2)creating a CHS culture at the other schools. I previously commented about the attempts to do this in the past. What wasn't mentioned is that CHS dean Bob Gallardi (SP?) became the principal at Pioneer in the 90s. There was a lot of hope that he was going to bring at least part of the CHS culture with him-- he didn't. It's not going to happen, almost 20 years of trying appears to have failed, that's a generation and a half of students. It's time to admit that CHS and the other schools will not be, and move on to what ever the next step is. also School in a School. Bad idea, you just create one more divide between the students and when there is an imbalance-- 400 CHS students surrounded by 1600 Pioneer students, guess who is going to be the most targeted and the most harassed?


Thu, Jan 14, 2010 : 6:29 p.m.

Folks who support Community seem to have a low regard for the other high schools (big box, warehouse, etc.). That, to me, is an argument against Community, not in favor of it. We should be focusing on improvements that benefit the greatest number of kids, and cutting costs that affect the fewest (with the exception of high/special needs). I am also disturbed by the lack of busing to Community - that eliminates a lot of kids from taking advantage of going there. If you don't live close enough or have the luxury of a ride from your parents, it doesn't sound like a viable option. That is disturbing in and of itself. And surely supporters of Community can admit that there are at least some lessons from Community that could translate. Why dismiss that so totally? I would love to see a number of smaller high schools that could offer the benefits of Community, but until that can happen in Ann Arbor, it seems patently unfair to benefit a few hundred kids and tell the rest "tough luck."

Susi Stiles

Thu, Jan 14, 2010 : 6:18 p.m.

Kids need options. I graduated from Community in 1985. I now teach in a city where the kids have one high school to choose from. Some do very well there, but there are so many that I think would thrive in a "Commie High" environment. Ann Arbor students are fortunate to have choices. Don't mess with Community!


Thu, Jan 14, 2010 : 4:10 p.m.

@Matt Cooper: I'm sorry if you misunderstood me, I do not believe there was preferential treatment given to other students and I am not condemning the lottery system itself. I'm not using the term "exclusionary" to imply that the lottery wasn't fair. I'm using it to express that I believe that a public school system should offer the same opportunities and services to all their students, not just the 200 who happened won the little "lottery". There should be no need for a lottery, because in a public school district, every student should have the same opportunities. "So, keeping this in mind, please stop referring to CHS as being exclusionary and/or unfair because it simply isn't true." In this case, fairness is a matter of opinion, not a fact you can label true or false. I think it's unfair, you think it's fair, and this is where we differ in opinion. @Beachbaby and Woman in Ypsilanti: Thank you. This is exactly the point I am trying to make. I would love to see CHS programs extended to more of our public schools, because they seem really great. "while a lottery may be "fair" in so much that everyone gets an equal chance, it is not fair that there is such a discrepancy in opportunities amongst public schools" This is what I'm trying to express.

Woman in Ypsilanti

Thu, Jan 14, 2010 : 11:59 a.m.

FWIW, it doesnt sound to me like Monica has a problem with CHS or wants it closed or anything like that. It sounds to me like she is, instead, advocating expanding the CHS program/philosophy into the larger high schools. It might be perfectly possible for the AAPS to create a "school inside a school" at one or more of the larger highschools in order to accommodate the demand that clearly exists for that style of education. Such a thing could be done IN ADDITION to continuing to have the Community High program. I also happen to think that it is a good idea because it does kind of suck for the kids who enter the lottery but don't get a place.


Thu, Jan 14, 2010 : 10:06 a.m.

@ monica i understand the point you are making. marriage, jobs, and college admissions are not supported/paid for by public funds---public education is. while a lottery may be "fair" in so much that everyone gets an equal chance, it is not fair that there is such a discrepancy in opportunities amongst public schools. my kids are not high school age yet, but i can imagine there must be a lot of stress waiting to see if you get in, especially when you have a child that really needs the type of atmosphere that CHS provides.


Thu, Jan 14, 2010 : 9:52 a.m.

@averagetaxpayer: from what I can see there is no chargeback to CHS. I agree that the CHS budget masks the fact that the school depends on the other high schools although that cost doesn't appear on its spending.


Thu, Jan 14, 2010 : 9:27 a.m.

Here are a couple of questions hoping someone might be able to answer regarding high school expense allocation. Sorry if they've been answered already but I can't find- Is there an FTE chargeback from the Pioneer or Huron budget to the CHS budget when a CHS student attends a class at Pioneer or Huron (and vice-versa)? Somewhat related to the above, are a prorated portion of Huron/Pioneer facility costs, including utilities, and equipment costs, say for athletics, orchestra, drama, etc., charged to CHS when a CHS uses the Pioneer or Huron facilities? If the answer to either question is no then the cost per student for each high school, cited in the budget and repeated in this blog, would be misleading.


Thu, Jan 14, 2010 : 8:09 a.m.

@Greg Thanks for the numbers. I think they tell the story more succinctly than anything. Everybody has looked at the stats now, right?

Matt Cooper

Thu, Jan 14, 2010 : 12:09 a.m.

Monica, the lottery and waiting list are just that. Attempts to level the so-called playing field. You had the exact same chance as anybody else of getting in. And no, I'm not comparing apples and oranges, and if you think I am, you missed my point entirely. The fact of the matter is that life is not fair. You seem to imply that there was preferential treatment give to some students that was not extended to others, including yourself, when this is simply not the case. 500 names on a list and only 200 can get in. So we draw names out of a hat with each name only being entered once until we have 200 names. Can the other 300 cry about how unfair it is? No, because they had the same chance as any of the 200 that were chosen. Just because you didn't get what you wanted doesn't mean the process wasn't fair. And it also doesn't mean that Commie should become a miniature version of Huron or Pioneer simply because those 300 didn't get what they wanted either. So, keeping this in mind, please stop referring to CHS as being exclusionary and/or unfair because it simply isn't true.


Wed, Jan 13, 2010 : 10:31 p.m.

I did not intend to imply in my previous post that I would like to see CHS shut down/moved/etc. I am merely stating my view of the school. @MyOpinion; I definitely agree, block scheduling would be wonderful. @Matt Cooper; Matt, I am not trying to imply that life should be fair, nor am I suggesting that we should "scrap" CHS. :) Also, colleges and public high schools do not run under the same system, I think you're comparing apples to oranges. Because CHS obtain their funding from the same AAPS, it is only logical that we should at least attempt to give students from the other high schools the same opportunities. @Jon Saalberg; I do not recall stating anywhere that I "resent" the students at CHS [Many of them are my best friends and classmates!], nor did I intend to imply that I think this system is unfair solely because I was not accepted. I hold no personal grudge against the school for that reason, so please do not jump to such conclusions. Perhaps I came off a little harsh, I apologize, I did not word my comment well; what I am trying to say is that I just don't think it's fair that a small select group of students, chosen at random, get (what are in my *personal opinion*) better opportunities than another, when they are funded by the same school system. This is why I described it as sort of a "private school" system. By opportunities, I am mostly thinking about the community resource program. This is why I do not favor the exclusive nature of CHS. I would definitely like to see some of the things going on at CHS in my own school.

Jon Saalberg

Wed, Jan 13, 2010 : 9:33 p.m.

@Anonymous Due to Bigotry: Mr. Bigotry, I think it would be interesting to know if you actually have any experience with CHS - your comments have an awful lot to prove. As for creationism, the scientific community overwhelming supports evolution - unproven theories such as creationism belong in religious schools, not our public schools. @monica: It's too bad you didn't get into CHS, but it's sour grapes to hold resentment towards those who did get - a lottery is random, and that's how it goes. As for your statement...different privileges and opportunities than another group, that's no longer a public school; that's private education - I don't understand how you draw the conclusion that CHS students have different privileges. What does that mean? As for opportunities, as I've previously stated, all schools must meet the same state guidelines. It is true that each school has unique teachers and ways of doing things, but that doen't mean CHS students should be punished because of their unique experience. And that CHS students have a different environment and different teachers from those at Pioneer doesn't qualify the CHS experience as "private" - just different from yours.

Nancy DeMarco

Wed, Jan 13, 2010 : 9:32 p.m.

Bottom line, Community High cannot accommodate all the kids who want to attend. Taking whatever is working so well at Community and incorporating that philosophy along with the programs such as CR (community resource classes) into the big high schools is something that should have happened long ago in Ann Arbor. The innate unfairness of having a public high school that excludes kids who want to be there simply because the building is not large enough should bother all of us. The budget crisis gives AAPS a chance to correct this situation. I think it would be possible to have a high school within a high school at any of our comprehensive high schools. Community High always has standardized test scores than the big schools because it is made up of a self selected, less diverse group of students who are generally more focused on education than those in the community at large.

