Trustees Approve Schools of Choice for 2017/18; Hear Initial Budget Info

Ann Arbor Public Schools Board of Education regular meeting/study session (March 29, 2017): Forsythe Middle School, 1655 Newport Rd

The Ann Arbor Public Schools (AAPS) Board of Education (BOE) trustees will have a combined regular meeting and study session tonight beginning at 5:30 PM.

The regular meeting will begin with a performance by the Tappan Middle School Orchestra, led by Joseph DeMarsh.

There will be three information items: the Spring 2017 Student Count, a 2015 Bond Update, and a 2017 Sinking Fund Update.

No first or second briefings are scheduled.

Board action will be taken on a motion to approve limited school of choice.

The study session, which is an opportunity for the trustees to dig deeper on a single issue, will focus on the 2017/18 Budget. This is the initial introduction of next school year’s budget.


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5:36 PM President Christine Stead calls the regular meeting and the study session to order.

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

AGENDA APPROVAL

The agenda is approved without any changes.

STUDENT PERFORMANCE

The Tappan Middle School Chamber Orchestra, under the direction of Joseph DeMarsh, plays for the Board.

After the orchestra plays, several of the trustees speak. Gaynor says it is an honor to pay tribute to DeMarsh, who is retiring this year. Kelly compliments the chamber for their self-direction. Manley also thanks them for coming. Lightfoot says she appreciates DeMarsh more than he knows. He was the one teacher, she says, who was more demanding on her daughter than she was.

PUBLIC COMMENTARY

Kathy Griswold, former BOE member from 2001-2005: wants to talk about the history of the transportation safety committee. The committee was formed in 1968. First few decades, it was an effective committee. Met once a month, discussed the problems, solved the problems. As time went on, things didn’t work as well. Last fall, tragedy at Fuller Road crosswalk, clearly the fault of the City. The City is ready to work with the district. A community member was able to secure a $30K grant. The City will be approving its budget in May for the fiscal year. She is asking that the transportation safety committee be elevated to a board level committee again, so it is more transparent to the public and that the public can be more involved. An investment in the Transportation Safety Committee will be an

Jack Eaton, serves on the City Council, 4th Ward: Representative on the School Safety/Transportation Safety Committee. He wants to help implement school zones, safe routes to schools processes. He encourages any board member to reach out to him if they have any questions.

Stead clarifies, saying the safety committee has had board level engagement for some time. She says Gaynor is the representative from the school board.

Superintendent Jeanice Swift appreciates the renewed focus on the issue of school safety/transportation safety. She thanks Eaton for being at the meeting tonight, saying she is excited to focus on this work.

ASSOCIATION REPORTS: None

PRESIDENT’S REPORT

Several trustees and Swift attended the National School Board Association (NSBA) Annual Conference this past weekend. She says they want to bring the “best thinking and the best practices” of school boards across the nation to AAPS. They will be disseminating what they learned at a board retreat that will be scheduled in the near future, says Stead.

SUPERINTENDENT’S REPORT

Swift shares highlights from around the district, from Project Lead the Way news to the Families Care Conference to a teacher who is being published; from A2STEAM hosting their spring expo tomorrow night to the Pioneer High School Hall of Fame to 16 new scholarships to the University of Michigan.

Repairs are completed at Allen Elementary. Today was the last day of school at Allen@West. Students will be back at Allen after spring break on April 12. Swift thanks the Ypsilanti Community School board for their support.

There will be five 2017 Sinking Fund Millage Community Information meetings at each of the five middle schools. The meetings will be a Q&A session with Swift.

Stead thanks Jen Hein, Executive Director Physical Properties, for her work on the Allen restoration.

COMMITTEE REPORTS

Planning Committee: Has not met since last meeting. The next meeting is scheduled for April 12.

Performance Committee: Has not met since last meeting. The next meeting is scheduled for April 20.

Governance Committee: Stead says they will be bringing an LGBTQ policy forward to the board. They are in the process of getting some input from legislative leaders and other boards across the country. They will be bringing something forward to the board to review in the future. Next committee meeting will be posted once it’s scheduled.

