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Posted on Sat, Feb 23, 2013 : 4:30 p.m.

Ypsilanti parents must take action to see positive results in schools

By Guest Column

My daughter is a third grader at Erickson Elementary school in Ypsilanti. She is a third-generation Wildcat - my mother and I both attended Erickson. My mother and her three brothers graduated from Ypsilanti High School between 1969 and 1975. I graduated in 1992. My mother worked for the district for almost 15 years. I worked for the district for two years.

My family has a long history in this city. When my husband and I moved back to Michigan, we opted to use the school of choice option to enroll our daughter in Ypsilanti Public Schools. I had hoped that my daughter would be a member of the class of 2022 that graduated from Ypsilanti High School. If things in this school district continue on as they are, I can tell you with almost all certainty, she won’t.


After voting for the Ypsilanti-Willow Run consolidation, some families are left unhappy with the way things are going in the Ypsilanti district.

As a future teacher, I believe in public education. I believe in teamwork between educators, families, and the community. I have gone to the mat in defense of YPSD - even when it was failing before my eyes. I have faith in the teachers that they are teaching the best that they can despite being crippled by the lack of funding from their district and the lack of respect from the families they try to serve. I tried to show my support of building administrators who were caught between making sure their teachers were equipped to do their jobs and making sure the demands were being met.

At certain points, I defended the administration because I can not even imagine how difficult a job they have had in the past. I supported the consolidation because I thought it was innovative, brave, and it appeared that both districts were trying to pool their strengths and find a way to make a strong and healthy educational system that would serve the children and families in Ypsilanti and provide them with a quality education while the administration would ensure that the district was running a lean and effective budget.

It appears that I, like the thousands of people that voted for the consolidation, was sold a bill of goods. We were duped. We were conned. I am exceptionally disappointed in the new school board’s choice to “explore” a multi-superintendent model. I am disgusted that Sharon Irvine’s application isn’t being given the due respect and consideration she deserves. And I am appalled that this school board seems to largely believe that the community should not have a say in how the district that we were practically BEGGED to vote for, will be overseen.

However, the lack of familial involvement from the community at large has been deplorable. It has been, for the most part, the same few vocal people over and over again. I recall a time when I attended a meeting of the Parent Advisory Board at Perry CDC — a school with almost 600 children in attendance at the time. There were, at the most, 12 parents there. 12.

So if you are wondering why there has not been more transparency in how things have been running, it’s because there are very few people who are asking for it. We, as a community, have been falling down on our duty to hold the people in these offices accountable for what they are supposed to be doing. We - and I definitely include my husband and myself in this - have been sitting on the sidelines, playing armchair quarterback, recalling the bygone days and talking to ourselves about how things SHOULD be.

The time for sitting back in the BARCO lounger is done. The time for being passive recipients of our public educational system is finished. WE are the taxpayers in this community. WE are the parents in this community. And WE need to be the ones who take this board, this administration in hand and tell them that we are finished accepting the status quo that has driven our teachers, our kids, and our schools so deep into the ground that no one can breathe without getting a nose full of dirt.

It is time for action, not words. We can make a difference. We SHOULD make a difference. Robert F. Kennedy once said, “The purpose of life is to contribute in some way to making things better.” Folks, we need to stop waiting for someone else to make things better and do it ourselves.

Aimee McVay Conat is a parent of a Erickson Elementary School student and an Ypsilanti resident.



Mon, Feb 25, 2013 : 10:50 p.m.

Why did Lisiscki and Martin give non-renewal notices to all of their employees: principals, teachers, para educators, custodians, secretaries...and telling them that they were going to be non-renewed as well only to turn around and find out that they had a deal. Their contracts were RENEWED! They set themselves up for a future paycheck while throwing all of their employees under the bus. Shame on them and shame on the board of education that is going to honor such a crooked deal. This new district will have no one left except those who can't afford to leave. Sad!


Mon, Feb 25, 2013 : 5:49 a.m.

I just crunched the numbers on our declining enrollments during Dedrick Martin's tenure. We've lost around 500 students since 2009. At 7,500 per student, that's nearly $4,000,000. Any wonder we are in the fix we are in? And more dirt on the Martin Administration has appeared at the 11th hour: Frankly, it is astonishing that the board is entertaining keeping him, even if we are contractually obligated to CONTINUE PAYING HIS SALARY. No wonder he was so supportive of the merger, he knew he was going to get paid either way.


