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AnnArbor.com's News section covers government, crime, education, health and the environment across Washtenaw County.

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    Do you wish to relive your adolescence? Imagine being poor, having a learning disability, suffering from depression/anxiety or having no supports. Adolescence at best is a difficult transition in one’s life. At worst, it can be a nightmare.

    Forty years ago, Ann Arbor Public Schools already understood what it was like to grow up under difficult circumstances. In 1973 the Ann Arbor Board of Education agreed that a specialized educational program was necessary to support teens that were unable to be successful in the traditional high school format.

    Over a 21- year period, Roberto Clemente Student Development Center evolved from a program that existed as a “school within a school” (at Forsythe Middle School), to a building located outside of Belleville, to an elementary school in rural Pittsfield Township, to the building that Roberto Clemente resides in today.

    Ann Arbor Public Schools invested its resources to bring this much needed program from its beginnings when teachers provided students transportation to a far-flung location, all the way to today with a school they can call their own.

    Do we citizens of Ann Arbor think that today’s teens have fewer problems than in 1973? We need to ask ourselves why suddenly it seems to be a good idea to shut down the Roberto Clemente School building and return to 1973. If the program had worked well then, would the Board of Education have found a need to build the new Roberto Clemente School in 1995?

    Ann Arbor Public Schools’ budget crisis has seen Roberto Clemente as “low-hanging fruit”. The students and families involved in this program are less likely to adequately speak out in support of their life changing and, yes, life-saving, program. Despite the concern these families feel for their struggling children, most are ill equipped to lobby against much larger, more popular programming within the district. A great many of these students are either minorities, economically disadvantaged, learning disabled, mentally disabled or led by homes with only one parent.

    Do you know how much this “low-hanging fruit” is worth? The highest estimate is about $340,000, the value of a mortgage for many Ann Arbor residents. The overall budget deficit numbers for the AAPS is estimated to be about $9 million dollars. Imagine hobbling 40 years of life-transformational efforts to save $340,000. Imagine the actual “real life” costs our community would pay if we chose to marginalize the essence of this school.

    The proceedings of the last school board meeting might have you convinced that the relocation of Roberto Clemente has been taken off the table. A closer look reveals the decision is being delayed until the administration completes a redistricting study. Roberto Clemente School is a valuable asset to our community. Relocating this school and sending it back to 1973 will undermine its essence. Please consider signing our petition addressed to the AAPS Board of Education: “Roberto Clemente: A Powerful Program that Serves Our Students-at-Risk”.

    Nancy Kupina
    Ann Arbor

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    Police believe this man robbed the Biggby Coffee on Stadium Boulevard in Ann Arbor Thursday. The man also is believed to have robbed the GameStop on Washtenaw Avenue Tuesday.

    Courtesy of AAPD

    Ann Arbor police believe the Thursday afternoon robbery at Biggby Coffee on Stadium Boulevard is related to a robbery at a business on Washtenaw Avenue earlier this week.

    Ann Arbor police Det. Bill Stanford said the Biggby robbery was very similar to the incident Tuesday at GameStop, 3225 Washtenaw Ave. Stanford said a man walked into Biggby, showed a knife to a cashier and demanded cash.

    Stanford said there were between seven and 10 people in the shop during the robbery Thursday. The fact that the man doesn’t appear deterred by other people being in the store leads police to believe the man is a threat.

    “He’s pretty desperate and dangerous,” Stanford said. “We need to get him off the streets.”

    Stanford said the man walked into the store, 2550 W. Stadium Blvd., and skipped the line, walking directly to the counter. He produced a knife and went around the counter demanding cash from the register. He was given an unknown amount of cash and then walked out, Stanford said. The robbery was reported at 3:51 p.m.

    On Tuesday, a man walked into GameStop and up to the counter. Police said the man pulled out a knife and demanded cash before walking away from the business. That incident also was in the afternoon, reported at 5:23 p.m. Tuesday.

    A kitchen-type knife has been used in both incidents, Stanford said. No one has been injured and no other weapon has been reported.

    The man is described as black, 6-feet tall, between 160 and 180 pounds, wearing a black or gray hooded sweatshirt and black or gray pants. He’s approximately 25 years old.

    Stanford released an image of the man, caught on Biggby security cameras. The man is seen taking money from the cash register at the store.

    The man was last seen by witnesses in the area of Jackson Avenue and Stadium Boulevard, near the Biggby. Anyone who sees the man is encouraged to be cautious around him.

    Anyone with information about either of these two incidents is encouraged to call Stanford at 734-323-2628 or Crime Stoppers at 1-800-SPEAK UP (773-2587).

    View Untitled in a larger map

    Kyle Feldscher covers cops and courts for AnnArbor.com. He can be reached at kylefeldscher@annarbor.com or you can follow him on Twitter.

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    The result wasn’t in the Huron girls lacrosse team’s favor on Thursday night, but it was exactly how coach Dan Madigan wants to see his team play.

    After the River Rats led 2-1 in the early going, the Trojans rattled off three straight goals to take a lead they would never relinquish. Huron was able to tie the game twice, but never able to get over the hump and recapture the lead, falling 9-7 at Huron High School’s Riverbank Stadium.

    “I think it was a good measure for us,” Madigan said. “We’re a very young team. We have a few good senior leaders, but overall we’re fairly young and I think to be able to run with a team is a very good learning experience for us.”

    More coverage: Boxscore

    East Lansing (7-2) scored three straight goals after trailing early to go up 4-2, but Huron (5-2) tied the score 4-4 after two straight goals from Keeley Erhardt. The Trojans countered with a two straight from Marie Fata and took a 6-4 lead into the break.


