AAPS Board Approves AAEA Contract; Reviews Superintendent Evaluation

Ann Arbor Public Schools Board of Education regular meeting (August 19, 2015):

Pioneer High School Little Theater

7:02 PM The microphones and the camera is still being set up for the board meeting. No trustees are yet present.

The trustees began their day together at 3:30 this afternoon, to finish their retreat that began last Wednesday. They broke off at 5:30 to vote themselves into an executive session, presumably for attorney/client privilege.

7:05 PM Board President Deb Mexicotte makes her way down to the stage. Trustees Andy Thomas and Patricia Manley are right behind her.

7:07 PM Vice President Christine Stead and trustees Donna Lasinski, Simone Lightfoot, and Susan Baskett make their way to their seats. About twenty members of the public are present right now.

7:11 PM Superintendent Jeanice Swift joins the board at the stage.

7:13 PM Mexicotte calls the meeting to order. All trustees are present.


Mexicotte asks to add the approval of the tentative agreement with AAEA to before Public Commentary. She also asks to add that they add the settlement of Case 15-15-1220 to Board Action.

Stead asks CivCity and the AADL Summer Program to be added to agenda.

7:16 PM Tentative agreement with AAEA. David Comsa, Deputy Superintendent Human Resources & Employee Relations, recommendation of admin that board adopts the tentative agreement.

No discussion. Unanimous approval.

Mexicotte: on behalf of the board, so grateful for the work that was done to get the agreement approved. Work that was done in public and behind the scenes to bring the district together again. She said they couldn’t be prouder to part of AAPS.

Swift: pleased they reached the agreement with the AAEA. Recently ratified by teachers, approved by board. She thanked those who worked over the summer who worked through a challenging process. Over the summer, they were able to work through a

varying salary increases, teachers step 1-9, highest percentage increase at step 1. also an increase for teachers for teachers at Steps 10 and above.

restores 100% of educational increases. provides critical clarity extends through June 2016. now compliant with State of Michigan. clarity with revenue sharing. provides a basis they can move forward with their important work. Asks that everyone take steps together into the 2015-16 school year.

Swift starts to break up as she speaks. She says she is pleased to see so many teachers out in the field, working to take the next steps together. Lifting each other up and focusing efforts where it matters most: students and their families.

7:22 PM Public commentary – no one signed up

7:22 Association Reports: 

Only Linda Carter from the AAEA is present.

Carter: On behalf of the 1200 members of the AAEA, wants to thank the AA community for the outpouring of support. thanks for displaying yard signs, distributing flyers. Thanks to business community. Thank you Ann Arbor school parents: you are amazing. Look forward to continuing partnership with community. Store Support Ann Arbor Teacher signs at home. Still have challenges aproaching with state funding. Stand with them as they lobby legislatorss on behalf of public education. Members of AAEA are eager to teach students. Thank you, Ann Arbor community, you made a big difference.

7:25 PM Board President Report: 

Mexicotte: the only report is that they have been in retreat and will summarize the outcomes of that and will report back.

7:26 PM Superintendent Report:

Swift notes they’ve been working hard for the start of the year. Buildings, grounds ready. Teacher preparation underway. All support services are working. $120K gift from Ann Arbor PTO Thrift Shop – transportation field trip, environmental field trip. Adds a third day to late bus for middle schoolers.

Accolades: She also gave accolades to Skyline HS, named by Newsweek as one of the top 500 high schools in the US. Also recognized partnership with Toyota City (Japan) and Pioneer High School’s orchestra. Interlochen: over 1500 AAPS students participated. Arts advantage students experience here in Ann Arbor.

Student Intervention & Support Services (SISS), led by Elaine Brown, kicked off a three-day workshop for educators and parents today. Last week, SISS had parent orientation night to meet with parents of special need students.

Detailed out how building principals and teachers are preparing for the year. Says they will detail more of the “We Care” theme for this year. School begins September 8 – the latest day school could ever start, based on Michigan law (school must start day after Labor Day).  Swift draws attention to the new district website, specifically notes the vaccination laws. There is a live help-line for parents for back to school. Wants to make sure they’re supporting all parents.

7:36 PM Information Items

7:37 PM Preparations for Back to School


Grounds: GCSA is making progress. Not 100% yet, but they are on track to be fully prepared with physical properties. Edging, weeding, and putting in mulch.

Hiring is full speed ahead. Have hired a few teachers in advance. Have hired 74 new teachers for the year, some of whom are replacing teachers who have retired.

