AAPS BOE Updated on Guns in Schools Court Case; Summer Improvements a Go

Ann Arbor Public Schools Board of Education regular meeting (April 11, 2018): Forsythe Middle School, 1655 Newport Rd

Tonight’s Ann Arbor Public Schools (AAPS) Board of Education (BOE) regular meeting begins with a moment of silence in memoriam of Shelly Vollmer, Dicken Elementary kindergarten teacher. There will be a tribute to environmental educator Bill Browning, who passed away March 23. The meeting begins at 7PM.

The March Monthly Budget Monitoring Report, an Update on the 2018 Operating Millage, and a report on Summer 2018 Facilities/Sinking Fund Projects will be shared as information items. No board action is taken on information items.

The trustees will hear five first briefing items. There will be recommendations for a Tech Bond Purchase: Teacher Laptop Refresh, for Tennis Courts Renewal Projects, and for A2STEAM Air Conditioning. Several service contracts will be recommended: a Lawn Maintenance Service Contract and a District Security Service contract.

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


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

7:01PM President Christine Stead calls the regular meeting to order.

AGENDA APPROVAL

The agenda is unanimously approved without discussion or change.

SPECIAL RECOGNITION

A moment of silence is observed for Dicken Elementary kindergarten teacher Shelly Vollmer, who recently passed away.

Environmental educator and former trustee Bill Browning, who passed away on March 23, is remembered. District educators Dave Szczygiel and Shaugn Harris share memories about Browning, as does former trustee Glenn Nelson. Harris and Siegel ask the Board to consider naming the woods next to Skyline in honor of Browning.

PUBLIC COMMENTARY

Paul Berry, district parent: pleased that Swift will be staying with AAPS. He thanks the board in trying to keep guns out of our public school. Current administration in Michigan has made it their practice to take over Michigan public schools. National Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos is the face of the ugly ideology of schools of choice. Additionally, DeVos wants to arm teachers. Time to vote for politicians that are more than puppets of the NRA.

Chandani Wiersba, UofM senior, intern with CivCity: Through CivCity, she published a report that looks at the diversity in public government in Ann Arbor. Takeaway one: many people in bodies of government who are doing great work but are not collaborating across the elected bodies. She suggests having joint coffee hours with members of other elected bodies. Takeaway two: need to better engage with the community. Ask the community how they want to be involved. Takeaway three: still a lot to do to address issues of diversity. She also suggests working to lower barriers so more people can run for elected bodies. She asks the trustees to read the report and email her with questions.

ASSOCIATION REPORTS

Arab American Parent Support Group (AAPSG): The two representatives thank Swift and the board for their support to their organization. They report on what has been going on to celebrate April’s National Arab American Heritage Month.  It’s been joint collaboration between students and the group. The first event was held at Neutral Zone, an Arab night for teens. In addition, an Arabic food demonstration was held at the Ann Arbor District Library.

Parent Teacher Organization Council (PTSO): Steve Norton, PTOC exec board member, presents. He thanks those who were able to go to Lansing to hear the opening arguments in the open carry case heard at the Michigan Supreme Court. The PTOC has been and remains in full support of the district’s efforts to defend the district’s ability to keep guns out of schools. On behalf of the executive board, he gives a refresher on what the PTOC does.

The PTOC is an umbrella organization that is controlled by and serves the member PTOs. They come together to address and discuss concerns local PTOs have. PTOC focuses on issues that all parents in the district share. This year, they’ve focused on ongoing leadership training, insurance, volunteer background checks, mental health resources, soft launch of Swift’s 2018 Listen & Learn tour, discussion of Every Student Succeeds Act. He acknowledges the close working relationship the PTOC Exec board has with Swift and the board.

Ann Arbor Education Association (AAEA): President Linda Carter turns the baton over to Fred Klein, the incoming AAEA President, come this June and incoming Vice President Tamala Bell.

Carter is given a standing ovation for her 43 years of service to the district as teacher and AAEA president.

BOARD PRESIDENT’S REPORT

Stead again thanks Carter for her service.

