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Posted on Fri, Aug 13, 2010 : 4:10 p.m.

Ann Arbor school Superintendent Todd Roberts resigns

By David Jesse

Ann Arbor school district Superintendent Todd Roberts has resigned to move to North Carolina to be with his family.

Roberts said he would stay through fall while a replacement is sought. At a press conference in North Carolina this morning, Roberts said he would start as chancellor of the North Carolina School of Science and Math on Dec. 1.

Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for Todd-roberts-layoffs.JPG

Ann Arbor Superintendent Todd Roberts, who is leaving the district, is shown at a recent board meeting.

"This decision is about our family," he said in a telephone interview this afternoon. "My parents and wife's parents live in North Carolina. They have had health issues in the past year. This is a good time to get to help out. We started having discussions about moving back, but this happened a little quicker than we anticipated, but when you do what I do, there's not that many opportunities."

Roberts has been superintendent of the roughly 16,400-student Ann Arbor district for the last four years. He came from Birmingham, where he was an assistant superintendent. He earned $188,000 last year.

Roberts, 46, was born at the former Watts Hospital where NCSSM is now located.

"Dr. Roberts was pre-ordained to get this job," joked UNC President Erskine Bowles.

Roberts was named to that post today by the UNC system's Board of Governors, which oversees the public residential high school for top performing 11th and 12th graders from around the state. It's part of the the state's college system and is a residential high school program for talented students in math and science.

He will earn $210,000 annually, the News-Observer in Raleigh, N.C., reported.

Roberts has a bachelor's degree from Duke and master's and doctoral degrees in educational leadership from UNC-Chapel Hill.

Roberts took over the Ann Arbor district from George Fornero, who announced his resignation shortly before revealing the under-construction Skyline High School was over-budget and one year behind schedule.

"(Roberts) really brought stability, focus and direction to the district," teachers union President Brit Satchwell said. "He's very good at bridging the latest in education research and philosophy and the practically of the front-line classroom. Todd's been a great superintendent."

Parent Michael Randolph agreed.

"It seemed like the district was really going in the right direction," the parent of two high schoolers said. "I'm surprised to hear he's leaving. It's a big loss for the district."

Roberts approached school board President Deb Mexicotte a couple of weeks ago to let her know he was interviewing for the job.

"It was indicated to me that it was about nothing but location and family matters," Mexicotte said. "This was entirely personal family decision."

Roberts had his second interview last week for the position and was introduced today in North Carolina.

Roberts had lived in Ann Arbor for seven years before taking over the reins. He came into a district in turmoil, with board meetings regularly stretching well into the early morning hours and debate over how the district's construction team got off track.

Multiple people said Roberts' legacy should rest strongly on his reorganization of the office and completing the overall bond project, which - in addition to building Skyline -also renovated every other building in the district.

Several district employees and board members also praised Roberts for his work on a strategic plan for the district and also for his leadership during tough financial times.

He also pushed for the establishment of an elementary World Language Program with the help of the University of Michigan.

"He was an educator," said LeeAnn Dickinson-Kelley, the district's elementary administrator who has worked for the district for 38 years. "Hands-down, Todd Roberts was the best (superintendent I've worked for). He redefined the role of leadership in the district. His form of leadership was to facilitate collaboration with those who worked for the district and with parents.

"He was a family man. While we're tremendously sad, the reason for the decision is very understandable. It fits with who he is."

The decision was hard to make, Roberts said.

"I've absolutely enjoyed my time here," he said. "It's a great community. We hate to leave the community. I hate to leave the school district. There's nothing about the job driving this decision. It's about being able to be closer to family.

"The thing I love about Ann Arbor is everybody values education. I just tried to listen to people and bring people into the district to help make decisions about the education we all wanted for our students."

David Jesse covers K-12 education for He can be reached at or at 734-623-2534.

Here is the full text of the e-mail sent to parents:

Dear AAPS Parents and Guardians:

I hope this letter finds you well and that you and your family are having an enjoyable summer.

It is with regret that I am writing to let you know that I will be resigning from my position as superintendent of the Ann Arbor Public Schools. This is a very difficult decision for my family and me to make. However, based on the needs of our parents and families, we feel that we need to be closer to them in North Carolina. I will be leaving later this fall to return to North Carolina where I have accepted the position of Chancellor of the North Carolina School of Science and Math. I wanted you to know of my planned departure before it became public knowledge. I plan to stay on as superintendent in Ann Arbor through the fall until a replacement is found and a smooth transition takes place.

Living in Ann Arbor for the past 11 years and working in the Ann Arbor Public Schools for the past 4 years has been one of the most enjoyable and fulfilling times of my life. I have had the great fortune to work with fantastic colleagues and our family has made lifelong friends. Ann Arbor has been a wonderful place to live, raise a family and work. In order to move closer to family I am fortunate to have an opportunity at this point to go to work at an outstanding educational institution in the North Carolina School of Science and Math which is located in my hometown. I hope to enjoy working there as much as I have enjoyed working with you and your children.

I want to thank you for your help and support over the past four years. As superintendent I play a very small part in the success of the school district; it is the work of our excellent staff, the leadership and support of a committed Board of Education and the support and involvement of you and our community that makes the Ann Arbor Public Schools exceptional. With your continued support and involvement I am certain that the Ann Arbor Public Schools will experience even greater success in the future.

Thank you again for the privilege of working with you and your children.

Sincerely, Todd Roberts



Mon, Aug 23, 2010 : 11:41 a.m.

