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Posted on Wed, Feb 29, 2012 : 12:21 p.m.

Technology millage won't affect Ann Arbor schools' $14 million shortfall, officials say

By Danielle Arndt


Students in the advanced journalism course at Community High School work on drafting and editing stories Wednesday for the school's news website. The outdated technology sometimes makes the editorial process difficult, their teacher, Tracy Rosewarne, said.

Melanie Maxwell I

A $45.8 million bond for technology improvements would not reduce Ann Arbor Public Schools’ estimated $14 million budget deficit, district officials said Tuesday.

“It may help with some efficiency costs,” said Robert Allen, deputy superintendent of operations. “We have to spend more time and money doing repairs on the outdated technology (right now).”


Robert Allen

He said the technology bond is more about being able to move forward with educating students and not being immobilized by failing computers and incompatible software. But even if the bond’s impact is just $200,000 in maintenance savings, that’s equal to about two teachers, he said.

Ann Arbor will ask voters to decide on a millage proposal that would collect $45.8 million for hardware and infrastructure upgrades in the May 8 election. If passed, the proposal would levy an additional .45 mills (or 45 cents per $1,000 of taxable value) from taxpayers in 2012.

The average levy for the course of the 10-year bond plan would be .51 mills. The ballot language states the tax could be collected for up to 11 years, if property values continue to decline and it takes longer to generate the $45.8 million, Allen said.

He added if the bond does not pass, the district likely would need to find the money to budget for some wiring and server upgrades this year. He said there are certain infrastructure improvements that would be difficult to put off any longer.

The 2012 bond also would increase the estimated necessary debt-retirement levy for all bonds the district currently has outstanding to 2.6 mills or less.

Allen said right now the district is doing a lot of “work arounds” to keep functioning.

In Tracy Anderson’s Communicator Web class at Community High School, one of those work arounds includes having students with personal laptops bring them in to share with their peers.

“If we didn’t have students with their own technology to supplement what we can’t do in here, then we wouldn’t be able to run the online newspaper,” Anderson said.


Melanie Langa, a senior and editor for Community High School's student journalism class, brings in her personal MacBook Pro to share with her classmates during production.

Melanie Maxwell I

Communicator Web is the school’s advanced journalism course. The students in the class update a news website daily with content, events and happenings at the school.

Anderson said the old Mac computers do not handle the WordPress software very well or even GoogleDocs, which students use for editing each other's work.

She also said the class is not able to use the latest version of WordPress or InDesign. The highest version of InDesign the machines will run is 2.0, when InDesign recently announced CS6, she said.

Anne Reader, director of instructional technology at AAPS, said the district currently is using the latest version of its web browsers, but many of the web-based software and websites teachers desire to use in class won’t run on the old browsers.

“The laps that have been set up for instruction can’t be used anymore for those purposes. Teachers are sharing the laptops and desktops as much as possible,” Allen said.

An informational campaign for the technology millage will kick off at 6:30 p.m. Wednesday at Huron High School. Click here for previous coverage outlining the district's bond plan.

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


AAPS Student

Sun, Mar 11, 2012 : 9:17 p.m.

Updating technology is not the most important thing in AAPS schools. As a student enrolled in AAPS schools, and who use the computers daily, there is nothing wrong with them! Don't fix what is not broken! The computers are not slow, they allow Google Docs, Powerschool etc to work (which I use a lot). As a student at Skyline, I know firsthand that we get the old computers from Huron, Pioneer and Community which work totally fine. I know I am going to vote NO on this millage.


Mon, Mar 5, 2012 : 5:03 a.m.

A no vote will force efficiency, establish priorities, promote creativity, productivity, less waste of scarce resources. It's time to "educate" our educators on the economic principle of "the law of diminishing returns". Vote no and educate our educators.

Chase Ingersoll

Thu, Mar 1, 2012 : 9:07 p.m.

Here is a tech analysis off of <a href="" rel='nofollow'></a>

Danielle Arndt

Thu, Mar 1, 2012 : 4:45 p.m.

The story has been updated to reflect the correct title of the class at Community High School. My thanks and apologies to the students for pointing out the error.

Danielle Arndt

Thu, Mar 1, 2012 : 11:45 p.m.

No worries! You were fine.


