Ann Arbor Public Schools leaders get a chance to present funding concerns to the state board of education this week. Tuesday's meeting comes on the heels of the legislature approving a K-12 budget that forced the district to delay approving next year's budget.
The Ann Arbor School Board has taken steps towards completing next year's budget, but chose not to vote on the plan Wednesday night. The delay is designed to give more time to adjust spending based on the state's new K-12 funding model.
Ann Arbor Public Schools Director of Communications Liz Margolis discusses why further credit rating downgrades aren't anticipated.
In a statement Superintendent Jeanice Swift says they have in place a solid financial plan to improve fiscal stability. Swift highlights efforts to increase revenue through attracting more students while also taking steps to decrease expenditures without reducing services for students. She believes these moves will help the district begin to rebuild fund balance within a reasonable time.
According to Margolis efforts to increase enrollment appear to be working and the district should be able to increase fund equity next year. She believes this combined with contract concessions the district is working on should lead to higher credit ratings. Margolis adds since the district has no plans to sell bonds now she doesn't anticipate an immediate financial impact from the credit downgrade.
Plans to close Ann Arbor Public Schools estimated $10.7 million budget shortfall for next year without cutting in the classroom is getting positive responses from the community. Superintendent Jeanice Swift was at Scarlett Middle School last night talking about the budget and getting community feedback.
Ann Arbor Superintendent Jeanice Swift's Listen and Learn report did a good job of capturing community thoughts on the district according to Parents and Teachers at a meeting at Forysthe Middle School Thursday night.
WEMU's Andrew Cluley reports on the Ann Arbor School Board approving a variety of new programs for next school year.
The changes include co-locating Roberto Clemente and Ann Arbor Tech High; a K-8 science, technology, engineering, arts, and math program at Northside Elementary; and new pre-k programs at Allen and Thurston Elementary.
Superintendent Jeanice Swift says the next step is creating committees of staff, students, and community members to develop the detailed action plans for each new program.
School board president Deb Mexicotte says the programs are designed to keep costs down but it's still a calculated risk that the new options will attract more students.
The programs are designed to respond to some of the most common concerns raised by community members during the Listen and Learn tour.
There has been positive community feedback about the Pre-K programs at Allen and Thurston and the STEAM program for Northside Elementary. Several Roberto Clemente supporters however told the board they have concerns about what will happen when they move into the same building as Ann Arbor Tech.
The Ann Arbor School Board has asked administrators to move ahead with a series of program enhancements for the next school year in an effort to better fill the district’s buildings.
The improvements include a K-8 Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts and Mathematics program at Northside Elementary, pre-school programs at Allen and Thurston Elementary Schools, and co-location of a variety of alternative High School programs at the Stone School building.
Superintendent Jeanice Swift says the programs came from community comments raised during her Listen and Learn tour and staff did enough prep work so they can be ready this fall.
The board is expected to get more complete reports on the program enhancements at their meeting next week and could vote on them with two weeks.
School Board President Deb Mexicotte says the quick turn-around should work since the controversial issues like co-locating Roberto Clemente and Ann Arbor Tech have been worked on by the district over the last few years. She says most of the other changes come directly from what the community asked for repeatedly during the Listen and Learn tour. Mexicotte says the district is finding ways to respond quickly to community needs without additional funding.
The programs were part of seven next steps Superintendent Jeanice Swift made as part of her report on the listen and learn tour. Swift gave her initial report on the tour at the board retreat. The report will be available online at the district’s website Friday and Swift will hold public meetings to get feedback starting Tuesday at Clague Middle School.
At the retreat the board also worked on establishing board and superintendent goals, and discussed the superintendent evaluation.
Mexicotte says it’s great to see that the program enhancements being considered work toward achieving many of the board’s goals. She says this shows the board’s goals are aligned with want the community wants to see from the district.
WEMU's Andrew Cluley reports on Ann Arbor Public Schools opening up 750 seats for school of choice students from other Washtenaw County school districts.
Up to 5% of Ann Arbor Public Schools students in the fall could be coming to the district from other school districts in Washtenaw County. The school board Wednesday night voted unanimously to open 750 school of choice seats for out of district students.
Superintendent Jeanice Swift says the jump in school of choice seats is one of several efforts to better fill the district's classrooms.
The district has increased the number of school of choice students attending in each of the last four years, but never has filled all of the available seats.
To help fill the spaces this year the district is planning a marketing campaign and district officials hope having spaces in all grades except the last two years of high school will help attract families with multiple children.
School of choice applications will be accepted March third through April first. From Friday through February 14th the district will accept applications for in-district school of choice for students who don't want to attend the school where they live.