    East Lansing's Naomi Beagan celebrates after East Lansing scores a goal during the second half of its 9-7 win over Huron on Thursday, May 2.

    Courtney Sacco | AnnArbor.com

    Fata had a hat trick in the first half and finished the game with four goals and an assist.

    Kelsey Aaronson scored two straight goals to start the second half and the game was tied 6-6 with 16 minutes, 58 seconds remaining.

    “I definitely think our momentum picked up some and the spirit of some of the girls,” said Aaronson, who finished with three goals and an assist.

    East Lansing was able to take the lead back quickly - scoring the first of three consecutive goals within a minute of Aaronson’s game tying goal - and cruise from there.

    “I think after they started scoring more, I think we just got down on ourselves,” Aaronson said.

    Though East Lansing’s final goal came with 11:24 left in the game, Huron didn’t have much of a comeback attempt as East Lansing was able to win possession off the draw and maintain it for the greater part of the final 10 minutes.

    “It was just a fast game, they’re a very talented team. They got us in transition, and when they did score, the draws, we couldn’t control them,” Madigan said. “That’s a big part of this game and I think they dominated on the draw control today.

    “It gives them possession and then we’re chasing.”

    Pete Cunningham covers sports for AnnAbor.com. He can be reached at petercunningham@annarbor.com. Follow him on Twitter @petcunningham.

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    The documentary "Hava Nagila" will play on the first night of Ann Arbor's Jewish Film Festival.

    What makes the 12th annual Lenore Marwil Jewish Film Festival - happening May 5-9 at Ann Arbor’s Michigan Theater - different from all other festivals?

    Its focus on new films (documentary and narrative) that explore aspects of Jewish history, culture and identity.

    And although the festival happens in four Michigan locales—West Bloomfield, Kalamazoo, Flint and Ann Arbor—a committee in each location determines which films they’ll locally screen.

    “We usually get between 14 or 15 films that best reflect our community and our interests,” said Karen Freedland, the Jewish cultural arts and education director at the Jewish Community Center of Greater Ann Arbor, which presents the festival annually.

    One of the biggest draws this year is likely to be the opening night film, “Hava Nagila,” a documentary that’s earned appreciative reviews in The New York Times, The Los Angeles Times, and NPR, among others.

    “It’s a film that’s playing at Jewish film festivals across the country,” said Freedland. “ … It’s uplifting, and it’s so fascinating to learn about the history of this famous song. It’s played at hockey games; Harry Belafonte used to sing it - it’s a song where, whether you’re Jewish or not, you connect to it.”

    Another feel-good film, in Freedland’s view, is “The Day I Saw Your Heart,” a narrative film from France.


    12th annual Lenore Marwil Jewish Film Festival

    • What: The Jewish Community Center of Greater Ann Arbor presents this five-day festival, which focuses on documentary and narrative films from all over the world that explore Jewish history, culture, and identity.
    • Where: The Michigan Theater, 603 E. Liberty St. in Ann Arbor.
    • When: May 5-9.
    • How much: $10 per screening, or $100 for a Festival pass. 734-971-0990 or www.jccannarbor.org.
    “It’s a scenario of an older man who gets married for a second time to a younger woman, and the family’s reaction to that,” said Freedland. “ … You think everybody’s about to fall apart, but they rally at end. It’s a good movie. Definitely one of the more lighthearted films we’re showing.”

    A topic perennially explored, of course, is Israeli/Palestinian relations. “The Bottle in the Gaza Sea” is a French film about a 17-year-old girl who, after moving to Jerusalem, writes a letter stating that she refuses to accept that only hatred can reign between Israelis and Palestinians. She puts the letter in a bottle, and when her serviceman brother throws it into the sea near Gaza, a young Palestinian man, calling himself “Gazaman,” responds.

    “Kaddish for a Friend,” meanwhile, is a German film that focuses on a 14-year-old Palestinian boy who, in an attempt to prove himself to his friends, breaks into the apartment of an elderly Russian Jewish war veteran, and then watches his friends vandalize the man’s home. When the man comes home unexpectedly, he recognizes the boy and consequently, the boy must repair the damage.

    Finally, “The Other Son,” also explores the issue of culture and identity.

    “Many people are buying tickets for this one ahead of time,” said Freedland. “It’s not a true story, but it could be, about two boys who are switched at birth. The Jewish son is raised Palestinian, and vice versa. So it’s about what happens when they find out the truth.”

    “The Other Son” is one of four JFF events that will feature a post-screening speaker (Dr. Michael Singer). Others include “BESA: The Promise,” at which former U-M professor Frances Trix will discuss the group of Muslim Albanians that saved Jews during World War II; “A.K.A. Doc Pomus” - about the Brooklyn-born, polio-afflicted songwriter Doc Pomus (“Teenager in Love,” “This Magic Moment,” etc.) - which will be followed by a talk by Larry Kuperman about Jews in rock and roll; and “Mendelsohn’s Incessant Vision,” after which Jennifer Perlove Siegel will speak about the influential architecture of Erich Mendelsohn.

    And while “The Flat” previously played at the Michigan Theater, many may have missed the chance to see this American documentary about a family that suddenly uncovers secrets about its past.

    “It’s a true-life detective story,” said Freedland. “In Tel Aviv, after this grandmother’s deceased, the family’s going through her belongings when they find a connection to Germans, to Nazis, in World War II, before the family emigrated to Israel. It’s this unraveling mystery about who the family was, and is. … It’s sad, but it gives you hope, too.”

