Innovation is the key to growth.
Innovation is also the key to solving big challenges,
whether it’s the economy, healthcare, or education.
Innovation is how you survive and thrive in the marketplace.
Innovation is how you get a little better, each day,
whether you’re adopting new habits, or changing old ones.
As we learn from the wisdom of the ages,
the value of innovation is not just having ideas.
It’s turning ideas into action.
We also learn that innovation comes from a variety of sources, and in a variety of ways.
Sometimes it’s looking up in the clouds and dreaming big.
And, sometimes it’s just looking at something everyday in a slightly new way.
Perhaps the most important thing we learn is how
fear and failure to embrace change can hold us back.
As the saying goes, what you don’t know can hurt you.
Maybe, it’s what you don’t do, that can hurt you more.
After all, Darwin taught us that nature favors the flexible.
That’s a kinder way of saying, adapt or die.
– Jack Welch
It’s an important time in Ann Arbor Public Schools as we come together to consider the pressing challenges we face: importantly, the challenge of becoming financially sound in order to sustain Ann Arbor’s high quality educational opportunities, while also improving the effective and efficient operation of our school district.
In the Balinese tradition, two questions are asked upon encountering and greeting an individual when meeting: Where are you coming from? and Where are you going? Understanding and positioning our school district in response to these same inquiries is an important place from which to better understand our current reality.
The ‘Brutal’ Realities
In Ann Arbor Public Schools, we recognize our current ‘brutal’ realities.
1) multiple years of back-to-back budget reductions – with a painful net impact, over time, of eroding resources to support our students, classrooms, and staff,
2) a decline in enrollment for this ’13-’14 school year of more than 200 students
3) the understanding that even though the state is now recovering fiscally and increased revenue is coming into state coffers, those resources that were lost from public pre-K-12 education over previous years are not being restored at any significant level,
4) and the result that Ann Arbor Public Schools fund equity balance is presently at an historic low of 2.8%.
The Ann Arbor Public Schools Quality
We know where we are now – our AAPS students perform exceedingly well, in all measures of core academic, enrichment, arts, and athletics among peer districts; every week we hear that Ann Arbor students, teachers, programs, and schools have achieved numerous awards and designations. Despite the many years of reductions, Ann Arbor Public Schools still offers quality programming that is enviable across our county, region, state, and nation. We feature GRAMMY-award winning school arts programs, magnet opportunities, extra-curricular, technology, and a rich variety of advanced and support learning opportunities.
The Path Forward
We know that in order to continue this legacy of excellence, we must articulate a ‘shift’ in our approach with budget and finance. We heard clearly on the Listen and Learn tour that our parents and community expect excellence and desire choice in innovative programs and schools; they appropriately expect and demand quality in their Ann Arbor schools.
And so this year, rather than continue the painful cuts that impact students, staff and diminish the quality of offerings, we will choose a path of ‘value added’ to sustain and extend the quality for which AAPS is already well known.
In January, the Board approved the opening of 750 School of Choice seats for this next school year, and we have launched a bold initiative to leverage the Schools of Choice opportunity to add value – to fill classrooms and to enhance our District. Filling these 750 seats will mean that approximately 1 in 20 students, or 5%, of students will potentially attend from beyond our geographic boundaries.
At the same time we also recognize that the toughest competition is within our own organization. We must ensure that every classroom in every school is a quality place to learn, and we must intentionally retain and attract students through our Ann Arbor school doors. An important component of this effort lies in reclaiming our own AAPS students who live inside our AAPS attendance area but have chosen a different education option.
We must secure a path forward to support all our children in Ann Arbor. We must innovate and grow our way through these present challenges.
First, we will work intentionally to invite our own Ann Arbor students to consider and choose AAPS schools as well as to offer Schools of Choice opportunities.
Second, we will innovate to add programming that our Listen and Learn data indicates is in high demand.
Third, we will streamline and improve the effectiveness of our ‘back-of-the-house’ operations so that we are continuously improving as an efficient and high-performing organization.
By focusing our work in these three areas, we will see better fiscal days in AAPS.
In opening our doors to Schools of Choice students during March, we have placed our ‘Welcome mat’ out. We all know the role of Ann Arbor as the economic hub of this region. Approximately 50,000 individuals drive into Ann Arbor daily to work or attain higher education in our city. In AAPS we are inviting and welcoming children into our quality Ann Arbor Public Schools. We know that Ann Arbor is a destination city for important work and higher education opportunities, and now we will complete that package by offering quality preK-12 education opportunities in AAPS.
In responding to our stakeholders to enhance innovative programming within our district, we are implementing for 2014-2015:
– Enhanced Young 5s Programming
– Enhanced World Language Opportunities in targeted AAPS schools
We also should touch for a moment on what is not on our menu of budget considerations for ’14-’15 during this budget planning process. Our commitment is that we will not reduce services to students, or increase class size targets. We will not lay off groups of teachers, and we plan no additional reductions to seventh period, performing arts, electives, athletics, or transportation.
Where are we going?
The Ann Arbor Public Schools are exceptional; they are A+. A long legacy of excellence continues today, and will extend to the future. The upcoming 2014-2015 school year represents a moment for significant forward movement to extend and enhance the quality for which Ann Arbor is already well known. We will continue our District improvement through innovation, the addition of rich programming, and we will grow our way forward.
I hope you will come along, join in, press our thinking, and grow along with us!
Update on Preliminary Student Enrollment Applications, 2014-2015
We have been asked…Will we be able to attract and retain more students in AAPS? The answer is Yes!
New student enrollment applications from January through March:
478 students have applied for admission to Ann Arbor Public Schools through Schools of Choice.
120 students have applied for the expanded Young Fives program.
268 students have indicated their interest in the new Northside K-8 STEAM school from outside the attendance area; of that number, 63 are in-district students who do not currently attend AAPS schools. We expect up to 300 additional students from the Northside attendance area.
20 children of non-resident employees have completed applications.
488 students have applied for in-district transfers; among these students 66 are not currently enrolled in AAPS.
In summary, to-date, parents of 691 students have expressed new interest in Ann Arbor Public Schools.
We will ask that all parents confirm enrollment by May 7th.
We have established a new window for In-District transfers from April 14 – May 2.
In addition to space-available schools, we will accept applications to the International Baccalaureate schools, Mitchell, Scarlett, and Huron, the Pathways to Success campus, and our Language Initiative schools (schools to be determined).
We will also open a second window for Schools of Choice applications, May 5 – June 3 for students living outside of the Ann Arbor district but within the Washtenaw Intermediate School District.
We will begin to prepare classrooms, schools, and add staff where needed.
As you can see, Ann Arbor Public Schools is a ‘district on the move’ that will continue to improve in our service to the children and families of Ann Arbor.
Thank you for choosing Ann Arbor Public Schools; we know you have a choice when you select a school for your students, and thank you for partnering with us.
Thank you, Ann Arbor,
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