Modular Classrooms for Wines & Mitchell OK’ed; Board Talks Equity, Advocacy at Retreat

Ann Arbor Public Schools Board of Education regular meeting/ board retreat (March 14, 2018): Huron High School, 2727 Fuller Road

The Ann Arbor Public Schools (AAPS) Board of Education (BOE) trustees will begin tonight by holding a regular meeting in which they will get work done. At the conclusion of the regular meeting, they will move into a board retreat. The initial meeting begins at 5:30PM.

There are no first briefing items on tonight’s agenda.

Two items are up for second briefing, which means they will be voted on tonight. The two items:  2015 Bond Furniture Purchase for Slauson and Tappan Middle Schools; and the Modular Expansion: Mitchell & Wines Elementary Schools.

The furniture recommendation is to approve the purchase of classroom furniture for Slauson and Tappan Middle Schools for a total amount of $676,187.35. Funding will come from the 2015 Bond Fund.

The modular expansion at Wines and Mitchell is to meet the needs of increased student population and programmatic expansion. The modular buildings will add an additional six classrooms, a flex room, two restrooms, two offices, and a covered walkway to each of the the main school buildings. The recommendation is for the board to approve funding the modular classroom projects for a cost of up to $2,695,722. The funding will be provided from the Sinking Fund.

The trustees will be voting tonight on the approval of the furniture purchase, as well as the modular classrooms.

After the business of the regular meeting concludes, the trustees will move into the work of their retreat. They are focusing on four different areas. There will be a Trustee Share: Equity Symposium & Advocacy Institute. They will examine their current and future work. They will look at board development, and they will discuss next steps.

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

Absent: Trustee Simone Lightfoot

5:35 PM President Christine Stead calls the meeting to order.


The agenda is approved unanimously.


Moore: Coming to the board after Monday’s incident at Pathways. Something is lacking in terms of how the incident was handled. She says they need to look at the dynamics of the building. It makes her sad that someone from Balas (Paul DeAngelis, Executive Director High School Education)  was in the building and did not take it seriously. The school wasn’t locked down, because no one cares about those children at Pathways, she says. Parents don’t deem the school safe. That building needs more staff.

Swift says that they will follow up with her. Trustee Jeff Gaynor says that the perception is there and is a concern for us. Swift apologizes that this is the perception. She says she will be happy to follow up with her personally.


Swift offers some reflections on the day. Today was the National School Walkout. She could not be any more proud of how the students and staff conducted themselves. There were about 3,400 students in grades 6-12 who walked out of their classrooms. Students today demonstrated an ability to use critical thinking skills and to exercise their First Amendment rights.

“We’ve grown up with these shootings.” Students believe this walkout cannot be a one time event, but needs to lead to lasting change.

She thanks district staff for keeping students safe. She also thanks AAPS parents who were there to support the students, as well as the Ann Arbor Police Department. AAPD was present on the campuses of every single secondary school. She looks forward to launching the Superintendent’s Listen & Learn tour tomorrow night at Pioneer High School with a student led forum.

Gaynor says they are “very proud of our students.” His concern going in was that the district might over manage the students. He doesn’t want to take away from the initiative of the students. He argues for building critical thinking skills in students. Baskett says that she doesn’t get his concern of how the district support is taking away from the students. Gaynor says that if the focus is on their support and rather than on the students themselves, it will take away their initiative. But overall, the district did a good job of supporting without taking away student empowerment.

Stead says that it was important for them to let students know they would not be penalized if they exercised First Amendment rights, unlike in some districts across the country. She appreciates the tension between student empowerment and district approval. Manley backs up Stead’s point that there were other districts in the country that kept students from protesting. She is glad she is at AAPS where they believe in supporting students.

Stead compliments Swift and her team for supporting students. The day went smoothly for students to protest and be safe. Gaynor asks, “Safe from what?” Baskett begs to differ: it could have been a vulnerable moment, she says. Stead says that AAPS is unique right now given the district policies that are being challenged in court. She notes that that can draw out people who want to make a point. Mitchell points out a news story of a white supremacist who was arrested last week in Pittsfield Township with a bunch of weapons. She says it is better to err on the side of caution.

