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Posted on Tue, Jun 25, 2013 : 2:58 p.m.

Ann Arbor principals union approves 3% pay cut; school board to vote on contract Wednesday

By Danielle Arndt

Previous coverage:

The Ann Arbor Administrators Association has ratified a tentative agreement with the school district that states its 48 members will take a 3 percent pay cut.

The union follows suit behind Ann Arbor's teachers and central office personnel, who agreed to salary concessions in March and May, respectively.


Joan Fitzgibbon of Allen Elementary chats with students who were rehearsing for an upcoming performance in this file photo. Fitzgibbon served on the Ann Arbor Administrators Association's collective bargaining negotiation team. The union recently reached an agreement that calls for principals to take a 3 percent pay cut.

File photo | The Ann Arbor News

The Board of Education will meet in executive session Wednesday at around 2 p.m. at the downtown Ann Arbor District Library to review the status of the negotiations and the terms of the tentative agreement.

The executive session previously was scheduled for the purpose of analyzing applications received for the open superintendent's position. So the board will convene a regular meeting in open session and vote almost immediately to go into executive session with the added purpose of discussing collective bargaining to satisfy its legal requirements under the Open Meetings Act, said board President Deb Mexicotte. The board's normal regular meeting will take place at 7 p.m. at the library.

AAAA President Michael Madison confirmed Tuesday that the principals union voted on June 18 to ratify the agreement, which the union did unanimously with 100 percent of the membership in favor of approving the contract, he said.

Madison said he could not speak to the details of the tentative agreement, but confirmed the union "did do what everyone expected us to do, which was to give 3 percent."

The AAAA negotiations have been ongoing since late January/early February. Madison did not serve on the negotiations team, according to a January correspondence between Superintendent Patricia Green and the Board of Education. The principals representing the union during collective bargaining with the district were: Gary Court, Joan Fitzgibbon and Kathy Scarnecchia representing elementary; Chris Curtis and Janet Schwamb representing middle schools; and Lis Anglin and Ben Edmondson representing the high schools. Curtis was the chief negotiator, according to Green's Jan. 18 weekly capsule report.

The 3 percent salary concession from the principals union is expected to save the district around $270,000. The school board already banked on that money on June 13, when it approved the district's general fund operating budget and budget cuts for the 2013-14 academic year.

Vice President Christine Stead said if the board votes Wednesday to ratify the agreement with the AAAA during its 7 p.m. meeting, then the board may need to make some amendments to the budget.

Mexicotte said last week, she anticipates the board will need to talk about the budget again anyway because of a possible arithmetic error that occurred when adding up the anticipated $100,000 in savings the board hopes to generate by charging students at Huron and Pioneer for a seventh class period.

Stead also plans to bring forward some additional items and hopes the board will consider some changes, she said. Much of what she plans to discuss will be to ensure the numbers and the math are accurate — "because my calculations are a little bit different," Stead said.

She also plans to again bring up her concerns about the board using $1.18 million of its fund equity to balance the 2013-14 budget, bringing the district's total savings account to less than $6 million.

Additionally, she would like the board to discuss again the total number of teachers it has agreed to cut because, she said, the total number is greater than the 27 undesignated FTEs. She said that number is closer to 40 FTE by the time the district adds in the 4 FTE from cutting the extra physical education credit.

Stead was the lone trustee to vote "no" on the budget June 13.

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



Thu, Jun 27, 2013 : 1:13 a.m.

AAPS could have saved three more teaching positions by hiring three of it's teachers as the new administrators for the elementary schools., rather than going outside of the district for two of them!


Wed, Jun 26, 2013 : 12:31 p.m.

I've worked for a number of employers in my years, and it's always the same: Cut the front lines and protect management. Every time one of my employers cut their bread and butter employees, whether it was sales staff, who in business, actually made the company money, or in this case teachers, who actually work directly with kids, the loss is felt. Every time highly compensated management (school administrators) was cut, no one really noticed. In the end, it's the teachers and kids who matter.

