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Posted on Wed, Nov 28, 2012 : 5:57 a.m.

Ypsilanti-Willow Run school district eyes $6.5M of Gov. Snyder's $10M in grant money

By Danielle Arndt

Ypsilanti-Willow Run school officials have taken the “you have not because you ask not” approach when completing a grant proposal for a portion of $10 million in funds to help school districts consolidate services.


WISD Superintendent Scott Menzel discusses with a resident plans for the new unified Ypsilanti-Willow Run school district at the Tower Inn Cafe in Ypsilanti on Nov. 6, when voters approved the consolidation.

Daniel Brenner |

Gov. Rick Snyder set aside the money in this year’s School Aid Fund when he proposed his budget in February. He said his hope for the $10 million in grants was to incentivize schools to “come up with efficiencies they otherwise would not be able to fund.”

Ypsilanti and Willow Run certainly were incentivized. Officials with the two struggling districts have banked on receiving a large portion of Snyder’s grant money.

Currently, administrators with the Washtenaw Intermediate School District, who will submit the grant request on behalf of the unified district, said they anticipate asking for more than $6.5 million in funds.

WISD Superintendent Scott Menzel, Willow Run Superintendent Laura Lisiscki, Ypsilanti Superintendent Dedrick Martin and a number of financial and human resources staff from the ISD and both districts have worked steadily in the weeks since Nov. 6 to develop a budget summary for the grant proposal.

Menzel said the group wanted to crunch as many numbers as possible and to explain and support why it was requesting the funds.

He said the grant proposal is due Friday. It is not known how many other school districts also will be vying for money.

New board member Maria Sheler-Edwards said while she agrees with the approach the WISD has taken in asking for everything the unified district could possibly need, she worries the state may try to set a standard with its grant awards for how much consolidating two districts should cost.

Menzel said Sheler-Edwards’ concerns are fair and he hopes school leaders will be able to work with the Michigan Department of Education to prioritize what the unified district’s top needs are, if the full $6.5 million-plus cannot be awarded.

The consolidation budget summary that school administrators have developed includes:

  • An estimated $500,000 for new athletic and band uniforms.
  • About $20,000 to support Washtenaw Success By Six with flushing out a concept for an early childhood family development center as part of the new district.
  • About $600,000 to bridge summer school programming from the old districts to the unified district, so at-risk students may still receive extra instruction through the summer during the transitional period.
  • A total of $1.1 million in staff, administrator and board professional development.
  • An estimated $250,000 in legal fees for attorneys to make sure the closing of the two individual districts and the launching of the new unified district is done by-the-book.

There also will be costs for conducting financial, curriculum and facilities audits of the two existing school systems.

Menzel said the appointed board must know exactly where it stands — and “put it all out there” — in order to evaluate assets, combine buildings respectfully and responsibly, and to develop effective and innovative programs for 21st century learners.

“Let’s not sugarcoat any of it,” he said.

The district also will need money for changing all of the locks and re-keying the buildings to create a single secure system.

Additionally, there is a significant amount included in the budget for integrating the two districts’ technical systems. Menzel said currently one district operates on Mac and the other on PCs.

The unified school system will need to hire a technology expert to determine which platform will best meet the new district’s software and instructional needs.

Download a copy of the budget summary the WISD will submit to the state here. The budget still is in draft form and the final amount the WISD requests could increase by Friday, the grant application due date, as administrators continue to analyze costs, Menzel said. The numbers of each line item also could be tweaked.

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



Wed, Nov 28, 2012 : 6:19 p.m.

Every school district in the state that consolidates something, from buses to IT to HR to cafeterias, with another school or district has a chance at this money. Menzel himself, in a past article in February (?), stated that the WISD was looking into some of the money to rebuild the HR system for the WISD. If all of the schools will draw from this, why would Snyder give more that 60% of the money to one district, especially one that has re-selected members from the two previous badly failed districts?


Wed, Nov 28, 2012 : 11:40 p.m.

Fair point....


Wed, Nov 28, 2012 : 4:46 p.m.

So something that was a bad idea but was shoved down everyone's throats in order to save money may not even save money? Why does this *always* happen?


Wed, Nov 28, 2012 : 11:39 p.m.

It's called hyper-marketing and voters who believed the details -or lack their of- in marketing plan was warranted, voted for this consolidation. Now time will tell if the cash will be in place to make this "effort" work as "planned". One would think they should have known if the cash would be available, during the marketing phase but oh well, I guess. Considering a member of the Consolidated Appointed school board can have children attending charter schools instead of either of the district schools, it appears this "effort" is a work in progress, to say the least.


Wed, Nov 28, 2012 : 3:09 p.m.

