AAPS Trustees Focus on Suspension Rates

Ann Arbor Public Schools Board of Education regular meeting (May 9, 2018): Forsythe Middle School, 1655 Newport Rd

Tonight’s Ann Arbor Public Schools (AAPS) Board of Education (BOE) regular meeting begins at 7PM.

The annual Student Conduct report will be given as an information item. No board action is taken on information items.

There are two first briefing items on the docket. The trustees will hear a review of the 2018-19 Washtenaw Intermediate School District (WISD) budget. All school districts in Washtenaw County are required to vote on the WISD budget. There will also be a briefing on Summer 2018 Infrastructure Improvements: Paving Restorations, Asphalt, and Storm Water Repairs.

Items up for second briefings: 2015 Bond Classroom Enhancements: Phase III Furniture Purchase; Disaster Mitigation Services; Pattengill Structural Restoration; and Ductwork Replacement: Skyline Natatorium.

The Phase III Furniture purchase is for the five high schools. The total estimated cost of the Phase III furniture will not exceed $3M. Each classroom will contain standing height learning options for students and teachers, movement enabled seating choices, desks or tables supporting flexible configurations, and small group learning tables.

In the event of a natural or man-made emergency, the AAPS Physical Properties Department recommends approving a two-year contract to Sunglo Restoration Services. Funding will be dependent upon disaster and extent of damage.

Pattengill Elementary’s computer room has settled in excess of two inches, which has caused cracking in the concrete block wall and depressions in the concrete slab. The recommended repairs will cost $52,400 and will be paid out of the Sinking Fund.

The recommendation is to replace the current fabric ductwork in the Skyline High School Natatorium with metal ductwork. The ductwork replacement will be cost $124,900 and will be paid out of the Sinking Fund.

The trustees will vote on the second briefing items during the consent agenda.

The board will take action on approving a notice calling for a public hearing for the 2018/19 budget.

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

Absent: Vice President Susan Baskett, Trustee Simone Lightfoot

The meeting is called to order.


Mary Duerksen, Ann Arbor Parent Advisory Committee (AAPAC) chair, focuses her report on safety and inclusion. She shares a story of a Burns Park Elementary general education teacher who is a good example of working with special education teachers to help students progress. The next AAPAC event is on May 30. It’s a four hour training session open to parents of teens with all disabilities, about planning for students’ future in high school an beyond.

Mitchell asks if parents with students with delays are welcome to attend the training session. Duerksen affirms they are.


In observance of National Teacher Appreciation Week, Ann Arbor Education Association (AAEA) President Linda Carter celebrates the music teachers who made a difference in her life. She also acknowledges the school nurses who have taken care of band camp students. She quotes Pablo Casals.


Stead thanks the community for supporting the operating millage. The operating millage is the biggest source of funds for paying for teachers. She recognizes the 9% of voters who came out to vote. The district did what they could to get the word out, says Stead. She is interested in people’s ideas of getting voters to show up in May. She asks for people to call or email her with their ideas. It’s not new, it’s not unique, and it’s not sneaky, says Stead, to have an election in May. Shame on us, she says, that the voter turnout was so low. Show up for elections when you have an opportunity. This is how democracy works.

Stead acknowledges National Teacher Appreciation Week. She thanks teachers for their work for students every day. She also thanks school nurses for their tireless work.

Stead also thanks Swift for putting on a great breakfast last week about gun safety in schools. The breakfast included leadership from Detroit Public Schools, University of Michigan, and AAPS.


Swift thanks the Ann Arbor community for the vote of confidence in affirming the AAPS 2018 Operating Millage. She says she loves the first full week of May because it is National Teacher Appreciation Week. “Teaching is the profession that enables all other professions.” Swift also recognizes the district’s school nurses, as it is National School Nurses Day. Today was also National Bike and Walk to School day.

Huron High School has been announced as winning 2018 Great Schools College Success Award. The award is based on postsecondary school data. US News and World Report released best high schools in the country. The rankings are based on student performance in math and reading, as well as the performance of historically underserved students. Pioneer: 20, Skyline: 21, Huron: 35, Community: 135 in Michigan.

Community High School’s So Fly Zone, jazz combo, was awarded DownBeat magazine’s Student Music Award. Swift also acknowledges other success around the district, from Slauson Middle School’s Science Olympiad team to the Kiwanis Scholarships,  to UMS event honoring Yale Rothfield as Music Educator of the Year to the dedication of the Dottie Davis Softball Field at Huron High School to a resource fair for the district’s bilingual families.

Swift highlights some upcoming events:  the Washtenaw Elementary Science Olympiad (WESO) tournament this weekend. WESO is the largest Elementary Science Olympiad tournament in the world. Several Listen and Learn events are scheduled for the month of May.  Picnic Pops is happening May 19 at Pioneer High School.

Swift extends the district’s condolences for the passing of Michigan Superintendent of Education Brian J. Whiston.


