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Posted on Tue, May 15, 2012 : 5:58 a.m.

Ann Arbor school board hears community input toward at least $7M in cuts

By Danielle Arndt

Editor's note: The amount spent on NWEA MAP testing has been corrected in this story.

Ann Arbor school administrators hosted their second and final budget forum Monday to gather questions and collect advice from the community.

The school board will meet Wednesday to deliberate on proposals to cut at least $7 million toward eliminating the district’s $17.8 million deficit for 2012-13.

Board of Education members asked for the forums, the first of which was held May 7, to take place prior to this week’s Committee of the Whole meeting, so the public’s input could help steer and guide their discussion, said Superintendent Patricia Green.

"We are very pleased with, here in Ann Arbor, people are giving us their honest opinion," Green said.

School officials are compiling a list of questions generated at both forums and will be posting them with answers on the district’s website by Friday, they said. Questions were not responded to during the sessions.

At Monday’s forum, community members heard a presentation outlining the budget and proposed cuts from Deputy Superintendent of Operations Robert Allen. Then the audience of about 45 residents and teachers divided into small groups to discuss their concerns and to brainstorm ideas for revenue enhancement.

Most of the concerns were about at-risk families being hit the hardest by the cuts. The district’s proposal to close Roberto Clemente Student Development Center and to move the program to Ann Arbor Technological High School for a $400,000 savings was referenced.

The administration’s timeline for presenting and soliciting community involvement in the district’s finances was the second most articulated concern. One table recommended possible cuts be tossed out at the beginning of the school year or in December or January to give people more time to react and make suggestions.

A lack of communication from school officials about the details of the cuts, such as a plan showing what revamping the district’s alternative high school programs could look like, also was brought up as a concern.

Overall, participants said classroom instruction should be the No. 1 priority, even if it means slashing fewer teaching positions and reducing extracurricular activities.

Several suggestions were made with other items to cut. A group of Ann Arbor Open School parents said AAO is the only lower-level building with a pool. The group said it would rather see the pool close and students not be able to swim than not be able to get to school.

Cutting transportation to AAO is on the table for an undetermined savings. It has been lumped into a proposal to eliminate busing to all “choice” schools for a total budget reduction of $266,400.

Requests have been made to the district for the exact cost of busing students to and from Ann Arbor Open. However, those requests have not yet been filled.

The AAO parents also suggested eliminating middle school sports all together, since a proposal to do away with the middle schools’ athletic directors is being considered.

“(If you cut the ADs,) there won’t be anybody there to make the sports work or to coordinate everything anyway, so it just seems like an area where maybe we could make some cuts,” said AAO parent Carol Sickman-Garner, adding there are other avenues in the community through which children that age can participate in sports.

Eliminating the middle school ADs is expected to save $37,500.

Another table at Monday’s forum recommended looking at collective bargaining agreements with unions and discontinuing eye care and dental coverage for employees, stating employers in the private sector have had to roll back benefit packages in the current economy.

Community members recommended getting rid of the Measures of Academic Progress (MAP) assessment from the Northwest Evaluation Association, which the district paid $92,700 for from the Child Accounting and Assessment budget.

The ideas presented for raising revenues included increasing advertising at Ann Arbor Public Schools sporting events.

Sickman-Garner also suggested considering pay-to-ride fees for transportation that could bring money into the schools and help pay for busing costs.

“There are pay-to-play fees for athletics. Why not for transportation to prevent its elimination?” she said, adding the effort could possibly be subsidized for low-income families through building parent-teacher organizations or the Ann Arbor Public Schools Educational Foundation.

Another suggestion from her table was increasing the number of alternative “choice” programs similar to AAO within the district to allow AAPS to compete with local charter schools and to regain some of its students lost to charters.

Lastly, one table recommended outsourcing the district’s payroll department.

The Ann Arbor school board’s Committee of the Whole meeting begins at 5:30 p.m. Wednesday at the Balas Administration Building. Click here for a rundown of future meetings in the budget process.

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



Wed, May 16, 2012 : 12:04 a.m.

"LBH" has the right idea. Community High is just a little private school on the back of the tax payers. They can have there programs in the three current high schools. I just love how "Community High" is always "hands off"!


Tue, May 15, 2012 : 3:35 p.m.

The school administration and Board of Education already know what "big ticket" items have to go. The courtesy of community input will have little impact on these items. The community input will reflect the personal interests of those attending. The Administration and Board decisions will reflect the overall district.


Tue, May 15, 2012 : 8:16 p.m.