Matt Cooper

Wed, Jan 13, 2010 : 9:22 p.m.

Monica, to address your thoughts, I'll say this: There is no exclusion at Commie. You get your name on the lottery list or wait list, whatever it may be and you have just as much of a chance as any other student to get in. When I was at Commie, from 1980-1984, there was no lottery. There was no wait list. You know why there is one now? Because people have seen the remarkable work the students and faculty do at Commie, and they want to be a part of it. The other schools do just fine at what they know works, and Commie does just as well as they do at what it knows works. So some students can't get in, well, guess might not get in to the college of your choice, either. You might not get the job of your choice. You might not marry the man of your choice. This is life. So because some can't get what they would choose we should scrap the whole thing? Nonsense!


Wed, Jan 13, 2010 : 9:10 p.m.

Here's another CHS concept that could move to the larger high schools - block scheduling. The students at CHS have M/W/F and T/Th/F schedules. The Friday schedule is all classes, whereas on the other days the students only cover about half of their schedule. It makes for a less hectic day. At the end of the day, the student can actually remember what their homework is and because the class is longer than 45 minutes the teacher has time to teach something. Not all CHS teachers were in favor of this. I think the language and math teachers preferred daily classes, but I'm not sure. CHS also has a forum class, which is just a fancy word for homeroom. I'm not sure how many days a week that meets, but as a parent, the forum teacher serves a purpose of continuity (same teacher all 4 years) and a big picture view of your child.

Eric P

Wed, Jan 13, 2010 : 8:21 p.m.

Several people here have mentioned taking the lessons of CHS and applying them to the other schools. That was tried back in the late 80s and early 90s with the House One program (which I think failed to get off the ground). The truth is that monolithic institutions like the typical American High School, like all other institutions, are hyper resistant to change. Changes that in the social and cultural fabric of a school or school system for that matter take a long long time.

Anonymous Due to Bigotry

Wed, Jan 13, 2010 : 8:08 p.m.

I agree with Monica. CHS is a botique liberal playground. I think it's time to get rid of it, take the lessons learned from it, and incorporate them into the rest of the schools. On the other hand, I don't buy this nonsense about "intimidation" by the principal at Pioneer. Funny, but this oh-so-evil waterboarding by the principal there seems to have worked wonders for the success of students there. Sorry, but I believe in reality and what actually works, not some person's fantasy of how things should work but clearly don't. As an aside, I find it hilarious that some guy calling himself "freemind" would use slurs like "deniers" for skeptics instead of arguing the facts. Perhaps you'd like to talk to the evil "denier" Freeman Dyson, Nobel Prize Laureate in Physics, about how "the science is settled." He'd hardly agree with you. It would be great if people stopped living in an echo chamber and stopped forcing the kids into the same echo chamber. We have way too many irrational beliefs around here which are no better than creationism because kids aren't taught how to question anything except for unpopular ideas.


Wed, Jan 13, 2010 : 6:30 p.m.

Here's -my- opinion as a sophomore at Pioneer High School. I have always been very interested in pursuing the arts as a career, so when it came time to think about high schools, I wanted so badly to go to CHS. Needless to say, I didn't even come close to getting in. Now, going to a "Big Box" school, it doesn't seem fair that Community students get better opportunities, a creative atmosphere, and a more flexible curriculum, when they are paying no more than myself to get that education. Why don't I get the same opportunities they have? We're supported by the same Ann Arbor Public Schools, aren't we? When you give one group of students different privileges and opportunities than another group, that's no longer a public school; that's private education. Furthermore, if the buses to CHS are cut, dual enrollment is cut, meaning that Community Resources aren't even an option for other schools. Community High School offers wonderful programs and a great approach to teaching, but this kind of exclusion is not fair.


Wed, Jan 13, 2010 : 5:44 p.m.

CHS has been shown time and time again to be the highest ranking high school in the district. Rather than just give you my opinion or pull numbers out of the air (as many others have) - here's the poof. Here are the latest Michigan Merit Awards test scores for the schools - (sorry table won't format correctly) SchoolMath Reading Writing Science Community High School 78% 94% 81% 85% Huron High School 75% 78% 70% 77% Pioneer High School 76% 79% 70% 78% Roberto Clemente Centr 4% 29% 7% 10% Skyline High School --- --- --- --- Stone High School 7% 37% 13% 18% (see for original data) Also, the cost is not excessive as someone posted. The cost per pupil at CHS is in line with the other schools: Clemente $23,228/pupil Community $ 8,854/pupil Huron $ 8,996/pupil Pioneer $ 8,211/pupil Skyline $ 8,774/pupil Stone School $13,545/pupil (from page 45 of the document) So if the school is excelling at education and costs no more or less than the other schools, there's no argument to close the school based on cost. In fact, why not use CHS's methods to teach at the other school. That's something that makes fiscal and reasonable sense.

Jon Saalberg

Wed, Jan 13, 2010 : 4:31 p.m.

Ann Arbor Resident: Your claims about slackers can apply to any high school. I went to Pioneer and encountered many students whose main priorities included most anything other than academic endeavors. Such students exist at all high schools, and inferring that CHS has more than the other schools is belied by the fact that CHS has the highest standardized test scores of any public high school in the city.Also, your statement While there are some great students at CHS who are very independent and over-achievers, don't fool your self into thinking that describes every student. There is a small but significant subset of students that don't participate in the CHS experience, don't do much work yet get through on-time. could apply to any high school, and at least in my experience doesn't describe any CHS students I've met or know. I also do not understand, if your son wasn't a good fit for CHS, why he continued to go there - it seems like neither you nor your son thought much of the school, so why not make the space available to a student who does?

Some Guy in 734

Wed, Jan 13, 2010 : 12:22 p.m.

Woman in Ypsi... no, not seems. *IS*! When I went there, we did have buses running to Community, but I stopped taking them sometime in the winter of my ninth grade year. There were seldom more than ten on the bus on any given day, and in order to get the bus I first had to get myself to Pioneer. It was far more convenient to just take the AATA downtown, and then either walk from Fourth and Liberty, or transfer to the #1 Pontiac bus. At the time, K-12 students were eligible for half price fares. No idea if the schools were subsidizing that, or what the situation is now.

Gahl Liberzon

Wed, Jan 13, 2010 : 12:15 p.m.

@DagnyJ and others speaking about CHS's location While it may be a fiscal strain to hold CHS where it is, the location is important, and not because of Kerrytown. I was a CHS student (as Jeff Kass mentioned) in the years 2002-2006, but I was also a student at the Unversity of Michigan and Washtenaw Community College during these years. This dual enrollment of students in highschool and college may be permissable in other schools in Ann Arbor, but it isn't very feasible. For example, for me to take Spanish 232 as a sophmore in highschool was an academic opportunity unavailable to me elsewhere; no AP class would contextualize a foreign language by teaching other content (in my case medieval history) solely in it. Furthermore, had I wanted to dual enroll at UM and been a student at pioneer or huron, the fact that it is a 3 credit course (twice a week offered for an hour and half) meant I would have to miss a minimum of two periods of AAPS classes to regularly attend, not counting the half hour's worth of added time (in both directions for Huron) needed for travel to UM campus by AATA bus lines. The same argument could be made for WCC because of Community's proximity to the AATA central bus station. Whether CHS should stay on that particular building on that particular stretch of division is a question wholly beyond me, but it is (or at least was for me) vital for the school's offerings that it continue to be located in downtown Ann Arbor, no matter where the students eat lunch. -g.

Woman in Ypsilanti

Wed, Jan 13, 2010 : 11:12 a.m.

It seems to me that CHS is uniquely located to take advantage of AATA buses. I'll bet the school system could save a lot of money by paying student's fares on the city buses and getting rid of the school buses. They are a nice perk but eliminating them wont hurt CHS as a program. High school students are old enough to ride the city buses. I rode AATA buses when I was in high school.


Wed, Jan 13, 2010 : 10:29 a.m.

