Is there an opportunity for the community to take control of the impending consolidation of Ypsi and Willow Run public schools, and push for a visionary curriculum?

    If you’re a regular reader of this site, you know that my friend Maria Cotera has, over the past few years, been sharing reports with us on the status of Ypsilanti’s public schools. From the closing of Chapelle elementary to the the adoption of the recent deficit elimination plan, she’s established herself, at least in my eyes, as one of the few reliable sources of credible information that we have available to us. Well, tonight, we have a new chapter, concerning the impending consolidation of the Ypsilanti and Willow Run school districts. The following comes from an email that Maria just sent out (with a few minor edits from yours truly) to those aligned with the fledgling Ypsi Public Schools Alliance.

    …The current situation is VERY challenging, but it MAY provide an opening to truly re-envision what our schools can, and should, be.

    The first thing you need to know is that the Ypsilanti Public School District is getting pressured by the State Board of Education, and by the WISD (Washtenaw Intermediate School District), to consolidate with the Willow Run School District. Both districts have been meeting since last year to discuss this, and they have agreed to move forward with a plan to put the merger measure on this November’s ballot. (It has to be voted on by both districts, in a public election.) There was a public meeting about a month ago, but, really, it just seemed like anopportunity to vent (which is the typical approach of this district, as it concerns community engagement). Public sentiment on the issue of consolidation seems to be divided roughly in half, with Willow Run residents, on the whole, favoring the consolidation, while Ypsi residents are doubtful that it will be good for our kids.

    One of the big issues we face is that both districts are struggling financially and academically, and the specter of an appointed Emergency Financial Manager looms. The State Board of Education has promised to kick us some (very minor) funds to aid on the logistical side of consolidation, and they have made VAGUE promises about giving us a few more years to pay down our debt, if we consolidate. They will not promise, however… and this is a BIG one for me… to hold our per-pupil funding to current levels. Currently, Willow Run kids get about a $700 less in per pupil in funding than Ypsilanti students ($7,500 vs. $6,800). The plan is to “equalize” the funding levels in a combined district to $7,250, which would mean that, while Willow Run kids get a boost, Ypsi kids would see a reduction of about $250 per pupil.

    So what do I think of all this? Well, there has been a lot of empty cheerleading by the powers that be (administrators, board members, school district staff and legislative officials) about how this is an opportunity to show visionary leadership and create a combined “cutting-edge” district that could be a model for other districts. The problem with this logic is that, as far as I can tell, neither district has shown any “visionary leadership” thus far. Indeed, based on my experience with YPSD, I can pretty much predict that, at the end of this process, what we will have is a combined district that will fall back on the same old “visions” that got them into this mess in the first place. We can blame the State as much as we want (and they do deserve a considerable amount of blame for this mess), but the truth is that Ypsi is not just hurting because of budget cuts at the State level. There is also a fundamental lack of confidence in the direction of the district among its constituents, which has resulted in declining enrollment. The District can blame this on a “perception problem” till they are blue in the face, but these perceptions come from SOMEWHERE.

    So what do we do now? Here’s how I see it:

    I think consolidation CAN bring some good, but only if we have visionary leadership at the top. We don’t currently have that visionary leadership, which means that a combined district will be the same old same old, but in a much larger, more challenged, form.

    The problem with lack of vision at the top is that these are the very people who are tasked with coming up with a “cutting edge” curriculum and structure, AND these are also the people who will be negotiating with the legislators over concessions to the District. My prediction is that we will get neither a visionary district nor a commitment from the State to help us create a first class district.

    THEREFORE, I think we, and other stakeholders, should take greater control of this process, both in terms of deciding what the new district will look like (curriculum, structure, and special programs) AND putting pressure on the State to do more than make vague promises.

    Remember, this must go up for a vote in both communities, and, if that vote fails, which it likely will if parents in either community decide to oppose it, we will be in the same boat, only worse. Our crushing debt will still be there, possibly made worse by the costs related to coming up with a consolidation plan. Our high school will still be “consistently low performing”, and we will be hemorrhaging parents even more quickly due to the negative publicity. We will then likely come under control of an EFM, and then, it’s anyone’s guess what will happen.

    This all sounds very dire, but there is a bright spot. Essentially what the Administration DOESN’T want to acknowledge is that we have a tremendous amount of power in this scenario, and I think we should take advantage of it to do some “visioning” of our own. This visioning process should NOT be guided by an administration that pretends to listen, while never actually incorporating our talents and ideas into the process. For example, WISD is leading this process, and they have acquired the services of an outside consultant “Lead and Learn” who will help us come up with a “master plan” for consolidation (for $40,000). Lead and Learn is OWNED by Houghton Mifflin, a textbook corporation. YUCK. In their proposal, they kept referring to us as an “urban district” (that means “black” in “educational industrial complex speak”), but we are much more complex than their narrow optic for “institutional transformation” allows. I think this decision is an indicator of the kind of “leadership” that is directing this process. We need to take this process and make it our own.

    We do have the power to force them to incorporate our ideas for a truly “visionary” consolidated district because they need us to make consolidation happen (we must vote for the plan). In the process, we can force some structural change in our own district that will hopefully be transformative even if the consolidation plan is voted down.

