The Communicator

The Communicator

The Communicator

May 20 AAPS School Board Meeting: Budget Recovery Plan: Live Updates

The AAPS Board of Education met to make final decisions on budget cuts.

Prior to 7 p.m: AAPS teachers and community members gathered in front of Pioneer High School and began chanting “More Cuts To The Top.” They marched in a large circle in front of the main entrance raising signs that read “Support Ann Arbor Teachers” along with other similar phrases.

Approximately six minutes before the meeting was set to begin, AAPS teachers and community members entered the Schreiber Auditorium at Pioneer High School, still chanting. Superintendent Jazz Parks and members of the AAPS Board of Education remained seated at the tables on the stage at the front of the room.

7:01 p.m: The meeting began. President Torchio Feaster opened up the floor to motions. After a short discussion, the board passed a motion proposed by Trustee Mohammad to begin the meeting with public commentary. 

One of the first speakers to take the mic was Jesse Deucher, a graduate of Ann Arbor Public Schools and a current AAPS Physical Education teacher. He reflected on some of the comments made at last week’s board meeting that made special teachers (music, art, physical education, etc.) feel like nothing more than babysitters and not like real teachers who impact students’ lives in meaningful ways.

Public commentary rotated between live speakers who came up to the front of the room to speak and comments that were sent in from AAPS teachers and community members. These comments that were read out loud often echoed one main message: All AAPS students deserve a fully staffed comprehensive music and world language education.

7:23: Ashton Maddox, a student at Pioneer High School, provided a testament to the impact that music teachers can have on students. He spoke about Pioneer High School’s associate band director, Ms. Erin Lilliefors who, for Maddox, has served as a crucial intermediary between the music director and underclassman.

7:32: An AAPS community member ended her speech with a question directed at the board members seated on the stage: “Do you really want this as your legacy? The board that cut music?”

7:34: An AAPS parent asked the board members on the stage if any of them were present at the Picnic Pop band and orchestra concert on Sunday, May 19 at Pioneer High School.


She continued her emotional speech stating that the board members do not care about the music programs in AAPS schools.

7:38: Rebecca Hogan came up to the mic with her two daughters. She began her speech by stating that she represents around 400 AAPS parents who urge the Board of Education to equitably distribute the burden of this budget crisis. She continued, saying that she hopes that the central office takes a greater share of the burden with the ultimate goal of minimizing the impacts that this budget crisis can and will have on AAPS students.

Hogan was followed by a young sixth grader who attends Greenhills Middle School. She started her speaking time with a few sentences in Spanish. She followed this with a plea to keep world language courses as a core part of the AAPS curriculum.

7:49: Jen Duman, a physical education teacher at Pittsfield Elementary uses her speaking time to highlight an alarming issue. She talked about how 60 minutes of physical activity is recommended each day for kids but cutting this time to 45 minutes a week would further decline many student’s physical activity which would lead to many mental and physical health issues in the students. She urged Board members to think about her message before making their decision on cutting specials such as P.E..

8:00: An AAPS teacher encouraged board members to follow in Susan Schimdt’s steps and offer to cut 10% of their personal salary to help cover the AAPS budget. Schimdt offered her personal salary cut at the May 15 board meeting.

Teachers may be afraid that their work, sometimes decades poured into AAPS education, will be wasted with the cuts. “Cutting from the top must be a top priority,” said an AAPS parent. They stated that a 5% pay cut at the top could free over $38o,000.

8:23: An AAPS parent who hates public speaking due to her “broken English” took the stand. She reiterated her shock at the proposed elimination of the language programs.

8:25: Aaron Puno, a 2023 AAPS graduate, asked the board, “I’m been away from AAPS for about a year now, what in the hell have you done?” Puno asked. “We are nothing without our teachers and our staff.”

Afterward, an AAPS high school junior gives her personal statement about the threatened cuts to co-directors in the AAPS music department. “It’s impossible for one teacher to do it all. Laying off music co-directors is not the way to reduce spending. It will destroy thousands of student’s experiences and communities across the district. It’ll be a devastating loss.”

8:30: An AAPS parent’s message emphasized the importance of language education, telling part of their experience from living in Germany and Hong Kong where it is considered normal for children to learn multiple languages at once as a part of their education. “Let’s not remove all foreign language instruction for the magic decade when student’s brains are most capable of learning new languages.”

8:35: A Clague student took the stand and asked the Board of Education a few yes or no questions: cutting programs will increase student enrollment; the best way to appreciate teachers on teacher appreciated day is by laying them off; the best way to honor AAPI month is by cutting off language programs including Chinese; or if a wealthy district is the only way to solve the budget problems. With help from the crowd, all questions were answered with a resounding, “No.”

Afterward, a teacher asked how cuts could be proposed when some staff, such as Teacher Assistants (TAs), don’t even make a living wage. At 8:53 pm, an AAPS parent asked the Board, “We all know what teachers do, but what do directors in central administration do?” The only response she got was that directors make decisions. “Look at this budget crisis, then maybe it’s only logical that maybe they shouldn’t be making decisions anymore.”