She offers a brief update on Michigan Gun Owners, Inc. vs. Ann Arbor Public Schools. She thanks the team who was in Lansing today, listening to oral arguments: Baskett, Kelly, Manley, Swift, David Comsa. She again reaffirms that AAPS will not arm their teachers, even if a law is passed in the state of Michigan.

One of the best gifts Stead received on her birthday, she said, came from the Seattle School Board – that Swift will get to stay at AAPS. She is so glad that Swift will be able to continue to serve in Ann Arbor. Stead was proud that Swift was a finalist and is “so proud of the work done” in the district since Swift has arrived.

SUPERINTENDENT’S REPORT

Swift shares highlights from around the district, from student achievements to SAT and PSAT test taking to college readiness to the AAPS Elementary Robotics competition to members of the district presenting at the 2018 International Baccalaureate Global Conference. Baskett will receive her Master Diamond Award.

COMMITTEE REPORTS

Planning: Manley reports. Last met on April 4. Discussed continuing work on district-wide assessment calendar, and they took a look at the 2018 Summer School offerings. She says it is a very comprehensive plan.

Finance: Mitchell says they discussed many financial issues, some of which will be presented at tonight’s meeting.

Performance: Lightfoot says they haven’t met yet for the month of April. She invites the public to the next meeting.

Governance: Stead says next meeting is April 27. The committee is reviewing the 5000 policies, which have to do with students.

INFORMATION ITEM: Update on Michigan Gun Owners, Inc. vs Ann Arbor Public Schools

Swift says it was their great honor to be at the Michigan Supreme Court to hear the oral arguments. She thanks the board for their courageousness for tackling the issue of guns in schools. Trustees Baskett, Kelly, and Manley, along with a group of students, attended the oral arguments. Bill Blaha, attorney for AAPS, and David Comsa, Deputy Superintendent Human Resources/General Counsel, were also in Lansing as the legal team.

Swift says she wants to be clear on a few points of their work. While some find this to be political, she does not find this to be political at all. It is an issue of student safety. The board enacted the policies back in April of 2015. In the summer of 2015, Michigan Gun Owners filed suit. The district policy is that the possession of a gun in a school runs counter to what schools are meant to do, which is to help students grow and thrive.

When it comes to children in schools, there should be no compromise with their safety. If they want to test the idea of a good guy with a gun, maybe it should be first tried in an adult environment, not a child environment like a school, says Swift. For over three years, the district has defended these safe school policies. The policies have been upheld twice in court. And today it is up in front of the Michigan Supreme Court. Amicus briefs have been filed in support of the AAPS position by several different organizations.

Says Swift: now more than ever is a time for reason and wisdom and prioritizing the safety of our most vulnerable citizens, our children. It is long past time to place schools at the top of the list of protected and sensitive environments. There is significant evidence that suggests additional weapons in the classroom bring only more risk. More guns in Michigan schools is an ill conceived and dangerous notion.

A known individual is a safe individual is a troubling argument. School administrators, teachers, and secretaries are not going to know the intentions of someone walking into a school with a gun, says Swift, even if that someone is known.

Public schools are not “government schools,” but “our community schools,” says Swift. She says they appreciate the support of the Ann Arbor Public School community.

Kelly says that Swift was “absolutely masterful” in front of the media today in Lansing. She thanks the district’s legal team. The phrase from the opposing side that she couldn’t get out of her head was “A lockdown is just an overreaction.”

Manley is so proud to be part of the board that has stood strong in developing these policies.

“We have a wonderful community,” says Baskett. She says that Swift did a great job of keeping the students front and center. The experience makes her think of the importance of the vote, given there are elections coming up in November for two Supreme Court Justices positions.

Lightfoot says it is important they need to fight fire with a more raging fire. She thanks the team who was present in Lansing today. She loves this fight and hopes the Courts do the right thing.

Gaynor thanks the students of the Washtenaw Youth Initiative for putting together a town hall on gun violence in schools. He is disappointed that it was only a one-sided view, given that only Democratic representatives attended the town hall. The two local Republican representatives did not attend. He looks forward to a decision from the court based on an appreciation of the law.

INFORMATION ITEM: March Monthly Budget Monitoring Report

Marios Demetriou, Assistant Superintendent Finance & Operations, reports. Swift notes they are nearing the last three months of the fiscal year.