    We also have the power to meet with legislators and demand real commitments, not vague promises, and those commitments should go beyond the baseline (extra time to balance the budget, equalizing per pupil funding levels). Indeed, if the State and WISD want us to become the “poster child” for small district consolidation, then they have to actually make the process and its outcomes look good. This means that we can pressure them to put the extra resources into our district that will actually make it a leader, both in the State and in the Nation. The truth is, they can’t afford for this not to succeed because we have to be their advertisement for other small districts facing financial distress.

    I propose that we begin gathering parents for meetings to lay out what we want in our ideal district. These meetings should, at some point, include Willow Run parents and students, and they SHOULD NOT be lead by either District, or the WISD, or the MASB or the State Board of Education, or any other agent of the State who will just listen politely and then insert their own formula.

    Here are my preliminary ideas of what a truly visionary district looks like (taking into account the features of our demographic). I know some of you will agree with some of them, and not with others, but the point is that we should together to craft something that is sustainable, intellectually meaningful, culturally relevant, nurturing, and civically engaged. Our children ARE our community, and we should see the schools as central to providing them with the tools they will need to build a healthy and cooperative community in the schools and beyond:

    Wish List:

    · Small high school environments (no more than 500)

    · Small middle school environments (no more than 500)

    · Small Elementary school environments (no more than 300)

    · Project-based learning opportunities

    · Much greater, and more coordinated involvement of U of M and EMU across the District

    · Civic/Community Engagement as a CORE VALUE (Children should have structured opportunities to contribute to their school community and the broader community). These might include volunteer programs, beautification opportunities, community blogging, etc). Their intellectual work should be tied to transforming our community.

    · Sustainability as a CORE VALUE – this should be incorporated into curricular, civic engagement, and enrichments programs.

    · All buildings should adopt a sustainability code

    · All buildings should have community gardens, and connected curricular (math, science, social studies) and enrichment programs that teach students about stewardship, ecology, sustainable agriculture and food justice. An urban agriculture program would be ideal.

    · Social Justice curriculum beginning at the Middle School and continuing through High School. We need to instill the idea that knowledge can be a tool for social justice and not just something they must acquire through memorization and assessment regimes.

    · An Enrichment Director who can coordinate enrichment programs and university partnerships across the District

    · And Every Student College Bound program beginning at thee early grades (2nd?). I know that some say that not all students are destined for a college degree, but shouldn’t it be an option that they can think about from the time they start their structured learning? I often wonderhow many of those students who are supposedly “not destined for college” just haven’t been exposed to the idea from a very young age?

    · Tiered mentorship programs (College students mentor high schoolers, high schoolers mentor junior high kids, junior high kids mentor elementary kids)

    · Discipline – implement a restorative justice program (Student Court).

    · We should create administrative structures at the HighSchool level that include student voices and ideas.

    None of the things above are “pie in the sky” ideas. All of them have been implemented in public schools, charter schools, and private schools. Only a few of them would require a substantial amount of money. In any case, if true vision is what they want, and if, as the administration and board constantly say, we need put the interests of children at the forefront, we have to do everything we can to truly re-imagine what education can be in ourconsolidated district.

    For a list of Maria’s earlier posts on the subject of Ypsi public schools, just click here.

    And just how disheartening is it to know that we’re paying $40,000 to a out-of-state entity, which is owned by a textbook company, to develop our curriculum?

    This entry was posted in Education, Sustainability, Uncategorized, Ypsilanti and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Post a comment or leave a trackback: Trackback URL.

      50 Comments

      1. Edward
        Posted June 21, 2012 at 7:05 am | Permalink

        If I’m not mistaken, we lost more money as a result of the closing of Chapelle, due to the number of families that pulled their kids out of the district, than we saved from closing the school in the first place. That, to me, is a good analogy of where we are today. We make cut after cut, in hopes of balancing the budget, but all that we’re doing in actuality is digging our hole deeper. More kids leave the system, we lose the money that they would have brought along with them, the district gets poorer, and more kids drop out as a result. Unfortunately, I think that’s what Lansing wants to happen. If the end goal is privatization, this is the way to go about it.

      2. John Galt
        Posted June 21, 2012 at 8:12 am | Permalink

        Don’t rock the boat, Maria. This IS already a model for the rest of the country.

        If all goes according to plan, we’ll do to public education across the country exactly what we’re doing to it here. We’ll shrink it to the point that we can drown it in the community pool, and then we’ll do just that.

        (And then we’ll close the community pool.)

      3. Knox
        Posted June 21, 2012 at 8:34 am | Permalink

        To Maria’s list, I would add, the absolute necessity of integrated art and music programs. I would also push for smaller class sizes, in addition to smaller school sizes.

      4. Posted June 21, 2012 at 9:18 am | Permalink

        So am I understanding this correctly? Both school districts are broke and underacheiving, they’re working towards consolidation as a means to save on costs, meanwhile the state is offering some amount of funding to assist with the consolidation costs but at the same time are threatening to *cut* per pupil funding (or at best keep it the same)?

        Hey I see your school district is failing. Your schools are broke, your teachers are overworked and underpaid and your test scores are dropping… guess it’s time to cut funding. That makes sense. Thank goodness we have no child left behind.

      5. Posted June 21, 2012 at 9:38 am | Permalink

        I think the solution is for all parents to home school their children.

      6. Mr. X
        Posted June 21, 2012 at 9:55 am | Permalink

        This is the conservative trifecta. Destroying public schools does the following.

