Trustees Talk Strategic Plan Process

Ann Arbor Public Schools Board of Education regular meeting (November 8, 2017): Forsythe Middle School, 1655 Newport Rd

The evening begins at 5:30 PM with a reception for Superintendent Jeanice Swift. Swift was recently named the Michigan Superintendent of the Year by the Michigan Association of School Administrators (MASA). The public is invited to the reception.

The regular board meeting of the Ann Arbor Public Schools (AAPS) Board of Education (BOE) begins at 7:00 PM.

MASA Executive Director Christopher Wigent will be on hand to recognize Swift as the 2018 Michigan Superintendent of the Year.

An Immunization Update and the 2018 Strategic Plan Process will be presented as information items.

First briefings include recommendations to purchase Bagged Ice Melter and Musical Instruments.

There are no second briefing items, which means the only items on the consent agenda will be approval of the previous meeting minutes and donations.

Board action will be taken on an Administrative Contract Approval.

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

7:14 PM President Stead calls the meeting to order.


The trustees unanimously approve the agenda without change. 

SPECIAL RECOGNITON: MI Superintendent of the Year

Michigan Association of School Administrators (MASA) Executive Director Christopher Wigent presents Superintendent Jeanice Swift with the 2018 Michigan Superintendent of the Year award.

Wigent notes the decision was made in record time this year. He says it was clear from her nomination of this honor that Swift tirelessly works for the district. In a relatively short period time, “quality programs have been added” in AAPS. Swift does not “shy away from challenges.”

Lightfoot says it’s nice for the State to recognize what the trustees have “known for a long time.” The district has “needed her kind of leadership.”

Kelly says she has watched Swift face many challenges over the year, and “Nevertheless, she persisted.” It is her perseverance, Kelly says, that is making the district rise. She is grateful to Swift persisting on behalf of the district.

Gaynor thanks Swift for her willingness to listen and to thoroughly explain her position on issues. He appreciates her acknowledgement of the work teachers do and looks forward to continuing work with her on behalf of teachers.

Manley talks about the decision making process that gave the trustees the idea to nominate Swift for the award. They are still not ready to say “all our children are well.” Manley exhorts Swift to keep talking to the community to figure out how to make sure all the children are well.

Baskett congratulates Swift, saying it is a well-deserved award. She reflects on the early days of Swift’s tenure, calling her “an iron butterfly.” There is work to do still. Baskett says she would like to recommend Swift for the award again in a few years once the district  completes the work still needed to be done.

Mitchell says she would be upset if Swift left the district after receiving this award. She says Swift has “wow.”

Stead notes that Representatives Donna Lasinski, Yousef Rabhi, and Adam Zemke’s assistant acknowledged the leadership of Swift. When Swift came to the district in the fall of 2013, AAPS was going through a “challenging time.” If looking for a real life example of a “legendary leader,” Stead says, the district has one here. Stead believes Swift could win the National Superintendent of the Year award because of her leadership working through adversity in the state of Michigan.

Swift thanks the trustees and the Ann Arbor community. She expresses gratitude for her team and for the AAPS team: “Success is never a solo act.” From the initial Listen and Learn tours, it was always her idea to be in partnership with the community. All of the progress made is when they work “A2gether.”

Communities are known by how well they care for their children, says Swift. And so AAPS is always asking “And how are the children?” Swift is excited to continue her work, areas of challenge focused on disparities between achievement in students. She says they lean into the work they need to do. It is “serendipitous” that they will be talking about Listen and Learn 2.0 tonight as they are looking forward to continue their reflection and their work.


ASSOCIATION REPORT: Ann Arbor Education Association (AAEA)

AAEA President Linda Carter: they are looking forward to Swift’s presence at the upcoming Elementary Caucus next week. Carter presents Swift with a laminated copy of the newspaper article that announces Swift’s award.

ASSOCIATION REPORT: Black Parent & Student Support Group (BPSSG)

Representative from BPSSG shares what the group is focused on. They will be opening up a Black History essay contest with an award of $500. They are also offering a tutoring stipend worth $250. Open to all students. Topics currently concerning parents: special education, curriculum and instruction. They are looking for BPSSG reps to attend AAPAC meetings.

There is a concern about the referral and suspension process for students moving to Pathways to Success. Parents would like to understand more about the process.

The group is also planning on making a $250 donation to any student who is interested in going on the HCBU college tour. The rep thanks Manley for bridging the gap between the board and the group.


Stead exhorts the public to call their Michigan Representatives and Senators if they would like to express their opinion on the recent legislation moving through the chamber that would allow guns in schools.


