Ypsi School Closings, part IV

    The following is submitted by my friends Maria Cotera and Jason Wright, whose daughter Penelope attends Chapelle Elementary:

    Update on School closings in Ypsi.

    It has been a few weeks since our last post, and I’m afraid we haven’t got any good news. We’ve been to board meetings, public forums, and met individually with various school board members, administrators, and community members. It appears that the administration still thinks closing elementary schools is the answer, and that the School Board, with the notable exception of Kira Berman and Andy Fanta, is ready and even eager to sign off on their plan. We think its worth noting, as we have before, that the School Board is an elected body, as such they are supposed to represent the interests of the people, NOT the administration. Unfortunately most of them seem to have forgotten this and have remained steadfast in their refusal to hold the administration accountable in even the most minimal way, as was obvious in the last School Board meeting, where Trustees Berman and Fanta submitted a resolution asking the administration to provide firm numbers as well as a rationale for their school closure proposals. Basically, their resolution asked for three things: 1) they wanted the administration to offer a wider range of plans for “re-structuring” the district, and they wanted these plans to have solid numbers backing them up; 2) they asked for a data-driven rationale for the administration’s current options, which call for the closure of Chapelle, East Middle School, and possibly Adams Elementary; 3) they wanted the administration to explain the broader strategic vision behind their restructuring plan. Unfortunately, Fanta and Berman’s resolution was voted down on “procedural” grounds by the other members of the School Board. Some School Board members even said they felt “ambushed” by the resolution, despite the fact that it basically expressed what we have been asking for in multiple public fora (including this site) for the last few months. Go to Ann Arbor.com for the full story, if you’re interested. We feel now, more than ever, that this Board, again with the exception of a few members, has expressed a remarkable disregard for the public that it serves, as well as an amazing unwillingness to do their jobs (ie: asking for basic information about proposals that will have a tremendous impact on our core educational mission for years to come).

    The administration will present its finalized plan for district “re-structuring” at an open School Board meeting on Thursday, March 18, at 7:00pm. The meeting will be held in the Ypsilanti High School Auditorium. It is extremely important that community members come to this meeting and make their voices heard. The administration’s plan to close elementary schools is bad for our district and bad for our community. Moreover, it sucks the energy out of a group of parents and community members who were beginning to get really excited about the possibilities for public schools in Ypsi, and it sends exactly the wrong message to those of us who care about making Ypsi the best place to live in Southeastern Michigan.

    The School Board will have just four days to ponder whatever plan the administration proposes on Thursday. They have said they will vote on the plan on Monday, March 22, again, in a public meeting (Ypsi High, 7:00pm). Not much time for the Board to weigh their options, but then again, they never asked for, or demanded, either time or options. Rather, the Board has so far appeared to simply be continuing a pattern of rubber-stamping whatever the administration throws their way, which is what got us into this crisis in the first place. The Board, like the administration, has consistently pointed the finger at Lansing as the source of our woes. But we need to play with the cards that we’re dealt, and lately, we haven’t been playing a very good game. Maria and I take our share of the blame for not getting involved sooner, and expect to see more of the same until our Board and our administration start to take responsibility for their failures. Ultimately, it looks like our community will have to demand that they do so, or we’ll likely see a continuation of the pattern that has brought us to where we are now.

    Here’s what folks can do RIGHT NOW.

    First, call or email your elected School Board members. Remind them that they serve at our pleasure, and should uphold the highest standards for decision-making, especially when it comes to our children’s future. Ask them to vote “No” on any plan that calls for closing elementary schools. We have written an open letter to them (see below) that asks for a “reprieve” on school closures until we can come together as a community to develop a strategic plan for restructuring our educational system. We are not against any school closures, we just think that such a strategy must come after a process of deliberation that includes all stakeholders in our public education system.

    Second, please attend both the March 18th meeting and the March 22nd meeting. We need to show these people that Ypsi cares about its schools.

    Also, please feel free to reprint our latest letter to the Board asking them to hold off on immediate adoption of school closure plans:

    Dear Trustee,

    First we’d like to thank you for your service to the Ypsilanti community and to our children. As parents with a child in this district, our goal is to support our administration and our schools in these difficult times. We have stood behind Ypsilanti Public Schools from the moment our child first enrolled at Perry three years ago, encouraging our friends and neighbors to try Ypsilanti schools before turning to charters, private schools, or other schools out of district. We are deeply committed to the success of our schools and we strongly believe that the administration and the Board of Education are as well. However, we are concerned that the administration’s current plans to close schools will undermine the overall educational quality of our system, and make it vastly more difficult for the district to attract new students and expand its profile in the region.

