You are viewing this article in the archives. For the latest breaking news and updates in Ann Arbor and the surrounding area, see
Posted on Mon, Apr 16, 2012 : 11:23 a.m.

Willow Run, Ypsilanti school boards to vote on consolidation proposal Monday

By Danielle Arndt

This story has been updated.

WATCH: Tonight's meeting will be live streamed on via the Ypsilanti Township site Check back at 7 p.m. to tune in.

Board members with Willow Run and Ypsilanti public schools will meet tonight to vote on moving both districts toward a possible consolidation.

A majority vote of trustees from the boards of education would place the issue of merging school districts on an upcoming ballot for residents to decide.

“There is a lot of work that needs to be done in terms of designing what a unified district will look like,” said Scott Menzel, superintendent of the Washtenaw Intermediate School District. “And without board authorization, that can’t happen. The individual administrations don’t have time to work on something they haven’t been given the green light for by their boards. So Monday is an important step in the process.”


Ypsilanti junior Alexis Stallings, left, and senior Bryan Fortson, right, look over a chapter in their spanish books during class at Ypsilanti High School on Oct. 10, 2011. Both YHS and Willow Run High School are on the state's Persistently Low Achieving list. file photo

The meeting is scheduled for 7 p.m. at the Ypsilanti Township Civic Center, 7200 S. Huron Dr. Students from the districts’ shared Junior Reserve Officers' Training Corps (JROTC) program will lead attendees in the “Pledge of Allegiance.”

School officials expect an abundance of questions from board members and the public alike. There will be a designated time at the close of the meeting for public comment. Audience members will be limited to three minutes, according to the agenda.

Ypsilanti Superintendent Dedrick Martin said, at this stage, there are many “unknowns” surrounding the potential merger, so he would not be surprised to see a few board members speak and vote their mind.

“Obviously, I am hopeful (the proposal) moves forward because I think the alternative is worse,” he said. “I certainly commend both boards for … taking this step.

“As with any courageous action, one thing is guaranteed: there are going to be some people who disagree. There is no winning side in this conversation. But the idea of consolidation has been floated for almost two decades. So I commend these boards for their leadership and courage to actually weigh it as a viable option.”

Since the news of the possible merger broke, Menzel said the feedback has been “kind of a mixed bag.” He has encountered a number of concerned individuals with questions, as well as people who think, “It’s about time. I can’t believe you didn’t do it sooner,” he said.

Martin echoed Menzel’s observations from the public, adding the local business professionals he has spoken with are very encouraging of the proposal. But Ypsilanti’s teachers and staff have responded more cautiously. He said generally they are optimistic, but many are worried about the details.

“Most of the staff is not pushing against it in a negative way. But they do want to know: what does (the consolidation) look like, what is the timeline?” he said.

Martin is concerned about key staff members dusting off their resumes and looking for other jobs because of the unknowns surrounding the merger, he said.

“That is absolutely a concern and, in some cases, is absolutely a reality,” he said. “We are trying our best to hang on to good people. … (Losing staff) is a real fear and a real perception in times like this. ... This level of uncertainty and this type of change is very scary.”

Menzel said some of the practical implications of moving to a unified district and the two high schools, which are both on the state's Persistently Low Achieving list, will be addressed, as will the "next steps."

Menzel, Martin, both school board presidents and Willow Run Superintendent Laura Lisiscki sat down with State Superintendent Mike Flanagan last week to discuss the possible merger.

Flanagan later sent a letter of support to the boards for their "visionary" and "trailblazing efforts."

"At a time when many other struggling districts have relented to let the state sort out their concerns, you have taken active steps to ensure that your communities maintain local control, while recognizing that business as usual is not an option," he wrote.

Flanagan said he would "favorably receive" an adopted resolution from the two boards requesting to "proceed with consolidation proceedings, per state law MCL 380.852."

"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 ... For example, 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," the letter said.

An extended deficit elimination timeline was what Menzel had hoped for, should the districts pursue a merger.

Previous coverage: Ypsilanti-Willow Run school consolidation plan would create new 'destination district,' ward off emergency managers

View Larger Map

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



Mon, Apr 16, 2012 : 8:39 p.m.

I am not so sure this will be a good thing. I have been a sub TA for several years now. When I first started in this school district, I had high hopes of getting hired and truly believed in the YPS. I LOVE my job and the children that I have come in contact with over the years. Due to all the cuts and kids leaving the district...many of the aides I have worked with are getting very discouraged and have told me they plan to look elsewhere for work. Mind you these are highly qualified and respected employees. I consider myself to be of their caliber (and have been told this by many teachers), but still have not been considered for placement. So Mr. Martin, what you say, is TRUE! Along with the district laying off so many support staff, not hiring and good people leaving, where is that going to leave the district? You NEED good support staff to run a suffiicient school system. I myself am looking elswhere for work. I am truly sad to leave the district, but I have to put food on the table. Good Luck with whatever happens. I still love the YPS and the people I have worked with over the past few years.

michael Limmer

Mon, Apr 16, 2012 : 6:39 p.m.

