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Posted on Fri, May 3, 2013 : 5:01 a.m.

Ypsilanti and Willow Run school communities prepare to learn which teachers keep jobs

By Danielle Arndt


Teachers in the Willow Run and Ypsilanti school districts will receive difficult news Friday afternoon about whether they will be offered positions within the new Ypsilanti Community Schools district. file photo

It's that day in Ypsilanti and Willow Run — the day that teachers have been dreading since residents of both districts voted Nov. 6 to consolidate.

When the bell rings Friday afternoon at schools across the two communities, it will mark so much more than the end of just another school week.

For many teachers in the consolidating districts, it will designate a fresh start. But for others, it will mark the beginning of a job search, the end of a 20-plus year tenure with a school system or the turning point in one's professional relationships.

When the bell rings, teachers will make their way to their principals' offices, where they'll be handed envelopes with their names on them. The letters inside will announce their fate with the Ypsilanti Community Schools district, set to launch July 1.


YCS Superintendent Scott Menzel

Courtesy of the WISD

As teachers brace themselves for the news of whether they'll be offered positions in the new consolidated district, they are overwhelmed by feelings of fear, stress, anger, impatience, relief, frustration, a lack of faith in the hiring process and a desire to keep it together emotionally for students.

"It's very difficult," said Scott Menzel, Ypsilanti Community Schools and Washtenaw Intermediate School District superintendent. "Everyone who's been working on this process is acutely aware of how difficult and how emotional this is. We're just trying to do the best we can to provide the appropriate support."

School administrators and officials have been working with the Traumatic Events Response Network, which is part of the mental health annex of both the Washtenaw County and city of Ann Arbor Emergency Operation Centers. The Traumatic Events Response Network consists of trained volunteers and mental health professionals, its website says. The group will ensure professionals are available both Friday and Monday for Ypsilanti and Willow Run staff, Menzel said.

WISD spokeswoman Emma Jackson said there will be at least one additional counselor at each school building.

TERN also conducted a meeting Thursday night at Willow Run Intermediate Learning Center to discuss ways for parents and community members to be supportive of teachers, their students and other families during the teacher notification process.

Willow Run teachers union president Kathleen Miller said she has no idea what to expect Friday from her staff.

"This is one of the most awful feelings ever. Morale is so low. It's devastating," Miller said. "I think there will be all sorts of reactions … with every emotion. Everybody's different… I'm sure they'll be some anger and even some guilt from teachers who were selected but their friends and colleagues were not."

Miller said teachers will be given one of three letters:

  • One could say the teacher is a good match, met all of the qualifications and surpassed the cutoff score to be offered a position in the new district;
  • the second could say the teacher is not a match for the criteria;
  • and the third could say the teacher met the cutoff score but currently there is no place for him or her in the new district.

The teachers given a "maybe" or a "you met the criteria, but" response still could be offered a position within the Ypsilanti Community Schools, Miller said, depending on student enrollment.

The teacher interview process took place March 18 through April 22. High Quality Teachers and Teaching Selection Committees were put together to conduct the interviews, following a specific rubric. The committees were comprised of a retired administrator, two retired teachers and, in some cases, a parent.

Menzel said the decisions were made based on classroom visits, references, discipline records, evaluations indicating whether the teacher was effective or minimally effective, number of absences and other indicators.

However, some teachers have concerns abut how the interviews were conducted, calling them "drive by" interviews and stating their time with the committee was only about 30 minutes in total, a 15-minute interview and 15 minutes of observation. A number of teachers have said they don't know a single individual whose references actually were contacted during the interview process.

Some teachers have said their building administrators told them there would be extra security in both districts on Friday, including a possible police presence. Jackson and Menzel could not immediately confirm this Thursday night.

Menzel said both districts already have security personnel and Ypsilanti High School has a police liaison officer. He said he is not aware of any additional security measures being taken at the buildings. Menzel did say the Washtenaw County Sheriff's Department is "very aware" that teacher notifications are going out on Friday.

Miller said she was told that substitute teachers would be on-call Monday and throughout next week, "in case teachers are feeling like they don't want to go in or can't … or they just want to step out of their classrooms for a bit to take some time to adjust and process as needed."

Willow Run high school teacher Blake Nordman hopes extra counselors and support also will made available to the students. He said teachers are going to maintain levels of professionalism when dealing with the notifications, but families and students may have a difficult time understanding the decisions that have been made.

"We're going to be focused on our kids," he said.