INFORMATION ITEM: Spring 2017 Student Count

Swift calls out a few details of the Spring 2017 Student Count report. The count was conducted on Wednesday, February 8. Over time, there is a tendency for their to be a decline in enrollment between fall and spring. Swift notes that this is the third year in a row that they have bucked the trend by increasing at the elementary level. Middle school differed by one student. At high school level, saw reduction of 74 students. Includes 12 early graduates, includes two GED students, 23 students who left the state or the country, and 26 students who left to attend another public school or charter school in the state. They are able to account for most of those students. Enrollment is holding strong. The district lost 26 students overall.

Lightfoot says Swift has done a “yeoman’s job” providing the information on where students go to when they leave the district. Stead echoes the compliment, saying it helps them understand the numbers better.

Gaynor notes the drop in enrollment at Haisley, asking Swift why that is happening. Swift says she will get that information for him. The decline in WAVE and WAY is due to the previous board’s direction of getting more students served at Pathways. Stead fills in, saying that the graduation rate at WAVE and WAY was concerning, so they wanted to better serve students at Pathways.

Swift says that if the board is so willing, she asks that they switch the order of the agenda, given that much of her executive team is en route to the board meeting from other meetings around the district. She will present the sinking fund millage proposal first, then the 2015 bond update.

INFORMATION ITEM: 2017 Sinking Fund Millage Proposal

Swift shares the documents on the sinking fund millage that will be made public and will be shared at the information meetings. The sinking fund millage proposal is for a 10 year, 2.5 mills.

If it passes, the sinking fund monies will go towards:

  • Repairs (70%)
  • Expansion/construction (14%)
  • Completing 2015 bond advisory committee recommendations (16%)
    • classroom environment
    • elementary playgrounds
    • auditorium/performance facilities
    • athletic/outdoor learning areas
    • security enhancements

Swift directs the public to the district website to see the materials on the Sinking Fund Millage. The trustees are shown the publicity video for the sinking fund.

Lightfoot says that while she’s usually the trustee who is looking for the cracks, she says that she can’t find any here. The video helps illustrate the need for the millage increase.

Manley notes that the video is thorough enough to answer many questions that the trustees might get regarding the need for the millage. She thanks Andrew Cluley, the districts communication specialist.

Mitchell thanks Swift and her staff for the detailed documents. It answers a lot of questions, she says. Baskett repeats the compliments, saying that regardless of what type of learner someone is, there is information on the millage they can digest. She encourages working with the Citizen’s Millage Committee.

Kelly wonders how the trustees can most appropriately and effectively be involved. Swift says she would love for them to join in any information meetings they can. Lightfoot says she rounds up kids in her area to do literature drops. Stead directs people to the Citizen’s Millage Committee site to learn how they can help.

Stead says the millage gives the board an opportunity to protect the General Fund and to make the needed repairs on the district’s building. She says they “get as far as they can.”

INFORMATION ITEM: 2015 Bond Update – Part 1

6:58 PM Swift says that in 2015, the district’s CFO saw an opportunity to refinance the district’s bond, raising $34M for the district without an increase in the levy for taxpayers. She says she is grateful to the community for supporting the bond at a ~79% approval. With that approval, they have been able to put new buses on the street, improve playgrounds, renew the classroom environment, replace musical instruments. Auditorium and performance areas have been improved.

Swift wants to reiterate how grateful they are for the bond money and wants to illustrate to the community the work that was able to be done with the money.

Dawn Linden, Executive Director Elementary Education, presents.

Bond Advisory Committees

  • Athletic Fields & Facilities
  • Auditorium Upgrades
  • Classroom environment
  • Musical Instruments
  • Playgrounds
  • School Buses
  • Security Enhancements

Process Update

  • Assess Current condition
  • Articulate Ideal
  • Student Focus
  • Prioritize based on Bond Criteria
  • Report to the Superintendent & Board

Outdoor Athletic Fields and Facilities (AFF) Update

Prioritize:

  • used middle school zones
  • serve most number of students
  • meet grade level PE needs

Musical Instruments and Equipment

The committee rated all the district’s instruments to determine which needed to be replaced. Looking to purchase about 4,000 instruments to be in the hands of students.