Bussing: Durham – have been working to organize routes and pick-ups. Hiring additional drivers on deck for field trips and athletic trips. Should save money now that the district will be able to do their own bussing for athletic games.

Website: Back to School Helpline: available from 8 AM to 8 PM – speak to a real person. New bell schedule front and center on the front page of the website. Information on middle school sports physicals, high school registration, etc.

InfoSnap (online registration): As of today, 12,341 parents have completed online registration process. Have been getting feedback that parents have appreciated not having to fill out the paperwork. Still working out some of the kinks – should be rectified as they continue. Merri Lynn Colligan, Executive Director Instructional Technology & Information  Services, noted that feedback from parents has been helpful.

Count Down Clock: Swift has a countdown clock going to count down the time until students are back in the buildings.

2014-2015 Schools Climate Report

7:49 PM Swift: every year, the district conducts a survey for parents, students, and staff. Has an external company do the survey, so it does not taint the response. The district gets the data over the summer, and works with it. Swift explains it is difficult for them to get a “clean” participation rate, due to the fact that students have anywhere from one to several parents.

7:51 PM Executive Director Elementary Education Dawn Linden presents the data. She says it is important and “really does inform their work.” Have been applying the data to their district improvement team work.

7:53 PM Purpose: 

focuses on Academic Preparation, Student Support, Parent Engagement, Safety and Behavior, and School Operations

7:54 PM Process: 

  • Contracted with K12 Insight to provide a “safe place” for people to provided feedback.
  • March 16-April 7 window for parents.
  • Increase in accessibility: added online surveys in multiple languages: Arabic, Chinese, Spanish, Korean, Japanese
  • 36% increase in participation across the board

7:58 PM Summary

Highly Satisfied:

  • Academic preparation (Linden recognizes teachers)
  • Leadership in school

Continued challenges for district:

  • equity and respect for diversity
  • quality of school breakfasts and lunch
  • cleanliness of school buildings
  • bus safety and timeliness

8:02 PM Academic Preparation

Music, visual arts, physical education programs always rate very high, says Linden. English Language Learners: 10% improvement from 2013-14 to 14-15 survey.

Linden draws attention to ratings of the Special Education Services: improvement of 2% (not statistically significant); however, 3/4 of parents who have students in the programs rated the program “very high.” Proud of the work they’ve done.

Student Support: has seen some decline in middle and high school levels. When students had “personal problem,” they felt they didn’t have anyone to turn to. Linden notes this as a significant area of improvement.

Parent Engagement:

8:07 PM Respect for Diversity: 

90% of staff rated high, 77% of parents, 81% of high school students,  and only 63% of elem student rate schools as high.

When looking at sexual orientation and gender/gender identity: there was an option to respond “don’t know.” Linden explains that the lower numbers for those categories could be explained that many parents just “don’t know” what is going on – that they were uninformed on the subject.  But she acknowledges that there is “still work to do” in that area to better get that awareness out to parents.  Stead says she wouldn’t interpret the “don’t know” that way. Since she took the survey as a parent, she tried to respond only if the experience applied to her student’s experience.

Lightfoot points out that while staff rates many of the areas as high achieving, the “customers”: parents and students don’t rate the same areas high. Says that staff should consider these outside perspectives.

Linden draws attention to the fact that 70% of African American middle school students and 75% of African American high school students feel they are respected for their diversity, compared to 82% (middle) and 84% (high) of Caucasian students. She says this is a local example of a national problem. This is an area of focus.

Safety: Touches on bus safety and school safety. Wanted to get a baseline before Durham took over the bussing.

School Operations: Drop in cleanliness in the buildings and access to computers and the internet. Linden says they are working on these things.

8:18 PM School Leadership

School leadership has seen an improvement in the ratings across the board from last year.

8:19 PM Moving Forward: Linden says they are adding these goals into the School Improvement Plans and will be focusing on making improvements moving forward.

8:20 PM Thomas asks about the lower ratings given by the elementary students. Linden replies that it tends to be elementary school students are more concrete in their thinking. The survey results focus on “always” or “very” – which elementary students don’t always acknowledge. Linden says they look more for change from year to year from the elementary school students.

Thomas also notes that middle school students seem to give schools high ratings, which might indicate that the middle school program isn’t as bad as everyone says it is. He would also like to take a closer look at guidance counseling services, which is an area that has taken a significant budget hit over the years. He also wants to “pump up”  career and technology education. Also wants to express gratitude and appreciation for the work that’s been done to improve the quality of leadership in the buildings – an area that has seen a significant improvement since last year.

