The Great International Baccalaureate War of Ypsilanti

Earlier this summer, I heard that the administrative staff and teachers at the Washtenaw International Middle Academy (WIMA), Ypsilanti’s International Baccalaureate middle school, had begun advocating for a plan that would see them leave Ypsilanti Community Schools (YCS), and join the Washtenaw International High School (WIHI) beneath the umbrella of the Washtenaw Intermediate School District’s Washtenaw Educational Options Consortium. While I wasn’t personally privy to any of these conversations, I heard from friends who were involved that the arguments given were compelling. Given that the two entities existed beneath the same roof, these friends of mine were told, it would simplify things considerably if they had the same reporting structure, instead of one entity reporting up through YCS, while the other reported up through WISD. And, from what they were told, the proposed consolidation would make the International Baccalaureate certification process easier. Furthermore, it would put all of the teachers in the building on the same pay scale, which, as I understand it, would mean a pay increase for the hardworking and dedicated teachers of WIMA. All good things, to be sure. At the same time, however, I knew that there other considerations, like the fact that something like this would take several hundred children out of the Ypsilanti Community Schools system at a time when we’d just turned a corner, and, after years of hard work, finally reached a point where enrollment was growing again. I assumed that, as a member of the community, I would eventually have an opportunity to weigh in on the idea, and that there would be a public dialogue about what would be in the best interests of our children and our community. As it turned out, though, that never dialogue never took place.

Last Tuesday evening, members of the Ypsilanti Community Schools Board of Education, without any public debate, voted 5-2 in favor of a plan to hand over control of the middle school to the Washtenaw Intermediate School District. And, as you might imagine, some in the community were not terribly happy. This, from what I’ve seen online, is especially true of those with children in the recently opened Ypsilanti International Elementary School (YIES), who had been told that their children, upon leaving the fifth grade, would be able to attend WIMA.

I’m hesitant to get into the history, as I believe some of my facts may be a bit off, but, as I think a little context might be helpful at this point, here, as I understand it, is some high level background on how WIHI, WIMA and YIES came to be…

Thanks in large part to the destructive pro charter school policies put in place by Michigan Republicans like Betsy DeVos, Ypsilanti’s public education system was in pretty bad shape half a dozen years or so ago. Not only were we losing students in unprecedented numbers to private charter schools, but Ann Arbor schools, facing these exact same forces, were actively pursuing those Ypsilanti students with the resources to commute to and from Ann Arbor each day. As a result, Ypsilanti’s school system constricted, school buildings, once vital to neighborhood communities, were closed, and teachers were laid off. The Willow Run school district, on the brink of collapse, was forced to consolidate with Ypsilanti’s. And, together, they formed Ypsilanti Community Schools, which tried, with meager resources, to compete for students, while, at the same time, struggling to both pay off their accumulated debt and fight against the appearance of failure, as neighborhood school after neighborhood school was forced to shut its doors. YCS, in spite of this, kept trying innovative, new concepts, and appealing to families living in the district to return. Nothing, however, at least from my perspective, seemed to make a real, noticeable difference until WISD opened the International Baccalaureate high school in what had been Ypsilanti’s closed West Middle School about eight years ago. It not only filled, but it actually drew people from Ann Arbor and elsewhere. And, even though it wasn’t a YCS school, it got people thinking about public education in Ypsilanti differently. Well, at some point during the merger between the Ypsi and Willow Run districts, either the folks at YCS or WISD had the idea that YCS should launch an International Baccalaureate middle school in the half of the old East Middle School building not being used by WIHI. And, like WIHI, it filled quickly, but mostly with local Ypsi kids. Teachers were enthusiastic, the spirit of the school was great, and people actually started returning to the district, wanting to be a part of what they perceived as a positive turnaround. And, in relatively short order, a group of engaged parents self-assembled and started working with YCS to launch an International Baccalaureate elementary school, which opened just last year. That school, if I’m not mistaken, had 125 students last year, and has approximately 425 this year, having added additional classrooms at every grade. That’s how fast and powerful this turnaround has been. People, it would seem, were hungry for an opportunity to jump back into public education, and, when they saw that there was a new, stable K-12 option, they jumped at it. And, now, because of this consolidation, that seems to be in jeopardy.

As I’m not terribly well versed in all the ins and outs of the situation, I don’t want to go too deep into it at the moment, but I have a few quick thoughts to share. Please take them in the spirit in which they’re offered. I know that members of the School Board are trying to do their absolute best for the children of Ypsilanti, as are the teachers and staff of WIMA, many of whom I consider friends. And I know that this is an incredibly complex situation, with a lot of moving parts. [I’ve heard, for instance, that WISD may have threatened to take WIHI to Saline if YCS doesn’t accept consolidation.] With that said, though, I can’t help but believe there’s a better way to do this… OK, here are my random thoughts, followed by a letters from both School Board member Maria Sheler Edwards, who supports the consolidation, and the members of the YIES PTO, who do not.