    As our elected representative to the School Board, you are a key link between the community and the Ypsilanti Public School administration, so we understand that your position is very difficult, and that you may well feel “caught” between what appear to be two conflicting agendas. We want to assure you that this is not the case. We know that cuts need to be made to balance our budget. We are not suggesting that you hold the line against any and all cuts; nor that you reject the Deficit Elimination Plan developed by the administration. We simply believe that one element of that plan, the administration’s proposal to close and repurpose schools, and consolidate more children into fewer buildings, merits further consideration, as we fear that it will only increase the district’s long term financial instability.

    We are asking that you request that the administration submit a revised cost-cutting plan that postpones school closures until and unless a more sustainable and rational plan for school restructuring can be developed with the input of all of the stakeholders in our school system. How this input is attained is still up for debate, some have suggested a community-wide “visioning session” is in order, others believe that organizing smaller focus groups among multiple constituencies is the way to go. In either case, it is our understanding that the Deficit Elimination Plan process allows for some wiggle room, and that we have up to three years to shrink our deficit. We believe that putting off school closings until the second, or even third year of our deficit elimination strategy is more sensible than a plan that too hastily closes functioning schools that are currently highly enrolled (like Chapelle Elementary).

    Several alternative proposals emerged during and following the “Community Input workshops” sponsored by the district, some of which call for different configurations of our educational delivery system. Moreover, the actual costs of closing schools (due to lost enrollments) have not been factored in to the short-term (or long-term) financial outlook for our system. Finally, we are concerned that there seems to be no plan for the redistribution of students in a pared down system, and that, according to the district’s own projections, we would have to LOSE students to make either Options 1 and Option 2 feasible. For these reasons, along with many others, we believe that more time should be devoted to the development of a rational reconfiguration of our educational system, one that can function under a more restricted economic outlook while at the same time retaining current students and attracting new students to our district.

    What we do in the face of this current crisis will undoubtedly define us as a district for years to come, and we cannot allow a temporary sense of panic over the budget to determine our future as an educational system. We have seen what has happened to other districts that have turned to school closures as a quick fix to financial woes: declining enrollments, followed by more school closures, followed by the sense that the district is in free-fall. We do not want this future for a district that has so much potential. We believe that there must be a way out of this situation that does not decrease our desirability as a district in the long-term, this might include strategic school closures, but such a plan needs much more thought than the current one. We believe we can find our way through this with a little more time, and a lot more community input.

    Ultimately, if we want to retain a sense of faith in our district, and create a truly democratic reconfiguration of our system, we will need to insure that all stakeholders—parents, teachers, administrators, community members—have a voice in the process. We are asking that you, as representatives of the community, call for a halt to school closures, unless and until we can collectively imagine a more positive strategy for transforming our schools; one that will leave us stronger rather than weaker as we face an uncertain future.

    Thank You,
    Jason Wright
    Maria Cotera

    [note: For background on this issue, check out parts I, II and III, and the comments that accompany them.]

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      45 Comments

      1. Edward
        Posted March 17, 2010 at 8:20 am | Permalink

        I don’t understand how it is that we’re talking about closing schools without first knowing the results of the negotiations with the Ypsi Teachers Union. If they make concessions in order to prevent layoffs, there isn’t any reason to pursue the school closure plan. Isn’t that the best scenario here? It keeps community schools open, keeps more kids in the system, and gives us a somewhat stable foundation to build on.

      2. Curt Waugh
        Posted March 17, 2010 at 9:54 am | Permalink

        Go Kira! That whole “ambush” business was so weak. Maria is right. How can one be ambushed by something that EVERYBODY has been talking about for weeks or months. It’s us who have been ambushed by this anemic board and their mercenary administrators.

        What really pushes my buttons about all this is that, while Maria and her group have a strong opinion about what should be done, they want to argue about it from a factual standpoint. Put the financials together and make an intelligent decision. But the board and administration just seem to want to do what they want, regardless of financial facts or a plan of any sort, and don’t want to talk about it in public. What gives?

      3. missypsi
        Posted March 17, 2010 at 3:41 pm | Permalink

        That’s what gets me too. Adding insult to injury, is that the board seems to be putting unwarranted faith in a plan cooked up by two men who have been here less than a year. Houle (the CFO) jumped ship at Willow Run last summer to come work his magic here. Welcome to Willow Run II. And Dedrick Martin, a young man who is new to the job (just moved up in rank from director of equity and excellence, whatever that means, to Superintendent), new to our district, and new to our community. His family still lives in Champagne, Ilinoisl, so his kids aren’t even in our schools. Both of these men, knowing very little about the district, see no problem with closing a school that is full, very popular across the district, and that even outperformed a “blue ribbon” school (Estabrook) in some of its most recent MEAP scores. A school that serves primarily low income and minority kids. Unbelievable.

