AAPS Board Mulls School Start Time Survey Results; Allen Elem Set to Reopen April 12

Ann Arbor Public Schools Board of Education regular meeting (February 8, 2017): Pioneer High School, 601 W Stadium Blvd.

The Ann Arbor Public Schools (AAPS) Board of Education (BOE) trustees will vote themselves into executive session at 5:30 PM this evening, citing attorney/client privilege. Executive sessions are closed to the public. The regular meeting begins at 7:00 PM.

Superintendent Jeanice Swift will give an update on Allen Elementary. The Allen school community has been housed in West Middle School in Ypsilanti since a broken water main flooded in August of last year.

Further information regarding high school start times will be given by Paul DeAngelis, Executive Director High School Education. He was not able to fully present the results of the ThoughtExchange survey conducted in December 2016 at the last board meeting, as the ThoughtExchange reps weren’t available to present at such a late hour.

A first briefing will be given on a Pioneer High School A/C Unit Bid Recommendation.

No second briefings are scheduled.

Board action will be taken on the annual approval of financial institutions and on a resolution on the immigration executive order. At the last regular meeting, trustee Harmony Mitchell asked the executive team to examine JPMorgan Chase and Wells Fargo banks, as they both support DAPL, the Dakota Access Pipeline.

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Present: President Christine Stead, Vice President Susan Baskett, Trustees Patricia Manley, Jeff Gaynor, Harmony Mitchell, Simone Lightfoot, Jessica Kelly

7:04PM Stead calls the meeting to order.

AGENDA APPROVAL: approved without change

PUBLIC COMMENTARY: One person signed up

Colleen Seifert: She brings forward a new research study regarding school start times. Both attendance and graduation rates increased after school start times were delayed in high schools.

Stead clarifies that there will be an update on school start times on tonight’s agenda.



Stead comments on the successful nomination of Betsy DeVos. She wishes DeVos success in that role. Stead says they are hopeful she takes that role in all the seriousness that it warrants, given public education is critical to the role of democracy in America.


Swift thanks the community for the feedback they received regarding the district’s statement on immigration. She summarizes, saying it is an encouraging time that we live in a community that values all its children.

Swift also acknowledges National School Counselor Week. She thanks the school counselors for their “dedicated service,” noting that the fall of 2016 was a stark reminder of how important the role school counselors play in caring for students. The counselors are currently sponsoring a series of grief and loss support sessions.

Swift also notes highlights from students, teachers, schools, and programs around the district. She mentions that Governor Snyder released his proposed budget earlier today. Snyder is proposing some additions to K-12 funding, and Swift says they will be advocating for the legislators to stay the course and keep that funding increase in the final approved budget.

Lightfoot notes that on every national measure, AAPS is among the top of the country, but the State of Michigan penalizes the district. She is referring to the fact that

Videos from Eberwhite and Bryant Elementary schools showcase the district theme of “a2together.” Eberwhite students pledged to be inclusive of their fellow students. Bryant students sing about Martin Luther King, Jr and peace all around the world. Swift says they need to “act locally” to make district schools safe places for students to grow and learn.


Planning: Manley reports on their first meeting of the Planning Committee, which was held on 2/1.  LeeAnn Dickinson-Kelly reviewed most recent Michigan State report Card. District rating improved from the previous year. Eighteen schools were taken off the Focus School list. Scarlett Middle School remains as a Focus School, in limbo, as the State has changed the designation.

Elaine Brown, 126 of the districts IEPs were not completed in time. State requires districts to be 95% in compliance. The district is 94% in compliance, and there is

A new math curriculum is being put in place for some schools in the district to help with retention.

Allen and enhancements are completed. Contractors last day is March 17.

DeAngelis presented naming recommendation of Huron High School softball field.

Performance: Will meet on 2/23 at 4PM at Balas.

Governance: Will meet on 3/17 at Balas.

