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Posted on Thu, Apr 26, 2012 : 12:50 p.m.

Painful choices: Ann Arbor school board wrestles with need to cut at least $7 million

By Danielle Arndt

Related story: Ann Arbor student: 'Without Roberto Clemente I would be dead'

The Ann Arbor school board began poking, prodding and prioritizing Wednesday as it considers how to cut at least $7.364 million from the budget for next year, en route to eliminating its $17.8 million shortfall.

Before the discussion began, a number of community members made impassioned pleas to preserve programs and services they value, in particular the Roberto Clemente Student Development Center, which the district has proposed merging with Ann Arbor Technological High School, another of the district's alternative high schools.


More than 170 people attended Wednesday's Board of Education meeting to advocate for the programs and services they care about most and that could be in jeopardy as Ann Arbor schools looks to close a $17.8 million shortfall for 2012-13.

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The lengthy discussion was still taking place at 2:30 a.m. as the Board of Education wrestled with the choices, all of them unattractive.

“We don’t want to pursue any of the reduction plans we are putting out there,” said Ann Arbor Public Schools Superintendent Patricia Green. “But we are being forced … due to severe funding reductions from the state level over a series of years.

“It has created a situation where everything on the table hurts deeply. All of the reductions before us are undesirable and causing great pain and great loss.”

Green added innovative learning is in danger of being further eroded by this system. She said in the past five years, the district has cut $55 million from its general fund budget.

The item weighing most on the board’s mind is the potential closing of Roberto Clemente school and what would become of its model.

“I am sick about this,” said Board Secretary Andy Thomas. “What bothers me most is that we are allowing a financial decision to drive a programmatic decision for kids.

“And we are now in the last week of April, with six weeks left in the school year and we are looking at implementing something new for fall.”

Thomas said this does not give families much time to prepare or adjust, nor does it give the district much time to make changes. He said he would like to see administration present a plan for how the merging of Clemente and Ann Arbor Tech would work and how the merger would be communicated to the public.

“There is a huge climate and philosophy gap between the way they do things at Clemente and the way they do things at A2Tech,” he said.

Trustee Simone Lightfoot was adamant about the integrity of Clemente’s program being maintained.

“I am less wedded to the fact that it’s the building,” she said. “But I think we saw here tonight that the thing that makes this program work is the individuals that are out there doing it and implementing it. But again, still, it troubles me that we are willing to take our most vulnerable kids in the district, pack them up and put them off somewhere together.”

She asked why closing Community High School was not on the table. Deputy Superintendent of Instruction Alesia Flye said in short, because of capacity.

Community enrolled 477 students in the fall and currently is 101.9 percent full, according to recent data released by the district. Flye said if AAPS closed Community, essentially there would be no place to put those students. Huron, Pioneer and Skyline are operating at 99.75, 100.31 and 94.49 percent capacity, respectively.

Lightfoot said the perception in the district is that Community is a “sacred cow that can't be touched,” Lightfoot said.

“It bothers me, not being fair,” she said, adding if the district is going to tout that everything is on the table and is going to look at alternative programs, then that review should include all alternative schools.

Thomas said he would be in favor of possibly eliminating high school transportation this year over closing Roberto Clemente. He said based on the dramatic cuts AAPS already has had to make with regard to busing and the budget projections for the next two years, the finances do not appear to be getting any better.

“We talk about ripping the Band-Aid off and I think it’s not a matter of if, but when,” he said.

Lightfoot supported giving this idea serious consideration as well.

“I’m in favor of it, if it cuts across the board.”


There was standing room only during the public comment portion of Wednesday's regular Board of Education meeting as people waited to talk about the possible budget cuts.

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But, she added, whatever the district does, it must make its transportation more sustainable and seamless this year. And if there are more cuts, it must work to create solutions for parents, she said.

“Our mission is education … but if we don’t get the kids there, that defeats the purpose.”

A group of parents from Ann Arbor Open attended Wednesday's meeting to voice their concerns about cutting busing to their school. Jill Zimmerman said the savings will not be as great as the district anticipates, considering students get on their neighborhood bus that takes them to their geographic school and from there they ride one bus to Ann Arbor Open.

Another argument made was that primary transportation to the other schools that serve K-8 students is not being cut. Most of the cuts are proposed at the secondary level.

Sascha Matish, a parent, said it is public perception that Ann Arbor Open is an elitist school for privileged students. While that is not true right now, the board essentially would cause it to become true if busing were eliminated, she said.

"Then it would be only those families that live on the west side and the people that can afford to drive their kids that could continue to attend," she said.

Thomas said Ann Arbor Open parents are very determined and he has no doubt that if the board did eliminate busing to the "choice" schools as is proposed, the AAO parents would organize carpools to get all of the children to school when needed.

"I think back to when, 30-some years ago, I would walk by there and I would see Ann Arbor Open parents out there with tents and barbecues, standing in line for days and weeks to be assured of registering their students," he said. "Maybe that sounds like a cop-out, but I am convinced that's what would happen. Those parents would find a way."