How can having two losing systems joining together be good? Look to improve not to merge with a real losing system. Money may be saved, but I thought the purpose of schooling is to teach the children, not just save money. If that is the case, why not close the doors and look at all the money that can be saved! Have home schooling and private schools for the few that can afford it and start hiring the guards and build more prisons.


Tue, Apr 17, 2012 : 1:06 a.m.

Michael, the purpose of schooling these days is to make a buck. It's a huge untapped market!


Mon, Apr 16, 2012 : 8:46 p.m.

Michael, Simply closing the doors and walking away is not possible. State law requires municipalities to offer a free public school. Parents always have the right to home-school their children or send them to private schools, however that doesn't absolve the municipality of its responsibility to provide a public school system. In this case, charter schools would not suffice as a public school substitute because charter schools are not REQUIRED to operate under state law. A charter school could simply shut its doors and leave the area, or the charter authorizer could pull the school's charter and the same thing would happen: the school would disappear. A municipality must collect school taxes and participate in a state-sanctioned (read: traditional) public school district, no matter what.

Basic Bob

Mon, Apr 16, 2012 : 7:44 p.m.

How can it be worse? With less duplication (essentially, laying off administration and closing buildings) they could hire a few more teachers. It won't change the population of the district in any meaningful way, even if they were to merge with a "successful" district. Some will always be in the institutional track. With consolidation there will be opportunities for some of these kids to change course, hopefully for the better.

Barbara Wright

Mon, Apr 16, 2012 : 6:15 p.m.

Great idea. An Emergency Manager has an agenda that must be followed and includes financial only and sometimes better then bankrupcy. A bankrupcy Judge does the same financial work and is the final say no changing it. But the districts are the ones who can work out financial matters without jeopardizing the students education.


Mon, Apr 16, 2012 : 6:07 p.m.

It sounds as if this is a budgetary matter ("an extended deficit elimination timeline was what Menzel had hoped for") rather than a quality-of-instruction matter, but maybe both will result? Fingers crossed.

Monica R-W

Mon, Apr 16, 2012 : 5:55 p.m.

There goes my old high school :(..Latest plan to fix Ypsilanti Public School problems will be a big failure, just like their many other plans of years past.... Op/Ed- As Ypsilanti, Willow Run & State Public Schools leaders move full speed toward 'consolidation'; public meeting is just a show ~ ROJS News


Mon, Apr 16, 2012 : 5:13 p.m.

I truly hope this works out that these two districts can be consolidatedl. Both districts are in need of help and I sure hope that all of this can be done. The students in these districts deserve the best schooling possible and if this consolidation helps than I hope it works.

greg, too

Mon, Apr 16, 2012 : 6:03 p.m.

Why would consolidating two failing school districts make sense? Instead of two smaller failing ones, you would have one giant failing school district A2 schools must be loving this as a move like this will fill up those remaining seats in the school of choice.

Martin Church

Mon, Apr 16, 2012 : 4:33 p.m.

I hope this begins the process of continuing consolidation between the township and the city. If these school districts can accomplish this, then perhaps we can re begin the negotiations between the other government organizations and reform our local governments into something to save tax payers money. I support the reformation of both school districts and hope someday we can include Lincoln Schools in the process.


Mon, Apr 16, 2012 : 8:38 p.m.

Martin Church, As a township resident, I would never support a "consolidation" between the City and the Township, unless the City were looking to disincorporate and revert to the township. Even at that, the idea would be a tough sell. Cities in Michigan have the power to levy income taxes, and I would suspect that power has factored into more than one person's decision to locate in the township instead of buying in the City. The City of Ypsilanti has a lot of debts and obligations that the township would have to absorb should such a merger take place, and properties within the current city limits would not generate as much tax revenue for the township as they do right now for the city. Further, townships exert a lot less control over even simple "city functions" like road maintenance and traffic control. Not exactly a prime way to "save" money, and it definitely wouldn't improve things for either the township or the city. Mergers of the city and township have been considered before, and the issue has always been abandoned.


Mon, Apr 16, 2012 : 5:46 p.m.

I think you said it best - why should they be "lumped in there" --- there are many, valid arguements for Ypsi and Willow Run to merge but when I read about Lincoln joining in I get the "why not" stance why not is not an argument - make the case for including them otherwise leave them out of it


Mon, Apr 16, 2012 : 5:24 p.m.

Looking at Lincoln's finances and achievement data, why shouldn't they be lumped in there? Their high school is also a PLA school.

Turd Ferguson

Mon, Apr 16, 2012 : 4:50 p.m.

Dont lump Lincoln in there please.


Mon, Apr 16, 2012 : 4:48 p.m.

Until there is a need, Lincoln schools have no need for consolidation and need not be part of the conversation. Consolidation when needed, is hard enough. For it's own sake, it is even harder.