AAPS Trustees Mark the Start of the 17-18 School Year; OK Construction Mgr Contract

Ann Arbor Public Schools Board of Education regular meeting (September 13, 2017): Forsythe Middle School, 1655 Newport Rd

The regular meeting of the Ann Arbor Public Schools (AAPS) Board of Education, starting at 7:00 PM, will begin with a moment of silence for AAPS teacher Doug Julius, who passed away August 31. Two new principals will be introduced: Matthew Hilton, Mitchell Elementary and Edward Latour, Lakewood Elementary.

The trustees will hear a 2017/18 Back to School report from Superintendent Jeanice Swift.

First briefings include: a 2015 Bond Piano Purchase for middle and high schools; a 2015 Bond Phase II Classroom Furniture Implementation; a 2015 Bond Phase III Model Classroom Furniture Purchase; and the annual Rec & Ed Catalog Production Bid Recommendation.

A second briefing will be held on the contract recommendation for Construction Management Services for the Allen Elementary Enhancements – Phase II for a total cost of $306,981. The project will be funded through the district’s Sinking Fund.

Voting will be on Allen Elementary Enhancements Construction Management Contract.

Board action will be taken on an Administrative Contract Approval. The trustees vote to approve the contract of a new district Chief Financial Officer.

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

7:10 PM President Christine Stead calls the meeting to order.

AGENDA APPROVAL – approved without change


The trustees observe a moment of silence for Doug Julius, Pioneer teacher, who passed away on August 331. Swift quoted a Pioneer student, calling Julius “an amazing educator, and an even better person.”


Superintendent Jeanice Swift introduces two new principals: Edward Latour, Lakewood Elementary principal, and Matthew Hilton, Mitchell Elementary principal. Latour and Hilton were not able to make it last regular meeting when the other new principals this year were introduced.



Ann Arbor Education Association (AAEA): AAEA President Linda Carter thanks the administration for their attendance at the Annual AAEA Picnic. She speaks about Julius, saying he was a  great bowler.


Stead says she is working on making their own processes easier for the trustees. She assures the community that the BOE is disheartened by Trump’s most recent effort to try to get rid of DACA. Those efforts aren’t the same sorts of welcoming efforts that are part of AAPS. All students are welcome at AAPS, reaffirms Stead.


Swift welcomes families and staff and students to a “tremendous new 2017-18 school year.” This is the first regular meeting held since students are back in school. Swift thanks the Physical Properties crew and GCA for their hard work over the summer in getting the buildings ready for school. She points out the improved walkways and sidewalks throughout the district.

Swift notes that she and Baskett attended the Ann Arbor Economic Development Summit yesterday, saying it was an engaging day with community leaders.

Swift also notes that as they continue to work on more ways to inform the community, the district has launched an AAPS podcast.

Space available transportation: Policy 3760 designed to provide for more access and opportunity for students in the district. If there is a bus stop that is a better way for students to get to school, in-district students can apply for those bus seats. Applications are accepted beginning October 1.

Enrollment is holding steady and they are anticipating growth this year, notes Swift.

Swift speaks to the work the district is doing to  enhance social-emotional supports in the district for students. She calls it the Four Ps: Professional staff – adding more counselors at the 9th grade level and four behavioral interventionists at the elementary level, Planning and Programming – increasing training for staff, and Partnership. The team will give the board an update in the near future.

Lightfoot says she is “so happy they are doing this,” acknowledging how difficult it was last year, with the passing of several students. She thanks Swift and her team for the work they are doing. Baskett concurs. Baskett asks how parents should use this. Jazz Parks, Middle School Executive Director, says parents should reach out to their child’s counselor. The district is working on creating a consistent process for referrals, as the plan is still in draft form. The support will be rolled out to families through in-school teams.

Parks notes that over this past July and August, Pediatric Emergency Services at the University of Michigan has seen a 50% increase of  over last July and August. Swift says the next need is to add the professional staff at the middle and elementary school levels that is needed for students’ mental health, acknowledging the cost for the FTEs needed.

Stead says they need to start talking about these things and making it okay to for people to talk about it. She recognizes the impact of cutting counselors in year’s past when the district was financially strapped.

Swift discusses the later start options for high schools. The district has taken a soft launch approach this year, but there have been inquiries. Late shuttles run from each of the five comprehensive middle schools to get high school students to their schools.

Swift emphasizes the district’s commitment to all students. The district’s commitment to students does not change with the DACA announcement from the Trump administration. In keeping with federal law, their work remains unchanged in light of the recent announcement. They will continue to support and serve all children at AAPS. Students have a constitutional right to public education, emphasizes Swift. AAPS will not ask for students’ immigration statuses. If you are a student or parent with concerns, she encourages you to reach out to your principal or trusted teacher.