WEMU's Andrew Cluley reports on the Ann Arbor School Board approving the catalog for online classes available to district students through the Ann Arbor Virtual Academy, and opening one class to a limited number of students from other districts.
Ann Arbor Public Schools will offer over 225 online classes to middle school and high school students this semester.
The school board Wednesday night approved the district's virtual academy's catalog, and also approved opening ten seats in one algebra class to students from other districts.
School board member Christine Stead says new state laws regarding online learning are yet another unfunded mandate, but the district is working to make the best of the changes.
District officials are hoping to learn a lot from offering the single algebra class to students from other districts. They expect to have many more online classes available to students from other districts in the fall.
Superintendent Jeanice Swift says with the uncertainties around new state laws about online classes every district in Michigan is facing similar challenges.
The deadline for registering for online classes this semester is January 22nd with classes starting one week later.
While students are out of the classroom for the winter break, Ann Arbor Public Schools Superintendent Jeanice Swift is working on a report from her four months long Listen and Learn Tour.
Swift attended about 90 meetings including one in every school in the district to get feedback on the common themes and patterns that are concerning the district. Swift says her report should serve as a good outline of issues that the district needs to tackle.
Swift says she expects about a half dozen issues the district will be able to tackle immediately, while many others may take years to fully address.
Swift says the Listen and Learn tour also served as a valuable way for her to get to know about the unique story behind each neighborhood school.
— Andrew Cluley is a reporter and anchor for 89.1 WEMU News. Contact him at 734.487.3363 or email him aCluley@emich.edu.
Early next year Ann Arbor Public Schools will have a better idea on how effective and efficient their behind the scenes business practices are.
The School Board last night unanimously approved a contract for up to $45,000 with Plante Moran for the audit.
Superintendent Jeanice Swift says since the board originally budgeted up to $80,000 for the audit they will be able to dig deeper into issues raised from the review or other sources. Swift says the audit, her Listen and Learn report, and a benchmark study comparing the district to six similar districts should all be completed in late January or early February. She says this will give the district a good 360 degree look at the health and overall function of the district.
Ann Arbor Public Schools are working on reducing the load students have in their backpacks. The move to online textbooks either through iPads, laptops, or desktop computers will reduce the need to carry books to and from schools.
Superintendent Jeanice Swift says some of the recently adopted textbooks already have online options available and the district wants to expand their use before a complete move to online textbooks. Swift says the bulk of the transition to e-textbooks won't happen for a couple of years. She says the delay will give time for new textbooks to be developed specifically to meet the common core curriculum.
Swift says she doesn't think paper textbooks will ever be completely eliminated but could become an extra feature that costs more.
Ann Arbor Public Schools have still not determined how much they will participate in three county-wide high school options. The school board last night postponed a vote until next week's study session on how many seats they will use in the Early College Alliance, Washtenaw International High School, and Widening Advancement for Youth. The delay comes with Ann Arbor Schools wanting to use many fewer seats than the consortium has allocated to the district.
Superintendent Jeanice Swift says much of the confusion has been blamed on the superintendent transition, but she believes both parties are to blame for the communications issues. Swift recommended the district use 80 seats total in the ECA and Wi-Hi and 15 for WAY. The allocation approved by the consortium last month would give Ann Arbor 80 new seats in the ECA alone, and a straight lottery for Wi-Hi.
David Dugger is the Washtenaw Intermediate School District Director of Secondary Options. Dugger says the other consortium members in October opted to continue to use a straight lottery for Wi-Hi and a proportional system to assign slots to the ECA.
Ann Arbor Public Schools used less fund balance last year than approved in the final budget. The School Board last night received a briefing on the 2013 fiscal year budget audit. The audit shows the district used $7.2 million dollars in fund balance, compared to projections of up to $9.8 million.
Superintendent Jeanice Swift says halting furniture and most equipment purchases, travel restrictions, and other measures starting in March saved about $1.5 million. Swift says many of these restrictions are back in place following student enrollment numbers not reaching projections in September.
Jeanice Swift is on the job. Swift is the newly hired Superintendent of Ann Arbor Public Schools. As WEMU's Andrew Cluley reports, the districts teachers and staff began the new academic year on Tuesday with an opening day ceremony.
Perhaps the second time is the charm. After being rejected by its first choice for district Superintendent, the Ann Arbor Board of Education has offered the job to the other finalist. As WEMU's Andrew Cluley reports, Jeanice Swift was offered the position yesterday and has agreed to enter contract negotiations.
Earlier this week, the two finalists for the position of Superintendent of Ann Arbor Public Schools toured the district, went through a second round of interviews and attended public forums to answer community questions. As WEMU's Andrew Cluley reports, by the end of the day the school board is expected to have made its decision.