AAPS Begins Prelim Budget Talks

Ann Arbor Public Schools Board of Education study session (April 25, 2018): Forsythe Middle School, 1655 Newport Rd

Tonight’s study session, beginning at 5:30 PM, begins with a moment of silence for Burns Park Elementary teacher Scott Thompson.

Study sessions allow for the trustees to dig deep into topics. There is no voting involved.

An overview of the AAPS High School African American Humanities course will be given to the trustees. They will also hear an update on the AAPS District Advisory Groups. Advisory Groups are made up of students, staff, parents, and community members.

The board will also hear the preliminary plan for Project Grow Your Own. The project was initially floated by the trustees as a way of increasing homegrown teacher candidates.

In addition to those updates, the trustees will get a first blush preview of the AAPS 2018-19 Budget. It will be presented within the context of both the Federal and State budget.

[[AnnArbivore will begin coverage of the meeting as soon as I can get there.]]

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

Absent: Trustee Simone Lightfoot

6:31PM The meeting is an hour underway when I get here. The trustees have heard the African American Humanities report and are asking questions.

INFORMATION ITEM: AAPS High School African American Humanities Class Update

Baskett asks about budgeting for the class. She asks how Jazz History can be added as a standard practice for part of the curriculum. Swift says she was anxious to see the presentation tonight so she could get into the conversation of how to better support the AA Humanities class. She says Jazz History is a component they should be able to bring into the curriculum at all five high schools.

In what ways can they enhance the programming so that it is the “full plate” at every high school campus, asks Swift. Currently, each high school offers a different complement of programming for the class, with Huron and Skyline High Schools offering a more robust curriculum.

Manley asks if there is a plan to offer the course at Community High School. It currently is a Community Resource (CR) class. They are still working on developing something for Community. Manley says she is excited the course is still being offered, remembering when the course was first offered 25+ years ago. The bottom line to her is that all students get all components of the course, regardless of which high school they attend.

Swift says she is taking the note of working to having the offering at Community. Stead appreciates things that are different between schools. They have allowed and demanded some differences. She would love to hear what they imagine the program looks like five years from now and how it is consistent and different across the district.

Some of the teachers express their wishes. One says she would like to be under the umbrella of the Humanities department. Another teacher says he would like it to stand alone as a Humanities program. He would like the component of service be added to the course as an enrichment to the students, outside of the academic component.

Stead asks how frequently all the Humanities teachers from across the district get together. They have met a couple times, but because of budget, it has not been as frequently as they would like. Swift says she would take note, as that is an easy fix.

Stead asks how students get information about what counts and doesn’t count for credit. She says clarity on what the course offers and how it meets credit requirements could help boost enrollment. The Skyline show the AA Humanities class put on has helped enrollment. Another teacher says she often suggests it to kids on caseload. It has become part of the culture of the school, as well. At Huron, there is a curriculum day where students can learn about course offerings. Pioneer is similar to Huron, says a Pioneer teacher. At Pathways, counselors help direct students to the course, as does word of mouth from other students.

Baskett says she is also interested in the answer to the question Stead asked: what they imagine the program will look like in five years. She asks for them to let the trustees know what they need to better support the program.

Stead says the course is important to have emphasis on, especially given the current climate in the country. She thanks the Humanities teachers who are present.


Ann Arbor Education Association President Linda Carter commends all the Office Professionals who she has worked with, as today is National Administrative Professionals Day. She goes name by name, saying something about each person she worked with.


Mary Duerksen, AAPAC Chai,r says she is here tonight to make good on AAPAC’s goal of being more communicative with the board. She begins by reviewing the mission. Currently, there are approximately over 2000 AAPS students with IEPs. At the monthly parent meetings, there is a pre-meeting conference time for parents with SISS and Section 504 administrators. The average parent attendance is about 30. The meetings are broadcast live to members of the Facebook group. She shares meeting highlights.

Two on-going issues AAPAC brings up with the administration: 1) Classroom sound fields are under-used; 2) Be sure that all students are with their same-age peers as much as possible. She asks they “think of all students as general education students first.”

Needs of the community: adapted summer programming for students with severe disabilities. The next meeting is Monday, May 7, from 7-9:00PM. Part of the meeting will be a paperwork party, for parents of students with IEPs. It’s a way to help parents get on top of organizing their paperwork or figuring out missing papers they might have.