If it were only so easy, you could purchase/build 10-15 more "brick and mortar" schools to support downtown Ann Arbor and design each one so that a limited number of individuals could attend a program specifically structured to their needs and desires. No more need for a mega-structure High School like PHS. Education, in reality, is a dollars and cents issue, no more, no less. It is an activity that must be paid for by all property holders (primarily) in any school district. As an old graduate of U High, I understand the concepts of, and interactions at, CHS quite well. I would venture to say that U High in essence was CHS before CHS was thought of. U High also no longer exits because its viability monitarily could not be supported vis-a-vis its output relative to other educational options. To save CHS might require financial contribution from those who attend to make up any difference in cost from the other traditional high schools (if possible, and if cost per pupil difference is really present), payment of their own transportation expenses to and from all activities as they opted for CHS (other students don't have the option of attending CHS if they would like and must avail themselves of what's available at their school--unfortunately that part of life), teachers and administrators at CHS reduce their salary to keep this "non-traditional" educational model viable at again a comprable cost, etc. I am sure other reductions in cost or expense can be found. Again, I in no way would undervalue what is provided by CHS, only that this remains a dollar and cents issue. It is not about the quality or value of a CHS education, but how it can be paid for by the residents of the school district.


Wed, Jan 13, 2010 : 10:27 a.m.

aataxpayer: Huron and Pioneer offer jazz band. Huron, Pioneer, and Skyline offer AP courses. The big high schools also offer concert band. The only school not offering all courses is Community. Which is fine with me. If students want these courses, they should attend schools that offer these courses. If students want what CHS offers, then they should go there. But I should not pay for transportation to and from high schools. I still want to know how many students from HHS, PHS, and Skyline attend courses at Community. So far, people have said this is common, so show me the numbers for this school year.


Wed, Jan 13, 2010 : 10:10 a.m.

Pathetic. CHS is a recognized success by any standard, it provides a wonderful education to those students fortunate enough to get into it, and it represents much of what is good about our community. Closing CHS would be a terrible mistake. The small school model is a big part of what makes it great- any plan to suck it into the newest Warehouse School is really just a lame step towards eliminating it outright. Relocating it to a less valuable piece of real estate would make some sense, arguably, except that this is the worst, worst possible time to sell commercial real estate. The cost benefit of the one-time sale -if it could be sold- balanced with moving, purchasing and equipping another property, is extremely doubtful. Anyway, it's best where it is: a jewel of the AAPS, centrally located, and linked into the heart of Ann Arbor. Really, we need more small schools like Community High. We need more focus on what serves the soul of our community, while it still has one.

Some Guy in 734

Wed, Jan 13, 2010 : 10 a.m.

I'm proud to be an Ann Arbor ex-pat, but nothing ignites my latent Allen-Rumsey-centrism than talk of my beloved alma mater. (To preface: My knowledge of Community--or of the AAPS in general--pretty much stopped with my high school diploma. And I don't have kids, so there's no horse in the race for me.) In all honesty, I think the downtown location was a crucial ingredient in my high school experience. When the photography teacher set us loose with our pinhole cameras, and I was confronted with a gamut of possibilities for my picture, I specifically thought to myself, "I wonder what I'd be looking at if I went to Huron. The curvy hallway? Or maybe the... other curvy hallway?" The advantage of being downtown is so obvious to me that I'm a little surprised I have to say it... It makes the city more available to the students. (And, to a lesser degree, it makes the students more available to the city, as Ed noted.) I'm just thinking of all the experiences I had that happened downtown. Going down to the library to hear authors speak at lunch. Learning about stage makeup at Lucky Costumes. Ditching class to see Walter Mondale speaking on the Diag, and realizing I probably wouldn't have gotten in trouble because many of the teachers were there too. A teacher-slash-lawyer taking us over to the courthouse to watch a half hour of no-fault divorces--that was a particularly sobering day for me as a ninth grader. Before I had my driver license, those experiences wouldn't have been available to me if I'd gone to Pioneer. I'm sure my favorite teachers would have excelled anywhere they taught, but if I hadn't gone to school downtown, my education would have been much poorer for it. Community has moved before--in 1991/1992 or so, the school was undergoing renovations so the whole shebang moved over to Stone. I would be very interested to hear from Commie alums who attended in both locations.


Wed, Jan 13, 2010 : 8:22 a.m.

Yes, Community offers a great alternative. The trouble is, if you can't get in (1 - 200 per year can't) you end up at someplace like Pioneer - Community's polar opposite and a very bad match for many kids. This has been going on for years and AAPS has never done anything to expand or replicate it so that everyone that wants/needs to can go to a smaller, more personal, more creative, more flexible school. An yes, Pioneer is factory like. That's something else that there is no effort to change at all. More and more charter and private schools are offering high school classes, and more and more people will choose them over places like Pioneer.


Wed, Jan 13, 2010 : 8:19 a.m.

AP courses are offered at Huron, Pioneer, and Skyline. If students want to take these courses, then they probably should attend these schools. If you want what Community offers, then attend CHS. But why should I pay to shuttle kids back and forth, when they could simply attend one of the other high schools in the first place?


Wed, Jan 13, 2010 : 1:12 a.m.

City buses can take kids to CHS and back home again. How much are shuttle buses used during the day? When you have a lottery to get in, how can you expect other than random numbers of minority students to be admitted? Whoever wrote that note clearly needs to take a math course in statistics. Kids are asked to leave CHS if they are not doing well--it is how our son got in. Surely one has to expect poor performances from a few students no matter which school they attend, and blaming CHS for that makes no sense. I find it difficult to believe that most Huron and Pioneer students worry greatly about negative opinions of a few CHS students. Charging tuition for one public school and not others is mind-numbing and probably illegal. Most CHS students already give up AP courses and athletics in order to attend CHS. Would that it make more sense to charge parents for AP courses instead? Let's keep the good options in our community and not suppose that every decision must be made for financial gain, not that it is clear that the community would really save any money in this case. CHS, a great housing target, right after the Y, right? Let's see, next let's use Hill Auditorium. After that, how about requiring all hotels to give up 10% of their rooms for public housing?

Rhea Muff

Tue, Jan 12, 2010 : 10:26 p.m.

...concerning the shuttle buses, CHS is already exclusive as it is. The shuttle bus canceling would turn Huron,Pioneer and Skyline into THE SCIENCE AND MATH SCHOOLS and Community THE ART SCHOOL. Which isn't exactly fair for those whose interests don't match those of their school. The dual enrollment plan, though flawed, diversifies the entire district.

Nico Curtis

Tue, Jan 12, 2010 : 9:44 p.m.

The reasons why shuttle busses are necessary are for students at CHS: 1: To get to school and to get home. Unlike Pioneer, Huron and Skyline there are no busses that bring you directly to Community in the morning, for students who are not fortunate enough to be in walking distance or have parents to drive them to school take the school busses to Pioneer and then transfer to the shuttle bus to get to Community. 2: Due to the size of CHS there are certain classes that are not able to be offered. We do not have Jazz Band, but no concert band or orchestra. 3: Community does not have sports and the shuttle busses give opportunities for the CHS students to take part in sports at Pioneer, Huron and Skyline. 4: High school students in Ann Arbor are not allowed to duel enroll to take classes that are offered in the same form at their original high school. So a CHS student cannot take Algebra at Pioneer, Huron or Skyline, but they can take orchestra since CHS does not offer one.


Tue, Jan 12, 2010 : 9:12 p.m.

I do think, though, that if CHS is so desirable, then there is no need for CHS students to take courses at the other high schools. They should be willing to stick with the CHS offerings, and we should stop paying for shuttle buses to take them to the other high schools.


Tue, Jan 12, 2010 : 8:35 p.m.

@ Nico Curtis. I completely agree.

Matt Cooper

Tue, Jan 12, 2010 : 8:32 p.m.