INFORMATION ITEM: AAPS Celebrates Black History Month

Swift talks about how AAPS recognizes Black History Month. A slideshow of photos from around the district are shown. All middle school students are going to screenings of the movie Hidden Figures.

National African American Parent Involvement Day, NAAPID, is Monday, February 13. All parents are invited to come into their students’ schools on that day. NAAPID at Night will be held that evening from 5:00-8:30 PM at Towsley Auditorium at Washtenaw Community College.

INFORMATION ITEM: Update on Allen Elementary

A slideshow is shown to illustrate the progress made on Allen after the flood on August 18, 2016.

The work at Allen is “on track, on time, and under budget,” says Swift. It aligns with the proposed plan the board approved last year. They anticipate moving out of West at the end of March, and will work to move over spring break. Students will return to Allen Elementary on Wednesday, April 12. Swift reminds the community that Allen students will have the two days before and after spring break as “non-school days.” Baskett clarifies that those non-school days are only for the Allen community.

The relocation of the water pipe is completed, and the redesign of the pipe should keep anything like that from happening again. New flooring is installed, the paint is complete. Final cleaning is underway.

Swift say they are down to 62 days on the countdown clock for students to return to Allen. She thanks everyone for their work and for their commitment to restoring and enhancing the Allen school community.

Gaynor commends Swift and her team for work above and beyond. Lightfoot thanks them for keeping the community apprised of any updates. Baskett thanks the Allen community at large. Swift thanks Ypsilanti Community Schools for their partnership with AAPS.

INFORMATION ITEM: High School Start Times

8:04PM Swift says in AAPS, they believe the science and the research, showing students would do better with later start times. If anyone is interested in the research, she directs them to startschoollater.net. They believe the science, but they need to figure out the path.

The district has worked incrementally to move high school start times later. They changed the comprehensive high school start times to 7:45 AM. Bus pick-up times are later, starting at 6:40-7:20 AM. Pioneer and Huron High Schools now have a full seven hour days.

Swift notes they are moving to a focus of “on demand, choice learning” for high school students. They are using the tension of school start times to drive the On the continuum of very satisfied to very dissatisfied with school start times, Swift says, there is a fairly even spread. She notes that the people who said they were more dissatisfied tended to be the ones who had more to say, overall.

After tonight, the district will be continuing the community input phase. They will be asking to launch an advisory team to get busy working on the details. They would like to come back to the board in about 60 days with some options and some ideas. During that 60 days, the district would be interacting with the community to get ideas, etc.

DeAngelis reminds the board and the community that they made this presentation at the last board meeting without the interaction and the website that will be ready at the conclusion of the meeting. Tonight, DeAngelis is joined by two ThoughtExchange representatives, who are based in Vancouver. They are remotely calling in, and they are the ones who are controlling the slides we are viewing.

Participation Numbers:

  • 4,512 people participate
    • 2,693 parents
    • 1,430 students
    • 369 staff members
    • 20 community members
  • 10,661 thoughts contributed
  • 181,594 starts assigned
  • 30% participation rate

Summary Themes: Largest Areas of Conversation

  • Support Later Start Time: received largest amount of conversation and interest 
    • support sleep and student health/wellness
    • support sleep and academic performance
    • support later start times
    • prefer later than current start times
    • support safety
  • Impact on Extracurricular and Transportation
  • Academics and Student performance
  • Against Later Start Times

Baskett asks a question about the way the information is being presented. All of this information will be made public after tonight’s meeting. The website can be accessed here.

When shown the graph that shows how people indicated their satisfaction with the current school start times, Baskett asked if that information could be broken down by who answered it: students, parents, staff. The ThoughtExchange reps said they would need to further break those numbers down.

Baskett clarifies that tonight is just showing how the data that was collected before is now being collated. The question for this endeavor, says Swift, was “what is the will of our community” regarding school start times. Given the results of this data, they see that they need to launch an advisory group to determine some specific ideas and thoughts. The community will be asked to weigh in on those ideas.

