The Ypsilanti Community School Board Perpetrated a Sham This Evening

Dedrick Martin and Laura Lisiski should both tender their immediate resignations.

Ypsilanti Community Schools board president David Bates and the rest of the board pulled a fast one on the community this evening. After a rambling explanation of the plan to ask the Washtenaw Intermediate School District to provide an interim superintendent while the two current district bosses stay on for the remainder of their contracts, Bates led what he described as deliberation.

There was no actual deliberation among the members of the board, just a reiteration of the plan. The selection sub-committee had worked out the entire proposal falling last week’s meeting where they failed to make a decision. This meeting was nothing more than a rubber stamp of that plan.

One of the primary rationales for keeping Ypsilanti superintendent Dedrick Martin and Willow Run’s Laura Lisiski was that they would have to pay them anyway for the remainder of their contracts. Given that the all of the existing union contracts are being abrogated by the fact that the districts the contracts were made with will cease to exist at the end of the school year, to argue that the superintendents should be treated any differently is utterly asinine.

Nonetheless, if Martin and Lisiski actually cared about what was best for the district and its students, they would both resign and walk away, allowing the board to move forward with fresh blood in the leadership position without a massive payout that it cannot afford or a protracted legal battle.

Unfortunately, the cowardly actions of Mr. Bates and this board have left the new consolidated district in a very poor position to start this new era.

School district consolidation finally on the table, many years too late!

It’s long overdue, but under the threat of being taken over by an emergency financial manager, the Ypsilanti and Willow Run school districts are finally seriously considering consolidating into a single entity. While this absolutely needs to happen, it doesn’t go far enough.  Nearly six years ago, I wrote a post on this blog advocating the idea of combining Ypsi, Willow Run and the Lincoln school districts and the situation has deteriorated dramatically since that time.

A combined Willow Run-Ypsilanti district will have about 5,300 students, less than half the number in neighboring Ann Arbor. At the very least, Lincoln (which covers much of southern Ypsilanti Township) should be part of this blended district and I seriously believe that they should be talking about merging with Ann Arbor as well.

The system in Michigan that allows so many tiny districts as well as separate cities and townships hurts everyone this state. I’m a liberal and a believer that there is a place for government in providing essential services like education, infrastructure and so on. But I’m also a pragmatist that understands that we need efficiency in how we deliver those services.

Administrators tend to have high salaries and if we want great teachers we need to pay them a decent salary.  Having many small districts means we are paying for too many administrators leaving less for the rank and file teachers that have to educate the students. It also makes it much more difficult to offer students a variety of elective educational options.

It’s important for residents to participate at the neighborhood school level, but the reality is they need to be willing to give up a bit of the hyper-local control and take advantage of some “economies of scale” in managing schools.

As long as we’re finally talking consolidation, lets take it a few steps further and at least combine more services at the county level such as busing, food services and others. Hopefully, these first steps will finally get our schools back on a more sound financial footing.

Ypsilanti School Bond election 2

ypsd.gifIn case you haven’t heard on Tuesday August 7 there is a bond election for the Ypsilanti Public Schools. The district wants to raise $40 million for upgrades to the district facilities. A lot of mechanical updates are needed to school buildings to keep them up to code and safe for the kids staff. Some of the money will also be used for technology upgrades as well as building the new bus garage. If the bond is approved there won’t be any tax increase because the millage will be replacing an expiring millage so this won’t cost local property owners any extra money. I urge anyone who’s reading this to head out to the polls on Tuesday and vote in favor of the bond. Our district needs it.

Ypsi Board of Education to vote on reinstating Braves nickname! 2

The agenda for the June 25 Ypsi School Board meeting is out and Tom Reiber has put the following item on the action items list.

     h. Ypsilanti High School Nickname Reinstatement Recommendation (Enclosure #9)

All of us with some common sense need to call Mr. Reiber and tell him that the students have selected a new nickname and it’s time for the adults to start acting like grown ups instead of whiny little babies and get over it.  The kids are.

You can reach Tom Reiber at home at (734) 434-1425 and by e-mail at  Everyone should come out to the board meeting on Monday night and speak out against this.

Statement to the Board of Education on sex ed and the Braves 10

Last Monday night I made the following statement before the Ypsilanti Public Schools Board of Trustees during the public comments and I wanted to share it here.

I’ve got two kids in the Ypsilanti Schools. My daughter has been in the Ypsilanti public schools for ten years and my son for seven. In that decade aside from ridiculously cursory HIV awareness, they’ve gotten absolutely zero reproductive health education. The fact that this district has failed to provide any comprehensive health education to it’s students is an absolute disgrace. Just because one very vocal opponent has repeatedly spoken up at every single meeting of this board and some administrators may be squeamish about teaching kids about condoms, it’s not an excuse for continuing to stall on a very important element of these kids education.

Earlier this year you saw the results of a survey that was conducted by the Reproductive Health Advisory Board where almost seven hundred parents overwhelmingly said they want comprehensive reproductive health education. Some people may want to just tell kids not to have sex before marriage but the reality is that sticking your head in the sand like that will do absolutely nothing to protect kids. No matter how much you urge kids not to have sex the reality is that it will happen. Not all of them will but a significant number will. They always have and they always will. Believing anything else is deluding yourself.