Auditoriums

The committee surveyed every building regarding auditorium needs.  Prioritized recommendation will include safety, aesthetics, lighting, sound and curtains.

Classroom Environment

The committee has been working on piloting various classroom furniture, after determining the criteria they wanted for classroom environment needs. Zones in the classroom to meet all needs classrooms have: small teams, lecture, visible line of sight to a display, easily moveable.

Swift clarifies that the while the classroom pilots are being implements, there will be furniture from the 2015 bond in all regular classrooms across the district. After the trustees watch a video highlighting some of the new furniture, Baskett says they are setting the bar high for furniture at schools.

Playgrounds

Bond committee put forth their criteria – looking for accessible playground equipment.

School Buses

Advisory recommendations:

  • retire 13 buses beyond their useful lives
  • develop uniform bus specifications
  • replace 23 buses annually for five years. (have already purchase 48 new buses)
  • incorporate safety and environmental enhancement offered on newer models.
  • Next phase: 68 buses remaining to be purchased.

Security

The committee determined ideals, then worked from there.

  • video surveillance for safety/deterrence system installed at every school site
  • security enhancement – door entry systems. Will be replacing current system, since it is not ADA/DHH compliant.

Part II of the Bond Update will be presented on April 12. A brochure that summarizes the Bond work timeline will be available in the near future. Swift says now is an exciting time, as the implementation will begin.

Gaynor asks if the security measures have been vetted by security groups, if they have had the effect they have intended to have. Merri Lynn Colligan, Executive Director Technology & Information Services, says they have asked outside experts to test them for meeting ADA and DHH compliancy. Gaynor is concerned about students who might be injured and need quick access to the school, but he sees that this entry system puts up a barrier. Colligan says that’s why the remote access is such an important part of the enhancement.

Gaynor asks if anyone has buzzed but not have been admitted inside a school. Colligan says not to her knowledge. Hein says they have been fortunate. Gaynor says he doesn’t think it’s “fortunate, but not likely.”

Kelly thanks the team for how thoughtful a presentation it was. She asks if it is possible for a principal to ask for something specific even if it’s not in the preplanned work. Linden confirms that they have, saying that as they replace the furniture, sometimes it opens up previously used furniture for other needs.

Lightfoot says she is learning from the executive team, as they are challenging her notions of what provides good educational practices.

Mitchell equates her three-year-old son’s experience of learning better when he moves to the need for furniture students can move with. Linden and Colligan note that the furniture allows for more flexibility and needed movement for students.

Stead says the Bond Update is complementary to the Sinking Fund Millage, showing what the district can do with the funds.

CONSENT AGENDA

The trustees vote to approve the minutes from the previous meeting’s minutes.

The consent agenda is unanimously approved.

BOARD ACTION ITEM: Approve Limited Schools of Choice for the 2017/18 School Year

Stead says she would like to proceed with this item as they do with any board item. Swift gives context, the Board discusses, then moves to vote on it, possibly.

Swift shares info about open enrollment. There are two parts to open enrollment: In-district transfer and Schools of Choice (SOC).

School choice options have increased dramatically from charter schools to private schools to homeschooling, to online schools, to cooperatives, says Swift.

Swift maintains there is an urban myth out there at students who choose AAPS through SOC don’t pay their bill. She clarifies that when students move into AAPS, their full foundational allowance comes with them. AAPS has offered a limited SOC enrollment since 2010. 7.6% of AAPS students (1,301) are enrolled through SOC. 221 students are enrolled as non-resident child of employee or through district releases.