1. I’ve heard from a few people now that International Baccalaureate accreditation would be “more difficult” for WIMA and WIHI if they continued to exist as separate entities with different reporting structures. I haven’t heard, however, that it would be impossible, or even terribly hard. With this in mind, I’d be curious to know just how real of an issue accreditation really is. And, if WIMA cannot get accreditation on its own, if not tied to WIHI, what does that mean for YIES… would it too eventually have to be taken over by WISD as well?

2. Let’s say that consolidation really is the only path forward. If that’s the case, wouldn’t it also be worth considering the possibility of YCS taking over WIHI? I’m not suggesting that YCS turn the tables and attempt a take-over of WIHI. I’m just wondering if doing so would satisfy the same concerns, and, if so, whether or not it was even considered as an option. And, if not, why not?

3. I didn’t go to tonight’s School Board meeting, but I hear that people were angry. And I’ve heard it said that there’s now a sense in the community that WISD purposefully led us down this path, having the tax payers of Ypsilanti, through YCS, pay for the launch of WIMA, which was considerably costly, with the intention of one day taking the school over. While I don’t think it’s useful to speculate, I think that all parties involved should see this as evidence of the fact that this proposed consolidation has been handled poorly, and with too little transparency.

4. I feel particularly bad for my friends that have invested the last few years of their lives in the successful launch of YIES. They did so with the understanding that the school would be a feeder for WIMA. Now, even though members of the School Board are saying that they intend to negotiate a large percentage of seats for Ypsi students at the middle school before closing the deal, at least for the next several years, there’s a concern that our students will no longer have a clear K-12 International Baccalaureate pathway. And people, understandably, want to know why they weren’t made aware of this eventuality before setting out to launch the school.

5. WIMA, as it currently exists, is incredibly diverse. WIHI is significantly less so. If WIMA becomes a WISD school, how likely is it that the student body makeup will change, as more affluent students from outside the local community begin enrolling?

6. Perhaps it’s already been attempted, but, if not, one would think it might be worth the investment to retain a mediator to work through some of these issues, starting with items that all parties involved agree to, and then building out from there. Again, I’m not privy to what might have happened behind the scenes already, but I have to think that we could benefit from a trusted third party who doesn’t have a vested interest in the outcome.

7. Why does this need to be decided right now? Why is it so urgent that consolidation happen now, before members of the community can be brought up to speed on the issue? I, for one, would like to read the original WIMA founding documents in order to get a better sense of how got to where we are today, and I suspect that I’m not alone.

I could go on, but I think that’s probably enough for right now. I would, however, like to reiterate that I don’t know what the answer is, and that I truly appreciate the fact that WIMA administration would benefit from a situation where they no longer have to serve two different masters, each with different objectives, etc. At the same time, though, my hope is that people at WISD can appreciate the fact that WIMA means a lot to people in this community, and they don’t much like the idea of handing over control, especially if it’s true that threats have been made about what will happen if the terms of consolidation aren’t approved. But, as a friend said to me earlier today, we also don’t want to get into another situation where we allow perfect to be the enemy of good, forcing out WISD when they have been such a positive catalyst in our community. [I may not have made it clear above, but WIMA is a truly incredible place, full of smart, inquisitive kids that truly reflect the Ypsilanti community. And, if you were to spend any time in the school at all, you’d understand why it is that people feel so passionately about protecting it. It, to a lot of people, reflects the promise and future of this community.]

So, with that, here is the explanation for the School Boards 5-2 decision from Maria Sheler Edwards.

I’ve received some questions about a resolution the board passed on Tuesday regarding WIMA and WIHI, so I’m sharing the full resolution, along with some context for this decision. WIMA is a thriving YCS school that we’re all very proud of – so why would we “give it away” to WEOC? The short answer is, we’re not giving WIMA away as much as we are keeping WIMA and WIHI together and – most importantly – in our community.

This spring, WEOC (the county consortium that governs WIHI) proposed a new governance structure where both WIMA and WIHI schools would be managed by them. Also, WEOC is negotiating a move to the West Middle School building.
We favor the governance move for a few reasons: right now, we have YCS staff at WIMA who are sort of straddling the reporting relationship and that needs to be resolved – for their sake and also for the MYP to be authorized by the IB (the Middle Years Programme is actually grades 6-10). Also, some partner districts want WIHI to leave Ypsi and move to their district – so that comes into play. If we can’t negotiate a deal (for governance and for the building) we risk losing WIHI.

So – say WIHI leaves Ypsi. Do we “keep” WIMA? Well, in practical terms, the answer is no. WEOC will open an MYP in the new district. And since they own the name WIMA, that’s what it will be called. They will post all the WIMA jobs, and our fantastic staff will very likely apply for (and get) them – the salary for WEOC teachers is higher for one thing. Many of the students who attend now – both YCS and school of choice kids – will follow. And any rent we could have collected is gone – as well as the opportunity for all our kids to have access to bussing.

What are we left with? It’s very expensive to start a new IB programme from scratch, esp one that straddles grades 6-10. Ypsi can’t afford the WIMA program as it stands, alone, and we’ve already seen that when Ypsi struggles financially, we give up great programs (multi-age at George, Montessori at Perry, New Tech at Ardis to name a few). Without the daily support of WIHI & WEOC, rebuilding the program wouldn’t happen, or if it did, it would be a very long time before we had anything like the thriving program we have now (if ever). Letting WIHI leave is cutting off our nose to spite our face.

