AAPS Board Amends Contracts; Celebrates the Start of the School Year

Ann Arbor Public Schools Board of Education regular meeting (September 16, 2015): Forsythe Middle School auditorium

The board is holding an executive session at 5:30 PM requested by Superintendent Jeanice Swift for strategy and negotiation sessions connected with a collective bargaining agreement.

During the regular meeting, the board will hear several reports, meet recently hired administrators, and review board goals for 2015-16. They will vote on the Pediatric Therapy Associates contract, the financial institutions approval list, and a contract amendment.


7:05 PM President Deb Mexicotte calls the meeting to order. All trustees are present except for Andy Thomas, who is currently attending Pioneer High School’s curriculum night. He will be joining later, Mexicotte notes.



7:07 PM Kasha Triea Moore: had an experience when she went to Skyline. 1. settle lunch account 2. meet with son’s guidance counselor 3. visit with son during class to check in and observe. She was told that she was not allowed to visit with her son during class. Asked to speak to a principal, was instead told a principal was not available. Was told that she needed “police clearance” in order to observe her son. Unhappy with the situation: contacted the superintendent, talked to Trustee Simone Lightfoot.

Vice President Christine Stead thanked the parent and let her know that they will follow up with her.

Lightfoot asked if Swift could speak to the policy. Swift says that the presence of a parent in the school was “at a different threshold” than a volunteer in the school. She said that they will be following up with the parent.

Trustee Susan Baskett clarified that no one school would have a different rule regarding parent observation. Swift replied that they would not. Baskett wants to make sure parents feel comfortable in coming to their children’s schools. There are “guidelines, not rules,” says Swift.

From her experience, Stead says, that if parents are going to be in the district’s buildings, they do want to screen parents if they are going to be around kids. When adults are going to be in a building, the district is asking for more scrutiny.

Baskett: hopes that any parent would feel welcome in coming into school. Asks that parents talk to building principals in order to clarify the guidelines. Not trying to keep parents out, but to keep students safe.

Mexicotte: not board policy alone, but some of those changes stemmed from changes in state law. Those are specifically volunteer rules, not about parent-child interaction.


Black Parent Student Support Group (BPSSG): Robin Sherrill working to reestablish the group in the community. First meeting of the year – 12 attendees. Goal of group: supporting black students. Brainstormed about strategies of the group, how they’re going to impact the community. Working to bridge the achievement gap by providing resources, assistance.  All parents of black students encouraged to participate. Next meeting: Sept 24, 7:00 PM at Carpenter Elementary.

Ann Arbor Administrators Association (AAAA): Jazz Parks, principal at Tappan Middle School, president of AAAA for 2015-16 school year. Happy to welcome new members to new staff.


Swift introduces new administrators hired into the district over the past several months.

  • Christopher Roberts: assistant principal at Tappan Middle School
  • Angela Newing: assistant principal at Forsythe Middle School
  • Karen Siegel: assistant dean of Community High School (not in attendance)
  • Allison Epler: principal at Bach Elementary School
  • Megan Fenech: principal at Ann Arbor Open School
  • Jerry Morrissey: principal at Forsythe Middle School



Swift notes that she will be going over the back to school report, highlighting challenges and successes over the opening days. But first, she asked that the board hear from “the field.”

Elementary School Presentation

Shannon Blick, Lawton Elementary principal, brought a group of students who gave a presentation on the school’s Leader in Me mission, which is based on The 7 Habits of Happy Kids, based on the teachings of Steven Covey. All the students introduced themselves, giving their names followed by, “I’m a leader.”

Blick: overflowing with love and pride with the students. Community has been so supportive of their initiatives.

Lightfoot: remarked on how articulate each of the students were. Trustee Donna Lasinski asked if the students actually practiced the habits of happy kids all the time. Baskett: asked the school photographer how he got such a job. He replied that he “asked the principal nicely.” Blick says that the student group was initiated by students who wanted to make sure that all students in their school had friends.

Stead asked the students what their favorite part of working on the project was. One student said she liked working with Mrs. Blick “because she was just so nice.”

