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 Tue, Feb 19, 2013 : 1:51 p.m.

Ypsilanti-Willow Run district expected to reject comprehensive high school structure

By Danielle Arndt


Willow Run, left, and Ypsilanti high schools could be used differently if the new consolidated Ypsilanti Community Schools district decides on a small learning communities model of secondary education, rather than a comprehensive high school model.

A presentation Monday revealed the Ypsilanti-Willow Run school district is leaning away from a large comprehensive high school model.

Naomi Norman, director of Assessment, Planning and Research for the Washtenaw Intermediate School District; Ypsilanti Assistant Superintendent Jennifer Martin; and Willow Run teacher Debbie Swanson updated the Board of Education Monday on what their ad hoc committee on secondary education had been discussing.

The committee intends to make a formal recommendation for the board’s consideration and approval on Feb. 28. But Norman said the group wanted to share upfront with the board which direction it was leaning, as well as what its next steps will be from now until Feb. 28.

Norman said the group intends to ask the board to adopt a recommendation stating the new district will be “intentional about creating small learning communities” at the secondary level. She said small learning communities would best allow the new district to carry out its guiding principles and five educational pillars.

The women said their ad hoc committee, regrettably, does not have any parents or students serving on it. So to make up for this lack of voice, the group will be venturing out into the schools to talk to parents and students before making its formal recommendation.

A parent informational meeting and feedback session on secondary education was scheduled for 7 to 8 p.m. Feb. 26 in the Ypsilanti Administration Building.

Monday’s presentation discussed the benefits of small learning communities compared to the comprehensive model.

In small learning communities, the focus is on the learner and learning, the committee said. Classes are a manageable size, and the size allows for improved school culture and climate, they added.

Some of the challenges of small learning communities that were identified were providing electives and varying class choices, such as Advanced Placement courses. A partnership with Washtenaw Community College was discussed as a possible solution to this challenge.

The location of the programs could be a challenge, the women said, although the committee has not yet looked at location. Martin said this challenge would not be tackled until after the board approved the recommendation. She added the communities could be co-located in one large building or separate smaller buildings or some combination of the two options.

One of the small learning communities would be a New Tech program, considering the board already approved maintaining the New Tech curriculum in some capacity. The New Tech program’s emphasis is on project-based learning.

Some of the small learning communities could be grades 7-12, others grades 9-12, the presenters said.

After the secondary education committee gives its formal recommendation on Feb. 28, it will return before the board on March 14 with some preliminary facilities ideas and recommendations.

“I like that the design is driving things as opposed to the buildings,” said board Trustee Anthony VanDerworp.

The Feb. 28 recommendation will have a “clear list of the non-negotiables,” Norman said, but added a more solid plan will be coming March 14 with ideas about how the small learning communities could be clustered, their age groups and what the learning focuses of each one could be.

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


Meredith Schindler

Fri, Feb 22, 2013 : 2:45 a.m.

The committee for secondary options in the new district will be available to the public for discussion and feedback about their recommendation that the district adopt the Small Learning Communities (SLC) model for secondary education. There will be a parent meeting on Tuesday evening, February 26, at 7 pm in the Professional Development room at the YPS administration building on Packard. Also, Jennifer Martin and Debbie Swanson, committee members, will be available to meet with the public and get input on what people would like to see in terms of the culture and climate as well as the types of SLCs available to students before the board meeting on Monday night, February 25, at Willow Run, starting at 6:30 pm (the meeting starts at 7:30). Here's a link to the article the committee (which I am happy to also be serving on) made available to the public and the board at the last meeting: I can attest that this committee is putting in a lot of hard work to identify both the specifics of how the SLC model might be implemented as well as the backbone of essential elements to an effective secondary educational structure. It's an exciting opportunity - please get or stay involved!

Danielle Arndt

Fri, Feb 22, 2013 : 4:32 a.m.

Meredith, thanks so much for jumping in here, informing people of the input opportunity Monday night as well, and for providing the link to what was presented!

K Thompson

Wed, Feb 20, 2013 : 7:57 p.m.

-text should say guiding princiPLES, not -pals. -previous comment says this is a good plan, but I see no plan. Article is vague. I am concerned that plan is not clear, not spelled out, hasn't designated a curriculum or specified structure and location, nor mentioned any justification or research. It is hard to imagine that an ad hoc committee has had time or resources to do the intense research and visitations that would be needed to design an entirely new comprehensive North Central accredited high school program, let alone assess the specific needs of the 2 districts' students. How can something like this be approved by the Board before being completely researched and designed?

Danielle Arndt

Fri, Feb 22, 2013 : 4:30 a.m.

Thompson, thanks for pointing out the typo! I've fixed it.


Wed, Feb 20, 2013 : 3:14 p.m.

This is a very, very good plan from an educational point of view. The trick is to figure out how to make it work at a time when both districts must downsize.

Dan r OBryan

Wed, Feb 20, 2013 : 1:50 p.m.

this has been misled from the beginning. first debt . still will have outstanding debt. confusion = which schools would remain open .still confused ; staff positions , still up in the air . BET everyone could change their vote now . They scared the community with a emergency manager . They would have less confusion balancing a budget and better education program


Wed, Feb 20, 2013 : 1:37 p.m.

WR High is closing in June. Laying off everyone. It is a no brainer to rehire and hire new teachers for a middle school there. Leave the Ypsi hi school the way it is and then redistrict the elementary unless they plan to build a school to house all the elementary and close what they have now.

Ben Petiprin

Wed, Feb 20, 2013 : 4:33 a.m.

Sounds more like babysitting than educating.