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Posted on Thu, May 2, 2013 : 6 p.m.

Ann Arbor: Tough luck to troubled teens?

By Guest Column

Do you wish to relive your adolescence? Imagine being poor, having a learning disability, suffering from depression/anxiety or having no supports. Adolescence at best is a difficult transition in one’s life. At worst, it can be a nightmare.

Forty years ago, Ann Arbor Public Schools already understood what it was like to grow up under difficult circumstances. In 1973 the Ann Arbor Board of Education agreed that a specialized educational program was necessary to support teens that were unable to be successful in the traditional high school format.

Over a 21- year period, Roberto Clemente Student Development Center evolved from a program that existed as a “school within a school” (at Forsythe Middle School), to a building located outside of Belleville, to an elementary school in rural Pittsfield Township, to the building that Roberto Clemente resides in today.

Ann Arbor Public Schools invested its resources to bring this much needed program from its beginnings when teachers provided students transportation to a far-flung location, all the way to today with a school they can call their own.

Do we citizens of Ann Arbor think that today’s teens have fewer problems than in 1973? We need to ask ourselves why suddenly it seems to be a good idea to shut down the Roberto Clemente School building and return to 1973. If the program had worked well then, would the Board of Education have found a need to build the new Roberto Clemente School in 1995?

Ann Arbor Public Schools’ budget crisis has seen Roberto Clemente as “low-hanging fruit”. The students and families involved in this program are less likely to adequately speak out in support of their life changing and, yes, life-saving, program. Despite the concern these families feel for their struggling children, most are ill equipped to lobby against much larger, more popular programming within the district. A great many of these students are either minorities, economically disadvantaged, learning disabled, mentally disabled or led by homes with only one parent.

Do you know how much this “low-hanging fruit” is worth? The highest estimate is about $340,000, the value of a mortgage for many Ann Arbor residents. The overall budget deficit numbers for the AAPS is estimated to be about $9 million dollars. Imagine hobbling 40 years of life-transformational efforts to save $340,000. Imagine the actual “real life” costs our community would pay if we chose to marginalize the essence of this school.

The proceedings of the last school board meeting might have you convinced that the relocation of Roberto Clemente has been taken off the table. A closer look reveals the decision is being delayed until the administration completes a redistricting study. Roberto Clemente School is a valuable asset to our community. Relocating this school and sending it back to 1973 will undermine its essence. Please consider signing our petition addressed to the AAPS Board of Education: “Roberto Clemente: A Powerful Program that Serves Our Students-at-Risk”.

Nancy Kupina
Ann Arbor



Fri, May 3, 2013 : 3:07 a.m.

I think we can all agree that Community High is a gem in this town. I say we add more room to that facility. Why not allow the Clemente kids to come to community so they can have great opportunities and benefit from great teachers. I think this would be great for our community and I'm sure the wonderful people at Community High would welcome these students with open arms.


Sat, May 4, 2013 : 12:38 a.m.

The CHS location only works for those who are self disciplined to attend class an avoid distractions. Easy escape routes. Glad my kid has never missed a class, but then I am a parent who keeps with Powerschool.


Fri, May 3, 2013 : 1:18 p.m.

Location, location, location. It has been said that part of the reason for RC being in it's location is so there is less temptation to skip school, etc.., which is why I believe Pioneer is not a good choice either. I think some other compromising ideas have come up but it appears the AAPS/BOE are just going through the motions of acting like they are considering them.


Fri, May 3, 2013 : 2:34 a.m.

Close one of the small elementary schools, like Lakewood, and fill up the other elementary schools that have tons of openings. Move RC to Lakewood. Accomplishes two goals. Have they looked at moving RC anywhere else besides Pioneer?


Sat, May 4, 2013 : 12:19 p.m.

The attitude of superiority and privilege by the "leave Community alone" supporters is astounding, and does them no favors.


Sat, May 4, 2013 : 12:36 a.m.

Well, if all the parents would quit trying to undermine other successful programs, and if the BOE could get a clue, maybe something would work out.


Fri, May 3, 2013 : 3:57 a.m.

Interesting idea. Or, move the RC kids into Bryant. Combine the kids from Bryant, Pattengill and Allen into just 2 K-5 schools at Pattengill and Allen and do away with the "Super Pair" thing that is Bryant Pattengill.


Fri, May 3, 2013 : 2:47 a.m.

I wonder if any one has looked into something like that, that seems like a possible compromise?