But Trustee Susan Baskett agreed with Matish's evaluation that economically disadvantaged and minority student participation in the school would decline.

Zimmerman added Ann Arbor Open's learning model is similar to those of local charter schools, so the school helps the district compete with the charters and keep families within Ann Arbor Public Schools. With transportation no longer an incentive, some families may choose to educate their children at a charter, Zimmerman said.

"We welcome a detailed breakdown of the (transportation) costs," she said. "We will willingly buckle down and suggest cuts with less damage to the instructional integrity of our school."

Thomas said in addition to pushing back merging Roberto Clemente and A2Tech for another year, he would be in favor of cutting the $5 million district-wide departmental budget, or discretionary budget, by 15 percent rather than 5 percent. That would reduce that fund by another $500,000 than the proposed $250,000 in central administration's least aggressive option for reaching $17.8 million.

He is still opposed to cutting any teachers.

"We would see a deterioration in the quality of education for everyone. That's my line in the sand."

While several band parents and students attended Wednesday's meeting to ask the district not to cut the $60,000 contribution from the schools for summer band camp, Thomas was very vocal about kids being able to earn the extra money to go.

Students reported about 850 kids participate in band camp at Interlochen each year. Thomas calculated that the $60,000 divided among the participants would equate to an additional $70 per kid.

"That's one bottle of pop a week," he said. "I realize for some people (an extra $70) would be a genuine hardship, but those people would probably be getting scholarships anyway. ... There are many ways for a healthy, able-bodied teenager to make money ... mow a lawn, babysit ... this should not be a major issue. I respect the passion that the people have expressed for band camp, but we can still (have band camp) with the proposed budget cut."

Deputy Superintendent for Operations Robert Allen said the students already contribute some money to attend band camp. He said he would find out what that amount is. In the past, the district's contribution has gone toward transportation and staffing costs for teachers to attend the five-day camp with the kids, he said.

The Ann Arbor Board of Education's next regular meeting will be at 7 p.m. May 9 at the Ann Arbor District Library. The board is required to have a public hearing on the budget prior to approving it. Allen also said AAPS generally has two community forums as well. These have not been scheduled.

The board is required to approve a budget for next year by June 30.

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



Mon, Apr 30, 2012 : 8:34 p.m.

Annonymous: You sound like a very disgruntled teacher. You say you know of corporate "paper pushers" who make $100,000. That has not been my experience in the corporate world. The only way you could ever know would be to try to get a corporate job. If you were able to get hired as a salaried corporate employee (very difficult these days) you would be surprised to find out that you would be expected to work at least 50-60 hours a week without overtime, to undergo grueling annual reviews that include peer reviews as well as managerial and most importantly your job would not be protected by a union that controls the hiring and firing process. Most corporate entities are "at will" employers. Also, you would be expected to pay at least 25% of your health care benefits. Please don't make assumptions. Teachers salaries and benefits are available for public perusal; you have no idea how ruthless the corporate world can be to it's employees. Think twice before leaving your protected and comfortable work environment and be greatful for your job.

Roger Kuhlman

Mon, Apr 30, 2012 : 8:21 p.m.

Are Ann Arbor Public School officials playing fast and loose with the truth again? Is it really true that over the past five years AAPS has cut total school spending by $55 million dollars as they imply when they make statements that they have made budget cuts of $55 million during this time period? What is the story here? Are we talking budget dollars that are just useful figments of imagination to mislead and manipulate the Public? Private citizens and private businesses do not get to play these shell games. A cut in spending for us means we spend less. AAPS administrators and the School Board that serves those adminstrators and the Teacher's Union has done a terrible job of financial management of the school system for years--think back to the Substitute Teachers' pay problem and the adding of Skyline High School when existing local demographics did not support it. In fat times they let spending get way out of control by creating all kinds of special programs and facilities for the few. They promised extravagent retirement retirement benefits and healthcare to Teachers and School Administrators alike not available to similiarly skilled employees in the private sector. Of course the fat times could not continue forever and now that spending is unaffordable and must be cut. Has the School Board ever heard of being frugal, thinking ahead, and being fiscally responsible?

Andrew Smith

Mon, Apr 30, 2012 : 12:42 p.m.

Help me understand the math - if we have a $45 million dollar bond, financed for twenty years, won't the majority of what people pay in property tax go interest, instead of principal? I.e., the majority paid won't go to the schools?

say it plain

Fri, Apr 27, 2012 : 1:04 p.m.