The one time I contacted Mr. Roberts he made no effort to investigate the situation that I reported. I had transferred my children from a public school to a charter due to problems with an elementary teacher. I let him know this in a letter and offered to discuss it further with him. He responded in kind by saying he contacted the principal who had no memory of the situation - end of story. I only hope that the next superintendant will not be a tool for the teacher's union.


Mon, Aug 16, 2010 : 9:06 p.m.

"The most appropriate near-term fix is an approved countywide millage to shore up regional schools. Longer-term fixes must come through a genuine commitment on the state and federal levels. " No; many believe otherwise: the fix is more efficient use of existing funding.


Mon, Aug 16, 2010 : 6:14 p.m.

Someone above questined the district's MEAP results and said... "Truly, how hard is it to pass the MEAP, I would like to know?" I suggest that you take a look. These standardized tests, especially the MEAP, are not exactly what you might think they are. Wander around the website: You cannot see a whole actual test, but you can get some idea of what kind of stuff they ask...


Mon, Aug 16, 2010 : 2:53 p.m.

Someone asked if there is a qualified internal candidate.....definitely!!! Dr. Ben Edmondson has been with the district as a Principal at all 3 levels (King, Scarlett and now Clemente). He is very well respected and looked to as an authority in achievement by educators and districts nationwide. He has teaching experience, leadership experience (proven and effective), and the guts to do what is right for students....not always the popular choice. Google his name and you will find many articles touting his achievements in this district. He has been a finalist for Superintendent jobs in surrounding areas.....he's qualified, he's here and hopefully he will be interested. He has had the guts to do things in this district that no other administrator ever has...hold students accountable for their education. No one can say he isn't 100% for students and his energy and drive would be a great addition to the State St. administration offices and to the BOE. Do the right thing people!!!!


Sun, Aug 15, 2010 : 10:49 p.m.

Good post, speechless: "The state and federal governments could opt to relieve financial crisis in school districts by reinstating funding levels that have been cut back over time. But, to accomplish this, the state must first overhaul its outdated, no-longer-functional system of taxation. The feds, meanwhile, will have to give up on overseas wars so as to reinvest in education rather than in weapons and opium. I believe these things will all happen, but not anytime very soon." Property taxes are not providing the revenue needed for the schools. Will a new system (millages) be implemented any time soon? I doubt it. Residents don't want new "taxes." Would property taxes go down or go away if a school millage was instituted? Dream on.


Sun, Aug 15, 2010 : 4:11 p.m.

[ Hopefully I'm not going 'off-topic' by referencing article content! ] A newer article clarifies that Robert's announced departure is motivated by family matters outside Michigan. Nonetheless, there could exist among top school officials everywhere a growing occupational temptation to get out of Dodge as it becomes increasingly hard to square district finances due to the economy and especially due to the decline in state and federal support. The next several years promise more rounds of budget challenges. School districts will face financial pressure for additional cuts as traditional revenue streams continue to struggle and falter. A similar, familiar set of hurdles surfaces in districts all over. Recent decisions to consolidate bus drivers within the county reveal the scope of shared funding dilemmas. The state and federal governments could opt to relieve financial crisis in school districts by reinstating funding levels that have been cut back over time. But, to accomplish this, the state must first overhaul its outdated, no-longer-functional system of taxation. The feds, meanwhile, will have to give up on overseas wars so as to reinvest in education rather than in weapons and opium. I believe these things will all happen, but not anytime very soon. The most appropriate near-term fix is an approved countywide millage to shore up regional schools. Longer-term fixes must come through a genuine commitment on the state and federal levels. in the meantime, a new Ann Arbor superintendent, along with board and staff, will have to hold down the fort, with the possibility of intensifying debate over district budget priorities.

Jack Panitch

Sun, Aug 15, 2010 : 9:30 a.m.

And it turns out the link is fine, but for the extra period at the end. Again, my apologies.

Jack Panitch

Sun, Aug 15, 2010 : 9:27 a.m.

Sorry about the bad link. To find the achievement presentation, go to the AAPS web site and click on "Board of Education" on the upper left-hand side of the page. On the BOE page, click on "meetings archive." Click on "2009-2010." Scroll down list to entry for meeting of April 28, 2010.


Sun, Aug 15, 2010 : 8:15 a.m.

Thank You Mr. Roberts for a job well done. May you and your family have a peaceful time in your new position.

Jack Panitch

Sun, Aug 15, 2010 : 6:51 a.m.

Mr. Lange Ranzini: Heres something that you might not characterize as ad hominem. Please review And while you're at it, try to get the rerun of the associated board meeting, because there are maybe two hours of presentation time devoted to the data, and this presentation includes some of the tools the District is using to attack the issue. The presentation is available through the BOE's web site and may be available elsewhere on the District's web site as well. The BOE meeting rerun may still be available on Channel 18. Certainly, achievement numbers are available through the consolidated annual report and through each of the individual school reports. Then theres Joyce Hunter. Sit down with her and discuss the Districts efforts. Please work this material into your overall thesis. It may not change your feelings about year-round school, but you drew some broader conclusions that might need reigning in a bit.

Stephen Lange Ranzini

Sat, Aug 14, 2010 : 11:35 p.m.

