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Posted on Tue, Feb 9, 2010 : 6:03 a.m.

Ypsilanti parents pack school board meeting to oppose school closings

By Tom Perkins

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Parents who couldn't fit in the Ypsilanti school board meeting gathered outside in the cafeteria, where they discussed the budget situaiton. Tom Perkins | For

Roughly 150 parents, teachers and community members packed the Ypsilanti Public Schools board meeting Monday night to make clear their opposition to proposed school closures.

Many of those speaking during the public comment portion echoed remarks and concerns shared in several public forums over the last month.

Because of the large turnout, the fire marshal was called to keep the meeting room under maximum capacity. Those who weren't allowed in the room watched from a television set up in the cafeteria. 

Many were wearing green as a way to show their opposition to the school closures.

The school board didn't make any decisions on cost-cutting measures Monday night, but heard from residents. Board members then stressed the district's need to make changes to address a $6.8 million budget shortfall that's forced it into a state deficit elimination plan. 

Rachel Blistein, co-chair of the Historic Eastside Neighborhood Association, read a letter on behalf of the organization to "formally protest the possible closure of Ypsilanti Public Schools.”

She said the HESNA particularly opposes the closure of Adams Elementary, one school publicly raised as a possibility for "repurposing" by district administrators. In the letter, she said the school had shaped the area’s neighborhoods in a “vital and positive way.”

“Adams Elementary’s central location on the border between the neighborhoods of East Prospect Park, Prospect Park, Miles and the Historic Eastside makes it an essential community anchor and resource for hundreds of Ypsilanti residents,” Blistein said.

Deedra Bass, a mother of two children at West Middle School, told the board she finds the option of closing the two elementary schools with the highest minority and poorest populations - Adams and Chapelle - a problem.

She added she didn't believe the administrators' motivations were to close the schools for those reasons, but recommended they consider the impact on certain communities.

“We must be intentional and aggressive in ensuring that our policy-making decisions do not continue to disenfranchise people of color and people of low socioeconomic status …. All of our children deserve an equal chance to thrive, and you are the ones who can make that happen,” Bass said.

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A TV was set up in the cafeteria so parents and community members could watch the meeting. Tom Perkins | For

Five board members addressed the audience during the board's response segment of the meeting.

Vice-President Linda Horne repeated comments from a previous community meeting at Chapelle last Wednesday, in which she called on parents to contact legislators.

She said local legislators told her earlier that day they don’t hear enough from parents and community members on the issue.

“The state doesn't believe that we are in pain,” Horne said. “They say the don’t hear enough from us.”

Trustee Andy Fanta acknowledged the district is suffering from a steady decrease in state funding, but said it needs to reconsider the approach to making cuts.

“I think we’re going about this very severe challenge not so much in the wrong way, but not so much in a way that in the long run is effective for the district,” he said.

Fanta called for a “vision quest” in which the district would answer fundamental questions such as, “Who are we, where do we want to go and what is the conception of the ideal student we want to turn out in Ypsilanti?”

He said identifying core values and determining their operational costs are essential to coping with the financial crisis.

Trustee Kira Berman also encouraged those in attendance to contact their legislators and go to Lansing for a rally on March 10.

She added she felt closing schools isn't the best option, and shutting down the two schools with the most vulnerable populations is particularly troubling.

“I think we can do better than that,” she said.

Trustee Sarah Devaney said none of the cuts were easy, but she preferred closing schools over many other options. “To me, that is more palatable,” she said.

Board President David Bates called the cuts inevitable.

“By and large, this can be summed up as, ‘Don’t cut anybody, don’t close any schools, don’t make any changes,’” he said. “The only problem with that is we’ve been given a lot less money with which to operate this district.”

Maria Cotera, a Chapelle Elementary parent organizing opposition to the closings, told the board two new organizations have been formed.

She said the mission of the first, the Ypsilanti Public School Alliance, is to “combat school closures” in Ypsilanti.

A second group of teachers and support staff dubbed the Ypsilanti Action Committee was formed to develop solutions to the district’s budget crisis that don’t involve layoffs, closures or cuts.

Cotera said community members feel school closures are “not a strategy, but a reaction” and “one with devastating consequences.”

Because of the anticipated large turnout at upcoming board meetings, they'll likely be moved to a larger venue. Board members also discussed holding two more public town hall style meetings.

Tom Perkins is a freelance writer for Reach the news desk at or 734-623-2530.


Ypsi by Choice

Mon, Feb 15, 2010 : 2:44 p.m.

Ypsilanti Public Schools will host a Public Forum on Budget Reductions, 7 p. m. Tuesday, Feb. 16 in the Ypsilanti High School auditorium, 2095 Packard Rd. This is an opportunity for the community to provide the board of education with feedback on proposed changes. Detail...s: (734) 714-1218. Emma L. Jackson, Public Relations Director Ypsilanti Public Schools "Strong From Start to Finish" (734) 714-1202

Delete Please

Fri, Feb 12, 2010 : 11 a.m.