Thu, Mar 1, 2012 : 11:38 p.m.

I'm very sorry - I did not realize that. Thank you for correcting me, and I'm sorry for coming across as rude.

Danielle Arndt

Thu, Mar 1, 2012 : 11:37 p.m.

Julia, Tracy recently changed her name. It is now Anderson. We confirmed this with her.


Thu, Mar 1, 2012 : 11:23 p.m.

Also, you did not get Tracy's name right in your article. Her name is Tracy Rosewarne. You also forgot to edit another section in the article that still refers to The Communicator as &quot;Communicator Prep.&quot; Please try to get the simple facts right and bring a pen to your interviews.

PE #1

Thu, Mar 1, 2012 : 3:24 p.m.

Forgive my lack of advertisement in my former post, but here, Ms. or Mrs. Arndt, is the communicator website.<a href="" rel='nofollow'></a>

PE #1

Thu, Mar 1, 2012 : 3:23 p.m.

1. It's not &quot;Communicator Prep&quot; it's &quot;The Communicator.&quot; Here's the website, Ms. or Mrs. Arndt, perhaps it will help in the future. 2. I am close friends with some of the staff on the Communicator, although I myself am not a member. Please keep in mind, that they have won NATIONAL AWARDS for the work that they do, which is amazing given the state of some of the computers in the lab they utilize. Some of them are broken, and need replacing which is what this millage will do. 3. Also keep in mind that AAPS recently opened a new high school, Skyline, to decrease the number of students per classroom, a number which was through the roof. If you don't think that it costs money to outfit a school with proper technology, then you, my friends, have less of a grasp of this than you think we, the students, do. 4. Show a little respect, please, Ann, for journalism which, in many cases, is better than yours. From the stories I heard, you weren't even equipped with the proper materials for reporting when you visited us to write this story. Perhaps you will grace us by at least bringing a pen and paper upon your next visit to Community High School. FIFTH and finally. To the general public, understand that you are not throwing your money put the window when you vote for this millage. If you can afford to spend time commenting on this article, complaining about more money spent, blah blah blah, this and that and &quot;no, no, no,&quot; then you can afford to pt forth a little more money for the future of this town, state, nation and world. Signed one very sick (literally), very disappointed high school student.

Angry Moderate

Thu, Mar 1, 2012 : 10:29 p.m.

Whether we can &quot;afford&quot; more is not the point. The point is that AAPS doesn't spend our money wisely. The general fund wasn't enough. The last technology millage wasn't enough. Why the heck should we spend 10 years paying interest to buy computers that will only last 3 years?

r treat

Thu, Mar 1, 2012 : 5:24 a.m.

No more of my money!


Thu, Mar 1, 2012 : 5:03 a.m.

Also here's the link to The Communicator's website <a href="" rel='nofollow'></a>


Thu, Mar 1, 2012 : 4:49 a.m.

The class is called Communicator Web not Communicator Prep

Danielle Arndt

Thu, Mar 1, 2012 : 4:42 p.m.

Hi Kate, thanks for pointing that out. The story has been changed to reflect the correct title of the course.


Thu, Mar 1, 2012 : 5:12 a.m.

Communicator Web can be found at <a href="" rel='nofollow'></a>

Dan Rubenstein

Thu, Mar 1, 2012 : 3:04 a.m.

The briefing book is online: <a href="" rel='nofollow'></a>


Thu, Mar 1, 2012 : 2:39 a.m.

Those poor journalism students! Why, if they don't have new computers that can run Google Docs quickly, they might have to email text to be edited!


Thu, Mar 1, 2012 : 9:03 p.m.

When I started working at the Michigan Daily, people weren't even using email yet. We put the paper out using Word and Pagemaker and 3&quot; floppies on Mac Classics and maybe 6 Quadras. (Cue someone 10 years older than me scoff at the very idea of computers.) There is no reason for editing to require computers newer than the pictured eMacs.


Thu, Mar 1, 2012 : 5:10 a.m.

As funny as you seem to think you are Gasmaskted, you're oversimplifying the editing process.

Angry Moderate

Thu, Mar 1, 2012 : 2:15 a.m.

What an obvious lie. WordPress is web-based software. It runs on a server and you access it through a web browser. It works 100% properly even on very old computers.

