You are viewing this article in the archives. For the latest breaking news and updates in Ann Arbor and the surrounding area, see
Posted on Wed, Apr 24, 2013 : 5:58 a.m.

Pioneer PTO meeting: School board members say Roberto Clemente move will be 'rethought'

By Danielle Arndt


More than 100 parents, students and teachers gathered at Pioneer High School Tuesday to discuss various budget proposals that will impact the school. The forum was put on by the PTSO organization.

Danielle Arndt |

Previous coverage:

Community members came out to a special Parent-Teacher-Student Organization meeting at Pioneer High School Tuesday night looking for answers to some of their budget questions.

While not all of the questions asked by members of the more than 100-person crowd could be answered, the audience did receive a favorable response to their inquiry about relocating the Roberto Clemente Student Development Center's program to the already packed corridors of Pioneer High.

Many people asked, "Why Pioneer?" when it came to selecting a new possible home for the alternative high school program, which was designed to help teens succeed both academically and socially in a smaller environment than the district's comprehensive high schools could offer.

Three Board of Education members attended the meeting at Pioneer, Christine Stead, Simone Lightfoot and Susan Baskett. Stead answered the question community members posed about Roberto Clemente.

She said when the administration made its recommendation to the board on the Roberto program in March, it was presented that logistically, from a facilities standpoint, the move to Pioneer made the most sense.

But in the past month, Stead said the board has realized looking at this issue from a square-footage perspective may not have been the best way for the administration to consider it.

"Yes, I believe (the move) will be rethought," Stead said, while Lightfoot and Baskett nodded their heads in affirmation. The answer received applause from members of the audience.


Ann Arbor school board Trustee Susan Baskett answers a question from an audience member at a special Pioneer PTSO meeting Tuesday.

Danielle Arndt |

Central administration estimated moving the Roberto Clemente program to Pioneer would save the district $200,000 to $348,677.

The Ann Arbor Public Schools is facing a budget shortfall of $8.67 million for the 2013-14 academic year. This number is about half what the district expected. Officials initially projected the AAPS would need to reduce its operations by more than $17 million to balance the budget.

The district's administration will present its budget, complete with cuts for the upcoming school year to the Board of Education Wednesday, April 24. It is not clear whether the proposal to relocate Roberto Clemente to Pioneer will remain among the recommendations that officials bring forward or not.

Wednesday is just the beginning of the budget process. The board is not expected to pass a budget until the end of May.

When the central administration made its recommendation for Roberto Clemente in March, it was expressed that Pioneer Principal Cindy Leaman supported the move. However, on Tuesday, Leaman voiced a number of concerns and reservations.

She said based on enrollment trends, the 25 in-district transfer students that are joining the school and other predictable student data, Pioneer is anticipating nearly 1,750 students for fall. If Roberto Clemente's 90 students also are moved in, Leaman said enrollment will top 1,800 kids.

"10 to 15 teachers will have to travel if this happens," Leaman said, explaining that rather than having their own classrooms, teachers would be required to teach from other educators' rooms while those individuals have prep hours. "That is the reality of the rooms. There just aren't enough available … Having capacity and having realistic classroom space are two different things. You have to be careful with those words."

Leaman said there are a couple of teachers forced to travel already due to space issues.

An information sheet the PTSO distributed at the meeting states that requiring teachers to move classrooms during the day is harmful to students who benefit from having consistent locations in which they can find their teachers for extra help.

Some members of the audience said they found the administration's report on Roberto Clemente appalling and misleading. Baskett agreed.

"It's been my opinion that the information from administration on Roberto Clemente ... has been censored... It was very obvious that those who presented the data did not have the background that you all have," Baskett said to the community members present.


Up front, from left, AAPS board Trustee Christine Stead, Trustee Simone Lightfoot and Pioneer Principal Cindy Leaman take questions from an audience of more than 100 people on the 2013-14 academic year budget.

Danielle Arndt |

Lightfoot also was critical of central administration. She compared the situation to asking her children if they cleaned their bedrooms and having them say "yes."