Linden says that they have been doing  a lot of work at Pathways to Success campus in increasing career and technology education, offering night classes and dinner for students.

8:28 PM Lightfoot: one of her favorite reports of the year, since it is “so data rich.”  Asks what they have done to improve the survey. Linden replies that they need to educate students what the actual ratings mean. Lightfoot wants more student participation, since they can “tell you where the bones are buried.” Echoes Thomas re: guidance counseling. Feels that there needs to be more of an emphasis, that they do expanded work. Wants more counselors, lower ratios of counselors to students.

8:30 PM About eight members of the public remain. Most of the audience were teachers, and they left after the vote on the AAEA agreement.

8:31 PM Lasinski: seminal report to her. Has always helped inform her about the state of AAPS district, prior to her being her on the board. Worthwhile digging into the discrepancy between staff and parent/student ratings. Asks what a typical range for individual ranges for schools. Linden says that they want to let students know the results of the survey, to better engage them. Lasinski knows that students are “very capable” of telling if their needs are met. Wants to acknowledge that despite 75% of students saying they are satisfied, that means that another 25% of students aren’t.

8:36 PM Manley: echoes the need for greater guidance counseling. While the counselors have been “doing a phenomenal job” with what they have been given, wants the district to take a second look at counseling needs. Wants fashion design for the young women. Mexico pipes in that some of the young men would also want that. Manley laughs and amends her statement, saying that students in general want greater technical education opportunities.

8:39 PM Mexicotte: appreciates the comparison work, especially. Notes that many of the areas that need to be worked on, really seem to resonate towards this year’s theme of “we care.” She asks if they should align their board goals to better align with the district goals,  since they seem to have some success when they really focus on an area.

Superintendent 360 Eval Report

8:42 PM Annual Superintendent  – one towards the beginning of the year, an informal one in April, and a formal one in June. All three are compiled by Stead. Mexicotte notes that it is not the only time they communicate with the superintendent, but it is a formal piece. The 360 report is an “apples to apples” comparison from last year’s report for Swift.

Mexicotte makes sure to note that board policies begin with “The superintendent shall ensure …” The superintendent is the sole employee of the BOE.

360 Eval: Invitations delivered to members of the public, important stakeholders, people who Swift says would give a good idea of her work, trustees put forward their lists of people, look to natural partners, their bargaining units, and a selection of parents and students. 160 invitations were sent out this year, versus 170 last year. This year, increased the number of participants who have student in AAPS.

8:47 PM Mexicotte runs down frequency of contact, average response by topic.

Board is excited about the report back, as is Swift.

Looks at areas of communication, community relations. Most scores, both from respondents who have students in the district as well as from those who don’t, average out to between agree and strongly agrees.

Sustainability – one of the most stable from last year to this year. Mexicotte says it is due to the work done by the board and the superintendent done to ensure the growth of the district.

Other areas looked at: Leadership, innovation

Very comparable scores in all areas from 2014-2015. There is a slight drop this year in all scores, however.

In conclusion, board took in input from the report. consequently, finalized the formal eval of the superintendent. Pleased the direction the superintendent has taken. Looking forward to working with Swift for “many years.” Mexicotte encourages those who receive these invitations to “please send them back in.” Those people are selected very purposefully. The board never sees the raw data, so it is completely anonymous. If you would like to receive a survey, ask a board member.

8:57 PM Lasinski says that it takes three years to see a trend in data, so they need to have another year with Swift, with this survey. People who have had a greater frequency of contact with Swift score her even higher than those who don’t.

8:59 PM Thomas congratulates Swift on her tenure with the district, which is now longer than her predecessor, Patricia Green. He thanks her for the innovation she has brought that began with the listen and Learn tour of her first year. Second year implements programs. And next year, even more new programs. Past year a challenging year “for a number of reasons” and Thomas appreciates the work she has and her team has done for the district. [applause from the executive team]

9:02 PM Stead: Swift “knocked it out of the park” during the honeymoon period of the first year. Second year faced the challenges head on. Coming into FY 2016 the strongest the district has been over the past 10 years. Thanks Swift for her “leadership and her tenacity.” [Team applauds again] Also pointed out Swift’s availability.

