AAPS interviews superintendent finalists

The AAPS school board interviewed 6 potential candidates for superintendent this month, finally narrowing the field to three.

The departure of Dr. Todd Roberts at the beginning of this school year left a huge whole in administration at the Ann Arbor Public Schools. While his interim replacement, current CFO Robert Allen, garnered wide approval, Mr. Allen has made it clear that he does not want to keep the job. Dr. Roberts’ departure leaves the district part-way through a restructuring effort designed to increase effectiveness at the administrative level while also dealing with continuing budget cuts.

The six semi-finalists for the superintendent position were interviewed by the Board of Education during the week of 14 February. While we will post some observations of our own shortly, we recommend the coverage by the Ann Arbor Chronicle. Here is an excerpt from their coverage:

All three final candidates named the economic downturn as the most critical issue currently facing education. Muñoz added that the economy has had a large impact on demographics of the student population, with increasing numbers of students struggling with the effects of living in a lower socioeconomic status.

Green highlighted how in her current district, she has aligned every line item of her district’s budget to its strategic plan in order to justify each one. Similarly, Muñoz and Redinger noted the importance of assessing every program in terms of its impact on student achievement, and being selective while still offering a wide variety of options for students and parents. Muñoz also emphasized the importance of ensuring equity of access to the programs being offered. As an example, he gave the provision of transportation to specialized programs, such as an International Baccalaureate (IB) program in his current district.

Redinger noted the importance of maintaining enrollment by offering programs that will help the district to remain competitive with local private and charter schools. She also asserted that the programs being offered at the high school level need to be sure to prepare students to compete globally. Green similarly argued that the lack of standardization in testing across states is leading to a lack of student preparation, and suggested that the future of testing should consider international standards. She praised AAPS for embarking on an IB program, as well as the “lab school” initiative in partnership with the University of Michigan, and argued for the importance of “ramping up” community and business partnerships in this economy.

When asked about innovative approaches they had used to address budget constraints while preserving programs, Muñoz suggested giving more flexibility to principals, using a citizens’ budget advisory committee, and asking the board to name its highest priorities. He also described using a budget planning process very similar to the one used last year in AAPS, which included holding community forums, and meeting with union leadership to get input.

As budget strategies, Redinger listed offering buy-outs for veteran staff members, employing energy-saving strategies in buildings, and outsourcing her district’s food service program.

Green acknowledged that her school board has taxing authority, and that they had to raise taxes last year to meet the budget shortfall facing her district. She also suggested using zero-based budgeting, which she described as a corporate model based on justifying a return on investments.

Find the full story here:
AAPS: Final Phase of Superintendent Search by Jennifer Coffman, published in the Ann Arbor Chronicle on 28 February 2011.