"But then you walk by and see that it's not really as clean as they said," Lightfoot explained. "Pioneer has some of the most tenured teachers in our district... We don't have the information many of you think we would have or should know, but that's not how it works. The day-to-day comes from central administration.

"What I need to do a better job is the solutions that come from you all. We need to hear your take because you all aren't afraid to say what needs to be said... Even the best of the best at Balas (Administration Building) don't have the perspective you all have."

Lightfoot added, for example, the information about teachers rolling from classroom to classroom because there isn't room. "We had no clue about that," she said.

According to documents released by the district, 51 percent of Pioneer's classes exceed 30 students, 42 percent of Huron's classes are over and 17 percent of Skyline's have more than 30 students. Parents and teachers at Tuesday's meeting pleaded for equity among all high schools.

A popular suggestion among attendees was to close Balas and to disburse the central administrators to buildings with extra capacity. This idea also was previously mentioned by the Ann Arbor principals union.

"This would get them out from the enclave ... and put them on the front lines where they are going to live it, going to see it," said Michelle Stalmack , a mother of three current AAPS students and one Pioneer graduate.

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


Jay Thomas

Wed, Apr 24, 2013 : 9:07 p.m.

I'm glad to hear this. The Clemente kids would not be well served at Pioneer and the achievement gap would only get worse.

J. A. Pieper

Wed, Apr 24, 2013 : 6:50 p.m.

I totally like the idea of moving Balas into schools where there is additional space available. Everyone who works at Balas forgets what it is like in the schools, or never had an idea of what is truly happening in our academic learning environments. This should be a top priority for any savings that it might amount to, no matter how small!


Wed, Apr 24, 2013 : 5:57 p.m.

I'm glad they're rethinking the move, although I'm skeptical as to how much of a difference it'll make. The reason kids attend Roberto Clemente or any other magnet school is because they either cannot function or feel it's not in their best interests to attend a "normal" high school. Putting one of them in Pioneer or Skyline defeats this purpose entirely. Combining two of these magnet schools seems like the best option for all parties involved.


Wed, Apr 24, 2013 : 4:14 p.m.

I really really want to believe this is going to be rethought but with all that has happened this past year, I am very hesitant to believe it. If it is going to be looked at again, will all planning and measuring at Pioneer be put on hiatus?

Wake Up A2

Wed, Apr 24, 2013 : 3:48 p.m.

What about the ineffective leaders of the building. When do we get rid of them. Only when the school fails? Why do we have to wait that long.

J. A. Pieper

Wed, Apr 24, 2013 : 7:25 p.m.

Wake up A2 - oh how true! We certainly have a fair number of them working for AA schools! In my building, some teachers are being made to feel totally responsible for the achievement gap, because we were brought up as "white privileged", and therefore are unable to teach children of color effectively. I have never seen the racist divisiveness this bad, and with things like the discipline gap, this will continue to grow. Good families are leaving my building because of the behavior of students, and this is African American and white families. As I see AAPS leadership reaching out to only minorities for hiring, maybe it is a good thing that some families are leaving, then they can follow the recommendations that children learn best when taught by their own race (an article we were to read and discuss related to Equity).


Wed, Apr 24, 2013 : 3:44 p.m.

The problem is that the administration dithers and continually "rethinks" cuts in the forlorn hope that someone will arrive and give them a bag-full-o-cash so that they don't actually have to make any tough decisions. This reminds me of Ross Perot's description of the GM culture of "Ready. Aim. Aim. Aim. Aim....."


Wed, Apr 24, 2013 : 3:16 p.m.

My child is a gifted and amazing actress. She performs with the Pioneer Theater Guild. In a few years she'll go to NYU and star on Broadway. I'm concerned that if RC students are moved into the building, my daughter may meet and fall in love with a troubled youth -- someone struggling with character, talent, and ambition. Her future will be in jeopardy. She'll become addicted to drugs, and the world will never see the generous fruits of her ability. In short, moving RC into PIHI will cost the world a star. Is that what we want?

Raising a Family and Working in A2

Thu, Apr 25, 2013 : 2:49 a.m.