To throw my 2 cents worth into the mix, let me start by saying I am a 1984 graduate of good old Commie High, as we used to rather sarcastically call it back in the day. I love that old school, and I'll tell you why. I had been in the Ann Arbor public school system from 4th grade through high school. I went to Abbot Elementary in the mid-1970's and although I progressed normaly through the 4th, 5th and 6th grades, I was by no means a stellar performer academically speaking. After Abbot, my family moved across town and I enrolled at Scarlett Junior High School. In this traditional school setting, I didn't fare well at all. I failed 7th grade the first time around and was well on my way to failing it a second time. Not because I was less intelligent, mind you, or less able than the other kids, but rather, because I was far less motivated. I just didn't care about school. That was when I met Allene Greene. Allene was what Commie high called a forum leader, which is a type of counselor (for lack of a better way to explain what furom leaders do), and she was also working part time at Scarlett. She befriended me and knew of the troubles I was having in school with poor grades and study habits, as well as me getting into fights every other day. She took an interest in this hyperactive school boy and saw something within him that was worthwhile, some redeeming quality that was worth whatever effort she could put in to cultivating a young man and helping him to become something far better then he ever imagined for himself. She said to me "Okay, here's the deal. You come to Community in the fall, and we'll make sure to get you back up to the ninth grade, where you should be, but on one condition". The condition was that I had to spend one hour per day after school with her, in her office doing homework. She would be my personal tutor. And above and beyond all that, she would become my friend, my mentor and one of the my biggest fans, always pushing me to be better. My freshman year at Commie, I did well, and continued to work hard with Allene's help, until I graduated. Along the way I met teachers like Liz Gray and Connie Craft, both former deans at Commie, and both ladies of more wisdom than I will ever posses. I met Tom Dodd, one of the funniest human beings to ever walk this planet (Tom once said "Brooke Shields...Kinda sounds like a contraceptive for trout!") I met tachers like Pete Collins, who teaches to this day at Huron, who almost singlehandedly kept me from trouble and in the classroom I don't know how many times. I met teachers like Steve Eisenberg and Brian Miller who not only loved being teachers, but had an honest and genuine love for their students and wanted to each and every one succeed and were willing to do whatever was necessary to enable that success. I met people there that to this day, so many years later, I still count as the best friends I have ever had. I love that old school, even though it is no longer the Commie High that I knew. As with anything in life it has changed and become better in some ways, not so much better in others. But the one thing, the one fact that is ever present, that no administrator can ever take away, is the sense of family, and of belonging that myself and so many others found there. We were accepted without qualification. We were loved as young human beings by our teachers. We were loved like brothers and sisters by our fellow students. We felt home. Without Commie High, I can safely say I would have been just another silly statistic. I would have dropped out. There is no doubt in my mind about that. It was the people, the teachers, the deans, the CR people, the students that, pushed me to graduate and to succeed. Close it if you must. But please remember the disservice you will be doing to future generations of students who, by the absense of that wonderful school, will never have had the opportunity to find the love and comaraderie and support that myself and many, many others found there. Think hard about the kids who discover a love of learning simply because there was an aged, little old lady who was willing to take a gamble on a boy who cared not if he failed, or if he ever even went to school at all. Think of the money you might well save now, but also think of the opportunities lost and the kids who will drop out because they have no place else to go and simply ride out the clock until they can decide for themselves to walk away from your more traditional schools. Without those same opportunities, and the love I felt from all my teachers, I would have walked away. I would have been a failure at life. And Allene's hard work would have been for naught. She deserves better, as do all the students and teachers at Commie.

Lisa Starrfield

Tue, Jan 12, 2010 : 8:31 p.m.

I cannot claim to be an expert on Community; my sole experience with the school is a 6 month long term sub position I held there in 2004. Community is a great school. It has a unique science program and a fabulous arts program. Everyone has a built in group of support in the form of the forum. Yes, part of what makes Community a special place is that it is open to the Community. Part of that is the common hour lunch; students and teachers can eat lunch together or spend some of it tutoring. Teachers take their forums or classes to events on campus and on trips throughout the downtown area. I personally took my class on a walking field trip to practice using trig to measure the height of buildings. Whenever a student asks me if they should apply, I always recommend they look into the school. Community is not the school for everyone. A student inclined to get into trouble may find the freedom to be too much. A student looking for AP and honor level courses will be disappointed. My 8th graders who apply to Community are pretty bummed if they don't get it but those who decide not to go through the lottery have pretty strong feelings. Some of the reasons I have heard students use to explain why they didn't join the lottery include: it would interfere with athletics, the lack of advanced classes, the school is too small, not enough elective choices and that their friends would be at Huron/Pioneer/Skyline. None of these reasons are insurmountable. However, giving students choice is part of the purpose of Community. I would hate to see Community dissolved and moving it to Skyline would alter it so much that it would no longer be Community.


Tue, Jan 12, 2010 : 8:28 p.m.

I think a lot of the people who are in favor of moving or closing CHS have never been there and really experienced it as a student. What you need to hear are stories from the actual students and the love they have for their school. Here is mine: Without Community I would not be where I am today. I spent two years at Pioneer and had horrible grades, which I can say was definitely due to the size of the school and the sense of just being another body in the crowd. I can also say, I was not a good student. I didn't really do homework nor did I want to ever go to classes. The policies on tardiness, absences and late homework at Pioneer did not help me at all. The year I finally got into Community, my grades completely turned around, and not because it is a slacker school where I could get away with my previous behavior. Community certainly has different policies on absences and homework, but they do exist. And true, they by and large tell the students it is their responsibility to keep up. But that kind of environment, one where I wasn't penalized for not being there or for turning things in late, but rather where I had to rely on myself to keep those deadlines, actually made me a better student. I thrived on it. I only had one person to hold me accountable to my actions. Me. And they really hold you to that at Community! That system worked better than any threat they had at Pioneer. I would never have learned this at Pioneer. It is a skill that continues to be a huge asset today. I still remember sitting with my counselor at U of M on the first day. I showed her my schedule that I had come up with and organized on my own (something that you have to do at CHS) and she was shocked. In literally a few clicks, I was registered for all my classes with a schedule that I came up with that needed no modifications due to overlaps or conflicts. She asked me where I learned this skill. She had never seen a freshman walk in and just *know* how to manage their time so well. Again, this skill is still one I use everyday. I remember applying to colleges and feeling completely lost. The counseling office and the people there saved me. Every time I walked in, they not only knew my name, but which colleges I was thinking about applying to, how far along I was in each application and always had more suggestions that fit me. Not only that, I *could* walk in, whenever I wanted, and they were always available, sometimes just to talk about stresses, for example: how to talk to my parents about going out of state for college. I applied to 6 colleges and got into all of them. I am certain if I had tried to do that on my own at a bigger high school where you have to make an appointment to see a counselor for 30 minutes and then probably never again, I would not have been able to do this. I know I am not the only student out there who is intimidated by having to make an appointment to see someone I don't know so they can give me advice on how to spend the next four years of my life when all they know about me is my transcript. CHS has a special place in my heart. It is one of those experiences that I know for a fact *changed my life.* I am not saying this system works for everyone. But the point is, it works. Moving CHS or combining it with another school would definitely change it. Having gone to both Pioneer and CHS (and one year I even dual enrolled) I know that even just being in a building as vast and impersonal as Pi Hi has its effects. I could not wait to get on the bus everyday and go to Community where kids played euchre in the hallways and discussed what book they just read for Judith's class and how the themes apply to everyday life. That kind of learning, that extends outside of the classroom and literally seeps into the walls and hallways of the building, cannot be duplicated anywhere else. Each year the kids at Community face the possibility that AAPS might close them down and each year, we consistently study and make the effort to take and do well on the standardized tests so we can prove that we deserve to stay. That kind of passion for a school can't be found in the bigger high schools. Even five years later, I still love that place and I would be sad to see it go, or even be moved. If you have something that works, and obviously works so well, why change it? As for the shuttles between Pi hi and Community, they are also necessary. I would not have been able to attend at all without them (my parents both worked early and could not take me to school) and I was willing to get up an hour earlier everyday to catch that shuttle just to go to Community! I am not saying this system works for everyone (my sister, for example, went to Pioneer and loved it there, and did very well too). But the point is, it does work, and having that choice is supremely important. Moving CHS or combining it with another school would definitely change it and all those kids who might thrive in that place as much as I did would loose the chance to really tap into their potential. As for where I am today? After graduating in May into the worst economy in my lifetime, I am currently living in New York City working at Penguin Group publishing house, having been hired just months after graduation. There are certainly a lot of factors that led me here today, but some of them I never would have gotten here without. CHS is one of those.


Tue, Jan 12, 2010 : 7:52 p.m.

It's a good school. Why change what's working? OK, so cut the buses, but save the programs.


Tue, Jan 12, 2010 : 7:45 p.m.

Do all CHS kids get in by lottery or is there a right of passage for kids whose parents teach at Community?

Nico Curtis

Tue, Jan 12, 2010 : 7:17 p.m.

