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Posted on Wed, Feb 3, 2010 : 6:13 a.m.

Ypsilanti parents organize meeting to oppose plans to close schools

By Tom Perkins

Ypsilanti school district parents are getting organized to fight a plan to close schools, starting with an informational meeting at Chapelle Elementary School tonight.

Parents say they're inviting all community stakeholders to the meeting because they view the closures as not only a problem for the school community, but also to the neighborhoods and city as a whole.


Students work on beautification efforts outside Chapelle Elementary in this file photo.

“We want to present the proposals as we understand them and encourage people to make their views known,” said Jason Wright, a Chapelle parent. “There haven’t been positive alternatives. The only alternatives presented so far have been more cuts.”

Organizers of the meeting also expressed growing frustration at what they say is a lack of transparency in the process, and the district’s refusal to directly answer their questions. They charge the district’s communication policies are hindering efforts to develop alternatives to unpopular school closures.

The group is particularly upset at the district's refusal to confirm which schools are under consideration for closing.

“You can’t have transparency without transparency,” said Maria Cotera, a member of the Chapelle Parental Advisory Board. “If you don’t give us all the information we need to provide rational input, it’s not real, it’s a farce, it’s theater, and parents are frustrated.”

Despite no official word, parents district-wide are under the impression Chapelle Elementary, Adams Elementary and East Middle School are the three schools targeted for possible closures.

The district held two community forums in January to seek input on two school closing scenarios. None of the schools were named, but their capacities were provided. Parents deduced the schools' identities from there.

District officials earlier confirmed to in phone interviews that the two buildings under consideration for closure in the first scenario are Chapelle and Adams. They now say the elementary school proposed for closure in scenario two is undecided.

In an e-mail exchange between the group and district officials provided to, officials declined to name the schools because the forums' “intent is to have the community provide objective input without emotional bias.”

In a subsequent phone interview, Superintendent Dedrick Martin reiterated that reasoning and said the district won't yet name the buildings publicly.

“The reason we didn’t name them was that we were afraid it would stymie the conversation,” he said. “People would say ‘They are closing 'my' building’ and not talk about the reconfiguration of the district.”

School board President David Bates said the situation becomes significantly more sensitive once school names are added to the equation.

“What we really wanted people to focus on is looking at the scenarios objectively,” he said. “We wanted to depersonalize the situation and see what the situation is really like when looking at what we have in our buildings in terms of physical capacity.”

Cotera said the approach has failed.

“The very idea that we can’t make rational ideas with all the information is offensive,” she said. “It doesn’t matter what schools they are - these are not abstractions; these are our children. It’s not like ‘Let’s do this abstract equation and see how it comes out.’ You can’t pretend there aren’t going to be people who are impacted.”

Bates and Martin underscored no decision has been made on which schools will close. Martin added input from the community workshops will be taken into account, but 15 percent of the operational budget must be cut out. The district is working to slash $6.4 million from its budget before the 2010-11 school year.

“Our position as a district has not changed at all,” Martin said. “Based on some of the input or feedback from several staff meetings and two community workshops, we have had two additional scenarios we will be exploring over the next two weeks.”

Martin said he didn't know the specifics of one scenario, but one included closing a middle school and turning Estabrook into a grades 5-6 building.

“I want to assure parents we are really open-minded and looking at a variety of closures,” Martin said. “I want to be fair and say there are some that include closing Chapelle, but there are some that don’t.”

Group members said they have also repeatedly asked for more detailed plans for redistributing students under each of the scenarios, but the district declined to provide specifics.

In an e-mail to Cotera, the district said “there is a plan to place students in other buildings and building capacity numbers have been analyzed,” but Martin told no plans have been developed for redistributing students.

“We have a general idea of what’s possible, but before we spend tons of hours going down that road and find out ‘Whoa, this is not remotely close to anything that is acceptable’ - before we make a decision like that, we want to see what’s feasible in our community,” he said.

Martin said developing plans for how schools of choice would work under any of the scenarios is also on hold. He sees a number of possibilities, including geographical boundaries, grandfathering and keeping students with siblings.

“We will look for a way as much as possible to give parents some choices and flexibility, but ultimately we won’t make everyone happy because we know there’s no way to do that,” he said.

Tonight's meeting is organized by the Chapelle Elementary PAB, but its purpose is to discuss the citywide impact of closing any schools and developing ideas to keep them open, members say. The meeting is at Chapelle Elementary at 6:30 p.m.

“Seeing this as an isolated academic situation is a detriment to our community,” said Aris Woodroofe, a Chapelle parent. “The ripple effect will haunt our neighborhoods, reduce our businesses and deter prospective homeowners from selecting Ypsilanti as a place to call home.”

