March 11, 2015
The mission of the Ann Arbor Public Schools is, “to ensure each student realizes his or her aspirations while advancing the common good, by creating a world-class system of innovative teaching and learning.”
The Ann Arbor Public Schools considers student and staff safety our number one priority. Thus, we are very concerned about the situation that occurred at Pioneer High School during the choir concert on Thursday, March 5, 2015.
A significant concern in this case certainly involves our focus on student safety and we will be working through that issue. However, it is also important to note that in this particular situation, the actions of individuals took attention away from an outstanding student performance. Unfortunately, the events on that evening and the public statements that followed became a distraction that took affirmation away from the many hours of hard work that the students, parent volunteers, and staff members engaged in as they prepared for the concert. The focus should always remain on the positive efforts of our children, not the adults in attendance.
Our goal as a school system is to serve the greater good of our community through serving our students, and we ask our constituents to consider and support the same as we live, work and learn together. Certainly, we may not always agree, but we have an obligation to model the value of mutual respect for our students regardless of our personal positions.
While we recognize the law and the complexities this situation presents, our primary commitment and goal is absolute: we will do everything in our power to always maintain a safe, nurturing, and comfortable learning environment for our children. The safety and well being of our children will remain the focus and priority of our policies, regulations, and daily practice in the Ann Arbor Public Schools. The presence of guns in schools runs contrary to everything we are wired for in education, and we believe it is counterproductive to maintaining a rich, productive, and healthy learning environment for our children.
The AAPS Board of Education had already scheduled, on an upcoming agenda, a specific review of our policies and regulations addressing safety in our schools, including the expectations regarding the open carry of firearms in the Ann Arbor Public Schools.
Just like so many other educators, for 27 years of my public education career, there is one single precedent that has persisted in my work every day, a priority that preempts even the critical mission of public schools to ensure quality teaching and learning and that priority is student safety.
We have worked hard over time in Ann Arbor Public Schools to improve our school safety practices and ensure safe learning environments. We have partnered with our local authorities to develop protocols that are responsive to what has been learned in recent attacks. The ALICE training protocol is an essential part of our emergency plan. Though the possibility is painful to consider, our educators and school leaders have stepped up to the challenge of preparing to protect children in the case of violence erupting at school. Additionally, we have recently begun a phased approach to remodel our schools for secured front entrances.
Over the coming weeks as we attend to this work, when we experience differences of opinion, let’s commit to work toward common understandings in an open and respectful fashion, acknowledging that this approach can be mutually beneficial and it also models what we expect from our students within the school system.
We are all exceptionally proud of our competent and committed classroom teachers and staff who work very hard to maintain a strong focus on academic achievement. We also value the partnership of parents, partners and community members in cherishing a quality education for every student. In our quality Ann Arbor Public Schools, we get results; students grow and achieve in a vibrant, quality educational environment – we are exceptional; our students and graduates prove this every day.
I want to thank all those who contribute every day to make our school district successful. I want to thank our remarkable teachers and staff, and our amazing children and their parents who trust us every day. I want our families to know that we appreciate, honor, and take seriously the trust that you have placed in bringing your students to our schools.
Jeanice Kerr Swift
Superintendent of Schools
Ann Arbor Public Schools