Opening Day kicks off school year, search plans move forward

A video with remarks from Ann Arbor Public Schools Board of Education President Deb Mexicotte and Superintendent Todd Roberts during Ann Arbor Public Schools Staff Opening Day at Pioneer High School. Below is a slide show of the first day of school, just before opening bell, at Carpenter Elementary.

Staff members attend an Opening Day event at Pioneer High School one week before classes began in the district. The event marked the final formal address to staff by Superintendent Todd Roberts who will leave his post in November.

From AAPSNews Service

As Superintendent Todd Roberts prepares to say farewell to The Ann Arbor Public Schools this fall, he told staff  he is confident that everyone is flying in formation and ready for the change.

The district operates with everyone’s contribution to the whole, he said. “It’s your leadership and roles that make that happen. The superintendent plays a very small role.”

He noted that the district has a “concrete plan to make sure our students graduate college and career ready” and said that plans are underway to have eighth-graders take the gatekeeping course of Algebra I in middle school, preparing them for the more rigorous Michigan Merit Curriculum. The class of 2011 will be the first to graduate under the new state standards.

On a personal note, Roberts told the district’s staff that his time in Ann Arbor has been “the best four years of my life” and that he was grateful to have been the superintendent here. (See related video.)

Roberts made his comments last week during the traditional Opening Day for staff at Pioneer High School as staff members began their return to the classroom. He thanked them for their commitment and received two standing ovations from those who filled Schreiber Auditorium.

Roberts has accepted the post of chancellor of the North Carolina School of Science and Mathematics in Durham, a public, residential high school for upperclassmen with a specialized curriculum and is expected to leave Ann Arbor and assume his new post by Dec. 1. He has served as superintendent in Ann Arbor for the past four years and has lived in the Ann Arbor community for 12 years.

As district accomplishments during his time here, he noted a boost in student achievement, overseeing a $240 million renovation “on time and under budget,” handling fiscal challenges as well as improving communication and fostering teamwork.

Moving ahead, he encouraged the staff to continue working on and with the Strategic Plan and to reach out to other groups and people outside of the district. “It’s more important now than ever to partner with others in our community,” he said.

He said the district should continue striving for improved student achievement, working on the issues of diversity and equity, engaging the 80 percent of the community that does not have students in public school, keeping quality education with fewer resources and encouraging innovation in the classroom.

Of diversity and equity, he said: “It’s important we continue that leading role. We’re light years ahead of many having this conversation.”

In the area of student achievement, Roberts said he is proud of the district’s accomplishments. He highlighted the fact that 97 percent of Ann Arbor students now take the ACT test, up from 30 percent three years ago. “Don’t ever let people tell us that ‘some students can’t do’,” he said.

The Ann Arbor Board of Education has begun its search process to replace Roberts, which is expected to continue into 2011. Proposals by professional search firms are due by Friday, Sept. 10 and the board is expected to consider interim leadership giving them time to do an appropriate search. Board President Deb Mexicotte said a new superintendent is expected to be on board by July 1, 2011 or sooner.

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Some back-to-school highlights:

Fall publications: The district’s annual Back-to-School Guide is available both at the Balas Administration Building and in individual schools for parents and students. Information is available both in print and online at http://a2schools.org under the “Especially for Parents” section where a PDF copy can be downloaded. Individual Back-to-School guides are also available for Huron, Pioneer, Skyline, Community and Stone high schools.

SchoolMessenger: The district continues to refine the ways it is using this new parent communication network, added last winter. It will be used to advise parents about student absences, school closings, major announcements and specific news from individual schools. Purchase of the new system was funded by a Department of Education REMS grant. Parents should log into their PowerSchool account and determine their preferred method of message delivery (phone or e-mail). The system creates a consistent message around the district, saving in mailing costs and reducing absenteeism through alerts to parents. Visit the district Web site
for more details.

Transportation: Bus service for Ann Arbor Public Schools students has been consolidated at the Washtenaw Intermediate School District starting this fall. According to school officials, buses will still have the AAPS name and routes will generally follow the same patterns as last year, with the exception of some special education routes. Information can be found on the district’s Web site or by calling 734-994-2330.

AAPSNews: The school district’s one-year-old newsletter returns this fall with general news and feature articles as well as “Staff in the Spotlight” and lots of photos and videos. New occasional features this year will be “Fit and Fun,” which will feature programs from Community Education & Recreation and “Get to Know Your PTO” which will feature PTOs from around the district. News, article ideas and submitted photos and videos of school events and programs are always welcome. E-mail District Editor Casey Hans or call her at 734-994-2090 or at internal ext. 51220. Visit http://news.a2schools.org for the most recent online newsletter feed, to subscribe via e-mail or to download a print PDF of twice-monthly editions. There will be prize drawings each semester from among new e-mail subscribers; prizes will be donated by our business partners.

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