I am a 2006 graduate of Community High School and am very proud and honored that I had the chance to attend such a great high school institution. As... said, "Community trusts their students (something that is lacking in the other schools)" I think this is the most defining characteristic of Community. My brother (a 2004) and I both attended Pioneer High School for a year and a half before getting the opportunity to attend Community and the trust is something that I immediately felt. At Pioneer I was one of the 3,000 students (a number to the administration) but most of all I was a student that deserved the right to be known for their individuality, creativeness and intelligence by each one of their peers and educators (teachers and administrators). While at Community I was on the staff of The Communicator (, our student run, student written, all work done by students news magazine. I had the privilege of being a Co-Editor in Cheif my senior year along with my good friend Luke King (now a senior at United States Military Academy at West Point). This experience above all else shaped what Community was for me. Tracy Rosewarne our faculty advisor spent countless hours outside of class time, outside of school time, on weekends and during the summer working on the paper and letting her students work on something that they are passionate about; a passion that I was lacking while attending Pioneer. @Craig Lounsbury You wrote: "my 3 daughters received a recruiting pitch from Community High students when they were in 8th grade... they heard (in some form) was that they would be on a first name basis with their teachers and they could go down town on their lunch hour because the campus was open. In fact they could come and go as they pleased because attendance was hardly taken... There is no doubt in my mind that part of the demand at community back then was due to this recruiting "propaganda"." First of all I participated in a few of these alleged "propaganda" trips to the middle schools in the Ann Arbor Public School District. I took part in these because I wanted the 8th grade students to know of the options that they had as students in Ann Arbor. We never went in and preached that "Community is the best High School in Ann Arbor" or that "we have unlimited freedom, that we can come and go as we please without repercussions, that attendance isn't taken." We (CHS Students and Alumni) went to the middle schools and told the students that at Community we were given the privilege to have an open campus because the teachers and administrators trusted us. We were given the opportunity to pursue what we wanted at a pace that we could learn at our own pace. We were given this trust because the students at Community High School have proven for decades that students can be treated like people, not to be looked down upon but to be talked to as peers by the Community staff. @ DagnyJ you wrote "So eating lunch at Kerrytown is a key component of education at CHS? Because it brings the kids into the community?" I in no way believe that eating lunch at Kerrytown is a key component of education at Community, it certainly is a perk. The local businesses have taken in students, allowed them lunch discounts and treated the students with respect. I think that Ann Arbor would find that if Community High School was closed or relocated it would cause a drastic loss of business for Kerrytown area restaurants and businesses. Having Community downtown allows students who had not had the privilege of growing up in walking distance of downtown an opportunity to explore Ann Arbor for what it has to offer through their own eyes. It allows students to formulate their own ideas about life in a city like Ann Arbor. @eCoaster you wrote "I might be more inclined to support CHS where it is, if more of its students came from minority backgrounds. As it is now, CHS is overwhelmingly white, which to me does not represent what Ann Arbor is all about." I agree that Community is lacking in students of minority backgrounds, this is something that was discussed countless times during my high school education. I think that this is because of a lack of education to the middle school students about what Community is and what it has to offer. Theoretically since it is a lottery system to get in, if there were more minorities applying there would be a more diverse student body. Would a similar program at the other high schools be more diverse or does the open/alternative environment not attract certain demographics? During my recent winter break from my Graphic Design studies at Western Michigan Univerisity I visited Community to see my old teachers. I am still recognized in the hallway by teachers that I never had class with and it seemed that my old teachers already had updates on how my undergraduate work at Western Michigan University had been going. I was able to see Kris-Ann Berger (my Forum leader and spanish teacher), Steve Coron (art teacher), Robbie Stapleton (Physical Education teacher), John Boshoven (counselor) and Tracy Rosewarne (Communicator teacher), I spent extended periods of time talking with each one and they all were happy to spend time to talk to me. Many of my friends at Pioneer did not have the same kind of relationship with their teachers as I had at Community, with some exceptions. One teacher from Pioneer, Jeff Kass (thanks for writing this piece on Community, for some reason we always need as much support as possible just to stay afloat) has always had groups of young writers that that love being with him even after high school. Many of my friends have also kept in touch with Mr. Finch, Pioneer's beloved latin teacher. So of course it isn't just the great teachers at Community that make it great (there are also great teachers at Pioneer, Huron, and Skyline which has former CHS teachers heading up some of their programs). However every time that I am back in Ann Arbor I make sure to go visit my high school teachers, not because they were my teachers, because they are now my friends. Plus I think that if you have something to say you should sign your real name instead of hiding behind your avatar.


Tue, Jan 12, 2010 : 6:22 p.m.

As a Community High student, I will say that moving Community into Skyline is simply not going to work. Although Skyline is around half full right now, in a couple of years, Skyline will have 4 classes, not just frosh and sophomores. So unless we cut part of Skyline, an idea that the proponents of cutting or moving Community seem to oppose, that will not work. Furthermore,the culture of Community is so unique that the idea of forcing Community into another school is going to be like taking the New York Yankees and moving them to Montana. Also, Community High's downtown location is something that is almost essential to the school. The open campus,and CR's, classes that us students take outside of school, will not work if we move to the fringes of town or are cut, simply because of transportation, or because of the closed campus atmosphere at the other schools. Next, the "propoganda" that some say the middle schoolers hear is non-existent. Yes we are on a first name-basis with our teachers, but that is one of the things that makes Community unique. There is no feeling in Community that the teachers are our equals. Yes, there is a feeling that the teachers are our friends, but I think that that is a feeling that every school tries to foster. Also, the comments about Community being a school for rich kids with the money to always get lunch from Kerrytown is false. Most of us pack our lunch. Lastly, all of my teachers are extremely strict about attendance issues. Finally, Community High is not a slacker school. Yes, there are slackers at Community High, but that is something that every high school has, not just Community.

Lynn Lumbard

Tue, Jan 12, 2010 : 6:11 p.m.

SemperFI "I don't have the numbers in front of me at the moment, but my last reading on the subject put Pioneer at the lowest (about $5,400) and CHS at the highest (about $7,800) cost/student in the district." If you don't have the numbers with you, you probably shouldn't just pull them out of thin air. CHS has the lowest per-pupil spending of all AA high schools.

Andrew Thomas

Tue, Jan 12, 2010 : 5:29 p.m.

@ Local: I think you are misinformed regarding the "huge revenue burst" that would occur if the CHS property were sold. All the discussion regarding the AAPS budget is about the "operating budget". This is the budget that deals with employing teachers, providing transportation, etc. This is separate from the "building and site fund" which is where real estate is accounted for. If the CHS building were sold for, say, $10M, how much of that would be available for teachers, buses, textbooks, supplies and other operating expenses? Zero. That's because the different funds operate as silos, you can't transfer money from one fund to another. There may be a few exceptions to this general rule, and I think the District has been able to fund building repairs and improvements out of the building fund, but I don't think they can use it to pay for costodial/maintenance employees, and they definitely can't use it to pay teachers.


Tue, Jan 12, 2010 : 5:24 p.m.

Make no mistake, CHS is exclusive if only by its lottery system for enrollment. Where is CHS family outrage that diversity (not just diversity of those applying for the lottery) reflective of the entire Ann Arbor student population is not present; would this lead to a lower academic achievement for CHS (just wondering)? As to...."s belief that moving the CHS location would cause you to "lose the close family enviornment you thrive in", it is not my obligation to provide you with a "family enviornment" The responsibility is to provide you with an "educational enviornment". If you want this non-traditional, small, inclusive, non-diversified, family enviornment, I would then suggest you finance your own private/charter school. Again, I believe in the non-traditional approach but feel strongly it can be supported a) with more diversity, b) in another location, and c)encompass many additional students.

Patrick Haggood

Tue, Jan 12, 2010 : 5:23 p.m.

@eCoaster - hey, I *tried*, but my daughter got a really sucky number (the *last* number, actually) in the lottery. C'est la vie; she's still a bit overwhelmed @ Skyline but digs her teachers and activities.


Tue, Jan 12, 2010 : 4:28 p.m.

I am currently a senior at Community High School. I thought Jeff's article was wonderful. I think my school is very misunderstood and people should not base their opinions on the school by what they hear from other people. Ann Arbor Public Schools are having a huge budget problem right now, but I can think of 100 other ways for them to deal with their debt. I would like to know why it would make sense to close a school that has better test scores than any of the other high schools in the district. The students at my school don't do better because teachers let them get away with whatever they want. They don't skip class all the time and still get an A. Most of the people who are giving their opinions about my school have not even experienced it.Most of you people have not had the same experience that I have had for almost four years now. I have dual enrolled at Huron and really felt like none of my teachers cared about me. I never knew any of them on the level that I know my teachers at Community. Community is great because I actually get to know my teachers and I thrive in an environment that is not so stressful all the time. When I dual enrolled my work load at Huron was honestly about the same as my Community work load. There have been so many opportunities at would never work out at one of the big schools. Community trusts their students (something that is lacking in the other schools). There is nothing wrong with that. I feel like Community has prepared me for the real world a lot more than Huron because so much more responsibility is put on me at Community. If Community were to move locations, it wouldn't be Community. You can't expect Community to be normal at Skyline. It's not our home. We would lose the close family like environment that we thrive on.


Tue, Jan 12, 2010 : 4:13 p.m.