It is interesting that this "joke" is based on a real person who spoke at a Board Meeting in March.


Wed, Apr 24, 2013 : 5:10 p.m.

It's a joke, people. Stand down.


Wed, Apr 24, 2013 : 5:03 p.m.

Former RC student here College degree, Married twenty years, Son at Michigan State, Daughter at Western Michigan University, Daughter graduating from Comminity High and going to college. Have a nice day!

Resident A2

Wed, Apr 24, 2013 : 4:46 p.m.

You're kidding, right?


Wed, Apr 24, 2013 : 4:27 p.m.

Folks, UncleMao is obviously a troll. If you look at his/her other comments by clicking on his handle, it's pretty clear he/she is just trying to get a reaction.


Wed, Apr 24, 2013 : 4:12 p.m.

I would like to let you know that you are very ignorant for what you just said. All students that go to Roberto Clemente are not troubled youth struggling with character, talent and ambition. All students that go to Roberto Clemente are not addicted to drugs. You should be more concerned about your daughter going to Pioneer. There are so many kids, it is impossible to catch every single thing roaming thru the halls. Your daughter could very much be involved with a troubled PIONEER boy at this very moment that struggles with way more than character, talent, and ambition. I hate to see people like you talk bad about a school you know absolutely nothing about. I know for a fact you have not taken any time out of your life to see what Roberto Clemente is really about. I actually graduated from Roberto Clemente. I was not a troubled youth. I chose to go to Roberto simply for the fact the other high schools gave way to much freedom to their students and could not control them at all. Too many things were going around the school and I did not want it in my life. I needed structure and at the larger high schools I was not getting that. I have went to college, graduated and is working a wonderful job making great money. I own my own car, I pay all of my own pills, have my own apartment. Roberto teaches education and life skills. Those teachers at Roberto Clemente are the BEST teachers ever. They should be cloned and put all over the AAPS. ? Plenty of successful came out of Roberto Clemente. It has been operated for this long for a reason obviously. You are a very simple minded, ignorant individual. Roberto Clemente Student will succeed anywhere. They have been taught by the GREATEST TEACHERS in the district. Make sure you all prove this person wrong. They only say these things to discourage you. - Proud Advocate for Roberto Clemente Student Development Center


Wed, Apr 24, 2013 : 4:03 p.m.

Wow - I can't be sure if this is for real or not, but I can say that this is exactly what some people are thinking; these same concerns have been expressed to me by others in the community... Ann Arbor, liberal until it's your problem. Oh, don't forget the part where she gets pregnant.

Raising a Family and Working in A2

Wed, Apr 24, 2013 : 3:59 p.m.

This post actually made me comment for the first time in this online newspaper. I had the wonderful opportunity to hear your daughter speak at the AAPS Board meeting. She did a wonderful job and her story brought tears to my eyes. I, too, am very proud of her achievements and talents. But, seriously? Your daughter is in danger of falling in love with a RC student and she will become addicted to drugs and the world will never see a star? I kept thinking you were joking, until I realized that you weren't. My child goes to Roberto Clemente. I will tell you that he is not addicted to drugs and is not struggling with talent or character. In fact, he is an artist - just like your daughter. However, he suffers from severe depression and anxiety, something I hope your daughter never has to cope with. You can breath easy that he has no interest in dating your daughter. By the way, my family enjoyed time in NY over spring break and enjoyed a Broadway show. I hope to much to see your daughter on stage some time and my son will too!


Wed, Apr 24, 2013 : 1:44 p.m.

While there are many hardworking professionals at Balas as well, I was struck by the sheer number of them. Why not move some of these folks into the schools? Why are there so many bureaucratic positions in this district __concentrated and tucked away like on their own island? Balas may have cut a lot already, but it seems only right to cut more from a central administration. Heck, even in the private sector VPs are going without executive assistants or sharing them. Educational leadership requires creativity and finding solutions best for the students. As citizens we need to spread the news that the state legislature has cut TOO MUCH from our school budgets. We cannot sacrifice the futures of our young people so that corporations can call the shots.


Wed, Apr 24, 2013 : 11:46 p.m.

