AAPS BOE Hears SAT Results, 2015 Bond Update; Bus Issues Being Addressed

Ann Arbor Public Schools Board of Education regular meeting (October 5, 2016): Forsythe Middle School, 1655 Newport Rd

The Ann Arbor Public Schools (AAPS) Board of Education (BOE) trustees will meet in executive session at 5:30 PM this evening, citing attorney/client privilege. Executive sessions are closed to the public.

The regular meeting, starting at 7:00 PM, will begin with a moment of silence for Huron High student Laura Burns, who passed away September 27, and Pioneer High student Jordan Klee, who passed away October 4.

The trustees will hear several information reports: Rick’s Run for Kids; the annual SAT student achievement report; an update on the 2015 bond; and a transportation update  from Superintendent Jeanice Swift.

No first briefings will be held.

A second briefing will be held on the contract recommendation for Pediatric Therapy Associates for a total cost of $235,200. Funding from IDEIA will cover $172,480 of the contract, with the remaining funding coming from the General Fund.

Voting will be on Pediatric Therapy Associates contract.

7:02 PM President Deb Mexicotte calls the meeting to order. Vice President Christine Stead, trustees Simone Lightfoot, Donna Lasinski, Susan Baskett, Patricia Manley are present. Trustee Andy Thomas is absent.


Moments of silence are held for Huron High student Laura Burns and Pioneer High student Jordan Klee.


Steven Singleton, Haisley parent: seven-year-old son in 3rd grade. School found out about his age, then told parent they were going to put him back in 2nd grade. Singleton wants to circumvent this from going to litigation. He commutes from Rochester Hills, wants best education for his kids. Is speaking to the board to alert them to his son’s situation.

Lightfoot notes that Dawn Linden, Elementary Education, has stood up to speak with Singleton.

ASSOCIATION REPORTS: PTOC (Parent Teacher Organization Council)

Steve Norton, member of the executive board of the PTOC and co-BOE rep, Ed Naines: theme of the year that represents a common thread of the monthly meetings: Engagement. He enters a copy of the PTOC meeting schedule into the record and invites everyone to the meetings. Launch party scheduled on 10/17 at 6:30 PM at Scarlett Middle School. Will be a BOE candidate meet and greet – each candidate will have his or her own table.

Lasinski thanks Norton and Nains for their involvement in PTOC.



Swift highlights students, staff, organizations, and events around the district. Fifty AAPS students who have been named National Merit Scholarship Semi-finalists. AAPS has more semi-finalists than any other Michigan district. Hikone, Japan delegates have been touring the district this past week. The Cougar Trail opened at Clague, the culmination of five years of work with AAPS, the Clague PTSO, and many other organizations. Today, October 5, is Count Day [the day where student attendance is counted to determine the foundational allowance from the state]. Swift also asks the public to sign up for Rick’s Run.

Allen Elementary update: in the midst of assessment phase with engineers. District is waiting for full assessment. There will be a study session early November to discuss the assessment. Security company is there every day. Polling location change for two precincts that usually poll at Allen to Pattengill Elementary.


Planning: Stead says Planning hasn’t met yet, but is meeting next week. Public is welcome to attend.

Performance: has not met yet. Will be meeting 10/25.

Governance: will be meeting early November.

7:28 PM INFORMATION ITEM: Rick’s Run for Kids

Jenna Bacolor, Executive Director Community Services & School Wellness, speaks about Rick’s Run for Kids, established in 2014. The 5K run memorializes Rick Dekeon, a beloved PE teacher at Northside Elementary. Third annual run is Saturday, October 15 at 9:00.  Rick believed that every kid regardless of family income, should have access to sports and after school activities. Proceeds from the run benefit the scholarship fund.

7:32 PM INFORMATION ITEM: Annual Student Achievement Report:: 2016 SAT

When introducing the 2016 SAT results, Swift says they are looking at the new 2016 SAT data as baseline data. In previous years, the district (and all Michigan districts) was required to administer the ACT to all 11th graders. This year marks the first year Michigan students are required to take the SAT. Only four states in the country that require 100% of students take SAT: Connecticut, Delaware, Michigan, and New Hampshire.

AAPS high schools ranked in the Top 20 of Michigan high schools; AAPS mean score 1160.3, State 1001.2

Swift highlights student sub-group comparison. She says there is “quite a lot of work to do” to narrow the gap for African American, Hispanic, economically disadvantaged students.

Gender comparison: in the district, boys overall scored higher than girls – 1175.3 to 1144.8

Also compared with WISD charter and consortium schools, county-wide districts, high-performing districts, and comparable districts.

After comparing mean scores, Swift compares College Readiness percentages. SAT College Readiness scores:

  • evidence based reading and writing: 460/800
  • mathematics: 510/800

Disparities with AA, Hispanic, Multi-ethnic, Economically disadvantaged, Special Education students.

