Ypsilanti Citizen Education Ypsilanti Cycle

Ypsilanti Schools accept transportation consolidation
By Adrienne Ziegler
Jun. 8, 2010   ·   3:07 p.m.

Connie Shelton, an East Middle School Teacher, speaks against the WISD transportation consolidation plan at Monday's special meeting of the Ypsilanti Board of Education. The board approved the motion to join the consolidation by a vote of 5 to 2.

"Shame on you" echoed through the audience Monday night after the Ypsilanti Public Schools Board of Education approved a plan to join a countywide consolidated...read more

Willow Run appoints new board member
By Adrienne Ziegler
Jun. 5, 2010   ·   8:16 a.m.

The Willow Run School Board looks on as Kristine Thomas, a district parent and previous board member, is sworn in as trustee on Thursday night. Thomas will take the position of Joi Jenson who resigned in early May.

The Willow Run School Board appointed a new, yet familiar trustee to the board of education during their regular meeting Thursday night.

Kristine Thomas, a Willow...read more

Willow Run approves county-wide transportation plan
By Adrienne Ziegler
May. 27, 2010   ·   2:09 p.m.

The Willow Run School District signed on to a countywide consolidated transportation plan at their regular board meeting last week.

The plan aims to save transportation...read more

Lincoln offers summer courses to area high-schoolers
By Mark Tower
May. 26, 2010   ·   7:49 p.m.

Students from Lincoln and other nearby districts are being invited to participate in Lincoln High School's Summer Academy this year, registration for which opened...read more

Willow Run terminates student services administrator
By Adrienne Ziegler
May. 26, 2010   ·   12:26 a.m.

Willow Run School Board President Sheri Washington said she didn't know if the district was going to press charges against former Student Services Administrator Laconda Hicks after the board fired Hicks during a special meeting Tuesday night.

The Willow Run Board of Education unanimously voted to terminate its contract with former Student Services Administrator Laconda Hicks Tuesday night during a special...read more

Crowd packs Ypsilanti Schools' Board meeting

Photo by Dan DuChene

Ypsilanti High School students voice concerns about teacher layoffs and the appointment of a new principal at the YPS Board meeting Monday night.

Layoffs, principal appointment approved despite audience's objections

By Dan DuChene
Apr. 27, 2010    ·    8:56 a.m.

The room was packed, with people lining the walls, for the Ypsilanti Public Schools' Board of Education meeting Monday night.

Concerned with how 19 proposed teacher layoffs would affect academic and enrichment programs, as well as the contract for the candidate to replace the high school's principal, 26 people addressed the board, including 14 students.

Public comments took approximately 90 minutes toward the beginning of the board's nearly five-hour meeting. Despite the audience's overwhelming opposition to both proposals, the board approved both in two split decisions.

With the same 4-3 division in both decisions, trustees Andy Fanta, Kira Berman and Sarah Devaney all voted against the two proposals. Trustees Floyd Brumfield, Edward Jackson, Vice President Linda Horne and President David Bates all voted in favor.

Students, parents and members of the community all voiced concerns that laying off three teachers in the district's music program was a sign of the program being cut or reduced. Several were also concerned the high school's humanities class was in danger as well.

Of the 19 approved layoffs, a music teacher at Estabrook Elementary, band teacher at West Middle School and choir teacher at Ypsilanti High School were on the list. None of the teachers on the list currently teach the high school's advanced humanities classes.

The remaining layoffs include a math and psychology teacher, speech and debate teacher, French teacher, science teacher, social studies teacher, three language arts teachers and a media specialist at the high school; classroom teachers from Estabrook and Chappelle elementary schools; a reading teacher and an early learning teacher from Chappelle Elementary; two kindergarten teachers at Perry CDC and a math teacher from East Middle School.

Aside from the layoffs, audience members also spoke out against the board approving the appointment to replace Ypsilanti High School Principal Jon Brown in July. Those who addressed the board about the appointment, mostly students, voiced praise for Brown's ability to create a stable, safe learning environment at the high school while being able to show care and respect for students.