Stephen Lange Ranzini

Wed, Jun 26, 2013 : 11:20 a.m.

Do we really need all 48 principals for our 31 schools? Each of our 31 schools need a line item budget and each principal needs to be held accountable for the revenue and expenses in that budget. The current contract does not cover that, so another opportunity missed. Some AAPS principals are great and some are awful and have chased students from AAPS with a loss of at least 300 students at $9,020 per year, or over $2,700,000 per year in revenue, yet there is no accountability for these poor principals. Please do revisit the budget! The $4.5 million in annual spending that is budgeted for next year for discretionary spending should be eliminated from the budget and the savings used to restore the 27-40 teacher and teaching classroom educator support positions being eliminated in next year's budget. In an era of tight finances shouldn't the board decide ALL line item expenses and how the money should be spent down to the penny? This is a basic principle of line item budgeting and zero based budgeting. If the choice is between paying for trips to Cedar Point and pizza parties or more teachers who would argue for fewer teachers? But, maintaining ANY discretionary funds essentially chooses these fripperies over teachers. Of course this will require the PTOs and perhaps generous individual donors to step up through the education foundation to help truly worthy causes more, or require the superintendent to make the case for specific items previously funded from discretionary funds that ought still to be funded to the AAPS Board, but so be it!

Stephen Lange Ranzini

Wed, Jun 26, 2013 : 7:12 p.m.

@Danielle Arndt: I am referring to pizza parties paid for by principals out of this account, not classroom pizza parties. The principals also pay for after school activity or club trips, which have included trips to Cedar Point to perform and to other non-athletic competitions.

Danielle Arndt

Wed, Jun 26, 2013 : 6:59 p.m.

Stephen, classroom parties and field trips already are paid for by PTOs and parents. And the PTO Thrift shop gives an annual grant to the district for transportation costs for school field trips. So these items are not paid for out of the "discretionary fund" or the general fund. Also, to clarify the discretionary fund, school officials have told me that that is what Robert Allen called that particular line item in the budget, but it actually, and more accurately, is the individual buildings' funds. So that $4.5 million is divided up among the schools for paying for supplies and noon-hour supervisors and other things. That's all I know about it right now, but I will continue to look into that line item more. Thanks.

Stephen Lange Ranzini

Wed, Jun 26, 2013 : 4:34 p.m.

@$5,000 is just pennies: First of all, great user id! The $4.5 million discretionary fund is an annual expense in the building operations part of the budget and pays for many things that aren't otherwise budgeted. A good discussion of the fund is in this article: Please also see my comment on the article (at 6:51 a.m.) discussing this discretionary fund.

$5,000 is just pennies

Wed, Jun 26, 2013 : 3:27 p.m.

@ SL Ranzini- Is the 4.5 million discretionary fund exactly what is implied? Is it a fund with no specific use but is there for whatever expenditures seems appropriate by the Administration at Balas? Please explain further in depth about this fund.


Wed, Jun 26, 2013 : 2:18 p.m.

To be fair a couple of these people are not actually principals - one it the director of Rec&Ed - probably one of the top 2 or 3 employees the district has when it comes to organization, budgeting and administration. But yes we are "over principal'ed" in AAPS.

$5,000 is just pennies

Wed, Jun 26, 2013 : 5:13 a.m.

I recall reading that Mike Madison and the AAAA group called for Supt Green to take a 20.4% pay cut to help balance the school district budget. I guess AAAA's current offer of 3% is a just little shy of what they expected other AAPS administrators to give up. We really did expect more from our school leaders that what is the bare minimum.


Wed, Jun 26, 2013 : 2:04 a.m.

