AAPS Board Talks Buses; Hears Back to School Updates

Ann Arbor Public Schools Board of Education regular meeting (September 14, 2016): Forsythe Middle School, 1655 Newport Rd

The regular meeting, starting at 7:00 PM, will begin with a special recognition of STRIVE, a Rotary Club program that works with Pathways students, and an introduction of new staff in the district.

An executive session originally scheduled at 5:30 PM for the purposes of attorney/client privilege and negotiations has been cancelled.

The trustees will hear several information reports: summer 2016 learning, technology, and facilities, as well as a back to school update from Superintendent Jeanice Swift.

A first briefing will be given on a contract recommendation for Pediatric Therapy Associates.

A second briefing will be held on the revised transportation Policy 3760. The revision allows for “space available” bus transportation for students. The service would be available to those students who live in the school’s attendance area, but do not live in the school’s transported area.

As this is the first Board of Education meeting of the school year, the trustees will review and give final approval of purchases authorized by Swift over the summer. The trustees adopted a resolution at their June 29 meeting to give summer 2016 purchasing and hiring authority to Swift.

Voting will be on the revised Policy 3760 and the 2016 summer purchases.

The trustees will take a board action to certify the Michigan Association of School Boards (MASB) voting delegates. These delegates will represent the district at the MASB Delegate Assembly later this fall. AAPS is allowed up to four voting delegates and four voting alternates based on the district’s enrollment.

Board President Deb Mexicotte, Vice President Christine Stead, Trustees Patricia Manley, Donna Lasinski, Susan Baskett, and Andy Thomas are present at tonight’s meeting. Trustee Simone Lightfoot is absent.

7:05 PM Swift recognizes the Rotary Club STRIVE (Students Taking Renewed Interest in the Value of Education) program, which works with Pathways students.

7:07 PM Swift introduces new leadership in the district. She introduces the Haisley Elementary principal  Kelly House and Logan Elementary principal Will Wright. She also introduces Assistant Directors of Student Intervention and Support Services (SISS) Concetta Lewis, Tracye Johnson, and Lohren Nzoma. Rick Scott is the new Assistant Director of Physical Properties.

She also introduces the two new executive directors: Jazz Parks, executive director for middle level education and Paul De Angelis, executive director for high school education.

7:21 PM PUBLIC COMMENTARY

Quinn Strassel, AAPS teacher at Clague, Pathways, and Community, and parent in the district: wants to talk about bussing Ypsi School of Choice students in. Asks the board as they consider the proposal, for every benefit for bussing SOC students, there are costs he asks them to consider. He says they have the responsibility to be good neighbors, which was never more apparent, he says, than when the water main burst under Allen Elem. We are a community of privilege, he says, and what we do with that privilege matters. School districts across Michigan have been struggling. We need to recognize that the hard times have been harder for others. He asks them to delay the vote for another year to allow for more dialogue. He asks for a public forum, saying he’d be happy to work with them. He also asks them to think of implementing a cap on SOC students.

7:25 PM ASSOCIATION REPORTS

AAEA President Linda Carter: She gives a report on the start of the school year, from the perspective of the AAEA. The AAEA leadership has been delivering welcome packets to teachers around the district. First rep council meeting Monday, at 4:30. AAEA building meetings will take place 9/21 and every month thereafter. Unite, inspire, lead. Our students, our union, our future. *She receives scattered applause from across the auditorium.

PRESIDENT’S REPORT: NONE

7:28 PM SUPERINTENDENT REPORT

Swift welcomes back students and staff at the start of the new year. She acknowledges the facilities work done over the summer. She also calls out the switch from the ACT to the SAT

Out of a possible score of 1600 on the SAT, state average of 1002, and AAPS average 1163. Skyline, Huron, Community, and Pioneer High Schools all made the top 20 in the state of Michigan.

Allen Elementary school update: the school opened on time at the temporary location of West Middle School in Ypsilanti. Swift thanks Allen Principal Beal and the Allen parents for their work. Allen building: the rehab of the building from the water damage is being worked on. The cleaning of silt from initial water damage has been completed. An initial assessment is underway.  The district anticipates the engineering consultants’ report in a few weeks. A construction crew demoed out the floor in the damaged area. Engineers took soil borings. Structural engineering, insurance adjustors, facilities have all been in the building. The completion of overall assessment will likely be four weeks yet to complete, says Swift. Weekly updates will be shared with the Allen community. In addition, Swift has asked principal Beal, the PTO leadership at Allen, and Dawn Linden, executive director of elementary education to host regular face-to-face meetings for the Allen community. the first of the meetings will be held this next Tuesday, September 20, at 5:30, location TBD.

7:42 PM Trustee Thomas thanks Swift and the Physical Properties department, saying that he’s heard the buildings look the best they ever have. He also acknowledges the diversity in the high school and the success they had with SAT scores.

COMMITTEE REPORTS

Performance: None

Planning: Stead says they haven’t met yet, but the work they are looking to do: sustainability of their system, ability to maintain high level of education. Capacity planning, strategic planning of how they position their schools so they can thrive despite challenges from the state.  It’s important to her, she says, that they position the district so they can continue to attract and keep talented teaching professionals.

Governance: won’t meet until October. Will be looking at policy issues and concerns.

INFORMATION ITEM: 2016 Summer Programs Update

Lee Ann Dickinson-Kelley, Assistant Superintendent Instruction & Student Support Services, thanks the board for their support of summer learning.

  • 137 students participated in the Extended School Year (ESY) program, which is specifically designed for special needs students.
  • 704 students participated in the middle, high, and online classes. A tuition-free algebra course was offered for students who failed algebra during the school year. Dickinson-Kelley notes they learned that they needed to communicate more with parents before and during the program.
  • 64 students participated in the first year program of the Pathways to Success Summer School and GED completion.
  • 100 ELL students participated in a three-week summer program, in partnership with the University of Michigan.
  • Title I summer programs at Allen, Bryant, Abbot, Carpenter, Pittsfield, Mitchell
  • 191 middle school students participated in 13 music classes
  • AAPS Staff technology training, summer professional development
  • Summer Learning Institute: 432 students completed the program in 2016 compared with 211 students in 2015. Redesigned the program to be three two-week sessions.

At the end of the presentation, a video was shown, highlighting the Summer Learning Institute. The music of local musician Joe Reilly provided the soundtrack.

Thomas confirms that tuition is charged for high school programs, either for credit recovery classes or for enrichment classes. Tuition is waived for students who have financial hardships. Thomas wants to make sure that students who weren’t secure in their algebra learning could also retake the tuition-free algebra class, in addition to the students who didn’t pass. Tuition is $150.

Manley commends the increase in number of students in the SLI program and the increase of the hands-on learning. Baskett asks how students were identified as needing summer school. Dickinson-Kelley says the students were identified at their home schools.

Stead asks about the budget for summer education programs, to make sure they are planning appropriately. She wants the board to look to making sure no child is left behind in the program, increasing access to more high school students who need it. Mexicotte clarifies that as they begin the budget process in the future, they look at how the summer education programs fit into the budget.

INFORMATION ITEM: 2016 Summer Technology Update

Merri-Lyn Colligan, Executive Director of Technology & Information  Services, presents. She highlights the technology professional development educators received.

  • Lighthouse classrooms professional development – a focus on blended education, combining both face-to-face and online learning.
  • Second Annual Summer AAPS Technology Conference: 545 session attendees.
  • Technology orientation for new employees
  • Project Lead the Way (PLTW) staff increase
  • PTLW training for all new and second year PTLW teachers
  • STEAM labs – provided classrooms with enhancements for blended learning

Stead thanks the community for the passing of the technology millage in May of 2016. Because of that millage, the district has been able to move quickly on improving technology access, increasing PLTW to all the schools in the district. Both she and Manley are certain learning will increase because of the improvements. Lasinski is proud of how the district’s staff is embracing this way of learning and teaching.

Blended learning: student directed learning, combining face-to-face learning with technology.

INFORMATION ITEM: 2016 Summer Facilities Update

Jen Hein, executive director of physical properties and facilities, says they are feeling some pride over the work they’ve done over the past few months in preparing the district’s schools for the start of the new year.

Hein notes the custodial crew from GCA is fully staffed, which should help improve school facilities over the course of the year. She highlights many of the improvements across the district: playground improvements, painting, carpeting, hardwood floors, landscape improvements, roofing, ceiling tiles, and lightbulbs. 23 new buses (with white roofs) added to the fleet.

Mexicotte notes that much of these improvements were possible by the bond approvals.

The pops of paint color are “simply a beginning,” says Swift. Her personal goal is to be on at least a Would like to be on at least a ten-year rotation of painting, if not a five-year rotation. Paint is not covered by the sinking fund – it comes out of the general fund.

Stead thanks Hein for the “yeoman’s amount of work” she did in helping with the transition of the Allen Elementary community into the West Middle School space.

INFORMATION ITEM: Back to School 2016

Student enrollment appears to be slightly increased this year, says Swift.

