Ann Arbor Public Schools Board of Education regular meeting (October 28, 2015): Forsythe Middle School auditorium
The board is holding an executive session at 5:30 PM, citing attorney/client privilege.
During the regular meeting, beginning at 7:00 PM, the trustees will first observe a moment of silence for Crystal Westfield. They will hear an update on immunizations, the annual staffing report, the substitute teacher plan, and the monthly budget monitoring report. There will be a first briefing on several policy revisions, most notably increasing the year end balance of the General Fund from a range of 5 to 15 percent of the previous year’s expenditures to a range of 6 to 15 percent and dropping bussing provided for students “enrolled outside their school of assigned attendance.” [The revision of Policy 3760 was taken off the agenda at around 4:30 PM – it was added again after the meeting had begun.]
The board will be presented with special briefings on the City of Ann Arbor easement request for Stadium Blvd reconstruction project and the Burns Park Boiler Replacement Project Change Order, which an increase in the contract of $48,000 is requested. The additional funds will accommodate the installation of a temporary boiler to provide immediate heat to the Burns Park building during the staging and installation process of the permanent boiler. The total contract amount for the Burns Park Boiler Replacement Project would end up being $546,000, funded through the Sinking Fund.
Voting tonight will be on the easement request from the City of Ann Arbor and the release of the additional $48,000 for the Burns Park boiler replacement.
7:05 PM While all trustees and Superintendent Jeanice Swift are present at the board tables, the meeting has not yet been called to order.
7:11 PM MEETING CALLED TO ORDER
Board President Deb Mexicotte calls the meeting to order.
A moment of silence is held for Crystal Westfield, a longtime coach and teacher at Pioneer High School, who recently passed away. Mexicotte expressed condolences to Westfield’s family.
Mexicotte notes that while the approval of the agenda usually would occur at this moment during the meeting, she would like to push it back until after the student performance. According to her, there needs to be a longer discussion about some of the policy revisions that were scheduled to be discussed at the meeting.
The Skyline High School Bel Canto choir, directed by Lindsay CieChanski sings two pieces for the board. “Astonishing,” says Mexicotte. Trustee Andy Thomas recognizes the “tremendous growth” of the music program at Skyline. Sharing her own experience as a singer in a bel canto choir, trustee Patricia Manley says the singers were amazing, showing immense control over their voices. Trustee Simone Lightfoot acknowledges that the choir stretched outside their own experience, singing a “raw, diverse plethora” of music.
7:31 PM Before the board approves the agenda, Mexicotte wants to talk about one of the policies that the Governance Committee had reviewed. Policy 3760 was initially scheduled to be on the agenda, but was subsequently removed. Mexicotte wants to ask that the board re-add the policy as one that is discussed this evening.
Mexicotte says that they were not changing any of their current practices, but about it was about bringing the policy in line with what was actually happening in the district. The changes that were proposed would resound with some of their “many school of choice” offerings.
Some community members contacted trustees and Swift about concerns if this was going to change their transportation choices. Coming to the board for discussion was the additional language of: “Students enrolled outside their school of assigned attendance shall not receive district provided transportation.” Mexicotte says this has been their practice for quite some time, in most instances. STEAM, Community High have been required to provide their own transportation. Space available to apply for transportation can be made available. Swift has had some experience with this. Superintendent can also direct transportation as needed, which could include certain programmatic needs.
Ultimately, Mexicotte argues, the policy revision only aligns policies towards more of what their practices have been. The change is not with the intent on changing transportation provided currently, but could mean that they would look at it down the road. Mexicotte wanted to bring it up currently so they talk about it now. They were bringing it forward for discussion from the board as they do any policy. She asks that they bring it back on to the agenda in the first briefing cycle, so it can be discussed as any other policy revision.
Lightfoot asks if it means that they need to review it now so they can make changes. Mexicotte clarifies, saying it was part of the sunset policy reviews – as the governance committee reviews the 3000 policies, which they do in order.
Not based on any sudden need or desire to change transportation footing, but to bring their policy in line with current practices.
Mexicotte notes that the “controversy” of this policy “caught them off guard,” and so they had initially pulled it from the agenda. Swift said that when constituents contacted her, she had told them that it had been pulled off the agenda. Mexicotte says that the board could decide to have more than two briefings on the subject, that it could be stretched out over more than two meetings.
The trustees vote to include Policy 3760 back as a first briefing item.
PUBLIC COMMENTARY: There is none.