Mexicotte: the board “couldn’t be more pleased.” The presentation was uplifting and made them feel good about Lawton. Notes that public speaking was something that most people fear, yet here were these students who have clearly mastered public speaking.

Swift: one of the 21 schools that she has visited in the first seven days of the year. She noted that if the trustees dropped in to the school for a tour, Blick wouldn’t be who gave the tour. It would be some of the students. Noted that habit #8: find your voice and inspire others to find theirs. Challenged the students at Lawton to support Dicken Elementary, the next Leader in Me school.

8:01 PM Middle School Presentation

Parks and Roberts share the opening days of Tappan Middle School. The first days before students was spent in professional development. Part of the PD involved staff visiting the high schools so they could speak more knowledgeably to parents. Also had a staff scavenger hunt to help build camaraderie. The school is working to connect the staff to the district’s mission of “we care.”

Working to implement developmental design at Tappan. Will be fully implemented this year. Social-emotional growth and development focused specifically at the middle school level. Teacher feedback – overwhelmingly positive. Some of the highlights at the middle level: athletics and clubs, Project Lead the Way. Roberts notes that the school’s overall goal is to “build future leaders.”

8:14 PM Stead expressed her appreciation for the dynamic between Parks and Roberts, noting that they exude leadership. Lightfoot and Lasinski appreciates that Tappan admin brought their staff out into the community and worked to connect their team. Lightfoot notes how important the late bus is for middle school athletics and clubs. Baskett remarks on the growth of principal Parks. Trustee Patricia Manley echoed the other trustees, saying how wonderful she thought the presentation went.

Swift said that she wanted to have representation from each level: elementary, middle, and high school levels. The high schools, however, were having curriculum night tonight.

8:21 PM


2015-16 Enhancements: 

  • STEAM Learning: Project Lead the Way programming at all middle and high schools and six elem schools (year 1 of 3 year process to have PLTW in all elementary schools)
  • Early Childhood Education: including enhanced Young Fives programming
  • World Languages: expansion including Chinese, Arabic, and American Sign Language.
  • International Baccalaureate (IB): enters second year of transition to offer a complete K-12 IB program
  • Technology Updates: currently in progress for all classrooms, K-12
  • STEAM K-8 at Northside: campus expands to include K-7 this year. Swift says she is going to take the trustees on a field trip to STEAM at Northsida
  • AAPS Virtual Academy: growth


Swift walks through a slideshow of photos from the start of the school year. Highlights: middle school pools are back open (after a two year closure), superintendent tour of all the schools. [Swift is working to tour all schools by next Tuesday – has already visited 21 schools over the first seven days of school.] More of the highlights: building and grounds improvements, technology improvements, professional development. Swift notes that an additional 8,000 electronic devices are out in use this year over the summer. Student Intervention Support Services (SISS) three-day conference open to parents, administrators, and staff. SISS parent orientation: more than 90 parents in attendance. Staff from all 32 schools were presented.

8:35 PM Swift notes that the district has worked to enhance the district’s social media presence. Leveraging social media to share good news, to inform parents in our community, to lift up achievements and work of students, staff, and community. There was an online opening day celebration in which schools tweeted using the hashtag #wecarea2schools, showing off what they were doing.

8:40 PM

Transportation Challenges: moving to a new partner, new bus drivers, new routes. Road construction has also added to the challenge. Swift thanks parents who “have been so patient” and says that members of Swift’s team will be on hand to resolve transportation issues. She gives out the helpline number to call: 994-2330, which she says will be answered by a live person. Durham Transportation worked over the weekend to fine-tune some routes to get the timely issues better.

Student Enrollment

Swift: approximately an increase of 375 students over this time last year. More specific accounting in October, after Student Count Day. Movement is not complete yet, notes Swift. A great portion of the extra students, Swift says, are coming from inside the district. Those families are choosing AAPS over charter or private schools.