        It……

        1) Ensures a future supply of cheap, uneducated labor.
        2) Breaks the teachers union, which funds the Republican opposition.
        3) Opens up the K-12 education honeypot to corporations.

        And we’re watching it happen right before our eyes, too scared about our own personal finances to step forward and speak up.

      7. Tommy
        Posted June 21, 2012 at 10:07 am | Permalink

        For starters, two words – John Porter. if he is not available or not up for the challenge, our smart research oriented university to the west perhaps could clone him (circa 1980 when he was younger and driven) and have him lead up the effort.

        The 40K in consulting fees to an entity that stands to profit from others’ pain is not a good start.

        Don’t think for a minute that the state wants this to occur. The powers that be are hoping for a defeat by voters, followed by an Emergency Manager who goes ‘charter’. This is the end game.

        You are seeing the first signs of worse things to come … I hope I am wrong

      8. EOS
        Posted June 21, 2012 at 11:13 am | Permalink

        Both school districts are going broke and in danger of an Emergency Manager so everybody here has suggestions to spend more money that your don’t have? When are you guys going to get a clue?

      9. Anne
        Posted June 21, 2012 at 11:25 am | Permalink

        When I moved to Ypsi (Township actually, and we know how everyone here feels about those folks!) 11 years ago, I was a single UM graduate student who had no concerns about school districts and only knew that I couldn’t afford to live in AA. Since then, I have grown to love the Ypsi community and have also become a parent of a now 3 yr old. School systems have finally entered the picture for my family. I always considered myself an opponent of charter school systems, but of course that was before I was a parent and watched the Ypsi public school death spiral that Edward describes. I was still willing to give it a shot for the early elementary school years (you can’t screw them up too bad at that point, right?), but after my neighbor’s horror stories of her child’s kindergarten experience, which included the teacher discovering 1/2 way through the school year at a parent teacher conference that the child could indeed actually read (chapter books in fact), I’ve basically ruled out Ypsi schools. Of course this means I’m now having to eat my words and look into charter schools in the area.

        If Maria’s vision could be actualized I would happily send my child to Ypsi schools and even more importantly, actually continue to live in the Ypsi (Township) community. Of course, the other option we’ve been looking at is moving into a better school district. Though given the fact that our home is worth half of what we paid for it 11 years ago, not sure if this is a reality either. I much rather stay and see our community schools revived. I’m happy to get involved in this process if Maria let’s us know how to do so.

      10. Dan
        Posted June 21, 2012 at 11:35 am | Permalink

        Anne,

        There are public schools of choice in the area, you might want to look into. I’m pretty sure you are eligible to enroll into Saline Schools (the best public school district in the State), but unless you get them in in kindergarten, it’s next to impossible to get in.

        Lincoln Schools arent all that great, but they are a lot better than Ypsi, and I believe you can put your kids there, as well, but not sure. The two new charter schools in south ypsi township are both highly rated, as well.

      11. Topher
        Posted June 21, 2012 at 12:57 pm | Permalink

        I love Maria’s plan – while idealistic, there are realities that funding brings. Many of those listed items come with excellent staff that is retained. In order to do this, money must be invested in teachers. Some public school districts out east have created incentives (live where you work – they pay 1% of your down payment) to get teachers to live (and stay) in the communities where they teach. Without high quality teachers that will stay, the district will not succeed.

        Downsizing high schools to 500 students means multiple schools (and probably multiple school buildings) – this is where it gets expensive. To run separate schools (and all of the equipment, office staff, custodial staff, etc.) costs more money. Cutting teacher pay/benefits can free more money, but the district will get what it pays for. Pay teachers 30k starting salary, you won’t necessarily get the best staff. Pay teachers well, hold the extremely accountable.

      12. Dan
        Posted June 21, 2012 at 1:07 pm | Permalink

        your solution is to pay teachers more? too funny. Yeah, hold them accountable. Sure, but dont destroy the unions, right?

      13. kjc
        Posted June 21, 2012 at 1:26 pm | Permalink

        oh not the unions thing again. yes, we know all problems would be solved by eliminating unions. if we stipulate that, will you pick up the needle, Dan? it’s been stuck for weeks. i know it’s your go-to argument and all, but maybe you and EOS can plan a circle jerk around that belief and let others surpass your glib and ahistorical comments. i mean, you want comments to not be “useless” right? you don’t even understand why people make useless comments! it blows your mind!

        and yet you do it all the time.

      14. Dan
        Posted June 21, 2012 at 1:33 pm | Permalink

        kjc,

        please read the entire thread before you begin your personal attacks.

        quoth Mr. X “2) Breaks the teachers union, which funds the Republican opposition.”

        I did not bring unions into this discussion, it was already brought up.

        And I also contributed some useful advice to Anne, in her dilemma about the state of Ypsi’s schools and where she could possible send her kids.

        You’ve contributed, what now? Honestly, since I’ve been posting here, you’ve never made one argument about anything. You’ve never offered any advice, any knowledge that could be useful to someone. Not once.

      15. Posted June 21, 2012 at 2:29 pm | Permalink

        kjc made me laugh. I feel that’s a constructive contribution.