BPSSG: Meeting scheduled for November 5 to create a coalition of students and parents, with the goal of solidifying three or four overall goals to work with the BOE. The group is working to educate their parents so they can garner support and participation at every level in the community.
AAEA: Linda Carter, AAEA president: Oct 20 – SB 103, makes changes to teacher evaluation. MEA president applauds the legislation. As teachers have went through the last eight years of teacher evaluation. Carter refers to Charlotte Danielson’s Framework for Teaching as a good guideline for teacher evaluation, citing its appropriateness for teachers at all stages of their practice.
PRESIDENT REPORT: There is none.
7:53 PM SUPERINTENDENT REPORT
Swift recognizes many of the accomplishments of students and programs around the district. Notably, the dedication of Stephen’s Theater at Bach Elementary, honoring the memory of Stephen Easter. Swift thanks the “tireless work” of the parent group who made the theater possible.
She also thanks the organizers of Rick’s Runs 4 Kids, a 5K fundraiser, which raises money for Rec and Ed scholarships. The 2015 run raised $11,700 for scholarships.
Swift was pleased to have been invited to the Annual Celebration of Black Men breakfast. Five of Ann Arbor high school students were honored as “young men of promise,” and Tyrone Weeks, principal of Pathways to Success, was recognized as a 2015 Man of Honor.
Tuesday, November 3, is a voting day. Swift says “we are open for business. And that business is of the people.”
8:06 PM COMMITTEE REPORTS
Planning and Performance Committees: have not met since last meeting.
Governance Committee: has met and will meet again on November 20 at 3:00PM. Public is welcome. Will be working through 4000 policies, in addition to any changes that come out of any of the regular meetings.
Vice President Christine Stead asks that they add to the agenda a motion for a resolution on gun control, based on the legislation that is coming out of Lansing.
The addition is approved unanimously.
8:10 PM MONTHLY BUDGET MONITORING REPORT
Jill Minnick, executive director of finance, presents the budget, comparing monthly expenditures from 2014 to 2015. Expenditures and revenues are slightly higher than the previous year. Cash and investments are greater this year, compared to last year. The fluctuations in expenditures and revenues are “expected, reasonable, and are of no cause for concern,” according to Minnick.
Lightfoot said she “gets alarmed,” specifically looking at the increase in the Food Service Fund. Minnick says that the funds were left there, with the anticipation that there will be purchases such as refrigerators, etc. Stead clarifies that a usual monthly expenditure is about $17M.
8:16 PM IMMUNIZATIONS REPORT
Desired outcome of healthier students and faculty will be achieved as the district reaches greater numbers of immunized students.
Jenna Bacalor, Executive Director Community Relations & School Wellness: UofM Regional Alliance for Healthy Schools has been a great partnership to get more students immunized. This fall, have offered ongoing appointments. Have agreed to offered two extended immunization days: November 2 and November 5. The alliance is willing to take every student AAPS sends to them. Parents can also
94% of students are vaccinated or have waivers. Trustee Donna Lasinski asks for those numbers to be separated out. Jane Landefeld,
Executive Director Student Accounting & Research Services, says they don’t have that information just yet, but they will. Swift says the goal is to be at 100%.
Thomas wants to know what happens to students who are not in compliance with the state law, either by having the waiver or by having the immunizations. If a family has had the opportunity to comply and have not, the district will need to tell those students they cannot come. Swift says it is a “case by case” basis. The district has been working on tracking down “every child” to get them in compliance, from calling on the phone, to home visits.
The district is working with families to get them to “provisional status,” which indicates that they have either gotten the shots or have booked an initial appointment. The district is held to the State of Michigan law, which means all students are in compliance by the end of October. In the future, students must have immunizations completed or have their waivers in place before the first day of school.
Lightfoot asks if the law has changed the number of waivers the district has received, since there is more of an investment for getting a waiver. The numbers will be finalized soon.
SUBSTITUTE TEACHER PLAN
Swift says they want to improve the quantity and quality of substitute teachers in the district. District goal is 100% coverage. Unfortunately, this fall, they are not quite where they want to be.
Four part plan:
- Increasing substitute teacher pay from $75 a day to $100/day. Will e initiated at the beginning of the next pay period in November. Demetriou and finance team believes it will be affordable within the current budget. The district is currently paying some $30+ per hour when teachers are requested to teach on their planning period, so the increase wouldn’t increase the budget outlay as much as it may appear.
- Paraeducator rate must be similarly increased, says Swift.