I could not agree more. Palace Balas needs to shift into empty areas of schools not being utilized. Glad to hear someone else agrees with me on Balas. BOE? Wake up and refocus Balas,


Wed, Apr 24, 2013 : 2:25 p.m.

MichU - 81010 Ann Arbor Public Schools 1995 - 7,734 1996 - 7,887 1997 - 8,042 1998 - 8,196 1999 - 8,196 2000 - 8,327 2001 - 8,511 2002 - 8,801 2003 - 9,001 2004 - 9,001 2005 - 9,001 2006 - 9,176 2007 - 9,386 2008 - 9,434 2009 - 9,490 2010 - 9,490 2011 - 9,490 2012 - 9,020 2013 - 9,020 How many cuts do you see in the Proposition A funding since it started for AAPS? Remember that the Proposition A funding is only one of many sources of money for the district. Right now total budget per student is more than $14,000 per student (when you total all the sources - it is actually closer to $15,000 than $14,000). With 25 students in a classroom that means that each classroom has revenue of $350,000. If your cost for a teacher is $104,000 per year (salary and benefits) - where is the other $246,000 going?


Wed, Apr 24, 2013 : 1:37 p.m.

How can it be worth a couple hundred thousand dollars to close a program that works so well for its students? Everyone thinks a balanced budget means you are running a school district like a business, but no business I know would kill off the things that are most valued about its brand with so little thought.


Wed, Apr 24, 2013 : 9:41 p.m.

Ms Stead - LOL - for a small school I expect this, but $3000 per student at Huron or Pioneer. Those are MASSIVE changes to the dollar numbers with small changes to the student population. What is says to me is no one has accurate numbers at AAPS and we are all being played by the administration - even You, a member of the board.

Christine Stead

Wed, Apr 24, 2013 : 7:23 p.m.

Any cost per pupil calculation will change based on changes to the numerator, denominator, or both. That is how those numbers change from year to year. Small enrollment, like that at RC, can change the numbers dramatically.

J. A. Pieper

Wed, Apr 24, 2013 : 7:16 p.m.

Dotdash, I am sure Danielle is given $$$ figures by BALASS to justify their desires. This is what they refer to as "Transparency"!


Wed, Apr 24, 2013 : 5:12 p.m.

Hey Danielle Arndt: Can we get some resolution on the costs per pupil at the various schools? Those numbers are just SO far apart, there must be some explanation.


Wed, Apr 24, 2013 : 4:50 p.m.

Ms. Arndt - Those numbers do not come close to matching the numbers that were in the building by building information that was released only a couple of years ago. The shift in the numbers is dramatic in a number of cases (from the spreadsheet on your website based on AAPS data): Community - 8,853.87 Huron - 9,026.23 Pioneer - 8,247.61 Roberto Clemente - 23,228.39 Skyline - 8,774.02 AATech - 16,586.98 I would LOVE to know how they arrived at the new numbers. The shift in costs at Skyline, Pioneer and Huron says that the district has cut 40 percent of the cost of those programs in 2 years - WOW! That is over $13,200,000 cut from the 3 high schools or about 80% of the total budget cuts for the last two years. WOW, just WOW!


Wed, Apr 24, 2013 : 4:38 p.m.

@Floyd --This is typical in AAPS. Numbers on one document are thrown around to support one point. I am learning today through these comments that there is no one in Balas using a consistent metric to talk about money received per pupil in a school, money received in a school for Spec Ed Certified students, and then other costs associated with a school based on educational needs and the net amount a school earns off a student.


Wed, Apr 24, 2013 : 4:26 p.m.

Danielle, It does not cost 3200 dollars more per year to educate a Community student than it does to educate a Pioneer student. It actually costs less. Your figures are wrong. Where did you get this information? This is the sort of misinformation that lands entire schools on the list of items to be "costed out" by folks who don't know any better.

Danielle Arndt

Wed, Apr 24, 2013 : 4:11 p.m.