Nordman added that students, in particular at the high school, were all well aware of what was taking place during the interview process. When teachers had to leave their classrooms and have guest teachers come in for 20 minutes while the primary teacher had his or her interview, Nordman said the students often wished their teachers "good luck" and "go get 'em" as they left the room.

"They cheered us on. They were very encouraging," he said.

Other teachers shared stories of their students trying to persuade the observation committee that their teacher is the best, citing examples.

Ypsilanti science teacher Lakesha Barton said she had a student come up to her on Thursday and ask if she was nervous about Friday's teacher notifications.

"I told him no, but that I appreciated his concerns and his thoughtfulness," she said.

Miller, an eighth-grade teacher, had one student tell her that she and one of her colleagues needed to be rehired, but not the third colleague.

"Kids are going to be kids," Miller said. "But it's been awful having our students say stuff like this to us and ask us what's going to happen, because, honestly, we don't know. We probably won't even know (Friday)... Is it really a job offer when they can't tell me what I'm going to teach or where I'm going to be?"

When and how teachers tell their families and students if they made the cut will be up to each individual teacher, Menzel explained. The names of the applicants who receive job offers, and those who do not, will not be released to the public.

Current Ypsilanti and Willow Run superintendents Dedrick Martin and Laura Lisiscki sent emails out Wednesday giving teachers the opportunity to rescind or withdraw their applications before Friday. They were told they could email their current superintendent by 10 a.m. Thursday stating the following: "In the event I am one of the applicants that is scheduled to receive a letter advising me that I have not been selected to be employed by the new district, please rescind my application."

"We recognize that this is going to be an emotional day for everyone involved," Lisiscki wrote in her email, which was obtained by "As administrative teams have gathered to talk through plans for employee support, one important option emerged: the ability for an individual to rescind his or her application for the new district in the event that a teacher was not selected.

"We recognize that everyone deserves an opportunity to shape the impact of job decisions. For some, a message confirming receipt of an application withdrawal is preferred over a letter stating they were not selected."

Menzel said the purpose of these letters was to give employees some level of control, if they wanted it. He said the districts received very few emails from staff wishing to withdraw their applications.

A press conference is scheduled for 4:30 p.m. Friday at the Ypsilanti Public Schools Administration Building, 1885 Packard Road. More information will be shared at that time about how the decisions were made and the number of teachers who will be offered positions.

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


Tamara Craft Larson

Fri, May 3, 2013 : 10:47 p.m.

My heart breaks for all the Ypsi/Willow run teachers who will not be returning. From the bottom of my heat, even if you never met my son, thank you for all you've done. Thank you, for teaching our children and being a great support system for them. I am so sorry, they didn't see what gems you guys all are. There are better things out there for you, and I hope you ever is blessed to have you in their schools know how lucky they are and they treat you way better then these people did.


Sat, May 4, 2013 : 11:13 p.m.

I hate to say they need to really be done with some of the teachers who are only there to ride out tenure and retire. I know a few and glad mine is not there to see this one. Although Pioneer have a few doing the same thing. No big surprise there.


Sat, May 4, 2013 : 2:06 a.m.

Hear, hear! Teachers do a great job and it's a downright shame they are not deeply appreciated by all in today's society.


Fri, May 3, 2013 : 10:18 p.m.

They did not have counselors available at all of the schools.


Fri, May 3, 2013 : 8:17 p.m.

It's a shame that a teacher's career can be ruined by a 15 minute interview, and another 15 minute observation. After having been a teacher for many years, I realize that the teachers who can put on the best dog and pony show for 15 minutes are not usually the best ones. Any lesson no matter how well thought out and prepared for can go wrong for many reasons. Heaven help the teacher who may have known one of the interviewers; and had possibly gotten on their bad side for one reason or another in the past. And of course the opposite could hold true for an individual who may have had a positive rapport with an interviewer. They will certainly come out ahead of others. The whole process seems unfair at best. This just provides another notch in the belt of a government set out to destroy its own public school system.


Sat, May 4, 2013 : 11:12 p.m.

30 drivers and monitors were not hired due to interesting things in their files. I talked to one teacher who verified this one. Can't wait to see the list. I really hope it is not fixed like it was 3 years ago.


Fri, May 3, 2013 : 7:52 p.m.

If a certain Music teacher/leader at Ypsi High named Kazmerski is not retained you will know the fix is in and the process is not legitimate.


Fri, May 3, 2013 : 6:02 p.m.

