Dr. Jeanice Swift, the new Superintendent of the Ann Arbor Public Schools, is about to start her work with the district. She’ll ring in Opening Day with the rest of AAPS staff on Aug. 27, and she’ll be here for the first day of school Sept. 3.
But before that, Dr. Swift spent some time on the phone with the AAPS News from her current home of Colorado Springs, where she has worked for 15 years. Dr. Swift talked about tackling the challenges facing the district and being a part of the AAPS community.
AAPS News: First of all, congratulations! How are you feeling as you prepare for your transition to living and working in Ann Arbor?
Dr. Swift: I’m delighted to be coming to the Ann Arbor Public Schools. It’s just wonderful for me to have the opportunity to join such a remarkable school district. I have a great team here (in Colorado Springs), and that always is sad to leave, but I’m looking ahead to a day just a little over a week away where I get to have a great new beginning with the Ann Arbor Public Schools. So certainly the joy and the anticipation of joining an excellent team is outweighing the present challenge of leaving folks I have worked with for a long time and have deep relationships with.
AAPS News: As you begin your work, what are you looking forward to?
Dr. Swift: I’m looking forward to engaging with the staff and community, to meeting them face-to-face and learning what’s on their minds. My posture will be to add value, not to tear down or apart, but to see what’s working well and to add value to what’s working well.
I really see this as a marriage. We’re going to go together. And I’m very committed to building on the exemplary work that has gone before and to enhance that work through listening and learning and collaborating. I very much believe in the wisdom of the collective, and nobody knows better than those folks who already work in Ann Arbor Public Schools, those who live in the community and attend our schools, and those who volunteer and support our schools.
AAPS News: Tell us about some of your plans.
Dr. Swift: I’ve worked with the board to create an entry plan, that describes September, October and most of November as a real “listen and learn” time. To me it’s real important that those priorities are established as the result of meaningful conversations between the community and the staff, and not that I come in with some big priorities of mine. Mine will really take shape based on what the needs are in the district, and what folks believe are the top priorities.
Lest folks should be worried that we’ll just be listening and learning and not making decisions, I’ve learned over time to be very courageous. Once we have all the information in the room and the right path is shown, I’ll be very courageous about making those decisions and working with the board and ensuring that we are moving the work forward.
I know there is real concern in the community that Ann Arbor has always been known for top quality educational programming and offerings and there’s this real tension between trying to offer more of that with declining resources. So getting at that tension and figuring out in what ways can we be smarter about what we’re doing, so that we can improve the offerings while streamlining our resources.
We know that the Ann Arbor Public Schools are exceptional. And every exceptional organization is constantly looking at what its improvements are going to be.
Dr. Swift’s contract details, as approved at the Board meeting Aug. 14, 2013: $200,000 base salary for a 5-year contract starting Aug. 27, 2013 and lasting until 2018. Dr. Swift will be provided a cell phone and service, laptop computer and retain memberships in organizations and up to $2500 in membership dues. She will be able to spend up to $250 per month in travel expenses, and relocation expenses and temporary lodging (with three bids for moving services) will be paid at up to $100 per day up to 90 days.
Dr. Swift will also receive a $10,000 longevity incentive per year after each year that is not payable until after the completion of the five year contract.
Trustee Glenn Nelson moved to approve the employment contract with Dr. Swift. Andy Thomas seconded. The contract passed with a 5-1 vote; Trustee Susan Baskett dissented and Trustee Christine Stead was absent.
This is a draft contract that has been approved by Dr. Swift and she is expected to approve the final version.