BOE Focuses on 3rd Grade Reading, Sinking Fund Plans; Swift Named MI Superintendent of Year

Ann Arbor Public Schools Board of Education regular meeting (October 18, 2017): Forsythe Middle School, 1655 Newport Rd

The Ann Arbor Public Schools (AAPS) Board of Education (BOE) trustees will vote themselves into executive session at 6:00 PM this evening, for the purposes of Superintendent Evaluation. Executive sessions are closed to the public. The regular meeting begins at 7:00 PM.

Special recognition will be given to Clague Middle School, recently named  a 2017 National Schools to Watch.

Three information items will be presented to the trustees. Superintendent Jeanice Swift will give an update on the district’s actions on the 3rd grade reading law. Marios Demetriou, Assistant Superintendent Finance & Operations, will give the the Monthly Budget Monitoring Report for the month of September. Demetriou will also present the 2017-18 Physical Properties and Sinking Fund Plan, as well as next steps.

First briefings include a 3rd Grade Reading Materials Purchase Recommendation and a Bulk Salt Purchase Recommendation.

A second briefing will be given on the contract recommendation for Pediatric Therapy Associates for a total cost of $291,768.75. The IDEA Grant will fund $200,966.25, and the General Fund will support $99,772.50. Only K-12 students with IEPs can be funded through the IDEA grant. Early On Services (0-3 years of age) cannot be funded through the grant.

Voting will be on the Pediatric Therapy Associates contract.

Board action will be taken on approving a Superintendent Evaluation Tool.

AnnArbivore is sustained solely through reader support. For less than the cost of the coffee you’re drinking right now, you can support citizen journalism. Please donate through Patreon to keep this coverage alive. If you value the citizen journalism provided by AnnArbivore, back it and encourage others to do so, as well. Thank you.

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

7:13 PM President Christine Stead calls the regular meeting to order.


No changes are made to the agenda.

The agenda is unanimously approved without discussion.


Clague Middle School is recognized as a National Schools to Watch. Swift explains the Schools to Watch initiative. It acknowledges schools that are well on their way to meeting the National Forum to Accelerate Middle-Graders Reform’s criteria for high performance.

Principal Che Carter and Vice Principal Jennifer Daddow introduces the Clague leadership team. Carter says this puts Clague in a position for leadership, that it’s a flagship for other middle schools. “The vision means nothing if the team isn’t supporting the vision.”

The trustees congratulate the Clague team. Lightfoot thanks the team, noting that Clague is her alma mater. She thanks Carter for his consistent leadership. Gaynor is “so proud” of the team, as Clague is the school he taught in for 18 years prior to retiring and becoming a trustee.

Gaynor says the middle school model has been chipped away at over the years. Swift has been giving more attention to the middle school model, says Gaynor, and he is committed to supporting that in every meaningful way he can.

Manley acknowledges the teamwork that was needed for Clague to earn this acknowledgement. Manley says Carter was a student at Huron High School when she was teaching there. Stead says awards do matter, “especially by your peers.”


Jean Wilson, A2STEAM teacher, district parent: Wilson says she has some amazing students who have big questions. Students got passionate about mitigating carbon output. Students designed project to make the school solar power. Got quote from a company, have started an after school club, have  have spread the excitement to the next group of sixth graders.

Wilson heard there were board members who were passionate about making the district solar powered. She wants to offer an invite to the board to collaborate with the school to move forward.

Baskett asks if they have consulted with the facilities department. Wilson says they need to do that. The meetings are every Thursday 3:30-4:30 in Wilson’s classroom. She invites anyone to come to one of their meetings because the students generate so much excitement.

Lightfoot says she’ll be there at tomorrow’s meeting and will bring some material from the National Wildlife Federation, where Lightfoot works.