SECOND BRIEFING ITEM: 2015 Bond Classroom Environment: Furniture Purchase – Slauson & Tappan

No changes have been made to the recommendation. Once the furniture is ordered, it will be shipped from Germany and will be in place by the start of the next school year.

Gaynor asks if the furniture is made with steel or aluminum and will be subject to tariffs. Linden confirms that it is competitive bid pricing and cannot be changed.

SECOND BRIEFING ITEM: Modular Expansion: Mitchell & Wines

No changes have been made. There is no discussion.


The trustees vote to approve:

  • 2015 Bond Classroom Environment: Furniture Purchase – Slauson & Tappan
  • Modular Expansion: Mitchell & Wines

Outcome: The consent agenda is unanimously approved.

6:11PM The regular meeting is concluded. The trustees move into their board retreat work.


Trustee Share: Equity Symposium & Advocacy Institute

Several trustees went to the 2018 Equity Symposium and the Advocacy Institute held by the National School Boards Association in February. This is an opportunity for the trustees to share their takeaways from the symposium.

Stead says that the longer Trump is in office, the more opportunity there is for advocacy work. She thanks the trustees for attending the symposium and for the work they did there.

Manley passes around some handouts. The first workshop she went to was Jobs for America’s Graduates. She says it was “okay,” but there was nothing they didn’t already know. She was disappointed that it was a product that was being sold. Her takeaway was partnering with companies around town at Pathways and with the CPIB programme. She suggests Plante Moran, as well as strengthening their relationship with Zingermans. Manley says they need to talk more in depth with the business community to understand what they are looking for with their hires. Mitchell emphasizes the need for more volunteers from the business community.

The workshop that meant more to Manley, she says, is the one on Social Emotional Learning (SEL) and Equity. It began with setting some norms. She lists those, which include items such as “listen with intent.” She shares an exercise they did: the Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs) quiz. If students score more than a 4 on the quiz, they are at a higher risk of suicide. Manley argues that one positive adult in a student’s life can counteract that risk.

Manley’s takeaway: AAPS needs to put money in the budget to do SEL correctly. The professional development they do in the district is sporadic, she says. AAPS should set up measurements that are stronger than they currently have, especially around areas of graduation rates. She’s concerned with the disparity between white students and African American students in the district.

Baskett asks to piggy back off of Manley’s sharing. She hands out copies of her notes from the symposium. She walks the trustees through her notes. Overall, the weekend was good, she says. The first day was focused on equity. Baskett refers to a book called The Color of the Law. She was focused on benchmarking AAPS to the questions that were asked when focusing on equity.

A session she attended: White Fragility. “I don’t want you to understand me better. I want you to understand yourselves.” Institutionalized oppression: an example is of women getting the right to vote, which only happened after men gave them the vote. Could it be taken away, she asks. State sanctioned crime against African Americans.

She highlights several more workshops and sessions she attended. One of them was on student First Amendment rights. Another was on how politics has become so polarized. Another was on a school in New York called Pathways in Technology Early College (PTEC) High School. Not blue collar, but a “new collar” focus on jobs. It changes the paradigm of vocational education. They take the “most challenged and make them believe they are the cream of the crop.” She shares some of the practices from the school. She also advocates finding a corporate sponsor, much like PTEC works with IBM. She would love to see a similar school in AAPS, and she sees it as a way of improving graduation rates of African American students.

Mitchell shares her experiences. She speaks first about the equity breakout session she went to. She went to a session that was about pushing a preschool program to members of Congress. The idea is to get local businesses to come in to sponsor activities in preschools and donate to provide preschool for low income students. The problem is, she says, they are leaving a whole class of people out at the lower middle income level. She is looking for partnerships with companies that can help fill in the gap.

Another session she attended: advocacy in social media. She says this session was laughable. Instead of talking about ways of how to use technology, because it was a room full of Baby Boomers, they spent a lot of time talking about definitions of technology.

Kelly shares her experiences of the symposium, as well. She asks if the district has an educational equity statement. She wonders if there are success stories of breaking down segregation in the district. Baskett says she wants to hold onto Kelly’s questions for them to discuss as a board.

