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Posted on Thu, Aug 1, 2013 : midnight

New Ann Arbor superintendent 'thrilled' to accept job offer from school board

By Danielle Arndt


Jeanice Kerr Swift of Colorado is one step closer to becoming the next superintendent of the Ann Arbor Public Schools.

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Jeanice Kerr Swift has accepted the Ann Arbor school board's offer to become the next superintendent of the Ann Arbor Public Schools.

Board Treasurer Glenn Nelson confirmed shortly before midnight in a phone call to reporters that Swift said "yes" to entering into formal contract negotiations with the district. He said the board anticipates she also will be releasing a statement to the community sometime Thursday morning.

The offer is contingent upon reaching a satisfactory contract with her. Board President Deb Mexicotte was authorized to negotiate with Swift on behalf of the board.

The Board of Education voted 4-3 to offer the position to Swift in a special meeting Wednesday to discuss next steps in the district's superintendent search after its first choice for the job, Brian Osborne of New Jersey, turned down the superintendency over the weekend.

The board was divided on whether to conduct a new superintendent search in early 2014 or to offer the job to Swift, the assistant superintendent of instruction, curriculum and student services for Colorado Springs School District 11.

Swift was one of two finalists, along with Osborne, after the candidate pool was narrowed down from six semifinalists in early July. A total of 61 applications initially were received. Both Swift and Osborne traveled to Ann Arbor for extensive, daylong final interviews with the board and the community on July 16 and 17.

Swift told Wednesday night following the board's special meeting she was "thrilled with the news of the offer."

Nelson, who led Wednesday's meeting because Mexicotte and Vice President Christine Stead were out of town, said Swfit is eager to have a district of her own and has been well trained and prepared to lead a district by her current Colorado Springs superintendent. Nelson believes she is ready to make Ann Arbor her school district and her home for the long haul, he said.

"I think her quick acceptance (of the offer) and her excitement speaks more toward her — quite understandable — confidence in her abilities," Nelson said, "when even with these circumstances, she still gives an enthusiastic 'yes.' That to me, is her saying, 'Yes, I can do this and I am going to have a great time doing it.'"

At the meeting Wednesday, Mexicotte, Nelson and trustees Andy Thomas and Irene Patalan voted in favor of the motion to enter into negotiations with Swift, while Stead and trustees Simone Lightfoot and Susan Baskett voted against it.

The trustees in favor of Swift highlighted as positives for Ann Arbor her motivation, warmth and enthusiasm; her ability to make tough choices in light of budget constraints at her current school district; and her experience in closing school buildings, leading a zero-based budgeting project, being a transparent and visible leader, and engaging the community in decision-making processes.

The three trustees who voted against the motion wanted to keep an interim superintendent in place for a year and conduct a fresh search in 2014. They expressed concerns about a community that saw Osborne as a clearly superior candidate and that would view Swift as a second choice, as well as concerns about Swift's lack of financial acumen.

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


Widow Wadman

Fri, Aug 9, 2013 : 3:32 p.m.

Has a contract been signed?


Fri, Aug 2, 2013 : 8:09 p.m.

As somebody who has worked closely with Jeanice Swift for the past decade I can assure you that your community is getting a proven winner and somebody who can take you to new heights. She may be little in stature, but this brilliant educator and leader should not be underestimated. You will either let her do her job as a leader and enjoy great success or not support her and watch her go elsewhere and get amazing results. From what I have read, the Ann Arbor school board hasn't given any superintendents a real chance to improve the district. The public shouldn't worry about the superintendent you just hired. That is one person you don't have to worry about. Instead, focus on getting the right people on the board to support Superintendent Swift so that your students can be on a path towards success. Jeanice Swift is a collaborator, visionary, action-oriented individual who gets results. It may have been by accident or a strange scenario that played out, but you just slipped into the greatest "accident" you could have ever wished for. There are thousands of teachers and students who are extremely sad to see her leave. Welcome her with open arms, work alongside her, and watch what happens to your district and community. Enjoy the ride Ann have been blessed with an incredible leader for your schools!

Maria Huffman

Mon, Aug 5, 2013 : 4:18 a.m.