DonBee mentions operational costs of the various school programs. Here are those numbers for anyone interested in the differences: According to AAPS, it costs $18,941 per pupil to operate the Roberto Clemente program. A2 Tech costs $14,804 per pupil. Community costs $8,253 per pupil and Huron, Pioneer and Skyline cost around $5,000 per pupil.


Wed, Apr 24, 2013 : 4:02 p.m.

I hear you, DonBee. I'm always shocked by calls to get rid of the very programs that make AAPS what it is. That's my larger point. If we become just another WalMart of education (big, cheap, impersonal), then who will want to move here?


Wed, Apr 24, 2013 : 2:18 p.m.

dotdash - There are 90 students in the program, If you were doing a pure budget cut, you would kill the program because the program costs more than 2 times what the school spends on other high school students, and having 30 or so fewer students graduate each year would still keep AAPS above the floor needed to be in great shape with the state. The program as a pure budget exercise does not pay for itself and never will. This is NOT a pure budget cut. It is an attempt to rationalize costs, but the administration made a poor decision as to where and what to combine here. Pioneer is the wrong place to put this program, as are Huron, Skyline and Community. The right place is to combine Roberto Clemente and AATech in one building - but not combine the academic and counseling programs.


Wed, Apr 24, 2013 : 1:34 p.m.

The myth that school administrators are more important than teachers, staff, and students is long overdue to be shattered. Why should we overpay school administrators that are incompetent and that use their positions to get ahead in their personal careers? They are paid by the TAXPAYERS, and they work for the students. Instead of cutting back student space, close Balas and put them in a trailer on Pioneer school grounds. Instead of overpaying superintendents, use that money to fund programs that were cut or reduced. Instead of putting administrators on a pedestal, kick it over and put the staff, teachers, and students on it, where they truly belong.


Wed, Apr 24, 2013 : 2:15 p.m.

Board President Mexicotte is the personal helicopter parent for Balas and the BOE dysfunction. She is ready to roll with an excuse and claim that the highest paid leaders in the district are special cases who are misunderstood by those who want more accountability in their district leaders.


Wed, Apr 24, 2013 : 2:14 p.m.

MichU - Mr. Allan has been deft at moving administrative people to other budget lines and hiding them. A number of people who work in Balas are listed as teaching staff or building administration. So while the budget line for administration is down - the total number of people involved has gone up. There have been some highly visible reductions in people, but some very quiet movement from other places in the district to administrative roles, even if they are not classified in the budget that way. As to Ms Mexicotte and her understanding I doubt she has ever taken the roster of staff and walked thru it to see what the people who work for the district do, she has trusted that the administration is as lean as they can be , according to what the administration has told her. It goes with the 2AM administration pay raises and the decision to offer more to the Superintendent of Ann Arbor Schools, than the Superintendent of the Chicago schools was making at the time.


Wed, Apr 24, 2013 : 1:58 p.m.

I suggested a trim to Balas at one of the other meetings, and Deb Mexicotte was quick to point out that there had been previous cuts. I wasn't impressed with her curt reply.


Wed, Apr 24, 2013 : 1:29 p.m.

Combining Roberto Clemente and AATech in one building is the right first step. The programs need to remain separate with their current teaching staffs. Administration and overhead could be significantly reduced. I suspect of the $200,000 to $348,000 savings most of it would be achieved doing this without compromising the programs. I have posted a number of other options for saving money and have yet to hear the BOE discuss any of them. The idea of combining Pioneer and Roberto Clemente is yet another move to make people angry enough to vote for more millage. Which is the wrong way to pull the community together and educate our students. The board should stop trying to let the administration drive and lay out a clear focus on where cuts can come from. So far the administration is once again going to escape with no cuts anywhere - they continue to be fat, dumb and happy, while they burn down the rest of the district and what makes it work. Wake up BOE, Wake up!


Wed, Apr 24, 2013 : 4:35 p.m.

