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Posted on Tue, Nov 6, 2012 : 11:59 p.m.

Ypsilanti-Willow Run consolidation proposal, 18 mills win voters approval

By Danielle Arndt


Washtenaw Intermediate School District Superintendent Scott Menzel discusses the Ypsilanti-Willow Run consolidation proposal with a local resident at Tower Inn Cafe on election night.

Daniel Brenner |

Tuesday's election will forever mark the end of the Ypsilanti Phoenix and the Willow Run Flyers.

Voters have approved merging the Ypsilanti and Willow Run school districts.

The "yes" vote on two ballot proposals — the consolidation question and the corresponding 18-mill non-homestead millage to fund the new district — essentially dissolves the two longstanding public school districts to create a new, unnamed district with a to-be-decided mascot, building plan and leaders.

In the Ypsilanti school district, 9,846 or 61.65 percent of voters supported the consolidation, while 6,126 people or 38.35 percent were opposed. On the 18-mill tax levy, 8,243 voters or 54.21 percent said "yes," while 6,964 voters or 45.79 percent said "no."

In the Willow Run school district, 4,650 people or 61.41 percent of voters were for the merger proposal and 2,922 people, 38.59 percent, against it. The non-homestead millage, squeaked by, winning voters approval by just 127 votes (1.76 percent): 3,692 people said "yes" (50.88 percent), while 3,565 (49.12 percent) said "no."


WISD Superintendent Scott Menzel and a supporter follow the election results on a laptop at Tower Inn Cafe near EMU's campus on Nov. 6, 2012.

Daniel Brenner |

School board members, superintendents from both districts and the Washtenaw Intermediate School District and other supporters of the Ypsilanti and Willow Run consolidation proposal watched the results trickle in Tuesday night from the Tower Inn Cafe near Eastern Michigan University.

Supporters cheered as they received favorable updates from the city and township clerks throughout the night.

Current Willow Run school board President Don Garrett said he thinks the election went "pretty much like we planned."

"Once the city and the community of Ypsilanti started out finding the real reasons we needed to consolidate, many of the no votes were being swayed to yes votes," he said. "It was good to see our hard work pay off in the results."

In total, residents in six precincts in both Ypsilanti and Superior townships could weigh in on the consolidation proposals in the Willow Run school district. In the Ypsilanti school district, voters from 11 precincts in Ypsilanti Township, two precincts in Superior Township and three wards in the city counted toward the merger decision.

Garrett, who was a graduate of Willow Run High School, said prior to serving on the school board and seeing firsthand the struggles, he would have felt a little bittersweet about the election and the merger of the school districts.

"But from the inside, you can't ignore this is what's good for kids," he said. "And when you think about that the Willow Run and Ypsi names lose their importance."

Ypsilanti Superintendent Dedrick Martin echoed Garrett's sentiments, adding he is excited about the prospect and opportunity for the students in the greater Ypsilanti community. He called the election results "huge" for the area.

Follow the results

Keep an eye on the voter tallies as they come in

"Anytime you’re investing in a community, anytime you’re talking about the growth and health ... of the community, schools play a part in the wellbeing of it," Martin said. "Without a healthy, strong, vibrant school system for kids, I think you really run the risk of having communities you’re just not proud of.

"It's going to be a lot of work and a challenge, but it's what the kids deserve."

State Rep. David Rutledge, D-Superior Township, joined school leaders at the Tower Inn for a quick appearance shortly before 10 p.m. Tuesday.

Rutledge has been one of the biggest supporters of the Ypsilanti-Willow Run merger from the beginning, as both a local resident and state official.

Rutledge also was up for re-election Tuesday.

In September, Rutledge introduced a bill in the State House of Representatives calling for a three-year moratorium on new charter schools in districts that have consolidated. He recently spoke out against the EMU Board of Regents, chastising them for approving a new charter for the 2013-14 school year in the current Willow Run school district.