I agree with's truly time for CHS to be on the table. They have for years been telling us it's no more expensive to keep in going than it is to fund any other school in the district. But we just learned for instance that the shuttles they've been running for the Community kids to be able to *also* take any class they want--usually the AP and advanced courses!--at the big schools cost *over 200,000 dollars a year!!!!*, wow! I bet that falls under the "transportation costs" budget line, and hasn't ever shown up as a $500/student extra expense! Plus, they also make use of the varsity sports facilities that we are paying so dearly and, again, in ways that *do not show up as identifiable athletics program expenses* in the budget. The AAPS central administration needs to stop playing these games. The BOE should indeed be concerned about taking away programs and services that affect the least privileged in our district, and about making class sizes even larger, which of course will affect most the kids who will need help most. The kids at CHS would do just fine elsewhere, and we should never have been paying 230K a year for them to get shuttled around so that they can participate in the expensive sports and band and AP programs that are supposed to be what the big schools offer *instead* of what the cozy small-program offers! There is lots about Community that would be very beneficial to have at the larger schools, and closing it would make those things more possible. Community is no longer truly an alternative so much as a place where the kids are valued more as individuals and these ideals could be well transfered to the other schools. Spending the money that gets spent on community on *creating relationships and alternative-type classes and activities* at the large schools, as well as improving the counseling at the large schools to approximate what they have with their special-to-AAPS 'forums', would benefit everyone in AAPS.


Fri, Apr 27, 2012 : 12:12 p.m.

Why not discuss the real sacred cow in the AAPS budget...Community High. Why is the AAPS funding an expensive private academy for the few at the expense of the every other AAPS student?


Fri, Apr 27, 2012 : 11:57 a.m.

From an earlier article: "Voters in the Ann Arbor district will be asked to consider a $45.8-million bond for technology improvements in the May 8 election." The current budget discussions help soften up the voters to give the schools more money. The school administration wants people to believe they are fiscally responsible. I think Wondering makes strong points. I was not at the meeting, but this article highlights that everyone there wanted to say "don't cut my special interest program." That means the school administration was successful at focusing the discussion on how they would take away from the students. Where are the cuts at Balas? What is the administraton giving up? Where are the savings from efficiencies? Why do they take aim at students?


Fri, Apr 27, 2012 : 11:57 a.m.

Am I the only one that sees something wrong with a public meeting still going on at 2:30AM?

Ruth Kraut

Fri, Apr 27, 2012 : 3:18 a.m.

Andy Thomas said, "I think back to when, 30-some years ago, I would walk by there and I would see Ann Arbor Open parents out there with tents and barbecues, standing in line for days and weeks to be assured of registering their students," Andy--Fifteen years ago we enrolled my son into Ann Arbor Open through the lottery, so I know it has not been the case that people stood in line for Ann Arbor Open for at least 15 years. Don't make the mistake of assuming that the school then has the same type of families as the school does now. I'd ask you to treat all K-8 students in the district in the same way.


Fri, Apr 27, 2012 : 10:03 p.m.

The thing is not every student in the district is treated the same way, because not every student who wants to gets in to Open. That teaching experience is only offered to a some, not all. It stands as a luck of the draw still. The waitlist is quite long if a kid doesn't get in early, and it's years to get in. Education experience delayed is education experience denied. Essentially, the kids don't get equal access to educational experience, even say the curriculum is supposedly the same as a home school. I'm not sympathetic to people saying they would go to a charter if Open isn't available. Best of luck to anyone trying a charter, you'll need it. And you'll still have to drive your kids.

say it plain

Fri, Apr 27, 2012 : 1:02 p.m.

oops, meant to post this on the main thread, sorry!

say it plain

Fri, Apr 27, 2012 : 12:59 p.m.

I agree with's truly time for CHS to be on the table. They have for years been telling us it's no more expensive to keep in going than it is to fund any other school in the district. But we just learned for instance that the shuttles they've been running for the Community kids to be able to *also* take any class they want--usually the AP and advanced courses!--at the big schools cost *over 200,000 dollars a year!!!!*, wow! I bet that falls under the "transportation costs" budget line, and hasn't ever shown up as a $500/student extra expense! Plus, they also make use of the varsity sports facilities that we are paying so dearly and, again, in ways that *do not show up as identifiable athletics program expenses* in the budget. The AAPS central administration needs to stop playing these games. The BOE should indeed be concerned about taking away programs and services that affect the least privileged in our district, and about making class sizes even larger, which of course will affect most the kids who will need help most. The kids at CHS would do just fine elsewhere, and we should never have been paying 230K a year for them to get shuttled around so that they can participate in the expensive sports and band and AP programs that are supposed to be what the big schools offer *instead* of what the cozy small-program offers! There is lots about Community that would be very beneficial to have at the larger schools, and closing it would make those things more possible. Community is no longer truly an alternative so much as a place where the kids are valued more as individuals and these ideals could be well transfered to the other schools. Spending the money that gets spent on community on *creating relationships and alternative-type classes and activities* at the large schools, as well as improving the counseling at the large schools to approximate what they have with their special-to-AAPS 'forums', would benefit everyone in AAPS.


Thu, Apr 26, 2012 : 11:55 p.m.