@DonBee - thank you for explaining and outlining reasons why the Skyline idea would not work and the Community High idea would ultimately shoot the district in the foot more. My question is still this: Why is it that in this article, your comments explain more about the financial crisis in a coherent and concise way than any information presented to date from a Balas administrator or a Board Member? Why does it take Trustee Stead so many extra words to deliver extra information, but it is you who synthesizes what she says and then in this story and many others. Why do you think the BOE cannot be as direct as you are being? Danielle Arndt just posted a new story about the meeting tonight and on the PDF she includes regarding proposed budget cuts, none of your ideas are on the list. Have you formally given your ideas to the BOE and gotten an answer from them about why they are not being considered ?


Wed, Apr 24, 2013 : 3:46 p.m.

aaparent - There is no room to transfer people back. Pioneer and Huron were "reconfigured" and the portable classrooms were removed. While the square footage in the buildings is the same or more (new locker rooms and weight rooms for Varsity Athletics at Huron for instance), the building were changed so that there is much less classroom space. Dr Roberts once said at a meeting that the reconfiguration was to ensure that the students could not be put back into the Pioneer and Huron. Offices have replaced several classrooms in both schools. Closing or moving Community would probably drive a number of families out of the district, minimizing the cost decrease from the move. Better is to sell Dixboro and reap that money. The district does not want an Northeastern charter or private schools, so they hang onto the building. With the revival of the housing market, platting the land and offering it as lots would prevent this building from being used that way.


Wed, Apr 24, 2013 : 2:13 p.m.

@DonBee - do you know where the projected enrollment numbers are in order to answer the comments above yours by @ Belboz about moving Clemente and A2Tech into Skyline and if there is room to transfer the comprehensive highschool students at Skyline back to their mothership schools before Skyline was built? I thought that the comprehensive high school enrollment at Skyline was low and have not seen the figures for how many students currently enrolled in Skyline are within school boundaries vs. lottery. Also, when you say that the BOE hasn't responded to your suggestions for cuts, did you send your ideas to them directly or are you referring to your comments online?


Wed, Apr 24, 2013 : noon

AAPS has really taken a step backwards. Pioneer sends the largest group of kids to the University of Michigan. They have been awarded Grammy's for their musical program, been recognized as one of the premier High Schools in the nation. And what does AAPS do? Build another High School to remove kids from the school. Then, try to figure out how to shut down a Special Ed High School and insert it into Pioneer. Creating a segregated and dysfunctional learning environment. If people want to attend Pioneer - or any High School - go ahead. But, to try and imagine shoe horning a small, specialized set of classes, where Pioneer students will be told "Stay Away" is incredible in its stupidity. And, it goes directly against the $60 million that was blown in building Skyline by taxpayers to provide a lower student count per High School. How about returning the Skyline students to Pioneer and Huron, use Skyline to coordinate the 3 other High Schools (Clemente, Stone, Community). We have an enrollment 200 fewer students now than we did in 2005. Skyline was a big mistake, but at least it provides the opportunity to consolidate and shut down 3 other High Schools.

Elijah Shalis

Wed, Apr 24, 2013 : 12:57 p.m.

Skyline looks like an airport terminal all it needs is a runway.


Wed, Apr 24, 2013 : 12:32 p.m.

Brilliant idea to use the new building to consolidate the three schools Ann Arbor feels it needs. I am in full favor of that and leaving Pioneer alone.


Wed, Apr 24, 2013 : 12:08 p.m.

I think this is a great idea. The students in the district who are struggling the most should have access to the newest building, the best resources and the most extensive technology purchases available in the district, so that would be Skyline hands down. The kids then who are at Clemente, Stone and Community would also have access to athletic facilities that are missing in their buildings, so it would be more equal to have alternative schools, Community included, to be at Skyline.

Wake Up A2

Wed, Apr 24, 2013 : 11:53 a.m.

Cindy is back peddling from what she told her staff. My daughter just text messaged me saying there is now punishment for being late to class. I guess she has been reading the comments. Next is for her to come out of her office.....


Wed, Apr 24, 2013 : 11:15 a.m.

