AAPS Adds 300+ Students; BOE Approves Offering 750 Schools of Choice Slots for 16/17

Ann Arbor Public Schools Board of Education regular meeting (December 16, 2015): Forsythe Middle School, 1655 Newport Rd

The board is holding an executive session at 5:30 PM, citing attorney/client privilege.

During the regular meeting, beginning at 7:00 PM, special recognition will be given to Sherri Hane, the 2015 Elementary Science Teacher of the Year and to Marci Tuzinsky, recognized as the 2015 Distinguished Educator Award and the 2015 Alumni Achievement Award for Mathematics.

The trustees will hear an update on the substitute teacher plan, the monthly budget monitoring report, and the annual enrollment report. There will be a special briefing on in-district transfers and schools of choice approval.

Voting tonight will be on the resolution to support the county-wide special education millage ballot proposal, the soundfield replacement project, and the student achievement data warehouse bid.

7:11 PM President Deb Mexicotte calls the meeting to order. Vice President Christine Stead and trustee Susan Baskett are not present and are not expected at tonight’s meeting.


The trustees unanimously approve adding to board action an amendment to the superintendent’s contract.


Thurston 5th Grade Choir under the direction of Yael Rothfeld performs for the board. The group of about 45 students meets once a week during lunch recess to practice.

The trustees heaped their praises on the lively performance. Trustee Patricia Manley noted that Thurston was her elementary school.


Superintendent Jeanice Swift and the board recognize Sherri Hane, third grade teacher at Dicken Elementary, as the 2016 Elementary Science Teacher of the Year by the Michigan Science Teachers Association.

Hane recognizes her colleagues, saying she learns every day from them. She is here, she says, because of all of their support. She also thanks the administration for the professional development provided. Michael Madison, Dicken Elementary principal, presented her with a book of letters from her students.

Swift and the trustees also recognize Community High School Dean Marci Tuzinsky, who was honored with the 2015 Distinguished Educator Award and the 2015 Alumni Achievement Award for Mathematics.

Tuzinsky says it is an honor to be part of Ann Arbor Public Schools. She also recognizes her colleagues as being part of her success.


Jeff Gaynor: teacher at Clague MS. Last week, he shared his personal story with the board. This week, speaking on behalf of all AAPS teachers. Holds up most recent update to the Michigan teacher professional development. Given the board canceled contract in July 2015, the board needs to implement a rigorous, transparent, and fair assessment. The union’s position is that teachers were not sufficiently involved, and the resulting evaluation is neither transparent nor fair. He cites sections from the Michigan guidelines to support his position. Beginning next year, the district needs to adopt an evelautaion tool. One of the options is the Charlotte Danielson model. Schools can also use a locally developed model. Position is that the board has universally decided to change the approach. Many teachers feel threatened. Forcing teachers and principals to “swallow it whole.” Not even required this year. Very little training provided by the district. Position – nothing on district website teachers can access. Did the board push forward implementation one year but did not finish. Canceled contract citing vague threats from state. The admin did not have to take this action. We all want a great evaluation system; this is not it.

Eric Lipsen: resident of Ann Arbor since 1972. Proud parent of AAPS students. Concerned about intersection at Edgewood and Stadium that is about to be repaved at entrance to Pioneer. His observation: extremely dangerous intersection. City of Ann Arbor disagrees. According to them, however, the intersection on Plymouth near the Muslim center was not dangerous until there were two fatalities. He asserts that what the city’s engineers propose is not enough. He would like a dedicated left turn lane and a center lane refuge.

Ed Kudlah, teacher at Slauson MS: nine concerns.

  1. Eval was brought forward November 3.
  2. Due to late rollout, curriculum and instruction must be rethought.
  3. Components of the system are wholly inappropriate for special education and ESL teachers.
  4. timing of the introduction, system conflicted with conferences, report cards, instructional assessments.
  5. system was rushed in implementation. little vetting and lack of detail. lead to hundreds of questions from teachers. a great number remain unanswered
  6. no comprehensive introduction to system, not on the website or in writing
  7. system is fundamentally inconsistent across schools
  8. district team has stated new system is needed for 2017-18 laws. vast majority of system is local choice, locally directed. in no way does law mandate specifics
  9. principals are also studying system. some principals are saying with a wink and nod, saying that they will navigate the morass together. Some principals however, are using the system as punitive measures.

Swift: meeting tomorrow re: Pioneer intersection is at 12/18 at 4PM. Jen Hyne and city team will be facilitating that.

