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Posted on Tue, May 8, 2012 : 5:59 a.m.

Ypsilanti school board approves deficit elimination plan closing 1 building, not 3

By Danielle Arndt

Ypsilanti Public Schools approved its deficit elimination plan on Monday, the eve before its state-mandated deadline, despite public criticism about a lack of community input in the plan.

The Board of Education voted 5-2 to pass the plan, which calls for reducing the number of staff members by at least 97, cutting transportation, closing Estabrook Elementary School's pool and closing at least one additional building.

Trustee Andy Fanta and Vice President Kira Berman voted against the plan. Both cited the administration’s failure to allow enough time for public involvement in the plan as reasons why. Berman also vehemently opposes any more school closings.


Kira Berman

“These cuts are quite distasteful to me,” she said. “At what point are we participating in the … decline of our district? … Every time we have closed schools, we have lost students. Every time we lose students, we have lost more funding. And every time we lose funding, we have needed to close more schools.

“Please consider the past when you vote for the future,” Berman said to her fellow trustees, prior to discussing the plan at Monday’s special board meeting.

Closing buildings was a sticking point for many board members at last week’s meeting. The original deficit elimination plan called for the possible closure of Adams Academy, Erickson Elementary and New Tech High School.

Trustees Ellen Champagne and Sarah Devaney refused to consider approving the plan with three schools on the chopping block.

Ypsilanti closed Chapelle Elementary and East Middle School as recently as 2010, and George and Ardis elementaries were closed several years before that.

The board brainstormed and came up with a combination of tactics to obtain the $1.7 million in savings that closing Adams, Erickson and New Tech would have brought.

The district still will need to close one elementary building in the 2013-14 school year, for a savings of $600,000, although it is not clear at this time which one. Additionally, it will sell two pieces of property, one on River and one on LeForge streets, that Ypsilanti no longer uses.

If the properties sell in the current market, school officials said they anticipate they could receive a total of $700,000 for them, based on recent appraisals.

The only downside to selling property in place of closing a school is that property sales are one-time revenues, said district business manager Kelli Glenn, whereas closing a school generates a savings year after year through the elimination of staff and operational expenses.

Also to make up for not closing as many schools in 2013-14, the plan calls for sharing more services and staff with Willow Run Community Schools, such as business office personnel, for a savings of $50,000, and the consolidation of the districts' operational and maintenance service departments, for an estimated $75,000.

Ypsilanti and Willow Run already have combined their Air Force Junior ROTC programs and are looking to hire a joint special education director.

Not closing buildings also would require Ypsilanti to cut spending on transportation by another $200,000 — from $400,000 to $600,000 — for 2012-13.

An additional five to six teachers may need to be cut in 2013-14 as well, for a savings of about $1 million over two years.

Of the 97 staff reductions already proposed for the 2012-13 school year, 32 are special education teachers. Sharon Irvine, executive director of human resources, said Ypsilanti currently has about 60 special education teachers. Some staff could be hired back after the district explores different grant opportunities that exist for special needs, she said.

Superintendent Dedrick Martin said with the district's declining enrollment, administrators worked to identify some areas of overstaffing, and these are the areas that will be corrected.

He said YPS involved a "broader array of internal stakeholders" in the deficit elimination decision process this year by meeting with teachers, para-professionals and building principals early on.

"This is a painful and grueling process and no one wants to lay off staff, close buildings or reduce instructional funding," Martin said. "However, the district must overcome a significant debt legacy and live within our financial means while striving to keep the interest of students first."

But a few in Monday's audience of about 50 people wanted to know where the parents' voices were.

Ypsilanti resident Nancy Harvey said while the public can make comments and ask questions at board meetings, it does not appear the board is listening.

"This communication thing, again, is one way," she said. "How do we get responses? How do we get answers to our questions and know that our issues are going to be addressed?"

She said she's "concerned and dismayed" that the deficit elimination plan was passed again at an emergency meeting right before it was due.

"This comes up every year, so it isn’t a big surprise. But here we are last-minute scrambling. This is not what we would teach out children to do in their classrooms," Harvey said.

The board will discuss the plan again in the context of hearing a presentation on the proposed 2012-13 budget during its regular meeting on May 14. The budget and the board's approval of the budget ultimately will help determine which cuts from the DEP for 2012-13 will take effect, when and how.

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



Wed, May 9, 2012 : 9:14 a.m.

You know, the story about the Violin Monster was on the front page longer than this story was. What is wrong with you people (A2)? There are plenty of people you could drag through the mud here, or aren't there enough Ann Arbor businesses involved with YPSD to make it worth your while?


Wed, May 9, 2012 : 12:28 a.m.

In doubt, while I appreciate your comments, I can't help but wonder why Mr. Fanta (being the longest serving board member, I think) didn't do more in the past to cut costs before things got so out of hand. While the current admin isn't perfect, it's not all their fault. I'm just honestly wondering how it got to this point and what was stopping Mr. Fanta (& other board members) from stopping this trainwreck. Couldn't he have provided better oversight historically?


Wed, May 9, 2012 : 9:18 a.m.

That entire board has been involved with the district for over six years in one way or another. That is more than enough time to get the finances under control, or for the voters to vote someone in that will do what is needed for the community and not serve the interests of the central office administration, YEA, YSSA, YPAA, WISD, or EMU.