"Both of these school districts (Ypsilanti and Willow Run) have now gone to great lengths to get this issue of consolidation before voters, and it really seemed like they (the EMU Board of Regents) were trying to sneak this in before the election," Rutledge said in an interview with "It seemed really disingenuous."

In his election-night pep talk to Ypsi-Willow Run supporters, Rutledge praised both districts' leadership in the merger initiative.

"The way that these two superintendents and boards came together and looked at this and arrived at a point where they could put this in front of voters, I think that's huge," he said. "The other thing that impressed me is there was no organized opposition. And I think there was no opposition because of the environment of the community itself and the ability to arrive at the conclusion that this needed to be (decided)," Rutledge said.

Rutledge said moving forward, if the consolidation effort passes, the two districts must unite to put the creation of a new model at the forefront.

"If that happens we're going to attract a lot of people," he said.

Gov. Rick Synder couldn't vote in the Ypsilanti and Willow Run consolidation measure, but he did express praise for the efforts of those behind the proposal Tuesday.

“I’m pleased to see that people are looking at those kinds of opportunities,” Snyder said while voting at his precinct in Ann Arbor Election Day.

“I leave it up to the citizens to decide, but I’ve been a big advocate of sharing and services consolidation. I haven’t been pushing legal consolidation, but it’s a precursor to that to say if you can work through those issues, there might be better way to do things.”

Ypsilanti reporter Katrease Stafford contributed to this report.

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



Fri, Nov 9, 2012 : 4:38 a.m.

Once an Ypsi Brave, Always a Brave... The water tower says "Home of the braves". That will never be erased.

two canoes

Thu, Nov 8, 2012 : 3:45 a.m.

Congratulations on the voters for making a logical decision to work together!

Dan r OBryan

Fri, Nov 9, 2012 : 12:16 a.m.

logical or the easy way out of a financial mess.

Dan r OBryan

Thu, Nov 8, 2012 : 2:01 a.m.

well .willow run was finally ran into the ground ,thanks you for everyone involved over the past ten years . willow run is over. closed schools , vacant buildings foreclosed homes ,makes ypsi look so attractive.children bused out of their communities ,longer bus travels .I bet parents will be sending more children to Lincoln and Ann Arbor schools.i don't want to send my child to this mess . teachers will be laid off . Glad im not a teacher in these two districts. It s called for higher education ,but really its a temporary fix to the long term problems faced by both these two districts.Five years from now lets check into the progress of this merger .

Brewster Mallion

Fri, Nov 9, 2012 : 12:45 p.m.

I applaud you for your efforts five years ago. With children's school careers as they are it is certainly not anything we can wait on. However, success in schools is certainly about attendance. Attendance of more parents to, not only the meetings, but the school itself. Removing your children from the district and your voice from the board meetings is precisely why these districts fail. We need to reinvigorate the voices within these districts by adding more attention to them. Higher turn out rates and more community involvement is the only way to improve. We certainly cannot fault you for standing by your children and trying to do what's right but it is these mass exoduses the bring districts to the ground. A catch 22 rather, we fear the schools are failing our children so we remove them which brings the school to fail.

Dan r OBryan

Fri, Nov 9, 2012 : 12:15 a.m.

ypsi reader .im not stupid, i realize Lincoln is a travel as well. but if my children wont be attending schools in our neighborhood .then they will travel for a better education . a district that still has the name of its school still on their buses LINCOLN ,OBVIOUSLY they knew how to manage their budgets


Thu, Nov 8, 2012 : 3:11 a.m.

Do you realize that your children will have a longer ride if you decide to provide transportation to another school further from your home? Let's work together to make this new adventure a success.