I still am rather awed they have not privatized the custodians...........yet. But then again, Balais needs to take a hit rather then the schools and everything else that goes with it. I have read all the posts and am realizing one thing, I do agree that the ones who make the most? Need to take a pay freeze to get the budget under control.


Thu, Apr 26, 2012 : 11:43 p.m.

For the people saying teachers can retire with full benefits at age 47 and get more than 16 weeks of vacation a year, could I please see evidence so it doesn't look like those numbers are being pulled from the sky (or somewhere else)?


Fri, Apr 27, 2012 : 5:26 p.m.

OK then....Why would the taxpayers pay anyone to retire at 55?!?! This is not the norm in the business world and is not necessary to attract teachers. The state could save a bundle by getting rid of this and going to a self/state funded 401K.


Fri, Apr 27, 2012 : 11:26 a.m.

Don, I do appreciate the numbers and the objective way you stated your research. The only thing wrong is that prospective teachers need to take four years of classes and then do their student teaching. That would assume they are starting college at age 15, and that part is a stretch.


Fri, Apr 27, 2012 : 1:48 a.m.

Sh1 - From the state law: On the last day of the month immediately preceding the retirement allowance effective date stated in the application or the last day of the early retirement effective period, whichever occurs earlier, the member's combined age and length of credited service is equal to or greater than 80 years and the member has 10 or more years of credited service. and The member is 55 years of age or older and has 30 or more years of credited service as provided under this act of which at least 15 years were served as a public school employee. These are from 38.1381 and 38.1381a There are rules around these. But. If one graduated from College with a degree at 20 (difficult but possible) and then went right to work in a school, and bought 5 years of credits over time. and worked summer school for 4 years Then they would reach the number 80 in this fashion - Purchased credits - 5 Summer teaching credit - 1 Years worked -27 Age - 47 Total 80 Almost impossible to do, and I know of no teacher who has. However, I doubt anyone could find a teacher who actually did - it is under the AAPS contract and state law possible.


Thu, Apr 26, 2012 : 10:20 p.m.

I am currently a student at Pioneer High School, and I find the quality of my education deteriorating each year. I STILL find it ridiculous that Pioneer High School spent $ on useless renovations. The newly built attendance office is abandoned. The echo dome, while it may be impressive and/or amusing, is in reality, useless. I have only seen the senior annex used to full capacity maybe 3 times this year? I don't know why we waste $ on community assistants. I am tired of their rude behaviour (which is actually inappropriate) and especially seeing a group of them hanging out around the General Office EVERY DAY when they should be doing their JOB. They're setting a bad example for kids who have been yelled at through a loud speakerphone by Mr. Hudson (much to the chagrin of innocent students passing closely by) so that we may not "malinger" in the hallways. Yelling at kids and going around the school running little errands – sounds easier than flipping a burger. I also don't understand why we have a principal for each grade. Sorry, OK, my rant is over. 2000 characters is not enough. But seriously, there are so many other examples of idiocy/inefficiency specifically at Pihi that deal with the loss of $. There are so many ridiculous things that administration spends money that I don't understand. It's the students who make our school actually good. I mean, why go to any AAPS school if the stats aren't good? Then, why are so many of the budget cuts directed toward reducing opportunities for students? I agree with everything said by A2Girl63 – quit penalizing us. It's the sports and extra-curricular activities that help students make new experiences, discover passions, and transition to become an active member of the Ann Arbor community, and perhaps the global community. Parents, make strides to force those in charge to spend our money on efficiency and success and help students in this school district.


Fri, Apr 27, 2012 : 6:14 a.m.

K.L., you are the kind of student who makes Ann Arbor schools so good. Some of us who have already put our own kids through AAPS are as proud of you as we are of our own children. By the way: your writing ability as well as your thinking ability stands out. Keep on writing about things you care about - and good luck. Know that many adults are supporting your views.

J. A. Pieper

Fri, Apr 27, 2012 : 12:40 a.m.

Well said KL, keep up with sharing in this forum, and encourage your friends to do this also! Use your voices to let the public know what it is like at our high schools these days !


Thu, Apr 26, 2012 : 9:31 p.m.

No one questions doctors' incomes because "they are life savers" - well, that's what teachers also DO. Health care expense in this country is unaffordable, but teachers "must be affordable" though they actually do help save the futures of our kids and get comparatively less compensation. Doctors, nurses, medical technicians and high tech medical equipment cost a lot, but no one thinks to look around at health care costs in other countries where the tax burden is heavier but is equally shared by average income people and the wealthy. Early retirement?? I don't recall any teacher who retired until it was physically and financially necessary. End school sports? Daygonnit, hasn't anyone read the studies proving that regular physical conditioning DIRECTLY AFFECTS (improves) academic performance? Close Community High? (Expletive Deleted)! Fact: Community High is the closest thing public education has to compare with elite (high cost) private schools!! Rather than rant and call for sacrifices from teachers and more "race to the bottom" schemes applied to our public schools, I think we might just try: getting real, analyzing and maintaining budgeting to avoid misspent tax dollars and accepting that we all should be chipping in to IMPROVE education for all kids. We all pay for medical services one way or another - if someone gets "free care" - ultimately that drives up costs for those who do pay (and they have to pay for insurance to be cover what they can't afford themselves). Just sayin': I don't see anyone actually scrutinizing and calling for cuts in the medical industry -at least nowhere near as intensely as is done with our educational system. TANSTAFL: There ain't no such thing as a free lunch. The real question is: can we actually afford that lunch? If not: the obvious result will be NO medical care and NO education - and that means the end of civilization as we know it (and want it to be).