A website has been organized by parents opposed to the closures at

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


Martin Church

Thu, Feb 4, 2010 : 9:44 a.m.

First I was educated in the public Schools in Taylor, my Wife is a Ypsilanti Brave. I graduated in 1976 and was forced to endure 1/2 days of school because of lack of funds and resources. Each teacher was responsible for 60 kids every day. 30 in the morning and 30 in the afternoon. My wife Graduated from Ypsi High in 78. As for social interaction, my kids have been involved in many areas, from 4-h to Scouts, they have played in the community band, attend many youth events and have had plenty of interaction. As have been noted in many studies on home education, homeschoolers are more socially adept then the public schools. We chose home schooling because when asked for what the outcome of Ypsi schools for basic education was, we were told their was no outcome. No Directions No Goals. Having kids learning to fight for survival in school is not a goal. Having the social problems we see in the school system today and the number of kids who have been left behind shows the social problem is not solved in school. Computers is just one way for a child to be educated. The first is for the parent to take the lead, turn off the TV, Xbox, and Cable and take them to the Library and start to read. Then you make every day a class day with real math problems. I managed a Stop-n-go several years ago and was shocked when a graduate from Ypsilanti called me at 2 in the morning to tell me they were closing the store because they did not have quarters to make change. He had $30 in Nickels and dimes and did not know how to make change. And I notice even today the number of kids who can not add the amount of money they are spending in their heads and add the tax to the amount. or count back change. These are the basics they should have grasped back in 5 grade. But we are too worried they will not be able to be socially interactive. Stop the social activities and let's get on with the Education.


Wed, Feb 3, 2010 : 3:57 p.m.

Numbers are numbers. There is no money and necessary actions have to be taken. If you want to fix the schools break the teacher's unions and promote school of choice options.

Ypsi by Choice

Wed, Feb 3, 2010 : 2:12 p.m.

Dedrick Martin, I mean Martin Church...That sounds like a great plan. While we are at it, lets lock up all our young excited members of the community behind a computer, to become void of interpersonal communication. I applogize, I am not here to knock in home education, but unless there are significatant attempts for interaction, it downplays the important role the school plays. They are critical in the development of culture, the importance of social interaction for healthy development, and the necessary paradigm shifts for worthwhile education. It is a perfect academic solution for some, however, not really a viable solution when we're discussing a minority community. I imagine that for many community members of low income, teaching at home isn't possible when the only parent is working whatever hours necessary to feed their family. A school is a pinacle stronghold of community, whether you chose to be part of it or not, neighboorhoods and business have an indirect symbiotic relationship with them. Where you home schooled?

Martin Church

Wed, Feb 3, 2010 : 1:19 p.m.

Look folks, something has to give, Since 1990 our district has had money problems, We have already closed several schools to accomidate the population reduction. Now our community has gotten smaller and we have less kids attending school. You wanted choice and now you have to deal with the results. There is no more money coming from the state and our tax base is overloaded. Many have left the community because they can no longer afford the taxes. Our major tax base has closed, so we have to look at major cuts. This means closing schools. You have a choice, take responsibilty for the education of your child to heart and start education at home or turn them in to a system that can not continue to support them like you want. I chose to educate at home and now I have two kids who will graduate at 17 with both High school diplomas and Associate Degrees. Cost to me was $800.00 per year. cost to YPS 0. Money taken by YPS from the state $20,000 for two kids. We can not continue the way we are going and need to look at alternatives. I beleive a parent can teach at home better then a teacher in a class room of 30. and we can support that by taking a lesson from Head Start, Teach the parents to teach and then hold classes over the internet. Cheaper then maintaing excess buildings and the kids will learn more then they are now.

Ypsi by Choice

Wed, Feb 3, 2010 : 10:56 a.m.

Sweetdaddy1963, please attempt to attend the meeting at Chapelle tonight. Apparently the "cost savings" projections proposed by the district does not reflect the migration by many parents who will not tolerate these reconfigurations.


Wed, Feb 3, 2010 : 10:25 a.m.

My son is currently going to West Middle school, he attended chapelle elementary which is a school that does not get a lot of credit for a great job the Admin and Teachers do. I will always be proud of them. Now to my voice YPS should have forseen this problem long ago, wasted money on new construction of these schools if you are going to close East and chapelle then that money could have been used to construct a bigger Middle school at West lord knows you have the land there. I went to school in A2 and have grown to love YPS. My son and his mother have moved around a lot since attending ypsi school, starting with Perry. We have taken advantage of the school of choice, and if YPS over loads West Middle School I will useing this option again. This time it will be taking him out of the ypsi schools and heading south to Milan. So be careful of what you ask for YPS.