      16. Posted June 21, 2012 at 4:56 pm | Permalink

        I know, Dan, let’s discuss pensions! ;) Just kidding. :)

        What Anne describes scares me. When good parents like her pull their kids out of neighborhood schools, those schools lose money, which means they lose teachers and programs, which means they lose more kids, more money, and soon, the only people left are ones who don’t have the means to ship their kids to charter schools or who just don’t care. This is pretty much exactly what I saw happen in DPS. But having said that, I also see her concern. I’m not a parent and in fact, am not having kids (which should be a relief to you all), but I really do feel for parents in that very situation. My answer would be, of course, to fight for your neighborhood school but I understand that you don’t want your kid to have a few shitty years while you fight to make things better.

        I do think Mr. X said it best…it really is a wet, sloppy dream for Repubs and union busters.

      17. Topher
        Posted June 21, 2012 at 5:01 pm | Permalink

        @Dan – I am all for changing unions. I don’t like that I have to pay into a union that protects bad teachers, but I also want some protection for myself as a good teacher. I am an advocate for rigorous assessment of teachers (Why have I only been evaluated twice in my 8 years of teaching?) and financial compensation for those who are better teachers (for example increased pay for National Board Certification). Research shows us that one of the most important factors in student success is a high quality teacher. I I just don’t believe that paying teachers poorly will result in good teachers. I am excited for the change in tenure laws because it means that the “first in, first out” union rules will most likely not apply anymore.

      18. EOS
        Posted June 21, 2012 at 5:10 pm | Permalink

        Anne,

        If you can’t get into Saline, Milan School District is a good choice. The four districts to which the Township sends their kids are all poor academic performers.

      19. kjc
        Posted June 21, 2012 at 5:59 pm | Permalink

        “Honestly, since I’ve been posting here, you’ve never made one argument about anything. ”

        Dan, if you liked what I had to say, I’d be worried. But you’re right. I don’t waste my time making specious arguments. I leave that to you.

        and for someone who showed up at this site announcing Ypsi was a “shithole” and Ann Arbor was filled with gourmet restaurants, I’m fine with not fitting your idea of “useful” (more of your silly pedantry in any case—you’re the first person i know to make it your job to pronounce upon the supposed utility of Mark’s blog comments). Your misinformation about unions, which you’ve spouted since you got here, can be found all over the right wing sites and is no information at all. It’s just your personal bias. Anyone whose arguments are constantly based on “most people” or on the various personal acquaintances by which you draw your conclusions (my teacher neighbor makes 60K as a teacher and is sitting pretty—cuz i’ve looked at her bank statement—oh wait, no i haven’t! i just made that up!)—well…you shouldn’t really worry about other people’s arguments.

        But no hard feelings. I don’t hate you. I’m willing to buy you a gourmet dinner at Noodles & Co. and even spring for a Slurpee a few doors down at 7-Eleven, just to show that I appreciate Ann Arbor as much as you appreciate our little town. Shithole that it is.

      20. Posted June 21, 2012 at 6:11 pm | Permalink

        Anne, keep your kids close to home. Don’t buy into EOS and right wing Dan’s suggestions to send your kids 30000 miles away. There’s no point. If you are a good, proactive parent, your kid will succeed anywhere. If you aren’t, your kid will do poorly no matter what school he or she attends.

      21. Posted June 21, 2012 at 6:12 pm | Permalink

        Was it Dan that said that shit about gourmet restaurants?

        The dudes obviously never been to Hidden Dragon.

      22. Dan
        Posted June 21, 2012 at 6:19 pm | Permalink

        No thanks, kjc. I wouldnt want your ray-bans to melt as you entered into a chain store.

        But I appreciate you actually making a real comment for once, thanks. I would like you to tell me what misinformation about unions that I am spreading?

        And if you read my comments, you’ll know that I didnt say my neighbor was a union teacher. I said I knew several personally. One of my sisters-in-law is one, and I can assure you that she makes more than 60k a year. I also have friends that are charter school teachers. My best man’s wife is one. I can assure that I know their gross income as well, they are our best friends. So no, it is you, that are making things up, not me. Again, i appreciate your first real post in response to me. But I would appreciate it more if you would back up your claims that I am spreading misinformation.

        And for the record, I proclaimed ypsi as shithole, only as a retort to Mark, who claimed that Ypsi was a lot like AA, only cooler and more authentic. We’ve been over this before, but I stand by my remarks. Anyone that thinks Ypsi is anything comparable to AA is delusional. Sorry it hurts your feelings. But I’d say the same thing to someone that said Detroit was a lot like Chicago, only cooler and more authentic

      23. Dan
        Posted June 21, 2012 at 6:25 pm | Permalink

        Peter,

        #1, if schools don’t matter and it’s all about parenting, then like you said earlier, everyone should be homeschooled, right?

        #2, this is eerily similar to the way you distort EOS comment about curfew for adults into a your projections of bigotry. I used the example (one of many) that AA has real restaurants, amny that many people would think of as gourmet. Ypsi has Haabs. You think that makes ypsi “a lot like AA, only cooler?” Fine. Thats a ridiculous opinion, but fine. I also talked about the parks in AA compared to Ypsi. The thriving downtown of AA, compared to the vacant storefronts in Ypsi (a thing you noted as well, on your trip to said Hidden Dragon). I also pointed out the difference in universities.

        But sure, please focus on the one thing that all hipsters can agree to hate: nice restaurants.

      24. Posted June 21, 2012 at 7:00 pm | Permalink

        No, EOS (stupidly) said that everyone should be homeschooled.