Lightfoot: asks Swift if there is a timeframe for posting on the website info re: teacher evaluation. David Comsa: public act 173 requires posting beginning with the 16-17 school year, not this year.


AAEA: President Linda Carter: 1200 teachers of AAEA have been hard at work for the past 69 days. They work hard because they care. Teachers support their students in many different ways, and Carter lists some of them. A showing of some AAEA supporters tonight. Here because they care and because they are concerned.

They are concerned about the district’s rollout of the teacher evaluation system. The union sent out a 623 teachers responded to the AAEA survey. Less that 10% of teachers agree their questions about new system have been addressed. Five percent of teachers agree that the new system will make them better teachers. Doesn’t take too long to figure out the roll-out of the new system did not go out well. Increase in paperwork requirements, the increase in testing have teachers concerned. The time teachers have to spend justifying their effectiveness to a computer system called STAGES. She does not think they are “setting a pace” for the state by the district’s rollout of the system. “It’s a fiasco; it’s a mess,” Carter says. Meetings with the admin have made no difference. Please don’t tell the union they are “just following the law.” Time and energy will be taken away from teaching to do more paperwork to comply with this new system.

Carter’s speech is followed by an extended period of applause from the teachers and union supporters in the audience.

8:11 PM INFORMATION ITEM: Substitute Teacher Plan

  1. Increase substitute teacher rate from $75 to $100.
  2. Increase para educator sub rate similiarly
  3. hire a team of premier AAPS substitutes
  4. advocate the Michigan Legislature to approve the reinstatement of the ability for retired teachers to work as substitute teachers.

Update: retired teachers are able to return to service, as HB 4059 was passed and signed into law today, “effective immediately.” Public school retired employees may work under certain circumstances without forfeiting their retirement or health care benefits. Also eliminates the sunsetting. Monthly fill rates have increased from 78% fill rate in October to 97% in November. Swift says December looks like it will be at about 98%. She says that they also expect the para-educator fill rate to increase as well. Dawn Linden and others will be in charge of the “premier group” of substitutes. Will be working to have that group up and running late winter, early spring.

Thomas and Mexicotte say they are pleased to see improvement in the fill rate, as it should improve stability in the buildings.

8:17 PM INFORMATION REPORT: Monthly Budget Report

Swift: pacing along the year as expected.

Jill Minnick, executive director of finance: slightly higher staffing costs this year. Retirement costs have increased. Monthly expenditures: $17M in line, with expectations. Postitive change in cash and investment holdings. On the whole, have collected 31% of budgeted revenues, have spent 30% of expenditures. Minnick says this makes sense as they are 40% of fiscal year, 20% of school year.

Thomas shares his appreciation for the more current financial information about the district’s well-being. He also appreciates the efforts that are being made to record transactions such as retirement and health care costs in the month they are made, rather than being reported out quarterly. Makes it easier to monitor month-to-month and is in accordance with best practices, he says.

8:25 PM INFORMATION ITEM: Enrollment/Class-Size Report

Swift: pleased to share enrollment numbers at a “fairly stable” time of year.

Jane Landefeld, Executive Director Student Accounting & Research Services: overall head count: 17,104 at 15-16. Increase of over 300 students from 2014-15 school year. Increase of 655 students over a two-year period.

Young 5 and kindergarten has seen greatest increase at grade level from the previous year, for a total increase of 238 students over the past two years.

Notable Building Enrollment increases: Ann Arbor Open added another K class, increasing enrollment by 8%. STEAM@ Northside: added 7th grade, increasing enrollment 31%. Community High took in more students from the lottery, increasing enrollment by 12%.

Schools of Choice:  Fall 2014: 386 (106 from AAPS), Fall 2015: 420 (73 from AAPS). SOC students come from other districts in the county, charter schools, or previously homeschooled. This year: 985 students enrolled from SOC. 656 continued from 14/15 school year. Approximately 5.8% AAPS student enrollment comes from SOC.

Leaving AAPS: Approximately 1280 students left AAPS by fall 2015. 360 of those students exited end of 14/15 school year. 920 of those students exited between July 1 and October 7 (count day).  Reasons for leaving:

  • 500 left the state
  • 445 students moved with the state, county or to charter
  • 130 students exited to non-public school and home schools
  • 205 students are unknown

Swift says that despite needing extra staff to do so, the admin dedicates people to do the “extensive paperwork” to track students who have moved from AAPS to charter schools and then back to AAPS. For the past two years, school districts can receive money back if students move out of the district then move back in.