“I've never felt more cared for as a student than when I came to this high school” said YHS student Ann Swanson.

“[Brown] makes an effort to show that he's there, that he cares,” she said. “I don't want to lose that.”

The board voted to approve Superintendent Dedrick Martin's appointment of Illinois high school principal Justin Moore, who worked with Martin last year in Champaign, Ill., with a $99,400 annual salary.

Several audience members complained the appointment was an act of cronyism on the part of Martin. They pointed to Moore's two years on the job at Centennial High School as a lack of experience and suggested Martin was allowing Moore to use YHS as an opportunity to boost his resume.

“I don't want to bet my education on helping someone's career,” Swanson said. “I don't want Ypsi High to be their experience.”

After the public comments, several members of the board thanked the audience for their input and voiced appreciation and admiration of the students who addressed the board.

“I love seeing students come,” Horne said during the board's response to public comments “Your voices are important.”

Fanta agreed when he said, “It makes me swell with pride to listen to them.

“I'm always struck at meetings such as this,” he said. “You make me amazingly proud to be a member of this community.”

Board discussion
Most of the audience had cleared by the time the two issues came up for discussion, toward the end of the agenda. The first item up for discussion was the list of layoffs.

In order to cut $1.86 million from next year's budget, as required by the district's state-mandated deficit elimination plan—to eliminate its more than $6 million budget deficit in four years, the district had anticipated laying off 23 teachers for next year.

District Human Resources Director John Fulton said the number of layoffs was reduced to 19 due to teacher retirements. He said this number could get much lower depending on how many teachers end up retiring by the end of the year.

Fulton said he had created the list with Kelly Powers, president of the teachers' bargaining unit—the Ypsilanti Education Association. The two said they had based the layoffs on teachers' tenure and certification levels.

By first considering teachers with the lowest number of years working for the district, the list was narrowed by ensuring there were teachers left with the proper certification to fill holes left in the curriculum after layoffs were made.

However, Berman voiced concern that the list was more curriculum-based, highlighting the number of music teachers up for layoffs.

“I am not against layoffs,” she said. “But, I am against making a curricular decision based on information that was not discussed.”

Berman said, “I support the music program at Ypsilanti Schools and I will not back down from that for anyone.”

Fulton denied there was a hidden cut to the district's music program in the layoff recommendation. He said the list was tenure-based and the board was considering individuals for layoffs, not positions for elimination.

“We have made no curricular determinations,” Fulton said. “It does not affect the music program at the high school at all.”

He said if the layoffs were approved, the music teacher not being laid off from East Middle School, which is set to close next year, would move to West Middle School and there would still be a full-time band and choir teacher at YHS.

“It does not affect the music program at the high school at all,” Fulton said.

Berman said, “I wish I felt more convinced.”

She said she was also upset with the number of teachers being considered for layoffs.

“I am disappointed that this list is as long as it is,” Berman said. “I think we need to look very carefully at limiting our administrative costs and not laying off this many teachers.”

When asked after the meeting, Martin said the board's curriculum committee is looking at cuts to the district's program, but independent from teacher layoffs. He confirmed the humanities course is being considered.

Fanta took issue with the lack of information included in the proposal. In addition to a list of the 19 names, he also wanted to know where the teacher worked, which subject they teach, which subjects they are qualified to teach and the number of years they have been employed by the district.

He asked Fulton if the board had any contractual obligation to have the layoffs approved by a certain time for notification purposes.

After Fulton said the district was in the unique position of having no contract stipulations for layoff notifications due to economic conditions, Fanta moved to table the motion.

Fanta's motion was defeated in a 4-3 vote, in the similar block of Fanta, Berman and Devaney voting in favor—Bates, Horne, Jackson and Brumfield voting against.

“We are really wasting time right now,” Brumfield said.

“We, as a board, don't make decisions of who is laid off,” he said. “It is not our job.”

Brumfield said it is the board's role to base its up or down decision on the process used to determine the list. By delaying a vote on the matter, he said the board would be delaying the opportunity to give those on the list proper notification.