        I would even go out on a limb here and suggest that EOS would love to see everyone leave Ypsi schools to hasten the day when they will all be closed.

        Carting kids miles away to chase after the golden carrot of education is just plain pointless and does the community no good at all. So is Saline now charged with the duty of educating all kids in Washtenaw who don’t want their kids in a “poorly performing” school? That’s a disaster waiting to happen. Ypsi schools suffer, Saline suffers, hell, the kids suffer from a new culture of sanctioned segregation.

        As for EOS’s bigotry, I’m sorry you have trouble reading. Maybe a couple of courses at Washtenaw might help you.

        As for Hidden Dragon, you clearly haven’t been there, so know nothing about the pleasures of Ypsi’s food offerings. Talk to me about food after you’ve eaten some.

        And for the record, I’m 43. I don’t know where this hipster thing is coming from. I just like good food (for any price), but clearly all you like to do is spend money.

      25. Dan
        Posted June 21, 2012 at 7:08 pm | Permalink

        Yes, I am not ashamed to say I am a consumer. I’m not ashamed to buy a coke from 7-11, or get my dog food from Kroger. Or afraid to eat at Buffalo Wild Wings. Call me crazy.

        As for Saline schools, they accept a fixed number of students from outside their district. They do not have to accept anyone, however. School of Choice has been going on for like a decade now, and it’s given a lot of kids from crumby districts a better chance at higher education. (such as Washtenaw CC, or if they are “elitists snobs,” maybe even the University of Michigan).

        It’s not a parent’s job to make sure a public school teacher keeps their job, or a district continues to bring in the same state funding. A parent’s job is to make sure their kid has every opportunity to succeed.

        (and I mentioned your sarcasm about homeschooling, because you were suggesting that parenting is all that matters, and schools dont)

      26. kjc
        Posted June 21, 2012 at 7:16 pm | Permalink

        Pot Belly with Ben and Jerry’s for dessert. Final offer.

      27. EOS
        Posted June 21, 2012 at 8:38 pm | Permalink

        Saline and Milan aren’t 30,000 miles away – they’re just down the road. There are a lot of parents who take turns carpooling and it is an option that is significantly cheaper than a private school if you are not willing to invest the time and effort to homeschool. The fact that you’d be willing to go a little out of your way to ensure that your kids are taught in an environment that has a track record of high academic achievement for the vast majority of students will make a significant impact on your child. They’ll know that you place a high value on education and will put forth more effort in their studies. As you stay involved in their schoolwork, form good relationships with their teachers, monitor their homework, and provide additional learning activities at home, they will thrive and reach their full potentials.

        Or you can do as Peter suggests, and dump your kids in the poorly performing school in your neighborhood, blame the teachers for their low skills, and make your career goals your priority in life. Work long hours and keep the kids in an after school program and let their peers influence be the dominating force in their young lives. See how that works out for you.

      28. Anne
        Posted June 21, 2012 at 8:56 pm | Permalink

        In addition to charter schools, I dislike the whole “school of choice” option for the reasons TeacherPatti outlines, but as a parent it is difficult to make a decision that you know may have negative effects on your child. While I assume my child has a strong chance to “succeed”, regardless of where I send him (“proactive parent” here), I think the picture of success would look different.

        I grew up in a school system that was much closer to what Maria describes than the Ypsi school district and I think those experiences I had within the school system greatly shaped who I am today, especially my love for learning. I don’t know that the outcome would have been the same in a school district that didn’t offer as many opportunities or quality of education.

        I do appreciate the degree of diversity that the Ypsi community has to offer, which is lost as you move out to other school districts within the county. This is a large reason why I keep my child in the child care/pre-school close to where I reside in Ypsi rather than in Ann Arbor where I work. Even though “friends” of mine evidently view it as a “ghetto daycare” presumably because a)he is only one of a few white kiddos and b) the vast majority of the kiddos are on subsidized meal programs. However, pre-school is a whole different story from elementary school and it’s a lot easier to feel self-righteous about his “schooling” right now than it will be once he starts kindergarten.

      29. Maria
        Posted June 21, 2012 at 9:22 pm | Permalink

        I can’t see how consolidation is going to improve the situation. So long as the same players are in administration, there’s not going to be any true change.
        I don’t know how these two districts will stave off the EM, I think it’s just a matter of time, (shortly) before Ypsi and WR go all charter all the time. Charters aren’t very good, but they don’t have unions in them, and it’s all about priorities. Charters can work, but they don’t deliver special ed, and that’s going to be their undoing. That’s not they are in business for.

      30. Thom Elliott
        Posted June 22, 2012 at 6:03 am | Permalink

        “Yes, I am not ashamed to say I’m a consumer. I’m not ashamed to buy a coke at 7-11, or get my dog food from Kroger. Or afraid to eat at Buffalo Wild Wings. Call me crazy”. You probably aren’t ‘crazy’ but unmindfull in the extreme? Uncaring as to your wellbeing of yourself and others? Willing to glibly refer to yourself in the dehumanizing language of late-capital out of a total lack of clarity on the issues of modernity? You don’t need to be ashamed to eat and drink utterly synthetic ‘food’ that will kill you, but it is the very products you mindlessly support that are the biggest murderers in our society.

