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Posted on Tue, Jul 16, 2013 : 12:30 p.m.

Ann Arbor superintendent candidate Jeanice Kerr Swift presents 90-day plan

By Danielle Arndt

The Ann Arbor Board of Education is conducting final interviews with the two remaining superintendent candidates Tuesday and Wednesday, and is covering it live.


Jeanice Kerr Swift

Courtesy photo

The pool of applicants to be Ann Arbor's next superintendent was first narrowed from 61 to six and then to two.

Jeanice Kerr Swift, assistant superintendent of Colorado Springs District 11, and Brian Osborne, superintendent of South Orange-Maplewood School District in New Jersey, were named as finalists for the role on July 9.

Swift is touring the district Tuesday and meeting with various staff and community members. The day's events include two public portions, the second round of board interviews, which will include a presentation of Swift's 90-day plan for the district, at 1:15 p.m. at Skyline High School and a public question-and-answer session at 7 p.m., also at Skyline.

Osborne's site visit Wednesday will include the same public sessions at 1:15 p.m. and 7 p.m.. The board interview and Q-&-A session for him also will take place at Skyline. will be blogging live from all four events.

Former Superintendent Patricia Green touched off the search with her resignation in April. She entered retirement last week after two years with the Ann Arbor Public Schools.

A regular board meeting has been scheduled for 5:30 p.m. Friday to name a new superintendent of the district.

Read the recap of Swift's interview and presentation in the live blog below. Download a copy of her 90-day plan pamphlet.

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



Wed, Jul 17, 2013 : 12:04 p.m.

Here we go again.

Stephen Lange Ranzini

Wed, Jul 17, 2013 : 11:23 a.m.

One thing I learned from attending the meeting and a second by invitation only meeting that followed the public meeting was that the 90 day plan handed out to the public was one of two documents. Dr. Swift had also provided to the board what I interpreted to be a more detailed 90 day plan document or some other more detailed document that had at least 15 pages, because in the public meeting a reference to something on page 15 was noted. On the one hand the school board says they want true public input into the selection process. Then they don't release some key documents written by the finalists. I find the lack of transparency of the school board appalling. Why wouldn't all the key documents be released?

Stephen Lange Ranzini

Thu, Jul 18, 2013 : 2:44 a.m.

I confirmed with a trustee that there was indeed a much more detailed written plan provided by Dr. Swift, and a short version which was provided for public consumption.

Danielle Arndt

Tue, Jul 16, 2013 : 8:56 p.m.

I added a downloadable copy to this story of a pamphlet outlining Swift's 90-day plan that was passed out during the interview this afternoon.


Tue, Jul 16, 2013 : 10:20 p.m.

Danielle - Thank you. I notice that the plan is almost entirely outward focused, to the community. I don't see a lot of internal steps in the plan - meeting the cabinet, talking to the unions, reviewing the budget, etc. Maybe this is what the board asked for (I would not be surprised), but if it is not, I am a bit confused, the 90 day plan needs to have several legs, not just a community outreach, but building a team internal to the administration, building a relationship with the unions, getting to know the budget and where the money goes. While your blog talks about "team" - the 90 day plan does not seem to echo it. I am seeing a pattern of softball interviews and high level buzzwords, and platitudes here, not the hard hitting questions the community needs.

Kellie Woodhouse

Tue, Jul 16, 2013 : 8:27 p.m.

Danielle, this was an excellent, detailed and informed blog. Kudos for getting so much background and information into it, I know it's a whirlwind of a process.


Tue, Jul 16, 2013 : 7:55 p.m.

I would like you to ask how she would deal with "problem" buildings. On the comments here we often hear that certain schools or prinicipals are alienating families and that many families are leaving the district because of them. How would she address this? If a principal could be replaced and bring families back, isn't that better than redistricting and closing? How would she propose pulling kids back from Charters?


Tue, Jul 16, 2013 : 7:40 p.m.

Given the number of ongoing, serious special education issues in AAPS, including the now-partially-corrected disproportional identification of African American males as being cognitively impaired or having learning disabilities, and certain trustee's comments about an apparent over-identification of autism, I'm very interested in your summary of both Deb Mexicotte's Special Education question and Swift's response.


Tue, Jul 16, 2013 : 6:52 p.m.

"Baskett said people in Colorado described Swift as being seen as a cute, petite woman, but that she can also be a bulldog and has tough skin." I would like to hear more about how she is competent and has specific ideas to help this district and stop hearing about relationship building, emotions and being able to handle criticism without being crushed. Along with the fun fact bonus of starting out as a cheerleading coach, I am not sure that this style will work well in the district, but will need to compare it to Osborne. So far, she sounds more spirit and message-based than fact based. She reminds me of Green so far, but more outgoing, which is a plus on the communications end, but I don't have a sense of her skills as a superintendent, manager, and leader.


Tue, Jul 16, 2013 : 6:52 p.m.

A follow-up to the budgeting question: Given that there have been charges from A2 community members and people within the school system that the current budget process (which Swift says she prefers) allows building principals and the cabinet to "hide" money from transparency, labelled as "discretionary funds" or hidden within a budget allocated to a program or project, how would Swift impose transparency so that such funds are broken down into spending items that are clearly going where they are said to be going? Zero-based budgeting, while time-consuming the first few times, has a much better chance of opening up our budget to view. What are her specific experiences with and objections to zero-based budgeting?

Danielle Arndt

Tue, Jul 16, 2013 : 7:55 p.m.