Angry Moderate

Thu, Mar 1, 2012 : 8:08 a.m.

If those computers can't load WordPress pages, they aren't being maintained properly. WordPress uses simple webpages. It works just fine on computers much older than the ones in the picture. You do not need a new $1500 laptop to access a blog. Your teacher's claim that the class can't use the latest version of WordPress doesn't even make sense. WordPress is only installed on the server, not each computer.


Thu, Mar 1, 2012 : 5:09 a.m.

Yes, WordPress and GoogleDocs are both web-based programs. No one is denying that. However, older computers function much more slowly, and so content heavy websites like WordPress and GoogleDocs can take a really long time to load and save changes on the school computers. Though I use a lot of technology, I am not a computer expert, so I can't explain in technical terms. However, I am a member of the print version of the Communicator, and we also use GoogleDocs to edit our articles. When I pull up the website to log in on the school computers, all of the windows I have open often freeze while the computer makes the effort to open GoogleDocs. If you're familiar with Mac computers, you'll know the rainbow spinny wheel that shows up while something is loading, and how frustrating it is when the spinny wheel simply doesn't go away. This can happen with GoogleDocs on the school computers. I don't frequently use WordPress because I'm not on Web staff, but I assume it's the same issue. By contrast, If you pulled up GoogleDocs on a Macbook Air, it would load really quickly. Also, we have the same problem with InDesign, which is not a web-based software. InDesign can take a really long time to load on the computer, and can cause other windows to freeze. Though it is true that GoogleDocs and WordPress can be accessed online on any computer, there are still problems on the old computers. Please do not accuse my adviser of being a liar if you do not have full information.


Thu, Mar 1, 2012 : 2:01 a.m.

How about cutting the superintendent's salary by $100,000? These ludicrous administrator salaries have to change and come down to earth. Make sure this issue is on the November ballot when the majority of residents are voting.


Thu, Mar 1, 2012 : 1:58 a.m.

They need to be using open source software. The days of paying for constant software upgrades are over. Plenty of excellent free software out there for publishing, spreadsheets, word-processing, blogging, etc. NO NEW TAXES!

J. A. Pieper

Wed, Feb 29, 2012 : 11:09 p.m.

Is anyone questioning exactly what we are getting for $45.8 Million dollars! I am sorry, but this is a tremendous amount of money to be asking for in this economy. Just because Wall street and the Big Three automakers seem to be doing well, it doesn't mean that average everyday working people are reaping the benefits of that kind of economic upturn. Can anyone post a link that explains what the district wants to do with this huge amount of money? I understand updating the servers, etc., but what else is being considered? Is AAPS replacing textbooks with technology so they can say they are on the cutting edge?


Wed, Feb 29, 2012 : 9:05 p.m.

I am like the AAPS, I am doing work arounds with my budget too? &quot;Allen said right now the district is doing a lot of "work arounds" to keep functioning.&quot;


Wed, Feb 29, 2012 : 8:42 p.m.

If this new technology is really required the School Board needs to pay for it by economizing in other areas. Maybe pay cuts for teachers, administrators and support personnel could pay for it. The citizens of this community already have one of the heaviest tax burdens in the state. If this proposal comes to a vote I urge the voters of this community to turn it down...Resoundingly!


Wed, Feb 29, 2012 : 8:04 p.m.

Computers and software obsolesce rapidly and need replacement at regular intervals. This is an operating cost. To pretend that it is an unusual one-time capital improvement, calling for a separate millage, is accounting sleight-of-hand.

Susie Q

Wed, Feb 29, 2012 : 7:08 p.m.

Technology has a fairly short shelf like. Private businesses must replace hardware and software on a regular basis, too. While I don't agree with the recent middle-of-the-night raises or with all the decisions the AAPS makes, I do believe that computers and software need to be replaced in a systematic way at regular intervals. Programs cease to run on outdated equipment. With all the state funding cuts and unfunded government mandates; a bond is the only way to make these purchases without decimating the school programs even more.


Wed, Feb 29, 2012 : 7:26 p.m.

Susie Q - The sinking fund millage was supposed to make the money available in the general fund to do just this. Now they want another millage because they don't want to take it out of the general fund anymore. The bond millage was supposed to update the data center and the network between buildings, it is actually in the original presentation. But instead it was used to build a new Grandstand for football, because they figured it would be easier to get people to agree to more money for classroom computers than for a new Varsity Weight Room (off limits to non-athletes) and new varsity locker rooms.