INFORMATION ITEM: AAPS Advisory Groups Update

Advisory Groups are groups that are made up of students, staff, parents, and community members. The current list:

  • Comprehensive Daily High School Schedule
  • Evaluation Advisory
  • District Assessment
  • Superintendent Teacher Advisory
  • Environment & Sustainability
  • Blue Ribbon community Leaders
  • 2015 Bond Advisories
  • Freeman Environmental Learning Center

Swift highlights the 2018 batch of new advisory groups:

  • Environment & Sustainability
  • Freeman Environmental Learning Center
  • Special Education
  • Superintendent Teacher Advisory
  • Grow Your Own

The goals is for the groups to seat in April, May, and June, then work for two years. At the end of two years, they will determine if there is a need for the group to continue. In summary, Swift says, she appreciates emails and letters from staff, parents, and students who are willing to serve on Advisory Groups.

INFORMATION ITEM: Grow Your Own Teacher Development Project

The Grow Your Own Teacher Development project is one that was initially floated by the board back on December 20, 2017. Tonight is an update on the progress made towards the Grow Your Own teacher development program.

  1. Recruiting, attending job fairs
  2. Every hiring committee in the district is a diverse one
  3. Preliminary plan of Grow Your Own teacher development


  • inspired to enhance interest in teaching as a career, leveraging human talent from among our current students who will pursue an education degree and return to serve right her in our Ann Arbor community
  • The support and development begins with the establishment of Future Teacher Academies in each comprehensive high school and continues along a continuum of development and supports in encouraging students, particularly students of color, toward a successful career in education
  • characteristic of the Ann Arbor effort is a community/university coalition, working together to mobilize community support of the growth of these young teachers, lifting up the profession of teaching from within the local community.


  • allows the district to build a pipeline of future educators
  • builds stronger relationships between AAPS and area colleges
  • allows district to develop workforce programs to tap into diverse teaching talent
  • promotes and highlights a positive image of the education profession
  • builds a community coalition in support of developing quality teachers
  • A video is shown

Spotlight Programs

  • Pathways2Teaching Program begins in the Denver Public Schools, then takes students through the University of Colorado Denver
  • Grow Your Own Teacher Development Program at Columbia Public Schools in Columbia, Missouri (a video is shown)

Next Steps

  • Recruit campus sponsors at high schools
    • teachers develop a cohesive group from among students considering or interested in education
  • Engage with university partners (including HBCUs)
    • UofM, Concordia University, Eastern Michigan University, Alabama A&M University
  • Convene a Community Advisory Group
    • AAEA
    • Community leaders
    • Michigan Educational Credit Union
    • Minority Affairs
    • Schools of Ed
    • Teacher Sponsors
    • Others

Phase II – Grow Your Own: Support Staff

  • survey staff to find those interested in or currently pursuing a degree in education
  • solicit feedback from administrators on viable candidates
  • solicit staff from substitute pool
  • host internal fair to introduce the program
  • application and interview process
  • selection process
  • tuition assistance/scholarship opportunities
  • student teaching opportunities
  • provide training on program initiatives

One last video is shown to summarize the Grow Your Own project. Shonta Langford, Executive Director Human Resources & Employee Relations, says she looks forward to moving forward with this program.

This issue is close to Mitchell’s heart, and she says she appreciates Swift taking the time to do the research and work on this program. She understands the importance of having teachers of color in the classroom. She says it was shocking to her when she moved here from Washington, D.C. where the majority of her teachers were teachers of color. She emphasizes the need to recruit at HBCUs.

Kelly notes the need to keep young professionals here in Ann Arbor. She asks if there are plans to work towards developing a support network for them. Langford says that would be ideal.

Manley asks how the program is going to be organized. She recalls past clubs that didn’t allow for much time for work with students. Langford says they are thinking about ways to organize: be it a class. She said they were looking to give the Advisory Group more agency over deciding the direction of the program.

Baskett says she is skeptical. She suggests starting with the Trailblazers Program, starting with what works in that program. She doesn’t want to disparage this work, but she doesn’t want to lose focus on other work. She says they need to look at the hires they are making. Baskett says Black people want to know things like where are they going to get their hair and nails done. She loves the issue of social justice and wants to highlight teaching as an honorable profession.

Baskett is challenged by some of the “self-hate” she hears from some of the AAPS teaching staff. She wants to highlight that teaching is an honorable profession. She posits they would get a better initial return if they begin the program with current support staff. Baskett asks what is needed from the board.