Given that we need to make sure that we teach kids about healthy relationships, alternatives to intercourse and how to minimize risks if they do choose to have sex. The reproductive health advisory board has spent more than two years evaluating curricula and have chosen a comprehensive plan. They presented it to you and in public presentations. It’s time to stop stalling just because certain members of this administration and a very vocal minority of the population are uncomfortable with reproductive health education. The parents have spoken and the kids need this. We must face the reality that kids will have sex and most parents are just as uncomfortable as you are when it comes to talking about sex to them. Any parents that don’t want their kids to get this education are free to opt out of either the whole program or any individual lesson.

Finally on an unrelated note, this board in a previous iteration made a difficult and correct decision to retire the Braves nickname. It’s just a nickname and people need to get over it and move on. It offends a group within our community and tradition doesn’t make it OK. I urge you not to re-open this issue and not to restore the name. Starting this fall and over the coming years the kids will get used to a new name and within a few years none of them will care about the old name. Meanwhile alumni will always have their memories. Thank You.

School board back at full strength 2

The School Board selected two new members tonight to fill the vacancies left by the resignations of Amy Doyle and Cam Getto. Eric Temple and Sarah Devaney are now members of the board for the next year until they have to run for election. The recordings of the interviews are up on the podcast feed. Best of luck to Sarah and Eric because they are going to have an extremely tough job in the coming months and I don’t envy them one bit.

On an unrelated note, I also want to send best wishes to Dr. Maggie Brandt. Maggie is a trauma surgeon and also Steve Pierce’s wife as well as an army reservist and she is heading off to Iraq at the end of this week. Unfortunately it looks like she is going to be very busy for the next few months repairing the physical damage being done to troops over there. Stay safe Maggie.

It looks like Monroe lied to get rid of Layne Hunt 8

An article in the Ann Arbor News today makes it appear that the Monroe school district suppressed information about Layne Hunt’s tenure as th high school principal there just so they could get rid of him. The tale of Hunt’s experiences there sound almost exactly like what has happened at Ypsi High this year. It looks increasingly like Hunt has been playing on the insecurities of members of the African-American community in Ypsilanti to make his own inadequacies as a leader appear to be a case of racism when it is in fact anything but.

This is not about racism! 4

I’ve avoided writing about the conflict surrounding the resignation of Layne Hunt as high school principal because I didn’t know enough about what was going on in private, but now it’s time to speak up.

During the last three Ypsilanti School Board meetings leading up to the resignation of High School principal Layne Hunt, a lot of people including one Lee Tewson (not sure about the spelling) hurled accusations of racism at members of the board, even though no one on the board ever publicly accused Hunt of anything or even called for his dismissal. The accusations were completely uncalled for. During this entire episode the only thing that I think the board did wrong was Amy Doyle’s the motion to accept Hunt’s resignation. I think Andy Fanta was correct in his comments that the board did not need to accept or reject the resignation. Once the Superintendent accepted the letter, it was not rescindable and there was nothing the board could do. I think that this motion was a mistake only from a politcal perspective as it was unnecessary. But that is neither here nor there.

As Eric mentions the irony of this whole thing is that many of the people standing up to accuse the board of racism were the very same people who criticized the same board for dropping the Braves nickname. This is sheer hypocrisy! It appears that many of the people were speaking in Hunt’s defense based only what they had heard from Hunt himself without any knowledge of what was apparently going on at the High School. Kathleen Conat at the Ypsi Courier has evidently done some actual investigating and it appears that the issues with Hunt go way beyond personality conflicts with staff. It appears that many incidents in the building that should have been documented and report to Superintendent James Hawkins were never reported. Hawkins has declined to speak publicly about personnel matters regarding Hunt and rightfully so.

The fact is almost none of us know what was really going on at the school. For anyone to start hurling accusations of racism around without knowing the whole story is divisive to the community and counterproductive. If this is not about racism, and it certainly doesn’t look like it is, it’s like crying wolf. Every time people cry race when it has nothing to do with it, people are less likely to listen next time. You can find a link to the recordings of all the school board meetings on the Ypsi Government Podcasts page at the top of this page.

Update:I removed Amy’s name as it turns out that although she read the motion she did not originate it.  Amy explains the process:

What happens, most times, is that the wording of the motion has already been determined by the superintendent or board president.  Then it is typed up and included in the board packet.  At the time of making that motion, the board president calls upon a trustee to read it.  I was merely called upon; I did not originate it.

My mistake.  Sorry Amy!  I just want to say one more time that I think that both Amy and Cam did a great job during their tenures on the board and dealt with a lot of difficult issues in difficult times.  The Ypsi School District was lucky to have them as active participants.

Thanks Cam! 2

In case you haven’t heard Cameron Getto resigned from the Ypsilanti School Board today.  We all Cam thanks for stepping up and serving on the board for the past couple of years.  He always did what he thought was best for the students and the district.  He’s had to deal with a lot of difficult issues and done good work.   Given the difficulties of being a single parent and the workload the board has ahead of it dealing with the budget, it’s certainly understandable why he made this decision.  We all owe him a debt of gratitude for even stepping up to serve the community in the first place.   He did far more than most people are willing to do.   Hopefully Cam will stay as involved as his time allows.  Good luck Cam and take good care of your girls.