ASSOCIATION REPORTS: Ann Arbor Education Association

AAEA President Linda Carter notes that the AAEA Council voted unanimously to support the renewal of the special education millage renewal. She congratulates Swift on being recently named Michigan Superintendent of the Year. They are looking forward to their meeting with Pioneer counseling staff and Dr. Elaine Brown, S


Stead congratulates Swift on being named the Michigan 2018 Superintendent of the Year. There will be a reception on November 8 to celebrate Swift. This is a “well deserved honor,” notes Stead. When Swift came on, there were some challenges: worsening financial state, first year of slight decline in enrollment, lowering morale, challenge with stability in leadership. Swift began her tenure at AAPS with a Listen and Learn tour.

Since Swift: enrollment is up about 1200 students, financial status has settled, transparency has changed, recruited and kept a top notch team, addressing systemic issues in the district.

Stead says they are hopeful this will highlight AAPS at a national level. Her impact would make for a compelling Harvard Business case study, says Stead.

Paris Climate Accord: At the board retreat, the trustees articulated that they want to meet Paris Climate Accord goals as a district. Working to have solar power on the district buildings. They will launch an advisory group, who will give advice back to the board later on this year. They want to have a district-wide environmentally friendly culture. The board is looking to see that they can technically pull it off before they formally make a resolution to committing to it.

Gun legislation: Stead says that despite mass shootings, there is an interest in making guns laws more lax. HB 4876 removes the requirement of a license to carry. SB584, 586 would force schools to allow civilians to carry loaded weapons on school grounds.

AAPS is working to protect students. The board has approved three policies over the years, which have held up through two levels of court hearings. Besides those three policies, the board is interested in keeping guns out of schools. Doing what they can to make their voices heard by their legislators to keep the bills from becoming laws. Calls matter, says Stead. She encourages the public to make the calls.

Stead walks through the three district policies that deal with guns on district property: 5400, 5410, 5420. As long as the constitution declares weapons are emergencies, the board feels their policies can hold legally.


Swift thanks the board for their recognition. She says they have an incredible team in AAPS and an amazing community.

She shares highlights of programs, teachers, and students around the district.

October is Principals Month. She asks the school community to thank school leaders for their hard work. She appreciates the hard work of the principals year round.

Allen Elementary was named a 2017 Blue Ribbon School, one of 13 schools in Michigan. Blue Ribbon program honors schools that are making notable progress in closing the achievement gap. Allen is a Title I school. There will also be a Building Dedication Celebration at Allen next Wednesday evening from 5:30-7:00 PM. Swift says they are using the Allen restoration after the flood last year as a model for the restoring and enhancing of all schools in the district.

The third annual Families Care Conference: November 2, 6-8:00 PM at Scarlett.

The district’s Special Education Millage Renewal Information fall tour begins tomorrow night, October 18. Swift and her team will be making the rounds to each middle school to give information to the community about the special education millage renewal. Their goal is to make sure everyone has all the information they need to vote on the millage on November 7.

The special education millage renewal video is shown.


Planning: Met October 2. Topics: third grade reading and strategic plan. The third grade reading law is that third grade students who are not reading at grade level should be retained for one year. AAPS will not follow that. Instead, they will make sure that third grade students who are not at reading level will have intensive support to get them to grade level. Currently, there are 15 specialists to cover the 21 schools. Materials needed have been reviewed and will be covered during a first briefing tonight.

The district is looking at developing a strategic plan.

Finance sub-committee: When Mitchell says she needs to step up her game, referring to Manley’s thorough report, Stead asks if she has a rap prepared to go over the material. Mitchell says they are talking through the strategic plan and the 3rd grade reading law.

Performance: Meets tomorrow at 3PM at Balas. The public is welcome.

Governance: Met last Friday, 10/13. Looking at MASB governance standards and an inclement weather policy change possibility. There currently is an inclement weather policy, which primarily deals with cold weather, but now that there is hot weather, Swift will be working to develop a hot weather protocol. This issue comes out of the hot weather that happened earlier this fall.

I Love Public Education initiative – a way to get the word out among communities about how important public education is. The board will be looking more closely at this initiative to determine if it is something the district wants to embrace.