Cabinet Change

8:44 PM Swift notes that the district is working to improve the alignment between some district divisions. Jenna Bacalor [previously the executive director of community education and recreation] was named as Executive Director of Community Services and School Wellness. The reorganization consolidates Rec and Ed, volunteers, and schools and health, with Bacalor at the head. Lightfoot asks how the reorganization changes the structure of those programs. Bachelor notes that there is “some overlap” that will need to be evaluated. Stead congratulates Bacalor and says that she is excited to raise awareness of health in the schools.

Immunization Update:

Bacalor: as of January 2015, state law requires that all students entering K, 7th grade, or newly enrolled into a school district must show immunization records or a waiver. The waiver needs to come from the Washtenaw Public Health Department. The district has been working to inform parents about this legislative change.

Swift says that they met with County Health last Friday, and they were told that, anecdotally, more parents in the county are choosing to vaccinate. Still waiting to hear on exact numbers.

Baskett clarifies that the county has a plan for any kind of outbreak. She is assured by Swift that the county does, but it is not shared with schools, as it depends on the kind of outbreak it would be.

Baskett also asks when the district will find out exact numbers of immunizations in the district. Swift says that the district “will be required to exclude students who have not satisfied either the waiver or the immunization.” Baskett doesn’t want any families to be surprised if they don’t have the documentation. “From here on out,” says Mexicotte, students must show that they either have waivers or that they are immunized on the first day of school. Lightfoot notes that it is only this year that families can wait until October to get the waiver or the immunizations.


9:05 PM Swift announces that she learned today that AAPS has 59 National Merit Scholarship Finalists this year. She also honored and recognized all the groups that helped with school supplies this year. Fortunate to live in a community where people don’t just talk about it, but get out and support public education.

Mexicotte: one of the happiest, friendliest meetings the board has had in a long time.

9:09 PM 15 MINUTE RECESS Trustee Thomas arrives during the recess.


All 27 schools that were included in the 2012 cohort were released from Focus School status. Swift points out that for two consecutive years, those schools had to show that the improvement of the schools’ bottom 30% was greater than the average of statewide achievement of the bottom 30%. Scarlett and Skyline, who were in the 2013 Focus School cohort, are unable to show improvement because the criteria has changed. Will receive new measurable objectives in the early part of 2016. Regardless of what MDE says, Swift maintains, in AAPS, they remain focused on student achievement for each and every student. Their goal is to eliminate disparities in achievement. Swift reiterates that the district remains focused regardless of the rules of the game determined by the state.

Money needed to be set aside to improve the Focus Study schools. Lee Ann Dickinson-Kelley, Assistant Superintendent
Instruction & Student Support Services, clarifies that if a Title I school, such as Scarlett, the school will still be required to set aside some of that money for professional development. The money won’t be lost, just needed to be allocated for it. Lightfoot says “the state is failing us all around, yet they are charging forward.” She wants to know if Dickinson-Kelley has worked to push back against the state.

Thomas: performance committee has been involved in the work done by Swift’s cabinet regarding student achievement. He has seen the kinds of initiatives that have been put in place to raise student achievement and is happy that that work has paid off. Thomas thanks Dickinson-Kelley specifically for the work she has done at improving the achievement of “our most vulnerable students.”

Manley is happy to see the improvement, but also recognizes that the state keeps “changing the rules of the game.”

Mexicotte asks if they are still naming Focus Schools. No new schools will go on the list, says Dickinson-Kelley, and no schools will come off of the list. Focus School designations “came out of the blue,” says Mexicotte and she wonders if it has run its course.

9:52 PM Emphasizing the year’s motif of “we care,” Swift shows a video highlighting the district’s theme: Lead, Care, Inspire. This year, the district will be focusing on the core value of “we care.”  The video appears to be one that was shown to district staff.


Assistant Superintendent of Finance & Operations Marios Demetriou, update on budget of the district.