Doug, you're right. The decision to close Roberto Clemente and consolidate with the Tech progrm has already been made as well as other decisons regarding the budget. These community meetings are simply an effort to get a guage on what the commnity will tolerate overall. I think as long as Community HIgh remains a sacred cow, there will not be much outrage over the closing and consolidation of RC. Another consideration. CH is an older building and it may not be feasible from a financial point of view to close it because if a charter school decide to take it, the building may not pass DELEG regulations. However. I'm willing to bet that a developer would love to have this property and replace the school with condiminums. AAPS could reap a huge profit if CH is sold.

Basic Bob

Tue, May 15, 2012 : 4:42 p.m.

Unfortunately, the administration and board decisions do not reflect the overall district, only the views and goals of the influential and well-connected. That is a huge part of the problem, too many vested interests.


Tue, May 15, 2012 : 4:34 p.m.

Doug - I wish you were right, but look at the cuts that are proposed - Do you really think the community wants to see 32 to 64 teachers cut? Really? The budget cuts do not reflect the community, they reflect the administration, and the administration knows the board will vote for whatever they propose. Since Ms. Mexicotte has been the President, the policy has been not to "meddle" in the administration's decisions. The net result - 2AM raises happen and teachers get fired.


Tue, May 15, 2012 : 3:16 p.m.

The article quotes an AA Open parent as asking: " 'Why not [pay-to-ride] for transportation to prevent its elimination?' she said, adding the effort could possibly be subsidized for low-income families through building parent-teacher organizations." The problem with this is that the schools with the most low-income families have the smallest PTO budgets. Maybe wealthier schools like Wines or King could afford to subsidize busing for their comparatively few low-income student, but this could never happen at schools like Mitchell or Carpenter. If students are asked to pay for transportation, any subsidies will need to come fromthe district and not from the individual schools.


Tue, May 15, 2012 : 4:02 p.m.

If I am not mistaken, the AAO parents, who spoke at the last Board meeting, are suggesting that the Board allow the individual schools to decide if they can choose to continue their bus service in a pay-to-ride scheme. If a school wants to keep bus service the Board and Administration should work with that school, on an individual basis, to allow that. Sure, King could do that if they wanted to, heck, their 5th grade camp is a trip to Space Camp in Texas. Other schools have cancelled camps for lack of funds or teacher disinterest. If an individual school wants to take responsibility for some of it's expenses, let it. Work with those parents and teachers, not against them, because it might be complicated to figure the routing, or take a little extra work to do the accounting. We are paying plenty for this administration, let's see some ROI.


Tue, May 15, 2012 : 2:28 p.m.

$17.8 million deficit for 2012-13 - WOW I am betting School Officials received huge raises/perks. To cut deficit, get rid of alternative schools or make parents of alternative schools pay for their own children if they cannot be in a public school. Reduce staff and programs. If a household cannot afford a luxury, they simply don't spend. A school system is 17.8 million in deficit, simply cut out luxury. Go back to BASIC education. Have parents pay for sports/after school events. Get rid of paying for alternative schools.


Tue, May 15, 2012 : 2:18 p.m.

How about, rather than killing the Clemente program we move the Community High School program into Skyline and get rid of that infrastructure. Sell the building, whatever. One fewer buildings to maintain and the kids who are certainly not "at risk" kids can go to a school where they can participate in sports, etc, without having to be bused around?


Tue, May 15, 2012 : 3:53 p.m.

Skyline is currently at it's maximum capacity, as planned. Where are you going to put 400+ extra students?


Tue, May 15, 2012 : 1:36 p.m.

I will be surprised if ANY proposals from the budget meetings are implemented. It seems like once a committee, board or council in Ann Arbor gets an idea on the rails we are doomed to follow through on it, no matter how poorly thought out it is, for the kids or the taxpayers. Skyline, the unnecessary, overpriced high school. Fuller road transit or new City Hall or Area transportation plans....etc. These community forums are more like PR outings. No questions are answered during the forums, therefore it is not a legitimate discussion. It is a show, to create the impression of public input. At most of these things there is a complete outline of what topics are to be presented and talked about, and there is little room for input. I encourage all concerned citizens to continue to attend, and to question our officials at every chance. As for the comments wondering where the creative thinking is in Ann Arbor, the answer is, stifled by officials who do what THEY feel is best. Creativity dies in committee. I have heard plenty of creative ideas put forth for this school budget, but none have been integrated into the budget plans. Say, didn't I read that we hired this superintendent for her vision? How about some creativity from that office? For $1000/day she should come up with at least a few better ideas!