Swift thanks voters in Washtenaw County for approving the Special Education Millage Renewal. The millage renewal will carry the district through the next eight years.

Swift highlights various accomplishments of students, teachers, and schools from around the district.

Allen Elementary was recognized yesterday in Washington, D.C. as a 2017 National Blue Ribbon Award. Allen won the award based on student achievement, which Swift says is the hardest way to do it. Swift thanks Allen principal Kerry Beal, the Allen staff, and the Allen students. The school wide celebration will be next Friday.

NAACP Freedom Fund Scholar Awards were presented on November 5. The awards given to students grades 10th and above who have maintained a GPA of 3.2 or higher.

Several sports teams won State Championships this fall.


Planning: Met 11/1. Topic of discussion was 2018 Strategic Plan Process. As times and needs of district have changed, a new plan is needed. Proposed method: the World Cafe method, which is a method of having focused discussion among large groups.

Finance: The district audit results will be presented to the finance subcommittee this Friday.

Performance: 11/13 meeting. Public is invited.

Governance: 11/17 meeting. Looking to confirm the time. Public is invited.

Executive: 11/17 meeting. Will work to place items in upcoming agendas, specific focus on

Superintendent evaluation tool training: 11/30 at 1PM

INFORMATION ITEM: Immunization Update

Swift says they have been working on improving the district’s immunization rates and meeting the requirements from the state. Jenna Bacolor, Executive Director Community Services & School Wellness, presents the November 1 Michigan Care Improvement Registry (MCIR) Report.

The district is required to report immunization status for K, 7th grade, and new students of any grade.

Three circumstances in which a required vaccine may be waived:

  • provisional status
  • medical contraindication to a vaccine – form signed by MD
  • waiver for religious or philosophical reasons – requires waiver from local health department.

2017-18 Preliminary data: 93% immunized; 2% waived. The district has shown improved rates in immunization rates since the 2014-15 school year. Waiver rates have decreased. Bacolor projects increased rates this year, as well.

Why have immunization rates increased and waivers decreased? 

  • change in state law requiring waivers
  • communications campaign
  • more coordinated effort to communicate and share resources with parents
  • training for Office Professionals

Continuing challenges:

  • records in languages other than English: translating and interpreting; communicating with parents/guardians and partnering agencies
  • transfer/new students: communicating with families before the start of school

Next steps: 

  • working to reach families who have not responded to emails, letters, and calls
  • researching additional resources for free/low cost immunizations
  • engaging with J-1 and F-1 agency partners about improving processes for international students
  • striving for at least 95% immunization completion by the February 1, 2018 MDHHS deadline. The MDHHS requirement is 95% compliance (immunization and waivers) as of Feb. 1 – the district is already within compliance.

Lightfoot asks what Bacolor and her team did when the waiver law was put into effect. The district connected with additional money from the state for educational outreach.

Lightfoot asks if there are common threads between the families who have not yet responded to the district’s attempts at connecting. Language barriers have presented issues, says Bacolor. She says new students tend to be lower in compliance over kindergarten or 7th grade students. She offers some solutions of contacting those families more directly. Language barriers have been a greater challenge than socio-economic issues.

Lightfoot wonders if it’s possible to get to 100% compliance in the district. Bacolor says last year they got to 98%. She thinks they could get to 99.5%.

Baskett asks if the whole world is on the same immunization schedule, which could affect students coming from different countries. Bacolor says the rest of the world is not on the same schedule and often requires fewer immunizations.

Baskett wonders what the penalty of not meeting the compliance guidelines. Bacolor does not know. To her, the end goal is not to avoid penalties but to focus on healthy students. If there were an outbreak, the students who were not vaccinated could be removed from school until the outbreak had been contained.

Kelly suggests contacting the University of Michigan, given that some international students are here because their parents are brought in by the University.

Gaynor thanks Bacolor and her team for her work. He also thanks the OPs for their work educating parents. Bacolor recognizes the work of the school nurses.

Lightfoot asks if there are any districts in 100% compliance, to which Bacolor says she does not know.

INFORMATION ITEM: 2018 Strategic Plan Process

Swift reviews the process they will use for the 2018 Strategic Plan. They had begun the process last year, but the trustees decided about a year to pause the process. The work has been back on at the cabinet team, principals/district leadership team, and board of trustees level.

“Everything good in life … begins with a conversation.” The strategic plan process is going to be focused on dialogue and conversation. The goal is to bring a “collective intelligence” of what the community wants to achieve for students over the next five years.