Trustee Donna Lasinski asks if 1280 students leaving the district is comparable to other districts similarly sized. She asks if AAPS is a more transient community because of the university. Swift and Landefeld acknowledge they will look into it.

Thomas: draws attention to the causes of why the district has seen an increase of enrollment of 655 students over the past two years. Some of the changes in the buildings all tie back to initiatives begun two years ago: adding increase of Young 5s program, increasing enrollment at schools such as Open, Northside, and Community, and not at the expense of other schools. Thanks Swift, saying that it all started with her Listen and Learn tour.

Since they look at the count day numbers, this count puts the district in a better position that they accounted for. Budgeted for an increase of 250, delivered an increase of 354. Have been able to comfortable hire the teachers needed to serve the increase of students and stay within budget.

Class Size Report

Swift: overall class sizes in the district have decreased since “baseline year” of 2013, where there were larger class sizes. Have tried to protect elementary class size, as board has directed. Most of the classes that are above target size tend to be honors level classes at upper grades in high school.

93% of elementary classes at or below target range of 24-26 students. Middle School grades. Target range: 31-33 students. 96% of core classes meet or exceed this range. High School grades: 90% of classes at or below target range of 31-33 students.

Challenges, Considerations, and Next Steps:

  • high rate of mobility
  • inability to predict patterns of movement
  • note increased trends over two years a K, Young 5, and grade 9
  • consider mid- and long-term planning for building capacity

Lasinski is pleased with numbers. Parents can trust that the district is not going to grow enrollment without hiring more teachers. Thomas wants to know how a target classroom class size is determined and wants to know if the numbers are ideal. Swift says she knows of many districts where they would love to have AAPS class sizes.

Dawn Linden, executive director elementary education: ranges are fairly consistent with best practices. In 2013, there were many classrooms where there were split level classrooms at the elementary level, by circumstance not by choice like at Open or Angell Elementary. The number of split classes have decreased over the past two years.

Mexicotte: as long as she’s been in the district, have heard complaints of big class sizes at the AP level in high schools.



Swift offers a correction of her last week’s report. At the state, not national, level, four AAPS high schools were ranked in the top 12 by

She highlights many of the accomplishments around the district, from Skyline Choir performing with A2SO at Hill Auditorium to Thurston Elementary students planting native grasses on their fledgling oak savannah to the Magic of Christmas Adopt a Family program providing toys to 350 AAPS students so “no child is without gifts.” Swift thanks all of the AAPS staff members, as they are truly what makes their work possible. District message for the holiday: 17,104 reasons for hope.

9:23 PM Mexicotte feels out the trustees for taking a break


No planning or performance meetings occurred after last meeting. Executive and governance committees are meeting on Friday.


“Early bird” in-district transfer window opens January 18 – February 26, with parents notified by March 14. Second window open March 28-April 26. In-district transfers and schools of choice application window opens. Every family will be notified by May 11. Requesting 750 slots, same as last year. Swift says they will continue to monitor, as they did last year, the need to have a summer window open. She encourages parents or prospective parents to get into the early windows, as it allows the district to better plan and prepare.

Enrollment area for Schools of Choice: within WISD and within contiguous counties.

  • Board must approve the SOC option each year
  • District must advertise SOC openings
  • Must notify parents of SOC status.

Application process is done online. If families don’t have Internet access, they can apply at any school or district building where there will be computers available.

Thomas: last year, also approved 750 slots. Resulted in 400+ SOC enrollments, with about 337 being new SOC enrollees. Swift says they are excited about a 13-year endeavor with their families. She thinks of it as a valve, opening and tightening the valve of enrollment as needed.

Lightfoot wonders if adding 750 students impacts transportation.  Swift clarifies that transportation is not provided for SOC students.  Lightfoot also wonders about increased building in the city. Swift says there are some spots during the year where they can have the conversation of how to focus on expansion. At this point, Swift says, they are not going to create that situation through Schools of Choice.

Mexicotte notes that in previous years, the board has approved the SOC slots in January. Swift says they want to allow families more time to begin planning. Landefeld: won’t identify SOC schools until March, using the time to determine which schools have space for SOC students.

Lightfoot wonders if they feel okay about not meeting their goal of 750 students. Since there have been about 650 applications per year, Swift says she doesn’t want to turn people down at the application process. Because they didn’t meet their goal of 750 last year, Landefeld says, they were able to open up an enrollment window during the summer.