Wed, Feb 29, 2012 : 6:31 p.m.

Maybe the AAPS shouldn't buy expensive Macs &amp; overpriced projector systems that do little to improve learning. It's a simple question of what gives &quot;the most bang for your buck.&quot; Can't believe they haven't figured this out yet.


Wed, Feb 29, 2012 : 6:08 p.m.

We approved a technology millage several years ago. Where did that money go? When does that expire? Your timing sucks!!!


Wed, Feb 29, 2012 : 6:07 p.m.

Of course the frequent commenters here don't support this millsge. They don't support anything. Maybe we should just eliminate all taxes and all services? No doubt their beloved Private Sector would somehow ride in heroically to pave the roads and educate the children! And these are likely the same people who complain about the quality of the schools. Well, unlike the private schools populated by the kids of our fabulous legislators and governor, our schools are underfunded and we are left without the ability to change that, as a community that values education. So if the schools are asking for money to update technology, then of course I will support it. Certainly I see the need to update my own technology every 5 years or so.... Why should it be any different for the schools?

Tony Livingston

Wed, Feb 29, 2012 : 10:16 p.m.

Good point about upgrading like many of us do at home. We just bought an IPad. Not because we need another computer but because it offers some features that we are interested in using. Also, we like to stay at somewhat current. The computers in the picture look pretty old. Technology is changing so fast. We really do need to upgrade fairly often in our educational system.


Wed, Feb 29, 2012 : 10:08 p.m.

To the private sector lovers, 50% of new businesses fail in 5 years. It was the largely the under regulated private sector that crashed the housing market. Private sector executive salaries are even more outrageous than the paltry AAPS executive salaries. Tax cuts for 30 years, including the mindless $1.8 B last year by the Rickster, together with the economy crash has caused the problem that the AAPS is facing. Michigan can't fill 70,000 open jobs because the education system has dismantled itself after 30 years of cuts to education. Third World here we come.


Wed, Feb 29, 2012 : 9:34 p.m.

Stephen, I did not miss the point. I just completely disagree with yours. My kids have been receiving a creative, dynamic and rigorous education at their public school (AAO). The only NEGATIVE that I've seen in their school is caused by major budget cuts. The class sizes are too big, no matter what anyone says, and the teachers are completely overwhelmed by that, and by more and more and more testing and restrictions and mandates handed down to them. If this millage can keep our technology updated, just as I do at home, without tapping into the already depleted general fund and resulting in yet more increased class sizes, then I am all for it. Simple as that.

Stephen Landes

Wed, Feb 29, 2012 : 9:22 p.m.

A2anon You've missed the point: There can be no endless checkbook for those who are poor stewards of the resources they have. That is not the same position as &quot;NO, no matter what you do&quot;. I grew up in a home where voting yes for millages was considered normal practice, with a dad who served on a school board and a mother who taught english. I am a product of public schools. HOWEVER, times change and the nature of the public school business is that money is poorly spent, too much is put into administration, too much is put into the latest quirky trend on exactly the same educational structure, and not enough is directed into the basic classroom relationship between teachers and students especially at the elementary level. My great aunt graduated from a one room school house at age 16 and then taught the school the next year. I venture to say that she could walk into a classroom today and be right at homed because so little has fundamentally changed. All the &quot;technology&quot; in the world isn't going to change our schools until we demand that the model b changed. Very few activities are done today they way they were 100 years ago, yet here we are with public schools doing pretty much the same thing they did when kids rode horses to school and tied them up near the front door. We are using technology to essentially automate what we've done manually and that just isn't good enough. What we don't need are a bunch of over paid administrators bringing what is supposedly the latest fashion in education into schools. What we need a lot more of is freeing up teachers to work together to use their intelligence and expertise to develop new ways of educating children, reaching out to private business doing the same kinds of things, and having a lot more ownership of their classrooms. What they don't need is some $200k administrator telling them that some book has the latest stuff, so let's buy this stuff and feed it to students the same old way.


Wed, Feb 29, 2012 : 8:17 p.m.