Tue, May 8, 2012 : 10:17 p.m.

I'm curious, as I haven't been able to view the alleged "plan", does it include any reduction of administration? YPS has long been known to have a top heavy administration. In fact, they've traditionally had the lowest paid teachers but the highest paid administrators in Washtenaw County. Have there been any cuts there? Don't they have 4 PRINICPALS at the high school? That seems excessive for a school that size. It seems like the cuts need to come from all departments, not just teachers & support staff. Shouldn't the cuts take place as far from students as possible? And correct me if I'm wrong, but I've heard the district is paying for the assistant superintendent's doctoral classes. I wonder what her contract package looks like? I'm curious why a shrinking district like YPS even needs an assistant superintendent???


Wed, May 9, 2012 : 12:38 a.m.

You are incorrect. When you look at days worked, Ypsi teachers are the highest paid in county. My spouse is a teacher and said Ypsi teachers work fewest days countywide. That has to be factored in. Last I heard there weren't 4 principals at high school. Hmm, I'd be interested to know about assistant superintendent's contract.


Tue, May 8, 2012 : 8:29 p.m.

Once again special education is cut.

In doubt

Tue, May 8, 2012 : 7:34 p.m.

As a taxpayer, I find it discusting that they spent over a million dollars to fancy the digs of the administration building, and that houses how many people? Yet they want to cram the students into buildings. Why didn't the ad building just move into one of their many buildings?

Tom Bower

Tue, May 8, 2012 : 6:39 p.m.

Ms. Arndt, RE:"Download a PDF of the deficit elimination plan here." The PDF deficit elimination plan is watermarked "draft."

Danielle Arndt

Tue, May 8, 2012 : 9:05 p.m.

Mr. Bower, thank you. The PDF has been updated to the newest version available of the plan that was approved last night. It no longer says "draft." The plans also can all be found here on the district's website: Thanks for reading!


Tue, May 8, 2012 : 1:48 p.m.

"This is a painful and grueling process and no one wants to lay off staff, close buildings or reduce instructional funding," Martin said. "However, the district must overcome a significant debt legacy and live within our financial means while striving to keep the interest of students first." Isn't the District paying tuition for the superintendent's master degree classes? I guess that is more important than supplies for our students.

In doubt

Tue, May 8, 2012 : 9:27 p.m.

Ok, my BAD. It's a shame Mr. Fanta can't do it alone, because we would be in much better shape as a district if he could.


Tue, May 8, 2012 : 8:54 p.m.

Don't forget, In doubt, that Ms Bearman voted in support (thus approving) this contract of the superintendent you are referring to. Was that a common sense vote?

In doubt

Tue, May 8, 2012 : 7:42 p.m.

If your making $140 grand a can afford to buy your own car, cell phone and lap top. He is all about making cuts and trying to eleminate the support staff, just seems like the cuts should start at the top with the people that can afford to get cut and not even feel the pain. Is there a college that teaches common sense? If so, the board--with the exception of Mr. Fanta and Ms Bearman--need to attend it.


Tue, May 8, 2012 : 3:15 p.m.

Oops, I stand corrected! Still a sweet deal. Let's cut teacher pay some more . "Under the contract, Martin's annual salary will be $140,000, plus benefits. His package includes a $300 monthly stipend for a car and a $75 monthly stipend for a cell phone, a laptop computer and a $2,500 annual bonus if he completes his doctoral dissertation. The district will also pay $800 a month for up to four months to cover temporary housing. "


Tue, May 8, 2012 : 2:01 p.m.

What are you basing this on? I believe the superintendent already has his masters degree. I don't believe the district is paying for any degree classes for him. Please do your homework before making negative claims about the district's admin.


Tue, May 8, 2012 : 1:18 p.m.

All due respect but that meeting was terrible AND that "plan" won't get the debt eliminated. We need schools. We don't need sports or coaches. We don't need extracurriculars. We need MEAP scores out of the toilet. We need to graduate students who can read and do arithmetic. We need 1 high scool. We need 1 middle school. We need 1 elementary school. We don't have enough students to fill buildings beyond that. This is not higher math. This school system doesn't have choices or any more time.


Tue, May 8, 2012 : 3:57 p.m.

Pseudo, You're advocating that 650 students be placed in temporary classrooms. Really? Compared to your non-plan, the EFM looks pretty good right now.


Tue, May 8, 2012 : 3:35 p.m.

Its not a choice. Reconfigure who is in what building add temp class rooms for overflow and leave Perry where it is but if those other buildings aren't closed the EFM is knocking on the door right now. He'll enter at first 'oops' in this non-plan plan.


Tue, May 8, 2012 : 3:18 p.m.

Pseudo, With all due respect, the school district has about 1,500 students in grades K-5 this year. The school district doesn't have a single elementary school building large enough to house all elementary-age children. Even if you remove the kindergarten students from those numbers (they're at Perry), you're still talking about 1,200 students. Estabrook is the largest elementary school and it has a maximum student capacity of 550. To be clear, the largest building won't currently house even half of the students in the district. And if the largest elementary building won't accommodate half of the students, then the TWO largest elementary buildings won't accommodate everyone. You're right; it's not higher math. Closing an elementary building would put the remaining two elementary facilities over capacity. I think the building they'll close is Ardis.