The resolution we passed considers the big picture for Ypsi kids, while balancing the financial needs of YCS. It’s also a social justice issue – if WIHI leaves, frankly some of our kids just won’t be able to follow. We asked WEOC to guarantee 95% of the WIMA slots to YCS. The rent and foundation allowance will be negotiated at a fair rate. Also, because of the complexity of the issue and the difficulty of the decision, we appointed a board liaison to keep close tabs on the negotiations process to ensure financial stability of the district. I’m confident we will have a win-win solution soon.

[The text of the resolution can be found here.]

And here is the letter which, as I understand it, was delivered to the School Board this evening by members of the YIES PTO.

October 23, 2017

Ypsilanti Community Schools
Parent Teacher Organization
503 Oak Street
Ypsilanti, MI 48198

Ypsilanti Community Schools
Board of Education
1885 Packard Road
Ypsilanti, MI 48197

Dear Board of Education:

It has come to light that on Tuesday, October 18, a resolution was added and passed regarding the absorption of Washtenaw International Middle Academy (WIMA) by Washtenaw Educational Options Consortium (WEOC), becoming a consortium school. There was no mention of this resolution on the original agenda nor were Ypsilanti International Elementary School staff or administration made aware of this. We understand this will go to vote at an upcoming WEOC meeting.

We, as parents/guardians and community members of Ypsilanti International Elementary School (YIES), have questions surrounding this resolution. An investigation into the manner in which this resolution was produced, introduced and passed will be conducted as we see fit.

We expect responses to the following questions be researched and penned by board trustees Sharon Irvine, Maria Sheler-Edwards, Celeste Hawkins, Ellen Champagne, and Meredith Schindler and submitted to YIES PTO mailbox no later than Sunday, November 6, 2017.

• What efforts were made by WEOC or the Board of Education to communicate the potential of the aforementioned district change to YIES and YCS families? Please list and include any supporting materials (designated 2016-17 or 2017-18) with date and method of distribution.

• What actions are being taken by the Board of Education to ensure current YIES families have priority when it is time to matriculate to WIMA in perpetuity?

• What is the cost comparison between the loss of WIMA students versus the loss of WIHI as a tenant for YCS at their current rental rate at 510 Emerick Street?

• What curricular, marketing, publicity, and financial efforts will the district make to retain the momentum of enrollment growth at YCS now that a promise has been broken to first year and returning YCS families?

• What efforts will be made to end contracts at WIMA for Durham and Chartwells in the best interest of cost-savings for YCS?

We demand:

• The resolution be rescinded and a public informational forum hosted by Board of Education for YIES families to discuss and ask questions regarding the rationale behind WIMA leaving the district.

• The Board of Education provide specific districts who were courting WIHI to move and contacts.

• If the board chooses to progress with the resolution once members of the community have been informed and had a chance to express views, a new vote may take place.

• Board members with students attending WIMA or WIHI may not vote.

• Board members who are parents of children at WIMA or WIHI may not sit as a liaison on district negotiations with WEOC for facility rental agreements.

• Full transparency about this very consequential issue.

We are the community that believed in the return of a great educational and social experience in Ypsilanti. We were too proud to send our children outside of district. We believed in the path which was presented to us, and we rallied as a community to spread the success of YIES’s first year by word of mouth.

Reneging on the promise that YIES students can continue on to WIMA will weaken trust and goodwill among members of the YIES community, hardwon qualities that have been vital to the school’s measurable early success. It introduces instability and uncertainty and risks turning essential enthusiasm into low morale. Such a move raises serious questions about the school board’s commitment to supporting all of the community’s students, with troubling implications regarding issues of diversity and equal opportunity, among others.

We are ready to have open discussion regarding this matter and anticipate YCS staff, administration, students, parents/guardians and all community members be equipped with the same information in a timely fashion as WIMA and WIHI staff, students and families were afforded.

If this is not an agreeable path, we will have no choice but to seek further actions to ensure future resolutions are communicated and voted upon by board members who will uphold the characteristics of an upstanding trustee as outlined by the Michigan Association of Schools Boards.

Sincerely,
Ypsilanti International Elementary School PTO
Ypsilanti Community Supporters

And, here, if you’re interested, is video from the beginning of tonight’s meeting.