Planning: None

Performance: Kelly says the committee met at the end of April and were briefed on the student conduct report, which will be shared later tonight.

Finance: There is a meeting scheduled for later in the month.

Governance: Next meeting is Friday, May 18. Public is welcome to all committee meetings.

INFORMATION ITEM: Annual Student Conduct Report 2016-17

Swift asks Jazz Parks, Executive Director Middle School Education, to join her on the stage to present.

Swift says they have been focused on explicit work to reduce out of school suspensions. She says they are doing more and more each year to get supports to students at an earlier part in their process. Swift says they have moved from the systems work they have done in years past to more individualized work with each student.

Supports: People who do the work, the programs, and the practices. The district has added counselors, ninth grade deans, behavior interventionists, peer mentoring.

High School Suspension

Overall, there has been a 48% decrease in suspension over the past seven years. Swift acknowledges the significant disparity between different racial and ethnic groups. She also acknowledges the higher rates of suspension for special education and economically disadvantaged students. A student from poverty is a little more than three times likely to be suspended than a student not from poverty. Males are suspended at nearly double the rate as females.

Snapshot of where the district is today: highest suspension rate in high school is with Special Education, Economically Disadvantaged, and African American students.

Swift says they are not proud of where they started. They are, however, excited they have seen reductions and those reductions have held. But the disparities need to be addressed.

Middle School Suspension

There as been an overall  reduction of 67% in suspensions at the middle school level.

Again, African American, Special Education, and Economically Disadvantaged students are suspended at a higher rate than any other subgroup.

Student Behavior Supports

What do they do as they review this data and how do they move forward to improve these rates, asks Swift. She says they are experiencing a much greater need for social and emotional supports for students.

Shared Values: 

  • Equity
  • Relationships
  • Progressive Model of behavior intervention and discipline.


  • All hands on deck approach
  • Achievement Team and Care Team processes systemically in place to support students in a proactive way
  • Reduced suspensions for insubordination by focusing on supporting strong teacher-student relationships.

Supporting Positive Social/Emotional Development:

  • Restorative Justice
  • counselors, psychologists, social workers
  • Building Intervention Specialists
  • Community Resources, such as:
    • Ozone House
    • Neutral Zone
    • Community Mental Health
    • Communication Action Network

Next Steps

  • continue to monitor and review monthly discipline data with building administrators
  • engage in district-wide equity work to address individual, team, and systems-level biases, cultural competency
  • ensure training for staff: equity, bias, cultural competence, and trauma-informed care
  • support for each and every student based on their individual needs
  • strengthen Ann Arbor community partnerships

Trustee Questions: 

Gaynor says he isn’t sure that the PowerPoint shows the trustees anything. He says there is no example of any real work that needs to be done. He agrees that staff-student relationships is the most important thing, but teachers are stressed by all the other bureaucratic work that has been imposed on them.

Stead says it wouldn’t be appropriate to go over individual cases. Swift says when they have a report on the social-emotional supports, there will be more specific examples. Gaynor says he believes that this report could be given by any school district in the state of Michigan. Swift says she does not believe other districts are doing restorative justice or peer to peer mentoring, but then she says she doesn’t want to be argumentative.

Stead suggests for Parks to explain what is being done with practices like restorative justice or peer to peer mentoring. Maybe that would help show the trustees and the public more of what is being done. Gaynor wants to hear from teachers and students that their needs are being heard and met. Swift says they could do both a report on those practices, on the same day as the social/emotional supports report.

Mitchell asks how they are protecting students who are being bullied. Parks says that if the bullying happens during the school day, it falls under the purview of building administrators. She also notes the success of the Okay 2 Say campaign, saying there has been a lot that has been reported through the anonymous service.

Mitchell asks about teachers’ biases. She asks how they are identifying teachers who are clearing demonstrating biases, and she wonders how they are addressing that. Parks says it is having the moral courage to call it out and address it. She encourages school leaders and empowers them to have the confidence to have those uncomfortable conversations with staff. If there is some kind of disparity between consequences, they expect the leadership to have the “moral courage” to address them. There is also the need to provide the training to staff.

Kelly says she is proud that they have had the “guts” to study themselves in this way. There has been a reduction, yes, but that has stagnated over the past couple years. She is hopeful they are putting the practices in place. She is alarmed by this current data, especially given the three populations that are hit by suspensions most of all. Suspensions negatively affect all students, she says. We are not serving our most vulnerable students by having suspension rates, although they are lower. She calls on her colleagues to be bold, maybe to take a moratorium on suspensions, while they figure out the data.

Manley calls out the shared values. She says those values are ones the district has had forever. She says the professional development for teachers is gone. Teachers need social-emotional help, as well. There has to be investment in staff, especially newer teachers.