Dan r OBryan

Thu, Nov 8, 2012 : 2:52 a.m.

i voted for change four years ago. i stood by the willow run district ,i attended willow run .i stayed in ypsi for my family .my change will be to relocate . i attended board meetings years ago. i told the board they cant afford prime cable channels ,they needed over the air antennas. i told the board they were heading 55mph into a brick wall five years ago.. they hired Doris Jackson the district got worse. im fortune enough to earn a descend wage as a contractor . i bought a home a block from the high school ,we voted for a new middle school .well enough is enough .we were led down the road of no return for me . we stuck it out till they flushed this district down the toilet

Brewster Mallion

Thu, Nov 8, 2012 : 2:34 a.m.

I am glad to hear you seemingly had faith in Willow Run. As with any change, it can be scary, however the only way to make this better is to get involved. This antipathy needs to stop as it is what got these districts in their current position. If we feel that Ypsilanti or Willow Run is failing children, unable to educate them or bring children to a brighter future, we are the only persons capable of changing that. These schools certainly do have a lot of ridiculous overhead, so does Ann Arbor. The difference as I see it is the mere fact of involvement. Instead of a wait and see approach we should be approaching the school with the ideas for change we would like to see. Offering our volunteer service to make the extracurricular programs work. Anything. We all cannot simply pull our children from these districts for better. This is a change, change can be frightening but change needs to happen to stay resilient and prosperous.


Wed, Nov 7, 2012 : 10:38 p.m.

:-)! ...How 'bout "PHLYERS" ? :-)! ... a nod to the heritage of BOTH ... Unique...and great for confusing opponents! ... also easy to pronounce ...and a GREAT project for student artists to come up with a logo!

City Confidential

Wed, Nov 7, 2012 : 9:02 p.m.

I wondered why so many people voted for the consolidation, but against paying for the school system. Seems that they didn't understand that the old 18 mils would disappear, to be replaced by the new 18 mils. No new taxes there. Just a technical requirement that it be placed on the ballot.

Roger Dodger

Wed, Nov 7, 2012 : 11:18 p.m.

This was very confusing, and I'm not sure why that wasn't made clear on the ballot. I only figured it out about an hour before going to the polls.


Wed, Nov 7, 2012 : 9:06 p.m.

Thanks for the clarification


Wed, Nov 7, 2012 : 8:44 p.m.

So now we have 18 Mills added to non Homestead property? So the landlords are paying for all this Consolidation? This is totally wrong why not vote to have Obama pay for it he does not live here? Rents are a rising they say so the tenant will now pay for this increase. I'd say they are going up about $100.00 per month, hows those apples?

City Confidential

Wed, Nov 7, 2012 : 9 p.m.

It's the same 18 mils that you have always paid, not a new one. The old one needed to be renewed under this new consolidation. Your taxes are not going up.


Wed, Nov 7, 2012 : 5:55 p.m.

Just great, now my real property is comaprable to that in West Willow. I'm gonna rename the homestead "Atlantis". Any idea when they are closing Ypsi High?


Wed, Nov 7, 2012 : 10:30 p.m.

Umm, only a small part of West Willow is in the former Willow Run School DIstrict but don't let the FACTS stand in your way...


Wed, Nov 7, 2012 : 5:47 p.m.

I know that the teachers were told by HR and upper officials to vote for this or be laid off. That is voter intimidation and blackmail. it does not bode well for them now as they will now not be required due to over staffing. WTG folksfolks

Brewster Mallion

Thu, Nov 8, 2012 : 2:23 a.m.

I completely agree that the 'fat at the top' should be cut. An $800 monthly cell phone stipend would certainly be ridiculous. Your arguments, Bones, would be OK if they had been factually based instead of entirely on hearsay. Union pride has nothing to do with this article nor any other portion of this merger. The schools are, and forever should remain, for the children which attend. The fact of the matter is that children were not attending these schools. Money was not flowing in. From the top to bottom, it was unsustainable. Although it would be wonderful if everyone could keep their job, that all salaries could go up, that everyone wins but this is not plausible. The truth is that Michigan was the only state to see shrinkage in the census and charter schools offer alternatives to dwindling public schools attendees. Educate yourself and then report back to the comments.