9:03 PM Manley: first six months being on the board have been “very interesting.” Very impressed with Swift’s implementation of programs. Steadfast, worked with cabinet and board to ensure programs wanted to implement actually happened.

9:06 PM Lightfoot: as other districts in the state are trying to figure out how to survive, AAPS is thriving. Acknowledges how the team Swift has put together has gelled and has stepped up their work. Impressed that students know and recognize Swift. She “masterfully” communicates with the board and she keeps her word. Lightfoot finishes by telling Swift: Please don’t think about going anywhere for a long time.

9:09 PM Baskett: thanks Swift for the difference she has made to the district and to the board. Swift is her sixth superintendent she has worked with, and is finally one that she looks forward to talking to. Others outside the district are watching and acknowledging the success of Swift, she says.

9:13 PM Mexicotte: when looking at 360 Evaluation, struck by high marks around sustainability. This school board has been in its configuration for nearly 100 years. The board will still be around in 100 years. One of their charges as a board, and one Swift took to heart, is sustainability. Swift has brought the sense that “the long game is on.” Now have a partner who sees it that way, too. Sustainability and longevity – is where we are feeling comfortable.

9:16 PM Swift: overcome with emotion. She is choking up. She says they have an incredible team in AA, engaged parents, incredible 17000 students, a fantastic staff. Grateful for opportunity to serve. Shirt she just bought: I love it here in Ann Arbor. As far as she’s concerned: “We’re not just hanging out; we’re married.” She plans on being here a long time. Doesn’t mean every day is happy. Glad that she was raised by a family who didn’t give her everything she always wanted at that moment. We believe in Ann Arbor, we’re going to do the right thing, might not always agree on how it gets done.

First Briefings 

9:18 PM Brown presents 15-024 Pediatric Therapy Associates Contract for 2015/16. She is asking that the board approves the the contract for the Pediatric Therapy Associates for the 2015-2016 school year. Funding from IDEIA will support  $401,800.00 of the contract amount. The remaining cost of $62,720.00 will be supported from the General Fund. Has done due diligence, getting three quotes from different companies, other than Pediatric Therapy Associates.

Hours for Occupational Therapy have increased from 2014-15 to 2105-16, due to increase in special needs students in the district. Hourly rates remain at $56/hour. Pediatric Therapy has remained the cheapest, is a known quantity, and has provided the district with quality work, according to Brown.

This is a first briefing. It will be presented as a second briefing at the next regular meeting, where it will be voted on.

9:26 PM Financial Institutions Approval for 2015-16

Marios Demetriou, Assistant Superintendent Finance & Operations, presents the annual review of financial institutions for approval from the board.

Manley clarifies that the list presented is a list of “possible institutions” the district can invest in. Baskett asks if the institutions can invest in the district’s students, alluding to scholarships. Baskett would like to support more the institutions that invest in students. Demetriou emphasizes that he focuses on money safety. Swift says that they can put together a list that highlights how those institutions have aided the district.

This is a first briefing. It will be presented as a second briefing at the next regular meeting, where it will be voted on.

9:332 PM Special Briefing

The board is presented with the purchases made by the superintendent over the summer. Will need to vote on the purchase approval tonight, as a special briefing.

Swift: June 30, the board approved resolution allowing for summer purchases made by the superintendent. Submitting the list to the board, to make aware the projects the admin is working on:

  • STEAM @ Northside Furniture
  • Tappan Stairway Floor Tile Project
  • Tappan Painting
  • High School Athletic Trainers Contract for 2015/16 School Year
  • Lawn Maintenance Mulching for 2015/16 School Year

9:36 PM Tim Gruszczynski, Executive Director, Physical Properties gives an overview of the building purchases.

STEAM@Northside: minimal amount of furniture needed for middle school classrooms. Project is funded by the 2015 Bond. Asking  to award School Specialty of Applegate, Wisconsin the Contract for STEAM @ Northside Furniture in the amount not to exceed $90,998.99 based on qualifications and price.

Tappan Stairway Floor Tile: stairs had been degrading significantly. Repairs had been adding up, so went ahead with full replacement. Project funded by district sinking fund (money earmarked for building improvement). Asking to award Heaney GC of Ypsilanti, Michigan a contract for Tappan Middle School Stairway Floor Tile Project in the amount not to exceed $64,538.00 based on qualifications and price.

Baskett points out that they only got one bid, which is from Heaney. She said that she has heard that it is difficult to get a list of the subcontracting work from Heaney. Assured that the list is available.