Challenges: transportation 

  • slightly earlier bell times made routes
  • higher than usual ridership

They are working to provide solutions to late buses, overcrowding, and increasing communicate and responsiveness.

The executive directors have been working with Durham to improve the issues of transportation. She expects many of the issues they’ve been hearing about to improve in the next 24-48 hours. She asks the public to call as soon as possible if there is a problem, making sure to note the specific stop.

Hiring: Class ratios look strong, but are still refining “here and there.” While the district had about 90 teachers retire, they hired 174 teachers this year. The Reading Intervention elementary programs have been restored. Struggling early readers are able to get more early assistance.

Preschool and Young 5s: Preschool enrollment is up at Westerman, Thurston, and Mitchell. The Young 5s program has increased from about 30 students in 2012-13 to 235 in 2016.

International Baccalaureate (IB): Expect full authorization to be given in June of 2017 for Huron HS, Scarlett MS, and Mitchell Elem. Authorization work is on track. Pleased to show Mitchell expansion for IB – six classrooms. Now calling it the Mitchell-Scarlett K-8 International Baccalaureate campus.  

A2STEAM@Northside: opened this year as a K-8 program, with just over 600 students. The old gym has transitioned to band and orchestra space and PLTW space.

PLTW Learning Environment: AAPS is the only district in Michigan to offer PLTW K-12.

Allen@West: students are in the new space at West Middle School. Staff and parents came together to make sure the school could open on the first day of school.

The 2016-17 welcome video, highlighting the district’s focus on A2gether, is shown.

Thomas thanks Swift for reinstating the Reading Intervention program. He clarifies that about 84 new teachers were hired, in addition to the 90 new hires to replace retired teachers. The focus is on reducing classroom size at the high school and middle school levels. Swift says they hoped to relieve the classroom pressure overall by their hires.

Stead says A2gether is a great theme, no matter the reason why. It’s the right unifying theme this year. She thanks Dottie Davis for a cool A2gether logo.

Mexicotte acknowledges that there are challenges they expect at the beginning of the year, and there are challenges they didn’t expect. It’s a testament to the staff and families that the start of the year has started off well.

9:49 PM BOARD RECESSES FOR A 10 MINUTE BREAK

10:09 PM BOARD RECONVENES

FIRST BRIEFING: Pediatric Therapy Associates Contract Recommendation

Elaine Brown, Executive Director Student Intervention & Support Services, makes the recommendation to renew the annual contract with Pediatric Therapy Associates for $235,200. The amount only covers the costs of the physical therapists. Occupational therapists have been hired in as FTE.

Lasinski is pleased they are able to provide consistency with therapists.

SECOND BRIEFING: Transportation Policy 

Mexicotte gives background on the policy change.  Governance committee considered changing the policy to reflect the provision of space available transportation. It was brought up for a first briefing in July. Concerns brought up when discussed during first briefing: would there be space available, 1.5 mile walk zone. Discussion around if this service would be available to students who come into the district through SOC.

Mexicotte says the policy is clearly “space available.” There have been concerns in the community, since there have been higher than expected ridership this school year.

There were some discussions that occurred between YCS and AAPS board members – YCS sees this policy as providing encouragement to their students to leave the district and head to AAPS through SOC.

Swift says they are currently working through a set of  general guidelines that are careful and clear, but that are not yet specific. They would  that would only result in extra seats available. Mexicotte says they may not move one more step forward based on tonight’s discussion.

Thomas asks if the intention was to include SOC students, but not to include students who live in the district but who attend a different school through in-district transfer.  “The in-district student is included; the magnet student is not,” clarifies Mexicotte.

Thomas believes that it makes sense that if there were extra space on any of their buses, it would be prudent to make that space available once they have accommodated all who need the bussing. He addresses some concerns from the community: they are not going to be sending busses into Ypsilanti to take them into Ann Arbor. Buses will not be added to the fleet in order to provide this service.

Baskett would appreciate clarification on the magnet school component. Mexicotte says there was no expectation that the district would transport magnet students. Baskett says that when they opened Skyline, they promised students they would have transportation to help diversify the school. It seems to her not fair, that they would not offer transportation to students who are already here, but they would offer it to SOC students. Baskett has not been in favor of offering transportation to SOC students from the beginning.

Swift says there are some legacy routes that transport to Skyline and “have since the beginning.”

Baskett asks for more solid numbers of how many students would use the space available bussing. Swift says they don’t know what the demand would be yet, but they do know that in other districts, it is not a hugely used service.

Lasinski: wouldn’t be adding any additional busses to do this. Not filling current buses to full capacity. wouldn’t be doing it anywhere where a bus is at near capacity. No stops outside current attendance zones. Wouldn’t be adding any routes to do it. Swift confirms all of this. Lasinski says she “missed the magnet piece.” Mexicotte says those students had already decided they were going to attend those schools without those transportation options.