General Fund:

  • August 2015 year-to-date revenues are 8.7% or $2,259,650 greater than August 2014 year-to-date revenues.  This variance is due to the sale of the Roberto Clemente building and greater year-to-date property tax collections.
  • August 2015 year-to-date expenditures are 72.5% or $15,693,998 less than August 2014 year-to-date expenditures.  This variance is primarily due to the prior years’ practice of waiting to reverse summer-spread payrolls in September instead of reversing on the date of the payroll. Expenditures in August: $6.6M

Thomas asks if the district is now doing a monthly budget. Demetriou says they have been capturing data on a monthly basis and projecting on a monthly basis.

Stead acknowledges that August is a low-expenditure month. She asks what to expect for in the coming months. Demetriou says that they are expecting the budget to be even. They had initially budgeted for an increase of 250 students this year; it is, however, looking like there is an increase of about 375 students. Demetriou says it looks as if the district will be in a better situation than they had anticipated. Stead says they will need to look at increasing staff since student numbers have increased.

Lightfoot asks for some reasons why Demetriou says “we can’t get too happy” with these numbers. Demetriou says expenditures will increase, as salaries are paid out. To get a better indication of district financial health, he says, they will need to analyze the data from the fourth or fifth month. They will have a better idea then. Average monthly expenditure: $16M. During the months where there is a three-pay period, expenditures can run up to $20M, says Demetriou.

Mexicotte reiterates that they are pleased with the direction of district finances.


Stead introduces the goals the board has set for itself over the 2015-16 school year. These goals came out of the two day retreat the board held in the month of August. Stead clarifies that board goals are different than the district goals – they are goals specifically for the board.

  • Maintain excellent, innovative and effective programs for our community
  • Develop financial sustainability road map
    • Develop 3-5 year sustainability road map
    • Manage capital and operating resources effectively
    • Maintain fund equity responsibly
    • Enhance/diversity revenue sources
  • Continue advocacy efforts for K12 public education
  • Improve BOE governance operations
    • Improve access to BOE meetings through livestreaming meetings with link on website
    • Limit time for reporting groups to improve overall timing of board discussion and action
    • Provide better meeting place environment (safe, accessible)
    • Improve timing of releasing critical reports to all trustees, in parallel with committee oversight
    • Continue to monitor and manage meeting duration for optimal trustee decision-making

Lightfoot wants the idea of civic engagement to be added to the advocacy for K12 public education, to which Stead agrees. Manley asks if there was clarification of how frequently groups will report to the board.

Mexicotte acknowledges that there is a whole bevy of work that the Governance Committee will need to do in order to tweak policy to work towards these goals. There is a six-point set of suggestions that will come into committee. Laskinski suggests that they change “limit time” to “set guidelines.”

Baskett says that she wants people to know that the board’s overall goal is addressing student achievement. They are focused on students, not the community as a whole. Mexicotte suggests expanding the first goal out to all the people who are positively affected by the board’s actions: students, staff, parents, community stakeholders.

As the trustees talk over refining the correct language of adding community into their goals, Stead says she will work on it and will pass it around to the trustees for their final approval. After the trustees approve it, it will be out for the public to read.


Che Carter, Clague Middle School Principal, explains the Cougar Trail Project. The mission of the project is to build a walking/running path around the perimeter of the existing athletic field at Clague for use by students, neighbors, and the greater northeast Ann Arbor community. The project has been in the works since 2011. The school community has raised over $30K to bring to the table, says Carter.

The trustees are being asked to award Heaney GC of Ypsilanti, Michigan a contract for the Clague Walking Trail Project in the amount not to exceed $138,069.00 based on qualifications and price.  This contract will be funded through the 2015 Bond Fund, as an athletic field improvement.

Tim Gruszczynski, Executive Director, Physical Properties describes the trail as 8 foot wide, asphalt and stone based, less than half a mile in length. He confirms that the completion date is set for November.

Baskett asks why the district only received two bids. Heaney GC has received a large amount of district business, she notes. Gruszczynski says that there are not enough tradesmen in the area to do the amount of work that is needed. He says the recession drove out so many people and the work to bring them back in is only just now coming back. Gruszczynski said they rebid it out in the summer with the hopes of increasing participation and lower bids. Instead,

Mexicotte recognizes Carter for linking the community to the district, citing strategic goals, and challenging Stead to a race once the track is completed.


