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Posted on Mon, May 23, 2011 : 5:58 a.m.

Consolidation efforts: Ypsilanti and Willow Run schools still expect to set joint board meeting

By Kyle Feldscher

As Willow Run Community Schools and Ypsilanti Public Schools face the prospect of an emergency manager takeover, questions about consolidation keep coming up — and one school board trustee thinks it's time for leaders of both districts to meet.

Ypsilanti school board president David Bates said he’s met with Willow Run school board president Don Garrett Jr. to schedule a combined meeting of the two school boards.

However, the timing remains unclear. Bates said he originally wanted the boards to meet jointly on May 18, but that didn't happen.

Now Bates said he and Garrett are now discussing new dates for a meeting to take place soon.

“Both boards have to be on the same page and willing to support their superintendents (in finding consolidation opportunities),” Bates said. “My goal in that respect is to build relationships between the two boards and get an understanding and mutual interest and help all students in eastern Washtenaw County and achieve at the highest levels.”

Bates said he’s convened meetings of the two school boards previously in his tenure as school board president and thinks it would be helpful for the districts’ superintendents to have some direction from their school boards.

Garrett did not respond to an email and messages left for him by

The geographic location of the districts, as well as YPS and Willow Run’s similar financial positions on the list of 23 Michigan school districts with deficits in their fund balance of more than $1 million, makes consolidation an option for many services in each of the districts.

Ypsilanti and Willow Run shared food service managers for a number of years until last summer and are both members of the Washtenaw Intermediate School District’s bus consortium, along with Ann Arbor Public Schools.

YPS participates in several Washtenaw Intermediate School District initiatives to share services with other districts in the county. For a full list of WISD services, click here. Ypsilanti participates in the highlighted programs.

Willow Run superintendent Laura Lisiscki said on the district level, she and Ypsilanti superintendent Dedrick Martin have been meeting with each other talk about their districts’ situations.

“We’re not opposed to talking at the table and getting our boards together to combat our deficits, and we have been chipping away at our deficits as long as I’ve been here,” she said.

Lisiscki said she remains in the talking stage on many levels with Martin and other Ypsilanti schools officials about sharing services in a way that “makes sense.” Among them are the combining business services, she said.

Lisiscki said the districts should do more things like the WISD transportation consortium, which she described as becoming more successful as the school year went on, despite issues in some parts of the three districts at the beginning.

“We are working together to do everything possible to not just give our kids the best education possible to chip away at our deficits.”

Bates said getting the school boards together in order to think of more potential areas to consolidate services or enhance the two districts' relationship could be beneficial.

However, he said it will ultimately be up to the superintendents in order to find specific areas that are both realistic, will save money and will allow each district to keep their own identity.

“Ideally, we’d get the boards together and build relationships and brainstorm areas for superintendents to look into,” he said, “and could direct superintendents to meet together, possibly with their whole cabinets, and uncover some areas to increase efficiency.”

Discussions on working together and consolidating services are also happening with the districts’ state legislators.

Rep. David Rutledge, D-Superior Township, gave the Ypsilanti school board a warning at last week’s meeting that if the district’s deficit is not under control soon then a emergency manager will be coming to the district.

Rutledge said he’s held meeting with both Martin and Lisiscki to explore the ways they can work together as district leaders. Rutledge said both district leaders are fully committed to eliminating their deficits and avoiding a takeover by an emergency manager, which is a possibility for both districts.

“Everything is on the table in terms of finding ways to eliminate this deficit and those ways involve looking at what they can do individually and looking at what they can do together more than what is occurring now,” Rutledge said.

Rutledge said he’s aware of the work Ypsilanti and Willow Run are doing to reduce their deficits. He said both superintendents are working on proposals to bring to their respective school boards, who will make any decision past that.

“They’ve been deal a hand and they’ve gotta figure out how to play it in a way that doesn’t harm the kids that we’re trying to educate,” Rutledge said.

Kyle Feldscher covers K-12 education for He can be reached at or you can follow him on Twitter.



Mon, May 23, 2011 : 11:45 p.m.

for those who have asked mid-70s ypsi grad with bs and ms from big 10 schools. you may not like what i said but a little top down control could lead to some real change. i am not ignorant or stupid or a conservative. i believe that all children should have a fine public education. so when was the last time ypsi and willow run were ranked in the top school systems in this state? top 2/3rds? top 1/2? better than "f" in percentiles?

Chris Blackstone

Mon, May 23, 2011 : 7:10 p.m.

I'd love to see Ypsi and Ann Arbor merge. They couldn't be any closer geographically and could provide some interesting educational opportunities when combined.


Wed, May 25, 2011 : 1:58 p.m.

You want to see parents scream at that idea? Will never happen. Ever. Nice try.