Expenditures for the month: $30,574,383 (a three pay period month).

Revenues are approximately $10.5M more than last year. Expenditures are approximately $9.4M more than last year. Demetriou attributes that to the special education millage, as well as increased contributions to MPSERS.

Ending Fund Balance for the month: $32,606,340 (~$1.1M less than last year).

  • Revenue received: 69.5%
  • Expenditures expended: 65.5%

Baskett asks for clarification regarding the food service budget. Gaynor asks why the Child Care Fund  is lower than it was last year. Jenna Bacolor, Executive Director Community Services & School Wellnesssays they have added to their staff in the childcare division, which adds to the cost. In addition, all childcare workers received a raise this year, to which Gaynor thanks her.

INFORMATION ITEM: 2018 Operating Millage Update

Swift says they have been working on the information materials for the Operating Millage in May 2018. The materials have been reviewed by the legal team to make sure they are within the boundaries of what the district is legally able to address in election materials. It is factual and appropriate.

The Operating Millage is really answering “Do we plan on having public schools in Ann Arbor?” If this millage does not pass, public schools in Ann Arbor will not be able to function. The millage does not increase taxes for homeowners. Swift walks through some of the FAQ. This proposal has a 3% cushion to keep the millage at 18 mills, in recognition that the district will continue to hit the Headlee rollback.

Baskett thanks Amy Osinski for the work done on the leaflet. She suggests including the website on the leaflet. Absentee ballot applications are available. Baskett encourages folks to vote absentee if they are not going to be around.

Kelly asks if there is a plan for the back of the leaflet, which is currently blank. She suggests including a sample of the ballot language, which Lightfoot seconds. Lightfoot also suggests including numbers.

Mitchell encourages the community to contact trustees if they have questions about the millage. She reaffirms that this is “not a new millage, this is not a new millage, this is not a new millage.” She wants people to show up to the polls.

Stead says the Ann Arbor/Ypsilanti Regional Chamber of Commerce is endorsing the millage. Bringing this millage in front of voters is something the district is required to do by law. It is a 20 year millage in order to not run into voter fatigue.

INFORMATION ITEM: Capital Improvement Plan Summer 2018

Emile Lauzzana, Executive Director, Physical Properties, and Demetriou present an overview of the work to be done this summer. Swift says this will be the busiest summer of infrastructure work the district has seen in many years. District buildings average 60 years of age. Five buildings will turn 100 years old within the next five years.

Since Parkland, Swift says, they have received hundreds of emails regarding ways of making schools more safe. Tonight, they will be bringing forward a recommendation for a security consult, which will bring in a firm to give a full assessment of how best to keep the district’s buildings secure.

Demetriou shows a chart of projects, their funding sources, the status/cost, and if it has board approval.

  • Roofing Projects:$4,244,688, Sinking Fund
    • Lightfoot asks if any school needs a full roof replacement, to which Demetriou replies no.
  • Modular Classrooms: $~2.65M, Sinking Fund
    • Mitchell & Wines
  • Tennis Court Renewal Project: Sinking Fund
    • Baskett asks why Skyline tennis courts need to be resurfaced, given that Skyline is the newest building. Lauzzana says there are varying levels of repair needed. Demetriou says Skyline’s courts have experienced some water damage.
  • District Paving Projects: Sinking Fund
    • Angell, King, Mitchell
  • Facade Restoration: Sinking Fund
    • Slauson, Tappan
      • Gaynor asks if facade restoration is the most efficient way of going about repairs. Swift says the loose masonry needs to be attended to.
      • Stead asks if the five 100 year old buildings are receiving extensive work this summer. Swift says not particularly. That will be more focused, extensive work later.
  • Playgrounds: $1,169,865, Sinking Fund
    • Kelly asks if there is an interim plan to provide kids with equipment, given some unsafe playground equipment pieces were removed at some playgrounds. She specifically asks about Ann Arbor Open. Lightfoot says they should do a better job of outlining expectations for families.
  • Haisley Additional Classroom: Sinking Fund
    • addition of one classroom, relocate current computer lab, divide existing teacher’s lounge
  • A2STEAM 2nd Floor Air Conditioning Installation: $189,150, Sinking Fund
    • Gaynor asks why STEAM is getting priority. Swift says they are working to get to higher temp classrooms across the district.
  • Skyline Natatorium Ductwork
    • replace existing fabric ventilation distribution system with metal ductwork
  • Huron HVAC Project: $760,769, Sinking Fund
  • Mitchell Enhancements: Sinking Fund, General Fund
  • Freeman Life Safety and ADA Upgrades: Sinking Fund, 2015 Bond
    • fire alarm system installation, security camera installation, update ADA requirements as needed
  • Classroom Enhancement – Furniture: $676,000, 2015 Bond
  • New Buses: $2,283,201, 2015 Bond
  • Security Assessment: $82,500, 2015 Bond
    • Mitchell asks how many people will be working on the security assessment. Two contractors plus a district employee will be be doing the walkthroughs.
  • Technology Refresh
  • Facility Conditions Assessment