Lastly, "Ad hominem abusive" (attack on the person) arguments are by definition LOGICALLY FALLACIOUS and any good debate coach will politely inform you that it's the quickest way to lose a formal debate. However when the facts aren't on your side, it's a commonly used strategy in the real world to attack the messenger and divert attention away from the lack of facts on your side. It's irrelevant that your friend thinks that (highly esteemed by his peers) Prof. Richard Nisbett at UofM "is stuck in an ivory tower" and "his ideas don't work in real world" when his opinions are based on EMPIRICAL PEER REVIEWED RESEARCH and a lifetime of study, research and writing in the field of childhood development. It's irrelevant that I don't have a teaching degree, or a masters or doctorate in education when I cite EMPIRICAL PEER REVIEWED RESEARCH or the opinions of President Obama's Secretary of Education in favor of my argument. Oh, and by the way, his prior job was as CEO of the Chicago Public Schools. But he's not qualified either I'm sure I'll be told next because he doesn't have a masters or doctorate in education, right??? (He has a B.A., Magna Cum Laude, from Harvard in Sociology, not Education). It is certainly circular logic to assert that only professional educators with advanced education degrees can opine on how to fix the education system when some of their fixed opinions are part of the problem! Many parents can read and interpret EMPIRICAL PEER REVIEWED RESEARCH, too, are observant of what their kids and teachers say and have common sense and are entitled to form opinions on it. @Stunhsif (I finally caught your palindrome) - thanks for the kind words. In addition to our schools, maybe we'll get the miserably maintained roads fixed, too!

Stephen Lange Ranzini

Sat, Aug 14, 2010 : 10:44 p.m.

I find it quite amusing that self-professed "liberals" and "Democrats" think that the school system is just fine, as it is, when that system condemns 1 in 8 kids to a life of poverty and failure. In reality they are most CONSERVATIVE (in the true sense of that word) as they like the broken system they defend a lot and aren't willing to change even when the EMPIRICAL PEER REVIEWED RESEARCH indicates that they are very wrong. I also find it amusing that these same "liberals" and "Democrats" blame the failure to properly educate 1 in 8 children on the low and moderate income parents. My one grandfather had to stop his education at 4th grade and the other in 6th grade and if a series of fine Catholic nuns hadn't educated my father, he wouldn't have been valedictorian of his school, because he certainly wouldn't have gotten it at home from his 4th grade educated Dad. In fact, my father taught his mother some English after school every day though in honesty I'd have to say my father wasn't a very good English teacher because my Grandmother spoke an unique flavor of pidgin English until the day she died despite living in the U.S. over 70 years.


Sat, Aug 14, 2010 : 10:04 p.m.

@Snapshot, Roberts had no reason to stay, family in the other state and a school district that "ain't seen their hardest times". He was a man, "stuck in the middle-with no one he could please". While I do agree that he "jumped off the sinking ship", I cannot blame him, he could not stop the Titanic from hitting the iceberg. He could see what was coming down the turn pike, with the "orange cones" being put up as barriers by the union's. Why stay with a shrinking tax base and union's that will not negotiate with reality?


Sat, Aug 14, 2010 : 9:47 p.m.

I have no issues at all with Roberts leaving for a better, more suitable position. I do have issue with the praise he receives for basically leaving the district in worse condition than he found it and in the middle of a crisis. I consider it the equivalent of a Captain abandoning the ship while the crewmembers are still on board. This is the kind of leadership we have become accustomed to. I don't think any praise is due for jumping ship in the middle of the battle or leaving the district in worse financial condition than he found it.


Sat, Aug 14, 2010 : 9:21 p.m.

@ERMG, sorry, that last comment was from me. spouse hadn't logged out. i do agree with your point though that if students/parents don't put forth effort, the best teacher in the world isn't going to matter. (i'm just simplifying, but i agree with your thoughts about this).


Sat, Aug 14, 2010 : 9:09 p.m.

@ERMG, my point is that you dismiss someone and their opinion by claiming they are making broad-brush statements (and therefore unworthy) while i have seen you do the same thing, i.e. calling anyone who doesn't agree with your stance on education/unions a "teapartyist". simple as that, nothing sinister intended.

Basic Bob

Sat, Aug 14, 2010 : 8:49 p.m.

You guys are dreaming if you think this is a tough job. How about superintendent of Willow Run or Detroit? Less pay and little chance for success. People should be lining up to interview for this job. It sure looks good on a resume, regardless of how well one actually performs. (thinking of the previous two supers) Any superintendent has to deal with a few whiny parents, know-it-all board members, and stubborn union reps. I'd rather do it in Ann Arbor and have some success, just because it's Ann Arbor. That being said, Dr. Roberts is a nice guy and did a good job here. I'm happy for him that he is getting a dream job in his home state.


Sat, Aug 14, 2010 : 8:45 p.m.

So 87% of the students pass the MEAP in A2 schools and that makes an A2 teacher a superstar(or at least gives the school district a pass) based on some folks posts here? No wonder millages are getting shot down left and right! Truly, how hard is it to pass the MEAP, I would like to know? @Scylding and SLR, you guys are a breath of fresh air. You bring knowledge, insight and the ability to put into words thoughts that I cannot. Others who disagree and cannot back their thoughts simply tell you to "change your tone". Good Day, No Luck Needed


Sat, Aug 14, 2010 : 7:51 p.m.

@ERMG (is that better?) Wow, for a guy who just bashed the entire U of M School of Ed (& pretty much all of the nation's Ed schools) as emenators of "pie-in-the-sky hair-brained ideas", I would think you'd be a little more humble about the issue of "tone."


Sat, Aug 14, 2010 : 7:40 p.m.

broad-brush statements like "teapartyists"? or am i using that word wrong?


Sat, Aug 14, 2010 : 7:24 p.m.

Someone mentioned some criteria they hoped Dr. Roberts' replacement would possess. What are the minimum requirements for this position? Are they such that looking outside of Ann Arbor will be necessary? Someone also suggested a current administrator for this position. Heaven help us if this comes to fruition.


Sat, Aug 14, 2010 : 7:11 p.m.