Mobility, parental custody, poverty, and nuanced family stories drive the request for open enrollment, Swift says. 292 out of the 1,301 SOC were students who had previously been enrolled in AAPS. SOC students are at a higher level of poverty, as evidenced by rates of free/reduced lunch – at a 30.8% rate. Overall district rate at 21.3%

Open Enrollment: In-District Transfer Applications (2017-18 year)

  • Elementary: 362
  • Middle school: 195
  • High school: 261
  • Total: 818

They will open a second in-district transfer window later in the spring. There won’t be as many openings, however.

Student Mobility: newly enrolled “from within” AAPS boundaries

  • 317 enrolled from within 2016-17
  • 230 enrolled from within 2015-16
  • Total over two years: 547

Open Enrollment: SOC Applications/Enrollments (Fall 2016)

  • number of applications: 670
  • entered AAPS via SOC: 333
  • continuing enrollment in AAPS: 112
  • Total SOC: 445

SOC – Fall 2016

  • students continuing enrollment as recent AAPS residents: 292
  • students enrolled in AAPS since K/Grade 1: 399
  • Students enrolled in AAPS since Middle School:
  • Students enrolled in AAPS since High School

2015-16 County Resident/Non-Resident Students

In AAPS, 7.2% (non-residents), 5.8%  (SOC only – children of employees)

Swift asks the trustees for their vote for a limited enrollment of SOC. The number of applications will be 750. If they are supportive of that endeavor, the window would extend from April 13 to May 12 – limited to a 30 day timeframe from the State. If they don’t meet the 750 number in the initial 30-day window, would open a two-week window in August.

Stead says that this vote impacts the budget. She wonders if Swift has a sense if the board were to approve this, if she could share the budget implications of a SOC approval. They use a $7,500 average of foundational allowance for SOC students. The 1,300  SOC students currently enrolled equal $9.75M in General Fund dollars.

Stead chooses to go round robin to give each trustee a chance to speak.

Baskett asks about the application process. Colligan clarifies that placements are done by lottery. It does not matter if a sibling is in the district at the same school.

8:15 PM The trustees recess for a break.

8:33 PM Meeting is resumed

Kelly says that in an ideal world, every child would have a fully funded, safe school in walking district from home. She shares some stories she heard from SOC families at Carpenter, who wouldn’t have chosen their hometown district. She would like to explore options that they can work to help equity in schools across the State. If nearby families can’t choose Ann Arbor and won’t choose their home district, they will be forcing those families to choose charter schools. Schools of Choice is imperfect, she says, but they shouldn’t throw out the babies with the bathwater.

Baskett asks how they monitor the students who came to the district through SOC but then find a home in the district. She asks if once that student is classified as an in-district student, that SOC spot opens up. Swift notes that while the number is open, a place in that school building might not be available.

Manley clarifies SOC is only available for the schools that have space available. Swift says she would share that info to the Board if they approve the limited SOC enrollment. Manley asks if the schools that are getting the modular classrooms will be designated SOC schools. Swift says all four buildings that will be getting modular classrooms have very small numbers of SOC students. As schools get full, Swift says, the valve of SOC students gets shut down. Swift gives the example that at King, one of the schools getting the modular classroom, there is only one SOC student. Swift says they would not create a new class for SOCs, but they might fill in a classroom through SOC.

Mitchell says she was also receiving similar questions regarding SOC openings and the modular classrooms. She talks about how she is thinking about the issue of SOC. Would she put on her Treasurer hat or would she focus on the human component. Does SOC help families? Do we close the door on kids out of the district who have been in AAPS? How is closing the door helpful to other districts? If we were on the opposite end of the stick, would we still say yes?

She shares a story from her past. She grew up in Washington, DC, and had to choose her middle school. She chose to go to a school that specialized in performing arts. After her family moved out of DC public schools, Mitchell needed to change schools in the middle of her 8th grade year. It was very hard on her.

She understands other districts are suffering, but overwhelmingly, when she answers her questions, her answer for SOC is still yes. She couldn’t imagine putting a family through what she went through. A lot of these families look like her, she said, and she understands the struggle they have had to go through.