One other point -- is the siphoning off of these students to CHS a net positive or negative for the traditional/behemoth high schools? Meaning, if these CHS students were at a traditional high school, would those traditional high schools improve? If the public schools are about diversity, does it make sense to have a school that attracts only a certain type of student? Especially a type that would likely enrich the overall educational experience? Keep in mind that students learn from each other as much as they learn from teachers -- if many of the best students are at CHS, does that inhibit the learning of students at the traditional schools? The best bottom-line argument for keeping CHS is that losing CHS will make the district less attractive and cause lower enrollments overall. Do we know how many CHS students attended private school before going to CHS, vs. those who came up through public school?


Tue, Jan 12, 2010 : 3:39 p.m.

@Pacman, if you don't have any kids in the schools how can you criticize them for indoctrination? To further the point, the issue of global warming doesn't have two equal sides, there's fact and then there's denial. As for depending on government, it sounds like you have an Orwellian fear of government that over simplifies the issues.

Rhea Muff

Tue, Jan 12, 2010 : 3:31 p.m.

An alternative education system like Community High School is invaluable, especially within a district with so many looming, impersonal institutions. Certain students NEED a flexible curriculum and would, well, drown anywhere else. But here's the thing: I have dual enrolled between Community and Huron High School ever since I wound up at the tale-end of the CHS enrollment lotto, and have long grappled with reaching a conclusion about each of the schools. Both of the schools are deeply flawed. While Huron has a kill-or-be-killed student dynamic, Community pampers its students and facilitates chronic self-entitlement. While my Huron peers and I have struggled to maintain a B average, managing to operate under 5 hours of sleeps for days and days on end, my Community peers duck in and out of their classes, eat out every day at lunch, design their own final and manage a 3.9... Having been separated from all my [otherwise Huron-bound]friends in high school, having been alone in a 2000 person school as a freshman and been subsequently put in therapy for a year, and having witnessed the same happen to my sister, I have grown to resent the Community crowd. But I think that without Community High, the arts would totally disappear from the district. I fear that the school will be cut and promises will be made to endow the larger schools with a few arts programs, but nothing will come of the money. I propose, instead, that the money allotted Community High School be spent elsewhere. But by "elsewhere" I mean some place very specific. The excess money could instead be spent on a miniature arts program within each of the district's other schools, much like the Interdisciplinary Block Program featured at Huron a couple years ago (until budget cuts forced it to close down). This sort of program would render the CHS curriculum more accessible (it is ridiculously hard to arrange a dual enrollment), and would remedy the CHS students' arrogance. Such a curriculum existing in the midst of a larger program would ensure that the arts program stay efficient and fast-paced. Community High School should absolutely NOT be shut down before the district comes up with a way to compensate for its loss. The loss of such a well-conceived academic structure would be such a devastating loss, I can hardly imagine. But I think CHS biggest (and maybe only) flaw is its inaccessibility, and all its side effects. Thank you


Tue, Jan 12, 2010 : 3:29 p.m.

I am bothered by the fact that so few can benefit from the smaller atmosphere that Community offers. That comes at a price to the kids in the larger high schools. Surely at least some of the lessons learned from the Community experience can be translated into the larger schools. I would hate to see more cut from those schools to see Community survive, regardless of how wonderful it is. Cuts need to be made that serve the greatness number of kids.

Ann Arbor Resident

Tue, Jan 12, 2010 : 3:26 p.m.

Kate Says: "Community High is NOT a slacker school...but if you don't have any personal discipline as a student, you will quickly fail and be kicked out, then absorbed by one of the larger schools." I am sure you wish that was true. Through my sons, I know of several cases (including one of my sons) of kids who attended CHS, received very poor and failing grades and were not kicked out. My youngest son even had a 10th grade meeting with the Dean, his Forum Leader, a Counselor and his Parents to discuss his poor performance. He had failing grades and was given a deadline to raise them or be dismissed from the school. He did not work, the grades stayed the same yet there was no consequence nor was mention of the situation ever again brought up by the school administration/teachers. He barely graduated on-time a few years later. While there are some great students at CHS who are very independent and over-achievers, don't fool your self into thinking that describes every student. There is a small but significant subset of students that don't participate in the CHS experience, don't do much work yet get through on-time.


Tue, Jan 12, 2010 : 3:20 p.m.

No one argues that CHS doesn't produce good graduates. Like every other school in the AAPS, it has success and failure. One thing to consider, in my humble opinion, is the cost per student. I don't have the numbers in front of me at the moment, but my last reading on the subject put Pioneer at the lowest (about $5,400) and CHS at the highest (about $7,800) cost/student in the district. So, if its important to maintain CHS in these economic times, lets put some bright students from CHS in charge of figuring out ways to trim the cost of education at their own school. It'll level the financial playing field and stop the talk about it being a private school in a public system. CHS is a unique school, but can we afford to support it at its current cost? The other thing that bothers CHS bashers, is its proximity to downtown. I've heard the charges, "The only reason many of the kids go to CHS is so they can hangout downtown." If that is not the case, then move CHS to one of the underutilized, more cost-effective buildings on the periphery of the district and see if the population still wants to attend for the crackle of curiousity and if they still desire the quirkiness and flexibility at Community. Maybe they just like the open campus where they can hang out downtown. I'm sure that the commercial value of that property would help to put some money in the coffers to support the ongoing, excellent, educational opportunities available in the AAPS.


Tue, Jan 12, 2010 : 3:17 p.m.

Folks, Ann Arbor needs to cut 18-20 million dollars over the next year and a half. You can only nickel and dime so many things before you realize that Ann arbor needs a drastic revenue burst. You can gain some revenue by getting more students into the district, and by cutting this and that. However, the sale of the building in which Community resides is prime real estate, a HUGE revenue burst. People from this school clearly love the school and its make up, however programs like this don't continue without a balanced budget. I still argue that selling this facility and moving it elsewhere (skyline?) should be considered.


Tue, Jan 12, 2010 : 3:12 p.m.

Can someone please provide a count of how many CHS kids take courses at the other high schools, and how many kids at other high schools take courses at CHS?


Tue, Jan 12, 2010 : 3:08 p.m.

JEEZ!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! I don't live in the district, have never been in the school, and am not sure I even know anyone who went to/graduated from CHS. To be up front, I did vote against the county wide milleage recently, primarily because I felt that consolidation of county school districts, staff, buildings and resources is essential before just asking for more money (too much overlap waste in this county), have family who have been educators for many years, and have strongly supported my local schools when I felt it to be appropriate. The fact that there is a lottery required for enrollment, with what I've seen to be the crying and gnashing of teeth for those who miss the cut, speaks volumes as to the need for this type of educational institution. Would the district have the money they should purchase 5-6 more "brick and mortar" locations downtown to continue to provide this culture and enviornment for learning. Unfortunately what is really at issue folks is MONEY. The question becomes how do you merge the extremely worthy benefits of an education at a school like CHS with the other needs of the district, both financial and personal enrollment wise. I would agree with all as to moving the existing program to the new high school, Skyline, I believe. This to not be done as an inclusion of one school with another, but as a growing, or increasing, of the opportunities now found at CHS. I know that some will say they will lose the smal personal attraction of what is currently CHS and just be developing a "new large high school" and that we have moved from the downtown location. I have more confidence in the staff in Ann Arbor not to let CHS become significantly different/changed than what it currently is; and I really question the role of keeping the school in a downtown location to "support" the city of Ann Arbor. Change is tough, but so is the loss of homes, jobs, income, etc. faced by all residents who are required to pay for this education. These a real factors faced by many of the population in your district that either don't have, or aren't privileged enough, to earn the salaries necessary to continue to pay for specialized educational opportunities that support so few at such a large cost. Finally, you my say my opinion is not valid, but it is your district that originally proposed and asked for my money and support.


Tue, Jan 12, 2010 : 2:55 p.m.

Sure we have to do something in these tough economic times. But remember, once you close Community and sell the land for a new Mega-Zingerman's (or whatever), Community will be gone... forever. Whatever benefits Community has--to the students, to the District, to Ann arbor--these benefits will never be again, not within Skyline, not in Ann Arbor. Unlike fees for football or condensed bus scheduling, when the economy gets back to normal, and it will, Community will never be back. I guess to those who want to eliminate Community if students never hear about the specialness of Community, if Ann Arbor becomes less unique because of the absence of Community, it will be good.


Tue, Jan 12, 2010 : 2:35 p.m.