- Dawn Linden will head up a team to hire a “premier” group of AAPS substitutes. That team will meet a higher standard of qualification and will also agree to commit a consistent number of days each month, which will include either Mondays and/or Fridays. The team would be compensated at a higher rate than regular subs.
- Will be advocating the Michigan Legislature to approve the reinstatement of the ability for retired teachers to work as substitute teachers, as retired teachers have been a rich source of great educators and substitutes. The district will advocate for the passage of HB 4059, which is now on the Senate for after being amended to allow retirees to work through 2018 while still collecting their pension.
While Thomas approves of the goal of reaching 100% coverage, he wants to clarify that the “premier group” of substitutes will hired through PESG, not the district. Swift agrees that currently, that group would be hired through PESG.
Lasinski clarifies that the premier group of subs will provide a minimum level of coverage. She also asks what a higher standard of qualification means. Linden says that the district has a significant amount of certified teachers in the sub pool, many of whom are liked and who the district would eventually like to hire full-time.
Lightfoot wants to know “what’s going on,” with the district’s dire need for substitutes. Swift replies that given the number of teachers in the district, that even with a 95% attendance rate, the district has about need for about 40-50 teachers per day. The substitute teacher pool is shared with the Washtenaw Consortium. Some subs are dedicated AAPS subs, but many are available to other districts in the county.
There is a need for some “longer term work” done, says Stead, including some work with PESG. There will be some dynamics that will need to be worked out, she says, as AAPS increases its pay when other districts might be unable to do so. She also says they need to advocate for legislation that helps work towards the goals of improving state substitute provision.
Baskett wonders how PESG will be able to deliver in the future, if they haven’t been delivering now. Swift says district superintendents have been in discussion about PESG and other possible vendors. PESG is open to a tiered system, based on something like qualification level or commitment level. The PESG contract is up for evaluation soon, and the contract will be considered carefully, notes Swift. The economy recovery has harmed the pool of candidates, says PESG.
8:58 PM 2015-16 AAPS STAFFING REPORT
Last time a staffing report was given was in 2012. Swift acknowledges that they would like to give this report more frequently, but refrained from calling it an annual report.
The report’s main goal is to answer how well represented is the AAPS staff in mirroring the diversity of our student and community population. The district recognizes that students learn best when there is someone like them in leadership roles.
Some limitations: data is based on the box a student checks, indicating race or ethnicity. Students have option to choose Arab-American or multiethnic. Those options are not given on the employee forms.
Stephanie Field, assistant director of human resources goes over the date, which includes data from 2012-2015. Ultimately, Caucasian staff is overrepresented based upon student population. Asian staff is underrepresented, and African American staff is about within parity. Swift notes that Hispanic population, while low, is relatively matched with staff levels.
Swift says they will continue to monitor progress in ensuing that all race/ethnic areas are well-represented within staff. She would like the trustees to consider “grow your own” types of teacher preparation programs to engage and connect more diverse prospective candidates into the teaching profession.
Manley asks if there is a way to get this information out to the public beyond the streaming of the board meeting. While the percentages closely align with African American students and staff, she says that parents still say they want to see more people who look like their children in the buildings. Lightfoot and Manley want to know if those teachers of color are “dispersed” throughout the district or if they are concentrated within a few schools.
Lasinski asks why there is such a disparity between Asian students and Asian staff. Field says that they don’t see as many Asian or Hispanic candidates out of teacher education programs. It is not just a local problem. David Comsa, Deputy Superintendent Human Resources & General Counsel, adds that in Michigan, the number of students going into teacher education programs has decreased in recent years. Lasinski adds that it is because of the climate of Michigan education legislation. Comsa says that not many students are going into education, and not many students of color are going into education – it’s a compound problem.
In addition to looking at data on race and ethnicity, Thomas wants to have a look at gender in staffing. He likes the “honesty and transparency” of the reports and thinks they are important to the community.
Manley reiterates that enrollment in teacher education programs at UofM and EMU is way down. She advocates for Swift’s recommendation for home grown future teachers.
Baskett wonders how the district’s previous push to keep educators of color has faired. Swift says that the group meets monthly and has a robust development plan in place to increase the presence of teachers of color. Mexicotte says that at various times, the district has went further afield, looking for candidates. Given financial constraints, they have had to pull back those efforts in recent years.