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29 Comments

  1. Maria Cotera
    Posted October 23, 2017 at 11:56 pm | Permalink

    What’s important to remember is that WIMA was established as part of the restructuring that followed YPS’s consolidation with Willow Run Schools. During that time there was a grant of 6.5 million dollars made available to support restructuring. It was less than the 20 million promised, but oh well. At some point in the restructuring process, it was decided that WIMA would be a “middle years” program (grades 6-10) instead of a traditional middle school (6-8). Who decided that? It might have been the curriculum subcommittee or a subcommittee charged with reconfiguring the buildings between the consolidated districts (both comprised of teachers, parents, and community members). It might have been WISD who managed the whole process, or it might have been the Washtenaw Educational Options Consortium, which runs WIHI, ECA, and WAVE, a computer learning program for kids at home (yeah). But this was a crucial decision because it intermeshed WIMA and WIHI in terms of staff, making it very difficult to manage (staff reporting to two different districts) and, effectively, making it impossible at some point in the future to simply separate the two schools . I think some key questions need to be asked:
    What money, if any did our district pay to get WIMA up and running?
    Did that money come from the 6.5 million grant to support the formation of the new YCS district?
    I am assuming that we have been paying staff in the WIMA Middle Years program, does that mean that we have been paying for 9th and 10th grade teachers at WIHI?
    Did the WEOC foot this bill before WIMA was established? Who paid 9/10 grade teachers before we came along and started footing the bill?
    In other words, have we been using money designated to get our district off the ground to support WIHI?
    This would mean that far wealthier districts have been relying on the district with the LOWEST per pupil funding in the consortium to develop a middle years program that they are now going to take away from our district. There is a phrase for such practices: extractive colonialism.
    Tom Perkins, are you looking for a new story?

  2. Anonymous
    Posted October 24, 2017 at 9:20 am | Permalink

    I’m reminded of the situation with the Rec Center on Water Street where Ypsilanti City Council proved so difficult to work with that the County Parks and Rec Department walked away leaving us with nothing.

  3. Anonymous
    Posted October 24, 2017 at 9:51 am | Permalink

    Let me get this straight. A large gathering of white families showed up to complain that they can’t get into WIMA now because the WISD is taking the program from the black kids? This is social justice?

  4. Eel
    Posted October 24, 2017 at 9:56 am | Permalink

    Where does it say “a large gathering of white families showed up to complain”? I must have missed that part.

  5. Eel
    Posted October 24, 2017 at 9:57 am | Permalink

    Also, how sad is it that we depend on Tom Perkins, a Metro Times food writer, for coverage of these critical local issues?

  6. Eel
    Posted October 24, 2017 at 9:58 am | Permalink

    #HelpUsPerkins

  7. Jcp2
    Posted October 24, 2017 at 10:06 am | Permalink

    I think there might be a fundamental misunderstanding as to what IB means at the high school level and the middle school level in terms of function and administration. The IB high school program is not really a complete grade 9-12 institution. It is a diploma program where certified teachers offer a rigorous certified curriculum of advanced high school level courses that, if completed to a satisfactory level, will result in an IB diploma. If one only completes a subset of courses required for a diploma, then one earns a certificate in each course area. There is no age or grade minimum specified, but as a matter of course, because these courses are difficult, usually they are taken in grade 11 or 12. Many times these programs exist within the campus of a larger school, so long as the diploma curriculum is administered by a single entity. The final diploma would be considered the equivalent of British A levels, and depending on the college or university in the US, there may or may not be college credit granted for each course successfully taken.
    The IB middle years program is a completely different animal. It is designed as an inclusive single wrap around program specifically for ages 11-16, translating to grades 6-10 in our system. The administrative requirement is for a single entity to administer this program, which is probably where having a split between YCS handling 6-8 and WISD handling 9-10 is difficult. There is a partner school program to accommodate these sorts of administrative divisions within school structure, but an underlying premise is that all participating schools have adequate resources and funding to continually maintain standards. Certainly the WISD and WEOC have a stronger claim than YPS to that as well.

  8. Jcp2
    Posted October 24, 2017 at 10:42 am | Permalink

    I was in a IB diploma program. Classical English literature, passed, no college credit. Modern European history, pass, no college credit. Philosophy of science, pass, no college credit. Math studies, passed, credit for calculus 1 and 2. Physics, pass, credit for physics 1. Did not finish French as I wanted biology, which was not an IB class at that time at my school.

  9. Jcp2
    Posted October 24, 2017 at 10:49 am | Permalink

    Also chemistry, pass, no college credit. Was it worth it? Well, it was Canada, and there were no AP equivalents, and college in Canada isn’t expensive, so not a monetary savings from that point. It was really just a separate high school track for students who did well in regular classes within my high school. Later on, the school board moved the program to a specific magnet high school that was more central within the city to meet district demand from other neighborhoods without access to a program locally.

  10. M
    Posted October 24, 2017 at 11:00 am | Permalink

    I’d like to see the original agreement between the YCS and WISD. Is it available online? What did we agree to? As the original Principal had launched IB schools in the past, my assumption is that we knew going in what would be required for accreditation, and what it would cost to run the schools. If that’s the case, was it always known that the school would have to leave YCS? If so, why did we enter into the agreement? Why didn’t WISD launch their own middle school?

  11. M
    Posted October 24, 2017 at 11:13 am | Permalink

    Am I understanding you correctly, Jcp2, that WIHI needed WIMA in order to offer a real, comprehensive IB program in the long term? In other words, a standalone IB program is just grades 11 and 12, and they needed a 6-10 “middle years” program to complement it, in order to fit in with America’s traditional conception of high school, which goes from grade 9 to grade 12?

  12. Maria Cotera
    Posted October 24, 2017 at 11:25 am | Permalink

    Yes, I understand Jcp2, but before YCS started the WIMA program at East Middle School, WIHI provided a 9-12 education. So my question still stands, was money from the consolidation used to pay instructional costs for WIHI?