    For a complete schedule of this year’s festival lineup, visit http://www.jccannarbor.org/cultural-arts-education/jewish-film-festival/.

    Jenn McKee is an entertainment reporter for AnnArbor.com. Reach her at jennmckee@annarbor.com or 734-623-2546, and follow her on Twitter @jennmckee.

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    Editor's note: This story was edited at 11:45 a.m. for clarification as to what the bond would fully fund.

    In order to cover an existing $148 million in debt as well as future liabilities from retiree health benefit and pension costs for its employees, Washtenaw County is considering borrowing about $345 million that it would pay back over the next 25 years.

    Bonding for the debt is projected to save the county $112.5 million over that 25 years, according to an analysis presented to county officials Thursday night by Municipal Financial Consultants Incorporated.

    The financial consultants estimated $345 million would be the maximum amount needed to fully fund future long-term retiree health costs of $210.5 million and future pension fund costs of $130.3 million.


    AnnArbor.com file photo

    It’s the second unprecedented move for the Board of Commissioners this year, as the body approved 10-year contracts with most of its unionized employees in March in advance of the right-to-work law’s implementation in Michigan.

    Those new union contracts have allowed the county to begin vetting the idea of bonding to cover pension costs, as the retirement plans were closed for new hires during the negotiations. The county’s pension fund has now been closed - a requirement for the body to consider bonding for that large debt.

    Thursday night the board began vetting the idea after a presentation by John Axe of Axe and Ecklund, the lawyer on the county’s bond counsel.

    “This is a brand new type of bond,” Axe said. “No one has ever issued these obligations before in Michigan. … As of right now, no one has yet had approval by the Michigan Department of Treasury.”

    The state requires municipalities to have a AA bond rating in order to bond for retiree pension costs. Washtenaw County has a Aa1 Moody’s rating and a AA+ Standard & Poor rating.

    “I’m satisfied you’re doing your job,” Axe said to the Board of Commissioners and county staff. “If I didn’t think you could pay these bonds back I would not be here.”

    The ability of municipalities to bond for their long-term liabilities in their retirement funds was made possible by a law signed into effect in October 2012.

    County administration directed Axe’s firm to begin evaluating the measure in November 2012, though the intent of the county to consider bonding for the debt was not publicly discussed at the Board of Commissioners until mid-April.


    Wes Prater

    Ryan J. Stanton | AnnArbor.com file photo

    Commissioners peppered Axe with questions Thursday night during a working session of the board as they grappled with the relative risk of bonding for such a large amount of money. It’s the first time the board has evaluated the issue at one of its meetings.

    The weight of the proposal before the board even drew former county Commissioner Wesley Prater to the meeting, who commented on the proceedings before and after the discussion.

    “We’re talking about a large amount of money that our citizens and taxpayers are responsible for,” Prater said. “I hope we don’t rush through these decisions and then feel sorry for them afterwards.”

    Prater said the county got itself into the situation of having such a large unfunded liability for its retirement plans because of a lack of scrutiny - and he said he now worries that there’s a similar lack of scrutiny over bonding to pay for the debt.

    The county first established a trust fund to provide health care benefits for retired county employees in 1948 - the Voluntary Employee Beneficiary Association.

    Commissioner Conan Smith, D-Ann Arbor, said the county has always made its actuarial contributions to its retirement funds.

    “Our unfunded liability is not because of irresponsibility on behalf of the government,” Smith said. “We have always been fiscally responsible.”


    Conan Smith

    Ryan J. Stanton | AnnArbor.com file photo

    According to Smith, there are two main reasons the county has such a large debt: The county re-opened its retirement plan to allow employees to enroll several years ago - and now those employees are ready to retire; and the county as a whole lost money in 2008 and 2009 because of the economic slump.

    The county must wait on an actuarial report on its staff to be issued this June before the bond amount needed to fully fund the debt can be determined. For the purposes of the report Axe presented Thursday, that amount was estimated to be $345 million.

    Axe supplied a timeline of the steps that would be needed to have bonds issued this year:

    • May 15 Ways and Means meeting of the board: Resolution stating notice of intent, bond resolution and continuing disclosure resolution up for first approval
    • June 5: Resolution stating notice of intent, bond resolution and continuing disclosure resolution up for final approval
    • June 9: Notice of intent filed in AnnArbor.com
    • June: Trust fund boards approve actuarial reports
    • July 10: Ways and Means meeting of the board: Resolution of the bond plan first approval; following full board meeting: Resolution of the bond plan final approval
    • July 24: Receive bond rating
    • July 25: 45-day referendum period expires
    • July 26: File for approval from the Michigan Department of Treasury

    The majority of the savings by issuing bonds to cover the debt would be felt by the county within the first five to 10 years.

    The difference between the county’s payment to its retirement fund and the bond payment would be a savings of $12.7 million in 2014 alone.

    Commissioner Dan Smith, R-Northfield Township, questioned why the county needed to move forward so quickly with the bond proposal.

    “All of the analysis that has been done on how this has been done financially are based on current expectations on interest rates,” Axe said in response. “It’s up to the client to decide how quickly to go.”

    The Board of Commissioners has the power to issue bonds as general obligation limited tax funds without voter approval. Those bonds could only be paid for using money that already comes into the county’s hands through revenue, state reimbursements or taxes levied at already existing rates - which are at their maximum, Axe said.

    However, should the county decide to request the voter’s permission to issue bonds as non-limited funds, the county would be able to levy an additional tax at any amount to cover its costs.