      31. (not the same) Bob
        Posted June 22, 2012 at 7:08 am | Permalink

        Maria shared some excellent ideas for improving the school system in a joint district scenario, and her thoughts as to building a new vision from the ground up make sense. What’s missing are the actual steps to get there.

        I would not expect her to accept that the public input sessions will be productive based on her experiences in the closing of Chapelle; the process used in that case was poorly construed, with no true intention of public engagement that I could discern. However, in my own experiences at stirring the pot in the district, I have found that you have to engage the beast or be left standing on your honorable ground in the cold howling wind. Participation may prove less effective than you desire, but it is certainly going to get you farther than developing a list of ideas outside of the process, and then presenting them as the will of the community.

        About a decade ago a group of people concerned about the state of the district and its leadership began raising concerns in a number of forums, including at Board meetings. The group met regularly to discuss concerns and potential solutions. When the district leadership decided to form a task force to study the financial condition of the district, we were not invited to participate. But we showed up to the meetings to the chagrin of the leadership, and we respectfully observed the proceedings, and eventually participated as each subcommittee would allow (some more than others). We gathered information, formulated new strategies, and influenced outcomes, including a change in leadership. In retrospect you could observe that our efforts were for nothing, as ten years down the road we continue to need to address similar issues, but each era of parents and supporters have their own mountain to climb, even if to spell Sisyphus for a time.

        My point is, don’t view this current situation as “either/or.” Fire up your constituents, develop your own ideas and thoughts, then participate, engage, and work to achieve your goals within the process that has been proposed (or find a way to amend the official process, if necessary). Don’t sell out, but don’t piously stand outside the door insisting yours is the only vision that works.

        The districts have proposed a series of meetings to discuss this vision. An outline of these meetings has been excerpted from http://www.annarbor.com/news/ypsilanti/ypsilanti-willow-run-task-force-sets-ambitious-schedule-to-place-merging-school-districts-on-novembe/ below:

        “Joint task force meetings

        July 10 — 5:30-7:30 p.m. in Ypsilanti (located to be announced)
        July 30 — 5:30-7:30 p.m. location to be announced

        Visioning sessions
        Interactive brainstorming activities to target what members of the public identify as their hopes, aspirations and learning-experience expectations for the potential new district. These sessions will collect input from the community to set the focus of the consolidated district.

        June 23 — 10 a.m.-noon at the Ypsilanti District Library Whittaker Branch
        June 25 — 6-8 p.m. at the Willow Run Child Development Center
        June 28 — 6-8 p.m. at Superior Township Hall
        June 30 — 10 a.m.-noon at Ypsilanti District Library Whittaker Branch
        July 9 — 6-8 p.m. Perry Child Development Center in Ypsilanti

        Data sessions
        An opportunity to examine the educational trend data — such as head count and student achievement data — for Ypsilanti and Willow Run as well as to review and provide feedback on the community vision statements developed at the earlier brainstorming sessions.

        July 11 — 1-3 p.m. at the Ypsilanti District Library Whittaker Branch
        July 14 — 10 a.m.-noon at Superior Township Hall
        July 16 — 6-8 p.m. at Ypsilanti Township Hall

        Strategic design retreat
        A two-day retreat for delving into various options for school and district designs that would achieve the vision outlined by the community. It also will focus on the local partnerships needed to create a successful, united school system, officials said.

        July 18-19 — 8:30 a.m.-3:30 p.m. at Eastern Michigan University’s Eagle Crest Resort

        Design review sessions
        Community feedback can be given on the design plan developed at the retreat. School officials also said the plan will be posted on the districts’ websites and an online survey will be available for feedback, as well.

        Aug. 6 — 6-8 p.m. at the EMU Student Center
        Aug. 7 — 6-8 p.m. at the EMU Student Center”

      32. Posted June 22, 2012 at 11:49 am | Permalink

        If everyone is Ypsi stopped driving all the way to Ann Arbor and started eating at Hidden Dragon, the school problems would work themselves out.

        This is partially a joke, but partially true.

        Clearly, neither Dan nor EOS believe in Ypsi at all. Why live there?

      33. EOS
        Posted June 22, 2012 at 12:42 pm | Permalink

        It’s close to Ann Arbor.

      34. Posted June 22, 2012 at 1:14 pm | Permalink

        My point is proved.

        You thing Ypsi is shit. You hate the people who live there. You hate the businesses that are there.

        You choose to get your hair cut at BoRics, rather than patronize one of the hair braiding places downtown. You go to Burger King rather than eat at the wonderful Hidden Dragon. You drive to Wal-Mart, rather that purchase hardware downtown and food from the local farmer’s market. You hate the schools and want them to close. You hate the people who ride the bus. You hate the bus itself (which is an Ann Arbor bus, but that’s ok).

        What would make you happy? Oh, perhaps Rankin County, Mississippi. No black people, just white folks, happily shopping at Wal-Mart, going to church on Sunday, sending their kids to private schools (and home schooling) and better yet, no taxes to speak of (except that pesky sales tax).

        Dude, leave Ypsi. You hate it there. And that’s what so fucking sad.

        I hated Ypsi, too, but I’ve learned to like it (a lot), thanks to my good friend Mark and Hidden Dragon, which is awesome.