INFORMATION ITEM: Third Grade Reading Legislation

Since the last update to the board in May, the district has been working on putting together a plan. The AAPS third grade reading plan is about providing more support. It will “not now or ever be about retaining students,” says Swift. The time to think about early literacy is not in third grade, but much earlier.

They will be leveraging the third grade reading legislation as an opportunity to improve how they approach early literacy.

AAPS is working to achieve systems improvement in early literacy instruction and student outcome by focusing on the following areas:

  • PEOPLE: Developing a Highly Skilled Team
    • literacy expert in all elementary/K-8 campuses – 14 of them distributed according to need
    • dyslexia focus and AAPS dyslexia specialist
  • PROCESS: Diagnosis, Reading Plan Development, Intervention, Monitoring, and Ongoing Adjustment
    • over the first 30 days of school, based on the results of teacher observation, NWEA Benchmark Assessments, and other sources of information, students who exhibit reading difficulties will be identified for additional diagnosis and support.
    • Will create an Individual Reading Improvement Plan (IRIP) to address the areas of challenge.
    • The IRIP will be communicated with the parents, including providing support
  • PEDAGOGY: Instruction, Intervention Treatment and Tools
    • Literacy Intervention will occur according to customized plan developed by the team. The intervention will occur in both small group instruction within the classroom, as well as targeted intervention delivered by Literacy Expert.
    • Pedagogical shifts occurring in the classroom include focus on the five literacy elements. Small groups
  • PRESCRIBED INSTRUCTION in the 5 Components of Literacy
    • In addition to the Literacy Experts, all PK-3rd grade classroom teachers will be working to develop additional literacy knowledge
    • Principals will communicate with parents generally during opening meetings of the year re: 3rd grade reading legislation
    • AAPS 3rd grade reading brochure will be distributed to all parents.
    • Parents of students who experience challenges with reading will also be engaged in direct communication from the intervention team. Regular updates will be shared with families.

The next steps include examining opportunities at the preschool level. They will continue the work and learn together, says Swift. They have a vision of a day and time where students’ reading level is not determined by their zip code, gender, or their learning levels.

Lightfoot is excited to hear about the opportunities at the preschool level. She asks for some examples of what they could do. Swift says that they are examining different curriculum that could be more effective in developing early literacy. They are looking to improve that curricula delivery at the preschool level, as there is one curricula that is not delivering quite as well as some others.

Gaynor has a healthy skepticism of the focus on academics at a preschool level. He wants to hear more from practitioners. Swift says they will continue to evaluate their process and their results.

Kelly says she has been eagerly awaiting this presentation. She thinks of families that she has worked with who have experienced hopelessness and panic. She is enthusiastic that the district has come up with a plan that is “so thoughtful and so robust.”

Baskett confirms that this is part of the district’s overall literacy plan. She asks if they are tweaking or modifying any of the literacy plan throughout the rest of the district. Swift says that tier one regular classroom instruction will continue. This is more the explicit plan of what happens when the red flag comes up for a student.

She wants to hear what advice will be given to the families who haven’t been contacted within the first 60 days. Swift says that if families feel there is an issue, they should reach out early and often. Baskett asks what happens to students once they go past third grade. In her previous implementation of third grade reading in Colorado, says Swift, the students go on and when the flag gets raised, experts are brought in. Her feeling is that the pattern will continue of experts being brought in.

Lee Anne Dickinson-Kelley, Assistant Superintendent Instruction & Student Support Services, says they are beginning to think about the fourth and fifth grades, as well.

Baskett also asks if English Language Learners are included in the law. They are not.

Stead asks for the district to keep track of the money that is spent on this “unfunded mandate.” She would like to use this as a case study for legislators to show them what it takes for a school district to implement mandates well. This will help schools advocate for what it takes to do these things well, says Stead.

INFORMATION ITEM: September Monthly Budget Monitoring Report

Marios Demetriou, Assistant Superintendent Finance & Operations, presents September’s monthly budget monitoring report. Swift notes that in November, the district will go through its annual audit.

Monthly Expenditures: $26,085, 108 – three pay period in September.

Revenue: about $3M higher, Expenditures: about $2M higher than 2016.