[The last part of my post got cut off. Here is the last bit...]...and everywhere else, as well. There is reform needed, and unions, teachers, and administrators who have a dismissive attitude about taxpayers' and parents' criticisms, and who claim that reform should be left to them, will only engender further distrust and disaffection. Furthermore, the reform issues go well beyond the underperforming student issue, as does the dismissiveness.


Sat, Aug 14, 2010 : 7 p.m.

@Eddie: My circumstance? have no idea. My argument is not essentially with your assertion that teachers cant be expected to wave a magic wand and entirely to fix the underperforming segment. Yes, I have read a lot of research about this, as well, so no need for dissertation-like background material, as you say. Yes, the poor will always be with us. Im willing to let this go, for now, with this caveat: you have to allow for the fact that, in addition to other things, reform in the teacher-union-district situation would improve things in this area, as well. The doctor-patient analogy bothers me, because it puts too big a chasm between the teachers and the parents as regards the best ways for children to be taught. However, I dont want to get fixated there, because that is ancillary to my argument, which you really spent a lot of time missing in your last post, as exhaustive and (I will say) as well written, argumentatively, as it was. Its the bit about reform. You may recall that, in my original post, I said It's very telling that the avidly pro-union, pro-status-quo in public education types, are so quick to belittle the roles of parents when it comes to issues of reform or change in the schools I think too many teachers and administrators are too quick to downplay the input of the parents and the rest of the taxpayers regarding reform. That was why I didnt like you calling them to account for student performance when so many on your side of the argument dismiss them regarding reform. You cant have it both ways. And you cant have only the teachers and administrators driving reform, because there is not check or balance to offset their desire to steer everything to their benefit, which is, in some very key respects, not always what is in the interest of the kids, the parents, or the district. Unless it is employee-owned, no business allows the employees to restructure it. The schools are not employee-owned, either. They are taxpayer-owned. So I return to my original point: one cant blame the parents for meddling in one breath (which is what Spambot was doing, whom you are now on record in supporting), and in the next pin large problems entirely on parent disinterest and apathy (which is what you were doing). There are problems in student performance that go beyond poverty, in Ann Arbor and everywhere else. There is reform needed, and unions, teachers, and administrators who have a dismissive attitude about taxpayers' and parents' criticisms, and who claim that reform should be left to them as "the experts," will only engender further distrust and disaffection. Furthermore, the reform issues go well beyond the underperforming student issue, as does the dismissiveness.


Sat, Aug 14, 2010 : 5:44 p.m.

@Eddie You wrote: "No educator worth their salt ever belittles to role of parents except to lament the far-too-many parents who are completely uninvolved (or worse) in their children's education." Is that so? I see and hear them do it all the time. The ones who do this call interested parents "helicopter parents," yet they complain about the disinterested parents all the same. Consider this from SpamBot1 (from the story about the failed Saline bond) as an example of exalting the union, and downplaying parents: "Administrators average about 5 years in any one district and school board members serve 4 year terms. Parents and students are around a little longer, but in reality, most families are part of a school for 15 years or less. The fact is, almost no one has as vested an interest in the success of a school, academic and financial, as the union." SpamBot1 is a teacher, and clearly downplays the interests and commitment of parents here, compared to the unions. I don't buy it for a second, especially since parents and other taxpayer have to foot the bill, long after teachers retire.


Sat, Aug 14, 2010 : 3:26 p.m.

Eddie...excellent: When the student excels, you get the credit. When the student lags, parent gets the credit. Avoid responsibility. Dare to be lame... And whatever you do, don't cite any facts or research of your own...


Sat, Aug 14, 2010 : 2:11 p.m.

In going after Stephen, @Eddie Murrow's Ghost wrote: "Stephen, I wonder if you might elaborate your thoughts on the role of the parent and of the student in the educational process. I ask this because the above implies that you think that there is some magic wand the school district can wave that will result in a 100% pass rate. You also appear to think that the parents and the students have neither a role nor any obligation in this process--that they are simply bystanders in the educational process--merely a lump of clay on which the machinery of education works its magic." It's very telling that the avidly pro-union, pro-status-quo in public education types, are so quick to belittle the roles of parents when it comes to issues of reform or change in the schools, but are so adamant about the parents' role when it comes to student performance. Can't have your cake and eat it, too, Eddie.


Sat, Aug 14, 2010 : 2:10 p.m.

With North Carolina state encouragement, the Golden Triangle science park has been a great success. The state-funded boarding school that Dr. Roberts will now head is an elite science institution recruiting students state-wide by merit. Meanwhile, in Michigan the politicians tell us that new technology will be our salvation, but do nothing of the sort about it. Dr. Roberts is leaving a local management (the School Board) that is uninterested in academic excellence and is dedicated to making sure the underachievers feel good about their lack of progress (cf. the Dicken School flap). I congratulate him.


Sat, Aug 14, 2010 : 1:30 p.m.

@Stephen Lange Ranzini, Try reading some of the work by Jim Loehr and Tony Schwartz - The Power of Full Engagement and The Way We're Working Isn't Working. Try reading the research of Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi and Edward Deci (also well respected professors of psychology) regarding happiness and motivation, and their impacts on learning, productivity and well-being. Intellectualism is a single quality among many that make us truly human. Nurturing it alone at the expense of the rest of a child's humanity in your proposed "school/factories" would have devastating consequences for our society. Exceptional academic pedigrees are rarely meaningful when not applied to the real world with common sense and creativity. Likewise, some of the most elegant, effective and meaningful contributions to our society come from those with limited educations.

Joel A. Levitt

Sat, Aug 14, 2010 : 1:19 p.m.