  13. Jcp2
    Posted October 24, 2017 at 12:20 pm | Permalink

    The IB diploma program is the most prevalent type of program, as it gives a uniform high standard of high school credentials that is recognized internationally. It’s popular in many countries, especially in Europe, but not so much in the United States, where AP classes take that place. It is an exclusive program the grants credentialing only upon passing certain examination and study requirements, with an overall passing rate of 4/5, despite being fairly self selective for who would choose such a program. The middle years (and primary years) program can exist separately from the diploma program, although many times it complements a diploma program by preparing students for such a program, if they do choose and also are so chosen. It’s not a one to one educational pipeline, although it can be made as such, if the diploma program was willing to accept a higher non completion rate for the IB portion, yet still graduate its students by local standards.

  14. Jcp2
    Posted October 24, 2017 at 12:31 pm | Permalink

    So I guess my answer is no, a middle years program is not necessary, as an IB diploma program can exist as a special curriculum within a larger high school, as it did in my high school, and as it does at Huron High School in Ann Arbor. AAPS has the full program available, with primary years at Mitchell, middle years with a partnership between Scarlett Middle School and 9-10 Huron, and diploma at Huron 11-12. There is a good explanatory diagram explaining the transition between the middle year program and the diploma program on their website. Essentially, a student could choose to go back into traditional high school, go for the whole enchilada with the diploma program, or do a combination which will result in possible subject certificates, but no IB diploma.

  15. Kristy C.
    Posted October 24, 2017 at 12:49 pm | Permalink

    If the district ends up allowing WIMA to be absorbed by WEOC/WISD, they will come for YIES next (probably within the next few years during the accreditation process). They will dangle the carrot to YIES parents that if we acquiesce, we can be a part of the guaranteed IB pipeline we were originally told was a guarantee. This will be tempting for many people, and if it goes through, YCS will be worse off than it was before any of the IB programs started.

  16. Meta
    Posted October 24, 2017 at 1:37 pm | Permalink

    The vote wasn’t 5-2, but 4-2.

    MLIVE: “Parents ask Ypsilanti Schools to rescind decision to ‘give away’ middle school”

    Most of the parents who spoke during Monday’s meeting have children who attend Ypsilanti International Elementary School, which expanded to a preschool through fifth-grade school this year and also offers the IB curriculum. Many of those parents said they chose to enroll their children at YIES because they were promised a seat for their students at WIMA.

    Yen Azzaro, who is the former communications coordinator for YCS, apologized for unknowingly misleading the families she helped recruit to the district by touting the IB program. She gave the board copies of a letter from herself and 19 other parents – signed by the YIES PTO and community supporters – that voiced their displeasure with the consolidation plan.

    “We believed in the path which was presented to us, and we rallied as a community to spread the success of YIES’s first year by word of mouth,” the letter states. “Reneging on the promise that YIES students can continue on to WIMA will weaken trust and goodwill among members of the YIES community, hardwon qualities that have been vital to the school’s measurable early success.”

    The YCS board’s resolution in support of the consolidation calls for Ypsilanti students to make up at least 95 percent of WIMA’s enrollment for at least the next three years.

    But some parents worry Ypsilanti students will have more limited access to the school after that. Other WEOC programs enroll students from across Washtenaw County.

    The resolution in favor of the consolidation passed at a special meeting on Tuesday, Oct. 17, after the school board met in closed session with an attorney to discuss the proposal to consolidate WIMA with WIHI.

    Following the closed session portion of the meeting, the board returned to open session to introduce a resolution in favor of the consolidation, which was not included in advance on the meeting agenda.

    The resolution passed 4-2, with Board President Sharon Lee and Trustee Brenda Meadows opposing the proposal. Board treasurer Meredith Schindler was absent for the vote, and she pointed out Monday that the initial minutes from last week’s meeting did not accurately reflect that.

    Because the proposal was not on the agenda in advance and many parents were not aware consolidating the two schools was a possibility, they said they felt blindsided by the decision.

    Laura Frey-Greathouse, director of staffing, student affairs and teacher retention at YCS, said she similarly was left in the dark about the decision. Frey-Greathouse also addressed the school board during public comment, with her fifth-grade daughter who attends YIES at her side.

    “You gave away one of our schools. Somehow the WIMA staff knew about it, but central office administrators like myself did not,” Frey-Greathouse said. “Every other district decision I have been involved in – and I have been involved in almost every decision – required us as district administrators to justify our recommendations with data.

    “I want to know why this time, no data was gathered from the YIES parents, no opportunity was given for a public forum, no opportunity was given for public comment, and then even after the fact, incorrect information was communicated by board members,” she continued. “It seems like the decision was for some other reason than for what is best for the district.”

    Read more:
    http://www.mlive.com/news/ann-arbor/index.ssf/2017/10/parents_wima_ypsilanti_schools.html

  17. LUMOS
    Posted October 24, 2017 at 2:54 pm | Permalink

    You left out the best part of the story, Meta.

    Edmondson said the proposal was first brought to him in March. He was upset by the idea, and he appointed an attorney to negotiate the terms of the consolidation. Edmondson said the attorney did not provide him with updates to bring to the board.