Collected 16% of revenue, spent about 14% of expenditures for the year.

Manley asks about the revenues of September versus the expenditures. Demetriou says that state aid payments will not come through until October. He emphasizes the importance for the district to have adequate funds to tide the district over until money comes from the state.

INFORMATION ITEM: Fall 2017 Update: Physical Properties and Sinking Fund

Swift thanks the voters of the community for supporting the increase of the sinking fund. The district is planning now for the next 10 years.

Sinking Fund: 2017-18 Activities

  • Evaluation/Needs Assessment for each building with associated costs
  • Attend to critical repairs
    • roofs, windows, tuck-pointing
  • Repair building systems
    • Fire safety, HVAC, Electrical, Plumbing, Communication
  • Assess needs for additions to manage growth
    • Mitchell & Mouat architects to update growth report they presented last year
    • Elementary schools are at capacity
    • the five 100 year old schools will need major renovation

They are issuing RFPs for potential bid recommendations on eight different areas of building improvements. There will be an extensive building needs assessment for each building.

The projection of estimated revenue of the next ten years is at $230,445,932, given a conservative growth rate of 1.5%.

Lightfoot asks if things like sinks are included in the building needs assessment, to which Demetriou says there is. It falls under the area of Equipment and/or Interior Construction. Lightfoot wants student and teacher input when it comes to looking at school improvements.

Gaynor asks if the roof identified at A2STEAM as needing replacement was from the older part of the building. He also asks about Allen Elementary being included in the list of roof repair. Demetriou says there are different issues with different roofs. They want to make sure their “investment is protected.”

Kelly asks if there is a formula for how much of the budget will be set aside for “Pandora’s Box issues,” for the unforeseen issues. Demetriou says they will set aside another 10-15%.

Kelly asks what energy efficiency efforts can be integrated. She specifically gives roofs as an example. Demetriou says they will be working with their consultants to better answer that.

Manley appreciates Demetriou’s expertise and willingness to take on the job [Demetriou was hired in part to implement the sinking fund plan].

9:33 PM Stead recommends they take a 10 minute recess. The trustees are amenable.

9:50 PM The meeting is resumed

FIRST BRIEFING ITEM: 3rd Grade Reading Materials Purchase

The recommendation is to approve the purchase of the early literacy materials for a total of $184,684 to provide instructional materials for improvement of early literacy and implementation of the 3rd grade reading plan. Funding will be provided form 31A At-Risk Grant Fund and the General Fund.

The materials have been vetted by teachers, Dickinson-Kelley, and Dawn Linden, Executive Director Elementary Education. Printed materials and online reading intervention tools will be purchased. Tools will be used both at school and at home as a component of Home Reading Plan supported by Engaging Families in Children’s Literacy Development: A Complete Workshop Series, as well as Sound Partners book sets.

Gaynor asks how much the At-Risk Grant Fund will cover of the cost. Swift is not entirely certain yet, as they are still in the process of submitting the grant proposal. Demetriou thinks there will be about $800,000 to the district from the Grant Fund.

Gaynor expresses his concern of putting students in front of computers all the time. He advocates for a balance between screens and in-person interaction.

Baskett asks how many students will be served through this. Swift says she will be able to get back to Baskett in six months with that information. She will not be surprised if it is in the neighborhood of 400 students.

Baskett asks when they anticipate using these materials. Dickinson-Kelley says that, if approved, they will begin right away, with parent workshops happening in December.

Kelly asks if they anticipate additional purchases for multisensory items. Dickinson-Kelley says they are, but they are monitoring the implementation and the level of impact fulness before they purchase other items. They will be looking for feedback from their experts. Those purchases will probably not be presented until February or beyond.

Stead asks if it helps Dickinson-Kelley if the board acts on the item right now. Dickinson-Kelley says the sooner they can purchase the materials, the sooner they can move forward with the professional development.

Stead poses the question to the trustees if they should move the item to tonight’s consent agenda. Given the next regular meeting is one week away, Gaynor would prefer to wait until that meeting.