Mitchell speaks to the parents who came to America who wanted something better for their kids. “To think that we would turn and say to them, we don’t want you anymore, simply because you were born somewhere else,” makes her think about her own adopted children. “Anybody who can stand up and say that is the right thing to do is heartless,” says Mitchell. She tells the Dreamers to keep dreaming.

INFORMATION ITEM: Back to School Update 2017/18

Swift has begun her back to the school tour, where she visits each school in the first month of the school year. A slideshow is shown, highlighting the modular classrooms installed at several schools around the district, new classroom furniture, Allen Elementary renovations, new buses, and paving and sidewalk improvements.

Kelly thanks voters for approving the sinking fund and the 2015 Bond. She also thanks Swift’s team for making the improvements concrete. Baskett asks if they have heard any negative feedback regarding the modular classrooms. Swift says they have not, but they are continuing to monitor air quality control.

Stead thanks the Executive cabinet for the work they did over the summer, hiring new teachers and principals, improving buildings, implementing new programs. Stead says she has heard nothing but “really great things” about the start of the new year.

Stead notes that Committee reports will begin in early October after the Planning, Performance, Governance committees, and Finance subcommittee committees begin meeting. Stead notes that Governance will begin reviewing policies regarding students this year.

FIRST BRIEFING: 2015 Bond Piano Purchase – Middle/High Schools

When looking to replace the district’s pianos, a piano specialist was brought in to evaluate all of the pianos in the district to determine which to keep. Several of the district’s pianos are over 100 years old.  Poors are bring disposed of, Fairs are being traded in, Good and Excellent are being used in the district.

To determine which pianos to purchase, all of the district’s music teachers were brought in to play all of the pianos. Recommendation: purchase 26 Steinway pianos for installation in all secondary schools in the amount not to exceed $1,197,162 to be funded through the 2015 Bond. If the

Lightfoot is excited that they show the process behind the decision making. Baskett asks how long these pianos are expected to last. Robin Bailey, Fine Arts curriculum coordinator, says they should last another 100 years, if they are taken care of.

FIRST BRIEFING ITEM: 2015 Bond Phase II Classroom Furniture Implementation

Dawn Linden, Executive Director Elementary Education, presents. After the district has replaced 14 schools furniture this past fall, they are ready to implement Phase II, which will be for nine more schools.

The recommendation is for the 2015 Bond Phase II Classroom Furniture Implementation totaling $3,536,250 – reflects a discounted national cooperative bid pricing through The Cooperative Purchasing Network (TCPN).

Kelly asks about the quality of the furniture purchased. VS sells most of their furniture in Germany – Linden says the furniture is of such high quality, that the company has needed to expand their operations into other countries, since less furniture is being bought in Germany. Swift mentions that they work with an installer with VS America who might be able to donate the old furniture to places in need, such as Texas. So far, much of the furniture that has been disposed of has went to places in the world with high need, such as Haiti.

FIRST BRIEFING ITEM: 2015 Bond Phase III Model Classroom Furniture Purchase

In preparation for Phase III, a recommendation is made for the purchase of model classroom furniture in each of the five high schools for a total go $355,000 from Steelcase and VS America.

Similar to what was done at the elementary and middle school level, each high school will have two classrooms set up to pilot new furniture. The piloting will happen this fall, with the idea of a full furniture implementation Summer of 2018. Open houses will be held for the community to check out the new furniture.

Baskett questions why they need to purchase the furniture and why it isn’t just a trial. She is amazed that they couldn’t get more of a discount on the model furniture.

Linden notes there is a formal evaluation process. Students and teachers will take a formal survey. She says they should have a recommendation for the board come February.

Manley asks if Phase III is the final phase. She wonders when they can expect a completion of new furniture. Linden says Westerman Preschool will be the final phase.

FIRST BRIEFING ITEM:Rec & Ed Catalog Production Bid Recommendation

Jenna Bacolor, Executive Director Community Services & School Wellness, presents the biennial recommendation for the two year printing contract of the Rec & Ed program catalogs. She recommends Michigan Web Press for a two year contract for an amount not to exceed $150,000. Each year, the cost is anticipated to be approximately $54,700 for all five catalogs with a maximum cost of $75,0000. Costs may increase due to additional color or other enhancements. The cost would be paid out of the Recreation Fund.

Gaynor draws attention to the fact that the company the district had been using was a union shop, while Michigan Web Press is not. He asks if there were problems with the quality. Bacolor replies that there had been bleed through in some pages, as well as folds where there should not have been folds.

Mitchell asks what constitutes “some color.” Front and back are in full color. There are a couple pages in color in the middle that are part of the partnership with UMS, and the rest of the catalog is in black and white.