Edward R Murrow's Ghost

Mon, May 23, 2011 : 6:11 p.m.

I have an idea. Let's combine a school district that is collapsing in virtually every measurable way . . . and combine it with a school district that has severe financial problems but that has had some success at improving student success . . . . And, of course, what will emerge is one of the best school districts in the state. Good Night and Good Luck

Monica R-W

Mon, May 23, 2011 : 8:56 p.m.

Edward, Willow Run chances on collapse is about 80%. They have a total of three schools starting in August/September 2011 for an entire school district. Ford, Holmes and the combined Middle/High School. Kettering-Closed, Kaiser-Will be Closed, Thurston ECDC-Closed years ago. They are combining K-2, 3-7, 8-12 grades to make up the "new" school district Personally, I wish them all the success with this model but parents I talk to will be moving their kids, elsewhere. Ypsilanti Public Schools is that that not far from Willow Run's five or six years, with their dizzying state of "restructuring". Ardis-Was closed, now a Tech High School, East Middle School-Closed-Will be a fourth High School in Fall 2011. George Elementary-Closed-They are doing something with the building...maybe adult education or alternative? Now, YPS is talking about splinting YHS into two schools in one building. YPS are a mess. So, if consolidation doesn't work....parents exiting their children from YPS will continue. Willow Run (which has a HIGH chance of closure in two years tops) children will go to either Lincoln, Van Buren, Ypsilanti or WORSE a corporate funded charter school. There is a new one being build high schoolers right now in Ypsilanti Township. But, if it does....with the right administration, school board and teachers that are respected for their profession, both school districts can finally stop relying on "new tricks, new names-same results" to recruit students and get to the root of the issue, which is student achievement, behaviors and parent involvement....their individual district issues might be solved

Monica R-W

Mon, May 23, 2011 : 2:20 p.m.

This is an idea that should have been done YEARS ago. Makes the most sense with both Ypsilanti Public Schools and the shell of a "school district" Willow Run, to consolidate. Normally, I do not support mergers but, in this case, the land space both school districts share, with the aspect of a EMF eliminating the district entirely if Snyder and crew have their way....little other choices remain.


Mon, May 23, 2011 : 2:04 p.m.

Hell finally froze. Even though they share the same things, they have to do more to get their costs down. Eliminating transportation and giving it to Trinity will give their budget an even more of a boost. They have done all they can and I am not surprised by this article. Good luck to both but you still will not see mine in either district. WR will bring Ypsi to its sub standards.

Cindy Heflin

Mon, May 23, 2011 : 1:58 p.m.

A grammatical error has been corrected.


Mon, May 23, 2011 : 12:53 p.m.

bring on the EFM, nothing else has worked 50+ years at the bottom of michigan's public education cesspool for both and utter denial of the main issue that teachers can't solve: terrible student quality. "local control" hasn't exactly worked out so well. these districts can't even hire principals and superintendents competently they are burning through good teachers and keeping bad ones. the state may not do better but it can't do worse.


Mon, May 23, 2011 : 3:08 p.m.

I don't think an EFM is going to take the schools from the bottom to the top. The individual may resolve financial issues through much arm twisting and brute force but the fundamental issues with the school systems, especially Willow Run, lie with the community. The parents, businesses, and others need to want the change to raise the level of competancy of the students, to increase the scores of standardized testing, and to move towards an acceptable percentage of graduates and college attendees. The desire to see children change and excel to the levels of other school systems will take a concertive effort by all. It will not happen overnight but the right program will show positive results within a couple of years. Parents, especially, will need to convey the utter importance of a good education and will need to maintain a high level of pressure for success since there will be the obvious outside influences to maintain the status quo.

Monica R-W

Mon, May 23, 2011 : 2:25 p.m.

What an idiotic statement. Did you graduate from a Michigan Public School? If not, why would you support top-down Governmental control over LOCAL control of education? Well, probably the answer is Conservatives agree with local control, until up to $900 million dollars in the school aid fund is ripe for raping for &quot;Profits&quot;. Then....local control gets threw out the window and money to be made from ending poor/middle class children Michigan Constitutional RIGHT to a FREE public education, takes over. <a href="" rel='nofollow'></a>


Mon, May 23, 2011 : 11:53 a.m.

It's nice that both districts are giving this lip service, but it won't happen until the State forces it.


Mon, May 23, 2011 : 10:43 a.m.

Finally, a sign of district consolidation efforts. These two districts are geographically close, and provide many of the same services to students. For many years, there was a mass exodus from Willow run to Ypsilanti under the Schools of Choice. Perhaps the &quot;Best Practices&quot; theory could be reinvented to not only make the districts more financially responsible, but also benefit the education of students.