Ann Arbor Community Celebrates State of the Schools

By Andrew Cluley, photos by John Stahly
Ann Arbor Public Schools welcomed the entire community to a celebration of all the great achievements in the district over the last year as the Board of Education received the annual State of the Schools presentation. Superintendent Jeanice Swift focused the report on answering the important question, “How are the children doing?” Based on the charts and graphs highlighting graduation rates, ACT scores, suspensions and all of the extra-curricular successes, students in Ann Arbor Public Schools are doing very well.

These great outcomes have business leaders celebrating Ann Arbor Public Schools. Ann Arbor Ypsilanti Regional Chamber Executive Vice President Andy Labarre says the district is an important economic development tool. “One of the best tools the Ann Arbor Ypsilanti Regional Chamber can use for its members is to say, ‘Come here, grow here, expand here, you can be anywhere in the Ann Arbor Public Schools footprint and your children will receive a world class education,” LaBarre says. “That’s an economic development tool, that’s a community development tool, it’s something we need to protect.”

State Representative Adam Zemke says Ann Arbor Public Schools isn’t just a benefit locally, because the district serves as a role model across the state. Zemke believes many of the areas where state lawmakers have made a positive difference in education in recent years are on issues where the state is now following Ann Arbor Public Schools lead. “Thank you for helping me help others, I think we all do it together and really this district has served as that role model for so many, and so many folks who really don’t even know it,” Zemke says.

State Representative Jeff Irwin and Andy LaBarre of the Ann Arbor Ypsilanti Regional Chamber chat at the State of the Schools event.
State Representative Jeff Irwin and Andy LaBarre of the Ann Arbor Ypsilanti Regional Chamber chat at the State of the Schools event.

Skyline High School senior Charles Graham says teachers throughout Ann Arbor Public Schools have done a great job in making students strive for excellence. “What I have noticed, even at a very young age, is that students in Ann Arbor Public Schools, they yearn for perfection, they believe perfection is how we succeed,” says Graham. “There are students in high school that they get 4.0s because they know that they are supposed to get 4.0s.”

Graham served as emcee for the State of the Schools event. He says the drive for perfection means more work is needed in the district. “This event is a celebration for the progress that we have made in our community and the Ann Arbor Public Schools, and it is always great that we are achieving better than we were prior to, but it also serves as a reminder that there’s always a higher step to take,” Graham says. “Until every single last student is graduating from high school, until every single last student is achieving a 4.0 and a 36 on the ACT, there is something we can do better.”

With many community members in attendance that may not typically attend school board meetings, several board members urged community members to consider running for the board. Trustee Donna Lasinski says running for the board took her out of her comfort zone, but has been a very rewarding experience. “We need folks to serve, it’s not too scary, very rewarding, and we would all be there to support you,” Lasinski says.

Jazz combo playing at the State of the Schools event
Community High School’s Tempus Fugit performing at the State of the Schools. They recently won an international jazz award from Downbeat Magazine.

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