School Bells: Budget feedback report Feb. 17

The Ann Arbor Board of Education is scheduled to hear a report Wednesday, Feb. 17 from school administrators, wrapping up information gleaned from recent community budget meetings. The meetings, held in January around the district, were scheduled to gather suggestions from members of the public about ways to trim expenses or increase revenue in the district. An online survey also gathered feedback from the public.

The information is expected to be used as the school administration puts together a recommended budget for the district’s fiscal year starting July 1. A recommended budget will be brought to the board on March 24; it must adopt a formal budget in June.

Some of the areas suggested by school officials are negotiated staff wage reductions, privatizing custodial and transportation services, consolidating busing operations with other Washtenaw school districts, making changes with alternative high school programs at Stone School and Roberto Clemente Center and charging participation fees for athletics. Also considered are the elimination of teaching and administrative posts and looking at alternative approaches to things such as media center services, as the district works on a budget shortfall estimated at $21 million heading into the new fiscal year that begins July 1.

Healthy schools program hosts two open houses

The University of Michigan Regional Alliance for Healthy Schools is hosting two open houses at Ann Arbor schools that have in-school health clinics.

The open houses will be:
• Tuesday, Feb. 16 from 1-3 p.m. at Scarlett Middle School, 3300 Lorraine Street.
• Wednesday, Feb. 17 from 9 to 2 p.m. at Stone High School, 2800 Stone School Road.

The open houses are to celebrate February as School Based Health Center Month. The Regional Alliance for Healthy Schools has school-based health centers providing services to six Ann Arbor Public Schools as well as buildings in the Ypsilanti and Willow Run districts. The Ann Arbor schools include Stone High School, Scarlett Middle School and Bryant, Carpenter, Mitchell and Pittsfield elementary schools.

Westfield-Sleeman Track and Lillie Gym Names OK’d

Longtime boys track coach Don Sleeman was honored this month by having his name added to the track at Pioneer High School track and the Tappan Middle School gymnasium was named after gym teacher Rob Lillie.

The track will now be dubbed Westfield-Sleeman Outdoor Track and the gymnasium Lillie Gym. The track is named both for Sleeman and longtime girls track coach Bryan Westfield. Westfield’s name was added to the track in June; the names of Sleeman and Lillie were added by the school board this month.

All three have served the district for more than 40 years.

The board accepts nominations to name facilities, or portions of facilities, after employees with extraordinary service.

Allen Elementary gets grant to create butterfly garden

The Allen Elementary School community plans to create a butterfly garden in its nature area, using funds from the grant it recently received from the Wildflower Association of Michigan and Hal and Jean Glassen Memorial Foundation. The expanded nature area will enable the Allen students to have a close-up opportunity to see butterflies, songbirds and other creatures that use the plants for food or shelter.

This spring, in addition to the school’s annual cleanup day, the Allen Parent Council will organize a planting day.

The council organizes twice-yearly cleanup days. At these events, volunteers including students, parents and staff maintain the existing nature area by removing invasive species, planting native plants and shrubs and spreading wood chips. The Ann Arbor Public Schools demonstrates its support by supplying wood chips and disposing of waste material after each work day.

Maintaining and enhancing the nature area helps Allen to remain certified as a Michigan Green School. In the past, Allen students, parents and teachers have helped plant seeds at the wet meadows in Buhr Park, which adjoins the Allen property. The school is also in close proximity to County Farm Park, operated by Washtenaw County. Together, these sites provide a diverse habitat and corridor for native plants and butterflies.

For more information, contact Joan Brush of the Allen PTO at 734-973-9161.

Donetta Brown honored for excellence

Huron High School office professional Donetta Brown received a Celebration of Excellence Award this month by the Ann Arbor Board of Education. She was nominated for Outstanding Customer Service by coworker Sharon Brown.

“Ms. Brown provided support to a peer who was suffering from a serious illness, treating her as if she were her own family,” the nomination read. “She has been a source of comfort and assistance that has gone above and beyond the “outstanding customer service” category. She has truly earned distinction as a loving hero.”

The awards are given throughout the school year and are sponsored by the Ann Arbor Board of Education and the Ann Arbor Public Schools PTO Council.

Skyline violinist to be featured at symphony

Skyline High School freshman Carmen Flesher will be the featured violin soloist with the Ypsilanti Symphony Orchestra on Sunday, Feb. 21 at 3:30 p.m. at Washtenaw Community College’s Towsley Auditorium. The 15-year-old musician will play Pablo de Sarasate’s “Carmen Fantasy.”

“I am totally thrilled and honored to perform with the orchestra. It’s a dream come true,” she said.

Flesher lives in Ann Arbor where she studies violin with Solomia Soroka. She started playing the violin at age 4 and over the last 10 years has played in several local ensembles and in symphony orchestras at Interlochen and Blue Lake – where she was one of the youngest members as well as a concert master of both. She plays regularly with a string quartet.

In addition to being a violinist, Flesher is a pianist and singer. A top academic student, she has received many honors including first place at both the Forsythe and Southeast Michigan Science Fairs last year. In 2008, she traveled to Japan as a student ambassador with the Hikone Exchange Program. She also plays soccer on the Michigan Jaguars premier team.

Tickets for the performance are available at the door or online. Cost: $10 for adults; $5 for seniors 65 and older; $25 for a familly of four or more. Details: 734-507-1451.

Schools raise money to help Haitians

A number of Ann Arbor schools have raised money for Haiti.

• The Forsythe Middle School community raised $2,440 and donated it to the Clinton Bush Haiti Fund.

• The Lawton Elementary School Service Squad collected $1101.50 through the “Every Cent Counts” fundraiser. Money will be donated to the American Red Cross.

• Greta Barfield’s CI students at Huron High School exhibited collected donations during lunch hours in the cafeteria bringing in $475.

• Burns Park Elementary School students in Jewel Charlise Walters class hosted a fundraiser of stickers, pencils, pens, books and small toys raising $2,182.29 for Haitian relief. They donated $1,396 to The Red Cross which was matched by TCF Bank. The remainder, $786.29, was donated to Doctor without Borders.

• Thurston Elementary School students raised $739.59. Money was raised through a bake sale in Julie Vanderhoff’s third grade class, special donations from Margaret Goodly’s and Sherry Powers-Murphy’s classrooms and a school-wide coin drive orchestrated by the Thurston Student Council.

For a listing of more school districts accomplishments and achievements, visit and click on “This Week In The Ann Arbor Public Schools” under the publications section. Or view these individual entries:
Most current week
Feb. 1, 2010

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