If I am not mistaken Community has a longer lunch hour than the traditional schools. That didn't mean less instructional time, just a more humane schedule. Don't they have lunch hour starting at something like 10:50 to accommodate all the students at Pioneer? My recollection was that he ate with friends, played football on the playground, and studied/saw a teacher during lunch hour depending on his needs. I see one of the suggested savings is to cut out the bus service between CHS and the other high schools. I think that is fair, although more of the complaints will come from Pioneer/Huron/ and Skyline parents who want their kid to attend a class at CHS, but can't because of the transportation issues.


Tue, Jan 12, 2010 : 2:27 p.m.

I might be more inclined to support CHS where it is, if more of its students came from minority backgrounds. As it is now, CHS is overwhelmingly white, which to me does not represent what Ann Arbor is all about. I would rather see a similar program housed at one of the larger high schools and marketed as an option to a broader range of kids. Not just those who can afford to dine in Kerrytown.


Tue, Jan 12, 2010 : 2:14 p.m.

So eating lunch at Kerrytown is a key component of education at CHS? Because it brings the kids into the community? Wow, you people need to get out of house more often.

Ruth Calhoun

Tue, Jan 12, 2010 : 2:12 p.m.

I am who I am today largely due to my experience at Community High School. I can't imagine my life any differently. I also can't imagine an Ann Arbor without CHS. Shutting down or moving CHS seems so improbable that I almost can't even take the idea seriously. Am I naive in believing there's no way it will happen?


Tue, Jan 12, 2010 : 2:10 p.m.

@chsfan Let's not confuse the definition of "environment", a word not used in the Mission Statement, with the definition of the word "building". My child's 3rd grade 'environment' and my other child's grade 'environment' are individualized. Yet, they share one elementary school 'building'. @Atticus Please know that both Wayne and Romulus have farmers' markets. Please know that moving Community to another building would not take any curriculum away from these students just the building.


Tue, Jan 12, 2010 : 2:02 p.m.

I can't help but feel that this article is more of a shameless plug for Jeff Kass' programs than an appeal to keep Community open. Based on some of the above comments, it is not hard to conclude that there are a lot of misinformed opinions out there about the school--we need to hear from actual CHS teachers or students if anyone is going to get a true idea of what the school is like. I graduated from Community, and I can attest to its importance--it is monumentally different from the other high schools in Ann Arbor. The education that I got from CHS could not be replicated by simply moving the teachers and students to a different school--we need to exhaust all other options before we even consider closing this beloved institution.


Tue, Jan 12, 2010 : 2 p.m.

@voiceofreason, your post makes no sense. Should we go ahead and charge the family of every student who requires extra reading help, or needs a TA to help get through a school day? Those are services that not all students need, but as a district we make available for students that need them. You miss the point and assume students attend Community because they can't handle the traditional high schools. Perhaps we should charge students at the traditional high schools because they can't handle an environment like Community?


Tue, Jan 12, 2010 : 1:45 p.m.

" Out of all the high schools in the district, I suspect its the one most likely to inculcate a sense of personal responsibility. Unlike at Pioneer where punitive measures like tardy and homework sweeps intimidate students in order to keep them in line, students at Community must develop a greater degree of intrinsic motivation to attend class on time and to complete their work." This sums up very well why Community students like my son and daughter thrive post graduation....enough said. Isn't this type of motivatited citizens we want and need in Michigan? Leaders not followers??

Atticus F.

Tue, Jan 12, 2010 : 1:37 p.m.

Community High School represents the essence of Ann Arbor. Can you imagine Romulus or Wayne having a school like Community? Or having a farmers market? Or a world class library? These things in my oppinion, are what make A2 a better place than cities like Wayne, Dearborn, River Rouge, Taylor, ect... Anybody who suggest that Community should be shut down in favor of schools like Skyline, is out of touch with this community, and has no business making decisions for the people of Ann Arbor.


Tue, Jan 12, 2010 : 1:16 p.m.

Ann Arbor Public Schools Mission Statement reads: "The mission of the Ann Arbor Public Schools, a world-class system of innovative teaching and learning, is to ensure each student realizes his or her aspirations while advancing the common good through a community dynamic distinguished by: 1.) Personalized learning that is curiosity driven, student directed, teacher inspired 2.) Challenging and provocative curriculum 3.) Individualized and group creative expression 4.) The nurturing of the human spirit 5.) Culturally congruent instruction 6.) Forging alliances with families and communities" Most people I know would agree that we currently do have a "world-class system of innovative teaching and learning" in place. This has been accomplished because the district's leadership has determined that the best way to provide "personalized... challenging... individualized... nurturing... culturally congruent instruction.." etc. is through offering a wide variety of "individualized" teaching/learning environments such as Clemente, Stone, Community, Pioneer, Huron and Skyline. I want to thank the superintendent and other school administrators for keeping their focus on the district's mission statement thus far and not panicking and begin dismantling our "world-class system of innovative teaching and learning" environments.


Tue, Jan 12, 2010 : 1:11 p.m.

A couple of thoughts. There have been a couple of recommendations of charging tuition, a la "pay to play", to attend CHS. The unfortunate truth is, as a public school district, AAPS cannot do this. Also, several people have suggested that the CHS students, teachers and programs be moved to their own "wing" at another AAPS campus. However, it should be noted that the "Open School" model and non-"Open School" administration are a bad mix. I have been in the area and involved in the schools, both "open" and not for almost two decades. In that time I have seen numerous instances of schisms within the AAPS over "open school" philosophy. "Open" schooling, while not for every student, does have merit. And, as we have seen in numerous threads on, it is an attractive feature for our community that does draw people in. Could CHS move campuses and thrive? I believe so. It was not so many years ago that Ann Arbor Open@Mack moved there from Bach. Can it maintain its unique identity afterward? Perhaps, but this will likely only happen if an administrator who is an "open" schooling advocate is in charge of the program.


Tue, Jan 12, 2010 : 12:29 p.m.

If community high school is such a great thing then we should split it off and collect tuition/up charge! This should help offset the sagging AAPS budget for all those poor students relegated the the "big box" schools where they are brainwashed...


Tue, Jan 12, 2010 : 12:17 p.m.

Last night I visited Community High with my 13 year old daughter. We attended one of the orientation sessions for incoming Freshman this fall. After touring the school and talking to the teachers about different classes my daughter was so excited and is keeping her fingers crossed that she is selected in the lottery. As an alumni of the Community High class of 97, I know exactly how she feels. I did not want to go to Pioneer. Not saying anything is wrong with Pioneer, I was dual enrolled in Symphony Band and Orchestra at Pioneer. I just know that Pioneer was not the place for me academically and I felt I would get so much more out of going to a school like Community High. The fact that Ann Arbor has a school like Community High available is wonderful and I wish all the critics of Community would spend a day there before judging.


Tue, Jan 12, 2010 : 12:02 p.m.

If CHS is indeed an asset to particular students incapable of learning in other environments, attendees should help offset costs to the public in exchange for this privilege.


Tue, Jan 12, 2010 : 11:56 a.m.

The community program and curriculum doesn't need to be cut, but the location of that program can and should be changed. Move the program and its teachers to Skyline, allow them to continue to do what it is they do day in and day out. The location of Community high school makes it valuable, and makes it possible revenue for the district. It is a building folks, it is the teachers and students in the building that make community work. That can still be maintained, just in a different location. The sale of Community would help the budget quite a bit. Clearly this debate over budgets is a tough one, and someone along the line is going to be upset by decisions that will need to be made. This is one decision that needs to be looked at and considered.


Tue, Jan 12, 2010 : 11:44 a.m.

As a young married couple, my husband and I decided to settle in Ann Arbor specifically because of the variety of experience offered by the city. Supporting CHS, the Mack, and other unique programs for young students sends an important message about the character of this town. I know the Mayor and others have articulated the need to attract young talent to Michigan and to Ann Arbor specifically. Well, we hold three graduate degrees and are starting businesses in this town and want to be part of Michigan's growth and future success. Help bring more of us here and keep more recent grads here by continuing to support the vibrant, unique culture that has been painstakingly built in Ann Arbor for years. Help keep our hope alive that our children will be able to benefit from these services as others have for years. And most importantly, let us know how we can help.


Tue, Jan 12, 2010 : 11:30 a.m.

