Last night’s 7 hour BOE meeting included several important items that are central to the work of the AAPS – so let’s start with why we are here: educating our students.
Student performance measures were still good, showing progress in some very key areas (disaggregated groups showed significant improvements, especially African American students). However, much remains and we discussed some of the programs and supports that we had put in place that were having a real impact – the Behavioral Interventionists showed many student stories to this effect, as well as an overview of the programs that they had developed.
Graduation rates (2013): 86.78% (4 year cohort)
Graduation rates (2012): 87.44%; 5 Year Rate: 90.19%
While down slightly, the overall rate is an improvement from 2011’s 83.57%.
MEAP results showed gains in most areas, including relative to state gains. African Americans showed very strong growth in reading, math across many grade levels. We still have much work to do for economically disadvantaged, ELL and others – we know this. However, the program supports we have put in place have demonstrated some success (including sustained reductions in suspension rates, assisted by our Behavior Intervention Specialist Program).
Across all grade levels, AAPS outperforms the State in Reading by 8 – 22 points; in Math by 27 to 33 points. When we benchmark AAPS across the county, similar sized districts, and high-performing districts, we are among the top performing districts (keep in mind the comparison with a charter is with one building vs our 31). Our data is even more impressive when we recognize that 25% of our students qualify for free or reduced lunch.
I’ll publish more on this when we have the report available, when MME is released, and/or I can put some data in charts.
Plante & Moran shared the outcomes of our performance audit that they conducted this year at our request. They reviewed the following areas:
- High school scheduling
- Central Office organizational structure
They noted that we have reduced FTEs by 321 since 2004/5, while student enrollment stayed relatively the same. We reduced Class 1 employees (Balas, the Cabinet, etc.) by 27%; Secretaries by 54%; tech support by 36%; Principals by 5% and teachers by 8% (I am omitting some categories). Their findings showed AAPS to be very much in line with similar districts for instructional costs. We are a few % points over in key areas – areas that I argue we are investing in because we know we achieve better student outcomes. For example, by maintaining small learning communities in our 21 elementary schools, we certainly have higher administrative costs – and we also certainly have better outcomes for all students.
Where they did identify opportunities, we have already put plans in place to address them:
Some examples: Administrative costs were 72% of the average, while total operations & maintenance were 121%; other support services were 124%; compensation was very much in line (min as low as 95% of the average; max as high as 133% of the average in one category); operational staff costs were lower than the average, but so was their productivity; paraprofessional costs were higher (152% in minimum salary for special ed).
Finance and IT: there are opportunities to realign services and reduce some costs; need to revise policies and procedures to do this, as well as leverage new software that we have just implemented (New World); this should also help with HR. As a district, we can be more efficient by moving our paper processes to streamlined electronic processes. Process redesign would be likely to help. The consultants noted that outsourcing IT had not demonstrated cost savings – so this work will likely be our own.
Facilities and maintenance costs were showing that we were too low in Supervisors, but also our staff were not as productive as our region or state (e.g., grounds FTE in AAPS have 50 acres vs. 81 and 75 in the state and region, respectively). Energy was another area where we are high: $1.61 per SF vs. region’s average of $1.24 and the state’s $1.11. We have been saving here, but we changed contracts for this area as well this year; hopefully we can bring those costs down as well.
Most areas where we have opportunities, we also have plans in place as part of this year’s work to improve operational improvements; however, there are more areas to improve. Most importantly, we have a good administrative team that is interested in doing this work. When the full report is available, I include a link to it.
First, let me say that the co-op idea is a good concept. The fact that Zingerman’s is exploring this option substantiates that this could be a good idea. Second, we need to be able to offer a living wage for folks to live AND work in our community, but are unable to in the political and funding environment we find ourselves in. Third, the work of the community, BOE and Administration is to work toward substantive changes made in state funding so that we can invest in our schools to ensure a high quality learning environment.
The co-op idea that was discussed so much recently is still really just that: an idea. Last night the BOE issued a resolution to describe why we could not consider the revised document that the co-op group had prepared at the end of the day on June 26. There are many issues with the process used and the document itself; all of which are outlined in the resolution. Further, there are serious financial flaws in the proposed fee that make what was proposed unrealistic. Noteworthy flaws with the document include:
- Submitted outside of the bid process and the negotiating team;
- Untimely and nonconforming (to the RFP);
- Submitted by a non-material person (community member; not part of the negotiating team or part of the new co-op organization, since no organization structure and/or key personnel were identified as part of that structure).
Beyond issues with the document, process, etc., the bigger issue is funding. The kinds of reductions we must make in operations continues in our state’s political climate. In Ann Arbor, we must work to create other funding opportunities so that, at least in this community, our public schools can better reflect our community’s values. That is our work ahead.
In the meantime, I do hope that those interested in forming a co-op of any kind can review the resolution, learn what would be needed, learn from what Zingerman’s is doing and continue to be creative. The district must comply with laws that govern our RFP processes, how we employ people, etc. At the same time, I know we are all looking for creative ways to sustain our education environment.