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AAPS School Board Meeting: LIVE UPDATES

The AAPS Board of Education is meeting to discuss budget cuts and other major district updates.
Claire Lewis
AAPS community members gather together, raising signs and wearing t-shirts in solidarity. The board meeting commenced with chants from the crowd in support of teachers. “We are teachers, we are not the problem.” community members chanted.

Prior to 7 p.m: AAPS teachers and community members gather inside the Earhart building chanting, “We are teachers, we are not the problem.” The chant changed to “Balas Palace has got to go.” Chants continued as community members raised signs sporting the phrase, “Support Ann Arbor Teachers”.

7:08: Board member Ernesto Querijero opens the meeting with a land acknowledgment.

7:21: Board President, Torchio Feaster introduces commentary by allotting one minute per speaker. Commentary begins from the community with a plea to preserve teachers’ positions as well as arts and music programming. Other ideas include selling and storing school-issued technology including iPads and Chromebooks.

7.25: Sam Richardson, a senior at Skyline high-school speaks out in favor of AAPS teachers, highlighting the value that their teachers have added to their life.

7:29:  Sonia Chawla, AAPS staff member, reads a letter and includes the line “For each teacher you cut, it’s our children who bleed.”

7:37: Carpenter elementary school parents urge board to restore principal Michael Johnson to his position as principal of the elementary school. Johnson was placed on leave by the board after allegedly failing to address a bus ride incident involving a special needs student in a timely manner.

8:38: Carrie Rheingans, State Representative in the 47th district shares conclusions from conversations with her colleagues regarding state appropriations to help the district. Rheingans says, “In case you aren’t aware, AAPS is the highest funded district in the state. So there’s no appetite unfortunately from my colleagues to do a bailout.”

9:04: Superintendent Jazz Parks offers clarification to public commentary, “While it was not the case of any of our messaging to in any way imply that teachers salaries or compensations was the responsibility of the budget. We recognize that there was unintentional harm done…”

9:14: PTO council asks for greater transparency, collaboration and slower process in investigating multiple possible solutions to budget crisis. Community members offer reassurance as council expresses difficult emotions involving budget concerns. Additionally, the council urges board to examine staff cuts at all levels, should they decide that cuts are the only possible course of action.

9:53: Marios Demetrius, Assistant Superintendent for Finance and Operations at AAPS, comes forward to give budget update. According to Demetrius, if the budget climbs above the state minimum within five years, the district will meet with the Department of Education. But, if the budget issues are not fixed within that time period, AAPS will have to defer to the state Treasury Department which could result in AAPS filing for bankruptcy and the implementation of an emergency manager.

10:06: Demetrius presents a one year plan in which $25 million is cut from expenditures assuming a 35 teacher attrition annually. The fund balance as a percent of revenues would climb above state minimum at 8.37% in the next school year. “For me, this is the best thing to do. Even when we reduce $25 million, there will be $304 million left to educate,” Demetrius said.

10:15: Superintendent Parks explains that cuts would begin with central office and administrative position reductions in the amount of $3.5 million. Renegotiating vendor contracts will yield about $1.2 million. The district also received an additional grant allotment that allows for the actualization of $1 million in savings. As well as district department reductions of $1.3 million. Although this update yields $7 million, expenditures need to be cut by an additional $18 million in order to meet a one year budget fix plan.

10:26: Feaster clarifies that if the board is unable to find the necessary cuts, they will need to approve a plan that includes staff cuts. “The vote tonight is basically saying to the state, we get it and we will do whatever is necessary…,” Susan Schmidt said.

10:32: Feaster offers clarification that the board is unable to respond to the state’s corrective action plan request, claiming that they will cut $25 in one year without authorizing staff reductions.

10:41: According to Demetrius, if AAPS implements a budget recovery plan with $25 million reductions split over the next two years, the fund balance as a percent of revenues would reach state minimum at 6.29% by the 2026-27 school year.

10:56: “This district will not be financially viable without layoffs,” Demetrius said. “That’s just a fact…I urge you to make the decision to give the school district administration the flexibility to start building plans and reforming the state.”

11:09: Querijero expresses discomfort around passing a resolution authorizing staff layoffs. Board member Susan Baskett shows support for Parks as superintendent, arguing that she should be given authorization as soon as possible to make cuts.

11:17: Baskett expresses concerns around the two year recovery plan, explaining that the fund balance percent would drop to 1.59% in the next year, before reaching the state minimum. Feaster offers clarification that if the projects are off by 1.5% and the percent drops below zero, there is a risk of state takeover, bankruptcy or a consent plan.

11:39: During the resolution voting process, the board discusses their role as supervisor of the superintendent including boundaries regarding their purview.

11:43: By a 4-3 vote, the Board gives Superintendent Jazz Parks authority to layoff staff as a part of the budget recovery plan.

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About the Contributors
Sana Schaden
Sana Schaden, Web Editor-in-Chief
Sana Schaden is a senior at CHS. This is her 6th semester on staff, and first semester as Web Editor in Chief. When she is not in room 300 writing and editing articles, Sana spends her time on the tennis courts, filling her sketchbooks with artwork, listening to Spotify, studying at a coffee shop, or spending time with friends and family. As a Peer Educator for Planned Parenthood, Sana also strives to find the intersection between her activism work and her journalism.  
Claire Lewis
Claire Lewis, Journalist
Claire Lewis is a junior at CHS, who's in her 4th semester on staff. She loves writing, both in class and out. She likes spending time in the sun, whether that's laying in her hammock alone, or going on walks with friends. When she's not getting sunburnt she frequently crochets, reads, watches movies, and listens to music.
Lucia Page Sander
Lucia Page Sander, Social Media Editor-in-Chief
This is Lucia's fourth semester on staff and her first as a Social Media Editor-in-Chief. When she's not playing soccer for the Michigan Jaguars or competing for Lily Weightlifting, you can find her in the garden, watching tennis with her family, or jumping on her mini trampoline. Lucia loves surfing, doing the Wordle, climbing trees, and munching on cherry tomatoes. She is beyond excited to see what this year brings both inside and outside room 300.

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