Lightfoot says that this is the data that substantiates all that they thought before. Her idea is moving forward on creating a committee to look at all the competing interests. Now that committee will have all the pertinent data the district didn’t have before.

Gaynor says he’s hesitant to comment, since he wasn’t on the board when this study was commissioned. Here’s data to back up the conclusion that is based on people’s opinions. He wants to make sure they are clear, transparent, and purposeful. Just because they can do the breakdown in such a fashion, is it worth the district’s time and money to invest in such a way of going about the study.

Stead says this is the first time they have used this ThoughtExchange tool. The tool has been valuable in being able to gather more feedback than sitting around a table in a community gathering. This is a “richer way” of gathering input. Stead says when she looks at the satisfaction piece, it’s unclear if there is a clear will of the community to change things. It’s not a foregone conclusion to her.

What she does appreciate about this team and this effort, Stead says, is that it seems authentic. She looks forward to seeing the work continue.

Baskett says it seems “pretty cool” everyone has the opportunity to have a voice on this topic. She asks if the ThoughtExchange partners are able to make conclusions or are they only the data gatherers. Swift says she hears that Baskett is asking for an executive summary of the information gleaned. The devil is in the details, Baskett maintains. Swift clarifies that ThoughtExchange is helping with the tool.

Lightfoot appreciates the suggestion that ThoughtExchange can provide a summary. She also emphasizes that the board make their decision based on this administration with this administration’s practice and procedures. Lightfoot maintains she does not support a  wholesale change of high school start times. There is room to be creative in how they work to address the a la carte approach to when students start school.

While she applauds a 30% response rate to an online survey, Kelly’s concern is that 70% of the district didn’t respond to the survey. She wonders if there is a way to reach out to the district population that didn’t respond. Swift also wonders who is not in that number of respondents.

Mitchell loves the data. She loves that people were able to participate. She asks how much the district will weigh the science in the issue. Swift says she doesn’t have the answer to that, but notes that will be part of the advisory group’s way forward. Their job will be to “do the thinking” and come up with some options. Mitchell clarifies that the advisory group would come back with a “buffet of options” for the board to talk through.

Manley appreciates the opportunity to see the data. She says she is in the middle, unable to say what she supports right now. Once the trustees get the various options from the advisory board, maybe people in the community will realize that a change will be too difficult.

Stead emphasizes to the public that their voices matter. She says they may reach out again to the public to see if they can increase the 30% response rate. She also notes that they have been providing targeted options to meet the needs of the desires of families in the district.

Lightfoot thanks the team for the work they are about to embark on. She also says they shouldn’t feel bad if they don’t come back in 60 days with a large menu.

Next steps:

  • Make website public (will be public tomorrow morning)
  • Establish an advisory team to continue the study
  • ThoughtExchange conversation on scenarios/topics

FIRST BRIEFING: Pioneer High School A/C Unit Bid Recommendation

9:06PM Jen Hein, support recommendation of two rooftop units, which will be installed right above the cafeteria in Pioneer. The plan is to replace the two units on the roof currently. One of those units does not work and they are uncertain the second unit will “fire up” this year.

The recommendation is to go with WJ O’Neill Company for $191,840 for two rooftop units.

Manley points out that because of the work done by the Governance Committee, there is now an asterisk near the “prevailing wage” column on the graph, highlighting that a “no” response in that column would trigger the administration to investigate worker pay rate.

Hein says the longest part of the process is the fabrication of the units. Installation should only take a week. The work should be completed by the beginning of May.

Stead clarifies that this is a first briefing item. It will come up as a second briefing item at the next regular meeting in two weeks. The trustees will vote on the item as part of the consent agenda at that meeting, barring no changes.


Meeting minutes and approval of donations

The consent agenda is unanimously approved.

BOARD ACTION ITEM: Annual Approval of Financial Institutions

Stead says every year they approve their financial institutions.

Manley appreciates that Mitchell brought concerns to the table about the financial institutions. She also feels it takes research and time to see how those things negatively impact AAPS.