Lasinski wants to confirm that the data shows that AAPS students are scoring more within a higher band. She cites the difference between the mean scores and the college readiness scores. Swift agrees but says that Jane Landefeld, Executive Director Student Accounting & Research Services, can more thoroughly determine that.

Lasinski also asks about the advantages of the SAT Assessment, asking if the advantages cited were the same as the ACT except now the district has lost all their data on student performance. By driving the test decision by cost, the district has lost valuable data on student performance.

Mexicotte says SAT has made a claim about the College Readiness score to be more value-added. She cautions taking that score with a “grain of salt.” It might offer some insight into disparities between groups, but ACT did something similar.

Stead notes that the diversity in the district is unique and the diversity is more than any other district in the county. In the past couple years, AAPS has been identified as one of the top districts for special education students to go to to be able to succeed. She would like to compare district data with scores from the other three states who require all students take the SAT. She is proud of Michigan for requiring that all 11th grade students take a college-prepatory test. Stead says switching from ACT to the SAT was strictly a cost-savings measure on the state, without consideration for the students.

Manley is pleased four of the district high schools placed in the Top 20 in Michigan. While the scores for African American students weren’t “terribly high, it wasn’t terribly low.”

Lightfoot wants to know what the public is getting by this move to the SAT. Swift says there has been a “ratcheting up” of standards, so now what is on the test actually corresponds more to college readiness. The district also offers Parent Information Nights to disseminate information to parents about the new SAT. Over 300 parents attended the first SAT Information meeting. Swift notes they had a representative from the College Board to speak to parents.

Lightfoot struggles with the fact that the new SAT is all tech-based. The test is administered entirely on the computer. She asks if the state offered additional funds to support schools for having to administer an online test to all 11th graders. While Swift initially says no, Merri Lynn Colligan, Executive Director, Technology & Information  Services confirms the district received a Tech Readiness Grant that the district received of $10/student to help prepare for the testing. Lightfoot thanks the community again for passing the technology bond in 2015.

Lightfoot wants students to be able to practice taking online tests more to help alleviate stress.

Mexicotte notes that the state could change their mind tomorrow about which test they want mandated for students. The district teaches to the standards, not to the test. M-STEP and the MEAP before it, doesn’t assess the standards. The SAT offers opportunity to a college entrance test to some students who might not otherwise have it.

8:17 PM INFORMATION ITEM: 2015 Bond Advisory Update

Bond approved at about 80% approval rate. Generated $35M for students and classrooms. New busses can be identified by their white tops.

Dawn Linden, Executive Director Elementary Education, is joined by the rest of the Bond Advisory Facilitators (BAF). The purpose of the Bond Advisory Committees is to engage community members. Linden walks through an update on the process and the criteria for each decision made.

Outdoor Athletics Fields and Facilities (AFF): Assessed all facilities at the schools, giving them ratings from poor, fair, to excellent. Surveyed principals, ADs, PE teachers, and paid coaches of the schools. Asked about conditions, usage, and top priorities.

Prioritized using middle school “zones” to ensure equitable geographical distribution across the district. Working with committee to analyze and prioritize with work beginning in 2017.

Musical Instruments and Equipment: surveyed all music teachers as to which instruments they are most in need and assessed the instruments they currently have. Steinway rep assessed every piano in the district. Gathered data from every building as to number of students enrolled in music and the number of instruments needed (4655-5620 instruments, 120 pianos).

By December 2016, instrument needs list developed for purchase with purchases being made in the spring.

Lightfoot asks if the expert’s assessment was cross-referenced with the teachers, to which she was told yes.

Auditoriums: CPS, Inc was hired to assess the condition of every auditorium in the district. District also surveyed every building regarding auditorium needs. Repairs and equipment for buildings will be implemented in 2017.

Classroom Environment: Spent a lot of time on ideal vs. current state review. The committee focused on: Flexibility/Mobility/Adaptability; Durability/Sustainability; Age Appropriate; Storage. Has begun a pilot process of 12 pilot classrooms for students and teachers to experience and give feedback on. Pre and post surveys. All have seated, standing, relaxing,  mobile options. Teachers who are participating pilot program have had professional development on the furniture. Bond Furniture Open House – community can experience the new furniture and provide feedback on various manufacturers and models. Pilots are in place, post-surveys will occur, recommendations will be made, implemented in 2017.

Baskett asks how [elementary] students feel ownership over their own desks. She refers to the desks that had lids where students could keep their own belongings. She wants to hear the feedback from the adults and the students. Mexicotte reminds the trustees that they are not Millenials “or Generation Z.”

Playgrounds: The committee has assessed the current condition of the playgrounds. Natural scape play is important to the committee.  New playgrounds have already been installed at Carpenter, STEAM@Northside, Bryant, Burns Park. Focusing on equity for ADA universal design. The timeline: playground guide developed, recommendations submitted by November 2016 with work beginning in 2017.

There will be a minimum standard that every school gets, but some money will be reserved to address equity needs. There will be an application process that will allow access to some of those reserved funds for schools.