That's a very nice post. However, I'm not sure what you mean about "getting the right people on the board to support Dr. Swift"...maybe you meant, get the majority of the board to support Dr. Swift. Ann Arbor, being the place it is, means that support from the board alone will not ensure a good employment experience.


Thu, Aug 1, 2013 : 10:05 p.m.

I love this gals picture. Who put happy pills in her coffee? Wow. After looking at this? I can't wait to see how wrong this is going to go. She is too happy to join AAPS? O I can't wait until she gets a load of Balas. Good luck and good nite.

Resident A2

Thu, Aug 1, 2013 : 9:41 p.m.

I just cannot believe all of the negative comments in regards to Dr. Swift's hiring. I give her a lot of credit for even wanting to come to this district!


Thu, Aug 1, 2013 : 9:04 p.m.

Best wishes to the new Superintendent! (God help her.)


Thu, Aug 1, 2013 : 10:06 p.m.

God can't help her. We kicked God out of the schools remember?


Thu, Aug 1, 2013 : 8:15 p.m.

I have two thoughts...if I were to meet Ms. Swift, I'm sure that I would be delighted. Having said that, welcome to your interim post.


Thu, Aug 1, 2013 : 7:28 p.m.

After examining Dr. Swift's resume, I have to say, honestly, this is a very risky decision. Dr. Swift was in the Assistant SI position from July, 2011. Has she achieved anything within the 2-year tenure? Ann Arbor wasted roughly half million on Dr. Green, a lesson not costly enough? I, as a parent, sincerely request BOE to reconsider!

Thomas Jones

Thu, Aug 1, 2013 : 6:49 p.m.

Oh... Boy.... Here we go again!!!


Thu, Aug 1, 2013 : 6:20 p.m.

It's good to have a leader. One person doesn't have to have all the answers, especially if she has the determination to rise to the occasion. I welcome our new superintendent Swift.


Thu, Aug 1, 2013 : 4:06 p.m.

Having grossly overpaid the departing superintendent, having disclosed the generous package it was prepared to pay Brian Osborne before he backed out, and having no more time to act correctly the board simply has no bargaining leverage. Now it has given Deb Mexicotte authority to negotiate the contract. The only winner here will be Jeanice Kerr Swift, whose track record is lukewarm at best. She jumped at being our board's second choice after she was rejected in April by the Charles County, Maryland School Board when she applied there for the top job in March of this year. Why is she so anxious to leave Colorado Springs I wonder.

Kirk Taylor

Thu, Aug 1, 2013 : 3:45 p.m.

Favorite word used to describe Dr. Swift: warmth. I like her resume, which includes being a classroom teacher. Congratulations and welcome to Ann Arbor, Dr. Swift!


Thu, Aug 1, 2013 : 3:36 p.m.

Let's groom somebody to be ready to take over the position after Dr. Swift. NJ kept their guy. Why can't we have our guy/gal? To keep hiring from the outside is discouraging to the folks that are here already. They must be thinking they have to go somewhere else to get promoted.


Fri, Aug 2, 2013 : 1:34 a.m.

Have to have someone who is actually qualified AND local, first.


Thu, Aug 1, 2013 : 3:19 p.m.

So many of Dr. Swift's responses in this situation demonstrate that she has the insight and depth of experience and knowledge to understand the situation and the strengths and needs of our community extremely well. Very impressive. It seems we have found a superintendent who loves the challenges of public education and also the many wonderful things about Ann Arbor that have made this the community that all of us have chosen--from many other possible choices--to make our home. Her responses suggest that she is not running away from issues/challenges in her home district, but rather looking for a community with many amenities and a very strong commitment to public education where she can bring her deep experience/expertise to have an important impact on public education. Welcome to Ann Arbor, Dr. Swift.

An Arborigine

Thu, Aug 1, 2013 : 3:13 p.m.

In the event the Superintendent Pageant winner cannot fulfill his duties, the second runner-up will wear the crown!


Thu, Aug 1, 2013 : 2:49 p.m.

Time will tell.


Thu, Aug 1, 2013 : 2:15 p.m.