The person replacing our departing Superintendent should have a record of success in a similar position, but I urge the Board to use some additional criteria, too. A record of success as a teacher, a number of significant publications and the respect of the candidates peers, as evidenced by the candidates election to office in professional organizations, are characteristics that should also be given careful consideration. A person who satisfies all four criteria will, undoubtedly, be very expensive, but worth it if we are to restore our system to the schools that all our majority and minority children deserve.


Sat, Aug 14, 2010 : 12:06 p.m.

impossible community.couldn't agree more hard to find a place in Mi. where political correctness is pushed so hard would there be such high expectations if the University wasn't in Ann Arbor the whole point is the U pushes all that happens in A2 and sometimes at least it thinks of it's own best interest first. what would A2 be like if the U was somewhere else?Imagine if the U was in Calument,Erie,Roscommon,Rose City,Jackson etc. and A2 WAS A LITTLE SMALL 2 STOPLIGHT TOWN with a couple churches,a gas station/convenience store 1 doctor,and oh yes the Golden Arches

Stephen Lange Ranzini

Sat, Aug 14, 2010 : 11:53 a.m.

@Lorie: Getting low and moderate income children out of dysfunctional home situations more hours per day and consistently year-round is a major reason why the children excel in a more intense school calendar. The longer a child sits in a dysfunctional home the less that child learns. Of course, any good school gives outlets for physical activity at periodic intervals during the day to create a healthy mind/healthy body balance. Also, short vacations throughout the year are also necessary. @Ghost, @YpsiLivin, @Local: I am basing my comments on empirical RESEARCH and the opinion of EXPERTS including President Obama's Secretary of Education. What RESEARCH are you basing your FEELINGS and OPINIONS on? Click here to read the research and the comments of the experts I am citing: In March, I attended the 2010 Henry Russel Lecture at UofM given by Prof. Richard Nisbett, who is the Theodore M. Newcomb Distinguished University Professor of Psychology and author of the 2009 book, Intelligence and How to Get It, a topic hes been studying through years of research. FYI, the honor of being the Henry Russel Lecturer is one of the highest academic honors bestowed by UofM on their faculty. At the conclusion of his talk during the Q&A in response to a question about content he briefly touched upon in his lecture, he agreed with the questioner (me) that if the Ann Arbor Public Schools wanted to do the right thing by the students in the district they would send children to school 7:30am to 5pm five days a week, year-round to achieve at their full intellectual potential. @YpsiLivin wrote "Ask yourself "Did I go to school year-round 7:30 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.? How did I turn out?" If your answers were "No" and "Fine" your suggestion is misplaced." Here's my answer, "yes" and "great, thanks!". I overcame a dysfunctional public high school worse than any inner city Detroit public school to get scholarships to Phillips Exeter Academy and then Yale College, some of the top schools in the nation and ended up President of a bank at age 23. I think all the extra schooling worked out just fine for me, thanks! The vast majority of students overseas go to school this long or longer each day and that is why they consistently outrank the U.S. for school academic achievement among the developed nations despite spending a fraction of what we spend per child.


Sat, Aug 14, 2010 : 11:48 a.m.

I said: The brain works in 90-12 minute cycles I should have said: The brain works in 90-120 minute cycles


Sat, Aug 14, 2010 : 10:14 a.m.

...just as the district needs to be prepared to pay serious money for talented teachers. The huge problem is, of course, that AAPS pays serious money to teachers whether they're talented or not. Seniority is all and it has nothing to do with talent. So AAPS lays off talented, energetic young teachers and retains mediocre teachers at the top of the pay scale who are marking time until retirement (note -- I'm certainly not saying all the older teachers are like that, but there are way too many of them and there's no way to get rid of them short of spending even *more* money to induce them to take even *earlier* retirement and collect pensions for even more years). The union seniority model makes it effectively impossible to reward talent, skill, dedication, hard work, etc.


Sat, Aug 14, 2010 : 10:08 a.m.

Dr. Roberts did a great job in a tough district with circumstances he inherited and did not create. Any school district that fires all of its teachers who do not have tenure at the end of the school year, and then rehires them a month later, in order to get the teacher's union to make salary cuts (that's the real reason for the firing/rehiring), has serious problems that aren't going away any time soon.

Mary Dooley

Sat, Aug 14, 2010 : 10:06 a.m.

I'm sorry to see him go. He was very highly respected. Someone mentioned that other administrators have been lost, this year, also. Here's a "shout-out" to Larry Simpson, who also made great improvements in the system, and was very respected and appreciated, too. (He retired this past year.) It is difficult to hope for replacements who can fill their shoes...but, let's hope!


Sat, Aug 14, 2010 : 9:57 a.m.

Dr. Roberts did an incredible job with the mess he had to work with. Even the best would burn out and I'm surprised he lasted as long as he did. Anyone with a sense of preservation for his career and family could not endure the endless hours of managing a fragmented multiple agenda BoE and administrative staff that is will still operating in the late 1960's. Political agendas by board members ate him up. While Dr. Roberts clearly was an optimist when he started, had a commitment to AAPS students and their parents, I'm sure in his final decision he realized how hard he worked, the endless number of hours he gave to the district (at the expense of not watching his kids grow up) was not worth it.


Sat, Aug 14, 2010 : 9:39 a.m.