Baskett asks about the partnership with UMS, noting that the color pages look like advertising. Bacolor confirms that it is advertising, noting the district sometimes does advertising trades.

Lightfoot asks if the district still uses the same graphic designer that they have used. Bacolor says they are using a new designer, given that the previous designer had some family issues.

Kelly asks about the environmental impact of printing all the catalogs. She wonders if there will be a point where Rec & Ed will move solely to digital.

Bacolor says that even in this digital era, a print catalog is still the main driver of registrations, especially with community education. She also speaks to the equity issue. All households in the district receive the catalog.

Kelly wants to know they minimize the environmental impact. She asks about paper and ink choice. Bacolor says the paper is news paper, which breaks down quicker. She will have to get back to the trustees about the ink choice.

SECOND BRIEFING: Allen Enhancements – Phase II – Construction Management Contract

No changes have been made to the contract since the first briefing two weeks ago.

Hexagon General Contractors Services, LLC from Bloomfield Hills, Michigan provided Construction Management Services for installing HVAC units, ceiling replacements and new lighting. Management includes supervision, labor, technical services, facilities, materials, tools, and equipment to perform all the services necessary for the proper completion of the Allen upgrade project. The contractor will also provide follow-up services for a minimum of twelve months after final completion.

The fees for the Professional Services for this project are $306,981. The project will be funded through the District’s Sinking Fund.

Baskett asks when the vendor will begin. Swift confirms that Hexagon has already been working with the district. This contract is for them to continue their work.


  • Approve Allen Enhancements – Phase II – Construction Management Contract

The consent agenda is unanimously approved.

BOARD ACTION: CFO Contract Approval

Bringing forward the recommendation of Frank Thomas for the position of Chief Financial Officer. Jill Minnick left the district a few months ago. It is with “a great deal of confidence” that Swift brings forward Thomas’s contract.

Baskett asks about his potential start date. Thomas would begin October 8, if the trustees approve his contract. The contract is through June 30, 2020. David Comsa, Deputy Superintendent Human Resources/General Counsel, confirms that as with all administrators, the contracts roll over year from year, with a three year term – unless there is an issue.

Lightfoot says the Emergency Manager training that Thomas has “troubles her.” She looks forward to having a conversation with Thomas regarding that training. Baskett asks for an update on that conversation from Lightfoot.

Gaynor says that as a postscript, while there is a three year contract for administrators and an automatic six months for termination without causation, there is not the same term for teachers.

Stead asks if there is a motion to approve the contract for Thomas as district CFO. A motion is made

Frank Thomas is unanimously approved as the district CFO.


Gaynor asks Swift if she has timeline for the launch of the evaluation advisory group. Swift says she looks for them to begin in October. She notes that the advisory group’s work is always posted.

The advisory groups will be renewed later on in the year. Teachers who serve on the groups get additional compensation.

Baskett asks for an update on the renewal for the Special Education millage. Stead says she and Gaynor have been meeting with the Citizen’s Millage Committee. Because it’s a county-wide millage, it’s run by the county’s coordinating group. The coordinating group will be meeting tomorrow night at 5 PM at the Center for Independent Living.

Gaynor reaffirms that the district’s money cannot advocate for the millages, but the district can give information on the millage.

Swift says they will be conducting their information event on the millage in October. There will  be a superintendent’s tour, as well as each principal meeting with their schools to give information to their communities. The millage is a renewal.


Manley says that parents have been “elated” with the new hires of principals and assistant principals. She has not heard any negatives about the start of the new year.

Gaynor says he is going to be resuming his community coffee hours. The first meeting will be next Wednesday evening. He also notes that he ran into his former team teacher who shared some of the professional development she has been able to do. He thanks the administration for making that possible again for teachers.

Lightfoot thanks the administrative team. She says she measures how well the year has started by the number of phone calls she has received. This year, she has received very few.

Kelly echoes Lightfoot’s thanks. She welcomes students who are new to their buildings.

Baskett welcomes everyone, new and old, back to the school year. She is visiting schools this next week. She reminds the public that there is another millage on the ballot in November, in addition to the Special Education Millage. The trustees formally nominated Swift for Superintendent of the Year. She thanks Swift for doing the yeoman’s work of the application process.

Stead draws attention to last week’s New York Times Education issue, with an article focused on how charter schools have failed the students of Michigan. She recognizes the importance of the community support that has kept charter schools “a little bit more at bay” in Ann Arbor. She asks that people keep AAPS strong. The millage renewal is an opportunity to keep that commitment.

Much to my surprise, Gaynor thanks AnnArbivore for coverage of the BOE meetings. Thanks, Trustee Gaynor.


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