I know the stress they are under. Happened to the bus drivers and monitors three years ago August. What ever happens? Happens and they still have their tenure and unemployment. Although they only get what? 20 to 26 weeks of unemployment? I know a lot of new teachers are still looking. What a day this will be.


Fri, May 3, 2013 : 9:55 p.m.

Only 20 weeks of unemployment benefits....thanks to Rick Snyder.


Fri, May 3, 2013 : 8:48 p.m.

3 tiers.


Fri, May 3, 2013 : 8:41 p.m.

20 weeks is the max. Gov. Snyder changed the law February 2012. There are 2 tiers of EUC available as well. I was laid off from YPS last June and I just received my last unemployment check.

Danielle Arndt

Fri, May 3, 2013 : 4:46 p.m.

I just received confirmation from Sgt. Geoffrey Fox with the Washtenaw County Sheriff's Office that the typical Ypsilanti High School police liaison officer as well as a couple of extra reserve deputies will be bouncing back and forth today between YHS and Willow Run High School. He also said the road deputies have been made aware that teachers will be receiving their employment notices today and have been told that if they have free time to patrol the area. But these deputies have not been specifically assigned to the schools, Fox said. He said: "We don't anticipate any problems and haven't heard that there are going to be any. This is basically just a precaution."

Nicholas Urfe

Fri, May 3, 2013 : 4:33 p.m.

Become a professional educator, they said. Teach the children, they said. It's a great stable career, they said. Get in line for an envelope, they said. It'll tell you whether you're getting canned for no good or defined reason.


Fri, May 3, 2013 : 3:23 p.m.

Maybe and Reporter Arndt will keep a close eye on if Ypsilanti Community Schools hires "Teach for America" employees to "replace" the experienced teachers of both of these soon-to-be former school districts. There's a suspicion that this is what Menzel and Crew (including that so-called un-elected Board of Education) is trying to do. "Teach for America" teach are paid a bottom basement rate, only are required to have a bachelors degree in ANY subject to teach, are not unionized and are used by various "charter schools" corporations to keep wages low and unionization out. Now, Ypsilanti Community Schools are supposed to be a "public school district" but their actions over the past year acts like "corporate top down" structure more than anything else. Maybe at the press conference this afternoon Reporter Arndt can inquire if Menzel and the rest plan on hiring "Teach for America" employees.


Sat, May 4, 2013 : 2:01 a.m.

Wrong again. Teach for America teachers can be hired in ANY DISTRICT which gives them access. Currently TFA are in Detroit Public School District in Southeastern Michigan. No other S.E. Michigan P.S. District needs to hire TFA teachers at this time while A). They have experienced teachers in the District or B). They have experienced teachers and a robust supply of applicants who received a Bachelor's Degree from a 4 year University Specializing in Education (Elementary or Secondary). Since Ypsilanti Community Schools is a ENTIRELY NEW DISTRICT with no guarantee to retain ANY of the previous personnel, Elizabeth you have no idea if TFA teachers will be in the new district. No one does. As for the how "effective" TFA is, well let's review the perspective of a former TFA employee: Back to the point, ANY BACHELORS DEGREE in ANY SUBJECT, a 2.5 GPA and US Citizenship or National/Permanent Resident Status is the minimum standards for a TFA instructor: For parents of this school district-to-be, there are at least two other adjoining Public districts and a number (if you must) Charter Schools that have experienced teachers. Look into Public School District first, then a Charter only if you have no other choice. Choose an school district ran w/ TFA instructors possibly, LAST.


Fri, May 3, 2013 : 10:37 p.m.

Teach For America is currently in Detroit, but they have no teachers in Ypsilanti or Willow Run (or plans to move to my knowledge). Teachers are hired and paid for by the districts, and do not receive any benefits or salary from the organization once they are hired by their district. Districts pay these teachers the same as any other starting teacher, so there would be the same advantage for a district to hire TFA teachers or other starting teachers over veteran teachers. (Though I think they do pay an additional fee to Teach For America.) These teachers must be certified in the subject area that they teach which means passing the same MTTCs in the state of Michigan and take ongoing coursework in addition to the traditional PD given by schools. Teachers join unions if they teach in a district with a union just as any other teacher in the district.


Fri, May 3, 2013 : 9:54 p.m.

Wrong. The average salary for a Teach For America instructor is between $33-35K. The salary and benefits are split (cost wise) between the District/Charter School and TFA, thus resulting in a lower cost basis for the District/Charter school. Finally TFA instructors are NOT required to meet "No Child Left Behind" certification standards and are no allowed to unionize. Just the REAL FACTS Janofmi, not spin.