Why all this ulterior motive crap from people? Have you had parents in ill-health? Four years ago it probably was not an issue. He wanted to stay, but when all your family is in another state, why shouldn't he look for a new job to be closer to them. By the way, if somebody offered you a $25k a year raise and it would put you closer to your family, you would be a fool not to listen. Dr Roberts did what people do. I would also point out to those that complain superintendents don;t last as long as they used to, I would say most people change jobs more often than they did int he past.That goes for all careers. Finally, to the person who suggests administrators give back some money, I would say, why don't all residents of Ann Arbor (lets use 100k), give $1 per week to the schools. That would give the schools $5.2 million dollars, and be ahead of the state shortfall. I love how people are always willing to suggest what others should do with their money. Cutting slariies is the major problem this country faces now. When you cut salaries people can not afford to buy the products many companies make. It also lowers the amount of taxes the state collects (public employees pay taxes too). It is a race to the bottom, that Michigan and Ann Arbor should not participate in.


Sat, Aug 14, 2010 : 8:21 a.m.

Dr. Roberts was good for Ann Arbor and he will be missed. He was put into a tough situation with economy and cuts being needed. The thing I liked most about him was that he had kids going to school within the district, so many of the decisions he had to make would/could directly effect his own kids/family. I think that would be another important thing to look at when hiring next Superintendent. Ghost, I am with you. Parent involvement is so important. But when kids fail, it is never the student/parents fault, it is ALWAYS blamed on teachers. Next they will be asking teachers to take home these struggling learners to make sure they do their homework!?!? School/work day for kids, my kids are spent at the end of the day when I see them at 4:00, to expect a longer day, really!!!


Sat, Aug 14, 2010 : 8:01 a.m.

@Steve Norton, The "hold harmless" funds have long been controversial, and the state legislature erred by not placing a sunset provision on those funds, especially since its goal was to equalize school funding. I was referring to the "across-the-board" cut that every district received. As far as I'm concerned, the hold-harmless funding should have been withdrawn long ago. @Stephen Lange Ranzini, K-5 Students need to go to school year-round, and 7:30am to 5pm. Daycare school hours would be nice, but there's a big problem with what you're suggesting. The human brain doesn't work effectively in the manner you've prescribed. The circadian rhythms that we understand to control our sleep are also at work during the day. The brain works in 90-12 minute cycles, and it works best (most efficiently) when it is given periodic breaks from strenuous tasks, including thinking, creativity and learning, and just as sleep-deprived individuals begin to exhibit symptoms of mental disorders, "rest-deprived" individuals do, too. Just as there is a time limit to the length of a productive cycle, there is a daily limit to the number of "productive" work cycles the brain can pull off. If you substitute the word "work" for "school" in your statement... K-5 Students need to go to [work] year-round, and 7:30am to 5pm....people would be horrified, and rightly so. For children, school IS work, and you're advocating a work day for students that's longer than the standard, 8-hour "shift." Education is good, but a longer school day will not translate into more, better, or higher-quality learning. The factory mentality you suggest simply doesn't apply to developing brains. The human brain is a marvelous machine, but it does not work in the linear, "on/off" fashion you're suggesting. It requires significant rest and downtime to function efficiently. A 7:30 - 5:00 "work schedule" is simply abusive and will never render the results you're hoping for. Ask yourself "Did I go to school year-round 7:30 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.? How did I turn out?" If your answers were "No" and "Fine" your suggestion is misplaced.


Sat, Aug 14, 2010 : 7:34 a.m.

@Stephen, I read your comment and found it interesting with one major hitch: The idea that year-round school will somehow make up for the factors involved in the lives of those kids who are deemed 'at risk' is a logic leap too far. Too many of the kids I know in private schools are getting a WAYYYYYY better education than their public school peers on the same academic calendar. I think it might be an interesting conversation to ask what the role of our public schools should be and how do we HONESTLY test the performance of those schools. two factors for thought: Loosing at the top end. 3 friends \moved their kids from public to private schools this year. These were students that were performing at the top of their classes. I know that the private schools in our area are growing by leaps and bounds even in these tough economic times. Certainly the 3 families all made the same decision for the same reason: they felt their kid was being held back by the academics and environment in the public school. So, who is left at the public school if those families who are active and involved enough to feel that way make the same move. incomes involved here are all middle/lower middle class level and they are stretching their budgets huge to make these moves. Parental Involvement: I've been told time and time again that the single largest impact on young student performance is having parents who are active and involved with their student's learning (yes, that means year-round). If a parent for whatever reason can't be as supportive as they need to be for whatever the reason, do we really expect the schools to be charged with, in effect, raising that kid? And do we as a society want to pay for that? And, how does Ann Arbor want to choose its next superintendent to combat the 'factory school' feeling that permeates the conversations of the families with students at the top part of their academic performance spectrum?

birch creek john

Sat, Aug 14, 2010 : 7:03 a.m.

I've met Dr. Roberts a couple of times, and found him to be a nice person who is committed to doing the best job he know how to do to educate young people. Now he has found an opportunity to be with his family and take on a new challenge. More power to him. For all you conspiracy folks, I'm sorry but that about sums it up. LeeAnn Dickinson-Kelley would make a good superintendent.

Steve Norton, MIPFS

Sat, Aug 14, 2010 : 12:32 a.m.

I also think Dr. Roberts has been a great asset to this district and community, and he will be missed greatly. Having had my own experience with ailing family members, I do not doubt their reasoning at all. I simply wish Dr. Roberts and his family were able to stay in Ann Arbor. YpsiLivin: Between the general state cut and the elimination of 20j funds, AAPS lost $398 per pupil last year. This theoretical admin salary cut, which might free up $80 per pupil, is a long way from closing that gap. But it would make it much harder to attract and retain the skilled administrators our schools need in these difficult times.

Stephen Lange Ranzini

Fri, Aug 13, 2010 : 10:54 p.m.