Thomas says they to keep in mind the percentage increase of students from SOC. It is currently at 5.8%. Once the district gets up to 8 or 9%, then they should look more closely at it. Since the foundation allowance brought to the district by SOC students is at the level of their home district, there would come to a point where the cost to have those students in the district might be greater than the benefit of having them.

Mexicotte clarifies that what the board would be voting on tonight is the 750 slots and the timeline.

9:51 PM  Board recesses for 10 minutes

10:05 PM Recess is over

SECOND BRIEFING ITEM: Resolution to Support Ballot Proposal for County-Wide Special Education Millage

Mexicotte: last week, superintendent Menzel talked to board about county’s initiative to raise the special education millage to 1.5 mills. This raise is allowable by law, and will bring reimbursement to districts up to above 90%. Special education is mandated, and is not a choice. State and federal funds are used to reimburse the cost. Reimbursing those costs helps the district unencumbered those funds and keep it in the General Fund. Frees up dollars through the reimbursement process. Currently destined to be reimbursed between 50-60% reimbursement level. Special education millage increase would bring reimbursement to above 90%. Board is being asked if they would support the initiative. Mexicotte says that last year, district spent about $34M in special education services.

Lasinski: Community has asked for the opportunity to be given the choice to support education. Very limited to choose to support education. One of the few mechanisms to support to free up dollars to allow the district to fully serve students in the district. Fully support offering the district’s residents.

Currently, AAPS taxpayers send tax money to Lansing and see a return of about 36 cents on the dollar. This millage increase allows a direct dollar reimbursement of cost incurred by providing special education services. Lasinski emphasizes that they will continue to serve special education students regardless if reimbursed from special education millage or out of the General Fund.

The resolution to support the county-wide special education millage proposal will be on the consent agenda and will be voted on tonight.

SECOND BRIEFING: Soundfield Replacement Project

Five year warranty on soundfield equipment rather than three.

This item will be on the consent agenda and will be voted on tonight.

SECOND BRIEFING: Student Achievement Data Warehouse Bid Recommendation

No changes in info.  No discussion.

This item will be on the consent agenda and will be voted on tonight.


No discussion on the consent agenda.

Consent agenda approved unanimously.

10:20 PM BOARD ACTION ITEM: Amendment to the superintendent’s contract

After an informal superintendent evaluation the trustees conducted on December 9, they are voting to make adjustments to the superintendent’s contract. Two major adjustments:

  • extending contract for 5 more years, as a vote of confidence from the board. Swift was initially hired on with a 5-year contract, which decreases each year she stays on in the district.
  • changing  small number of things re: flexibility of vacation and how she can take it. No increase or change in base compensation or any other compensation, other than a “small bit” that relates to vacation compensation.

Thomas: since Swift joined district, have greatly expanded opportunities offered to students. World languages, STEAM@Northside, implemented International Baccalaureate K-12 program. This is the board’s way of “giving a big thank you” to Swift. Not in the position to give a salary increase, but giving her more job security, knowing she has a five-year contract with the district.

Amendment passes unanimously.


Lightfoot asks about strategic planning. Swift says they’re working on launching an internal process about this and will be working with the Planning Committee. She hopes to do a better job of pulling together reports from all areas of the district to be included.  Mexicotte says that they could engage the Performance Committee earlier in the process, to encompass all aspects of the district. Lasinski says Planning Committee is working on creating a framework for strategic planning. What are outcomes? What are processes? Thinking about what reports, what inputs can go into a strategic planning process. The Planning Committee is laying the groundwork for a successful process. The process will be inclusive,  including teachers, parents, community members, admin, board members.

Mexicotte: next meeting January 13: organizational meeting. Committee appointments, officers, etc. Some preparation that occurs in the meantime. Good time to self-nominate if want to take on leadership positions. Take time to acquaint self with organizational meeting procedures.


Manley: invite families to the BPSSG Kwanzaa celebration at Carpenter Elementary tomorrow night. Potluck so bring some food. For parents and children.

Thomas: Loves to see the progression of skills in the music program. Sees differences between varsity band, concert band, and symphony band. Congratulates all the AAPS band and orchestra teachers.

Lasinski: wish everyone a happy holiday. Take time to rest and restore.

Lightfoot: holiday wishes to everyone. Thanked the Skyline band.


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