I am glad to read that Trustees Baskett and Lightfoot spoke out at this meeting and commend Danielle Arndt for putting in their quotes. I think the quotes in the story reflect how deep the lack of confidence is in the Balas leadership to handle a budget, whether there are cuts or not, and that this problem must be addressed. Michelle Stalmack's quotes are right on the money. Trustee Stead can post the facts of the state funding crisis, but it does not change the fact that the school community, those people in the front lines, have little confidence in those who lead. Trustee Stead should be posting a comment on that rather than initiating a parallel line of discussion to take the heat off the very pointed criticisms levied at the BOE leadership and the dysfunctional Balas leadership. I am glad to read that Stead admits that the recommendation to move Clemente will be "rethought" Who is going to do the thinking? That is what the community is up in arms about. Is there anyone thinking or is it the case that whenever someone throws out facts or ideas that counter the nutty groupthink going on at Balas and BOE that the dissenters are deemed to be outsiders, not team players, rebels, uninformed and unaware of the bigger and more complex factors, selfish, greedy, etc. the list goes on The problem is dysfunctional leadership of the district and that is not a new problem for AAPS. The heat is on this BOE to change the pattern. At least we have two board members: Baskett and Lightfoot, who are willing to speak out on the facts they have seen and the ones they think might be covered up.


Wed, Apr 24, 2013 : 11:15 a.m.

Our BOE also can't be swayed by one group to make the decisions that are best for ALL of AAPS. If this move makes sense, then it should be done. If their are issues, then don't. The issue I have is that everyone is going to lobby for the one or two things that most affect them and it seems that our BOE changes their mind based on the few. If our BOE truly felt that moving say Community to Skyline because it was in the best interest for ALL of AAPS would they be able to make that tough decision after the complaining from those at Community? Last year they were going to move Clemente, but ended up backing down. Why? Community outrage changed their mind. This BOE needs to do what is in the best interest of ALL AAPS families, not just those who are the loudest. I hope we see this over the next month or so as they begin to make these decisions.

Burr Oak

Wed, Apr 24, 2013 : 11:06 a.m.

Those insights about the process are spot on. The administrators who remain at Balas are bureaucrats in the true sense of the word. There are numerous examples of policies, curricular goals, and now the budget cuts, which have not been passed by a single teacher or principal. And yet, individuals who are new to our system feel empowered to make these decisions which leave the staff scratching their heads at best, infuriated or demoralized at worst. When we read comments recommending an insider acting superintendent, staff cringes. Educators are visionaries, but practical as well by necessity. And if even some of the stories circulating about the dolls are true, then one must wonder why anyone with self-respect is still working in AAPS administration. I do hope that the School Board seeks confidential input from those who know how our programs run before drastic cuts are made.

Wake Up A2

Wed, Apr 24, 2013 : 3:46 p.m.

Pat had a doll collection she moves around balas. This way she can be everywhere.


Wed, Apr 24, 2013 : 1:48 p.m.

what is the reference regarding dolls?


Wed, Apr 24, 2013 : 11:52 a.m.

Well said ...thank you!!

Christine Stead

Wed, Apr 24, 2013 : 10:33 a.m.

The budget gap is consistent with the Board's projections from last year: $17- $20M. After revenue projected from the state and other sources (special Ed reimbursement from WISD, proposed MPSERS offset, best practice funding), and $3.4M in concessions from the AAEA, we believe almost $9M remains that must be addressed through reductions from our operating budget. This may yet change based on the actual budget the state approves, which will firm up our estimated state revenue aside from the foundation allowance. Right now, there are inconsistencies among the house, senate and governor's school aid proposed budgets.


Wed, Apr 24, 2013 : 6:10 p.m.

oops another number mistake 7,50 should be 7,500. My zero key is sticky today.


Wed, Apr 24, 2013 : 4:42 p.m.