Fri, Apr 27, 2012 : 6:07 a.m.

@ USRepublic: thank you so much for running to the rescue of those who do not ask for nor need rescue. And that's so cool the way you ENTIRELY IGNORE my last paragraph in order to misconstrue my overall meaning (both good / affordable education and good/affordable health care are WORTH SOMETHING but can we afford them?) Teachers bust their butts and spend on their own education and then face teacher cut backs when they go looking for a job they love and feel dedication for. Doctors (and nurses) don't have an unemployment problem, businesses fail at a high rate no matter what the field and lawyers... well we all know there're too many of them and many go on to become "your lordship" judges or legislators bent on spinning themselves immunity coccoons from laws the rest of us must follow. @DonBee, I take your point but what have you got against the fact that many of the most successful business leaders all have high school and /or college athletics as part of their "academic training." Sports does more than sharpen the mind; organizational skills (as in team work and motivation toward higher performance) are key elements in leadership roles. Sure: have school wide exercise sessions every day - just don't dismiss the real value of team sports.


Fri, Apr 27, 2012 : 1:28 a.m.

Tru2Blu76 - Sorry, I have to point out one problem with your piece. The studies show Physical Activity - NOT Varsity Sports - have a significant impact on academics. If we really want to help all students do better academically, we would do school wide exercise before the first class each morning and after lunch each day. 15 minutes of group exercise would do the trick and save the district over $3 million a year, while raise academic performance.


Fri, Apr 27, 2012 : 12:40 a.m.

Do you have a clue what a PCP makes in take home pay these day? Do you have a clue as to the level of risk most of them absorb running their own business? Do you you have a clue what a medical malpractice platiff's attorney does for a living? Do you have a clue as to the number of hours per week most PCP's work in an average week? I think not......


Thu, Apr 26, 2012 : 9:07 p.m.

Honest to god, can't the camp people just do "camp" here in town? Is that so difficult? There's no reason that the integrity of RC can't be maintained in a new building, there just has to be the will to do so.


Thu, Apr 26, 2012 : 11:52 p.m.

By having music inclined children in one spot is so they know for the next 3 or 4 years who they are singing with and have a gifted talent given more lift. A lot can't be said for grunting football players.

Mother of 3

Thu, Apr 26, 2012 : 8:10 p.m.

Just for the record, the summer music camps include band, orchestra and choir for all three schools. Each student pays their way to camp. The district has paid for the teachers to attend and these teachers work long and hard from 7 am until 11 pm or later each day and put on an amazing concert in just 6 days of work. The summer music camps are the cornerstone of our excellent music educational programs. These one week programs allows for countless hours of mentoring by older students and professionals and many, many hours of rehearsals which culminate in a most inspiring concert. Many schools pay for their band director for most of the summer to conduct marching practices, we do all of our marching practice in this one busy week. This long tradition really jump starts our young musicians, so that they are ready to play, sing and march, once school starts.


Thu, Apr 26, 2012 : 11:50 p.m.

Uh, correction, I just saw the time they do get up. It is not 7AM. It is 6AM and this includes calisthenics at 6:20 and breakfast at 7:30. Can we ouch. Band and choir camp is only the tip of the ice berg. This will not be touched. Too many parents have vested in it. I know, I am one of them.


Thu, Apr 26, 2012 : 7:43 p.m.

And once AAPS administration and the school board have demonstrated publicly their ability to run a VERY tight financial ship that is very much about meeting the needs of their students and families, and very much about watching *every* dollar spent as if it were their own, then I would be very happy to consider voting additional money to support what I consider to be an essential element of our democracy. BUT, demonstration of running a VERY tight financial ship--as all the rest of us are required to do in this economy--is absolutely a prerequisite for me. In my opinion, that has been not yet been done in order to justify my voting for this millage. And I *always* vote in favor of educational millages.

J. A. Pieper

Fri, Apr 27, 2012 : 12:32 a.m.

Wondering, I work for AAPS, and I don't trust the district with any more of my money than they are currently receiving. The waste I have seen over the years has shown me that AAPS does not run a tight financial ship.


Thu, Apr 26, 2012 : 11:48 p.m.

Can we say EFM?


Thu, Apr 26, 2012 : 7:33 p.m.

I do not believe Huron and Pioneer are operating at near 100% capacity after moving students to Skyline. Project back to a few years then and they must have operated at 150% capacity then. Hogwarts. There were definitely full before, and they are busy places, but not near 100% capacity.