    “In the conversation at the table, I got irate. I felt like it was a takeover,” Edmondson said of the conversation in March. “My opinion was, ‘You come into a community of black people where we have a shining program, and you take it away.’ I said, ‘I refuse.’ It’s just who I am. But in my best interest, I backed off emotionally because I know how I am when it comes to certain things. So we got an attorney.”

  18. Jill Rachele Stucker
    Posted October 24, 2017 at 2:55 pm | Permalink

    It’s true that WIHI is not economically diverse. WIMA is 50/50 “economically disadvantaged” (the state’s term) vs. not. WIHI is only 6.63% economically disadvantaged. The African-American population at WIMA is 41.58% (and 37% white), while at WIHI it’s 12.84% African-American. (All of these figures are from 2016-17.)

  19. Posted October 24, 2017 at 3:12 pm | Permalink

    Dr. Edmondson has known about this situation since last spring. It is sad so many community members were blindsided.

  20. Leah F
    Posted October 25, 2017 at 7:40 am | Permalink

    In response to Maria C’s comment here: “Yes, I understand Jcp2, but before YCS started the WIMA program at East Middle School, WIHI provided a 9-12 education. So my question still stands, was money from the consolidation used to pay instructional costs for WIHI?”

    Maria–WiHi (started in 2011 through WIOC) began before the YCS consolidation with only one class of 9th graders, then a grade was added on each year as the students progressed. There was only a small staff of teachers hired through WIOC. YCS as the entity it is now (post-merger) did not exist when WiHi began.

  21. Leah F
    Posted October 25, 2017 at 8:07 am | Permalink

    My previous comment–I’m sorry, I used WIOC instead of WEOC.
    I’m used to saying it, not having to type it. I mean WEOC.

  22. Leah F
    Posted October 25, 2017 at 8:32 am | Permalink

    Maria’s questions here:

    “I am assuming that we have been paying staff in the WIMA Middle Years program, does that mean that we have been paying for 9th and 10th grade teachers at WIHI?
    Did the WEOC foot this bill before WIMA was established? Who paid 9/10 grade teachers before we came along and started footing the bill?
    In other words, have we been using money designated to get our district off the ground to support WIHI?”

    1) There is no official (accredited) Middle Years Program at this point. They are trying to achieve that accreditation. Right now, there is a YCS school (WIMA–grades 6, 7, 8) managed/funded by YCS and a WEOC school (WiHi–grades 9-12) managed/funded by WEOC (which receives per-pupil funding from each of its participating schools, which includes YCS as one school of several county schools) that coexist in the same building, rented out by YCS (former East Middle School building). From what I understand, the teachers are either considered a WIMA teacher (grades 6-8, paid by YCS) or a WiHi teacher (grades 9-12, paid by WEOC), and I don’t know how it is handled if a teacher crosses between those levels (there aren’t many who do), but I know YCS is not paying salaries to WiHi teachers.

    2) Yes, WEOC managed all bills (including paying rent for the building) when the school was established in 2011 with only 1 grade–9th grade, and a small staff of teachers hired and paid by WEOC. At that time, YCS was not the entity it is now, as it had not yet merged with Willow Run to become “Ypsilanti Community Schools”. Technically, Ypsi schools was paying for “part” of this start-up due to their participation in WEOC, but all participating schools in WEOC were paying for WiHi. And YCS is not “footing the bill” for 9/10th grade teachers now, other than their participation in WEOC. The 9th/10th grade teachers are considered WiHi staff.

    3) No. Not as a stand-alone district. YCS is part of WEOC, so it is participating in the costs of WEOC along with the other schools who agreed to join WEOC. Also, WiHi began two years before the YCS merger.

    I do not think the phrase “extractive colonialism” applies to how WiHi (or WIMA) was originally organized. In fact, I think the priority has been to make sure that this school and educational option was deliberately placed within the district with lowest per-pupil funding for easier access to those students, and I think that is the priority going forward.

    If the management of two different schools (WIMA and WiHI) within the same building is no longer feasible then, in my opinion, the merger is the best option for WIMA to remain geographically accessible to Ypsi students (and prioritize them as the highest allotment of seats at WIMA out of the WEOC schools).

  23. Jcp2
    Posted October 25, 2017 at 8:45 am | Permalink

    I think YIES should continue the IB PYP certification process, as it’s still a good credential to have to attract families. The WIMA and WIHI combined MYP program is not just and administrative problem, but an enrollment conundrum. There are probably 40-50 kids in a class at WIMA, yet YCS only has about 25 slots allocated through proportional lottery in WIHI. MYP certification would likely require that all students that finish at WIMA in the middle of the IB program be able to continue at WIHI.

  24. Jessica Ashmore
    Posted October 25, 2017 at 9:58 am | Permalink

    My profession takes me into a number of the Ypsilanti (and all of Washtenaw) schools and I also became aware of this impending issue in late spring. In fact, it was shared with me so casually that I assumed it to be common knowledge and anticipated it would be voted on by June.

    Admittedly I paid little attention at the time because my only school aged child, a third grader, had been at one of the FOUR for profit NHA charters in Ypsi. We were consistently conflicted about continuing to feed this academic beast, but our child had started school the year of the consolidation and I was fully aware of how poorly orchestrated it was. Hence our decision to go with NHA at the time. I digress.