Gaynor asks how things are prioritized after the assessment is completed. Swift says the promise to the community is to “catch up and keep up.” It’s easy to say, but they need to know quantifiably what they have in front of them to repair and improve, which will come once the full facility conditions assessment is completed.

To give some perspective, Lauzzana says that when he first began, there were 2400 work orders in the system. They have gotten the backlog down to 450 or so work orders.

9:51 PM Stead says they have five first briefing items. She asks if they want to take a break or keep going. They agree to take a five minute break.

10:08 PM Meeting resumes

FIRST BRIEFING ITEM: Tech Bond Purchase: Teacher Laptop Refresh

Merri Lynn Colligan, Executive Director Technology & Information Services, presents the recommendation to refresh of teacher laptops since the initial purchase in 2014. The recommendation is to purchase 1,600 MacBook Airs at a unit cost of $1,239.75 per machine, 400 USB SuperDrives, and 1,600 USB Ethernet Adapters for a total cost of $2,021,600.

FIRST BRIEFING ITEM: Tennis Courts Renewal

Demetriou recommends approving a contract to OHM Advisors in the amount of $121,070. The work is to renew 38 tennis courts across the district. Swift asks again if Clague is going to get work done. Demetriou says work will not be done at Clague, given they got new courts last year.

FIRST BRIEFING ITEM: Lawn Maintenance Contract

The recommended vendor, A.M. Services, Inc, currently provides lawn maintenance services to the district. The recommendation is to give A.M. Services a three year contract in the amount of $1,201,968. Not the lowest bid, but the district is very happy with the service they have provided.

FIRST BRIEFING ITEM: District Security Service Contract

Swift says there are folks in the community who might not realize the district uses security during off hours. AAPS has competitively bid evening and weekend professional security services to provide unarmed security to buildings. The recommendation is to offer a two-year contract to Securitas Security Service USA, Inc in the total amount of $214,656 .

Gaynor asks if there are references for any of the companies that placed bids. Demetriou says he has worked with Securitas Security in the past at Detroit Public Schools. Lauzzana says that while he can’t recall offhand their references, he would be happy to provide the trustees with that list.

Baskett clarifies that Securitas is not the incumbent company. Securitas was chosen over the incumbent company because of “a number of issues” with the old company.

FIRST BRIEFING: A2STEAM Air Conditioning 

Swift says this is to complete Phase II of the A2STEAM renovation. The project will bring A/C to 11 second floor classrooms, the STEAM Lab, and counseling offices. The recommendation is to give the contract to AC Building System Inc out of Warren, MI for $189,150.

SECOND BRIEFING ITEMS: None

CONSENT AGENDA: 

  • approval of minutes from 3/21/18 meeting

Outcome: The consent agenda is unanimously approved.

AGENDA PLANNING: None

ITEMS FROM THE BOARD

Kelly: literacy is a life or death issue in the United States.

Mitchell and Baskett just returned from the National School Board Conference in San Antonio. They will share more about it with their colleagues at a later time. Baskett thanks the Browning family for Bill Browning.

Gaynor echoes Baskett’s kind word about Browning. It was a well deserved tribute to him, tonight. Next coffee: Thursday, April 19 between 6:45 and 8PM at the Songbird Cafe on Plymouth Rd.

10:39PM Meeting Adjourned

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