FIRST BRIEFING ITEM: Bulk Salt Purchase Recommendation

Swift says they are doing things a bit differently this year. The facilities team is recommending a different kind of material be used in the immediate proximity of school buildings to better preserve the concrete around schools, preventing sidewalks from failing sooner than they are projected to.

The AAPS’s Physical Properties Department will purchase bulk salt through the State of Michigan consortium. The State of Michigan has awarded the Detroit Salt Company the consortium salt bid.

The recommendation is to purchase 1500 tons of salt, 300 more tons of salt than was purchased last year.

The purchase will be funded through the district’s  General Fund for $50,751.

SECOND BRIEFING ITEM: Pediatric Therapy Associates Contract

There have been no changes to the item. There is no discussion


  • Pediatric Therapy Associates Contract
  • Donations
  • Meeting Minutes

The consent agenda is unanimously approved.

BOARD ACTION ITEM: Superintendent Evaluation Tool

This is the first year that the district is required to evaluate the superintendent through a research based evaluation tool.

Baskett describes the evaluation tool recommended. The subcommittee met and evaluated two different tools. They are recommending the MASA tool. There was consensus regarding the tool, but there was some discussion regarding the implementation period of the evaluation.

Baskett emphasizes the need for training. The proposal is for the training to happen as soon as possible.

Kelly asks for clarification – is the action for the approval of the tool? Stead says the board can do what the board would like to do. If they want to include the timing portion as well, they can. The timing options: either a calendar year (January-December) or the academic year (July-June).

Stead notes that this isn’t a disruption of the superintendent’s evaluation. Gaynor doesn’t have a preference for timing, but it should be set by next week’s board meeting. He thinks it would be worthwhile to keep track of the hours spent on the evaluation process. He compares it to the teacher evaluation system, looking to refine it further.

Lightfoot wants to keep to the agenda, where they only vote on the tool, not the timing. Baskett asks for an implementation period of January-December. She says they have spent a lot of time talking about it, not implementing the tool. She doesn’t want to extend past next week’s meeting.

Stead says that one of the most important things a board does is evaluate a superintendent. It is a significant part of the role they play as trustees, she asserts. She appreciates that they spend a lot of time on it.

Manley makes a motion to approve the use of the MASB Superintendent Evaluation tool as presented for the evaluation of Superintendent Swift.

The motion passes unanimously.


Gaynor brings up SB 574, the Senate Bill that introduces the use of millage money for charter schools. Stead asks if he is suggesting the board drafts resolutions for this issue, as well as the gun legislation.


Baskett talks about a conference about developing trust with law enforcement that she recently attended.

Kelly congratulates the Pioneer Hall of Honor recent inductees. Lightfoot recently visited Skyline High School. She recognizes the hard work of the teachers.

Gaynor recognizes Mitchell’s daughter who will recently be honored by the NAACP for her scholarship. He also recognizes the hard work of elementary teachers.

Manley thanks the administrators and counselors of AAPS who helped her select the students who were recognized at the Annual Celebration of Black Men.

Stead encourages all voters to vote on November 7 for the special education millage. She asks that voters don’t assume their vote isn’t needed. It’s one of the most important ways of keeping dollars in the district.

How does the district engage better with some of the racial issues that have been coming up at the nearby universities? Stead says “we are in a new era, and not in a good way.”

Stead will have coffee hours this weekend at the Westgate AADL site on Saturday at 11:00. Gaynor’s is at the Songbird Cafe tomorrow night, Thursday 10/19, from 6:45-8:00 PM [corrected time].

Based on Baskett’s suggestion from last meeting, the administration has added a link on the front page of the district website for resources for homeless students.

Stead recognizes AnnArbivore as the only media coverage of the board meetings. She urges people to support AnnArbivore coverage. Thanks, President Stead.  [MLive has not sent a reporter to any of the school board meetings this school year.]



4 thoughts on “BOE Focuses on 3rd Grade Reading, Sinking Fund Plans; Swift Named MI Superintendent of Year”

Leave a Reply