Too little, too late. Shame on the AAAA. Don't lead, and no one will follow. You should have been FIRST, not last, or at the VERY least made a BIGGER concession than everyone else. Five months to do this- do you get anything done in your actual jobs? Does it take five months to make a common sense decision in your schools? Pathetic. And no, Madison, you did not "do what everyone expected you to do." You were expected to lead, not follow everyone else.


Wed, Jun 26, 2013 : 1:34 a.m.

Unions are not necessary when owners and management treat employees with respect, pay decent wages, and provide decent benefits. In such instances, unions are a detriment to the employees and the company taking funds from the employees and making a huge bureaucracy out of nothing. Right to work? All for it. The rights of any individual should be more important than the rights of a union. We are provided these rights by the Bill of Rights and the US Constitution as citizens of the United States of America. If you disagree, then your stance is that everyone should be required to belong to a union. That would be a sad day.


Wed, Jun 26, 2013 : 1:34 p.m.

States that enact Right-to-Work laws see a decline in workers' wages and benefits soon after. How does that help the "rights of the individual"?


Wed, Jun 26, 2013 : 12:23 p.m.

Don't worry. There will be more RTW articles soon. Then you can really twist the Constitution to get down on some serious union-bashing.

Shawn Letwin

Wed, Jun 26, 2013 : 1:05 a.m.

Arithmetic errors are not unheard of. Dexter currently calls them formula errors. Dexter amended their budget last November because the million dollar plus deficit budget approved in June grew even larger in November by over $500K. It was just discovered that the formula used in one calculation for that November amended budget was in error. An increase in costs of $70,000 was not calculated correctly in a formula and the budget was amended this past June to correct for the formula error; part of an additional increase of Dexter's deficit to well over 2 million dollars. There was a time that the accounting practices in Dexter were referred to as fuzzy math instead of formula errors. In 2004 the district claimed that a deficit would be immediate for that year. The anticipated deficit could amount to almost 2 million dollars. The superintendent retired because he couldn't bear to dismantle the district, layoffs were abundant, etc. Funny thing was that when the final budget for that year was approved, the district had a SURPLUS of over 1.5M dollars. Almost a 3 million dollar swing in less than 6 months! Wow! Then during Glass' tenure, the district said they needed 3.5M in cuts. Cuts were made, but the budget for the following year only decreased by 2.5M dollars (not 3.5 M). Hmmmm? Arithmetic error, formula error, fuzzy math....ehhh...lots of accounting, but no accountability.


Tue, Jun 25, 2013 : 11:51 p.m.

"Mexicotte said last week, she anticipates the board will need to talk about the budget again anyway because of a possible arithmetic error that occurred when adding up the anticipated $100,000 in savings the board hopes to generate by charging students at Huron and Pioneer for a seventh class period." Arithmetic error? The AAPS budget has an arithmetic error in adding up savings by charging students for a 7th period? I'm just amazed every time one of these articles comes out at the incompetence of the financial managers who work for AAPS? Do they not have the proper training or experience for their jobs? Arithmetic errors on a budget of this scale? Totally inexcusable.


Wed, Jun 26, 2013 : 1:12 a.m.

There will be more errors and over runs just watch..............


Tue, Jun 25, 2013 : 11:48 p.m.

The 3 percent salary concession from the principals union is expected to save the district around $270,000. The school board already banked on that money on June 13, when it approved the district's general fund operating budget and budget cuts for the 2013-14 academic year. Vice President Christine Stead said if the board votes Wednesday to ratify the agreement with the AAAA during its 7 p.m. meeting, then the board may need to make some amendments to the budget. ********** This makes no sense. The board already took the $270,000 savings into account when they passed the budget. Now after that amount is verified through AAAA cuts, why does the board need to make amendments to the budget?

Danielle Arndt

Wed, Jun 26, 2013 : 6:46 p.m.

Christine, thanks for jumping in here to clear that up! I wanted to add too, just to expand on what Christine said about the $4,000 — the original estimate that was given in April for the principals union's 3 percent cut was a savings of $266,000. The estimated amount figured into the budget that was approved on June 13 was $270,000. So to reiterate what Christine said, there may need to be an adjustment to include a more accurate number.