      35. EOS
        Posted June 22, 2012 at 1:46 pm | Permalink

        I don’t hate the city of Ypsilanti, I just doesn’t have anything that I need or desire. I have a lot of friends in the city and I feel bad for their situation. I like the low taxes and rural atmosphere of my neighborhood in the township. I don’t want the schools to close, but I do wish they would do a better job of educating our kids. I rode the bus for years which has given me ample opportunity to have firsthand knowledge of why I prefer my car. I shop at the big box stores because they have the best selection at the lowest prices. I wouldn’t be happy in Mississippi. It was one of the most deprived and desolate places I have ever been. When I retire, I am going to move west and find a location that values personal freedoms and elects conservative leaders. And by the way, I like being near Ann Arbor, but sure as hell wouldn’t want to live there.

      36. Dan
        Posted June 22, 2012 at 2:01 pm | Permalink

        Peter,

        I don’t hate ypsi at all. I just understand what it is. I accept it for what it is. I don’t have delusions of it being AA’s equal or “more authentic” or even remotely similar. It’s Oakland to AA’s SF. It’s a low income, gritty, tight knitted, proud community. I get that. I like several of it’s bars (not really any of it’s restaurants any more than any strip mall shit you can find anywhere in Pittsfield, et al.) I just dont know why anyone would think people want to pay extra to live there.

        Like EOS, I enjoy rural suburbia. I like expansive lawns and farms, and yes the plentiful farmers markets around said farms. I like driving my car and loading my groceries in my trunk. I like that my neighbors all have nice houses and take care of their lawns (for the most part). Not everyone likes walking or busing, or biking everywhere. Not everyone wants college kids partying in their street at 2 am.

        And I would be in hell in Mississippi. I’d hate that heat. And the bible beaters would drive me nuts. My ideal place would be Cape Cod. water, beautiful views, bountiful seafood, etc.

        Just because some people choose not to walk/bike to work, and prefer to save money when shopping, does not make them a racist. I have no idea why you keep calling everyone a bigot or racist, but like I said before, i says a lot more about you, than anyone else.

      37. Dan
        Posted June 22, 2012 at 2:09 pm | Permalink

        also Peter, Rankin Co, Miss is 17% black. Your city is 8%. Did you move to Ann Arbor for a reason that you’re not telling us?

      38. Anne
        Posted June 22, 2012 at 2:10 pm | Permalink

        Crap, I’m not nearly as Ypsi cool as I thought I was. In 11 years I’ve never once been to Hidden Dragon!

      39. Dan
        Posted June 22, 2012 at 2:16 pm | Permalink

        and regarding hair cuts in Ypsi, if someone could point me to a good place, I’d appreciate it. I’ve been to Paula’s in depot town about 2 dozen times, and that crazy Cinderella lady always fucked up my hair. I gave it way too many chances, so I started going back to Saline.

      40. Posted June 22, 2012 at 3:22 pm | Permalink

        I never lived in Rankin. I lived in Jackson. In Rankin, though, black people are confined to one area and aren’t allowed to leave. The heat is fine. Non-impoverished people just sit in their air conditioned homes all the time.

        I also don’t live in Ann Arbor.

        I only ever called EOS a racist. I never called you a racist.

        EOS would be very happy in Mississippi. It’s conservative and values personal freedoms for white people born in Mississippi.

      41. EOS
        Posted June 22, 2012 at 5:38 pm | Permalink

        I drove from Memphis to Clarksdale. There were shacks 10 feet off the highway that had 2 inch gaps between the boards, yet there was iron grates across the windows and doors.

      42. MrMikesHardCoreSot
        Posted June 23, 2012 at 1:29 am | Permalink

        EOS/Dan,
        Both of you corn-holin fucks belong in mississippi.
        Dan, pull your head out of your ass and find a different place to get a haircut.

      43. Greg Pratt
        Posted June 23, 2012 at 5:08 am | Permalink

        Oh my!! Foul balls everywhere on this thread!!

        But, you know, the pitching has never been problem for this group, it’s the hitting. The hitting!!

      44. Thom Elliott
        Posted June 23, 2012 at 5:17 am | Permalink

        Dan, you think you know and accept Ypsi for how it ‘is’, how could you know what anything ‘is’? You’re an unapologetic Buffalo Wild Wings eater, which means you aren’t a thinker at all, let alone aware of things as they ‘are’. If you are cool with sucking down 1100mg of sodium a bite and think that its normal, or that you have some sort or norm-y right to 50mg of sugar per 12oz can of industrial solvent ‘beverage’, who knows what kind of state your actual brain is in, let alone the state of your awarness of being-in-the-world. How about you work on your diet, then tell us how to live.

      45. Dan
        Posted June 23, 2012 at 6:28 am | Permalink

        Thom

        Ive seen your pictures. You’re not exactly the picture of health.

        I can’t afford to eat at bdubs as much as I d like. 95% of my meals are cooked at home . But I do enjoy adding sodium.

        And I am not the one telling people how to live. That’s your calling.

      46. Thom Elliott
        Posted June 23, 2012 at 7:25 am | Permalink

        That’s so wierd, you’re stalking my FB page?? Creepy. Hey man, I feel amazingly well. I survived alcoholism drug addiction and PTSD, I lost 70lbs, defeated high blood pressure & prediabetes, quit over a decade of a 2 pack a day Kool Mild habit, quit soda, quit coffee, quit flesh eating, quit the American diet, defeated my major depression stemming from multipul suicide survival & being molested as a child. Now I’m enjoying the love of my life, finishing my double major in philosophy and speech pathology, and I’m working on my new album. I’ll be basking in the sublime glow of the ancient enlightment of sages while you’re at the BW3s with a bunch of submental jerkoffs

      47. Dan
        Posted June 23, 2012 at 8:45 am | Permalink

        Congrats man. Glad you turned your life around.