Lasinski encourages parents, community to participate in bringing a broader vision to the playgrounds.

Swift thanks the trustees for approving the district’s move on implementing the bond funds. She is proud of the teacher, student, staff input. Swift says she didn’t ask the BAF to provide a $35M plan, but to provide a plan for the future. So they are looking at building in the capacity to sustain the quality of what is being implemented.

Next steps: each bond advisory will:

  • determine the ideal and develop recommendations
  • present recommendations to Swift
  • establish purchase specifications and begin the bid process

9:04 PM INFORMATION ITEM: Transportation Update

Swift says that providing safe and student-centered transportation continues as a priority. Still working on resolving some issues. Throughout these adjustments is safety. Increased number of routes  from 98 to 106, due to enrollment and increase in ridership. Have been working to preserve ride times, so students aren’t being picked up too early and are arriving on time.

District met with Durham – participated in a problem-solving session last Thursday to “ensure [they] are addressing the root cause and taking all the steps [they] can to resolve any remaining transportation needs.” From that session:

  • Durham anticipates having hired and trained adequate drivers to staff all AAPS routes
  • made some adjustments to routing to support MS afternoon pick-up times, which have been running behind schedule.
  • AAPS will work with Durham to host an AAPS job fair, so that we continue to hire drivers and monitor adequate staffing year-round.

Swift asks for parents to email or call, as they “will absolutely address the issue in real time.” They will try to resolve by afternoon drive time. Durham: 734-994-2330. If for any reason, you don’t get an answer from Durham, call AAPS.

Lightfoot thanks Swift for the update. She notes that the issues have raised primarily from increased enrollment, as well as increased ridership. Swift notes that the change in start times and the nationwide driver shortage have also had substantial impact.

Swift says one of the hurdles is that driving with Durham is a part-time job and with the improvement in the economy, it is easier for people to get full-time employment. They have decided to combine driving positions with lunchroom supervisorship in order to get positions up to the 30-35 hours needed for benefits. They are also working on incentives to keep drivers with Durham and AAPS.

There aren’t a lot of companies who provided custodial and transportation, Lightfoot notes. So when members of the public ask, “Why don’t you get a different company?” it’s not that easy.

Baskett asks about the length of bus rides students are having, based on the emails many of the trustees have received. Swift says generally they watch drive times to keep them under 30 minutes, and have worked to make sure they didn’t have pick up times before early than 6:45. Swift says she’s pushing for 7:00 or later. Swift says that has been their “shared agreement” but is not sure that they are written into the agreement.

Baskett asks about number of high schoolers to a seat. Swift says one of the reasons they went from 98 to 106 routes was to manage the larger bodies and instruments. She also asks about how communication is coming from Durham – considering bus drivers were passing out sheets of paper to students, letting them know about bus route changes. The communication should come from the district.

Lightfoot brings up privatization. Now they are going to have to renegotiate contracts. While they might save on pension dollars, they are now having to shoulder so much more. When the district outsources but is still doing a fair amount of the work, is the district being compensated? The rates should be adjusted, if the district is doing some of the work to make it workable.

Swift says it is a partnership – that partnership needs “nurturing and guidance.” Just like a good marriage, she says, it requires vigilance on both sides. Swift says there are times when the district could have done better to deliver Durham what they need.

Being able to change a route between morning and the afternoon drive is new, notes Stead. That kind of change was not possible before when the district partnered with WISD. As dollars are more precious, the district has had to put the focus more on what is most important to education. Stead says she hasn’t ever seen the buildings cleaner than they were this fall.

Lightfoot agrees, but says “sometimes you can’t save the marriage.” If a company is not delivering the standards, they need to know Ann Arbor “don’t play.” Stead agrees, saying they have more tools to assess than they ever have. When partnerships work well, Swift says, the district should be able to focus on what is most important: the students.

Swift promises the trustees and the community that they will stay on it.

Mexicotte focuses on the longer view: some years, they transport students and it goes really well, and some years, it doesn’t go as well. Some of the challenges faced this fall are different than the challenges faced last year, despite the fact that it is the same company. In-house transportation did not always go smoothly, year to year. The trustees need to look at if this is a “bump in the road” or if it is a systemic problem.


SECOND BRIEFING: Pediatric Therapy Associates Contract Recommendation

There is no change to the recommendation, and there is no discussion.


The only thing on the consent agenda is the contract recommendation.

The consent agenda passes unanimously.


Mexicotte says the Executive Committee will be meeting in October to consider the Superintendent eval process and steps for renewal of strategic plan.

Swift announces the ribbon cutting for the Mitchell Elem expansion.

9:35 PM The meeting is adjourned. 

AnnArbivore is sustained solely through reader support. Please subscribe through Patreon to keep this coverage alive. If you value the citizen journalism provided by AnnArbivore, support us and encourage others to do so, as well. Thank you.

One thought on “AAPS BOE Hears SAT Results, 2015 Bond Update; Bus Issues Being Addressed”

Leave a Reply