      4. D Bates
        Posted March 17, 2010 at 11:29 pm | Permalink

        I think that it is safe to say that it is a gross misrepresentation to say that any member of the school board is “ready and even eager to sign off on their plan”. I think that I can further safely say that what each school board member is prepared to do is to listen carefully to all of the salient considerations and then make the decision that they believe is congruent with the established Board goals, the district’s mission and what they believe is in the best interest of the district’s students. Ms. Cotera and Mr. Wright are correct that the members of the Board represent the interest of the people, what seems to get forgotten is that they represent the interest of all of the people, not just a few that are intent on getting what they want whether it is in the interest of all of the children of the district or not. Administration has been accountable and has provided any and all information that has been requested by the Board in it’s effort to be sure that the decision that is made is the correct one. An ad-hoc committee has met three times with administration and been provided with clear rationale with respect to each decision that has been made. Rationale are based on positioning the district in the long run to be able to provide a top quality competitive education to every child. A considerable amount of public input that has been collected in a variety of ways has been considered in the development of administration’s recommendation. The administration has carefully considered a wide range of alternatives, some of their own design and some that have come at the urging of members of the community. Administration has taken into account the financial as well as instructional and emotional implications of their recommendations. I would ecco Ms. Cotera and Mr. Wright in encouraging interested individuals to attend the special presentation on Thursday evening in the auditorium at the High School to learn more about the decisions that the Board will be faced with on Monday night. These are not easy decisions and I think that any suggestion that members of the Board are in any way acting cavalierly or blindly acquiescing to administrative recommendations is pretentious and unfounded.

      5. Posted March 18, 2010 at 5:52 am | Permalink

        “Ms. Cotera and Mr. Wright are correct that the members of the Board represent the interest of the people, what seems to get forgotten is that they represent the interest of all of the people, not just a few that are intent on getting what they want whether it is in the interest of all of the children of the district or not.”

        So, it’s your opinion then that the families of Chapelle should just shut up and be quiet?

      6. Jeff Clark
        Posted March 18, 2010 at 7:00 am | Permalink

        President Bates,

        Can you give us a richer sense of how many parents in the district are in support of closing schools and increasing classroom sizes–as opposed to “the few,” by which I assume you mean the Chapelle activist group?

        When Trustees Berman and Fanta proposed a resolution asking administration to explore other/various budget reduction plans, you quickly responded–in the board meeting I attended–with what looked to me to be a mixture of not only disapproval, but also of disdain, which suggested to me that, philosophically, you’re at odds with Berman’s politics, which I would characterize as pro-student, progressive, generative, and compassionate.

        As a counterpoint, however, when Superintendent Martin suggested–when asked about his vision for YPSD’s future–that he’s interested in hiring a consultant to come in for a few days and devise a vision for the YPSD, you seemed, all in all, to support the idea.

        All of which leads me to feel that it is neither strident nor naive for members of this community to feel that you, as school board President, are demonstrating an overall comfort with administrative direction, and a discomfort with the idea of responding to this budget crisis with communitarian innovation.

        I would love to see you–at minimum–demonstrate critical inquiry as you’re presented with the administration’s finalized budget plan.

      7. public schools
        Posted March 18, 2010 at 7:02 am | Permalink

        Mark, I think it’s unfair of you to put words into President Bates’ mouth. The situation is bad enough without inflammatory remarks such as those you made.

        What I’d like to see addressed further relates to the following statement: “An ad-hoc committee has met three times with administration and been provided with clear rationale with respect to each decision that has been made.”

        I’m glad that the ad-hoc committee has been meeting, but why has the administration’s “clear rationale” not yet been shared with the anxious public?

      8. Kim the first
        Posted March 18, 2010 at 9:26 am | Permalink

        That quote was from Bates. Mark just followed it with a question. He didn’t “put words in the man’s mouth”.

      9. Edward
        Posted March 18, 2010 at 9:33 am | Permalink

        Thank you for your comment, Jeff.

        Hopefully Mr. Bates will respond. If he does, I have another question for him. I’d like to know if he sees the Board as answerable to the parents of Ypsilanti, or the Administration?