J. A. Pieper

Wed, May 16, 2012 : 12:20 a.m.

If we hired this superintendent for her vision, maybe she should start sharing it with her new community. Can you be creative when you have a glass wall shielding your office? Oh, and is you think she is only receiving about $1,000 a day, think again, she works M through Th, and then returns to Pennsylvania for a three day weekend.


Tue, May 15, 2012 : 2:57 p.m.

Read the first sentence. Now repeat after me. It won't. Never will. They always protect balais.


Tue, May 15, 2012 : 1:27 p.m.

As the autism insurance mandate has passed, there will be children that an autism center running early intensive behavior intervention will be treating that will no longer be going to the AAPreschool. Who knows, maybe U of M will join the rest of the world in trying to help with autism problem, and we might get a good one in this city. However, right now as it stands, the services for the kids are probably one of the best in the state. It's saving money across the years. So stop complaining about something you don't know anything about.


Tue, May 15, 2012 : 7:02 p.m.

@cette - DonBee has a valid point. Autism intervention and services should be being provided for from Special Education dollars. Not General Fund dollars. In addition, those services are available through WISD.


Tue, May 15, 2012 : 2:06 p.m.

It won't be that long DonBee where the centers will become available. I urge you to educate yourself much, much more about what is going on at the Preschool.


Tue, May 15, 2012 : 1:54 p.m.

Cette - It may be a great program, but it is coming out of AAPS's general fund. That money is supposed to be paying for K-12 education. I see you making emotional arguments, not financial arguments.


Tue, May 15, 2012 : 1:23 p.m.

Some excellent ideas are being bandied about here, and I hope that the people who will eventually make the decisions read these and consider their merit. Doesn't mean they have to accept them, as not all may be viable, but they at least need to be considered. Two things for which I see no discussion (although Don Bee does touch on energy efficiency) are: 1. Why not combine all of Washtenaw Schools into one administration, say under WISD? Look at other states where school districts are county-wide and may be 150-200 schools large. They take advantage of scale by avoiding duplication of jobs and effort, and that money can be used to benefit the children (novel idea, isn't it?). 2. Energy efficiency -- Read DonBee's spiel for the payback on energy efficiency. Then go to and see what energy efficiency is all about. Read about their K-12 school program for energy efficiency, then pay particular attention to a paper on a new revenue source that schools can use from their investments in efficiency by creating environmental certificates that can be sold for cash. This even includes investments already in place; in other words, if AAPS has done things such as insulation or lighting, they can get certificates from that will generate cash. And finally, let's look at other revenue enhancements. What about going to industry and commerce and selling naming rights to a field or gymnasium, or a school for that matter, in exchange for a donation or an ongoing payment? Do what the colleges do -- go back to the alumni and ask for support. The city and state governments give incentives for business to locate there; can't the businesses be approached as a sign of their community involvement? This is something the school administration and board, the unions, parents, all could work on. When you are in the bad shape AAPS is, you leave no stone unturned.


Tue, May 15, 2012 : 12:44 p.m.

Well, at least we will have technology. Perhaps it's time to look at Dexter and Saline as alternatives. Cut busing, cut staff, close schools. But darn, we're going to have technology. And to all those that told me I had my head up my butt, I'm glad your millage passed and AAPS can entertain what kids are left with their new iPods versus ensuring equitable access to curriculum and instruction for all kids. Pass the technology bond and avoid cuts! Yeah, right. Good ideas DonBee, thanks for offering. I'll leave the solution to those that don't have to worry about how to make ends meet.


Tue, May 15, 2012 : 2:56 p.m.

Coming from Pioneer? I am hearing the children there hate those knook things. Give me a kindle said one child because a knook is all it is. A knook to go in the corner hanging on a shelf because it is useless.


Tue, May 15, 2012 : 12:37 p.m.

A correction: The NWEA MAP test actually cost the District $92,700, according to the link in this story. The $31,500 referenced was the cost of additional server space, after it was discovered that existing server space was inadequate to run the online test. And, of course, it goes without saying that this does not include the cost of all the many, many hours of staff time to implement and proctor the test.

J. A. Pieper

Wed, May 16, 2012 : 12:27 a.m.

sh1 The tests are staffed by classroom teachers, but other people have to be available in case there are problems, so they do not always get to see their own students, or do the job they were hired to do. Is there any cost in this? If your child loses out on a learning experience, then there is a cost involved, it just might not be financial.