9:00: A parent message that was sent in to be read, stated how libraries and their books are “windows, mirrors and doors” for students towards the outer world. “Please save elementary libraries and librarians,” said a comment soon after.

After that, an AAPS parent reiterated the importance of PLTW in schools and how the program so far has fostered his son’s passions and curiosity. “Do not sacrifice my son’s education for your money!” He said.

10:02: Public commentary ended. The meeting took a five-minute recess.

10:18: Superintendent Jazz Parks took the mic for the first time during the meeting. She provided a few clarifications. The first was about the central office. She stated that there have been four reductions in Central Office leadership during the 2023-24 school year with two coming next year, making a total of six reductions for the 2024-25 school year. The next topic she discussed was the elementary world language program. She stated that world language instruction and English language learners are two different things. No matter the budget cuts, English language learners will continue to learn and receive the support they have been in the past. She continued to say that a huge reason why cutting the elementary world language program has been brought up to the table is because there are not enough staff members out there to fulfill the necessary amount of positions needed to successfully run the program. The next topic she talked about was the elementary specials schedule. The biggest change in this topic would be the shift of adding PLTW to the Specials schedule. She highlighted that specials area scheduling varies from school to school as well as content area to content area but she also made sure to say that teachers will continue to receive the 330 minutes per week as per the contract. The next topic she talked about was school libraries and librarians. She made sure to note that library programs are not being cut or eliminated nor are AAPS school libraries being closed. She also touched on secondary co-teaching band and orchestra. She talked about how to date, there has been no program or class reductions. She however did state that there would be a reduction in co-teachers but not an entire elimination.

10:27: A motion to accept the plan as is was made by Trustee Susan Ward Schmidt. After this, a discussion commenced.

Trustee Jeff Gaynor took a moment to comment on the importance of this discussion, stating that it is in some ways more important than the vote. He continued to say that he hoped nothing is set in stone after this meeting.

Trustee Ernesto Querijero replied with two main points. He first said that in fact this vote at the end of the meeting will set some things in stone. He also stated that he encourages his fellow trustees to vote no. He was supported by the audience through cheers and claps in reaction to his comments.

Trustee Schmidt took the mic next and her comments were not highly supported by the audience. She continued by asking Mr. Demetriou, the Assistant Superintendent for Finance and Operations at AAPS questions about deadlines for the budget cut decisions. He stated, “If you postpone [the decision], I don’t believe we will have the time to work with HR to create the budget plan in time.” He urged the Board to make the decision at the end of the meeting tonight. 

For the next few minutes, Trustee Schmidt continued to speak about how she believes that the current budget cuts were made thoughtfully and with the students’ and teachers’ best interests at hand. Throughout her speech, audience members shouted out comments not supporting her remarks.

Throughout the next few minutes, Trustee Querijero and Trustee Schmidt went back and forth in disagreement on a comment made by Trustee Schmidt stating that misinformation was being spread in a virtual meeting in the past.

The next topic that was taken into discussion was the potential shift of PLTW into the specials schedule. Trustee Gaynor and Superintendant Gaynor went back and forth discussing the pros and cons of this decision. While Gaynor talked about keeping PLTW out of the specials schedule Superintendant Parks stated that this decision was put forth in the first place because of student commentary about their love for PLTW classes.

After that discussion, Trustee Mohammad stepped in to ask some clarifying questions. She first asked whether the commitment for Title One Schools to be the least impacted schools by these budget cuts was still a priority. She then asked if elementary world language programs were cut, would it be in consideration to bring these programs back after a few months? Superintendent Parks answered yes to both of these questions.

Trustee Baskett spoke and showed her support for a yes vote, reading an email from a long-time AAPS staff member stating that it was time to move on.

Next, a vote took place to determine whether the Board wanted to vote on Trustee Schmidt’s proposal but this motion failed.

Discussion about the main topics mentioned previously continued for a while. All trustee members, along with Superintendant Jazz Parks provided their input on a variety of topics.

11:16: Board votes to approve Superintendent Jazz Parks’ budget plan.

Leave a Comment
More to Discover
About the Contributors
Vedha Kakarla
Vedha Kakarla, Feature Editor
Vedha Kakarla is a sophomore entering her second year on The Communicator staff and her first year as feature editor. Outside of school, you can find her playing golf or basketball. She also enjoys going on long drives, hanging out with her friends, and listening to music. She loves writing stories and interviewing people and she is very excited for another year on staff!
Aidan Hsia
Aidan Hsia, News Editor
Aidan is the news editor for the Communicator and a senior at CHS. He’s played classical guitar for most of his life but loves all kinds of music. Aidan likes reading, playing games, or watching late-night movies with his dog. He’s excited to start his senior year and to write stories for the Communicator.

Comments (0)

All The Communicator Picks Reader Picks Sort: Newest

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *