Ann Arbor Board of Education candidates discuss the dynamic between Ann Arbor and Ypsi school districts, the possibility of merger, and the fact that school policies are contributing toward segregation

Last night, our friends at the League of Women Voters of the Ann Arbor Area hosted a televised event featuring the eight individuals running for the three open seats on the Ann Arbor School Board. While I’ve been unable to watch the archived Community Television Network stream, a friend just directed me toward the Annarbivore site, where Monet Tiedemann live-blogged as each of the eight candidates responded in turn to questions posed by moderator, John Chamberlin. Well, as it turns out, a few of the questions pertained to Ypsilanti. One had to do with so-called “school of choice” initiatives, which, locally, have resulted in several hundred Ypsilanti students leaving our district for Ann Arbor’s. Another had to do with the possibility of a merger between the Ann Arbor and Ypsilanti districts. As both of these issues have been discussed at length here in the past, I thought that I’d share a few short clips taken from Tiedemann’s notes.

Here is the first Ypsilanti-related question which was posed to the eight candidates, who were introduced and questioned in groups of four.

“AAPS recruits and accepts students from outside the district through its Schools of Choice program. While this generates revenue for AAPS, it draws students from neighboring districts, including Ypsilanti Community Schools (YCS), and thus undermines the quality and sustainability of that district. What will you do as a member of the board to ensure that AAPS is not actively increasing inequity and segregation in our county?”

The first group of four to respond includes Jeremy Glick, Simone Lightfoot (an incumbent), Jeff Gaynor, and Rebecca Lazarus.


The second group of four to respond includes Harmony Mitchell, Deb Mexicotte (an incumbent), Don Wilkerson, Hunter Van Valkenburg.


[For our most recent conversation on how Ann Arbor’s school of choice program is impacting Ypsilanti, click here.]

Interestingly, it appears as though the second Ypsilanti related question was only posed to the first group of four… Here’s the question, followed by their responses, as recorded by Tiedemann.

“A recent analysis of the growing problem associated with the lack of affordable housing and inequity called for school district consolidation as one avenue for rebalancing equity across the county’s urban core, and adding to the long-term sustainability of the region. What is your position on AAPS merging with or annexing neighboring school districts, including YCS, as was considered with Whitmore Lake Schools.”


[For our most recent conversations on the possibility of a merger between our two districts, click here and here.]

Having not watched the forum myself, I’m hesitant to jump in and start making comments one way or the other based on the secondhand notes I’ve just shared. I am, however, encouraged to know that these things are starting to be talked about in a more substantive way in Ann Arbor. Hopefully something good comes of it. God knows, our kids deserve better.

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  1. Anonymous
    Posted September 29, 2016 at 6:11 am | Permalink

    I like what Lightfoot had to say, but, for the most part, these seem like non answers. I would have liked it if the candidates had been more definitive in their responses. I would have liked if someone said, “Yes, I’d vote to temporarily suspend Schools of Choice while we study the ramifications and begin the process of working with, instead of against, Ypsi Public Schools. Regardless of how the program started, our public schools should not play s role in the further segregation of our communities.”

  2. Kim
    Posted September 29, 2016 at 10:41 am | Permalink

    Lazarus: I don’t feel there is segregation going on.

    Good way not to earn my vote, Rebecca.

  3. M
    Posted September 29, 2016 at 11:17 am | Permalink

    You might also want to ask them about policies that allow them to only accept the Ypsi students that are the easiest to deal with and the least costly to educate, while leaving the others here. This has never been about giving students more opportunities. This has always been about destroying public education starting with the most at risk schools, starving them of resources while charging them with educating the students that require the most support.

  4. Elliott
    Posted September 29, 2016 at 3:24 pm | Permalink

    My guess is that they didn’t ask Mexicotte’s group about the idea of a merger because she didn’t want to answer the question.

  5. Maria Huffman
    Posted September 29, 2016 at 3:25 pm | Permalink

    People whose children attend school of choice can not vote for the board members of the SOC school district. This matters, and having 600+ students in the district whose parents have no vote about who is on the board is a problem.

  6. Maria E Huffman
    Posted September 29, 2016 at 7:52 pm | Permalink

    The only employee the board of education is responsible for supervising directly is the superintendent. If you do not like the work of the superintendent and you complain to the board and they decide to keep the superintendent anyway, ypu can not vote to get different board members who will remove that superintendent and get another one.

  7. Maria E Huffman
    Posted September 29, 2016 at 8:00 pm | Permalink

    Jeanice Swift does not believe in desensitization for children with sensory complaints…this is problematic and a cause consternation. The board has failed to address this issue and so it sits out there…unaddressed and mostly not understood by either the board member or Jeanice swift

  8. Posted September 30, 2016 at 10:43 am | Permalink

    Lauren Slagter from Mlive posted an article on the forum yesterday, with more quotes:

    The forums will also be rebroadcast on CTN, and be available for streaming online soon, at:

    Information on local ballot measures and races and candidates are available at: and among other sites.

    As a candidate, and as to this issue – and others – the current administration and board have continued union-busting practices and consolidated power at the top, ignoring the concerns of the public and teachers. They are operating in the corporate marketing mindset, and every statement is couched as a positive. They are buying into the state’s strategy pitting districts against each other, and are not concerned about the public good, but only about the Ann Arbor Public Schools. I refuse to engage in an “us against them” mindset, and I am both disheartened and will push to reverse the poaching of Ypsi students. I reached out to trustees of YPS months ago, believing we need to cooperate, not compete. All of the candidates agree the problem originates with the state government, and the current board says they deeply regret their actions, but have no choice. They have faced very difficult decisions, and will continue to do so, but I will always favor integrity over expediency.

  9. M
    Posted September 30, 2016 at 11:51 am | Permalink

    Jeff, with all due respect, people always have options. I’m not suggesting that the AAPS board members who put these policies in place are alone responsible for the situation Ypsilanti Community Schools currently finds itself in, but it’s just not true that they “had no choice.” They opened their doors to an ever increasing number of Ypsi students in order to keep from closing Ann Arbor schools and laying off Ann Arbor teachers, resulting in the closing of a half dozen of our schools. We can debate whether or not they were right to do so. What cannot be debate, however, is the fact that they had a choice. They knew what would happen in Ypsilanti and yet they voted to do it anyway. They had a choice. I’m not condemning them. As others have pointed out, Ypsi embraces Schools of Choice first. I just have issue with you’re saying that the board “had no choice.”

  10. Maria E. Huffman
    Posted September 30, 2016 at 1:56 pm | Permalink

    Jeff Gaynor, You too will face the desensitization issue if elected.
    It matters, because time has to be allotted during the school day for this to happen and to what extent and you will buck WISD official policy, which indulges escape behaviors to play out, which teachers sometimes like, because then they get kids taken out of their classrooms.
    So…I am voting not voting for anyone who does not believe in desensitization. And that is basically the most pertinent issue facing schools, that and the curriculum problem…anyway, the whole situation appears insoluble, given the money shortages.

  11. Maria E. Huffman
    Posted September 30, 2016 at 1:58 pm | Permalink

    let me clarify…I will not vote for anyone who does not believe in desensitization for sensory complaints, and will actually write that, and say that and then deal with Jeanice Swift about that.

  12. Maria E Huffman
    Posted September 30, 2016 at 4:54 pm | Permalink

    I am only one vote. The school has lots of new programming, but I truly believe that issue, desensitization, is very important. Just undestanding that issue is important and I do not think that superintendent or the board really understands it.

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