Members of the community should also know that when the Ypsi district closes Chapelle and Adams (the two poor, minority elementaries), they are also going to fire 40 teachers. Most of you are aware of this. Are you also aware of the fact that school employees like janitors and food service folks are also going to be fired, and those jobs handed over to outside corporations? What next? Critical mass is building. Join the movement!

Ypsi by Choice

Wed, Feb 10, 2010 : 11:35 a.m.

Well said point Miss Ypsi. Plus it does not rest concerns at ease when there is research to support that many instances show a lose of money when schools are closed. JBhuron, I would be happy to touch on that question. Although, please make note I never mentioned in my comment that I support for schools of choice or touched on the correlation of schools of choice reinforcing neighborhood schools. I would be happy to give you my opinion since you asked for it through. I know that school of choice was a genius marketing tool introduced to increase enrollment for our district by absorbing interested students from Ann Arbor, Lincoln and Willow Run. Has it worked, yes. Has it increased the concept of neighborhood schools? Now that is silly, it is supposed to bring in outside district students. They district did open it up to all ypsi students to be fair and generalized to the whole district. I honestly think that it deteriorates the concept of a neighborhood school because it prompts parents to not send their child there. It enhances the ease of parents enrolling their student across town based on either their paradigm of certain schools or a wholehearted interest in the particular school as a match for their specific childs academic needs. I visited the other schools in our district, I chose the one we are sanctioned for, becuase it was right for my child. At some point, internal switching within the district would be come saturated, because schools like Estabrook would be filled to capacity. Ultimately sending back those children to the neighborhood of sanction if desired. What good comes out of this??? Well if forces schools to be competitive in the quality of learning, environment and extracurricular offerings. Smart. I truly think that increasing our enrollments from outside districts by giving an all are welcome invitation is not the problem. If you close those schools in the neighborhood, then yes, there will be no one else to welcome, except Mr. Downward Spiral.


Wed, Feb 10, 2010 : 11:02 a.m.

Queenmom (how revealing), You assume that the parents who are protesting this effort to gut our educational choices at the elementary level have been sitting by the sidelines, largely silent until now. You are very wrong. One of the reasons Chapelle parents were able to organize so quickly is that they are very active in their children's school. Chapelle is run on the "community school" philosophy that requires active participation of parents in their children's learning. Most of our parents work, some of them work multiple jobs or shifts, there are very few "stay at home moms" at our school. Even so, they find the time to come to PAB meetings, volunteer their time for special events and after school activities, and even visit the classroom from time to time. Perhaps they can't add "regular attendance at all School Board meetings" to their long list of "to-dos", but Chapelle parents are some of the most involved and engaged parents I have ever encountered.I feel humbled by their example of dedication an tenacity.


Tue, Feb 9, 2010 : 10:43 p.m.

Ummm.... Last night, when the YPSD presented its projections for how the actual redistribution numbers would work in both options for school closures, they revealed that they expect (optimistically) to lose at least at least 50 students as a result of closures. If we calculate the per pupil funding, that means roughly $400,000 less per year for Ypsi schools. Guess what the (again optimistic) calculation is for what the district will save if they close one elementary school? $468,000. Now, lets say we lose just ten more (60 instead of 50). That would make the total loss $480,000. Which would mean that WE WOULD LOSE MONEY IF WE CLOSE A SCHOOL. That doesn't factor in the reality that in closing schools we lose capacity for growth. ANY GROWTH. That means we cannot grow at all given the capacity numbers they have cited. So basically we would lose money with no opportunity to raise enrollments. Moreover, the two building they are proposing to close just had MILLIONS of dollars of bond money invested in them to update them with technology specifically designed for elementary education (smart chalkboards, computers, etc). AND the school board turned down an offer to buy an empty building (another closed elementary) because it was under market value (3,000,000 instead of 4,000,000) IN THIS MARKET. AND our out of district enrollments have risen %25 percent since we started our school of choice program, we might expect it to continue to rise steadily, but we won't have any place to put those students (and their per pupil dollars) because, guess what? WE CLOSED HALF OF OUR ELEMENTARY SCHOOLS. If I was a businessman, and Ypsi Admin was running my financial affairs, I would not only fire them, I would sue them. Hmmmm... sounds like a good idea.....


Tue, Feb 9, 2010 : 6:51 p.m.

If you earn $100 and your bills are are $500, you either earn more (raise taxes) or cut expenses. The district is broke. The state is broke. My neighboorhood is empty, every other house is for sale or vacant. We can't afford to raise taxes more on the people that are still left here. I'm not interested in saving 30 or 40 teachers jobs or keep some buildings operating at the expense of the thousands of children in the district. I don't think people understand that schools will cease to operate at all if they have no money. Yeah it would be nice to have neighborhood schools ( I walked to Adams as a student way back when) but we don't have the money. Btw-ypsi by choice-, since you called me out...can you explain how your support of schools of choice reinforces "neighboorhood schools"? Talk about contradictions.


Tue, Feb 9, 2010 : 6:36 p.m.