9:37 PM TEN MINUTE RECESS
9:55 PM MEETING RESUMES
FIRST BRIEFING ITEMS: 3000 Policies – Sunset Review:
Mexicotte says that, as with all policies, the board can decide to send them on to second briefing, send them back to the governance committee for another review, or allow for even more additional briefings.
3200 – Capital Needs Fund – No changes.
3210 – General Fund Balance –
Revision recommended: The district shall manage its financial matters so that the budgeted year-end fund balance of the general fund is targeted to fall within a range of
5 6 to 15 percent of the preceding year’s expenditures from the general fund.
Stead says that although they went to a range a couple years ago because it was needed, she would like to recommend that they return to a 15% General Fund Balance target instead of a range of 6-15%. She argues that it reflects good practice, and that as they have to manage towards their policies, they also acknowledge how situations change year to year.
Thomas would like a range, as it gives the district more flexibility, so they would not be out of line with their policy. He acknowledges that they are moving in the right direction with the district’s fund balance, and says that having a 15% target does not promote anything good.
Mexicotte says that policy being aspirational versus policy being the practice of the district was the argument before about why the policy was changed to reflect a range. She imagines that the policy bottom range will keep moving up.
Lightfoot is in agreement that they need to review policies on a regular basis. Having a policy of a 15% balance is them “being in la-la land,” and does not reflect the realities of what
3300 – Efficiency Improvement – No changes.
3400 – Facilities Long-Range Planning – Revision recommended.
The Superintendent shall, in collaboration with the board, develop and maintain a long-range facilities plan for the district. The plan shall include but not be limited to:
∗ Needs for the coming school year;
* Projections for [capacity] and potential use of current facilities;
3500 – Disposition of Property – No changes.
3700 – Risk Management – No changes.
3760 – Transportation – Revision recommended.
The district shall provide transportation to and from school for students who reside at least 1.5 miles from their school of assigned attendance, or in other cases as required by law. [Students enrolled outside their school of assigned attendance shall not receive district-provided transportation. Space-available transportation may be available through an application process for those students for whom transportation is not already provided] The Superintendent may direct that transportation be provided in other cases for reasons, [including but not limited to,] of student safety or efficiency of district operations.
Mexicotte says this revision is based on looking at practices across the district of how students use transportation. One thing that was not discussed when looking at the policy is the 1.5 mile designation. That was put in when times were “very lean,” says Mexicotte. Not something to look at this evening, she says, but something to consider in the future.
As a governance body, was mostly looking at bringing policy into alignment with current practices.
Lasinski: She’s interested in talking about changing the 1.5 mile walk radius. She also clarified that the three schools that are the exception, with no neighborhood boundary: Pathways, Community, Ann Arbor Open. Swift adds Northside STEAM that has a neighborhood boundary with a both/and boundary. Mexicotte says there are in-district transfers and schools of choice.
Mexicotte says that they weren’t looking at making any transportation changes, but were looking at what their typical stance has been on providing transportation. Space-available transportation is a new piece of process that Swift has done in the past and is proposing that the district moves towards. That kind of flexibility would allow a student to attend a school or program outside their attendance area by providing a certain level of transportation.
Swift says this is a time for improving transportation delivery. She wants to be clear that their goal is to enhance and improve the transportation. The way a space available transportation works: parents apply for open seats on existing routes. Space available does not mean the addition of any routes in the district. It allows for more flexibility for families to get to a bus stop that is potentially a better location for them.
Thomas says that he would change “shall” to “will,” as it is a less-strong word. Baskett wants it clear to families what “space available” means. She also wants to discuss the 1.5 mile radius, as it is a long walk for younger students.
Stead says that to be consistent with how they approach policy making, they should be explicit about how they are making exceptions in their transportation policy. She struggles with making policy fit practice, versus good practice. The board is doing two different things in their policies – in the general fund balance, they are keeping the fund lower, versus changing the policy to meet practice. Stead also wants to discuss triggers for changing board policy, outside the sunset review policy process.
Mexicotte says that any trustee can bring forward a request to make changes to policy. Sometimes, she says, the policies are refined or changed to reflect policy, not to match the policy to practice but they haven’t been explicit enough about what they are actually doing.
Swift adds that there is an issue with the timing with this particular policy. This is a time of transition for transportation, as the district is working with Durham this first year of their contract – if there were changes to the policy that would mean immediate changes, she would like to discuss the timing of this.
Mexicotte says they could approve the previous language to meet the sunset policy, then talk again in the future when they have additional information. They could entertain that they were going back to the original language, then continue to work on the choice circumstances. Maybe it’s its own separate policy, Mexicotte says.