Phase II: Community Conversation (Fall & Winter 2017-18)

Community Conversation Questions: 

  • As we thing about the future, what do we want for our children in this Ann Arbor community?
  • What do you value in the AAPS that you want to be sure to on to?
  • Where do you see opportunities for improvement?
  • What else do you want us to know?

They plan to use the World Cafe Process at the community meetings. The meetings will launch in November and go through the spring.

  • World Cafe Engagement
    • Leadership Meetings
    • Meet with Staff
    • Community Tour
    • Meetings with Strategic Community Groups
  • ThoughtExchange Online Conversation

Phase III – Community Feedback on Draft Strategic Plan (Spring 2018)

Community Engagement Process to Refine

  • ThoughtExchange community engagement process
  • World Cafe Engagement with strategic community groups
  • Community tour for public feedback (March/April 2018)

Phase IV – BOE Approval and Publication (April-June 2018)

  • Create draft report from what they’ve heard
  • Receive summative input and recommendations from Board
  • Publish final strategic plan

Phase V – Next Step (Summer/Fall 2018)


  • District teams develop team plans and metrics to measure  progress toward goals
  • District divisions/departments develop team plans and corresponding metrics
  • Publish initial set/baseline district metrics (Fall 2018)

Mitchell emphasizes the importance of face-to-face meetings. She asks that they talk to the district’s “most vulnerable” students. She is wary of the ThoughtExchange platform because she worries that it doesn’t capture opinions of those vulnerable students. She asks if there is a plan to reach out to that vulnerable community.

Swift says they definitely were planning on speaking with students, but is taking the charge from Mitchell to make sure they are talking with the most vulnerable.

Lightfoot asks that the district talks to recent alumni of the district. She also asks that the trustees are brought into the conversation with the students. She echoes Mitchell’s emphasis on the kids who are “in the gap.”

Lightfoot also asks to make sure the community’s faith leaders are included in the conversation. It is important that they actively go out into the community to bring in the folks who are instrumental within their communities.

Kelly wants to know if there is a place for her to input ideas that she hears from the community. She also asks if it’s possible to get a business card sized reference card for the ThoughtExchange forum.

Baskett looks forward to seeing how they implement this. Baskett also emphasizes the importance on “engaging everyone.” She suggests having “family meetings,” where students attend with their parents or guardians. Instead of calling it “strategic planning,” call it something like “what do you want; what do you need.” She asks that the invitation be written in a language that is relevant to the families to get them to come to these meetings. She wants it to be more relevant, more engaging, more family friendly.

Gaynor says that while he is not a big fan of mission statements, he is pleased to see the main focus of the strategic plan process is community engagement. He emphasizes the importance of making sure people, especially teachers, feel as if they can speak candidly about issues within the district.

Stead reflects back on the fact that there was standing room only back when Swift did her initial Listen and Learn tour and the budget discussions. She wonders if they need to have a discussion on the viability of public education in the State of Michigan. How do we ensure AAPS continues to thrive, given the state of public education in Michigan? How do we create the kind of trust and morale as they do that work as a team? Some of the work has to be how the district maintains momentum, given the threats faced at the State and Federal level.

Stead says they need to change the story of the state of Michigan public education. Maybe this year that Swift is Superintendent of the Year would be a good impetus for movement forward, Stead muses.

Lightfoot says that it is really important that they plan for what they do know and what they don’t know. Stead adds on to that they need to make sure they have people from multiple disciplines approach the issue.

Kelly asks where are families captive during these phases. She suggests finding out where families are and going to them instead of making families come to the district. Kelly suggests putting student leaders on the task of finding out how to communicate to families and students.

FIRST BRIEFING ITEM: Musical Instrument Purchase

Swift says they are excited to bring forward “a major instrument order.” It’s the result of about two years worth of work, she says. She is proud of the collaborative and evaluation work. If the trustees approve the purchase, students would have these instruments in hand this year. Robin Bailey, Curriculum Coordinator, Fine Arts, has been working with a bond advisory group. Over the past two years, every instrument in the district has been inventoried.

Seven vendors would be given the purchase contracts. The total contract is for a total of $1,998,225, spread between the seven companies. The contract will be funded through the District’s 2015 Bond Fund.

Baskett asks what the average age of the instruments that they are replacing. Bailey says they are still using some instruments that were purchased in 1960.

Kelly thanks the voters for approving the Bond back in 2015. She asks if the purchases represent all the needs the advisory committee foresees. This purchase would replace all the levels 3s and 4s of instruments, as well as anticipating future growth and issues of equity. Bailey says they are in good shape for the future.