        This whole thing seems odd to me. It’s backwards. As others have pointed out, there’s no reason my the School Board should have been holding a public meeting, defending the Administration’s plan. The Administration should have been on the stage, and the Bard should have been in the audience with the parents. It’s asinine to have them defending an Administration plan which they’d yet to even vote on.

      10. public schools
        Posted March 18, 2010 at 10:08 am | Permalink

        Kim the first,

        It’s sweet of you to defend Mark, but unnecessary. I most certainly realized that Mark quoted Mr. Bates to begin with, but Mark’s question–”So, it’s your opinion then that the families of Chapelle should just shut up and be quiet?”–does strongly imply that Mr. Bates had stated somewhere within his remarks that people should shut up and be quiet. He didn’t.

        There are plenty of bigger, real issues to unite over. Let’s not divide ourselves over imaginary ones.

      11. eastsidemom
        Posted March 18, 2010 at 11:21 am | Permalink

        It is interesting to note that all the comments seem only to morn the possible closing of Chappell (that sqeaky wheel that’s getting heard). No one seems to care about Adams on this line. Do we say we support neighborhood schools (in westside neighborhoods) and then ignore the closing of the last elementary school on Ypsi’s east side? Is this blog a voice for the west side or normal park only.
        Oh and you can run for a school board position, we elect people to this thankless task each year you know. Go ahead and run!

      12. Kim the first
        Posted March 18, 2010 at 12:09 pm | Permalink

        When I hear someone say “put words in their mouth,” I tend to think that someone is attributing to an individual a quote that they didn’t make. In this instance, it was only a quote and a question, to get at the meaning behind the quote. Regardless, I think this entire episode has been handled poorly by the administration and the board. It’s absolutely shameful that our kids are going to suffer as a result our actions.

      13. Aris
        Posted March 18, 2010 at 1:01 pm | Permalink

        Eastsidemom,
        It should be reminded that since December the specific schools targeted to close have only been assumptions due to a lack of transparency on disclosure of actual school names, but that is my humor and cynicism to the end.
        You mentioned that no one seems to care about Adams or at least are less vocal. If you are referring to the public reaction from the Adams community, yesm, it has been less reactionary in comparison to Chapelle, but not with out effort in reaching out. Communication from the Chapelle front has been attempted and received by other schools, but perhaps they know something that the chapelle families do not and have less urgency on the matter. The parent organizations have been alerted on many of the issues that are vital to understanding the overall situation. Your questions are warranted and to be completely honest with you, have been my own questions. This is a situation that will effect all of our schools, so why is there is not more outcry from the schools less likely to be closed, is a mystery.

      14. Maria
        Posted March 18, 2010 at 2:22 pm | Permalink

        Perhaps I should clarify. From the start Jason and I have argued that NO elementary schools should be closed. We think Adams should remain open and in fact that its current educational mission should be supported so that its enrollments continue to increase. In fact, we have proposed to the board on numerous occasions that a Montessori kindergarten should be added to both Chapelle and Adams to attract neighborhood families and get them in on the ground floor. Perhaps you are unaware of the demographics Eastside Mom, but Chapelle currently serves primarily students from the south side and from Willow Run. There are notable exceptions to this, but the truth is that, for whatever reason, many of the Normal Park kids go to Estabrook.

      15. Mr. Thompson
        Posted March 18, 2010 at 2:36 pm | Permalink

        “Ms. Cotera and Mr. Wright are correct that the members of the Board represent the interest of the people, what seems to get forgotten is that they represent the interest of all of the people, not just a few that are intent on getting what they want whether it is in the interest of all of the children of the district or not.”

        It’s funny how Mr. Bates, through his comments, seems to think that the closing of Chapelle will only impact that one school. Perhaps he’s not aware that some of those families will, despite the choices made by the Board, decide to keep their kids in the district. As a result, there will be more kids in the remaining schools, and bigger class sizes. So this isn’t just about Chapelle and Adams. This is about the entire district. This is about hundreds of kids, and doing what’s in their best interest for a change. Shutting down a full neighborhood school that is performing well, shouldn’t even be an option. What should be an option is getting the teacher’s union to make concessions. That’s how the board should be spending their time.