    Commissioner Ronnie Peterson, D-Ypsilanti and Dan Smith expressed interest Thursday in taking the bonding issue to voters anyway to get their consent, even though they weren’t interested in levying additional taxes.

    Several of the commissioners were initially concerned about pension obligation bonds - as a similar move heavily contributed to the debt situation incurred by the City of Detroit.

    Axe explained Detroit issued certificates of participation to cover its retiree trust fund costs - but failed to close the retiree benefit plan and so employees continued to enroll. The city also undershot its estimate for covering its costs by about $300 million, Axe said.

    Commissioner Felicia Brabec, D-Pittsfield Township, asked Axe how the county can be sure that it won’t underfund its debts by bonding too low.

    “Pay close attention to the actuarial reports,” Axe said.

    The amount of money the county would borrow to fully fund the pension costs is heavily dependent on actuarial reports that project based on historical data how long people will live and how much the county will be responsible for paying in health care costs.

    Commissioner Rolland Sizemore Jr., D-Ypsilanti Township, said he would like to use business students from the University of Michigan and Eastern Michigan University on a pro bono status instead of hiring an outside firm to do an independent review.

    Board Chairman Yousef Rabhi, D-Ann Arbor, said he would like to schedule additional means to engage the public in the discussion on bonding for the debt - including an informal press conference within the next two weeks, a presentation to the public between May 15 and June 5, and developing a pamphlet that will be available at county buildings and libraries.

    The issue will also be on the Board of Commissioners’ agenda for its meetings in May, June and July. Rabhi encouraged the public to attend and give their comments on the process.

    Amy Biolchini covers Washtenaw County, health and environmental issues for AnnArbor.com. Reach her at (734) 623-2552, amybiolchini@annarbor.com or on Twitter.

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    Editor's note: The spelling of interstate has been corrected.


    Westbound Interstate 94 at mile 163 in Lima Township. MDOT is investigating a small sinkage in I-94 at the site where Enbridge directionally drilled underneath the road to install a new pipeline.

    Courtney Sacco | AnnArbor.com

    Officials have confirmed an investigation is underway into the source of a small sinkage in the westbound lanes of Interstate 94 in Lima Township at a site where a crude oil pipeline was recently installed.

    The Michigan Department of Transportation was alerted to the situation about two weeks ago and has been investigating since, said Mark Sweeney, manager of the Brighton post.

    The spot of the situation is directly above the site where Enbridge Pipelines Toledo Inc. had most recently completed a directional drilling project underneath both lanes of the highway.

    “People were calling and saying there was a dip in the roadway,” Sweeney said. “Once (MDOT) saw the dip, we followed it back through the permits (to Enbridge).”

    Enbridge is in the middle of installing a new crude oil pipeline - Line 79 - in northwestern Washtenaw County. The line runs from Stockbridge where it intersects with its source - the cross-country Line 6B - and goes to Freedom Township in Washtenaw County.

    Line 79 is being installed parallel and adjacent to Enbridge's existing Line 17, which serves refineries in Detroit and Toledo.

    Directional drilling is a common industry practice to install pipelines or other infrastructure lines that would otherwise interfere with roads, waterways or other sensitive areas. Drilling fluid - typically a viscous mixture of water and a polymer - is used to aid the drill bit’s movement through the ground.

    MDOT has been in contact with Enbridge as a part of the investigation, Sweeney said.

    “We are aware of the situation and have been working with the state to address it and ensure there are no public safety concerns,” said Jason Manshum, Enbridge spokesman in an emailed statement.

    MDOT has not yet confirmed the source of the situation and is conducting ongoing tests.

    “We don’t believe it was there before (Enbridge) did the drilling,” Sweeney said. “It’s something that’s out of the ordinary.”

    Roadwork was last completed on that section of I-94 in 2010, when MDOT contracted for a mill and overlay project of about 5.5 miles of highway between Freer and Parker roads.

    “There would not be settling from that project because it was only dealing with the surface of the roadway,” Sweeney said. “It would be surprising if anything that happened in 2010 would be affected there.”

    Driving west at a speed of 70 mph, the dip is about 30 seconds past mile marker 164 just past a set of transmission towers that cross I-94 overhead.

    “If you were standing on the shoulder - you could see a small bounce in the traffic,” Sweeney said.

    That portion of I-94 is smooth and has few cracks or bumps. In the westbound lanes of I-94 between Parker and Freer roads, it’s the most noticeable disturbance in the road.

    Driving over the sinkage in the freeway, feeling the car travel through the dip in the road only lasts for a few seconds. The eastbound lanes are not affected at this time.

    “From an MDOT perspective, we don’t care how big or small it is,” Sweeney said. “We have to do some testing.”


    Buried pipelines in western Washtenaw County. Lines carrying natural gas are in blue; hazardous liquid lines are in red. The hazardous liquid line owned by Enbridge Pipelines Toledo Inc. is marked in yellow.

    Courtesy of the National Pipeline Mapping System

    Amy Biolchini covers Washtenaw County, health and environmental issues for AnnArbor.com. Reach her at (734) 623-2552, amybiolchini@annarbor.com or on Twitter.

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    The 22-year-old Ypsilanti Township man convicted of torture and child abuse will spend between 31 and 65 years in prison, a judge ruled this week.


    Harvey Wince

    Courtesy of the Washtenaw County Sheriff's Office

    Harvey Wince was convicted March 21 by a jury in his second trial after his original trial ended with a hung jury. On Monday, Washtenaw County Trial Court Judge Darlene O’Brien sentenced him to prison on a count of torture, one count of first-degree child abuse and one count of assaulting, resisting or obstructing a police officer, court records show.