Stead acknowledges that these have been shared values for a long, but at the same time, she has seen Swift work systematically to put programs in place to work on this. The restorative justice program is significantly different than anything done previously. This is the district’s hardest work. There should be some things, however, that the district should be able to say are not acceptable behavior. Stead wants to see legitimate progress because they are working to get to the heart of the problem.

Stead draws a connection between the highest suspension rates in 2010-11 and the cutting of adults in school buildings. AAPS has been working to add back more adults in counseling roles. She asks Swift to keep up the good work, saying they are doing the hard work.


Local school boards must consider a resolution of support or may indicate specific recommendations for the Washtenaw Intermediate School District (WISD) General Fund budget by June 1.

What is an ISD?

  • operates cooperative programs across the county
  • secures educational resources and shares them equitably
  • build local capacity to improve student achievement
  • provides services to assure each child learns
  • teacher & leader initiative
  • math & literacy initiative
  • school and community partnerships
  • technology & data management

Stead goes over WISD budget and expenditures, as well as special education fund sources. There is a chart on outgoing transfer for special education, in addition to a special education reimbursement history. WISD passes through a reimbursement to county districts for the costs of providing special education. Because of the county-wide millage that passed a couple years ago, the reimbursement rate increased significantly. Stead notes there is a lag of two years in the reimbursement for special education services.

Kelly asks if there is some best practices for ISD fund balances. Marios Demetriou, Assistant Superintendent Finance & Operations explains. He says a $3M fund balance is fair. When Kelly asks about the disparity between revenue and expenditures, Demetriou says it is not that much of a difference and it could easily be made up by a higher tax increase.

Stead says that school districts in Michigan are required to pass a balanced budget. It’s up to the board’s purview, if they want to spend more and take a hit to their fund balance.

FIRST BRIEFING ITEM: 2018 Infrastructure Improvements: Paving Restorations, Asphalt, and Storm Water Repairs

It is that time of year again, Swift says, in which they work on infrastructure repairs, specifically paving. There will be significant work done at King Elementary, Mitchell Elementary, and Angell Elementary. Projects will include sidewalk and curb replacements and storm water infrastructure repairs. Pricing is better this year than it was last year.

The recommendation is to approve a contact to Best Asphalt of Romulus for $1,068,875, the same company used by the district last year. On behalf of Baskett, Swift asks about the quality of the concrete work, noting they have had concrete work fail fairly quickly in the past.

SECOND BRIEFING: 2015 Bond: Phase III Furniture Purchase

No new information. No discussion

SECOND BRIEFING ITEM: Disaster Mitigation Service

No changes. No discussion

SECOND BRIEFING ITEM: Pattengill Structural Restoration

No changes. No discussion

SECOND BRIEFING ITEM: Ductwork Replacement: Skyline Natatorium

No changes. No discussion


The trustees vote on the consent agenda, which includes:

  • Phase III Furniture Purchase
  • Disaster Mitigation Service
  • Pattengill Structural Restoration
  • Ductwork Replacement: Skyline High School

Outcome: The consent agenda passes unanimously. 

BOARD ACTION ITEM: Approve Notice Calling for Public Hearing of 2018/19 Budget

The district is required to hold one public hearing on the budget. AAPS trustees have worked to hold two public hearings. The first public hearing will be on May 23, the second one on June 13. The trustees would vote on the budget at their last regular meeting of the school year on June 27.

Outcome: The trustees unanimously approve the notice. 


Gaynor says the name Bob Seger keeps floating around his head. Stead clarifies, saying she got a phone call from a Detroit area radio DJ who asked if an unnamed road on Pioneer High School property in honor of Bob Seger, a Pioneer alum. Stead says it is the same process anyone would go through in order to have something named after them. One of the criteria is how much of a contribution that individual has made to the schools.


Kelly gives an overview of some of the events she attended this past week: an overview of the budget for the Blue Ribbon panel and a lunch of the A2YChamber of Commerce where she heard the stump speech of gubernatorial candidate Gretchen Whitmer.  Kelly says she understands why Whitmer is endorsed by the MEA. She is looking forward to WESO.

Gaynor shares a bit about the M-Prize, chamber arts competition, he  recently attended. His last neighborhood chat of this school year will be on May 17, from 6:45-7:30 PM at the Songbird Cafe on Plymouth and Nixon.

Mitchell attended Huron’s spring orchestra concert. She congratulates the musicians on a job well done.

Stead thanks the members of the Citizen’s Millage Committee. She specifically calls out Steve Norton, executive director of Michigan Parents for Schools, Jack Panitch, and former trustee Glenn Nelson for their help.

Stead also acknowledges the work of Student Advocacy Center Executive Director Peri Stone-Palmquist and the center’s fundraiser this past week.



One thought on “AAPS Trustees Focus on Suspension Rates”

  1. I think Board President Stead doth protest too much. Some years ago, the trustees had pledged not to run elections where the school district had to pay the entire cost because millages or a school board election was the only issue on the ballot. I am disappointed that they abandoned that policy.

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