Gaynor asks if Bailey has a rough sense of the percentage of how many instruments are getting replaced. Bailey says about a third of the district’s instruments will be replaced. Gaynor asks if these companies bids were competitive. Bailey says they were so specific with their specifications that companies only bid on the instruments they carried.

Lightfoot asks for future projections. Bailey anticipates that in another 10 years, they will need another $3M for instrument replacement. Lightfoot asks if instruments can be donated, to which yes, they can. Bailey says she gets calls all the time of people wanting to donate instruments.

Swift asks if as the impact of student poverty continues to increase, those students are provided instruments through their school years. Bailey said they would be.

FIRST BRIEFING ITEM: Bagged Ice Melter Purchase

Marios Demetriou, Assistant Superintendent Finance & Operations, is bringing forward a recommendation to purchase a bagged ice melter that would be gentler on the concrete around the district buildings, extending their lifespan. Demetriou says the ice melter also keeps the entrance doors from rusting.

The bid is for three years. The recommendation is for Washington Elevator based out of Washington Twp, MI for a cost of $5.25/50lb bag for a base cost of $24,439 per year.

Stead confirms that they expect the ice melter to be less abrasive than the regular salt previously used. Gaynor asks when the salt and the ice melter will be used. The salt will be used on parking lots; the ice melter will be used on the concrete sidewalks.

Baskett asked how they estimated the amount needed. Demetriou says they are using past experience and predictions on the winter weather this year. If the district needs more, does the company have the capacity to provide more? Demetriou says they should.

Gaynor asks that given climate change, are they sure they will even need ice melter in three years.

Mitchell asks if they are confident that the product being offered is a good product. Washington Elevator is providing Ice Byter. Demetriou says they are confident this product is similar to other ice melter.

Kelly asks if they have health and safety information on this product. Demetriou says this product is within the safety guidelines they need to follow.


  • approval of meeting minutes
  • approval of donations

The consent agenda is unanimously approved.


Gaynor reads out items on the agenda planner:

  • 3rd grade reading lan updates every quarter
  • student assessment inventory update
  • teacher hiring, diversity
  • environmental goals
  • countywide early childhood literacy goal
  • achievement gap improvement strategy
  • superintendent eval training tool

He calls attention to the environmental goals agenda item and the student assessment inventory update. Stead says part of the deliverables will be a grade by grade calendar view of student assessment. Swift says that as they do the current listing, she could forward it to the board.

BOARD ACTION ITEM: Administrative Contract Approval

Swift brings forward a contract for consideration of a Chief Financial Officer candidate: Amanda Matheson. Swift says they are delighted to have found someone who would “add talent to the team.” The contract is the same as they have considered before for the position.

Baskett clarifies that this a three year contract that would be renewed if appropriate. If approved, Matheson would start December 4.

Lightfoot asks for them to speak to the diligence of the vetting of this particular position. Demetriou says before the final interview, they conduct background checks, as well references. They also do a Google search.

Gaynor calls attention to several items in the contract: health insurance, the dispute resolution mechanism (DRM), incentive compensation. The health insurance package that is provided through the contract mirrors the AAAA package that administrators receive. Swift says she would need to consult with David Comsa, district counsel, in order to speak on the DRM. Swift says the incentive compensation is standard but is lower than other districts.

Swift notes that the CFO’s goals are numbers-based, which are easier to quantify. Stead recognizes that since Matheson comes from Sault Ste. Marie, she will have a learning curve with a district of AAPS’s size.

A motion is made to approve the contract. There is no discussion.

The contract is unanimously approved.


Baskett thanks Swift for doing all she did to make the NAACP Freedom Fund dinner a success. The students were “absolutely awesome,” says Baskett. 144 students were honored. She looks forward to having more and more students earn the award.

Kelly thanks voters throughout the county who passed the special education millage renewal. Coffee Hour: Friday 11/17, Friday 12/15.  Westgate Library Sweetwaters Coffee

Lightfoot thanks local voters, as well as voters across the country. “It gave some inspiration to stay at the helm.” She’s excited and thankful as we move into 2018.

Gaynor seconds the appreciation for the voters. He also comments on the NAACP Freedom Fund dinner. While he is not scheduling coffee hours for November or December, but he welcomes emails and calls.

Stead: coffee hour 11/11 at 11:00 AM at Westgate Library. She thanks voters of Washtenaw County for approving the mental health millage.


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