Mon, Feb 25, 2013 : 5:39 p.m.

He's even on the ad hoc advisory committee to discuss leadership in the new district. He is helping to mold the job that he wants from the inside. As Frank Sinatra sang, "it's nice work if you can get it."


Mon, Feb 25, 2013 : 1 a.m.

I seen this one coming a mile away. It was confirm when they name the new School District, Ypsilanti Community??? How the heck is this a new begining? and now they are going to hire the same people who continued to take us blindly down the road with no accountibilty on their part! Fire all of them!!! This School board needs to be thrown out!!!!


Mon, Feb 25, 2013 : 5:38 p.m.

The residents picked the name based upon voting. I live in the township, but I fail to see how calling it Ypsilanti Community is a problem. Almost everyone in the school district has an address that has the name Ypsilanti on it (city or township), so it kinda makes sense to me.


Sun, Feb 24, 2013 : 11:41 p.m.

The next board meeting is Monday February 25 , 7:30 pm at Willow Run High School. Show up and be heard.

Dan r OBryan

Sun, Feb 24, 2013 : 2:32 p.m.

this was a bad choice from the being . 1ST the two districts should have balance a budget ,that was the easiest choice . less confusion .now alot of uncertainly of this new district the new district better apply tough rules for education , your child needs to come to school prepared to learn .your child needs to show respect to staff and students . your child is here to learn .to many students have this IP case .if your child has a learning disability .or special needs ..,they need teachers and class room to help those children . My child attends Willow Run schools now .So many children are classified IP Cases . Some of these children have outburst and act aggressively with profanity during class. This causes disruption during the learning process. These children cant be suspended be cause of their special needs .I cant sacrifice my child's education with the policy's and direction these two districts are heading . Charter schools are more selective on the children they except. So this new district better implement strong valves in learning . Right now my choice is likely going to be A Charter school .i never voted for this merger


Sun, Feb 24, 2013 : 2:03 p.m.

Very nice Aimee Jo. I graduated in 1976 and every time Chelsea plays Ypsi in sporting events I am amazed at how few parents and fans they have. Not to mention that the facilities are sub par compared to the past. Go Wildcats and BRAVES!!!


Sun, Feb 24, 2013 : 1:57 p.m.

Just look at the times when your siblings you went to school, times have changed and not for the better, when you enable individuals to a point that they depend on a system that continues to provide in almost every necessity without them making an effort, whats the point. Free housing, free medical, free food, free services and now free childcare at schools. Its just a start and is spiraling out of control. Eventually they'' be more takers than givers, yes FAMILIES need to contribute time, values and respect to themselves and others if we want them to have a better life.


Sun, Feb 24, 2013 : 5:17 a.m.

It's really gonna be ugly when, not if, they pick either both of the current superintendents or one of them. It almost seems like the current board believes that they have some kind of mandate from somewhere, as opposed to listening to the people who ay the taxes that run the schools and fill them with their children. I still think member Garrett's comment from one of the last meetings sums up the mindset the best. ""People try to find a way in . . . You've got to be very careful because they will try to get their way in and try to swing you. I honestly feel sorry for you because every time you talk about someone--no I'm dead serious--because I've seen this happen. They find a person to get in through with their hidden agenda and they'll use that pawn."


Sun, Feb 24, 2013 : 1:58 a.m.

Very well written Amiee... I am so proud of your comments. I sure wish more parents would get involved. Might make our district back into the strong district it used to be. Will not happen with deception and lies. It is the time for everyone to pull together, work hard, and be honest. Thanks for your article.


Sun, Feb 24, 2013 : 1:55 a.m.

If this board carries through with Martin and Lisiscki, I hope this district sees a mass exodus with students and teachers alike. In fact, if those two truly had the success of this district at heart, they would graciously bow out and allow for real change. We also seem to be leaving out a huge proponent in this districts decline, and she also needs exit her post...Jennifer Martin. She can blame the teachers for the academic decline, but Aimee knows what Jennifer does not, or simply doesn't care. There is very little family involvement, a huge indicator to achievement. Jennifer has no curriculum knowledge other than what she googles. She wastes money on "flavor-of-the-day" practices and thinks because she throws around phrases like, "data-driven" and "best practice" that she sounds more competent than she is. She has not put a single academic or curricular program in place since the day she arrived. She hides behind the fantasy she has built around Newtech. Check out their to their staff, and their students. You'll get a whole different picture.(but ask "off the record"... administrators in district are vindictive) She is responsible for the lack of achievement in this district. Successful academic practices for this district was her entire job, and she dropped the ball. If you have not read our MEAP scores for this year, please do so. Neither she, nor the others at last weeks Board meeting had anything of substance to present. The only thing they did was waste time and prove they know how to read. Middle schoolers have thrown together better presentations. This new district needs to start fresh. Starting with the top. Sharon Irvine is approachable and innovative when it comes to programs that could begin to see a larger family involvement, and she has curricular knowledge applicable to each individual educational setting, not just a vague vision for all.


