Dr. Jeanice K. Swift
August 3, 2014
You have heard by now of the discussion underway between Ann Arbor Public Schools and Whitmore Lake Public Schools Boards of Education and their exploration of the possibility of annexation.
Today, I want to touch base with all our Ann Arbor Public Schools parents and community to clarify a few details regarding this situation.
Our Trustees voted this past Wednesday evening to place the Whitmore Lake annexation issue on the November ballot. Annexation is an intricate subject, and our investigative work over previous weeks has been focused on fully understanding and confirming the salient facts around annexation; that due diligence process continues, with support from professionals with specific experience and expertise in this area.
When the information is confirmed and the details regarding taxes, millages, costs and benefits to Ann Arbor Public Schools students and community become clearer, we will communicate this important information with our Ann Arbor Public Schools community.
Over the coming weeks, we will communicate with our Ann Arbor community in multiple ways, including community forums where we can share what is currently known, engage in conversation, exchange ideas, and respond to questions. Our goal is for all AAPS stakeholders to fully understand the implications of annexation, including what supports the state is able to put in place, prior to the November election.
In addition, what we heard the Trustees state on Wednesday evening, as they discussed the value of placing this issue on the ballot, is a strong commitment that this annexation outcome, whichever way it goes, is the result of a community decision. We look forward to having an educated vote on this historic decision that affects our community, one that reflects our shared values. Our Ann Arbor Public Schools voters will make the decision on this important issue on November 4th.
Michigan legislators used the word ‘bold’ in their public remarks at last Wednesday evening’s Board of Education meeting in reference to this community discussion. What is admirable, regardless of whether folks are opposed to or in support of annexation, is that considering annexation is an example of the kind of innovative thinking that is required in order to strengthen our Ann Arbor Public Schools against the ongoing dramatic reductions in school funding that Michigan school districts have experienced over recent years and continue to face currently.
It is a great day in Ann Arbor Public Schools, as we are on a pathway of growth, of innovation, of success; we are currently extending and enhancing the quality for which Ann Arbor Public Schools has long been well known across Michigan and around the world. We are moving forward with exciting new programs for school year 2014-2015. Ann Arbor Public Schools is an exemplary district that is on the move.
Thank you for your ongoing support of the Ann Arbor Public Schools.
Ann Arbor Public Schools
The State has been reducing funds to local schools for years, why should we trust any promises of funds to support continuing operations after any merger would be State funded?
I understand the benefits to Whitmore Lake, but I see higher taxes for the current Ann Arbor School district.
Will the current Whitmore Lake students be transported to our current buildings which are under utilized, or will we be responsible for their under utilized buildings?
Have the cost to expand the Whitmore Lake programs, and the hiring of additional teachers and staff been included with the forecasts?
Whitmore Lake currently doesn’t have a middle school, will a new middle school be opened for grades six through eighth?
Based on the current forecasts, Ann Arbor will benefit only $100 per student, and that is after an increase of .5 mills to the current Ann Arbor district. Is the potential $100 benefit, worth absorbing the unknown costs, and additional taxes?
Why didn’t Ann Arbor feel the need to rescue the Ypsilanti School district which boarders the east side of our district?
Please address these questions so I can understand my vote in November.
Whitmore Lake has a middle school building, which currently houses the Early Childhood Center. Due to decreased enrollment, grades 6 and 7 are being moved to the elementary and high school buildings. It is my understanding that the intent is to move those grades back into the middle school once enrollment is back up, as there are no plans to lease the building for other purposes.
At this point if the ballot questions pass in November in both communities will be planning immediately for the next school year. At this time opening the Whitmore Lake Middle School is not planned at least for the first year. Opening up the middle school will depend on enrollment. Current enrollment does not support reopening the middle school.
I have seen how thin the addition of Skyline has stretched district resources. With the addition of Skyline and the State’s budget cuts, our funding has decreased to the point that salaries for school employees have been substantially decreased in addition many employee groups are required to take furlough or nor pay days. It is difficult for me to conceive of a scenario in which annexing Whitmore Lake would be of benefit to Ann Arbor.
Whitmore Lake has a bond to pay off. That bond would be placed as a burden on Ann Arbor tax payers. Whitmore Lake declined two millage opportunities to save their schools. They declined. Yet, if Ann Arbor annexes their schools, their taxes would go down, ours would go up.
Whitmore Lake students have a lower foundation grant than Ann Arbor’s. Even though the State indicates that they will pay a subsidy, we cannot count on the State to continue that subsidy if, in fact, they ever grant it. More students fewer dollars, more buildings, more teachers can only signal a deeper financial hole.
AAPS is undergoing transition and introducing exciting new programs–STEAM and IB. These programs will require additional financial resources if there are to be topflight. Let’s concentrate on good stewardship of AAPS.
Mr. Richardson, Operating costs for Skyline are not that more then what it cost to operate the other two comprehensive high schools when they were beyond capacity. Most importantly we know that having three comprehensive high schools has served our students in a much better educational setting. There are still many unanswered questions that we are waiting for from the state regarding the financial outcomes of an annexation. Hopefully the answers will be in our favor financially but ultimately the voters will decide.
One thing I love about Ann Arbor and that makes me proud to live here is its culture of concern not only for the needs of the members of our own community but for the needs of others as well. Whitmore Lake Schools are in dire need, truly unable to climb out of this hole unassisted, with real children on the line, and their request was a real outside-the-box idea. I’m an AAPS employee, union member and Ann Arbor taxpayer, and although I’m feeling the economic hits as well, there’s no doubt that Ann Arbor is faring better than most. A small per-student sacrifice for us still leaves us way above the average in this state, and our children enjoy many educational resources and community advantages that the state allotment doesn’t buy for them. By all means, let’s approach this proposal with all due diligence, recognizing our first responsibility to our own fiscal and educational health throughout, but I for one can’t in good conscience be simply self-protective. Our reputation as a city with an acute social conscience is just a lot of hoohah unless we really are capable of follow-through, especially when our own children are basically getting what they need to thrive while our next-door neighbor’s children are struggling.