Staff, board, residents say ‘so long’ to Todd Roberts as he leaves post

Deputy Allen steps in as interim superintendent

By Casey Hans
AAPSNews Service

As the Ann Arbor Public Schools community applauded outgoing Superintendent Todd Roberts for his can-do approach and leadership last week, a humbled Roberts sang the praises of those who surrounded him during his four years as superintendent.

Community members line up to say goodbye and wish outgoing Superintendent Todd Roberts well during a reception at Skyline High School on Oct. 7.

“You should always recognize the wonderful work you’re doing, even sometimes when others may not tell us that,” Roberts told the community in parting comments.  “When I think about my short time here, I really feel honored to be a part of this.”

Roberts was honored Thursday afternoon, Oct. 7, during a community reception at Skyline High School. His last day with the district was Friday, Oct. 8.

Roberts also thanked the community and talked about partnerships the district has developed with The University of Michigan and the “bold new strides” made by the AAPS Educational Foundation. “It’s I who really feels honored to have served with you folks over the years,” he said.

Roberts and his family are leaving Ann Arbor to be closer to their extended families. He has accepted the post of chancellor of the North Carolina School of Science and Mathematics, where he will take the helm this fall.

Deb Mexicotte, president of the Ann Arbor Board of Education praised Roberts for his positive approach. “We have always been a district of ‘yes’,” she said. “We have always said ‘yes’ to achievement … to honesty and fair play, … to reaching and aspiring and to doing whatever we can to bring our students the best experience possible.”

She cited the Word Language initiative in elementary schools, finishing the comprehensive building improvement plan – including constructing Skyline High School – and building a strategic plan as highlights of Roberts’ time in Ann Arbor.

Retired AAPS Superintendent Scott Westerman was on the citizen committee that participated in hiring Roberts in June 2006. “”You have been quick to give the credit to others,” he told Roberts. “In truth, however, the qualities you possess set the stage for making the most of the talent and interest others have.”

Westerman noted the opening of Skyline High School which relieved high school crowding and established a national model for others to emulate as well as Roberts’ progress in closing the achievement gap as some of his key achievements. “You have left an immense legacy,” he added.

Martine Perreault, chairwoman for the Ann Arbor PTO Council, lauded Roberts for his exceptional listening skills and said the PTO Council grew and blossomed under his leadership, becoming involved with school finance and budget issues and improving communication for parents.

“He clearly values the input from parents and community members and he’s very responsive to the input he receives,” she said, noting that he helped them tackle tough subjects such as school bullying, student safety on school buses and the student achievement gap.

Brit Satchwell, president of the Ann Arbor Education Association, said he respected Roberts’ leadership, especially sitting across the bargaining table.

“When you have everybody saying I can work for that guy, you have everybody … entering into this collaborative atmosphere where everything suddenly becomes possible,” he said. “That opens the door for innovation and the innovation … happened under Todd’s tenure. He made that possible.”

A humorous presentation from Joan Fitzgibbon and Michael Madison, Ann  Arbor principals representing The Ann Arbor Area Administrators Association, offered a humorous evaluation of Roberts, but with serious undertones noting his decisiveness and leadership during his four years here.

Speaking on behalf of The University of Michigan School of Education was Dean Deborah Lowenberg Ball, who said the partnerships that have developed under Roberts’ watch are unheard of elsewhere.

“Very few communities manage to do this in a very serious way,” she said.
“We didn’t continue the rhetoric of how might we build partnerships, how might we work together. In quick succession over the last four years, Todd, together with others, proposed one really interesting idea after another.”

She said initiatives that team U-M teachers with the district, such as the elementary World Language program and the district’s Summer Learning Institute are unique. She said Roberts has agreed to continue serving on her Dean’s Advisory Council and that the university is committed to continuing the partnerships with the district’s new leadership.

Deputy Superintendent for Operations Robert Allen is now serving as interim superintendent as the AAPS Board of Education searches for a permanent replacement for Roberts.

Ray & Associates, an Iowa professional services firm, is leading the search. The consultant has started discussions with the school board and hopes to involve the community in a series of meetings yet this month to get input on the search. Those meeting dates are not yet firm and will be posted on the AAPSNews site when they are scheduled.

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