The real loser in this slapstick superintendent search is the school board. A successful recall petition seems now much more likely to succeed. The elected representatives on the board are treating this issue like an after-work hobby, and they seem to enjoy it. The rest of us will likely be happier when the current board membership is forced to take up bowling for recreation.


Thu, Aug 1, 2013 : 1:58 p.m.

The previous SI treated AAPS as a means to an end. Dr. Swift has the fire her predecessor lacked. The naysayers should give her a chance; they may be pleasantly surprised.


Thu, Aug 1, 2013 : 1:32 p.m.

In science, information is defined by change. Without change there is no new information. All intelligence requires a change - be it positive or not. Without information there can be no learning, no education. Kids undergo tremendous change k-12 so relative to them any system is new information - and becomes their education - their individual intelligence good or bad. If the AAPS system is broken change is also required to fix it. New information has to be learned by it to solve any problem. Ususally the change objective is to further optimize each kid's brainwaves. Jeanice Kerr Swift is the required change at this time. Whether the system she fashions is positive or not remains to be learned. Corrupted leaders know that the system goes on despite their self-serving changes. Like musical chairs as long as the tune plays they take their seat at the table and the chaos is uninteresting. Intelligent leaders know that natural change called entropy is always at work. Undermining every structured system which everyone must depend upon. They know that positive change and reinforcement is absolutely required to prevent a system failure in time. THe music can and will stop. So, was SI Greene a selfish leader? SI Osborne? Is SI Swift going to be a more positive leader ? That Change we can all "believe" in. Believe perhaps, but support ? Probably a good idea this time around. Welcome to Ann Arbor Dr. Swift.


Fri, Aug 2, 2013 : 3:22 a.m.

@LXIX, sorry, but your core premise is nonsense. The fact that something is not changing, that it is stable, is information and worthwhile to know. So since you build your argument off of that, your reasoning is flawed. Nonetheless I agree with what is your essential conclusion, which is that Janice Kerr Swift has a good chance of doing well by Ann Arbor and its children.

Aces Full

Thu, Aug 1, 2013 : 1:22 p.m.

Who wouldn't want to be second best?

Top Cat

Thu, Aug 1, 2013 : 1:15 p.m.

Ms. Swift seems positive, capable and actually wants to be here. The best solution would be for the community to embrace her, give her a fair shot and send most of the buffoons on the School Board packing.


Thu, Aug 1, 2013 : 12:54 p.m.

Glad to have somebody who is "thrilled" to accept the position. We should all forget about our differences including the 4-3 board vote and provide Ms. Swift with 100% support as she will need it to get AAPS back on track!


Thu, Aug 1, 2013 : 12:49 p.m.

What happened to holding community meetings?


Thu, Aug 1, 2013 : 12:35 p.m.

Glad she's excited for the job, I wish her the best.


Thu, Aug 1, 2013 : 12:28 p.m.

As a teacher following this process, she was my second choice as I read the blogs and coverage provided by That be said, she has experience and the DESIRE to be here in Ann Arbor and that should count for something. She visited town early to get a feel for Ann Arbor before interviews even took place and her desire to be here led her to even look for a place to rent while settling in. This reminds me a little of the U of M Football search a few years back. Coach Hoke probably wasn't the first/flashy choice, but his desire to be at Michigan has won people over. I see that same desire in Dr. Swift and it was evident in her quick response to the offer. I wish her well and look forward to working with her.


Thu, Aug 1, 2013 : 10:48 p.m.

Good point regarding Hoke, I'd forgotten - even my own tepid response to him, initially. She may well surprise us and she certainly deserves as much support as we can give her, while making the transition ... and beyond.


Thu, Aug 1, 2013 : 12:25 p.m.

How many of you have or had a boss who was clearly not experienced enough for the job, but was hired because the search committee just grew weary? Me, too! And a quick acceptance, while nice, is not always a good sign.


Thu, Aug 1, 2013 : 12:09 p.m.