Fri, Apr 27, 2012 : 1:22 a.m.

aarog - Unfortunately (or fortunately) the two major High Schools were "reconfigured" with bond money to significantly reduce the capacity. Some of this was done by removing most of the portable classrooms. Some of it was done by turning classroom space into other uses. While the former shop spaces at Pioneer are no longer classrooms, they are not shop spaces again either. So, they are right the schools are at, or close to at capacity, a capacity designed to make it impossible to close Community - by design. Now if you want to really talk about closing community consider it is not the high cost large high school on a per student basis.


Thu, Apr 26, 2012 : 10:37 p.m.

How are you qualified to know they have room? Do you have kids there? Work there? I don't have children there, but my friends who do say it is still very crowded (more than just busy).

Basic Bob

Thu, Apr 26, 2012 : 8:54 p.m.

They could easily accept another 200 each and absorb Community students and programs. But then they would have to drive to Kerrytown for lunch.


Thu, Apr 26, 2012 : 7:31 p.m.

Please raise our property taxes, and institute a 2% sales tax in Washtenaw County. It will never be enough money, especially since there are no boundries for expenses, so if we start now with the pain, it won't be so bad later. How much is enough? Who knows. It is like the minimum wage...why not raise it to $25.00 an hour? Wouldn't that be a living wage? Property taxes should be based on a percentage of the homes value, 20% - 25% minimum.

J. A. Pieper

Fri, Apr 27, 2012 : 12:29 a.m.

Sarcasm, right? But I do agree that everyone has had to make cuts in their lives, we have to decide what to drop out of our life on a regular basis. School districts have to live within a budget, and yes, sometimes things will be tough. If they were allowed to continue to raise taxes the way they want to spend, many of us would not be able to keep our homes here.


Thu, Apr 26, 2012 : 7:28 p.m.

I am VERY supportive of public education--absolutely 100% behind public education. AND, why is it that these discussions about *AGONIZING* cuts ALWAYS happen just before a millage vote. This has gone on for so many years now that at some point it would seem that the electorate would finally understand and the school board would have to do something else to deal with budget shortfalls other than more and more creative millage ideas and more and more rhetoric about agonizing cuts. Instead of orchestrating such publicity events, I myself (who have had to cut *everything* non-essential out of my own budget because of the current economic conditions) would prefer to see the school board systematically and very publicly shifting dollars to create an education that is responsive to the needs of kids and families and that is considerably tighter in terms of fiscal accountability.


Fri, Apr 27, 2012 : 1:18 a.m.

Wondering - First - the revenue next year for the school is projected to be more than this year. It is not this year's costs they have to cut, but the increases they want for next year. Second - Only 1 time in the last decade has the revenue from all sources fallen. That was last year. Every other year total revenue has been up. Third - the budget cut dance is DESIGNED to get people to vote "YES". Fouth - once the millage is passed next week, the depth of the cuts will magically disappear. Fifth - If you don't believe me, then go back and look at how this dance has been done in the past. Sixth - Expect extra subs in all the buildings on the 8th, so every teacher and staff member can go vote.


Thu, Apr 26, 2012 : 7:16 p.m.

How come the AAPS - those who sit in the mighty Balas - never lead by example and cut the fat at the top? Let the Superintendant and her cronies take a healthy pay cut like the rest of have to take in the private sector, how about a 15% across the board? Any idea what that would save? What about a realignment of Balas? I am tired of all the negative talk about sports and after school activities. It is a fact that extra curricular activities help kids in school. It gives them motivation to do better in school. This has to start at the top by the school leaders. Quit penalizing the kids.


Sun, Apr 29, 2012 : 1:29 p.m.

Have you been able to verify that information yet??

Tony Dearing

Fri, Apr 27, 2012 : 4:27 p.m.

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Thu, Apr 26, 2012 : 11:47 p.m.

This is the first post to actually agree with me? O my, I think i will have spasm.

Basic Bob

Thu, Apr 26, 2012 : 8:53 p.m.

Our school "leader" is busy accepting extra cash in lieu of benefits. Is that because she can double-dip and still collect generous retiree benefits from her former job? The other 99% don't have it so lucky. She makes nearly $100,000 more than the governor's salary - which he gave back. Who's to blame?

Linda Peck

Thu, Apr 26, 2012 : 6:40 p.m.

The schools are obsolete as they are now set up. They don't work for anyone, students or teachers or parents. There needs to be fresh air brought into this subject and a lot of purging, starting with the athletic programs. Do students have the opportunity to practice ballet or yoga as part of the school curriculum? Why are team sports so heavily emphasized? They are expensive, often violent, and do cause death in some students. Can someone who is awake step forth as a leader and lead? Note that parents who can afford to do so are paying big bucks to keep their children out of the public schools. Note that the fine Huron Valley Community School has a very long waiting list. It is a great charter school.