Swift says they need to know the board is supportive of the program. and then she and her team will move forward. She says she feels that launching the student program could happen in the fall and give them time to get partnerships in place, while launching the support staff program would need a university partner beforehand.

Langford assures Baskett, saying she is committed to increasing minority staffing and is working to do it using several different tools. Project Grow Your Own is only one facet of that work.

Gaynor is pleased with the desire to increase minority educators in the district. He asks if it is true that there has been an increase in minority educators in the district. He also asks if new hires in the district were new educators or are experienced teachers. He wonders what the district’s actual practice is in terms of hiring new teachers.

Mitchell says that many of the Grow Your Own programs have conditions for the program, in a way to protect the investment into the student. There is precedence for those kinds of programs, says Stead. Gaynor says they need to be honest with students, saying teaching is “the hardest job,” but it is worth it. He says it is not an easy profession to recommend at this point, specifically here in Michigan.

Stead asks about the cost of the program. The board is fully endorsing the program, but the processes of figuring out the logistics of the program along with the costs need to be done in tandem.

8:48PM The trustees take a break.

9:09PM The meeting resumes.

INFORMATION ITEM: 2018-19 Preliminary Budget Considerations

Swift says it is important to remember that according to the most recent analysis of school spending, Michigan is 34th in the country. There is a long way to go, she says, despite some bright spots. The board needs to pass a balanced budget by June 30, 2018.

Federal Budget Considerations

Marios Demetriou, Assistant Superintendent Finance & Operations, talks about the impact of the Tax Law passed earlier this year. The impact of reducing taxes for US operations from 35% to 21% and reducing overseas operations from 35% to 0%, will change how U.S. companies do their business.

Nonpartisan calculations indicate that the proposed tax cuts will increase the national debt by between $1T and $1.5T, on top of the debt already held.

State Budget Considerations

The Michigan School Aid Fund (SAF) pays for the operation of public schools to maintain and support a system of free public elementary and secondary school. In the past eight or so years, law was changed so that now the SAF also funds 28 community colleges and 15 public universities.

There has been little to no growth in General Fund revenue in Michigan over the past decade. It has remained below $11B. The SAF is now contributing to the GF.

Per Pupil Foundation Allowances haven’t kept up pace with the cuts over time. Retirement contribution rates in Michigan are some of the highest in the nation.


State Aid Proposals

  • Foundation Increase per pupil: Executive ($120), Senate ($115), House ($120)
  • Computer Adaptive Tests: Executive (eliminated), Senate (eliminated), House (No change)
  • MPSERS One_Time

Revenue Budget Assumptions Local

  • on time revenue in prior year for cell tower income, easements and rent settlements: ($3,790,000)
  • operating millage restoration to 18 mills: $1,790,000

Revenue Budget Assumptions State

Given the assumptions of various revenue cuts and increases, the budget will be impacted by the following amounts, given which budget actually ends up passing at the State level.

  • Executive: ($925,523)
  • Senate: ($1,014,001)
  • House: ($860,523)

Expenditure Budget Assumptions

  • Wage increase per negotiated CBAs: $672,428
  • Health insurance increase: $217,215
  • Retirement rate increase from 25.56% to 26.18%: $834,318
  • Operations contracts COLA: $200,000
  • Elimination of section 147c(2), MPSERS One Time Deposit: ($2,700,000)
  • Professional staff retirements of 50 replaced: ($2,000,000)
  • Total Expenditures ($3,302,039)

Fund Balance Assumptions: 

No matter which budget is passed at the State level, there will be a decrease to the Fund Balance, given the loss of revenue.

Next Steps

  • Continue Preliminary Budget Discussions
    • Analyze conference budget proposal when available
    • Consider impact of May Consensus Revenue Estimating Conference
    • Continue to monitor Spring enrollment process
    • Develop Final Amended 2017-18 Budget

Board Adoption of a Balanced Budget by 6/30

  • Board study session: 4/25
  • Approve motion for a public hearing:

Stead says they have worked to protect AAPS from what the State is going to do. This disinvestment in public education is the biggest threat to Michigan’s future, says Stead. There is nothing more condemning to the state over the next couple decades than what has happened and continues to happen in Michigan.




Mitchell says she had the great pleasure to see “In the Heights” at Pioneer High School. She encourages the public to see this wonderful production.

Stead talks about the memorial to lynching victims in Montgomery, AL that opened today. She recommends the article in the NYTimes, as they continue to talk about race and race relations.



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