While I don't live in Ypsi and don't know specifics about this schools slated to be closed, the article brought to mind a question I always have when parents protesting a school closing or school related decision makes the news: Where is this passion, this involvement in educational decisions on a daily basis? Is the energy exhibited in disagreeing matched by the energy spent supporting their child's education or school? Cynical as it may sound, my experience in public education as both a teacher, parent, and longtime volunteer suggests the answer to both of the last 2 questions is, "No," for the majority of protestors.


Tue, Feb 9, 2010 : 6:13 p.m.

We live in the Willow Run district but my shild goes to Ypsilanti Schools. He is at one of the schools they are talking about closing. If his school closes, I will not put him in another Ypsilanti District school, I will take him elsewhere but not back to Willow Run. He is thriving at his school with his teachers. It seems a diservice to remove the children from a familiar setting with familiar, trusted educators. We are forgetting something vital here-WHAT IS BEST FOR THE STUDENTS? Willow Run made cuts to the point that they are bleeding students now. What happens to all the kids at Willow Run when the state finally closes that district-a lot of them will be coming to Ypsilanti Schools in larger numbers than they are now. I have already begun to look into a new school for my son. I will not transport him across town to a new school. If I have to drive him further away, I will find another school-not in the Ypsilanti District. I have supported his shcool in many ways and would hate to move him but cannot agree to keep moving him around for an education. I though when he started at Ypsilanti, he would graduate from there. He is in third grade now and looked forward to playing sports and go to the same school as his father. If Adams closes, we are done with Ypsilanti Schools. There are so many out of district children there that they now provide busing for them.

Ypsi by Choice

Tue, Feb 9, 2010 : 4:17 p.m.

JBHuron, I am confused at your contradictions. To quote you.."we fortunately voted that down. Less people, less cops needed. Simple math. (funny that they found a way after it was defeated to keep half of those "threatened to be cut".) So, to clarify, people found a way to defeat a reactive cut that ultimatly seemed to NOT be necessary at that point in time, "fortunately"? You do not think that we should at least attempt to decipher through spoon fed information to avoid decay to our community? If our motivation to save our schools and community is based on commitment and emotion for our children, that should not be seen as a hinderence to the process. It is a passion to not accept spoon-fed solutions that have a proven track record of failure in and outside our community. You really see closing schools as supporting reform? Please take the time to educate yourself on related issues, accurate data and avoid becoming a pawn to the 'reform' oppressed on this community once and for all. Please visit but only if you can handle all that "emotion".


Tue, Feb 9, 2010 : 2:20 p.m.

WAKE UP PEOPLE! Ypsilanti has lost a lot of its' residents over the last few years. We are a smaller city now. Last fall when the cops in Ypsi Twnshp asked for money or they would have to layoff 10 deputies in the township, we fortunately voted that down. Less people, less cops needed. Simple math. (funny that they found a way after it was defeated to keep half of those "threatened to be cut".) When are people going to realize that? Yes were talking about "schools/education" and "public saftey" but that doesn't mean people that support reform are anti education or anti public saftey. Marching on Lansing does nothing... LANSINGS's BROKE TOO!!! We need to find our own way out of this and not ask for any more handouts to save us. Here's an idea, maybe we can CUT taxes and CUT services and try and take the City of Ypsilanti out of some of the highest propoerty tax rates in MI. Then people might actually move here and live here and we wouldn't be in this mess. We need to face the facts, close some scools, lay off teachers, layoff cops, cut the City treasurers pay that has increaed 25% over the last 3 years, and live within our means. Then we can come up with a plan to grow. Making an emotional decision because your kids school is closing does nothing to help the entire district find a way out of this mess.


Tue, Feb 9, 2010 : 9:12 a.m.

Those in green were teachers. Most of those in attendance were opposed to the planned cuts, by a large margin, and a great many were angry that the board knew ahead of time that there was going to be a big turnout yet insisted on holding the meeting in the high school basement board room. Those in the cafeteria were not able to hear most of the public comment session, and were chanting "We can't hear." This article ought to have mentioned some of this, and I do not understand why it did not. One other point of clarification, the Ypsilanti Action Committee is comprised of teachers, staff, other school workers, as well as parents, on the understanding that the only way to defend public education is through the united, independent mobilization of all working people.


Tue, Feb 9, 2010 : 8:47 a.m.

Well said Iheartypsi.


Tue, Feb 9, 2010 : 8:45 a.m.

Well said Ypsi heart.


Tue, Feb 9, 2010 : 8:10 a.m.

The highest priority for YPS right now should be to stop the flow of students from the district and focus on retaining the per-pupil funding they DO have. Closing more schools will not achieve that. Closing neighborhood schools will drive parents away and futhermore will do nothing to ATTRACT district families who have other great options. Walking your child to school and being part of your community isn't something that another public district, private or charter school can offer. Ypsi needs to capitalize on that strength, not dismantle it. It's also naive to think that anyone outside of the district is going to choose Ypsi over other schools, when what YPS will have to offer is few schools with huge classes. This is not something parents will drive across town for. Keep the schools open, keep the class sizes small, and look at other places to cut, like administration.