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Posted on Sun, Jun 9, 2013 : 5:59 a.m.

New district represents best hope for the school system Ypsilanti deserves

By AnnArbor.com Staff

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Willow Run Superintendent Laura Lisiscki speaks at the final commencement for Willow Run High School. She has been hired to be the associate Superintendent for the new Ypsilanti Community Schools district.

Daniel Brenner | AnnArbor.com

Last week marked the end of two Washtenaw County school districts with proud traditions. Willow Run, a district indelibly linked with the World War II can-do spirit of Rosie the Riveter and the planes produced at the Willow Run bomber plant, and Ypsilanti Public Schools, with a history stretching back more than 160 years, both marked their last school day Friday.

But while the symbolic end of the two districts may be sad to contemplate, the birth of the Ypsilanti Community Schools, a consolidated district that will officially launch on July 1, is something to celebrate.

We applaud the residents of both districts for making the tough decision in November to consolidate, and we applaud the leadership of the new district for making tough decisions that we hope will ultimately lead to the strong and vibrant public school system the community deserves.

That’s something that hasn’t existed in Ypsilanti or Willow Run for a long time. Both districts have a long history of declining enrollment and lack of achievement. Both faced insurmountable deficits that put them at risk of takeover by the state. The new district will assume the districts’ combined $13 million debt but hopes to be able to pay it off over 20 years.

As many other school districts in Michigan face a difficult school-funding climate that has already resulted in Albion schools closing its high school and Buena Vista schools shutting down for two weeks, a successful launch of the Ypsilanti Community Schools could serve as a model for other consolidations across the state.

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Graduates turn their tassel during the 2013 Ypsilanti High School commencement ceremony.

We’re encouraged by the plans the leaders of the new Ypsilanti Community Schools have put forth, including a goal to provide cradle-to-career education for students and building a safe and stimulating learning environment to foster achievement.

We’re also impressed with the passion of Washtenaw Intermediate School District Superintendent Scott Menzel, who is leading the district at least through its first year. He summed up the stakes in Ypsilanti this way:

“No kid should be denied a high-quality education because they live on the east side of U.S. 23. It’s important for Washtenaw County and it’s important for the state.”

Comments

Mark H

Mon, Jun 10, 2013 : 9:56 p.m.

This story's statement that both school districts have had a "lack of achievement" is unfair and inaccurate. Lots of students in each district "achieved" a great deal. It might be accurate to say that each district has problems of "underachievement" but the wording used is an inaccurate generalization.

Anonymous

Sun, Jun 9, 2013 : 11:19 p.m.

All I know is that a dear friend of mine lost a position due to this merger. I think that, like usual, teachers are not given the credit or merit they deserve and are forced out of something they are really amazing at. I think this merger was selfish and that a lot of people were harmed as a result. I say BOO. Like someone else said - if that whole 23 thing was the issue then why didn't they integrate or merge the schools on the other side of 23 like Milan, Saline or Ann Arbor. Just saying.

Speedy Squirrel

Sun, Jun 9, 2013 : 11:54 p.m.

Yes! Where is the funding that was alluded to by Representative Rutledge for after school programs and one on one tutoring? It's going to be pretty hard to tutor with no teachers. What about the special programs funding for special needs kids? What about which High School is going to close? This story is a ridiculous, ignorant, and uninformative.

Dan r OBryan

Sun, Jun 9, 2013 : 6:55 p.m.

Laura Lisiscki SOLD willow run out. the community was lied too. willow run was pulling it self out of a 2 million dollars deficit.Ypsilanti public was so far in debt .YPSI Schools was facing a emergency manager .. so the districts mis led the community's in both districts .Ypsilanti SCHOOLS TOOK OVER . public schools have to many special needs childrend .these kids are in regular class rooms .disrupting the educations for other children . Charter schools wont except children with past behavior issues. public schools dont have class room space for the needs of these children. So im sure Charter schools are going to win .

beardown

Mon, Jun 10, 2013 : 3:45 a.m.

It's not a takeover when the people voted for it. As much as I am in disagreement with almost every single decision that has been made, we voted to them do this.

ypsilanti

Sun, Jun 9, 2013 : 3:33 p.m.