      48. mark k
        Posted June 23, 2012 at 1:09 pm | Permalink

        “That’s so wierd, you’re stalking my FB page?? Creepy. Hey man, I feel amazingly well. I survived alcoholism drug addiction and PTSD, I lost 70lbs, defeated high blood pressure & prediabetes, quit over a decade of a 2 pack a day Kool Mild habit, quit soda, quit coffee, quit flesh eating, quit the American diet, defeated my major depression stemming from multipul suicide survival & being molested as a child. Now I’m enjoying the love of my life, finishing my double major in philosophy and speech pathology, and I’m working on my new album. I’ll be basking in the sublime glow of the ancient enlightment of sages while you’re at the BW3s with a bunch of submental jerkoffs”
        Wow! aren’t you the rightous one, and now you’re here to save the world? Good luck with that. LOL!

      49. Maria by Proxy
        Posted June 26, 2012 at 10:00 am | Permalink

        Dear friends of Ypsi schools,

        Celeste Hawkins asked me to send you this update, since she is out of town. We were at last week’s Consolidation Task Force meeting along with some other parents on this list. Just to be clear, what follows is my opinion of this meeting, Celeste can weigh in with her own impressions when she returns.

        There is a very good report on the meeting and on the process outlined by the district in Ann Arbor.com:

        http://www.annarbor.com/news/ypsilanti/ypsilanti-willow-run-task-force-sets-ambitious-schedule-to-place-merging-school-districts-on-novembe/

        In a nutshell, WISD plans to host a number of mini-visioning-sessions across the community and then we will pay “Lead and Learn” an outside, for-profit consultant (and a division of textbook company, Houghton Mifflin) $40,000 to spend two days with us and come up with the plan.

        I guess I feel pretty ambivalent about the “visioning process” that WISD has proposed. First, because it feels like more of the same. Last year we paid the Michigan Association of School Boards $25,000 to do something that looked a lot like this, and what came of it? Moreover, as I understand it, we are raising money from community agencies to cover the costs associated with this process. Couldn’t we use that money and good will more substantively? Finally, I think “Lead and Learn” knows nothing about us as a district, for example, in their proposal they mention that their experience with “urban districts” will be useful in working with us. To me this seems like they are superimposing their ideas about what we are on a district that is really quite unique. I just think the result will be more of the “same old same old” solutions to our district’s woes, solutions that have not worked in the past.

        Again, I feel like “visioning” processes are pretty much useless unless the participants are given solid models of what is possible. Otherwise, the education professionals just take our vague ideas about what we would like to see and plug them into what they know and are comfortable with. We did one of these visioning sessions at the task force meeting last Monday. And guess what? All of the small groups said pretty much the same thing: “we want a cutting-edge district that is a national model for other schools.” Ummm…. yeah.

        Knowledge is power, and we need concrete examples of what a district like ours can and should be, not vague two-hour long small group conversations that come up with the same thing over and over. Again, I suggest that we hear from professionals and practitioners, both inside the district and out, about concrete curricular, disciplinary, and structural models for excellence in education. And if we are going to ask UM, EMU and other community stakeholders for money to help us with this process, perhaps we should ask them for experts as well, and for assistance in creating community forums that teach us about cutting edge ideas, instead of simply making the community feel like they participated by letting them talk for a few hours.

        So maybe another community-led meeting is in order? It could be a small gathering, or a larger one, but I think we need to think through strategies for true community engagement.

        One last thing, I have asked Andy Fanta if we might propose an alternative to “Lead and Learn”. There is a parent in our district who does facilitation work with institutions, including schools. I suggested her name to Andy. Its probably too late, but if the WISD has not already agreed to hire Lead and Learn, I think, we, as a community, might make a public fuss about it, and perhaps bring attention to the fact that this process will not be the same old BS.

      50. luvinmom_2
        Posted August 2, 2012 at 6:13 pm | Permalink

        WoW.. A lot of what I am reading I was unaware of until the funding of my Ypsilanti High School cheerleader was cut. Sigh…. I can see a lot of good points being made here on both sides and Maria makes some really great suggestions for the vision of Ypsilanti schools. My student attended a charter school K-8th and we while a new charter high school opened she wanted to participate in regular highschool sports that they were not offering. As a parent, I feel she got an amazing education at the charter school she attended, and I am seriously worried for her future attending Ypsi High. She is a 4.0 student but not becuase of the curriculum, it’s way to easy for her. I hear horror stories about how some of the teachers my student has had does no even teach, just hands out packets. This and along with all the financial problems this district is having seriously had me thinking of pulling my student ( who is currently a school of choice student) out! I can’t afford for my students education and opportunitys to suffer because the powers that be, make crappy choices. It’s a parental choice and I can not wait another couple years for this district to get it’s act together, if it does at all.

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      1. [...] end tonight, it doesn’t look as though administrators have any real interest in incorporating the ideas that have been proposed from the community.At the very least, it would have been nice to have seen an FAQ that acknowledged these issues. It [...]

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