Sun, Feb 24, 2013 : 1:36 a.m.

I was PTO prez. at 1 of willow run elem. For 7 years we fought tooth and nail to get more then 5-7 people to any meeting. Parents that do care either show up or come to their childs class, help the teacher when possible. Majority, just didn't care, except what the Gov. and school system could do for them. truly believe this is why many parents opt for charter schools, more parent involvement.

Michelle Valasin

Mon, Feb 25, 2013 : 7:09 a.m.

5 children. Aged 22-6. All have gone to Willow Run. I did support the merger of the two districts but I also knew that it would be very hard for the first 2 to 3 years. My kids like most need structure. When they are faced with changes through out the year they tend to act out. Not because they are bad but they feel the need to test the changes. I chose to send my 6 and 7 year old's to the new Charter school. I love the fact that they require parents to be involved. I love to do things with the school but they also understand that life is crazy busy. It is not that I have to show up to volunteer everyday or every week or even every month. If every household pitches in 2-3 times a year it really does make a difference. It promotes that old "Neighborhood" feeling. The feeling that our parents and our grand parents had with the schools.

tom swift jr.

Sun, Feb 24, 2013 : 1:34 a.m.

Well said. The question becomes, of course, what is the next step? This new Board is about to make some very important decisions, those Meetings should be packed and loud.

Jon Wax

Sun, Feb 24, 2013 : 12:19 a.m.

"However, the lack of familial involvement from the community at large has been deplorable. " started in the 70s. been going downhill ever since. starting to think it is at the core of most of the problems facing the country. now if you could only get a few million or so people to realize the truth of what you've said... Peace Wax


Sat, Feb 23, 2013 : 11:59 p.m.

Agreed 100%! We can not expect change without being a part of the change. Wonderful column Aimee!


Sat, Feb 23, 2013 : 11:50 p.m.

There are far too many parents who have no idea what goes on at their child's school. Parents send their kids to school sick so they don't have to deal with them. Parents think the teacher is "picking" on their darling child when they can't behave in class and get detention. Parents think that it is the schools responsibility to cater to their child's food preferences--I'm not talking about the free lunch program- (pack a lunch for them if you don't like the choices). Discipline your children-they are not the perfect angels you think they are. Show some interest in their progress--If you are supposed to sign their homework, do it. Don't complain that they get too much homework. Have them spend a couple hours less on videpo games to get it done. Teach them to show respect for their teachers-don't defend your child for being bad.


Sun, Feb 24, 2013 : 4:07 p.m.

I can attest to that one after subbing in WR for a few years. A lot of the elementary teachers telling me not to send homework home because it will not get done. A babysitting district merging with an I don't care district. Can we say EFM?

Jim Pryce

Sat, Feb 23, 2013 : 10:46 p.m.

Well said Amy. I thought my daughter would be a 2014 Ypsi High grad. Not sure what we're doing yet for next year. She has had many teachers already leave their jobs this year.


Sun, Feb 24, 2013 : 4:06 p.m.

That is because of the buy outs. A lot of people I know have bought out their retirement and left. You will see a lot of people buy out their tenure retirement and leave this summer. This is something a lot of teachers I see not wanting to be a part of it. Especially when they merge WR with Ypsi hi school. Going to be a rough year. With WR high school closing and no one knowing what to do with this building, I can't wait to see how things settle.


Sat, Feb 23, 2013 : 10:14 p.m.

Very well said Aimee. I too have been sitting back thinking the board had our best interest at heart. I put most my efforts into the school my child attends (Estabrook) making sure the teachers are appreciated and trying to make their jobs a little easier. I hope the board listens and hires Sharon. She is the best hope of moving this district forward.


Sat, Feb 23, 2013 : 10:11 p.m.

Here, here!