Tue, May 15, 2012 : 4:49 p.m.

Thank you for the correction! To sh1, who says that there is no added expense for the staffing and proctoring of the NWEA MAP test, well, I suppose that's one way to look at it. Another way to look at it is that every hour teachers spend administering a math test is an hour they can't work with a child who is struggling with addition. Every hour a science teacher spends proctoring a reading test is an hour lost to teaching science. Every hour a principal spends watching kids taking a test is an hour she can't observe teachers, or meet with a parent, or help a child who is being bullied. So, yes, we don't have to pay salaried staff anything extra to give this test. But please don't claim that it doesn't come at a cost.


Tue, May 15, 2012 : 3:49 p.m.

The tests are staffed and proctored by classroom teachers during the day, so there is no added expense there.

Danielle Arndt

Tue, May 15, 2012 : 2:30 p.m.

Thank you, acorn, for pointing out the error. The story has been corrected.


Tue, May 15, 2012 : 12:13 p.m.

Don Bee, please quit carrying on about the AAPreschool in particular. You really show you don't know what you are talking about with that one.


Tue, May 15, 2012 : 12:53 p.m.

cette - As they say in the movies "Show me the money". The promise was that Pre-school would break even, that was the promise from the administration and the board when it was proposed as part of the bond for Skyline and the other construction. I can find some Title money from the Feds, some special ed reimbursement, and about a $1 million dollar line item in the general fund expenditures. I do not see the promised tuition from the program or other reimbursement that covers that general fund expense. If you know where it is, please, Cette - show me the link. I would love it if the Administration actually was breaking even.

Eileen Peck

Tue, May 15, 2012 : 12:23 p.m.

Cette, If your statement is true, it should be easy to demonstrate that the AAPS preschool program has broken even, as district administrators said it would. Unfortunately, the budget numbers suggest otherwise. If you are saying that the preschool program is operating as designed at the break-even point, please provide your proof of that. DonBee is right; no school district (including the AAPS) belongs in the daycare business.

Steve Hendel

Tue, May 15, 2012 : 11:43 a.m.

This is not "community involvement;" this is a small self-selected group which can hardly be said to represent anyone except themselves. The decisions on expenditure cuts or "revenue enhancements" (don't you love that phrase?) should be vigorously discussed and debated and (ultimately) decided upon by the people who DO represent the community (that is, the elected Board of Education).


Tue, May 15, 2012 : 11:27 a.m.

Budget cuts? Let's start with trimming the following lines in the State FID database: 1) General Administration 2) School Administration 3) Business Office 4) Other Support The 4 lines total approximately $25 million dollars - that is an increase of almost $5 million since 2004. If the board of education really wanted to be fair they would take these lines back to the 2004 numbers. So here is your first $5 million. Then let us look at the $3.2 million dollar transfer from the general fund to Athletics. Then let's look at the rents paid for space in district buildings and the sale of surplus property. For instance the Dixboro School. There are other parcels on the books that need either adjusted rents or sale. ($400,000 to $3 million) Next is the Pre-School (another $1 million in losses) it was promised to break even and never has (another broken promise by the school administration and Board). Turn the space over (with proper rent payments) to one of the dozens of qualified pre-school providers in the district and get out of a business AAPS does not belong in. Like it or not, moving Clemente is a good answer for the long term, having walked the old Stone School, there is room away from Ann Arbor Tech in the building for the program. Yes, there is more access to buses, but their will be at Clemente too if AATA gets their way with new bus routes. So, the bus issue is moot. The key here is to pass a Board Resolution keeping the staff and program intact. Next is to focus sinking fund money not on new athletic facilities, but energy efficiency, most buildings could see over a time period a reduction in energy consumption. US Department of Energy studies show that for every $1 spent on Energy Efficiency the annual costs of operating a building drops by between $0.10 and $0.15, in some cases with older buildings the number is $0.20. This goes to fixing the structural deficit for the district.


Wed, May 16, 2012 : 2:20 a.m.

Mr Gatti - Given the changes to the state laws, the children will get the early intervention and without spending money from the AAPS general fund. The promise was this was a break even service, it never has been. There are a number of VERY GOOD local pre-schools that do early intervention. The facilities and the programs should be turned over to one or more of them. OBTW - check the schedule for the AAPS pre-school and tell me you would be happy as a working parent with it.


Tue, May 15, 2012 : 6:48 p.m.