    One month into his 4th grade year our child came to us and said “there has to be more to school than this,” and this is what ultimately led us to YIES. His experience there has surpassed our wildest expectations and school has become a place that he doesn’t want to leave. We moved him to this program with the full knowledge that WIMA wasn’t a guarantee and did so largely because we are aligned with the philosophy, loved the environment there, and so very much wanted to support the district and our city. And I’m sure there’s more of us out there.

    What is particularly troublesome about all of this is the manner in which the board chose to hold the vote. I can appreciate that those who voted in favor may have felt strong armed into doing so based on the threat of the loss of the consortium program from Ypsi altogether. However, at a time when restoring faith in the district is paramount in drawing families back, it was terribly irresponsible to hold the vote in a closed session knowing full well the information was not widely known. Furthermore, to have had this as a potential agenda item since last spring and not have even a semblance of a plan B months later when it came to a vote is unacceptable. And the whole 95% Ypsi students for 3 years is a bandaid at best. The board’s accountability will ultimately be determined at the polls.

    That being said, there’s no point in belaboring the point. So WIMA is going to WEOC. It’s done. Today we mourn and tomorrow we fight. We build. We know they will come. Does YIES expand to K-8? Does Ypsi build a separate IB middle school? What action are we going to take because I want in on it.

  25. Leah F
    Posted October 25, 2017 at 11:50 am | Permalink

    This article has a lot of info on funding and how it is distributed based on district enrollment. Hope that helps with some of the questions about funding details:

    http://www.mlive.com/news/ann-arbor/index.ssf/2017/10/ypsilanti_schools_to_give_up_c.html?ath=456c7c630e0edb38bc42d6dad97cb690#cmpid=nsltr_stryheadline

  26. Kira Berman on Facebook
    Posted October 26, 2017 at 8:58 am | Permalink

    The key in terms of WIMA/WIHI is to require continued presence in Ypsi in perpetuity. Otherwise, if you consider the make-up of WEOC, there would be NO reason to keep the schools in Ypsi after whatever term the agreement is for. There is already considerable pressure to move WIHI if Ypsi doesn’t capitulate to joining WIMA with WIHI, and the pressure to move the successful schools will only increase. The fact that this was part of the original plan and that I as a board member who authorized WIHI and advocated the creation of WIMA was not informed of that plan is troublesome, at the very least. But if the move can be combined with a promise to stay in Ypsi in perpetuity, and continue to accept 95% YCS students at WIMA in perpetuity, I might advocate for it. There is no question that it would be better for WIMA teachers and possibly WIMA students as well, and that it would ease accreditation. Access for Ypsilanti students is the key.

    The point that Ypsi is becoming a 2 track district is an important one and one that has also concerned me. One of the things that sets the IB schools apart is a curriculum that is set outside the district – is that what it takes to create rigor in Ypsilanti? Some stability of programming at YCMS and YCHS is clearly crucial. And what will happen to YIES? What will happen to the newfound enthusiasm in the district that the YIES/WIMA connection has created? And how/why is it that this decision was made without announcement on a published agenda or public discussion/explanation? I will attend the next WEOC meeting, if I can figure out when it is.

  27. Aleigh
    Posted October 28, 2017 at 5:00 pm | Permalink

    FYI: What I found on WEOC Board Meetings:
    WEOC meeting notices are posted at: http://www.weoc.info Unless noted all meetings will begin at 1pm at the WISD, 1819 S. Wagner Rd, Ann Arbor, Michigan
    Thursday August 24, 2017
    Thursday, November 16, 2017
    Thursday, February 15, 2018
    Thursday, April 19, 2018
    Thursday, May 17, 2018
    Thursday, June 14, 2018
    WEOC will provide necessary reasonable auxiliary aids and services, such as hand signers for the hearing impaired, audio tapes of printed materials being considered at the meeting, to individuals with disabilities at the meeting (and/or hearing) upon two weeks notice to WEOC. Individuals with disabilities requiring auxiliary aids or services should contact WEOC and leave a message which includes (1) who you are/how to contact you, (2) what meeting and date you wish to attend, (3) what aid you are requesting. Contact: WEOC Clerk voice phone, (734)487-4290 U.S. mail, 220 King Hall – EMU, Ypsilanti, Michigan 48197, E-mail WEOC2013@gmail.com.