Christine Stead

Wed, Jun 26, 2013 : 4:33 p.m.

The actual number will be different than the $270,000 estimate (which I think is high by a few thousand dollars). If it's high by $4,000, then we need to adjust the budget to reflect the actual number, not the estimate that was used in the budget.


Wed, Jun 26, 2013 : 2:15 p.m.

JRW - Because they did a 1+1 = 3 in a couple of cases.


Tue, Jun 25, 2013 : 10:56 p.m.

Curious as to how much union leaders cut in pay was if any or are they still getting raises?


Tue, Jun 25, 2013 : 10:51 p.m.

The bigger question is did they fix any of the work rules in the contract, or are they stuck with what they had. Inflexibility, like the inflexibility in the teacher's contract means more money has to be spent in the future to deal with overtime and other charges. As with the teacher's contract the last time someone really went through and looked at the impact of the various clauses was a decade ago. Mr. Comsa was supposed to be the negotiator who could make the contracts so much better. He was the legal genius who would make money for AAPS and that is why he got the higher salary. I note no discussion of the money that is work has brought into the district, either by his actions for the district or for actions for other districts. I am not surprised that at 2 AM no one could still do math, The fact that no one from and administration had this setup in a spreadsheet and was taking notes into the spreadsheet does not surprise me. As the photo showed it was being done by hand at the podium, rather than being projected where all the trustees could see the numbers and the options. Maybe now that the budget is settled a couple of the board members will think about stepping down or back from leadership roles.


Wed, Jun 26, 2013 : 9:06 p.m.

sh1 - As to points: I guess you have not read your contract in a while - check appendix V of your contract. As to school hours requirements: Check appendix VI of your contract. Since I only have the crappy zeroxed and then PDF'ed version of your contract that AAPS posts to spite the public, I am not going to re-read to find the specific paragraphs in the main part of the contract.


Wed, Jun 26, 2013 : 2:51 p.m.

What do you mean by points system? Teachers routinely meet outside their school day. Parents can request conferences at any point during the year, IEP or not. Teachers receive nothing in exchange for attending these meetings.


Wed, Jun 26, 2013 : 2:13 p.m.

sh1 - How about the points system? That to me is just a way to avoid the word "overtime". Teachers have tightly defined times that they can be expected to be in the building, and asking for more than that comes only at the agreement of the teacher, so the amount of time for parent teacher conferences for instance is very limited during the school year. Holding IEP meetings at say 4PM is difficult. While you may not consider this reasonable based on your patterns as a teacher to call this overtime, the reality is that teachers have a tightly defined obligation for time in the contract, anything beyond that is difficult to arrange. This is contrary to what most professionals expect from a job.


Wed, Jun 26, 2013 : 1:30 p.m.

The teachers' contract contains no language for overtime!

Shawn Letwin

Tue, Jun 25, 2013 : 9:16 p.m.

Thank you to all of those who put the time in and effort too to help reduce costs so that the kids in the classroom can strive for a decent education. Aside from the fact the the principals union of approximately 50 members needed a union for themselves but they also needed 2 representatives from each building level to represent their interests during negotiations...(and I will leave it that curious thought)...again, thank you to all involved. Negotiations are based on give and take, so it will be curious to see what the details in the agreement specify. Hoping that Daneille and have the opportunity to get the complete contract document available and post it for review. Tremendous and very thorough coverage these past few weeks!


Tue, Jun 25, 2013 : 8:59 p.m.

Principals are supposed to lead the way, but they bring up the rear here. Pathetic.


Wed, Jun 26, 2013 : 12:06 p.m.

Based on your comment J.A., I just confirmed with those I know on the front line that you are correct - a bad decision.


Wed, Jun 26, 2013 : 12:33 a.m.