    Wince will serve between 31 years and eight months and 65 years in prison on the torture charge. His sentence of 10 to 15 years in prison for the first-degree child abuse charge will be served concurrently with the torture sentence. He received credit of one year, one month and 28 days on that sentence.

    O’Brien also sentenced Wince to 10 months and 16 days in jail for the assaulting, resisting or obstructing police charge with credit for time served.

    Wince was convicted of severely burning a 3-year-old boy who he was baby-sitting on April 1, 2012. According to police, Wince was watching the boy for his girlfriend at a home in the 8900 block of MacArthur Boulevard in Superior Township. The girlfriend was usually the primary baby sitter.

    Investigators said Wince intentionally placed the boy in scalding hot bath water, holding him there and causing severe burns. The temperature of the water was estimated between 120 and 125 degrees.

    The boy’s mother testified at a preliminary exam that his skin was falling off. The boy was treated at University of Michigan Hospital’s intensive care burn unit from April 1 until May 21, 2012, for burns that covered 18 percent of his body.

    Wince told police he put the boy in the bathtub, in ankle-deep water that was lukewarm, while he went to play the video game “Call of Duty.” Wince said he returned to the bathroom later and found the boy standing in the bathroom with “soggy” skin. He said the boy turned the hot water on himself.

    Wince was charged on April 4, 2012 and his original trial ended in a hung jury on Nov. 5, 2012.

    Kyle Feldscher covers cops and courts for AnnArbor.com. He can be reached at kylefeldscher@annarbor.com or you can follow him on Twitter.

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    About 80 parents, students, teachers and district administrators attended the first of two budget forums Thursday night at Huron High School.

    Danielle Arndt | AnnArbor.com

    About 80 community members — including 20 high school students — told Ann Arbor school administrators and board members Thursday night that small classes, high school busing and seventh-hour options at Huron and Pioneer high schools should be priorities as the district struggles to balance its budget.

    Questions flew throughout the first hour of the forum Thursday at Huron High School. It was the first of two community meetings the Ann Arbor Public Schools' administration will host on the proposed 2013-14 budget.

    The district needs to close an $8.67 million shortfall and has proposed, among other things, reductions to middle school athletics; eliminating 80 employee positions, 53 of them teachers; closing the middle school pools; and eliminating high school busing.


    Ann Arbor schools Director of Finance Nancy Hoover delivers a presentation on the upcoming budget to the community Thursday night at Huron High School.

    Danielle Arndt | AnnArbor.com

    Superintendent Patricia Green had to interrupt the inquisitive audience members a number of times Thursday during Finance Director Nancy Hoover's presentation. The superintendent was attempting to get the crowd back on track and to ensure it had enough time to break up into smaller groups that would be more effective for gathering feedback.

    Green said the purpose of the budget forums is to give community members the opportunity to hear the details of the district's projected revenues and expenditures and to hear administrators' recommendations on how to balance the budget. But she said the most important part of the forums is the feedback the audience gives on what should be preserved and what could be put on the chopping block instead.

    There were more questions and interruptions from the audience Thursday than at last year's budget forums, which district Spokeswoman Liz Margolis said is because the "pain is here" this year. These are cuts that "really just are hitting home," she said.

    Many of the questions the audience asked had to do with class sizes. Most wanted to know: if the district eliminated 53 teaching positions, as is proposed, and seventh hour, by how much would class sizes increase?

    Assistant Superintendent of Elementary Education Dawn Linden said it is not clear yet by how much class sizes could increase. She said in the elementary schools, there is an average of 25.5 children per class. She said from last year to this year, the overall average class size went up by just about 0.5 students per class in the elementary schools.

    Director of Student Accounting and Research Services Jane Landefeld said, although average class sizes have remained fairly constant, it is now difficult for the district to deal with an influx of students in a particular grade. In previous years, if for instance, the district had a particularly large third-grade class, it might have been able to move in another teacher to help with that. Now, it's possible the district might have to accept having a class with 30 students due to budget constraints.

    Also, Landefeld said, before Skyline was built, there were more students and teachers in Huron and Pioneer; and because of this, the district could divide up the numbers better to offer more sections of core classes and electives within a single high school building.

    She also said students would no longer be permitted to take seven classes under the administration's proposed budget, if approved by the board. However, officials are looking at ways to still have seven hours but to only permit students to take six classes, which Landefeld said would still allow for the flexibility in scheduling that has proved helpful at the high schools in years past.

    But students said Thursday they still would not be able to take as many advanced placement courses, music, art or foreign language classes prior to graduation. They said this is especially concerning given that most colleges now look for students to have had four years of a foreign language.

    The students also said they did not want to see AAPS as a whole become weaker and less desirable. One student suggested possibly offering AP courses as part of the Community Recreation and Education Department program and to have students pay for the courses and instruction.

    But school board Trustee Glenn Nelson, who served as the spokesman for another group following the community break-out brainstorming session, said his group had some concerns that the district is moving more and more toward an a la carte education model.

    "We're still calling it public education, but we've taken on the mentality that if you want it, you have to pay for it," he said, adding this also is the case with some of the targeted giving the board has recently discussed.

    All groups expressed concerns about eliminating high school transportation and the equity issues that could cause, as well as safety issues for students.

    The second and final 2013-14 budget forum hosted by administration will be at 7 p.m. Tuesday at Pioneer High School. The Ann Arbor Board of Education has until June 30 to pass a balanced budget.