      16. D Bates
        Posted March 18, 2010 at 3:00 pm | Permalink

        First it was not my intent to suggest that there was no place for Mr. Wright’s and Ms. Cotera’s opinions about the most appropriate direction for the district. Both have raised appropriate questions and added to our communities understanding of the complexity of the issues. I simply object to their assertion that because some members of the Board may disagree with them that we are somehow not representing the community. Members of the Board receive input from many people and many sources and then each member makes a decision based on what he or she believes is in the best interest of children and the district. I think that it is unfair to suggest that because somebody disagrees with you or has a different perspective that they are not listening or not responsive.
        My response to the resolution proposed by Trustees Berman and Fanta should not be seen as a comment on either of their politics. I believe that all of the Board members, myself included are pro-student and compassionate. The resolution addressed issues that either had already been addressed by administration or which administration was in the process of addressing, something that I may have mistakenly assumed that Board members would already be aware of.
        I believe that I have spent considerable time asking administration to support with real and tangible evidence why their recommendations are in the best interest of the students and the district. It would be fair to suggest that I am feeling comfortable with administration’s recommendation. That is not because I am blindly going along with them but because I have spent many many hours agonizing over the various challenges we face, examining the proposed recommendations, asking questions, reading about what is going on in other places, trying to think of alternatives that may have not been considered, asking administration to look into a couple of alternatives and talking with members of the community, including Ms. Cotera and Mr. Wright to try to make sure that the decision that I would make would have the best chance assuring that all children in our district get the best possible education.
        To respond to Edward: The Board is answerable to the entire community, and not just the parents. The Board is elected by the entire community. The Administration is answerable to the Board. The community should hold the Board accountable. However, please consider what accountability means. This Board could not function effectively if accountability meant that the Board does what ever any individual or special interest group says that the Board should do. Accountability means that each Board member makes the best decision that they can, based on the information available to them, that is in harmony with the mission of educating all students to high levels of academic achievement in a safe nurturing environment. For better or worse the State further stipulates that it must be accomplished with the money that the state is willing to provide for that purpose.
        The Board did not hold a public meeting to defend the administration or the administration’s plan, rather the purpose of that meeting was for the community to raise issues and ask questions that they felt were salient to the difficult decisions faced by the Board and this community. The appropriate interface is the community and the Board. Since no decision had been made at that time there was nothing to defend. The Board has repeatedly demonstrated its interest in public input by providing a variety of different forums for input such as the two public meetings that the Superintendent conducted, regularly scheduled Board meetings, the public input meeting that was mentioned. Additionally the superintendent has met with at least two school PTA groups and at least a couple of community groups, I suspect more.
        Responding to “Public Schools”: That is the express purpose of the special Board meeting to be held this evening (Thursday, March 18) in the auditorium at the high school at 7:00.

      17. Edward
        Posted March 18, 2010 at 3:07 pm | Permalink

        Thank you for your response, Mr. Bates. I disagree with you on this, but I appreciate your taking the time to engage me and the other readers of this site.

      18. Aris
        Posted March 18, 2010 at 4:43 pm | Permalink

        President Bates,

        Thank you.

        Now, to where I find conflicting information regarding the administration’s campaign thus far.

        You state “I believe that I have spent considerable time asking administration to support with real and tangible evidence why their recommendations are in the best interest of the students and the district.”

        Is it not safe to say the community has asked for this same information? Facts and data that could enable us to propose more concrete recommendations. Given the insightful tools, the community will know the rationale that you are working behind and propose creative methods to improve our district. Perhaps this is insight we are not required to have, but the administration should not give the false idea that we can. They opened the door to ask the questions.

        Also you mentioned, “Since no decision had been made at that time there was nothing to defend.” That was March 6th. I find it shocking that in a week and a half, a solution was generated and critically analyzed as the best fit.

        In general, the these conversations reflect the continuous theme of defending our stance on our value systems. We need to stop purging our political agendas and rationales and save the energy for truly examining what will be presented tonight.

      19. Kim the first
        Posted March 19, 2010 at 7:49 am | Permalink

        I wasn’t at last night’s meeting, but I understand that the administration put forward their plan, which calls for the closing of Chapelle and East Middle School. The board should vote on it shortly.

      20. Mr. Thomas
        Posted March 19, 2010 at 8:52 am | Permalink

        The AnnArbor.com story on last night’s meeting:

        http://www.annarbor.com/news/chapelle-east-middle-school-to-be-closed-under-proposed-ypsilanti-public-schools-plan/index.php

      21. Posted March 20, 2010 at 8:30 am | Permalink

        Did the administration presentation go into specifics as to where they thought they would lose students in the scenario of closing the two schools? K, 1, 2, etc. I would take a close look at those to understand their assumptions.

      22. Posted March 20, 2010 at 8:39 am | Permalink

        OK, now I understand that the administration’s proposal is predicated on a loss of only 50 students to the district. That seems really really low to me, given the grade reconfigurations involved.