  28. Ashley F
    Posted October 29, 2017 at 10:18 pm | Permalink

    Mark-
    I really appreciate your blog and have been reading it since I moved to town in 2013. I teach at WIHI, and I would really appreciate the chance to speak with you about the proposed plan. I do appreciate your caveats throughout your post stating areas where you are not sure of the facts or the history of how this all happened, but I am concerned about a number of the suppositions that you land on when not sure about these facts. That is not to say that given how this was rolled out to the broader YCS community that this proposal appears very troublesome and scandalous. Despite the fact that I do not think this proposal is shady, but a reasonable answer to solve a couple significant governance problems while maintaining our school and our staff’s commitment to this community, I think my fellow residents are right to think it looks shady given the process since it was handed over to YCS consideration in May.
    As you and other commenters have said, this proposal was made by the joint steering committee of WEOC, which includes the 9 superintendents in the county, in a public WEOC meeting in May in which the YCS superintendent in attendance. (Also, WEOC is not the WISD or run by the WISD. WEOC does contract the ISD for some significant services like payroll and IT.) The assumption was that YCS would follow standard protocol for bringing this before the YCS community for input. I do not know why this was not done. The WIMA and WIHI community was informed that the proposal was being considered by YCS back in May. Also, two YCS board members said at last week’s meeting that they were asking for updates through the summer, but did not receive them.
    The other reason I think this whole thing is confusing and frustrating is that it is so complex. I have been working at the school for five years, and I am still wrapping my head around how this school is governed. Part of this confusion is that there is no other public school consortium district in the state. The partnership has lasted longer, but WEOC became what it is with actual employees of its own running schools in the summer of 2013. The superintendents of the partnering districts for Early College Alliance, WIHI, and Washtenaw Alliance for Virtual Education (WAVE) made it up to solve some even more complex governance issues that existed under arrangements prior to 2013. I’ve never heard a member of staff or administration ever voice anything that could be construed as a desire to move either school out of Ypsilanti or to not have WIMA be overwhelmingly filled with Ypsi students. My concern, and, I assume, WEOC’s concern is that if YCS was unwilling to help solve the very real governance issues and accreditation issues with the Middle Years Program that it would make setting up our new lease difficult, and that another district not wanting to see the programs disappear would offer to host them. All this to say, I’d appreciate the chance to talk with you to clarify some areas I may have gained insight into in my years working there.

  29. Former YCS board member Kira Berman
    Posted November 21, 2017 at 4:18 pm | Permalink

    I am proud that I was on the YPS board that authorized WIHI. I am very proud that WIMA is part of Ypsilanti Community Schools – I was part of the parent and staff group that recommended its creation. WIMA is the only school in the district whose demographic reflects the actual demographic of Ypsilanti. It provides access to excellence for many of our students and is bringing many students back to the district. In short it is a very successful school that already has a waiting list. I recognize the governance issues that are a challenge right now. However, I think there is a way forward that gives WIMA considerably more autonomy than it has now, BUT KEEPS IT IN THE YCS DISTRICT. How will Ypsilanti remain a viable, excellent district if WEOC is cherry picking our best schools and taking them? Will YIES be next? What will happen to the district as a whole and the momentum it has built?

    Why, you might ask, would keeping WIMA in YCS be desirable? It does create administrative hurdles and it means teachers likely will have lower pay. Here’s my reasoning: Keeping WIMA in the district means preserving access for our children in perpetuity, which I value over teacher pay or administrative expedience. Is this access threatened? YES. After 3 years (or some other period), we can expect the WEOC board to vote their own interest – to “expand access to WIMA to other districts” as noted in their meeting minutes as a plus to consolidation. That expansion will represent a loss for Ypsilanti students, where we already have a capacity problem and waiting list. Ypsilanti has invested heavily in this school – $50,000 in our consolidation grant, plus IB fees and teacher training. Plus, the initial building lease provided free and then discounted facility rent. When governed by WEOC, Ypsilanti will have only one vote (out of 9) on WIMA’s governance and policies if this school, in which we have invested so much, is given away. How might the board be expected to act? The answer can be seen in the demographics of WIHI versus those of WIMA. I conclude that this is an equity issue for access to excellent schools for ALL Ypsilanti students, and I believe the board and superintendent are aware of this.

    That WEOC, made up of majority white districts, would force this takeover/giveaway of a very successful school in an under-resourced, majority minority district, on the basis of undocumented IB certification requirements (there is no record that the IB program actually requires consolidation or that negotiations could not take place on this issue), and that our majority white school board would acquiesce without objection, is the ultimate example of institutional white privilege at work.

    I believe there is another way – a way that expands both programs and keeps them within Ypsilanti, and keeps WIMA in YCS. Such an arrangement would have to provide significant autonomy to WIMA in curriculum and governance, to satisfy the IB accreditation requirements. But such a legal agreement is possible. I urge my friends and neighbors, the school board and superintendent, Representative Peterson, and the WEOC board to advocate for this solution. It is the only way that I know of to assure access to these excellent programs in perpetuity for Ypsilanti students. It is the only way to assure that a school that Ypsilanti has created and invested in will continue to serve Ypsilanti students, and have the possibility for growth to serve a growing demand. In short, it is the only just solution.

    You can find YCS board information here: http://www.ycschools.us/board-of-education/

    You can reach our superintendent here: bedmondson7@ycschools.us

    You can reach the WEOC Director Dave Dugger here: weoc2013@gmail.com

    The members of the WEOC board are the superintendents of each of the Washtenaw County school districts and you can find their contact info on each District’s web site.

    Please write.

2 Trackbacks

  1. […] are wishing Tom Perkins would cover our news too! These were found on Mark Maynard’s blog here.  #HelpUsPerkins […]

  2. […] International High School (WIHI). This decision was controversial for a number of reasons, many of which we discussed here a few days ago. Not only would it take a popular and growing academic program away from YCS at a time when the […]

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