Fri, May 3, 2013 : 9:13 p.m.

Teach for America candidates make the same amount of $$ as a first year teacher. The district also pays TFA a fee, so it actually costs more to employ a TFA teacher.


Fri, May 3, 2013 : 2:27 p.m.

What Danielle failed to quote is that the teachers received an agenda at their "crisis" staff meeting this week with a sentence that read, "Most likely, everyone will be handling a message that will be shattering", and that Ms. Lisiscki's email stated, "Please be aware that if you withdraw your application for employment, you will be deemed to have waived any right to challenge the hiring process or hiring decisions." This is the REAL hidden agenda. The administration knows that the hiring process was shady at best and that many will have a lawsuit to file against the unfair hiring process that followed very few Human Resource guidelines and regualtions. This is also why another message was sent yesterday stating the number of teachers who will receive "maybe" letters has increased drastically! They will send out many "maybe" letters today so that they will not be challenged and FOIA'd to death by the "no" letters they had originally planned to deliver. This will also give Menzel the opportunity to tell the press that they handed out very few "no" letters, trying to make them look like good. Ypsi Schools recenlty attended a job fair, looking for teachers. My question, if the people who receive "maybe" letters today, end up not getting called back (which is most likely their scheme) and then the new district hires external teachers, what can "maybe" teachers do about it? Lawyers get ready! It is absolutely a shame how the 3 superintendents and the hiring team at WISD have manipulated, scared, and demoralized these fine teachers who have given their blood, sweat and tears to work in an urban district that has become increasingly high stress and low achieving over the years.


Fri, May 3, 2013 : 8:44 p.m.

beardown - My daughter was accepted in FOrtis Academy and when I turned in her paperwork, the receptionist asked me what was going on with Erickson because so many new enrollment forms she had received were soon-to-be-former Erickson students. Based on my totally unscientific anec-data (ha ha), I reckon enrollment will be down AT LEAST over 100 students between the two districts.


Fri, May 3, 2013 : 4:27 p.m.

I would say that the shadiness began back during the board appointment process. The WISD, led by Menzel, picked people who interviewed in a manner that led them to see like candidates who would not rock the boat and would follow the WISD party line. This then included hiring Menzel himself to run the sinking ship and retaining the two failing SI's because the WISD and both former boards failed to do their jobs and kept re-appointing them in spite of the failing school systems that they presided over. I hope those overpaid consultants and the board have planned properly for the mass exodus of students from the district. Those that do remain will only be there because their parents cannot get them into another district. Two failing districts were combined into one giant corrupt district. And we the taxpayers are stuck footing the bill (you know there are millages coming) for their ineptitude, which runs all the way up the ladder to the top of the WISD.


Fri, May 3, 2013 : 3:20 p.m.

Not that you need support but everything you stated is accurate and I challenge anyone to prove otherwise.


Fri, May 3, 2013 : 2:07 p.m.

I'm sorry if I'm missing something here, but if teachers write those conditional withdrawal emails, won't they still know that they would have been rejected if they get a response saying that their withdrawal was accepted? I can't imagine that teachers are going to keep the letters and show them to people to try to prove that they quit instead of being laid off, and if they personally understand that they would have been rejected, what possible purpose could this have?


Fri, May 3, 2013 : 8:45 p.m.

Danielle - if they applied and then chose to withdraw their application, how would that affect the teacher's ability to collect unemployment?


Fri, May 3, 2013 : 3:41 p.m.

This is a normal option in the private and public sector to resign as apposed to getting fired. The issue at hand is that there has been so much change in the process and a severe lack of transparency about the process that using that option seems to be away of preventing someone who is not offered a job a chance to look at their record. Also, increasing the number of maybe letters prevents those employees from getting their highering records while they are still in limbo. The situation seems very suspicious and I can assure you that this is only the beginning of the a lack of trust and transparency in the new district.

Danielle Arndt

Fri, May 3, 2013 : 3:33 p.m.

I was confused about the possible purpose of this as well at first. Scott Menzel framed it to me this way. He said it's similar to how employers will sometimes give employees the opportunity to resign, rather than to be terminated or laid off. It gives the employee the chance to control what happens to them, and some people like being able to exercise that control over their employment. It also allows the employee to tell future employers whatever they want to about their reasons for leaving their former job. The employees then won't have to have the "I was terminated" or "I got laid off" conversation during an interview, which can sometimes have a negative connotation. Menzel called it giving teachers the "ability to frame the separation event." This explanation honestly made sense to me and I think were I in that type of situation, I would appreciate that type of opportunity. But does anyone else have any thoughts on this?