Thanks for the CHS article Mr. Kass. While Community is a great school, so is Roberto Clemente, Stone, Huron, Skyline, Pioneer..Wait 6 HIGH SCHOOLS IN THIS TOWN?? All have their own legitimacies when money is flowing. However, there is a 20 MILLION dollar budget discrepancy. The last time I checked, people are leaving Michigan, not moving here and thus further decreasing our tax base, which further supports closing buildings and utilizing our dollars in the most efficient way possible today! 1. Bricks and mortar do not an education make. You said it yourself that the teachers at CHS would have that passion and drive anywhere so BRAVO district for hiring great teachers!! But, Community is prime real estate for U of M to PURCHASE from our school district. Then we would get the added bottom-line bonus each year in building costs ie not paying for maintenance, utilities bus services, etc. Community students and teachers can be relocated in a wing @ our new, underutilized, green HS Skyline. It can still be an open campus and classroom setting for students and teachers. Buses can still run to and fro for students to get to downtown for lunch and to the other HS.. READ, Skyline is just not that far from downtown/Kerrytown. If Skyline is too far then dedicate a wing @ Pioneer. 2. Bricks and Mortar do not successful students make. I know that CHS has graduated some pretty interesting and successful students. But let's not think that no other school does. Respectfully speaking, every school has celebrities and successful students on their alumni rosters, period. Other Bricks and Mortar targets 1. Stone school and Clemente are needed and important. However, can't we combine these two buildings??? 2. Have we really counted all of the empty elementary school classrooms?? I know that there are empty rooms at both of the schools my kids attend today. Scrutinization of classrooms along with using each of our buildings to its' stated capacity might result in a few of the older elementary schools closing. So in honor of your argument for keeping CHS open, I think that you should ask Mr. Todd Roberts to do a serious "Community" Poll (pun intended) regarding the Bricks and Mortar in this district to REALLY cut the $20 that needs cutting. Otherwise, we might be closing not only Community, but Pioneer as well! Afterall, it's across from the Big House that is prime real estate for the U of M. Might I venture to say that the closing of Pioneer and thus the elimination of more teaching jobs would be of utmost importance to you.


Tue, Jan 12, 2010 : 11:18 a.m.

The premise "students at Community High School are successful" does not support the conclusion "students at Community High School wouldn't be successful if the schools were reorganized in any other way". I don't think anyone could argue that CHS lacks for loyal, caring, students (and parents!). The question is, where does CHS fit into the big picture? Can AAPS afford to sustain CHS as is while making other cuts? If CHS was altered in some way, how much better/worse off would those CHS students be, and/or how much better/worse off would be the students of other schools?

Craig Lounsbury

Tue, Jan 12, 2010 : 11:11 a.m.

"if you don't have any personal discipline as a student, you will quickly fail and be kicked out, then absorbed by one of the larger schools." Sounds a bit like a private school. Since paying to play is on the table for "the sports-obsessed...preppy hells... Huron and Pioneer..." perhaps paying to "play" should be on the table for Community.

David Briegel

Tue, Jan 12, 2010 : 11:02 a.m.

One of the mantras of critics is "schools of choice". Now the budget cutters want to abolish some of the choices. Logic? Sure sounds like we are lucky to be on the right track here in A2!


Tue, Jan 12, 2010 : 10:46 a.m.

Every school can be defended to some extent. But, looking the states projected $1.8 billion budget shortfall next year, Ann Arbor needs to be proactive wit budget issues. They are only going to get worse. So, schools need to be consolidated in a way that makes the best sense financially. There are examples at every shool of kids that succeed and some that fail. At the end of the day, it is up to the parents to foster an environment that drives kids to do well in school, regardless of where they get the education. If it makes the most financial sense to close Community and sell the property for housing - or something else - then the kids in Ann Arbor are lucky to have other great schools to go to. But, before community, I hope they do something to address the $23k per student at Clemente. Things are only going to get harder financially for the schools. People need to move from a defensive position to a proactive, cost savings mindset.

Craig Lounsbury

Tue, Jan 12, 2010 : 10:39 a.m.

@grumpy: "If people are banging on the door to get into this place, it sounds like we need to expand it, not close or relocate it. It is a shame there has to be a lottery or waiting list." Each of my 3 daughters received a recruiting pitch from Community High students when they were in 8th grade. Two were at Scarlett in 1996 and 1997, one at Tappen in 2000. Part of the spiel they heard (in some form) was that they would be on a first name basis with their teachers and they could go down town on their lunch hour because the campus was open. In fact they could come and go as they pleased because attendance was hardly taken. That is what they were told. Pretty lofty stuff for a 13-14 year old to hear. There is no doubt in my mind that part of the demand at community back then was due to this recruiting "propaganda". If the process continues today as it did back then, I contend part of the demand is artificially created in the minds of impressionable 8th graders. Maybe things have changed in that regard.


Tue, Jan 12, 2010 : 10:34 a.m.

Putting CHS inside Skyline misses the point. Students are an integral part of their "community" because: 1. They don't have a cafeteria and eat lunch at Kerrytown, the Food Coop, or downtown eateries. 2. They walk to Neutral Zone or UM for events and classes including popular CRs (community resources) independent studies. 3. UM students who teach popular ballroom dancing and other afterschool CRs can walk to CHS easily. 4. First-semester freshman science (in the award-winning FOS curriculum) is structured around weekly Huron River labs. 5. Dual enrollees from Huron and Pioneer can walk home in a pinch.... So putting CHS in a former field outside of town means the "community" would suffer, no matter how fancy the athletic fields there are. CHS shouldn't be penalized because AAPS overspent on Skyline.


Tue, Jan 12, 2010 : 10:20 a.m.

Community High is NOT a slacker school...but if you don't have any personal discipline as a student, you will quickly fail and be kicked out, then absorbed by one of the larger schools. For people in the area to say that CHS students could be "combined with Roberto Clemente or Stone School" makes no sense - these are schools (for the most part) for students with learning disabilities, or behavioral problems. As a CHS alumnus, I can tell you CHA was a blessed respite from the sports-obsessed, loud, chaotic, crowded, boring, cliquish, preppy hells that were Huron and Pioneer in the late 80s/early 90s. I'm not sure what CHS is like now, but likely still has that certain appreciation for the geeky, the dorky, the all-black-wearing, the artsy-fartsy, the weird, and the brilliant.


Tue, Jan 12, 2010 : 10:12 a.m.

Don't know much about CHS or the others since I don't have kids in any of them. What I would like in a high school teacher is less "indoctriniation" and teaching of personal biases, and the teaching of more "critical thinking skills" e.g., how to study both sides of the global warming issue and make a rational decision. What the scientific method is and how it seeks truth, what problems federal deficits will play in the future, and last but not least, personal responsibility and less reliance on government.


Tue, Jan 12, 2010 : 10:11 a.m.

My daughter has attended both Pioneer (2 years) and Community (1 semester so far), after spending the rest of her time in private school. All of these choices have had their advantages and disadvantages for her, but I have to say that Community is definitely a great place for her. Students are there because they WANT to be, not because they have to be, and that makes a difference in behavior and engagement in the classroom. Block scheduling allows more in-depth study, and the small school size makes it possible for students to get all the individual attention and support they need. They are not "herded" and yelled at, as they are at Pioneer, and the day is not chopped up. They don't spend 48 wasted minutes a day just criss-crossing the buildings to get from one class to another. The teachers and counselors in each school are very good, but at Community, they actually have time to get to know the students as people. And being able to get out into the community surrounding the school helps the students learn to be more independent. Community is an invaluable resource and a vital option -- closing it is unthinkable.


Tue, Jan 12, 2010 : 9:30 a.m.

This is the very best way to support CHS - and our other high schools. Isn't it nice that we at least have all these *good* options? Great piece.


Tue, Jan 12, 2010 : 9:14 a.m.

Wow. What a well written piece. If people are banging on the door to get into this place, it sounds like we need to expand it, not close or relocate it. It is a shame there has to be a lottery or waiting list.


Tue, Jan 12, 2010 : 9:02 a.m.

This "bashing and belittling" of the other high schools that you are hearing is most likely a response to what Community students hear. They are told over and over again that they go to a "slacker school" and have it so much easier. Thank you so much for writing this, I was reading the article with all the anti-Community comments and going crazy, knowing I wouldn't be able to respond to all the people that had misconceptions about CHS.

Craig Lounsbury

Tue, Jan 12, 2010 : 8:50 a.m.

With all due respect peppermintpatty, my 3 daughters who graduated from "big box" Huron High School got a quality education and surprisingly did not lose their souls. I have observed over several years a reoccurring theme among the Community High folks of bashing and belittling the larger High schools.


Tue, Jan 12, 2010 : 8:23 a.m.

Amen. Like factory farms which seemed like such a great idea for cheap food, big schools and standardized curricula seem like a good idea. However, factory schooling will give us quantity without the quality. And like my family and I did, many people are realizing that the even though the farmers market on saturday morning is filled with a certain amount of chaos and quirkiness, it feels so good to know the person who is feeding you. Why would we sacrifice our children in the name of big box education? We will save money and lose our souls.