Fri, Apr 27, 2012 : 1:14 a.m.

Harry - They are also the source of the largest set of issues with bullying in the schools, according to several studies. Football can cause permanent injuries, including brain damage. High Schools are not equipped to determine concussions and remove players who are at risk. Physical Education is IMPORTANT, team work is also important, Varsity sports, not so much. OBTW - Yes, I played sports in High School and College.


Thu, Apr 26, 2012 : 10 p.m.

So does Ann Arbor Open, a public school! And yes, they offer all those things and more and have a waiting list well over 350.


Thu, Apr 26, 2012 : 7:25 p.m.

Team sports are very important character builders. Take alittle survey. See which adults played a team sport growing up. You will be surprised.

Wolf's Bane

Thu, Apr 26, 2012 : 6:30 p.m.

The merging of Roberto Clemente Student Development Center and Ann Arbor Technological High School is an excellent idea. CHS (Community High Dchool) will never be closed, so just give it up already. CHS is a model school of Ann Arbor. CHS was a "Roberto Clemente school" back in the 70s and 80s, but not anymore. I bet if the school board examines the CHS case study they'll unearth not just CHS' successes, but also Clemente's failures. Use the past to your advantage to your benefit to plot out the future! Learn!


Thu, Apr 26, 2012 : 6:10 p.m.

Time for the Ann Arbor Educational Foundation to step up. They should raise enough to cover every single cost that they are not expressly prohibited from paying for by state law. Band camp, transportation, sports, lunches -- if the Education Foundation picked up the tab for all that, maybe the AAPS would have enough money to hire good teachers to teach reasonably sized classrooms. We could still have a first rate educational system on the piddly amount of money provided by Lansing, but the well-heeled and well-intentioned would have to commit to it.

say it plain

Thu, Apr 26, 2012 : 6:31 p.m.

But they are already paying for all the *extra* stuff their kids need, you know, and college doesn't come cheap you know! The ones with kids out of the school system don't get much bang for their charity bucks by giving to *public* schools, so the incentive is low...

say it plain

Thu, Apr 26, 2012 : 5:59 p.m.

I take it they are actually cutting the shuttles that take the Community kids around town for classes at the big schools?! I admit I'm being lazy and not checking whatever documents are out there, but I'm assuming that if they are cutting the *very necessary* bus for Ann Arbor Open as well as high school transportation then they are *surely* eliminating the shuttle service for that?!

say it plain

Fri, Apr 27, 2012 : 12:44 a.m.

Thanks for that info, @Andrew Thomas! Or, @jns131, they could just stop with letting Community students take classes at those other high schools, which apparently can't consider taking in the Community students as a way to cut spending because they are already so full?! It might reduce the demand for Community to a more 'absorbable' level, or at least serve more kids for whom the resource that Community represents would be most appreciated?


Thu, Apr 26, 2012 : 11:45 p.m.

I really don't see it happening because AATA does not get in that area at the times needed. Although they could walk to the transit center or catch a bus to the center and the 7 to Pioneer. The 3 goes to Huron and I am not sure about Skyline.

Andrew Thomas

Thu, Apr 26, 2012 : 7:31 p.m.

Yes, the shuttles are among the budget cuts. This will save approx. $230,000.


Thu, Apr 26, 2012 : 5:34 p.m.

Let's cut programs for our kids..... All in the interest of artificially high salaries for teachers that are not tied to performance.... Providing teachers with ridiculous benefit packages.... Giving our teachers more than 16 weeks of vacation..... And beefing up our administrative overhead... We know where the solutions are.....

J. A. Pieper

Fri, Apr 27, 2012 : 12:18 a.m.

JNS131 Maybe the AA taxpayers need to get some clarification on the fact that one highly paid administrator works M thru Th, and goes to her home state for the weekend. And she got a great increase in salary over the person who previously had her job.


Thu, Apr 26, 2012 : 11:44 p.m.

Need to cut the fat out of Balias and this will make ends meet. Cap them and tell no more raises.


Thu, Apr 26, 2012 : 9:58 p.m.

Seriously!!??! In business environment where a person can make well over $100,000 for pushing papers around you people are just silly. Teachers are the most undervalued, overworked people who do it because they love to see that look on a child's face when they get it. Stop the teacher bashing and try, just once to hang out in my classroom, and survive. Benefits? Unless you all are really a part of the education world, stop spewing out this union bashing, teacher trashing garbage. I work my tushy off and have very little appreciation from the general public. But I do from my students and their parents. You think we do this for the benefits, the summers off, the pay. HA!!! Think again!


Thu, Apr 26, 2012 : 9:45 p.m.

Duh. $1.7 BILLION TAX CUT FOR BUSINESSES. Accountability expected (did you create jobs, what did you do with the money that the middle class now has to pick?): ZERO. Now our legislators want to throw more money at 'businesses' guessed it: NO accountability. Just put the money in your pocket (not your workers), use it to move the business to China, buy a bigger boat, enlarge the summer house, etc. Michigan: one of 4 states that spends MORE ON PRISONS THAN ON EDUCATION. Yup, let's race to the bottom. More stupid people who won't know when the business controlled legislature continues to rob them. Good formula and working for the rich and corporations. But not for the other 99% of us.