Wrong J.A. Pieper. Dr. Green made final decision on ALL new principal hires. I had a friend go through the process as a teacher interviewing possible principals and Dr. Green was very upfront in saying she made the final call. Now in saying that, Chuck Hatt has been in the district both as a teacher and curriculum coordinator, just wondering what makes you think he won't do well, or wasn't wanted? Just thought i would ask since you seem to have knowledge on the man and his past hiring attempts.

J. A. Pieper

Tue, Jun 25, 2013 : 11:31 p.m.

Goober, Burns Park just got a new principal that MOST buildings and teachers would not want to have, it will be interesting to see how he does! The AAAA was a part of the interview process for new administrators, and they chose this person. Interestingly, when parents, principals, and teachers were interviewing in the past, he could never get hired!


Tue, Jun 25, 2013 : 10:33 p.m.

You are correct. A lack of expectations and many in the pool are lacking talent and drive to do a good job. Just ask the parents and teachers. They can validate the keepers from those that need to find other careers.


Tue, Jun 25, 2013 : 8:54 p.m.

We have a principal's union???


Tue, Jun 25, 2013 : 8:48 p.m.

Arithmetic error? Really?

Maria Huffman

Tue, Jun 25, 2013 : 8:29 p.m.

Do we have any projections for possible increase in revenue do to rising home prices?

Basic Bob

Thu, Jun 27, 2013 : 2:32 a.m.

Most of the revenue increases in the Ann Arbor school district will be funneled to tax increment financing programs like the Ann Arbor DDA, Reimagine Washtenaw CIA, and State Road CIA.


Wed, Jun 26, 2013 : 2:06 p.m.

Ms Huffman - Here is the AA.Com story from the County which is probably more useful, since it is what the changes in property tax are based on: ...and here are the actual increase in revenue:

Maria Huffman

Wed, Jun 26, 2013 : 1:32 p.m.

oops, it aaabor, not aaarob, the ann arbor area board of realtors web site that post monthly updates on the real estate situation in the county.

Maria Huffman

Wed, Jun 26, 2013 : 1:25 p.m.

AMOC, how often is that housing data reported out officially, (not by aaarob)? So in other words, will we end up waiting to find out with a 6 month lag?


Wed, Jun 26, 2013 : 10:55 a.m.

A very small increase in winter property tax receipts has already been projected for the state School Aid Fund budget. A slightly larger one has been incorporated into WISD's expected receipts for the Special Education and Community College millages. Given that Michigan's metro areas were flat or up much less than others in the most recent Case-Schiller home values report, and are still 35% off there peak values, I expect we'll see a small increase next year too. Well below the 5% cap.

Maria Huffman

Wed, Jun 26, 2013 : 4:23 a.m.

Still asking, do we have any projections for possible increase in revenue due to rising home prices?

Basic Bob

Wed, Jun 26, 2013 : 12:19 a.m.

@Maria, Property values are at 2001 levels. If school employees had taken pay cuts like everyone else in 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011, and 2012, we would be looking at raises in 2013 and 2014.

Maria Huffman

Tue, Jun 25, 2013 : 11:23 p.m.

Basic Bob, everyone has just taken a cut..

Basic Bob

Tue, Jun 25, 2013 : 11:19 p.m.

Home prices are not rising as fast as salary expectations.


Tue, Jun 25, 2013 : 8:07 p.m.

"The board will need to talk about the budget again anyway because of a possible arithmetic error that occurred when adding up the anticipated $100,000 in savings the board hopes to generate by charging students at Huron and Pioneer for a seventh class period." Amazing that a school district can't do simple math. There must be significant changes within AAPS and the BOE.


Tue, Jun 25, 2013 : 7:57 p.m.

There are also 7 (or was it 8?) FTE of Special Education Teacher Consultants and Teacher Aides to get a mere $125,000 in annual savings because these positions are reimbursed by the Federal, State and ISD so that their net cost to AAPS is <15% of their total compensation.