“I really take strong issue with what you just said,” Fanta said to Brumfield.

“We heard from Mr. Fulton that time is not of the essence,” He said. "We could lay off in the summer.”

Fanta said tabling the motion would allow the board to consider more information to make a more educated decision before taking a final vote on the matter. He said he was “embarrassed” the board wouldn't want to take more time to consider the layoffs.

“I'm tired of doing business like this,” Fanta said. “What a way to run a multi-million dollar organization.”

YHS principal
After approving the layoffs, Fanta and Brumfield got involved in another heated discussion while considering the appointment of Moore for YHS principal for the next academic year.

Fanta said he had contacted members of the Champaign Community Schools' Board of Education in Illinois, Moore's current school district, to discuss Moore's tenure as principal of the district's Centennial High School.

He said he gained negative feedback from the two boardmembers he spoke with, saying he was told Moore was unable to improve the school's chronic truancy rate, which had been at 10 percent and had risen under Moore's two years as the school's principal. He also said achievement had decreased.

Fanta said he was told Moore “would make an excellent assistant principal.

“I'm perplexed by why we would use the flagship school in our district as essentially a training ground,” Fanta said. “It troubles me deeply.”

In addition Fanta said Centennial's socio-economic and racial make-up is “radically different” to that of YHS. He said the boardmembers told him 74 percent of Centennial's student's were white, leaving a 20 percent population of black students. He also said he learned 2 percent of the population was low-income.

Martin later spoke to these statements, but Brumfield first asked Fanta if he had represented himself as speaking for the entire board or district.

“I, at all times, conducted myself in the highest professional manner,” Fanta said.

Fanta, who said he found the question insulting, said he had given his name and introduced himself as a member of the YPS Board of Education. He said he was honest in his communications both with members of the Champaign Board as well as YPS boardmembers.

“I'm surprised that you lodged that inquiry,” Fanta said.

“I tried to do a little due diligence,” he said. “I have transmitted the results of those conversations openly and honestly with you.”

Martin said the results Fanta obtained from the Champaign boardmembers he spoke with were “nowhere near the truth.” He said both the statistical data and performance information were incorrect.

According to Centennial's 2009 state-issued report card, the school has a 56 percent white population and a 32 percent population of black students. Additionally, the report says 31 percent of the population is low-income.

The school's “chronic truancy” rate is 8 percent, according to the report.

Martin also took issue with statements made about Moore's success with academic achievement. He said test scores, graduation rates and attendance increased during Moore's tenure and discipline referral rates had decreased.

“I think he did a phenomenal job,” Martin said. “Unfortunately, there is a smear campaign against this young man.”

Devaney said she wanted to avoid micromanaging Martin's selection, as it is the board's role to select the superintendent and the superintendent's role to select a staff to run the district to the board's expectations. However, she did take issue with two items.

The first was with the process used to select Moore. She questioned why the board would have a committee dedicated to human resources if it wasn't going to use it. The second was with hiring someone at a step-six salary to replace Brown, who is an independent contractor for the district, earning a $108,000 annual salary.

Martin said the job was posted more than a month ago and the district received nine applications. He said a committee, comprising of several various stakeholders in the high school, narrowed the lest to four candidates and then made a final selection from that pool.

“During the interview process I did not say a word,” said Martin, who had worked with Moore for a year in Champaign.

Fulton said Moore is coming in with a step-six salary because he has five years of administration experience at the two Illinois school districts he has worked for. After teaching in high school for nearly five years, Moore was hired as the dean of students for Chicago's Lincoln Park High School in 1999.

Martin, who praised Brown for his ability to turn around the learning environment at YHS in a short amount of time, said the district is moving forward with replacing independent contractors with permanent staff.

He said Brown was notified before the search began. Expecting a poor turnout in applications, Martin said he told Brown his contract may be renewed for another year despite the search. He said Brown said he would be happy to put in another year at YHS.

Brown did not apply for the position, Martin said. He said the two had not discussed the possibility of Brown applying.

Related article:
Ypsilanti Schools eye 40 teacher layoffs in four years

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