      23. kjc
        Posted March 20, 2010 at 11:02 am | Permalink

        Amy Goodman interviewed Diane Ravitch recently. Pretty enlightening I thought.

        http://www.democracynow.org/2010/3/5/protests

        Part II

        http://www.democracynow.org/blog/2010/3/8/part_ii_leading_education_scholar_diane_ravitch_on_the_death_and_life_of_the_great_american_school_system

      24. Mark
        Posted March 20, 2010 at 11:20 am | Permalink

        I may be mistaken, but, I believe, in an earlier thread, someone noted the number of students that dropped out after the last round of school closings. I suspect they took those numbers into account when making the forecast as to how many would likely leave now.

        Also, that assumption that 50 would leave the school system may have been calculated at a point in the conversation when the closure of Adams was also being discussed.

      25. watchdog
        Posted March 20, 2010 at 11:51 am | Permalink

        To clarify, according to the district’s staffing report, the district would HAVE to lose 50 to make the plan work. Which means that they don’t really have the capacity to make the plan work WITHOUT losing students. It also means that there is no room to grow, which means that there is no chance to increase our revenue stream in the future.
        Here is the breakdown of their plan:
        * Perry Kindergarten will change to K-1
        * Chapelle Community school will close
        * East Middle School will close
        * Estabrook and Erikson will be converted into 2-6 schools
        * Adams elementary school will become a K-6 school
        * West Middle School will be renamed
        * Alternative high school located at Ardis (a former elementary)

        When I look at this plan, I imagine a new parent in the district and what they would think. Does this look like a logical way to structure your child’s education (K-1, then switch to 2-6, then switch to 7-8, oh, and by the way there is a k-6 option)? Can’t we just have a NORMAL district with four k-5 schools like almost every other school system in the country? This plan seems phenomenally dumb to me.
        Please attend the School Board Meeting on Monday, March 22, (7:00pm) to voice your opinion about this plan. The meeting will be at Ypsi High School.

      26. Maria Cotera
        Posted March 23, 2010 at 9:56 pm | Permalink

        An update for all that were not at the meeting last night. The Board voted 5 to 2 to approve the Administration’s plan to close Chapelle Community School and East Middle School. The Trustees voting to close both schools were: Daved Bates, Linda Horne, Edward Jackson, Floyd Brumfield, and Sarah Devaney. Trustees Andy Fanta and Kira Berman tried to ammend the administration’s proposal, asking to keep Chapelle open for one more year, while closing East. That was voted down by the other members of the board. Ultimately Fanta and Berman voted “NO” on the Administration’s plan.
        Now we must step up and advocate for Chapelle’s children, especially those who live on the south side of Michigan Avenue. The administration will likely want to designate Adams as their “neighborhood” school (since it has more room), but most of those children live closer to Estabrook. I feel it imperative to insure that children who live within a few miles of Estabrook get first choice to go to that school so that they don’t have to ride the bus across town. Superintendent Martin said that he was setting up a meeting with Chapelle families for this week, so that he could talk to us about our “options” moving forward. We need to get a guarantee from him that Chapelle children will not continue to be victimized by this administration.

      27. Mark H.
        Posted March 24, 2010 at 5:27 am | Permalink

        What I don’t understand about this budgetary crisis at the Ypsi school district is why it was not anticipated. Budgets don’t suddenly go from being OK to $8 million in deficit. Managers and board members seem to have been asleep at the wheel, in terms of closely monitoring revenues/expenditures and enrollment trends. Only when that’s done, can careful planning really be done. And it doesn’t seem like the school closing proposals were carefully drafted and analyzed over time: Rather they appear to be rushed last minute jobs.

      28. public schools
        Posted March 24, 2010 at 1:30 pm | Permalink

        Mark H.,

        The YPS budget has been in trouble for years; hence, the previous school closings in 2005 and a number of budget cuts and property sales since then. This has been no secret, and no one who’s been paying attention would say that the budget has been “OK.” I believe the administration and school board are among those who have been paying attention.

        As for this recent proposal, I would not presume to speak to the care and time spent on them.

      29. Posted March 24, 2010 at 2:46 pm | Permalink

        At Monday’s meeting, school board members acknowledged that decisions made a few years ago to give teachers a huge raise (sold as raising pay to match other county districts – which means Ann Arbor) without having the means to pay for it was a mistake. Add in a similarly unsustainable raise for support staff and you have much of the district’s “structural” deficit.

