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The Skyline Post

The Skyline Post

At May 8 AAPS Board Meeting: Budget Not on Agenda — So What Did Happen?

Teachers gather outside Huron High School in protest. Credit: Ian Saucer-Zeoli

May 8th, 2024, Huron High School.

The Ann Arbor Public Schools (AAPS) board of education meeting starts, not in the meeting room, but outside, where over 100 district teachers are gathered in protest at the board’s handling of the budget crisis. 

There is, however, a problem with all of this: what the protesters are there to protest — the budget crisis — is not on the meeting’s agenda. The only new information we will gain about the budget crisis is that we will learn more on the 15th (7 p.m. at Pioneer High School, Schreiber Auditorium).

At seven, the protesters enter Huron’s Meyers Auditorium, finding their seats and chanting “we are not the problem!” Soon, a phrase is added onto the chant’s end: “you are!”

The board attempts to begin the meeting, but they are unheard above the sound of the crowd, who have begun a new chant: “underappreciated.”

Board members Jeff Gaynor and Ernesto Querijero put forward and second (respectively) a motion to add the budget crisis to the board’s agenda. During the discussion, the audience vocalizes its anger.

Fellow board members Rima Mohammad and Krystle DuPress join Gaynor and Querijero in voting for the change, passing it 4 yeas to 3 nays.“The budget ramifications are the only thing that everyone cares about,” Gaynor tells the Skyline Post after the meeting. “I know we have other things to attend to, and that there’s no new information to present, but it was an insult to the community to not spend at least some time on it.”

Gaynor motions to extend each of the 106 audience speakers’ time from 30 seconds to one minute. Baskett protests, but it passes.

Audience comments then begin. Almost all are educators. They speak primarily on cuts to teachers’ pay and layoffs. An emphasis is placed on how the budget cuts will affect disabled students. One teacher threatens to teach parents how to file legal action against the board if teacher assistant’s pay is reduced any lower: this year, the memorandum of understanding with teacher-assistants’ union about pay expires.

After two hours, the comments end, and AAPS’s many community groups pick up the mic.

At 9:52 p.m. — nearly three hours since the meeting began — recess is called. Though the audience barely numbers 40 at this point, the tension in the room has not subsided.

After the recess, the Board proceeds through scheduled agenda items.

According to the monthly budget monitoring report, AAPS will spend about $20 million of our remaining fund balance on three payrolls, which will leave us with only $6-$7 million remaining. This, combined with a lack in revenue, will extend the budget crisis.

Gaynor asks at what point we would have caught the $14 million dollar in the June 2023 budget report accounting error, had this been a normal year. Board President Torchio Feaster replies it would have been caught in the November 2024 audit.

Next, the Board discusses a Washtenaw Intermediate School District special education millage, which will unanimously pass later in the meeting. And a middle school academic tutoring purchase.

At almost midnight, one board member must leave for childcare. Before she does, she votes to approve the motion to extend the meeting until 1 a.m., which passes despite resistance.

Two contracts are discussed: first is bathroom renovations at Scarlett and Clague that would cost $2.8 million and be completed over two summers; second is for solar arrays at Skyline and at Earhart which would provide roughly two megawatts of clean energy, offsetting $20-30 thousand dollars from the general fund’s operating costs. The arrays would be funded from bond money, not the imperiled general fund.

The Board considers whether to use bond money to purchase six buses, suited to better serve disabled students.

The discussion of the budget begins. Querijero states that he would need more information to make good decisions about what to cut, and that the community wants such transparency. Querijero argues that this information would let teachers know as soon as possible whether they’re getting laid off. Baskett does not think the information Querijero wants is necessary for the community to know. “It’s a little disingenuous to say ‘we’re going to rush to slow down’,” Baskett says.

Mohammad also requests information on the price of buildings. She also requests information on how layoffs will be done equitably and how it will affect Title I schools. 

Feaster encourages Querijero and Mohammad to email Superintendent Jazz Parks with their questions instead of asking them in the meeting. Mohammad wants to ensure that the budget is a discussion; Querijero believes it’s his duty as a trustee to ask for this information for the public.

“It’s not our job to micromanage the district,” says board member Susan Schmidt. She states that the Board’s consensus is to “lay off the fewest number of teachers as possible.” She wants the announcements made as soon as possible, and finds it disrespectful to slow that process down. 

Parks reassures them: both recommendations and information will be brought to the May 15 meeting. She does not specify further what level of detail the recommendations or information will contain.

The struggle between a faster layoff process and a slower one is discussed further. A faster layoff would give teachers laid off time to prepare, while a slower one would allow more information gained and more community input. The board does not come to a clear conclusion.

The agenda for the next week’s meeting Wednesday, May 15nd at 7:00 p.m. at Pioneer High school is discussed. Gaynor would like an equity committee meeting. Querijero would like them to vote on a literacy resolution as soon as possible. There is some discussion about whether a resolution committee needs to be formed to manage the various resolutions sent in.

Board members then have time to talk. Baskett encourages the community to attend the upcoming Juneteenth celebration. Additionally, she recognizes recently deceased teacher and union leader Linda Carter. Querijero recognizes Skyline’s Asian American Youth club’s Asian American Youth summit and thanks two organizations for hosting lessons on collective bargaining and school funding. 

Schmidt moves to adjourn the meeting, seconded by Baskett. The meeting ends at 12:50 a.m.

See the school board meeting here.

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About the Contributors
Kathryn Plotner
Kathryn Plotner, Senior Writer
Kathryn Plotner ('25) writes predominantly for the News Section and enjoys investigating issues outside of Skyline, too. She’s passionate about a lot.
Ian Saucer-Zeoli ('25) is a writer for the book review section of The Skyline Post. He is what his grandmother calls a “handsome young man” and enjoys history and linguistics.
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