Many who work with him believe Dr. Roberts is a wonderful leader, however the adage in business is that a good leader who stays long in a business with a bad business model ends up without his reputation. I'm not sure how anyone can say that the Administration overall is doing a "good job" or "excellent job" when 12.31% of the students are failing to graduate from high school in the Ann Arbor Public Schools. For the stats, see: What is the plan to save the 1 in 9 of our kids who should be able to be properly educated? Does anyone know the 2009 minority graduation rates for the AAPS? In 2001, when the graduation rate for high school was higher at 91%, the rate that black students graduated from high school in the AAPS was just 55%. See I'm curious to know has it risen or fallen since 2001? More recent data would be useful to know! Based on the demographics of this community, these at risk students are generally low and moderate income students who are being damaged by the traditional Summer vacation and who start failing MEAP tests beginning in 3rd grade at progressively higher rates as they progress through higher grades. (For more information and the background data see: I would note that when the millage failed among the first cuts Dr. Roberts recommended to balance the budget was to the Summer school program - a solid step in the wrong direction! Perhaps we can hire a Superintendent from one of the public school districts (for example in Arizona) where they have already implemented year round schooling to help guide AAPS through the process? K-5 Students need to go to school year-round, and 7:30am to 5pm. The faster we fix this problem, the faster we'll turn our economy around, as the county would become a magnet for jobs if people could move here and have confidence their children would be properly educated. (See for more background info on this topic)

Lisa Starrfield

Fri, Aug 13, 2010 : 9:32 p.m.

The North Carolina School of Science and Math is a highly respected public boarding school near Duke University. The faculty and students are simply amazing and it's a job offer that you can't refuse, especially having family in the area.


Fri, Aug 13, 2010 : 8:58 p.m.

I want to wish Dr. Roberts best of luck in his future endeavors. He has done the district well. He did not create the mess we are in, he inherited it by taking the job, and tried his best to adjust to the current economy. I applaud his efforts. Gene Rye: I received an email well before the story was online!


Fri, Aug 13, 2010 : 8:54 p.m.

ERMG, If you took your $1,320,000 and divided it by 16,000 students, rather than 3,0000 employees, you would get an additional $82.50 per student. It wouldn't entirely close the "takeback" that the state instituted but it would cut it by about half. Administration is expensive and the faster administrators come to the realization that they're draining resources away from the classroom, the better off the students will be. The next superintendent should be committed to reducing the size of the administration to preserve classroom funding.

Wake Up A2

Fri, Aug 13, 2010 : 8:21 p.m.

Couple of things: 1) The school district tells their teachers when everyone else knows. This has gone on for at least 20 years. It is a sign that the Admin folks don't trust the staff. No big, we don't trust them either. 2) The admin training ground comes from a district who doesn't promote the best talent from within. The district spends thousands every time they hire a new "shake-n-bake" principals with 2 years experience (none in a classroom). What would happen if they (the district) hired teachers to be principals? Ones who have 15 or more years in? Well, the staff would know them 1. 2. they would be vested in what goes on and would stay longer. 3. The district would save money in hiring, 4. 15 years experience would weed out the "classroom non hackers" that could not deal with the classroom, i.e. the kids and wanted out. This was the way Ann Arbor used to hire, but over the last 20 years we have moved into the current system. This is not an impossible town and the super job is not impossible. Treat your kids, staff and community like you would treat your own mother, not like Andrew Carnegie circa 1900. Old school management doesn't work.


Fri, Aug 13, 2010 : 6:57 p.m.

Best wishes Dr. Roberts! You served AAPS very well, in very difficult times. You will be greatly missed in A2!


Fri, Aug 13, 2010 : 6:24 p.m.

Gene- Tell your wife to check her district email. A letter was sent out before the news broke here. I talked to a friend that got it about 20 minutes before had the story.


Fri, Aug 13, 2010 : 6:12 p.m.

It is so comforting to know that this information is provided through and that as a parent and husband of a teacher, that we are not notified of this change through this venue and not through official channels. Ann Arbor Public Schools, shame on you.


Fri, Aug 13, 2010 : 6:05 p.m.

I wish Dr. Roberts well. Dr. Roberts is not the only senior administrator to leave this summer. AAPS is a great training ground for people who want to move up. The head of special education left, the latest rumor is 3 or 4 of the assistant principals will depart to be principals elsewhere. I don't know if this is a good thing or a bad thing. I wonder though if we should not just move some people up in the administration and not fill the open slots. At $150,000 cost (that is not pay) on average for the top administrators, leaving 6 or 7 spots open can provide $1 million or so in money for school supplies, and other materials the school needs to operate. Or it might even let the school keep or add 20 or so teacher's aids. Focusing the money on the classroom is a good thing.


Fri, Aug 13, 2010 : 4:28 p.m.

Hmm, I am waiting for some of the anti teacher crowd to way in on this one. @ Ed, so sorry I missed your deleted comment.

Jay Thomas

Fri, Aug 13, 2010 : 4:13 p.m.

At least he got the AAPS transportation system merged with Ypsi/West Willow before he left. That was important if you believe in school choice. Now Ypsi and W. Willow students can come here and we can go there! Oh wait...


Fri, Aug 13, 2010 : 4:05 p.m.

"But, no, teapartyist (or whatever) illogic takes us to paying less for those who work in our schools and expecting better." Sorry I should have stated I wasn't agreeing with the TeaParty aspect of this post, just the usual posts that occur here, as I do not know or care what party anyone is "in." This comes up everytime we talk about city admins also, which people think they should make the same amount as the private sector (whatever that equivilant is?) and be hapopy cause it's Ann Arbor I guess.


Fri, Aug 13, 2010 : 4:05 p.m.