&quot;No doubt their beloved Private Sector would somehow ride in heroically to pave the roads and educate the children!&quot; The private sector would because it would supply us with good paying jobs that the progressives could then extract tax dollars from us to pay for everything. You must not drive a car, the energy policies of this administration are strangling the economy causing inflation, lack of spending power and therefore lack of buying power = dead growth. Who can afford an electric car? Who can afford to replace their light bulbs with murcury filled bulds that cost five times as much and don't last any longer. Combine that with deficit spending and the devaluation of the dollar (oil is bought with dollars) and you have billions of dollars being taken out of the economy to support bad policy.


Wed, Feb 29, 2012 : 7:23 p.m.

a2anon - You obviously did not go back and look. I was the first person to support the special education millage last year. In prior times I worked on the campaign for the sinking fund. I am all for an increase in the gas tax, to get it back to the same amount per mile driven as it was when the tax was originally passed. All of these comments are here if you want to search. Several others that you are making the blanket statement about have done similar things. So how about a more constructive line of reasoning?


Wed, Feb 29, 2012 : 6:36 p.m.

I don't think most people would say AAPS is 'bad' school system from a quality perspective. But it feels like the city's residents have to battle the AAPS everyday over mismanaged tax dollars that go into ridiculously expensive and unnecessary projects. The board always seems to have their head in the clouds.


Wed, Feb 29, 2012 : 5:53 p.m.

@Danielle -- what teacher training is provided now by the district IT staff to use the technology currently available. Are teachers making full use of what is currently available, e.g. using the calendars provided in Power School, Google sites that some but not all classes use. At this point, I don't support the millage because I do not think that the district needs new equipment as a top priority. I think the top priority is to evaluate the administrators who are paid a high salary to put in place organization for training teachers and students to use the technology currently available.

Danielle Arndt

Wed, Feb 29, 2012 : 6:04 p.m.

@aaparent, thank you for your question. I have spoken with Superintendent Patricia Green a little about teacher training already. I hope to speak with additional AAPS staff, including teachers, in the coming weeks about this as well. I would say at this point, you can expect a future story on teacher training and technology utilization. Once we have more info on the topic, we certainly will let our readers know. Thank you again for your comment!


Wed, Feb 29, 2012 : 5:52 p.m.

Yet more Public Relations attempts from AAPS. The problem is they have done a horrible job actually managing their money to meet needs. Lay off teachers - hire new administrators and give old ones raises. Do away with transportation for students while offering car allowances for administrators. Building high end Varsity Sports facilities while not upgrading their core network. In short it is not a money problem they have it is a prioritization problem they have. Then add the $50,000-70,000 this election will cost them because they did not want it on the ballot yesterday, the new board package software that using Adobe Acrobat would have solved for 2 percent of the cost and other mismanagement of funds. NO! NO! NO! NO! Fix the way you prioritize money first, then when you have cleaned up how you spend money, come back and ask for more.


Thu, Mar 1, 2012 : 1:56 a.m.

I agree. No No No


Wed, Feb 29, 2012 : 5:45 p.m.

Having a hard time drumming up sympathy that the Communicator Prep class's computers can't handle GoogleDocs as I am sending in paper, tissues and hand sanitizer to my child's school.

Stephen Landes

Wed, Feb 29, 2012 : 5:23 p.m.

What part of &quot;NO&quot; doesn't the Board understand? When you have the money to make huge pay increases to administrators you don't need to ask for more money from the people -- you need to become efficient and effective in spending what you have. When you hire a superintendent who makes $100,000 more than the city manager of Ann Arbor the Board is demonstrating its isolation from reality. If the Board demonstrates that it is being responsible with the funds it has THEN they can ask for more money, but not before. All the whining about budget cuts and reduced funding from the State is not the same as demonstrating proper stewardship over the resources the Board has. Start thinking like a business that can't get another loan -- either find all the financial leaks and inefficiencies or go out of business. Having that external discipline really concentrates the mind. Examine everything and every single &quot;holy&quot; assumption about they way the school system has to be run. In my opinion we aren't even close to that point yet.


Thu, Mar 1, 2012 : 1:55 a.m.



Wed, Feb 29, 2012 : 5:19 p.m.

&quot;But even if the impact is just $200,000 in maintenance savings, that's equal to about two teachers, he said.&quot; Or most of one administator -