There is no legal requirement to bus, reminds Mexicotte.

Lasinski is amenable to Thomas’s suggestion is trying it out for a year with in-district transfers, and then adding SOC students next year. If there’s an empty seat on the bus, she believes, it should be used.

After robust discussion led by Baskett and Thomas, who both argued for transportation for magnet students, Mexicotte says they could add on to the policy, “those students who live in the school’s attendance area, but do not live in the school’s transported area, in-district transfers, and magnet students.”

Manley says that if they’re not going to change any of the bus routes or add any buses, she doesn’t think this policy will be possible. She doesn’t think they’re ready to make this decision before they have more buses and better routes available, in order to provide transportation to in-district or magnet students. She also notes that when the weather gets cold, bus ridership further increases.

Mexicotte says it “really is a policy about access.” She emphasizes that the space available won’t be made on buses that are at or near capacity.

Stead says this is interesting timing. Transportation is an access issue, she argues. She’s hearing there is a united interest in improving transportation from her colleagues. The commitment is around providing access and removing barriers. She says there is a cap on SOC students in the district – cap set at 5% of students.

Stead weighs some of the pros and cons: there is overcrowding on some buses. She would want to improve access for magnet and in-district transfer students. However, it’s hard to watch buses go by with empty seats. At the end of the day, they are committed to improving access. She would like to see broader context for policy like this. If they were to do this well, it would add routes and costs, she says.

Baskett asks again about bus usage numbers. She doesn’t see empty buses where she lives. Swift says it’s too earlier to have that specific data for this year, and it won’t be available until the end of September.

Swift says that if the board supports this policy change, it directs her and her team to look for seats available after issues of overcrowding were resolved.

Lasinski suggests an amendment to the policy: change “live in the school’s attendance area” to “live in Ann Arbor Public Schools.” She also asks they remove the sentence regarding SOC students.

Mexicotte says she’s trying to support more students getting to school on the buses. She doesn’t think many students would use this, but there are students for whom this would ease their way. If “there is no space, then there is no space.”

Mexicotte asks the trustees if they are interested in passing with Lasinski’s amendment or if they do not want to move forward with the policy.

Stead says she could support the policy, but they notes they have work to do as a board in revisiting issues of transportation as a whole. Stead wishes she knew more about the implementation.

Manley could support it with Lasinski’s change, but doesn’t think they’re ready to implement it now.

Lasinski says she could support it and doesn’t think the policy change would indicate a start date – it just allows the district team to move forward on figuring out how it could work. Baskett wants to make sure they could do it right. She wants them to take care of the students they have already committed to.

11:16 PM Mexicotte takes the policy off the consent agenda, opting instead to have a separate vote. There is a motion to vote on the policy.

The revised policy:

Policy 3760 – Transportation

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.   The Superintendent may direct that transportation be provided in other cases for reasons of student safety or efficiency of district operations.

Recommended Addition:
In an effort to increase access and opportunity for all students, students may ride District school buses from a regularly established and scheduled bus stop on a “Space Available Basis.”  This service is available to those students that live in the Ann Arbor Public Schools’ attendance area, but do not live in the school’s transported area.  Families interested in Space Available Transportation must apply annually through the District and abide by all regulations, rules and guidelines set forth under this policy.

The amended policy is unanimously approved by the board.

REVIEW OF SUMMER PURCHASES

Swift presents the board with a list of some purchases that were made over the summer. The board authorized Swift to make purchases and hires over the summer.

Jill Minnick, executive director finance, breaks down the purchases based on the funds they came from.

  • general fund $84,000
  • bond fund, $592,648
  • sinking fund $135,396

CONSENT AGENDA

All second briefing items are placed on the consent agenda:

  • summer purchases approval

The consent agenda is approved unanimously.

BOARD ACTION: MASB Delegate Certification

After no one volunteers to go, Mexicotte says this year might be a year AAPS does not send any delegates to go to the annual MASB delegate convention. Lasinski makes a motion to have Lightfoot, as the MASB delegate, attend the convention.

AGENDA PLANNING: None

ITEMS FROM THE BOARD

Manley puts in a plug for Rick’s Run for Kids 2016, this year on October 15. Proceeds from the run benefit the Rec & Ed Youth Scholarship Fund.

Thomas shares the loss of Fifi Norton, Steve Norton’s mother. A memorial service at Glacier Hill will be held this Sunday.

11:31 PM MEETING ADJOURNED


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