Raising a Family and Working in A2

Fri, May 3, 2013 : 2:04 a.m. Looks like managed to leave out a link to the petition mentioned at the end of the article.


Fri, May 3, 2013 : 1:06 a.m.

A2PS went from being the Cadillac to surviving as a Chevy in @2007. Until we get the budget under control, it's all about survival, folks. Think of this as CHANGE and all that other Obama stuff you voted for in 2008 and 2012.


Fri, May 3, 2013 : 12:19 a.m.

Clemente students are in a separate school because they weren't able to succeed in a traditional school setting. Why would we make them go back? Community students are at their school because they choose to be there. Doesn't it make more sense to move a program like Community into a larger school. Why couldn't it go into the third floor of Skyline? This would preserve the small school atmosphere at Clemente students like they need to continue to be successful. Plus the district could probably sell that downtown piece of property for a small fortune.


Sat, May 4, 2013 : 12:58 a.m.

It seems one of the problems with this whole thing is you have one type of AAPS parent that is trying to come up with ideas and compromises to benefit the MOST students, and especially those that enter AAPS with a deficit, and another type of AAPS parent that is only looking out for THEIR child and not the student body in general. I think that is pretty clear in these comments.


Sat, May 4, 2013 : 12:34 a.m.

CHS students have applied for their spot as ANY other student could, and have EARNED their status as a reward school. My kid used to be in the special Ed program, and as a parent, I advocated for him at an early age, and put in the time and EFFORT as a parent. He is now a stellar student, and has EARNED his stellar academic status. He goes to CHS, obviously. I'm just really tired of those who don't have ANY experience with CHS trying to stuff it into Skyline. Any or all of the kids at CHS could have attended Skyline if they wanted to, but they didn't. RC parents seem to want a school that is not like Pioneer, in the middle of town with distractions. Skyline is in the middle of nowhere, and could easily accommodate the 80 or so handful of RC students. Community is a small school atmosphere, which anyone who KNOWS anything about CHS would be aware of.


Fri, May 3, 2013 : 2:50 a.m.

Thoughtful: in what way have CHS students EARNED their spot? From descriptions of the lottery process, it seems that only about a quarter of those who apply win the highly coveted golden lottery ticket of acceptance.


Fri, May 3, 2013 : 2:45 a.m.

How is it EARNED? I thought it was just luck of the draw (lottery)?


Fri, May 3, 2013 : 2:30 a.m.

Elise- no, it doesn't make sense to move Community high OUT of the community. The point is to be part of the community. Community High has five times and then some the number of students that Roberto Clemente has. If you want support for RC, don't go throwing one of the few GREAT things that the district has - a reward school like CHS that brings money INTO the district, under the bus. The district is spending a ton of money on RC students-WAY more than the kids at CHS, or any other school. CHS had about 450 applicants this year for 120 spots. How many is RC bringing in? If CHS students wanted to go to Skyline, they would have gone there in the first place. There are far more places you could put the FEW RC students, than the about 500 CHS students. Don't get why you seem to think the few RC students are the only ones entitled to something the CHS students have EARNED- a small school environment with an incredible teaching staff. If the district stopped spending so much on RC students, indeed it would have a "small fortune."


Fri, May 3, 2013 : 12:33 a.m.

Part of what makes Community such a strong program is the location. Students there can walk to UofM and take college level classes in high school and use members of the local community as teachers in the CR program. People think the location is great so kids can eat at Kerrytown and hang out downtown, but that is not the important piece. That school is part of the community. Both programs, Community and Clemente, need to be preserved because they function for students who thrive in small settings. The push to throw kids into a big box school is troubling - students are not robots and they need different things. These programs should be looked at and modeled after, instead of being criticized and shut down.


Fri, May 3, 2013 : 12:21 a.m.

Preserve the small school atmosphere the Clemente students need to continue to be successful, that is....wish there was an edit button....

Jay Thomas

Thu, May 2, 2013 : 11:12 p.m.

I support Clemente. If it is moved it would be a mistake to mainstream the Clemente students in any way.

The Infinite Jester

Thu, May 2, 2013 : 11:26 p.m.

I agree. Most of Clemente's students did not succeed at one of the traditional schools, so putting them back there would eliminate the point of having the program in an isolated location.

John Floyd

Thu, May 2, 2013 : 10:39 p.m.

Would moving the program to another building threaten the program?

The Infinite Jester

Thu, May 2, 2013 : 10:48 p.m.

Into a traditional school like Pioneer, yes it would.