Tue, Jun 25, 2013 : 7:36 p.m.

Please people, quit messing with pay, and meet the real problems head on. Legacy costs are killing all public institutions, and putting an unfair burden on taxpayers. Pay teachers well, but enough with the over reach on perks.


Wed, Jun 26, 2013 : 12:41 p.m.

Very well said, time to change the law and outlaw public unions. Good Day

$5,000 is just pennies

Wed, Jun 26, 2013 : 4:59 a.m.

You are so correct. A average elementary principal makes about $105,000. On top of that they receive a AAPS paid pension of about $26,150 or about 25% of their W-2 income. Health benefits is another $11,875, dental $1,478, vision $252, long term disability and life insurance is another $993. The average total cost to he school district is $154,000 per principal. The benefits are an additional 38.8% expense to the district. Now those are some benefits that most workers do not see ever in their lifetime. Finally, all this is for working only 42 weeks a year.

Bob W

Tue, Jun 25, 2013 : 7:07 p.m.

How silly do I feel! I didn't even know, nor would I have thought, school principles needed a union. Go figure.

Bob W

Wed, Jun 26, 2013 : 2:23 p.m.

BioWheels, thanks for pointing out my contextual error. I guess I was surprised that a highly educated segment of the work force isn't reviewed and rewarded based on performance. I was for 35 years in an "at will" environment meaning they could walk up to me and simply say today is my last day and walk me out of the building. Why should the educational system be any different? As for athletes and their salaries, please don't get me started on that one. ;o)


Wed, Jun 26, 2013 : 1:27 p.m.

In states where principals/teachers do not have unions, there is not the magical "let them represent themselves and the talented ones will be paid more." Instead, everyone gets cut more and more until the only ones left are the ones who don't have other options.


Wed, Jun 26, 2013 : 1:10 a.m.

Pro athletes even have unions, so obviously even millionaires need them. Unions thrive as long as they have enough people to pay for them and enough buyers of their services willing to dig deeper and deeper every year. I say if they can get it they should take it...................


Tue, Jun 25, 2013 : 11:04 p.m.

Principals are management. Management should not be in a union.


Tue, Jun 25, 2013 : 10:30 p.m.

The principals need a union to protect the bad ones so they do not lose their jobs. Go figure!


Tue, Jun 25, 2013 : 9:25 p.m.

Bob I suppose you also supported Snyder's so called Right to Work legislation, legislation he said he would never sign. Again, fooling the Michigan electorate! Amazing!

Great Lakes Lady

Tue, Jun 25, 2013 : 9:03 p.m.

BioWheels, your comments are entertaining. You seriously believe corporate profits are at an all time high due to Gov. Snyder? Flattery will get you nowhere.....


Tue, Jun 25, 2013 : 8:47 p.m.

Bio wheels: most principles are not unionized, although we expect union leaders to have them.


Tue, Jun 25, 2013 : 7:40 p.m.

Biowheels, who thinks like this? We all need representation? Why? How about your represent yourself? Are you really that dependent on others? Grow some confidence. How about being measured by performance. How about excelling at your job and being rewarded? Why the need for nanny?


Tue, Jun 25, 2013 : 7:23 p.m.

Bob We all need someone to represent us! Why wouldn't school principals (not principles) have a union to represent them? You must be living in a fantasy world if you think that representation isn't necessary these days, especially when we have a Governor like Snyder who is is - plain and simple - a union buster. I'm only sorry the administrators union had to take a cut, and I'm sorry that the teachers also had to take a cut. It's a shame that at a time when corporate profits are at their highest (thanks again to Governor Snyder) that teachers and others in the educational system, have their wages cut; and that retiree's from MPSER's also have had to make huge sacrifices in their pensions - again thanks to Snyder despite all of his false promises during his campaign. The solution? Vote out the republicans!