A more united board gets ready for a big ask.
From the July, 2019 issue
Eight months after winning seats on the school board, two critics of the district's leadership are much more positive about it. Bryan Johnson and Rebecca Lazarus toppled incumbents who'd backed superintendent Jeanice Swift in conflicts with the teachers union.
During the campaign, Johnson complained that the board was "overly led by the superintendent." Since taking office, he says, "I've gotten to know her a lot more. She's very open to both criticism and challenges."
The new trustees campaigned against excessive testing, but that issue has been relegated to a committee. It remains important, Lazarus says, but there's a "learning curve on how to understand a body of seven" when making changes. And she says Swift's "heart and her mind are in the right place."
Swift recently interviewed, unsuccessfully, for a job as Michigan's superintendent of public instruction. That means the board won't have to immediately search for a successor while also grappling with issues like the future of the Bryant/Pattengill elementary pair (Inside Ann Arbor, June).
Most urgently, the board must decide on a huge--up to $1 billion--bond proposal to renovate (or even replace) the district's many old school buildings. It's likely to appear on the November ballot.
Board member (and retired teacher) Jeff Gaynor, elected in 2017, remains a critic of excessive testing. But "maybe because I've been on the board a couple of years, I have to pull back from my idealistic self," he says. "Number one issue is finances."
[Originally published in July, 2019.]
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