Thu, Apr 26, 2012 : 7:23 p.m.

SH1 Teacher receive 2 months or 8 weeks summer vacation. They receive 2 weeks at Christmas vacation. The receive 1 week for spring break and 1 more week at winter break. Total of 12 weeks. My kids elementary school principal is making just under $120,000 per year. The janitor makes over $50,000 and he performs no plumbing or electrical. Just two example of inflated salaries..


Thu, Apr 26, 2012 : 7:18 p.m.

More than 16 weeks of vacation!? "Ridiculous" benefits? Artificially high salaries? Your credibility will suffer unless you can back this up with proof.


Thu, Apr 26, 2012 : 5:55 p.m.

Which one of those objective "individual" performance metrics affect an individual teachers' salary? Time to live in the real world...not in the world of entitlement....just because you put in your time or have a certain degree.


Thu, Apr 26, 2012 : 5:45 p.m.

Do you know any teachers? Ask AAPS teachers about the NWEA, MEAP, etc...there are loads of tests being given to students to help "measure" success. Are those measures actually meaningful? Who knows. Ask the district how much they're ponying up for those tests.


Thu, Apr 26, 2012 : 5:24 p.m.

Get rid of tenure among teachers. Fade out the pention plan for a 401K plan. Get rid of letting teachers retire at 47 or even 52 years old. This is not the norm in the private sector why would it be in the public sector. Look at how the union has taken advantage of a weak government and strong lawyers for the teachers. This would save millions and millions of dollars. The average student receives $11,000 per year in Michigan. Why can't we run a class room of 30 kids on $330,000 per year?


Thu, Apr 26, 2012 : 7:19 p.m.

SH1 With or without a balance budget the taxpayers are being robbed blind by the teachers union. There is no reason for teachers to have this kind of benefit. To retire at 47 with medical coverage is not the norm in the business world. WHY should taxpayer have to be burdened with this enormus expense?


Thu, Apr 26, 2012 : 7:14 p.m.

Right, just like when health care costs go up I demand doctors take a pay cut to pay for it out of pocket! And when it gets more expensive to hire someone to do my taxes, it's the accountant who should pay! Let's balance this budget on the backs of the teachers.

Wolf's Bane

Thu, Apr 26, 2012 : 6:31 p.m.

Because you have to pay overhead, suppliers, teachers, and building costs.


Thu, Apr 26, 2012 : 6:06 p.m.

Snyder wasn't governor two years ago.


Thu, Apr 26, 2012 : 5:45 p.m.

Weak government? The retirement system for public teachers in Michigan was changed two years ago. Those were HUGE changes driven by Snyder and the Republican legislature and I don't recall the MEA supporting these changes. New hires contribute A LOT more to their retirement plans, which are more 401(K)-like and do not include a defined benefit option.


Thu, Apr 26, 2012 : 5:21 p.m.

Ron, I recall the aaps disclosing all of this information at the Budget Forums held last year. It was all there. Have you looked at all the info disclosed on their website? I believe they said all the budget forum info would be there, as well.

Ron Granger

Thu, Apr 26, 2012 : 5:12 p.m.

How many millions are they budgeting for after school sports? Have they disclosed the per sport spending yet? No? Then the finances must not be too bad.

Ron Granger

Fri, Apr 27, 2012 : 2:21 p.m.

Wow, thanks DonBee. That is my concern - millions and millions into a black hole with no detail or accountability. People need to raise a massive stink about this.


Fri, Apr 27, 2012 : 1:08 a.m.

Mr Granger - The transfer from the general fund to the athletic account is north of $3 million this year. Maintenance of facilities and equipment, mowing, Athletic directors and staff are in the building administration line, not the athletic account. Custodial support during events is also not included. Add the $12 million in capital and sinking fund money for the two large projects this year and an unknown amount for smaller projects from the sinking fund and the district spent at least $15 million on Athletics this year. While the sinking fund and bond money can't be used for teachers, it could have been used to reduce the need for the technology bond -OR- it could have been used for energy efficiency and reduced future operating costs.


Thu, Apr 26, 2012 : 11:43 p.m.

AAPS Already is a pay for play sport program. I am still trying to figure out how to pay for an already expensive sport mine is involved in. We opted out.

say it plain

Thu, Apr 26, 2012 : 5:54 p.m.

They'll tell you they already have fees for 'pay to play', but they make the budget lines unclear, and so it's hard to tell what all the expenses are, but there's no way I can imagine them claiming that the fees paid by families for varsity sports comes close to covering the costs!!


Thu, Apr 26, 2012 : 5:17 p.m.

Just make it a pay to play program. Most other schools have done it. Ann Arbor can too.