Tappan Painting: Is asking to award Heaney GC of Ypsilanti, Michigan a contract for Tappan Middle School Painting Project Tappan Middle School Painting Project Contract in the amount not to exceed $50,945.00 based on qualifications and price.  This contract is funded through the General Fund.

Lawn Maintenance Mulching: will be using red mulching entrances of school, and anywhere 75 feet from entrance. Asking to award AM Services Inc of Ann Arbor, Michigan the Contract for the 2015 Lawn Maintenance Mulching in the amount not to exceed $43,000 based on qualifications and price. AM Services is the same company who is contracted to do the lawn cutting.

Gruszczynski makes a side note: AM is killing weeds with salt, soap, and vinegar.

Baskett asks why red mulch. Committee wanted an “eye pop.” Baskett says that here they are, using a natural weed killer approach but is using red dye in the mulch.

Lightfoot asks about the weeds at Skyline. She is told it is a “natural growth area,” which is part of the LEED certification of the school. Stead says it is difficult to tell and it seems as if it is just weeds. Mexicotte says these are the areas that require the input of an expert, maybe a master gardener, on an occasional basis, might be warranted.

High School Athletic Trainers Contract for 2015/16 School Year: Dottie Davis, Athletic Director, led an effort to get district in good shape with athletic trainers. Davis rose to the occasion. Late June, Davis received an email from the company used that they were going to raise rates 200% and the district had only two weeks to confirm. No one form the company would answer phone calls or emails.

She got bids from many local businesses. MedSport had lowest bid – said they would match the prices that they had paid previously: $12K/trainer per year.

Asking to award MedSport of Ann Arbor, Michigan an annual contract for 2015 – 2016 High School Athletic Trainers in the amount not to exceed $72,000.00 based on qualifications and price = six trainers at three high schools for a three year contract. Trainers work 30 hour at schools, 10 hours in a clinic. MedSport wants to lock in for an additional three years.

9:54 PM Stead is thrilled with MedSport, having personal family experience with Dr. Bruce Miller at MedSport.

9:56 PM Baskett confirms that Probility, another local company, bid at $147K, which Davis says is still a deal.

10:00 PM Lasinski asks what the qualifications of the trainers are, confirming that the trainers are not in a “training program.” They are fully certified trainers. MedSport will be bringing in doctors on the fields during Friday night football games.

These items are special briefing items, which will be voted on during the consent agenda. 

Consent Agenda

10:01 PM Mexicotte asks if anyone wants to remove an item from the consent agenda. No items are removed. There is no discussion on the consent agenda.

The consent agenda passes unanimously.

10:03 PM Board Action: Approve the settlement on Case 15-15-1220, which was discussed during executive session earlier in the day.

Approved unanimously

10:04 PM Agenda Planning: 

10:04 PM Thomas adds a discussion on Stadium Blvd improvements that will be taking place next year. Could be opportunity to share the costs with the city, during road work, to make improvements to entrance of Pioneer. Could be brought up in Planning Committee.

Stead looks at adding it to the October Planning Committee. Asks if adding it to the October 7 Planning Committee meeting is “responsive enough.” Thomas says the city seems to be waiting for the board to do something on it.

Mexicotte recommends that City/Schools Committee might be able to support the effort as it moves forward.

10:08 PM Lasinski would like to add a general overview of where the Bond Funds will be going this year. Mexicotte asks Swift to provide that, as well as how funds have been spent.

10:09 PM Stead holds up a CivCity Initiative Summer Game Code for the AADL Summer Game. Mary Morgan, co-founder of the now defunct Ann Arbor Chronicle, asked Stead to give the code. CivCity works to increase citizen engagement in local government. [No one is here to see the code. There are no members of the public here!]

Items from the Board

10:12 PM Manley highlights the Freedom School summer program that was held this summer. Thanks all of those who worked with Che Carter to bring the program to the district. She encourages staff and members of the community to see the program, if it is held again next summer.

10:14 PM Thomas was appreciative of the online registration, saying it was “about 100 times better” than filling out the old registration forms. He encourages those who haven’t signed up that way, to give it a chance.

10:16 PM Baskett and Lightfoot welcome everyone back. Lasinski is confident there will be a good first day of school. Lightfoot is pleased with the growth that the district has seen, saying she almost feels “a little guilty” as she sees how AAPS has grown and other districts are weakening. She wants people to advocate for traditional public education.

10:16 PM Meeting is adjourned.

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