Fri, May 3, 2013 : 2:15 p.m.

Just a thought, it could be the districts attempt to remove the ability of a person to obtain their highering process file thus preventing any bad publicity and law suits about the process.


Fri, May 3, 2013 : 1:52 p.m.

References were not contacted this has been confirmed with staff and with notifications given to staff by the hiring committee. If you would ,like information regarding projections go to the consolidated schools website and look at their consolidated budget funding for teacher professional development and it show that 240 teachers will be allowed 15 days of professional development over the summer. The question remains who will these teachers be if they have a large amount of "Maybe" offers dependent upon enrollment. Based on that document it seems they have already made decisions based on enrollment and enrollment trends. Are the teachers who are given maybe letters going to have priority over external applicants? If the district begins to accept external applicants then we can only assume that they are going to fill positions that the "maybe" internal applicants could be filling which then harkens other questions about the purpose of this process and if it was really designed to retain current good teachers.


Fri, May 3, 2013 : 1:11 p.m.

Questions a journalist, or a parent, or a teacher might ask: How many teachers are there, total in the two districts? How many is the combined district planning to hire, in total? What is the current teacher to student ratio, and what is it projected to be in the combined district? This kind of information seems very relevant to this article, to me, but it's missing. These teachers are getting screwed, and they should organize to fight back.

Danielle Arndt

Fri, May 3, 2013 : 3:20 p.m.

Also, just some food for thought ... in the principal selection, the new district offered jobs to six of the 24 internal candidates that applied for the nine principal positions. The district will hire externally for the remaining three principal positions. Here is that story: I, for one, will be interested to see how the teacher numbers shake out and if the percentages are similar to the principal positions that were offered. Also, five of the principals that were hired were from Ypsilanti and just one was from Willow Run. That was brought up frequently when I spoke with Willow Run teachers yesterday. They were very concerned by that.

Danielle Arndt

Fri, May 3, 2013 : 3:17 p.m.

L'chaim, I agree. Very important information. Myself and another reporter actually did ask these questions this week, but the current breakdown of teachers in both districts was not readily available. I was told by Scott Menzel this information is being prepared for tonight's press conference. So I hope to be able to answers these questions for readers in this evening's report. I do know, and it was included in an earlier article, that about 330 internal candidates in total from both districts applied for spots. I'm not sure what percentage that is of the total, but Menzel has said since the beginning of the consolidation process that the new district is committed to hiring mostly current staff.


Fri, May 3, 2013 : 12:02 p.m.

all that 'caring' from the, really rich.


Fri, May 3, 2013 : 11:23 a.m.

Very unfortunate and disheartening I can relate, this has been an ongoing for over 20 years in the private sector as many corporations and small businesses have been required to cut costs and expenditures by reorganizing (reducing employees). It has finally come to roost in the Public sector and will continue in order to get where it needs. Chicago recently closed down 61 schools so you can just imagine how many faculty and support employees lost jobs, this is going to be the trend for years to come throughout the nation.


Fri, May 3, 2013 : 1:14 p.m.

Fortunately, in Chicago, there is a real fight back against these attacks. Teachers and parents are organizing and they are keeping some schools slatted for closure, open. The strike last year disproved many of the bogus arguments of "government bankruptcy" and defeated the wholesale privatization of the system. Fight, teachers, fight.

Nick Danger

Fri, May 3, 2013 : 11:20 a.m.

This is a low point in public education.The way teachers were treated in this process was unprofessional at best and inhumane at it's worst. A career can be destroyed by an outsiders opinion after a 20 minute observation and interview. The new district's attempt to cover themselves by using retired teachers and administrators to conduct the interviews and observations doesn't make it legitimate. Providing mental health professionals to those who are unjustly fired is insincere and simply an attempt to erase the guilt for those involved in this process. Shame on YCS and the WISD ,you certainly could have come up with a better way to create the new district


Fri, May 3, 2013 : 10:30 a.m.

It is a grim day, made worse than it needed to be due to the poor administrative decisions that have been made since the election. At a time when the new district needs to be demonstrating stability in order to keep and attract students, the instability worsens by the day. Be extra kind to your teachers today! They deserve that, plus so much more.