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Posted on Mon, Jul 30, 2012 : 2:55 p.m.

State education official: No step taken toward emergency manager in Ypsilanti or Willow Run schools

By Danielle Arndt

None of the state's steps required to appoint an emergency financial manager have been initiated with the Ypsilanti or Willow Run school districts, a spokesperson for the Michigan Department of Education said.


Martin Ackley

Director of Communications Martin Ackley said the first step to having an emergency manager appointed is a preliminary review. No district in Michigan is now in line for that review under Public Act 4, the emergency manager law, he said.

The question of how and when an emergency manager could be appointed to one of eastern Washtenaw County's two deficit-operating school districts has become a more prominent point of discussion as Ypsilanti and Willow Run school officials prepare to consider placing a proposal to consolidate on the November ballot.

Ypsilanti Public Schools also recently learned it could only borrow about $12.7 million from the MDE, instead of the $14 million it needs to survive financially next school year.

Financial reports for the 2011-12 academic year are due in November and further assessment of districts’ financial situations will be done at that time, Ackley said, adding "each case is determined on its own merits."

However, the legality of P.A. 4 is being debated currently in the Michigan Supreme Court.

Ackley said MDE officials have worked closely with Ypsilanti and Willow Run schools on their deficit elimination plans during the past few years.

Most recently, the districts launched an effort to ask voters to approve a consolidation.

Ypsilanti and Willow Run school officials argue unification could help the two deficit-operating districts avoid an emergency manager situation and retain local control.

“If the consolidation does not happen and/or the department is not able to approve a deficit elimination plan for either or both districts, further action (by the state) would be required,” Ackley said, when asked if the state would have stepped in sooner if it weren’t for merger discussions.

Ypsilanti Superintendent Dedrick Martin said last week that his district could face an emergency manager as early as next spring, if the consolidation proposal does not pass.

A failure to pay wages, salaries or other compensation owed to employees, or benefits owed to retirees, within seven days after the scheduled date of payment is listed as a potential trigger for a preliminary review under P.A. 4.

“The Michigan Department of Education recognizes that public school districts are locally controlled and operated. We are watching this (potential merger between Ypsilanti and Willow Run) the same as we view any other school district in the state in these (financial) circumstances,” Ackley said.

He declined to comment on whether Martin’s fear of an emergency manager appointment is realistic.

“Given that both the Willow Run and Ypsilanti districts are operating with a negative fund balance, it would be very significant if the consolidation would result in enough savings to eliminate those deficits,” Ackely said.

Two small school districts in Lenawee County, Britton-Macon and Deerfield, consolidated effective July 1, 2011. Neither district had a deficit fund balance, but merged due to the “financial pressure” in implementing the new Michigan Merit Curriculum, according to a report in The Daily Telegram.

Deerfield and Britton-Macon had populations of 307 and 541, respectively, at the time, according to the news report.

Local school officials have said MDE leaders are watching the Willow Run-Ypsilanti merger talks closely.

Representatives from Ypsilanti, Willow Run and the Washtenaw Intermediate School District expressed their interests consolidating during a conversation with the MDE. The department agreed to offer support, if this was the direction the two districts and their communities decided to take, Ackley said.

State Superintendent Mike Flanagan sent a letter of support to the Ypsilanti and Willow Run school boards that praised their "visionary" and "trailblazing efforts."

"And if voters in both school districts choose to consolidate, the Michigan Department of Education and I will commit to assisting the new district and its leaders in moving forward… I have the authority to extend the timeline related to deficit elimination plans and would be willing to consider doing so in support of your consolidation efforts," he said in the letter, dated April 10.

WISD Superintendent Scott Menzel said Flanagan told him the districts’ debt repayment period possibly could be extended for up to 20 years.

Ackley said Flanagan can use his discretion to grant additional time.

“Typically, districts are given no more than five years to eliminate their deficit fund balance,” he said. But … “the law is silent as to how long the extension can be.”

Read the complete text of Public Act 4 here.

Read all of the steps of how a financial manager is appointed here.

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



Mon, Aug 6, 2012 : 1:33 p.m.

The winner in this will be Lincoln. WR students go to Lincoln when they leave. WR will be 11.7 million in debt. I am sure the WR sellout superintendent will land a job in Ypsi schools. WR can be a good class C school. 1.7 mill easier to overcome than 11.7. WR has improved from the state priority to the focus group under the leadership of the Principal and fine teachers.


Tue, Jul 31, 2012 : 8:27 p.m.

As Mr. Bill might say..................................... Oh No!!!!

M Greenwood

Tue, Jul 31, 2012 : 4:56 p.m.

OF COURSE THERE IS OPPOSITION TO CONSOLIDATION! Ypsi has NEVER wanted anything to do with WR until they are faced with an EFM! Now, they want the help of WR to bail them out/buy them time/keep putting money in their adminitrators' pockets! Willow Run is in nowhere near the bad shape that Ypsi has gotten themselves into. It is a mess. Kids will hurt - be shuffled all over. Let Ypsi get an EFM and boot all of those central administrators, who got us in this mess, out of there!!!


Tue, Jul 31, 2012 : 11:11 a.m.

Could someone please explain why failing students is always the schools fault ? if parents have no control over their kids, what is the school supposed to do ? I mean they have to have a on site cop their.My friends daughter graduated from Ypsi 3 years ago and is going to University of Tennessee right now.I guess bad parenting is now Synder's fault


Tue, Jul 31, 2012 : 4:48 p.m.

Wrongo. Parents are responsible for their children. Why do you think some states are now holding the parents accountable when the child does wrong? Trust you me, parents need to know what is going with their children all the time. I do. When mine turns 18? I trust she has better judgement then she does now. So, no, Snyder is not to blame when parents go bad. Time to belly up to the bar parents and know what is really going on with your children. I do.