    Danielle Arndt covers K-12 education for AnnArbor.com. Follow her on Twitter @DanielleArndt or email her at daniellearndt@annarbor.com.

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    There are a lot of reasons to help the Ypsilanti Public Schools Foundation at the Eat at the Tower Inn Cafe Fundraiser.


    Tom Perkins | For AnnArbor.com

    First, the YPSF's objective is to aid the success of all students by providing resources to "enrich teaching, inspire learning, promote excellence in education and reward dedication to these tenets through grants and scholarships," according to their website. Proceeds will go to student scholarships and teacher mini-grants.

    Additionally, you get to eat. Tower Inn has many Greek dishes along with award-winning pizzas, subs and sandwiches.

    But on top of all that, there will be an appearance by "Elvis" and drawings for prizes.

    Tuesday, May 7, 5-7 p.m. No cover charge. Tower Inn is located at 701 W. Cross St., Ypsilanti. 734-487-4000.

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    A Dexter High School student captured this picture from a school bus that was letting students off. A red truck that had stopped for the bus was rear-ended, causing it to flip onto its side.

    Photo courtesy of Alec Smerage

    A car stopped for a Dexter Community School bus was flipped on its side when it was rear-ended by another vehicle, police said.

    The bus was stopped with its lights on indicating students were getting off when one vehicle struck the other vehicle from behind, causing a rollover, said Sgt. Geoff Fox of the Washtenaw County Sheriff's Office.

    There were no injuries. The Dexter Area Fire Department responded to the accident at 4:11 p.m. Wednesday in the 4200 block of North Territorial Road, said firefighter Ed Root.

    Lucia Smerage's son, Dexter High School student Alec, was on the bus and captured an image of the red truck on its side.

    "Debris from the accident hit the bus, but apparently no one was hurt," Smerage wrote in an email to AnnArbor.com. "It seems like a good time to remind people to stop for a bus that is unloading children."

    John Counts covers cops and courts for AnnArbor.com. He can be reached at johncounts@annarbor.com or you can follow him on Twitter.

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    Pull out the elastic-waisted pants and get a taste of Ypsi in one night at the Semi-Annual A2Y Chamber Grub Crawl.


    Haab's will be one of the restaurants featured on the Grub Crawl.

    Angela Cesere | AnnArbor.com

    Participants will arrive between 5:30-6:00 p.m. at their first assigned location to receive a T-shirt. That shirt will serve as your ticket at each of the restaurants. Attend each of those restaurants once any time between 6 and 9 p.m. to sample one or more of that restaurant's specialties. Golden Limousine International will be provide a trolley along the route, so park that car and get ready to eat!

    Restaurants will include Aubree's Pizzeria & Grill, Cafe Ollie, Corner Brewery, Haab's, Harvest Kitchen, Red Rock BBQ, Sidetrack Bar & Grill, The Wurst Bar and the Ypsilanti Food Cooperative.

    Wednesday, May 8, 2013. 6-9 p.m. $20 for adults; $5 for children under 12. Buy tickets at http://www.michigan.org/events/a2y-chamber-grub-crawl/. Contact Katie Jones at katie@a2ychamber.org or by calling 734-214-0105 for more information.

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    Shakespeare in the Arb - a popular annual, outdoor, traveling theater production helmed by U-M Residential College drama professor Kate Mendeloff, and featuring both community members and U-M students - will stage "Much Ado About Nothing" in Nichols Arboretum June 6-9, 13-16, and 20-23.

    "Much Ado," of course, charts the course of two courtships: that of two young lovers who are torn apart by a meddler's dastardly plot; and an antagonistic, cynical older pair who make sport of abusive verbal sparring before being tricked by others to confess their deep-seated affection for each other.

    "Much Ado" performances start each evening at 6:30 p.m., and the box office opens to the general public at 5:30 p.m. at 1610 Washington Heights in Ann Arbor. Tickets for Shakespeare in the Arb are sold directly before each show. Limited seating is available, so patrons are advised to arrive early. For parking options and other information, visit the Matthaei Botanical Gardens & Nichols Arboretum website in late May or call 734-647-7600. Ticket prices: adults 19 and over, $20; students with ID, $10; seniors 62 and over, $17; children and youth 5-17, $10; kids 5 and under are admitted free.

    Jenn McKee is an entertainment reporter for AnnArbor.com. Reach her at jennmckee@annarbor.com or 734-623-2546, and follow her on Twitter @jennmckee.

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    Mackenzie Sapp kicks the ball in a game against Huron last year.

    Jeffrey Smith | AnnArbor.com file

    Girls Soccer

    Pioneer 7, Adrian 1
    Story | Boxscore

    Just when Pioneer's soccer team needed a jolt on offense, junior Mackenzie Sapp provided it.

    After two seasons on defense, Sapp was moved to the frontline and responded with three goals in Pioneer's 7-1 win over Adrian on Thursday.

    Pioneer coach Chris Coleman said his team was searching for goals and decided to move Sapp from her back line position against Adrian.

    "We're trying to figure out what is going to work the best because we've had our ups and downs," Coleman said. "Mckenzie was used to the back line, but we saw some things last game and she did well. Mckenzie is a good athlete with good speed. We put her up top and she filled the role instinctively."

    The win improves Pioneer to 3-3-1.

    The Pioneers also got two goals from Emily Turner, while Julia Crowe had three assists.

    "We changed our system a little bit," Coleman said. "We've been able to move the ball, we just couldn't generate any goal-scoring ability. We'll see what happens."