I'm working on following up on these questions. Thanks for asking them and for following along.


Tue, Jul 16, 2013 : 6:26 p.m.

So far, it sounds like buzzword bingo.

Chester Drawers

Wed, Jul 17, 2013 : 12:20 p.m.

Can we all say, "Possibility Thinking?"


Tue, Jul 16, 2013 : 10:04 p.m.

Goober & SonnyDog09 - Go back 2 years and look at the interviews with Dr. Green. This reminds me strongly of those interviews.


Tue, Jul 16, 2013 : 7:19 p.m.

The AA BOE loves this.


Tue, Jul 16, 2013 : 6:03 p.m.

If there's one thing she should have understood by now, it's that we want SPECIFICS re the process she would used to tackle improving the budget process, the redistricting process, keeping the high quality of educational options we have had while not spending us into the governor's rifle-sights for privatizing this district's schools. I am very disappointed so far. She's peppered us with vague generalizations.


Tue, Jul 16, 2013 : 5:59 p.m.

What is a maximizer? Do we need a maximizer in the Ann Arbor district right now or a minimizer? Or maybe we need a balancer? I don't understand the phrases she is using and how they translate from expressing her mantra and deeply held values and what she will do. A community forum on excellence? Don't we already have some good news posting weekly where schools can submit events and accomplishments and then the first 30 minutes of every board meeting is celebrating excellence and then the budget discussions and new hires happen after midnight. What does Swift want to do with board meeting management? What is she used to in her district in Colorado?


Tue, Jul 16, 2013 : 5:56 p.m.

Deb said she herself is a maximizer?? Or did she mean Swift is?

Danielle Arndt

Tue, Jul 16, 2013 : 7:54 p.m.

Deb was referring to herself. I believe a maximizer is a leadership style/personality trait. Here's a link I found:


Tue, Jul 16, 2013 : 5:55 p.m.

I found it interesting that Lightfoot claimed that they have "surveyed to death our parents." I absolutely do not think this is true, and the few surveys I have seen have been so horribly written as to not count at all. The surveys seem quite purposefully slanted toward the desired result -- the one I am thinking of is the horrific survey about school start times where no real alternatives were provided as choices. The surveys about the principals seems to work only in moving around the lousy ones, and the survey about cafeteria food doesn't count.


Tue, Jul 16, 2013 : 10:02 p.m.

As to AAPS surveys they violate every tenet of a good survey. If you want to watch a group of people howl with laughter, go over the Institute for Social Research with the surveys. The couple of ISR people I have shown AAPS surveys too idicated that they were so heavily bias to an answer (or in the case of the 10 qualities of a superintendent a non-answer) that it is not funny - or useful ISR is here in Ann Arbor, they have lots of graduate students, it would be easy to use one or two to develop USEFUL surveys for the parents and students. I challenge the BOE and the Administration to do just that.

J. A. Pieper

Tue, Jul 16, 2013 : 7:02 p.m.

I totally agree, the only surveys AAPS conduct are the ones where they will get the answers they want, the public still has little input, little choice. Realistically, AAPS has no current avenue to get accurate information from its community.


Tue, Jul 16, 2013 : 5:52 p.m.

"engagement with the community in the areas of celebrations, reflections, dreams and priorities." This, to me, is vague and glib. I sure hopes she gets into the real stuff soon. We have posted a lot of questions, ideas, concerns, and priorities here on this site and in many surveys and public meetings. She has had access to these already if she has cared to look.

Bertha Venation

Tue, Jul 16, 2013 : 5:48 p.m.

Hope the school board can get along with and support the new Superintendent. Seems to have been an issue previously.


Tue, Jul 16, 2013 : 5:38 p.m.

Does she have a top 3 things or will she determine those from the community meetings?

Danielle Arndt

Tue, Jul 16, 2013 : 7:51 p.m.

The idea is she would be determining those top three things from the community meetings.


Tue, Jul 16, 2013 : 5:36 p.m.

Is her name pronounced "Jeen-is" or "Jan-is"? I looked at the ST Math she discussed and it looks very interesting. I think my kids would certainly enjoy using it. Would she want to bring this to A2 as a supplement or replacement for Everyday Math?


Tue, Jul 16, 2013 : 8:41 p.m.

Everyday Math is a terrible curriculum - it's a mile wide and an inch deep, with no emphasis on mastery. It's also my understanding that it does not meet the Common Core standards. I would also like to see a change in the math curriculum.


Tue, Jul 16, 2013 : 7:53 p.m.

I do not like Everyday Math. I feel it is teaching math in a very convoluted way. It seems to add many steps to the addition process when adding multidigit numbers. I also don't think there is enough focus on learning and practicing the basic facts. I would welcome a change in the math curriculum.

Danielle Arndt

Tue, Jul 16, 2013 : 7:46 p.m.

It's pronounced like Denise, but with a 'J'. And for those who want more info about the ST Math, here a link: I didn't get the impression that she stated one way or the other that she would be interested in implementing ST Math here in Ann Arbor. I'm curious what parents would think about implementing a new math curriculum in AAPS? I remember my school district transitioning to Everyday Math (from something else) when I was in grade school and the transition itself was confusing for kids because the symbols used for multiplication and division changed and some of the terminology we has learned previously was different under Everyday Math. I don't have kids yet, but what are parents impressions of the Everyday Math curriculum? Good, bad, indifferent? The penguin character that is associated with ST Math could certainly help, it seems to me, some more reluctant, struggling students become interested in math studies.