Elaine Brown, Executive Director Student Intervention & Support Services, present an additional contract adding to the previous contract the board had looked at the last regular meeting. An occupational therapist retired in the district, so they were looking to fill an opening in the district.

The board votes to move this item to the consent agenda, which means that they will vote on it at this meeting, given that the terms of the contract are similar to the previous PTA contracts.


The board is asked to approve a contract for 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.

No additional information is requested by the board.


Baskett follows up from the previous regular meeting, asking if Swift has compiled the information of what financial institutions offer to the district. Swift says that she does have the info, but would prefer to keep that separate from the vote, saying that she does not want it to appear as if there are any kickbacks received by the district.


The board will vote to approve the contracts for Pediatric Therapy Associates, the list of approved financial institutions, and donations received by the district.

Lightfoot asks if donations such as snare drums make their way into the band rooms. Swift confirms that they do indeed. Lightfoot also asks what happens to auto donations. Some of them are used in the auto repair classes, some are used for parts. Swift says she will confirm exactly what happens to those donations.

Consent Agenda approved unanimously.


MASB Delegates

The board needs to certify MASB delegates. The Delegate Assembly is made up of at least one voting delegate from each of the school districts in the state. AAPS is allowed up to four voting delegates and four voting alternates based on the district’s enrollment. Delegates must be certified through board action.

Baskett says that she feels a newer trustee would get more out of the conference. Mexicotte says that since the conference is in Traverse City this year, maybe this year is one that the district does not send a delegate to.

BOE Meeting Schedule

Baskett requests a chocolate cake on her birthday, since one of the meetings falls on her birthday. There is no other discussion on the calendar. Mexicotte says that the board schedule is subject to change, given the will of the board and

Calendar unanimously adopted


David Comsa, Deputy Superintendent Human Resources & Employee Relations: As a result of one time payments that district has received, it’s his pleasure to bring to the board amendments to the contracts that were previously ratified in June 2015. The contracts include:  Ann Arbor Education Association (AAEA) – Office Professionals, AAEA – Para Professionals, AAAA, Association of School and Community Service Administrators (ASCSA),  American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees (AFSCME) AFL-CIO tech support. Non-bargaining groups 01, 03, and 09 are also included. Comsa noted that with the contract amendments, all bargaining groups and non bargaining groups will be treated equally.

The contract amendments are being made as a result of one-time revenues from the sale of district proper and monies from the WISD that were not available when the earlier tentative agreement from the collective bargaining agreement (CBA) was reached.

The BOE proposes to amend the current CBA without precedent in the future by replacing the 1% off-schedule payment with:

  • for those at the top of the step scale (step 5 and above), a 1% on-schedule increase effective July 1, 2015;
  • for horse not at the top of the step sale and frozen on step, a full step advancement with increase of 50% of the step amount for the 2015-16 school year. Eligibility for the 50% step increase will is outlined in the CBA.

This change will put the listed bargaining units CBAs in line with the CBA negotiated by the AAEA.

Leaders that Demetriou and Coma met with want to express their thanks to the BOE for treating them equally. Admin’s recommendation is that the board adopts the resolution.

Mexicotte: appreciates that Comsa recognizes the work that the bargaining units put into it. She reiterates that when the board has one-time monies, any opportunity they have to help out their employee groups is something they will try to do.

Lasinski clarifies that they are positive adjustments. Comsa says yes.

Mexicotte: move to approve the contracts for the AAEA – Office Professionals, AAEA – Para Professionals, AAAA, ASCSA,  AFSCME AFL-CIO tech support. She also moved to approve contract approvals for non bargaining groups 01, 03, and 09.

Contract amendments: unanimous approval


The trustees share their stories from around the district, especially focused on the first days of school. Many thanks are given for the administration and the staff for their work. Lightfoot asks that parents don’t give up their fight against Lansing.

11:23PM Meeting Adjourned

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