Congratulations to Dr. Roberts, but this is a major loss for the AAPS. Let's hope the Board can do as well selecting a replacement as they did did when they hired Dr. Roberts. On a different note, I have heard very good things about the North Carolina School of Science and Math from friends in the state. Has the idea of a state-supported, residential magnet high school ever been considered in Michigan?


Fri, Aug 13, 2010 : 3:31 p.m.

Awww.....Ed V. you took down your comment before i could look up that funny word! On topic: This will be a loss, but i'm sure his family will be glad to have him home more.


Fri, Aug 13, 2010 : 2:56 p.m.

I kind of remember back in 4th grade when my class played a song for him on our recorders. I don't think its gonna be easy finding another superintendent.


Fri, Aug 13, 2010 : 2:45 p.m.

I hear the most recent ex- Willow Run Superintendant is available and looking for work.


Fri, Aug 13, 2010 : 2:43 p.m.

ERMG wrote: "But the teapartyists will insist that his replacement take the job at a substantial reduction in pay and then will complain (whether or not justified) about the replacement's alleged incompetence." And the other side will insist if we all just dig a bit deeper into our wallets and throw more money at the problem, all will be well. Let's not do anything differently, let's just spend more money. OK. We're balanced, now.


Fri, Aug 13, 2010 : 2:26 p.m.

"But the teapartyists will insist that his replacement take the job at a substantial reduction in pay and then will complain (whether or not justified) about the replacement's alleged incompetence." Too true.


Fri, Aug 13, 2010 : 2:07 p.m.

ERMG, Labels, gotta love them! Since when does it take a "TeaPartyist" to want to save taxpayer's money? I'm a Liberal and I'd like to save some tax money! Frankly I think a little less money spent at the top of the pile could help to balance the budget and keep the mid-pay and lower paid employees working longer. Silly me.


Fri, Aug 13, 2010 : 1:51 p.m.

As I remember, Roberts insisted he would stay in Ann Arbor until he handed his youngest child his/her diploma. I think the family needs actually mean more money and another notch in his resume.


Fri, Aug 13, 2010 : 1:32 p.m.

That's what is so odd, the school board obviously doesn't approach knowing everything and yet they continue to pretend so. Perhaps is is the community that blindly continues to elect them that doesn't know so much. I find it unusual that Mr. Roberts would have had a hand in selecting at least two of the recent appointees to the board and that the comment prior would have us believe that they somehow caused the super a problem? How about this, what is the common factor across our last several superintendants? Look to those board members common across the supers and consider voting in someone else.

Bob Martel

Fri, Aug 13, 2010 : 1:30 p.m.

@ Ed Vielmetti - three cheers for a creative quip re: the deletion!


Fri, Aug 13, 2010 : 1:20 p.m.

Fact is - supers used to last 15-20 years in a district and they dont anymore - they last 5 or so - that has been the trend in this area for the last generation why is this the case? career aspirations plays a role but most will tell you (after they leave) that school boards have gotten harder to please in the last 10 years or so...they think they know everything - is what the supers will tell you

Haran Rashes

Fri, Aug 13, 2010 : 1:12 p.m.

Let me be among the many wishing Dr. Roberts well in his new position. However, I am skeptical about the timing of his announcement. Petitions to run for School Board were due only three days ago, and as this media outlet reported, all the candidates are running unopposed. Had Dr. Roberts made this announcement a week or so ago, I wonder if we would have had more candidates and a healthy election forum on the direction the district will take under whatever new leadership we may find.

Dan Ezekiel

Fri, Aug 13, 2010 : 12:26 p.m.

Todd is a hardworking, low-key, honest man. He was always modest and self-effacing, didn't shrink from his very difficult work and the choices it forced on him, kept a smile and a listening ear. I hoped he would stay years longer. He was a pleasure to work for, and I for one will miss him a lot. I wish him well in his next job, back home in North Carolina, and I hope we will be as fortunate in our next superintendent as we were with him. Our district faces some hard choices over the next few years, and we will need wise leadership


Fri, Aug 13, 2010 : 12:20 p.m.

This is a huge loss for Ann Arbor and the schools. Todd was by far the best superintendent we have had in a long time. One can only hope the Board does not screw things up when selecting a replacement.

Wake Up A2

Fri, Aug 13, 2010 : 12:19 p.m.

Well, what are we at 5 supers in 20 years. That is an average of 1 every 4 years. I think the next time we interview we should ask " How long do you plan on staying?" The last two said they loved Ann Arbor and have family and friends here. I believe if anyone answers that way, we should skip...... We should say, "So what to do want to be when you grow up?" Why don't we pick a teacher? They stay longer then any other person in the district. They don't have this zest for high pay and title....... You know I thought he wanted to be State Super some day, I guess I will now have to pay on my bet...


Fri, Aug 13, 2010 : 12:09 p.m.

Dr. Roberts is an honest man who put the AAPS students first - it will be hard to find someone to replace him.

Craig Lounsbury

Fri, Aug 13, 2010 : 12:04 p.m.

"He had an impossible job in an impossible community!" I would say he had a difficult job, given the times we are in, in a vocal community with high expectations.

Silly Sally

Fri, Aug 13, 2010 : 12:03 p.m.

The problem is the silly politically correct school board.

David Jesse

Fri, Aug 13, 2010 : 12:03 p.m.

Here's the story from N.C. on the move:

Bob Martel

Fri, Aug 13, 2010 : noon

I can't blame him. He had an impossible job in an impossible community!


Fri, Aug 13, 2010 : 11:56 a.m.

Very disappointing news! He's been a great superintendent.

Craig Lounsbury

Fri, Aug 13, 2010 : 11:53 a.m.

This is Ann Arbor so we must begin a $250,000 (inter)national search for a replacement