Social-Emotional Learning session: the Affluent Student Toxic Stress (ASTS). She says this is something the district can address at the source, given more professional development investment for teachers. Baskett asks why it is called ASTS. Manley says that people tend to think of kids from lower incomes as being the ones who have stress, but kids from higher incomes also have stress. Swift says that she worries about being criticized for that kind of work, given the gaping disparity gap. The truth is they need to work on all of it. Baskett says she does not want to lower district standards.

Kelly says they can’t opt out of preparing their students for rigorous demands. That also does students a disservice. The work they are doing with Career Tech Education (CTE) is also important. There needs to be many paths to success for students.

White Fragility: Kelly says she thinks the presenter “went easy on us.” Manley disagrees, saying she went “straight there.”

The advocacy institute focused on nine national priorities. Hugging the porcupine: the presenter emphasized the methods that work best, that are highly influential, in getting through to legislators. Swift notes that they are trying to do that on a district level, by sharing the data along with the personal story.

Common sense: how few emails or phone calls a legislator needs to be influenced. How the same messaging at multiple events is effective. Sunday emails matter because they are read more often.

MASB held a luncheon to discuss which of the nine national priorities most affected Michigan: IDEA funding. They also held a breakfast on the last morning of the institute with Senators Peters and Stabenow.

Kelly also brings up the question of DACA recipients who are teachers. She wonders if there could be impact to the district. She suggests partnering with districts in mid-Michigan who would definitely have teachers who have DACA status.

Preparing for the Hill day: how to talk to your legislators. Don’t ramble, have a point, follow up with an email, dress professionally.

Kelly met with a representative of Representative Tim Walberg. She brought up the fact that Walberg does not attend the legislative coffees that other representatives attend.

Stead shares her experiences at the symposium. She attended the town hall. She was impressed by the NAACP Task Force on Quality Education. Hilary Shelton, NAACP President, was there. The topic of charter schools came up, with Michigan being the poster child example of what has gone wrong in terms of segregation, lack of accountability, and student achievement. More people are starting to see what is happening in Michigan – these are all solvable problems, says Stead. Part of the path of how to get Michigan to a top 10 in ten years is the reversal of what we have been doing.

She says they need to be arming gubernatorial candidates with information on what is happening in public schools. As board of education trustees, they are the experts in the field of education. She says this is part of the advocacy work they need to do in the next few months. They are the chief executors of what comes out of Lansing. This is part of the tactical advocacy the trustees need to do, says Stead.

“Education is the economic development driver,” says Baskett. The top strategy to drive economic growth is to invest in public schools. She thinks there should be Washtenaw County priorities, that cross district lines. They know what needs to be done.

Swift thanks Stead for having stepped up to the microphone to talk about the impact of charter schools in Michigan at the town hall. She passes out copies of the 2018 State of Michigan Education Report from The Education Trust-Midwest.  The entire packet is an indictment on the work they’ve done on early literacy. Next Thursday evening, Swift says, Nell Duke is coming to the ISD. Duke calls it out as a public health crisis what the state of Michigan has done to early reading.

Baskett says some people erroneously think the solution to fix the problems of Washtenaw County would be for Ann Arbor to annex all districts. Swift says that it is as if Baskett is prescient. One of the recommendations is to take a reexamine the ISD approach, which Swift disagrees with. The ISD approach is counterproductive for a large district, she says.

Advocacy & Equity Initiatives/Priorities

  • partnerships with businesses – what they need: at Pathways and across the district
    • potential business partnerships:
      • Google, Duo, Tech, Imra, Toyota, Ford, Bosch, UM, Plante Moran
  • work across entities: DDA, A2Y Chamber, Planning Commission
  • talk to candidates – what we need
  • social emotional learning & equity

The trustees brainstorm ideas for business partnerships. There is some discussion of partnering with non-profits or with the district itself providing some internships with the students. Baskett says that her focus on the partnership is that kids gain skills and begin to see themselves in these roles.

Swift comes back to Kelly’s point, saying you don’t know how close you are to tipping a legislator. They talk about ways of swaying legislators, possibly by hosting an education forum for candidates.

9:05PM [Unfortunately, this is where I have to leave. The trustees and Swift continue their conversation about the future work of the board. ]

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