      30. kjc
        Posted March 24, 2010 at 2:48 pm | Permalink

        Yeah, it’s not about complete underfunding of the educational system in this country. It’s those wealthy teachers/secretaries/aides.

      31. Posted March 24, 2010 at 4:34 pm | Permalink

        Ypsilanti teachers are still paid less than other teachers in the county. But it is indisputably true that personnel costs are the vast majority of costs for all schools in the country. And that is because education is a labor-intensive project. Personally, I don’t want my kids taught by robots.

        I think we also need to recognize the negative role our state legislators (as a group) have played, and their complete inability to a) fund education at levels that even stay flat (remember, everybody got per-pupil cuts this year) and b) (even worse) inability to agree on a budget before the school year starts. By the time the budget was set, districts (which have to set THEIR budgets by July 1) were essentially halfway through the year.

      32. Posted March 24, 2010 at 5:55 pm | Permalink

        I support the teachers, and don’t feel as though they are overpaid. I do think, however, they should have at least considered a temporary 5% pay cut, assuming, of course, that it was for a limited time. That is, if doing so would save schools and keep any of their fellow teachers from being let go. As it is, there won’t be pay cuts, several teachers will lose their jobs, class sizes will get bigger, and more people will pull out of the district. That seems shortsighted to me. I’d rather try to grow the enrollments.

      33. public schools
        Posted March 24, 2010 at 7:29 pm | Permalink

        DesignatedRepublican,

        I was at that meeting, and never heard the word “huge” uttered; nor was the percentage of increase specified, so you seem to be jumping to the most negative of conclusions. I believe the raise was 2-3%, but you’d have to check with someone from that board, unless facts and research are too inconvenient for you. (Is 2-3% huge?)

        Vice-president Horne was the person who made that reference, and she acknowledged later on, when challenged by the YEA president, that her word choice did not accurately convey her intent. I think you had left the meeting by then.

        If you think you are going to win votes from the public school crowd–and you made it clear at the meeting that you were campaigning–you are sadly mistaken. Your comments on this blog and your own do not paint a picture of a person who is ready to work with the realities of public schools, their funding, and their many challenges.

      34. kjc
        Posted March 25, 2010 at 7:50 am | Permalink

        “I support the teachers, and don’t feel as though they are overpaid. I do think, however, they should have at least considered a temporary 5% pay cut, assuming, of course, that it was for a limited time. That is, if doing so would save schools and keep any of their fellow teachers from being let go.”

        I don’t know…there are a lot more parents than teachers. What if all the parents took a 5% pay cut, for a limited time, just to keep their kids’ schools open? That’d be a nice big fund wouldn’t it?

      35. Curt Waugh
        Posted March 25, 2010 at 10:27 am | Permalink

        kjc, this parent already took a pay cut last year. No, that money didn’t go to YPS, but I really didn’t have a choice in the matter. Somehow, we all survived (including my company). The idea that a pay cut for teachers is somehow worse than what’s going on now doesn’t agree with me.

        Ruth:
        “And that is because education is a labor-intensive project. Personally, I don’t want my kids taught by robots.”

        You’ve really hit the nail on the head – just for the wrong reason. The education industry hasn’t innovated in 100 years (or more). While robots can’t teach our kids, computers can certainly bear a huge part of the heavy lifting. Why aren’t our kids on computers all day? Where is the technology that inhabits every other industry in the world? How the heck else are we going to reduce the labor-intensity? We clearly can’t afford to carry on business as usual. Makes me sad that no one is talking about this.

      36. kjc
        Posted March 25, 2010 at 10:35 am | Permalink

        ” The idea that a pay cut for teachers is somehow worse than what’s going on now doesn’t agree with me.”

        The idea that these are the two options doesn’t agree with me.

        And as someone on a computer all day, I can’t recommend that for our kids either.

      37. Posted March 25, 2010 at 11:22 am | Permalink

        My information about the big jump in teacher pay a few years back came from attending the YSD’s budget workshop last month. Among the slides shown was a graph of teacher pay showing a straight up jump in the mid 2000s, which was explained as a negotiated increase to bring YSD teacher pay up to parity with other county districts. Great concept, if you have the money to pay for it. Unfortunately, YSD didn’t then, and still doesn’t. More importantly, despite our best wishes, there will not be any magic bullet coming down from the current state leadership to make things better. Hopefully the next Governor and state legislature will be able to quickly right the sinking ship of state and restore stable and predictable funding for local schools, public safety, etc. It won’t be easy, but it will be worth doing.