Kelly asks Mitchell if the research and the information provided has satisfied her concerns. Mitchell says she got back that they needed more time to research. She says she’s fine with it, and she feels that the board as a whole takes this issue seriously. She feels comfortable saying that they can continue with her partners and this is an issue they need to continue to look at.

Gaynor thanks Mitchell for bringing up this issue to the community. He sees it as the impact on the district, as well as a matter of principle. The prime lenders for the DAPL are not banks we work with, at least the Michigan divisions. They don’t want to hold up the functioning of AAPS.

Stead says this item and others like it will be an opportunity for discussion at their retreat next week. She appreciates the concerns that have been raised. They need to do their best to protect the students and be good stewards and good partners. They will talk at the retreat about how they want to prioritize their work.

The list of financial institutions is unanimously approved.

BOARD ACTION: Resolution to Assure All Students Are Safe and Welcome in AAPS Regardless of Immigration Status

Stead notes it is rare to begin a year with resolutions back to back. Tonight, they are entertaining a resolution as a board welcoming students to AAPS, regardless of their immigration status.

Stead thanks Gaynor and Kelly for their work on this resolution. She also thanks Ann Arbor Mayor Chris Taylor, University of Michigan President Mark Schlissel, and Swift for their leadership in reassuring those who live in the Ann Arbor area that it is a safe place.

Gaynor reads the resolution in its entirety. He notes that Swift’s January 30th statement garnered feedback from across the district, state, and nationally. Swift confirmed she has heard positive feedback from nearly 200 people about the statement she made.

Mitchell says for “our children,” they will put a target on their backs. “Whenever you stand up for a just and worthy cause, you should never be afraid.” She thanks the entire board, the administration, and Ann Arbor for taking a stand on this issue.

Gaynor says he will accept a friendly amendment suggested by Manley to add Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos as an intended recipient of the resolution.

Manley says she isn’t sure if there is misinformation about it, but she has had questions asked of her that if they are taking a stand on it, will there be financial consequences. Swift says she ran it by legal counsel, they said are certain there wouldn’t be consequences, but if anything were to change, she would make the board aware of it immediately.

Baskett said she spoke to Mayor Taylor about the term “sanctuary city.” As The City of Ann Arbor contemplates declaring itself a sanctuary city, AAPS is declaring itself a sanctuary district. She says it “matters a lot.”

The resolution is unanimously adopted.


9:38 PM Stead reminds them that the board will be meeting for their retreat next Wednesday, saying there will be much planning going on there.


Gaynor thanks the Skyline principal, teachers, and former students of his, as he had a chance to visit there. He also makes mention of Orchestra Night, which is tomorrow night.

Baskett notes that they had their first Trustee Thursday at Bryant. She noted they met with the PTO Executive Committee. Next Trustee Thursday at Bryant at 5:30 PM.

Lightfoot emphasizes NAAPID at Night – 2/13, 5:00-8:30 PM at the Towsley Auditorium at WCC.

Stead talks about the work done with the coalition of Washtenaw districts.


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4 thoughts on “AAPS Board Mulls School Start Time Survey Results; Allen Elem Set to Reopen April 12”

  1. I could be wrong, but I think 30% is actually a pretty high survey response rate. I’m surprised no one recognized that fact.

    e.g. https://www.surveygizmo.com/survey-blog/survey-response-rates/ says “Internal surveys will generally receive a 30-40% response rate (or more) on average, compared to an average 10-15% response rate for external surveys.” Their survey was targeted at an external audience, so 30% is higher than average. (It was also kind of a weird tool to interact with, so I’d be interested to learn if the survey company tracked drop outs.)

  2. Also on this point: “The district has worked incrementally to move high school start times later. They changed the comprehensive high school start times to 7:45 AM. ”

    Pioneer’s start time was moved back by *5* minutes. 5! Hardly a major change. And when they made the change, they shifted Community to be earlier.

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