From AAPSNews Service
This is the first year that Ann Arbor school elections have been in November, sharing the ballot with other General Election races. Early this year, the district approved moving elections to November as a cost-saving measure.
It is also the first year there have been so many seats open on The Ann Arbor Board of Education, said Trustee Irene Patalan, who currently serves as the board’s vice president.
On Nov. 2, voters will elect five of the board’s seven seats – unheard of in elections past. “We have not passed this way before,” Patalan said. “In my lifetime, it’s been three, maybe four (open seats). It is confusing. It boggles my mind to think of this.”
Patalan and Trustee Glenn Nelson– the only two trustees whose seats will not be up for election this year – shared their experiences about the roles of school board members and their experiences in running a campaign during a special information session for prospective candidates on June 30 at the school district administrative offices.
Ann Arbor school district voters will elect five trustees and those earning seats on the board will begin their terms Jan. 1, 2011. The following seats are open:
• Two to be elected to serve 4-year terms that expire Dec. 31, 2014.
• One to be elected to serve a 2-year term that expires Dec. 31, 2012.
• Two to be elected to serve 1-year terms that expire Dec. 31, 2011.
“Be sure to specify which position you are running for, because there are so many open positions,” said Teri Wilson, the district’s elections coordinator. She noted that there is also the opportunity for residents to run as write-in candidates if they miss the deadline: “It can be done if you have a campaign well thought out … and perhaps you are well-known in the community.”
The filing deadline for those interested in running for the school board is 4 p.m. Tuesday, Aug. 10. Candidates take out nominating petitions and file them through the election division of the Washtenaw County Clerk’s Office, 200 North Main Street, Suite 120 Ann Arbor, MI 48104. Due to a change in the law several years ago, all elections – including those for local school districts – are coordinated through Washtenaw County. For information, call 734-222-6730 or visit the Web site.
Liz Margolis, the school district’s director of communications, said candidates may file for office either by collecting signatures and filing petitions or by paying a $100 non-refundable fee to the county.
Patalan suggested that candidates keep petitions handy for city residents as well as those for surrounding townships that are in the school district as they move around the district. She said she always kept multiple versions handy “so that I didn’t have to bypass a supporter.”
Margolis explained that registered voters signing petitions must sign one appropriate to their place of residence, or their signature may be invalidated. There are eight townships represented in The Ann Arbor Public Schools.
Nelson suggests candidates get more signatures than required in case some voters sign the wrong petition in error. Wilson said candidates can always turn in petitions early, giving county election officials a chance to check signatures to be sure they are valid before the filing deadline.
Nelson shared some numbers comparing the Ann Arbor school board to other elective boards in the area. He noted that the board oversees an overall budget of $240 million compared with $190 million for the city of Ann Arbor and $200 million for Washtenaw County.
Because each school trustee represents all taxpayers, Nelson said that represents a “$34 million influence on the community. I think it’s really an important institution. It’s a large amount of money … and a small group of people looking over it.”
Patalan noted the differences between running for City Council and the school board. In addition to the city having wards and the school board representing the whole, the school board race is nonpartisan, she said. “The reason you run is because of the children. … You have to look at the good of he district – what’s good for the (whole) district.”
Both Nelson and Patalan suggested candidates consider getting a good treasurer for their campaign – someone they can trust to handle campaign finance filings and tracking expenses and contributions. “Aspire to find someone who you have that kind of confidence in,” Nelson said.
Margolis explained that student directories are public lists that candidates can use in their campaigns, but that PTO lists are not accessible to candidates. As for any sort of private list, Margolis suggested that candidates get the approval of the list’s founder or owner before using it.
Candidates are able to attend public functions to speak with voters, such as Curriculum Nights and fall student performances, but they must stay outside, 100 feet from the door of the building when handing out literature, officials said.
Running for the school board “teaches you about yourself,” Patalan added. “It teaches you what you stand for. It really is about the students in the district and you have so many voices that need you. It is exhausting, but it a wonderful process.”
Key election dates and information
Filing deadline: 4 p.m., Tuesday Aug. 10 at Washtenaw County Clerk’s office, 200 North Main Street, Suite 120 Ann Arbor (Details: 734-222-6730.)
Withdrawal deadline: 4 p.m. Friday, Aug. 13 (If not withdrawn by this date, name of all who file will appear on ballot.)
Candidate meeting: 5:30 p.m. Monday, Aug. 23 at Balas Administration Building, 2555 S. State St., Ann Arbor. General information meeting for those who have filed to run for a seat on the Ann Arbor Board of Education.
Last Day to register to vote: 5 p.m. Monday, Oct. 4. Register at a Michigan Secretary of State office or local municipality.
Write-in candidate filing deadline for declaration of intent form: 4 p.m., Friday, Oct. 22, Washtenaw County Clerk’s office. For those who do not file by the Aug. 10 deadline and want to conduct a write-in campaign.
ELECTION DAY: Tuesday, Nov. 2. Polls will open at 7 a.m. and close at 8 p.m.
AAPS Election Liaison: Teri Williams, 734-994-2233, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org
Seats open this year on The Ann Arbor Public Schools Board of Education:
- Two to be elected to serve 4-year terms that expire Dec. 31, 2014.
- One to be elected to serve a 2-year term that expires Dec. 31, 2012.
- Two to be elected to serve 1-year terms that expire Dec. 31, 2011.