      38. Posted March 25, 2010 at 12:12 pm | Permalink

        There is, in fact, a big move to online learning. I don’t think the verdict is in yet as to whether it is as effective–but personally, I will be very surprised if over the long haul it proves to be as effective.

        I also believe that a lot of the advantages of school have to do with engaging the other people in the room in thinking.

        In any case, don’t make the mistake of thinking that technology doesn’t have huge costs associated with it. It does, and typically schools have had a very hard time keeping up with those costs.

      39. Kim
        Posted March 25, 2010 at 12:35 pm | Permalink

        Online learning might make a good supplement. (Stanford has a good deal of their course material online for free.) But it won’t replace good teachers. Dialogue is essential.

      40. Curt Waugh
        Posted March 25, 2010 at 1:40 pm | Permalink

        Do none of you folks work in an industry that has invested in technology in the last 30 years? What are you all so afraid of? That your kids will run laps around you? That’s kinda the point, folks.

        kjc, I’m on a computer all day. If my kids aren’t on computers all day (if 90% of your kids aren’t either), I’d be shocked and dismayed. Knowledge jobs are fantastic and they’re the exact sort of thing I want for my children. You use your brain instead of breaking your back. You make good money. You LEARN things constantly. You solve problems every day. It’s wonderful! (You ever talk to an old plumber? They’re incredible people, but their bodies are broken. Not for everybody. Oh, and my last plumbers used TONS of technology when they were at my house.)

        Why is education treated exceptionally? Sure, they’re kids and they’re developmentally different than adults. I’m not saying throw a 4-year-old in front of XL and make them learn pivot tables. I’m very generally criticizing the single most technologically backward industry in our country for not even trying. Does anybody seriously argue that the primary education industry is either efficient or modern? Why does every kid in college need constant access to a PC and not my kids? I don’t get it.

      41. kjc
        Posted March 25, 2010 at 2:09 pm | Permalink

        “kjc, I’m on a computer all day. If my kids aren’t on computers all day (if 90% of your kids aren’t either), I’d be shocked and dismayed. Knowledge jobs are fantastic and they’re the exact sort of thing I want for my children. You use your brain instead of breaking your back. You make good money. You LEARN things constantly. You solve problems every day. It’s wonderful!”

        Dude, prepare to be shocked and dismayed, but there are a million grunt jobs where you sit at a computer all day. I wouldn’t call them knowledge jobs—yes, you need some knowledge to do them, but you don’t gain much knowledge while you’re there. You sure as hell don’t learn constantly or solve problems every day. Though that sounds like a great computer job to have! Congrats.

        And aren’t kids on computers every day already on their damn phones??

      42. Curt Waugh
        Posted March 25, 2010 at 2:40 pm | Permalink

        Yeah, those rotten kids and their damn phones. Sorry gramps, we’ll get off your lawn now.

      43. Kim
        Posted March 25, 2010 at 2:49 pm | Permalink

        There’s a place for computers in the classroom. Elliot Soloway at U of M is doing some tremendous work in inner-city schools, having kids collaborate on problem solving tasks with wireless devices. So, yes, they are useful tools, but they don’t replace teachers, which is what they’re trying in places like Texas. In Texas, they have kids watching video of teachers delivering lessons. That, in my opinion, will never work. Kids need real teachers, that know them, and can communicate openly with them, tying in current events, and leveraging individual interests.

      44. kjc
        Posted March 25, 2010 at 2:50 pm | Permalink

        Glibness aside, Curt, it’s pretty clear you can do a lot of things with computers besides learn.

        Or, as my coworker just wrote to me when I shared with her the wonderful world of computer jobs (or “knowledge jobs” as you call them):

        “maybe you should send him all the emails that circulate here about how it’s unhealthy to sit all day, that it effs up your circulation, atrophies your muscles, stresses your back, and don’t get me started on what a computer
        does to your eyes.”

      45. Curt Waugh
        Posted March 25, 2010 at 3:24 pm | Permalink

        Hey man, I’m not gonna argue that any sedentary activity is physically bad for a person. Clearly, obesity is horrible (particularly the rise among children – frightening). But let’s blame it on inactivity, not technology. Just to be a jerk about it: Given that kids spend MORE time on technology in school, whadda ya bet they would have MORE time for physical activity because of efficiencies in their education? And what would it take to balance and guide all that? GOOD TEACHERS! I’m just sayin’ there’s probably something good here for everybody.

        And clearly, one datum does not make a trend, but I’ve been sitting in front of one of these suckers for pay for 30 years and I’m as healthy as a horse. A 43-year-old horse (for those of you who know the average life span of a horse).

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