Thu, Nov 8, 2012 : 12:58 a.m.

Ojk. Maybe you did not get told that. And maybe I was told some bad info. Still. It is breaking the union. If you all are laid off and have to re-apply for your positions. I would say that they have in effect broken the union much like they did with the bus drivers. And we all have seen just how well that has worked out. So how is it a victory? This is a load of crap. You say this is a bitterseet victory when all it is is a shift in the taxes from city to city/township. Now. If the school systems are in such a dire financial situation. How is it that the superintendant can justify his salray and all the perks? I think there should be a full investigation of that. It seems to me I read here once a couple years ago how he has a 800 dollar a month cell phone allowance. And a host of other perks. Maybe we should cut the fat at the top. I pay city taxes. I also do not have kids. I am not impressed with the way the money is being mishandled and now this. Which I am sure will end up costing us taxpayers more. It always does.


Thu, Nov 8, 2012 : 12:17 a.m.

"I know that the teachers were told by HR and upper officials to vote for this or be laid off." Doesn't make any sense. How are "upper officials" supposed to find out how a particular teacher voted? Unless you mean that they were told "if this doesn't pass, we're going to have to lay some of you off"? Which might be bad news, but unless it was a lie, it isn't blackmail.

Krista Boyer

Wed, Nov 7, 2012 : 10:27 p.m.

As a teacher in Ypsilanti, and a resident I can tell you that I was NEVER told any such thing! In fact, we are all painfully aware that with the merger we will likely ALL be laid off and have to reapply for our jobs in the new consolidated district. It's a bittersweet victory, but what will be best for the two districts.

dading dont delete me bro

Wed, Nov 7, 2012 : 5:17 p.m.

hope they pick a politically correct nickname... ovey...


Wed, Nov 7, 2012 : 3:15 p.m.

I applaud the leadership from both districs for connecting with the community by provding accurate and facutal information. I am a Flyer for life, but it's important that we convey a positive message to the kids and help them understand that we are one now and it's essential for the growth and prosperity of the district as well as the community.

Widow Wadman

Wed, Nov 7, 2012 : 3:15 p.m.

I hope that the consolidation of these districts will effectively address the problems of declining enrollment and large administrative expenses. I hope that any further staffing cuts will come from the administrative areas and not from the teaching rank. It would be fabulous to see students perform better academically and for graduation rates to climb.


Wed, Nov 7, 2012 : 3 p.m.

How about the Flying Phoenix?


Wed, Nov 7, 2012 : 12:51 p.m.

Congratulations to the students in both districts, it will be confusing for a while, but in the long run you the students should be the real winners from this decision.

LaWanda Garrett

Wed, Nov 7, 2012 : 11:58 a.m.

FLYERS W/ a Y!!!! Not I. Get it right! I pray for the success of the new district. It is bittersweet. Our history can never be erased. I will forever be a WILLOW RUN FLYER!!!

Dan r OBryan

Wed, Nov 7, 2012 : 11:16 a.m.

we need a recount and all votes reported .


Wed, Nov 7, 2012 : 6:11 p.m.

They have been counted and it is not even close. So, yes, go have fun with chad, I bet he would love to have you recount these votes. Not. This is something that has been needed for a long time and finally got. Can't wait to see a new growth in the area. As for closing WR hi school? Can't wait to see new teachers in there.

Basic Bob

Wed, Nov 7, 2012 : 11:09 a.m.

Ypsilanti FLYERS!


Wed, Nov 7, 2012 : 9:46 a.m.

SImilar to what Willow Run Board Member Garrett expressed, its' a bittersweet moment for a former BRAVE to join in with a Flyer. Yet, the action was necessary IMHO to save the school district. Also, if YPS never would've eliminated the Brave and made it into a bird, its' a high possibly the district would've never been in this mess, in the first place. Either way, let's hope the School District (to be named) can succeed!