Lasinski says there could be a fuller discussion surrounding the transportation policy. Lightfoot says that she thought they were “jamming” when they pulled the policy together. She really likes the idea of space-available transportation.
Mexicotte says she imagines this single policy could be three policies: a space-available policy, a students enrolled out of their attendance school policy, and a walk zone policy.
Stead is concerned with why they change policy. It’s that “marriage between philosophy of how they are creating policy and what are the triggering events, based on that philosophy,” says Stead.
Lightfoot says that if they leave ambiguity, it allows for room for the superintendent to fix problems without having to follow the board’s explicit policy instructions. She also is hesitant about timing – she wants to make sure the space-available program is available before making it public. Lightfoot looks forward to increasing transportation cover.
Mexicotte reflects that she is hearing back that they take the policy back to Governance Committee, and possibly move towards three separate policies regarding transportation.
Policy 3760 will be moved to a no change policy on the consent agenda and will return to the governance committee for further discussion.
FIRST BRIEFING ITEM: Recommended Revision to Policy 1520 – Sunset Provisions
10:49 PM SPECIAL BRIEFING ITEM: City of Ann Arbor Easement Request
The City of Ann Arbor is requesting easement access for the Stadium Blvd reconstruction project. Probably about a year long project. The district has worked with the city to make interruptions minimized.
Thomas says the changes made will be beneficial to Pioneer High students. The district has met with city engineers to schedule a meeting for the public, most likely between Thanksgiving and Winter Break.
10:53 PM SPECIAL BRIEFING ITEM: Burns Park Boiler Replacement Project Change Order Approval
Due to some additional complexities of the boiler being built, there is a request for an additional $48,000 to cover the cost of a temporary boiler in place. The total cost will be: $546,000. Baskett says they don’t really have a choice in this, as they need to keep the students warm.
- Approve City of Ann Arbor Easement Request for Stadium Blvd Reconstruction Project
- Burns Park Boiler Replacement Project Change Order Approval
The consent agenda is unanimously approved.
BOARD ACTION ITEMS
Recreation Advisory Commission (RAC) Nomination:
Bachelor brings forward the nomination of Ms. Patti Smith to a three year term as the new AAPS-appointed commissioner. Smith is an active community member and an educator for students with disabilities.
The nomination is unanimously approved.
RESOLUTION REGARDING THE OPEN CARRY OF FIREARMS IN PUBLIC SCHOOLS
Stead reads a resolution regarding the open carry of firearms in public schools. Be it resolved:
- The Board urges the Governor to veto SB442, or any similar bills that allow concealed or openly carried pistols on school grounds, except for law enforcement personnel.
- The Board urges the State House Representatives and the State Senators to allow local school districts to opt out of any legislation the allows pistols, concealed or not, on school grounds.
- That copies of this resolution be sent to Governor Rick Snyder and the district’s State House Representatives and State Senators.
Thomas emphasizes there is urgency to this resolution, as SB442 is going to be on Snyder’s desk in the next couple of weeks. He takes issue with the second point of the resolution, not because he believes that school districts shouldn’t have that option, but that it sends the message that the district is okay with the rest of the law. Thomas urges the public to petition the governor to veto the bill.
The board spends time discussing the merits of the “opt-out” part of the resolution. Mexicotte says it’s a “realistic resolution, not an aspirational resolution.”
The board unanimously approves the resolution.
AGENDA PLANNING: No items requested.
ITEMS FROM THE BOARD:
Stead thanks Jack Panitch and the PTOC Launch Party. Recognizes that a total of 102 Ann Arbor high school students were honored this month by the Ann Arbor Chapter of the NAACP during the group’s annual Freedom Fund Dinner. She says that while there is a “yeoman’s work” to be done, the increase in students recognized this year reflects work done by the district.
Baskett: thank Westfield-Lapointe family for allowing Baskett to celebrate Westfield’s life. She also recognized the progress that the district has made in increasing African American student achievement. Recognized student performances at POP-X art festival. New fundraiser: AAPS PTO Thrift Shop – $10 tickets for leased car raffle.
Lightfoot: annual fundraiser of Girls Group, November 14. Girls Group empowers middle and high school girls to achieve emotional and economic security by graduating from high school and becoming first-generation college graduates.
Mexicotte, along with many of the trustees, talked about the Stephen’s Theatre dedication.
11:26 PM MEETING ADJOURNED
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