Baskett has never been a fan of SOC. She does not like what the State forces them to do. It is their funding model, however, and it is their job to secure funding for the district. She does not know where they can make up the dollars that they get from SOC students. Baskett shares her own story, saying she moved while she was in high school. She didn’t share her real address because she didn’t want to be kicked out of Pioneer High School.

For those who may not like SOC, she asks what else they can do. She asks them to change the model at Lansing, so they don’t have to play this game. While other districts may be suffering, AAPS loses some students, too. At this point, she says, she will be supporting Swift’s recommendation. But she will fight with whomever to make changes at the State level.

Gaynor says he has been following the SOC process and the consequences since the State mandated it. Gaynor has written up a statement that includes a graph. Stead she wants to allow the trustees to deliberate without posting info. The trustees give their assent to Gaynor showing a graph to illustrate his statement. Gaynor reads his statement.

He struggles with the issue of SOC. From his statement: “In rejecting Schools of Choice, I am uncomfortable in that this would exclude students from benefitting from the resources that AAPS provides. It is not my goal to isolate ourselves, to keep others out. In fact, while I will be voting against this proposal, I urge the Board to consider ways we can be inclusive, and promote equity and resources to those most in need.”

Lightfoot says she is short on words to reply to Gaynor. She asks that she can see Gaynor’s thoughts ahead of time to be able to respond to it. She says it’s unfair for him to put the data out there without a chance to respond. She feels disadvantaged.

Baskett, like Lightfoot, would like more time when getting such an in-depth response from Gaynor. She asks Gaynor to accept her feedback as guidance. She takes issue with Gaynor’s assertion that the district is providing information slanted to make their point. Baskett believes that he is making a concerted effort to not see the data. She does not understand his position on voting no.  While she respects it, she does not understand it.

According to Gaynor’s chart, the data shows that Saline gets more of AAPS students than AAPS gets Saline students. Same for Milan schools. Baskett asks what he is trying to show with his data.

Baskett asks Gaynor about a Facebook comment she was told about where Gaynor said he would be the only one who vote no on this topic. She asserts that comment gives the sense that they would have violated the Open Meetings Act by deliberating on this topic. She wants to make clear that they have not been meeting. How does he have the feeling he would be the only one who would vote no on the topic of SOC. Gaynor says he has since deleted the comment.

Gaynor says he is looking at the topic more regionally. Baskett calls him naive for thinking that other districts would give some of the foundational allowance back that they would have received from AAPS students. She asks that Gaynor calls to talk to the other trustees about these things.

Gaynor asks Stead for help with this. He says that he sent it out to the trustees right before the meeting. Stead reviewed what Gaynor did with their lawyer. She says he is unduly influencing the entire body by sending out such a message to the board and to the MLive reporter. The Open Meetings act is only violated when there is deliberation. She does not believe that the public would believe that their practice is open if this becomes their procedure. She says that she would like for this to be codified in

They are not elected by the Ypsilanti Community Schools community, but by the AAPS community. It is that community that needs to see them deliberate in public. This is a good opportunity, she says, that let’s them see how they want to operate. She finds it interesting that Gaynor, who ran on a platform of transparency, would do this, since it undermines the ability for them to deliberate openly. If it were their practice, Stead says, this might be different.

Kelly asks Gaynor if he suspected there were three other trustees who would vote no with him, and that would take away from the students who are already here, would he still vote no. He says he stands by his statement. He doesn’t believe that it is a likely scenario, though.

Manley says that in listening to the dialogue they have just had, she sees that everyone has a valid point. But they are here for AAPS and for the AAPS community. If she were a parent, she would want an opportunity to take her child to where she felt they would get the best education.

Stead says she remembers a time when AAPS didn’t participate in SOC. Prior to that time, they just watched their students leave to go to other districts. It did not serve the community well. She said that there was a time when they didn’t listen as well to what parents and the community wants. It’s a vote of confidence when they see parents in the district and parents outside of district choose AAPS.

Stead says she has been working on public education funding at the State level. Michigan is not adequately funding schools. If you ask YCS or Milan or Manchester what they need, they need more money. She will continue to fight for that, to think across the county. If they can’t change the state law, they will work as a community to make things better in that area.