Tue, Jul 31, 2012 : 3:26 p.m.

To Braggslaw's point that there aren't options for all parents who don't want to send their kids to YPS, I disagree. There are charter schools in the area as well as private schools that offer need-based scholarships. The only effort on the parent's part is filling out applications and helping the child with the AATA schedule to get them to school. tdw has hit the nail on the head: many families in YPS district send their kids elsewhere to avoid sending their kids to school with so many kids that act out in the classroom because of their situations at home and parents that don't value education. This is what has brought the quality of the YPS education down - not the lack of good teachers. The challenge is attracting the families that care about eduction to send their kids YPS. Those families certainly do live in Ypsi but don't send their kids to the schools.


Tue, Jul 31, 2012 : 1:37 p.m.

braggslaw.....I don't disagree with you.My point is that if parent ( s ) did their job there wouldn't be a need for charter schools.I sent my kid to a private school because I wanted him to be around other kids who's parents gave a darn


Tue, Jul 31, 2012 : 1:18 p.m.

I don't disagree with you. A child's fate is in the hands of their parents or parent. BUT, my point is that there are great parents who want the best for their kids and they do not have the resources to optimize their kids chances. Charter schools give them choices and choice ultimately leads to better results. Maybe a kids would do better in all boys school, a technically focused school, an all girl school, an arts school. Not all kids are the same. For those parents who don't care about their kid, there is nothing anybody can do. I want parents who care and who lack resources have a chance to help their kids. The people fighting for Ypsi and Willow Run are fighting for their jobs, not for children. That is where the disconnect is. They preach public good but they are looking out for themselves. They spend more money per student than any other school system in Washtenaw... translation they are sitting at the public trough and not producing results. Ypsi and Willow Run have horrible test scores... MEAP ACT etc. Those test scores are huge indicators of a kids future success. Statistically your child is doomed if you goto Ypsi or Willow Run.


Tue, Jul 31, 2012 : 12:34 p.m.

Hmmm.....2 thumbs down no answer.Typical liberals


Tue, Jul 31, 2012 : 11:12 a.m.

Ooops should be there not their.Man I wish there a edit option


Tue, Jul 31, 2012 : 1 a.m.

At some point out of mercy to the students you have put them down. The kids will be better off in other places. Willow Run and Ypsi have failed in every single measue.

Macabre Sunset

Tue, Jul 31, 2012 : 5:17 p.m.

The schools are only performing badly because the parents aren't supporting them. Parents send their children out without any preparation for the future. And then act surprised and angry at the world when their children fail. I'd imagine the teachers in Ypsi and even Willow Run are of similar quality to those you see in Ann Arbor. That's not meant to be wild praise. I just don't see the point in blaming one or two school systems when the entire system depends on the parents. As for the finances, yes, Willow Run was not competently managed. But the problem is an unsustainable compensation system - pensions and benefits. It would stand to reason that the budget would collapse first in places that can't raise taxes as quickly.


Tue, Jul 31, 2012 : 4:45 p.m.

Where would they go? Belleville is already at capacity and forget Ann Arbor. They would shut down school choice in a heart beat. Maybe. All I know is Ann Arbor denizens balk when they find out a child is not from their community. Good luck with this one.

Angry Moderate

Tue, Jul 31, 2012 : 12:24 p.m.

Hey Mike, Governor Snyder pays taxes that go to PUBLIC SCHOOLS, even though his daughter doesn't use them. You should be thanking him for paying more into the system than he's taking out. P.S. - the governor wants more school choice for everyone...but the union thugs are against non-profit charter schools AND school vouchers.


Tue, Jul 31, 2012 : 2:33 a.m.

I hope that every poor parent would have the opportunity to choose the school their child can attend rather than being forced to attend Ypsi or Willow Run, where they are almost guaranteed failure in learning and in life.


Tue, Jul 31, 2012 : 1:17 a.m.

No, I think that the State of Michigan, under the direction of Governor Snyder, has failed them in every single measure... While his daughter has the privilege of attending the private school that he insists on sending her to, while WE are paying for his State Police entourage to accompany him to and from Lansing every day so that his daughter can REMAIN in that private school!!!!!

Basic Bob

Tue, Jul 31, 2012 : 12:49 a.m.

Is there any opposition to consolidation? Just asking.


Tue, Jul 31, 2012 : 4:43 p.m.

Some feel it would take away the quaintness of a small community school. i for one have heard nothing but talk of consolidating for years. So glad this is finally coming to a head.


Tue, Jul 31, 2012 : 12:27 a.m.

For an educated lot we are getting nothing but political run around.....and the public educators want us to feel sorry for them ?.........I think not.


Mon, Jul 30, 2012 : 8:12 p.m.

After reading this? I felt dizzy in the head. So, if WR closes the hi school does it reopen as Ypsilanti Consolidated? Or remain closed? This gets weirder and weirder by the minute. I am voting yes on the consolidation.

tom swift jr.

Mon, Jul 30, 2012 : 7:45 p.m.

Does anyone else feel that it is getting very difficult to know what the truth is regarding this situation? The districts have been warning about a state takeover "as early as next spring", the state is saying they haven't taken any steps to do so. Flanagan said 20years for debt repayment, Ackley seems to be saying that 5 years is typical. And, none of this, does anything to avert the fact that it appears that the staff at YPS won't get paid in the fall. I have a difficult time imagining the level of investment when folks go back to the classroom (note, I didn't say "back to work", most teachers work all summer) with the concern of paying their bills for that month. Quite a mess.