    Saline 3, Skyline 2; Saline 10, Skyline 8
    Story | Boxscore

    Tied 8-8 in Game 2, Saline scored two runs in the eighth inning to defeat Skyline 3-2, 10-8 on Thursday.

    Bryan Homberg led the Saline offense with three runs, two RBIs and four hits, including a home run. Homberg struck out two batters, and Michael Hendrickson struck out seven to record the wins.

    “Hendrickson pitched a great game,” Bates said. “He got out the last 14 batters he faced. His location and curveball was working, and he was able to stay up in the count.”

    Skyline’s Joel Frison led the Eagles with three hits, followed by Jack Clark and Justin Wood with two hits each. Clark struck out three batters and gave up five hits in seven innings.

    Greenhills 10, Southfield Christian 1
    Story | Boxscore

    Greenhills scored eight runs in the first two inning to pull away from Southfield Christian for a 10-1 win in a baseball game Thursday.

    Kyle Nowak, Clayton Connell and Mike Rourke all finished with an RBI for Greenhills, and Ross Scheinberg went six innings to pick up the win.

    Boys Golf

    Skyline 156, Pioneer 162
    Story | Boxscore

    Skyline's Shane Anderson and Josh Bourque each shot a 38 to help the Eagles defeat host Pioneer 156-162 on Thursday at the University of Michigan Golf Course.

    Pioneer's Davis Argersinger led all shooters with a 36, and Nate Yenkel added a 38.

    Kyle Austin covers sports for AnnArbor.com.

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    A documentary about University of Michigan professor Bob Schoeni's struggle with ALS, and the nonprofit organization that formed (Ann Arbor Active Against ALS, or A2A3) in the wake of his diagnosis five years ago, will air on Detroit Public Television on Sunday, May 5 at 2 p.m. and Tuesday, May 7 at 7:30 p.m. (After Sunday's airing of "One Step Ahead," the film will be available for viewing on Vimeo through May 31.)

    A press release contains additional details about the film:

    Leading a successful life, revolving around family and academics, University of Michigan professor Bob Schoeni was diagnosed with ALS (Lou Gehrig’s Disease) in the summer of 2008. Schoeni and his family quickly found support from friends and co-workers ready to defy the odds and to find a cure for ALS. This documentary, created by Palindrome Productions, tells the wonderful story of how these friends came together to help Bob’s family and others effected by ALS.

    Ann Arbor Active Against ALS (A2A3.org), the grassroots movement inspired by Schoeni’s diagnosis, continually searches for fundraising ways to shore up cure-based funding for ALS. “One Step Ahead” explores how this positive approach guides Bob, his family, his medical team, and his supporters during a 7-month period in 2012. Fundraising efforts highlighted include six women who swim the English Channel to raise global awareness about ALS, as well as raising money for ALS research; the joint effort of A2A3 and University of Michigan’s Phi Delta Theta, and their annual Boxcar Derby; and A2A3’s Family Field Day, where examples of an active lifestyle are encouraged and demonstrated.

    Jenn McKee is an entertainment reporter for AnnArbor.com. Reach her at jennmckee@annarbor.com or 734-623-2546, and follow her on Twitter @jennmckee.

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    There can only be one Team of the Week winner, but two teams in this week’s poll get points for creativity.


    The 2013 Lincoln softball team.

    Courtesy Photo

    Both the Lincoln and Dexter softball got creative in racking up the votes, enlisting their respective little league organizations involved to help get out the vote.

    The result was more than 1,500 votes cast over four days, with nearly 90 percent of them going to Lincoln and Dexter.

    But in the end, Lincoln team pulled away in a close contest to become our Team of the Week for May 6-11.

    The Railsplitters set a school record for wins last year, and have an opportunity to do it again this year after a strong start.

    This week, Lincoln topped Temperance Bedford Monday before losing a close doubleheader against division-leading Tecumseh Thursday.

    Next week, they will host Skyline in a Monday doubleheader, before traveling to SEC leader Saline Thursday.

    We’ll be there throughout the week providing game coverage, features and photos of everything Railsplitter softball.

    Our next Team of the Week poll opens Monday, so stop by then to vote for your favorite team.

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    Someone walked into an Ypsilanti home through an unlocked and open front door and stole a laptop Thursday, police reported.

    Ypsilanti police responded at 5:30 p.m. Thursday to the 600 block of Martin Place for a report of a home invasion. According to police, an unknown person walked into the home and stole a laptop. The person then ran away from the area.

    Police were unable to locate the suspect. No description was released Friday.

    Anyone with information on this incident is encouraged to call the Ypsilanti Police Department at 734-483-9510.

    View Larger Map

    Kyle Feldscher covers cops and courts for AnnArbor.com. He can be reached at kylefeldscher@annarbor.com or you can follow him on Twitter.

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    On Monday, NBA veteran Jason Collins announced to the world that he is gay in a Sports Illustrated article. Collins is the first active player in the history of the three major American sports to publicly admit as much.

    Sixteen years ago, former Michigan softball player Jenny Allard - then in her third year as the head coach of the Harvard softball team - told her team she is gay in an email.

    The email wasn’t on the cover of Sports Illustrated, and - in the days before Twitter or Facebook - it took some time before Allard’s in-house announcement was public knowledge. But she is widely recognized as one of the first openly gay coaches in NCAA Division I athletics.

    When Allard learned of Collins’ announcement on Monday, she could relate in a unique way.