She is elected by AAPS community. She looks to the community to see if they are choosing them. It was not until Swift got here that they did anything meaningful to attract students to the district, she says.

The vote: to approve limited Schools of Choice for the 2017/18 school year.

The vote carries with a vote 6 to 1, Gaynor voting no. 

STUDY SESSION ITEM: 2017-18 Budget Considerations

Swift says Jill Minnick, Chief Financial Officer, has been analyzing Executive budget and the House version of the budget. After this meeting, they will jump into the Senate version. Next meeting, will be bringing analysis of all three versions.

Minnick says this is the first blush at the 2017/18 Budget. They are operating with incomplete information at this time. Senate version was released earlier today.

State Aid Proposals

  • Executive (Governor): $50 per pupil + $50 per HS pupil
  • House: $100 per pupil
  • Senate version released hours ago

MSPERS (Michigan Public School Employee Retirement System) flow-through: continue 2016-17 funding in both Executive and House proposals.

  • Executive Foundation Allowance increase of $1,149,095
  • House version results in increase of $1,745,000

At-Risk: funding for economically-disadvantaged or English learner to ensure academic proficiency. AAPS has not been eligible in past years. Will be eligible in future years.

Budget Assumptions:

Revenue: 

  • Per-pupil increase $1,149,095 (based on enrollment of 17,450)
  • 100 additional students (housing expansion): $928,000
  • Additional revenue: $2,077,095

Expenditures:

  • Additional staff: 10 FTE: $1M
  • Transportation – increased compensation: $450,000
  • MPSERS Retirement Rate Increase (not flow-through): $930,000
  • Differential in Partial Year Compensation Increase: $800,000
  • Subtotal: $3,180,000
  • Savings: Teacher Retirements/Replacements – 25 FTE ($875,000)
  • Total: $2,305,000
  • Total Revenues: $2077095
  • Total Expenditures: $2,305,000
  • Net Change in Fund Balance: ($227,905)

Next Steps

  • Continue preliminary budget discussions
    • analyse senate and consensus budget proposals when available
    • consider impact of revenue consensus estimating conference (May 2017)
    • continue to monitor spring enrollment processes
    • develop final amended 2016-17 budget
  • Other Considerations:
    • Allen Flood Event (possible ~$1M impact to the General Fund)
    • Enrollment
    • Compensation and benefits
    • Federal Budget Implications
      • Medicaid
      • Federal Grants

Board must adopt a balanced budget by June 30, 2017

  • Second board study session – April 26
  • Approve notice calling for public hearing on budget – May 2017
  • First briefing –
  • Second briefing and vote –

Manley asks about the savings coming from teacher retirements/replacements. The bulk of teacher hiring because of programming has already been done. Minnick says they start out with a placeholder of 25 retirements, and they will be monitoring and updating that number as they get actual retirement numbers. The budget, most likely, will be flat, says Minnick.

Lightfoot says the numbers as they are now don’t alarm her. She asks  about the negative net change in the fund balance based on the budget as is. Minnick says they are being conservative, going with the Executive budget proposal. Lightfoot is concerned about the Federal Budget implications, based on the conversations surrounding Medicaid and Federal grants.

Mitchell says she is waiting to see how it all shakes down. Swift says they are going to take every step they can to minimize the impact of the Allen flood to the budget.

Minnick doesn’t have the At-Risk funding included in the budget yet, since they don’t have an indication that it is a likely funding source for them. They will be watching.

AGENDA PLANNING

10:04PM Gaynor mentions several agenda items that will be coming up: LGBTQ policy consideration and unclassified employees who haven’t received raises like other employees.

Stead says the LGBTQ policy work will be done well, not fast.

They will be working to set a board retreat date to discuss the takeaway from the NSBA conference.

ITEMS FROM THE BOARD

Mitchell congratulates Quinn Strassel and the cast of Fiddler on the Roof at Community High School.

10:07 PM MEETING IS ADJOURNED

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