Oh my! If the state wants to send the message that consolidation of districts will save money, they of course simply will not be able to fund this request at anything like the level requested. What a precedent to set?!! I assume that the proposal also shows all the savings that will be realized from consolidation, and all the in-kind contributions that are being contributed by the two communities to make the consolidation work. In these challenging economic times, it is important to be able to show what everyone is contributing and what everyone is giving up, if a district is asking for state assistance to continue living beyond its means. Many school districts are digging deep and making substantial cuts in very important programs in order to balance their own budgets. I would be quite shocked if the state would decide to provide even a fraction of these dollars in these economic times when so many school districts are working very hard and making very tough decisions to live within their own means.

Ron Granger

Wed, Nov 28, 2012 : 2:06 p.m.

"An estimated $500,000 for new athletic and band uniforms." Really? A half million for after school athletic uniforms? No wonder the districts failed. Apparently nothing has changed.


Thu, Nov 29, 2012 : 5:42 p.m.

Can the lawyers donate some of their $250,000 back so we can have paper and make copies in our classrooms for the kids?


Thu, Nov 29, 2012 : 3:21 a.m.

Ron, I could not agree with you more. Seriously, a half million dollars for athletics. I believe in the power and importance of extra curricular activities. But I also believe in the need for currant and aligned teaching materials. Ypsilanti (elementary) teachers have not had a new language arts curriculum in almost 10 years! The social studies and science curriculum is even older. I would expect the same is for materials at the higher grade levels. I can't speak for Willow Run, but my guess would be that they are not strongly aligned with the new Common Core Standards. Tests scores are where districts will get their bread and butter. Not funding curriculum materials is a crime. Futhermore, $20, 000 for Early Childhood programs!!! Let's give them the half million. Close that zero to four gap and get our students started on a strong foundation. Agreed 110%... apparently nothing has changed! They all should be ashamed of themselves! I'm totally disgusted!

Danielle Arndt

Wed, Nov 28, 2012 : 3:03 p.m.

Ron, I was told by Scott Menzel this morning that the $500,000 was a place holder and actually will be much less in final grant application. But I have to think athletic and band uniforms will still be a decent chunk of change. There were more than 1,000 kids that participated in band and/or athletics last year at both districts combined and with a new name, logo and mascot, new uniforms will be required. And probably choir robes and such, as well. Also, both districts considerably cut their athletics and music programs over the past few years and there has been talk about wanting to restore some of what was cut in the new district. Anyway, I have been sort of fascinated by all of the little things that will need to go into the creation of a new school district — like, I would not have thought about changing the locks. Here's a story I wrote back in June that looks at what each district brings to the table: It talks a little about what each district has currently property-wise, staff-wise and student-wise.


Wed, Nov 28, 2012 : 2:17 p.m.

After school activities are also important in education. This is also where a lot of bonding and pride in the new district will be formed. I believe it's money well spent.

Dan r OBryan

Wed, Nov 28, 2012 : 1:04 p.m.

the merger told taxpayer a 10 million dollar grant for consolidating, now 6.5 million. . soon will find out more misled information in the up coming months , with a 10 million grant.,the two schools had a deficit .with start up costs ,and oblivious two districts that couldn't balance their budgets anyways we,will see how far in the whole this merger will end up costing us.THE TAXPAYERS This merger was the worst thing to happen to WILLOW RUN . Remember though ,we called it a merger ,for higher EDUCATION .Instead of making tough choices ,and balancing a budget .this merger has became complicated ,costly not worth tax payers time and money .By next September ,we will have a good idea of which way this merger went. laid off staff ,closed buildings . new teachers salaries .and how far children travel for their education . And i bet a lot of confusion on that 1st day back to school .

Dan r OBryan

Wed, Nov 28, 2012 : 7:52 p.m.

clearly willow run was not in any danger of a finical manager .willow run had a 2 million dollar deficit. Ypsilanti public school was at a 10 million dollar deficit . Ypsilanti was not or still cant pay their staff into January . so BASIC math shows who would have received the emergency manager Bob Willow run was cutting its deficit from previous years.Ypsilanti pubic continued to spiral downward in debt. so with a 12 million combined deficit .a 10 million dollar grant .start up cost 1/2 million in new uniforms another 175,000 in locks,. just to scratch the surface we will see if willow run comes out of this merger any better off than the 2 million deficit they already had . so this merger was all about bail out Ypsi public schools sir

Basic Bob

Wed, Nov 28, 2012 : 5:13 p.m.

Clearly you would prefer an Emergency Manager for WRCS. You may still get your wish.


Wed, Nov 28, 2012 : 12:07 p.m.

What about integrating curriculum?