Ugh. AnnArbor.com seemed to have come so far with its recent significant involvement in Ypsi, particularly with regard to the schools. You seemed to be making such a concerted effort. Then, with a few short strokes of a keyboard, you wipe away the credibility you built with a pie-in-the sky editorial that ignores most of the relevant facts, suggesting you really are just watching this from afar. You sound like politicians, not journalists.

Big Picture

Sun, Jun 9, 2013 : 3:18 p.m.

Scott Menzel is a salesman, a politician who has not yet been held accountable for this ideal system. Scott would do well to study organizational theory in education. Decades of thought have gone into the critical balances between business and education. Were he to take the time to understand past political attempts to annex the intersection between effective funding and effective practices, he would understand that he has simply exchanged one power source for another. The decisions he has made so far have replicated the political bargaining that kept the best decisions from being made in the past. He has hired less competent people, disengaged the community, and failed to give credit for the strengths that have produced tremendously successful and resilient alumni. Unfortunately, he has been given a stamp of approval from everyone except for those that intimately know the costs, relationships, and challenges of teaching in a community that contains such an extreme dichotomy of opportunity and limitation, stress and support, power and oppression. Sadly, as a politician, he has had the opportunity to feed the external biases against this community and, with a single, non-Ypsilanti observation, he has affirmed the prejudices of the Washtenaw community at large. This was voted in as the best option, but not because Scott is able to offer a better vision than those tried and failed over the past 20 years, because the state has put us in a position to accept this or an Emergency Manager and the mass privatization that will follow. We choose democracy. Sadly, though, we are rethinking which would have been better. In practice, we have experienced a horrifying lack of integrity and credibility that has produced anything but the version of greatness Scott promoted. If these early breaches of trust are any indication of what is to follow, YCS is anything but the best course for our children.

gold&purple

Mon, Jun 10, 2013 : 8:35 p.m.

I chose democracy, but it doesn't feel like that's what we got. Public participation is not welcome. I wonder what will be left of this community by the time the people regain control.

Big Picture

Sun, Jun 9, 2013 : 6:22 p.m.

The original vote is better described as coming to terms with the lesser of two evils rather than an organizational utopia. We only hope that the district will survive to point where we have an opportunity to self-govern. Our chances of getting to that point, without an intervening manager, has everything to do with the decisions of a part-time leader that is staging himself as the one who will bring to the two communities the education that they deserve.

Basic Bob

Sun, Jun 9, 2013 : 5:29 p.m.

Why would you believe that a consolidation between two existing public school districts with educational and financial problems would suddenly become anything different? Scott Menzel is a reluctant part-time temporary superintendent chosen by an interim board of education who was unable to choose permanent leadership for the district. The 2013-2014 school year will be fraught with consolidation issues, most important of which is lack of real leadership from a directly elected school board and permanent superintendent. But this condition will soon be history. The ultimate responsibility for the success of the school district does not lie with Scott Menzel. It lies with the voters who will soon directly choose school board members, the school board members who hire effective permanent leadership, administration, teachers, parents, and even students. The sooner the people who "choose" democracy also acknowledge their responsibility, the better off the school district will be. And if they fail due to their inability to set aside petty grievances, the state will have no choice but to impose Emergency Management and grant your wish for something different.

pseudo

Sun, Jun 9, 2013 : 1:28 p.m.

gag. If "No kid should be denied a high-quality education because they live on the east side of US 23"...then you'd have merged these schools with those.

Speedy Squirrel

Sun, Jun 9, 2013 : 11:45 p.m.

There is an excellent correlation between household income and public school achievement. Everybody knows it. Dumping these two underperforming schools into one district was a callous move to keep them away from the affluent districts. Why not combine them with Lincoln? Annarbor.com knows the answer to that, but chooses to write this vacuous story instead.

rf9

Sun, Jun 9, 2013 : 12:30 p.m.

unfair trade caused this and the fallout isnt over yet

Heather

Sun, Jun 9, 2013 : 12:03 p.m.

I think we all wish the new Ypsilanti Consolidated District great success -- even the people who criticize some of the decisions that have already been made.