@DonBee - A good synopsis. @mike gatti - You are going to need to back up your opinions with numbers. Otherwise you are the sound of one hand clapping.

mike gatti

Tue, May 15, 2012 : 5:51 p.m.

The Pre-school saves countless dollars that would be expended in the future if these kids don't get services early. This rationale of "bean counting" the value of education in the most narrow dollars and cents terms is both wrong and short sighted and that mentality has bled into the mainstream thought. Early intervention saves money. Early intervention helps children. Early intervention is the right thing to do. 'nuff said.


Tue, May 15, 2012 : 2:43 p.m.

You NEED to be at these meetings. I know, will a board of a few listen to the sense of many....


Tue, May 15, 2012 : 2:28 p.m.

DonBee, Who are you?? Please run for AAPS Board of Education.


Tue, May 15, 2012 : 12:50 p.m.

A2Reality - When I am in town I go. I was at a number of Skyline meetings, a number of prior budget forums and other activities. Because of job travel requirements, I am out of town most weeks.


Tue, May 15, 2012 : 12:24 p.m.

DonBee - It's good to see your posts get back to the data reporting and analysis. I don't always agree with your proposals, but I think that they often have merit. Have you ever attended a budget meeting for the AAPS? I think that your suggestions and rationale should be presented to the board for consideration.


Tue, May 15, 2012 : 11:20 a.m.

Where is the discussion of potential revenue enhancements? Cutting is easy compared to looking for new sources of revenue. Is there no one with any imagination, creativity and innovation in a city like Ann Arbor?


Wed, May 16, 2012 : 1:08 a.m.

Dear J. A. P. -- I guess what goes around, comes around. I am sorry to hear that experience was so bad. But if that is what AAPS planted, that that is what they will harvest. Sad, because it could have been an opportunity. Sounds like the issue is much deeper than one could imagine.

J. A. Pieper

Wed, May 16, 2012 : 12:38 a.m.

JayJay, if I received $100 to participate in the traffic study, I certainly wouldn't donate it to AAPS. AND, even though my two children are AAPS alumni, please don't go asking them for donations as a "Revenue Enhancement" - the way they were treated in AAPS would not encourage them to make donations to the district. They vote on all millages, and vote from their heart, the pain of being "stabbed" is a memory they will not ever forget.


Tue, May 15, 2012 : 2:36 p.m.



Tue, May 15, 2012 : 2:32 p.m.

DonBee -- take a look at the website ireferred to. Environmental certificates could be worth hundreds of thousands of dollars -- isn't that worth looking at?


Tue, May 15, 2012 : 12:54 p.m.

JayJay - Like the idea to sign up for the traffic study the UofM is doing and donate the $100 to the PTSO? This was yesterday's email from AAPS.

Lac Court Orilles

Tue, May 15, 2012 : 11:14 a.m.

Republican politicians in Lansing just love reading about the cuts that have to be made. They can clearly see how successful their legislation has been. Now more money will be available for their "for-profit" charter and cyber-charter schools. Readers, please contact Representatives Quimet and Olson along with Senator Richardville and congratulate them about their successes. Of course they'll remind you that cutting children's educations was absolutely necessary to create jobs and enhance the bank accounts of their wealthy campaign contributors.


Tue, May 15, 2012 : 6:43 p.m.

@Basic Bob - Perhaps a Freud-ian slip. Google the first for letters... ;^)

Basic Bob

Tue, May 15, 2012 : 4:30 p.m.



Tue, May 15, 2012 : 11:37 a.m.

Lac Court Orilles - If we don't do something about the state budget, we end up like California or Quebec. Both made the news this morning. Not just Michigan, but most of the world is realizing that what we were spending at as a government fraction of the economy, is unsustainable. California's Democratic governor proposed a 4 cent increase in the sales tax, taking the sales tax in San Francisco to more than 11 cents on the dollar. And...he proposed deep cuts in almost every program the state has, including not funding 3 weeks of K-12 school. Michigan has seen more than $1.2 billion in new unfunded health care requirements come from Washington in the last 2 years, more are coming. Right now the state does not have the stimulus funds that let Governor Granholm be "nice" to everyone, that money, which was supposed to be used to get us through 2012, was all spent by the end of 2011. Governor Granholm left us with a more than $40 billion dollar hole in the pension funds for public employees - she did not make a payment during her tenure. I would like to see the personal property tax go away, because it is a complex tax that discourages investment in the state, but I would like to see the state corporate income tax raised (now that it is a simple tax to do) to cover the lost revenue.