Although I am not a district resident, I would think having someone who enthusiastically accepts the job offer without "waffling" and saying, "uh ..... let me think about it for a few days" would be a person who actually wants this particular job. She is moving from quite a distance, so it's probably safe to assume she's researched the district and the area. Hopefully the community will at least give her a chance before casting judgment.


Thu, Aug 1, 2013 : 11:57 a.m.

"They expressed concerns about a community that saw Osborne as a clearly superior candidate and that would view Swift as a second choice, as well as concerns about Swift's lack of financial acumen." I have to agree. The new super will need to have top level financial skills and experience, which this candidate does not. The AAPS financial crisis needs to be dealt with head by someone who does what needs to be done, and by someone who can take the fallout. Hope this doesn't turn out to be another "two and out."

Basic Bob

Thu, Aug 1, 2013 : 12:17 p.m.

you don't need to be a financial guru to get results. it takes someone willing to say no and cut wasteful expenses. they should be easy to find, especially right outside the superintendent's office.


Thu, Aug 1, 2013 : 11:58 a.m.

That's "dealt with head on." Need to have an edit function on this forum.


Thu, Aug 1, 2013 : 11:49 a.m.

Sigh... I wish the BOE would take the more difficult but more reasonable route: reopening the search and hoping for stronger candidates. Oh well, good luck to all students and families.

Resident A2

Thu, Aug 1, 2013 : 11:29 a.m.

Good luck to you, Ms. Swift. Welcome to Ann Arbor!


Thu, Aug 1, 2013 : 11:14 a.m.

Depressing. But hey, maybe she'll surprise us, huh? Let's hope one of her priorities is figuring out where all the money's going and how to redirect it towards actually doing some good. A less wasteful spending culture in this district would be great.


Thu, Aug 1, 2013 : 10:27 a.m.

I wonder what are the odds in Vegas as to how long this one will last...

Bertha Venation

Thu, Aug 1, 2013 : 12:43 p.m.

I was wondering the same thing. I don't blame either the candidates or the board, but it almost seems as though Ann Arbor BOE's reputation precedes it.


Thu, Aug 1, 2013 : 12:22 p.m.

I put the over/under at 23 months.


Thu, Aug 1, 2013 : 9:02 a.m.

Welcome to Michigan -- Welcome to Ann Arbor -- Lets give her a chance, I like it that she answered with a quick yes! Good for her!!


Thu, Aug 1, 2013 : 7:18 a.m.

Not a good feeling about this one!


Thu, Aug 1, 2013 : 6:57 a.m.

Meh...maybe I'm wrong...but isn't she the one that COMPLETELY dodged all the questions shot at her during the "debate?"


Thu, Aug 1, 2013 : 12:57 p.m.

Some people may not present very well during an interview but end up doing a great job. Look at all the information about a person. Same can go the other way. Does awesome in an interview but ends up doing a poor job. Good luck to her. Look forward to a positive change.


Thu, Aug 1, 2013 : 6:39 a.m.

I wish her the best! Ann Arbor's a tough crowd sometimes.


Thu, Aug 1, 2013 : 6:41 a.m.

Many times for justifiable reasons, I might add. Not trying to knock my hometown. Just an observation of fact.


Thu, Aug 1, 2013 : 5:37 a.m.

Both parties appear desperate, not a good sign.....sigh......


Thu, Aug 1, 2013 : 11:55 a.m.

Just because someone enthusiastically accepts a position doesn't mean that they're desperate. Don't crucify the poor woman before she even starts...


Thu, Aug 1, 2013 : 11:51 a.m.

I think that's unfair. That she really wants the job may be a great thing. I'll take her enthusiastic attitude over someone who was buying time until retirement. She's been hired -- let's wait to see what she can do.

Basic Bob

Thu, Aug 1, 2013 : 10:48 a.m.

A $200k salary will help alleviate those feelings of desperation.

Liam Walsh

Thu, Aug 1, 2013 : 5:33 a.m.

Is there some kind of contract this time preventing a disaster like the last term? I.e. Does she have to be vested somehow in our community in order to be eligible for retirement/benefits?

Basic Bob

Thu, Aug 1, 2013 : 10:47 a.m.

Actually the best part about the last superintendent's tenure is that it was over quickly.