Ms. Stead - In 1994 the district was supporting the Library (AADL) and that was roughly 10% of the total operating budget, and a big piece of the bond fund. The district spun it out and forced it to get it own millage. In 1994 there was no sinking fund, so building repairs had to come from operating funds In 1994 the Rec&Ed budget was heavily carried on AAPS funds. Now it breaks even and pays for summer maintenance on most of the outdoor fields and gyms In 1994 there was no Medicaid reimbursement for special education services In 1994 there was little state money for special education reimbursement In 1994 a big chunk of the bond costs were taken from the operating funds - not a specific bond millage In 1994 There was not WISD funds for re-imbursement of special education costs In 1994 there was no technology millage In 1994 There was no foundation collecting funds for the district In 1994 No one was writing grant requests for the district Even though state funds have not kept up, local, WISD and specialized state and federal funds have grown dramatically. If the Durant decision had not been made the way it was, more money would flow to the Prop A base grant and less to special education reimbursement. The Governor is working on MSPERS money to cover some of the retirement hole and has offered best practice money. Every millage, except 1 that AAPS has ever asked the community for has passed. In 2002 the total funds available to AAPS per student were just over $11,000 In 2013 the total funds available to AAPS per student are well over $14,000 That to me is a bit more than $76.11 per year, much closer to $300 per student per year or $7,50 per year per classroom of 25 students.


Wed, Apr 24, 2013 : 3:38 p.m.

Ms Stead - My apologies for the typo, you can see in my reply below that I got it right that time, I meant 9020 not 9200.

Christine Stead

Wed, Apr 24, 2013 : 2:17 p.m.

AAPS's foundation allowance is actually $9020 per student, not $9200. In FY02, we had a foundation allowance of $9,034. Since 1994, we have had an average increase (this is over 19 years) of $76.11. Some of our contracts keep pace with inflation (e.g., outsourced food services). Since our foundation allowance has not kept up with inflation, increases that do turn into reductions we have to make. Increases in MPSERS since then have been enormous over that time. Part of this is structural in nature: there used to be 8 working people contributing to the system for every one retiree. That ratio is now down to 1 : 3 (may be less with reductions to FTEs last year across the state).

Christine Stead

Wed, Apr 24, 2013 : 2:09 p.m.

The WISD reimbursement rate refers to special education funding, specifically. Increases in property values and reduced spending across the county (on special education services) enabled the reimbursement rate increase.


Wed, Apr 24, 2013 : 2:04 p.m.

Ms. Stead - I am following the discussions in Lansing closely. Any increase in MPSERS should based on the discussions have a DIRECT impact on reducing the amount the local schools have to pay in. Yes, AAPS at $9200 a year is WAY above the $7500 cut off, but when you are the 18th best funded (from the state) district in the state, you have to expect that people in worse shape are going to get more help. If we were talking section 8 housing or bridge cards, you would be all for lifting the floor for the people at the lowest level first.

Christine Stead

Wed, Apr 24, 2013 : 2 p.m.

DonBee - one of the areas that the improvement in property tax values has already been reflected is on the revenue side in Washtenaw County (this is part of the revenue that is better than expected; WISD projected a reimbursement rate of 56% for FY14 and revised that to 68% based on the improvements/less decline in property value). At the state level, not all counties are having this experience (Washtenaw was one of a few that had an increase in property values). The May Revenue Conference will give us a better sense of what revenue projections the state is expecting. Even if we hear better revenue numbers, we do not expect any increase in our foundation allowance allocation. The state senate and house are voting on their school aid budgets today and tomorrow. If state revenues are much better than expected, the state would be more likely to increase funds for MPSERS offset than anything else. We'll know more after that conference and after the conference committee to develop one recommendation for school aid for the governor to approve. One proposal is that those funding above $7500/student in foundation allowance would get 1/2 of the offset funds. If that becomes the final proposal, it adds to what we will need to cut.


Wed, Apr 24, 2013 : 1:47 p.m.



Wed, Apr 24, 2013 : 1:25 p.m.

Reducing superintendent salaries, or even eliminating one or more positions, would be a substantial help financially. Reducing or eliminating other Balas positions, closing down the building and selling it, and moving the Balas staff into other existing buildings where they can work alongside their peers would also be a substantial savings.


Wed, Apr 24, 2013 : 1:20 p.m.

Ms Stead - Thank you. I wonder if you have looked at the projections from the County on their revenue increase, both this year and next. I note they had a windfall of more than 2 million dollars on property taxes already. If this is not in the projections, it should be. The assessments for the tax year are done, and the number of parcels not paying taxes is down.