    Jenny Allard

    Photo courtesy of Harvard Athletic Communications

    Allard graduated from Michigan in 1990 and the former All-American was a Michigan Hall of Honor inductee in 2008. She is now in her 19th season with Harvard and is the longest tenured coach in the Ivy League.

    Allard said she’s been impressed with the public’s reaction to Collins’ announcement.

    “It’s a great thing, and I think in some ways that for him is validating,” Allard said.

    Announcements such as Collins’ are more commonplace in sports outside of the big three, and Allard will never be under the intense spotlight Collins already has in the short time since his announcement. But it’s still far from commonplace. Allard is still one of the only openly gay coaches in Division I.

    Allard has been encouraged by the mostly positive public response Collins has experienced and said her experience was similar.

    “I think people are generally happy for you when you come to accept a part of yourself," she said.

    "For me it was a real step in my maturity, and I think people realized that as such. ... People got on board and were like, ‘good for you for being able to do that,’” Allard said.


    A photo of former Michigan All-American Jenny Allard decorates the outside of the University of Michigan's softball stadium.

    Pete Cunningham | AnnArbor.com

    “My reaction when I first heard the story was ‘good for him’ Good for him to do that. Good for him to be comfortable enough, to be courageous enough to do that,” said Allard.

    “I think he said it well, that he wanted to kind of start the conversation. It takes a lot of courage to do that, and kind of put yourself out there because it’s something that everybody’s going to talk about and to be a person that’s willing to do that, I think it speaks to his character.”

    When Allard made her announcement, she was working and living on campus as an academic and residential adviser in addition to her duties with the softball team. She said she didn’t want to hide the fact that her then-partner was moving in to her on-campus apartment, so she explained her situation in an email.

    “At that time, people knew, but they didn’t know, you know? I wanted to eliminate that drama. ‘Here’s my partner, we’re living on campus and that’s it. And it became a very normative thing,’” Allard said.

    “I didn’t want to have people in my life living in the outfield and not let people on my team know... If I’m expecting them to be honest with me about things, then it was very important to me to just let them know who she was and what the situation was.

    “The climate at Harvard was very supportive on campus.”

    Allard said as her sexual orientation became more public and she became speaking on panels, she received mostly support, but said there were negative reactions, as well.

    "You definitely had people who were totally supportive, happy for me, and you had people that were like, ‘ok it’s no big deal’ and you had people who passed some judgment," Allard said. "I think he’s going to have all of that as well."

    Allard said her former teammates and coaches in Ann Arbor were nothing but supportive. It’s not surprising after hearing the reaction of Allard’s former coach - Michigan softball coach Carol “Hutch” Hutchins’ - to Collins’ announcement.

    “I thought why is it such a big deal? Coaches, players, superstars, they’re all people and people have a right to live their life as they choose,” Hutchins said. “You don’t owe anybody anything else, you just owe living a good life.”

    Pete Cunningham covers sports for AnnArbor.com. He can be reached at petercunningham@annarbor.com. Follow him on Twitter @petcunningham.

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    Raccoons and other wildlife pick up their activity in the spring and summer months. The Humane Society of Huron Valley says it can help homeowners keep them out.

    Courtesy Florence Pache

    As the weather finally warms, critters are coming out of hibernation and finding their way into nooks and crannies in homes across Washtenaw County.

    The Humane Society of Huron Valley has always responded to requests to assist sick and injured animals, but the organization recently announced a new service that offers to humanely remove any animal causing a nuisance.

    “We’ve always been the place that people have called when there might be sick or injured wildlife been involved, and we’ve been taking a lot of calls from community members who were concerned about making sure any wildlife removal was done humanely,” HSHV spokeswoman Deb Kern said.

    “Our team is already trained in wildlife removal so this was really just the next step for us.”

    While the HSHV helps injured or sick animals for free, residents calling on the society for basic animal removal will be charged a fee for the services. Kern said proceeds from the fee, which starts at $75, will be fed back to the organization to help animals in the community.

    The humane society is joinning about 10 companies that offer wildlife removal in the Ann Arbor area. The other companies all advertise that their processes are humane as well and they can provide some services that go beyond what the Humane Society is offering.

    “We don’t just go in and take the animals out,” Kay Ellis, owner of Complete Animal Control, said.

    “There is an inspection beforehand and we do a consultation with the property owner to determine what kind of repairs will be needed once the animals are removed.”

    Ellis also said that her company uses new techniques that go beyond traditional humane trapping methods.

    “Right now it’s baby season so trapping is not actually the preferable method for removing raccoons and squirrels. If you trap a mother even in a humane trap the babies will be left and not know what to do,” she said.

    “Then you can end up with a dead animal situation. It’s really not humane and can make matters worse.”

    Complete Animal Control uses a pheromone product that gives off the scent of rodent’s natural predators. Ellis said the smell compels the mother to leave any nest that she’s created and take younger family members with her.

    Neither Ellis nor Jesse Sutton, co-owner of Creature Control, expressed much concern that the new HSHV service would cut into their business.

    Kern said that the HSHV is not trying to become a major competitor to the already established wildlife control experts in the area.

    “People call us all the time and need help, we just want to be able to provide the service they’re asking for. If it’s something we can do safely and timely, we’ll do it,” she said.

    “If there’s major damage or there’s going to need to be extensive repairs, that’s not what we have expertise in. There will be times when we’re the right fit for people and there will be others when we won’t.”

    Kern said before this service was established, HSHV staff and volunteers would direct callers to do their own due diligence before picking an animal removal service. The goal of the new program is to provide ease of mind for Washtenaw County residents who want to make sure that any wildlife on their property is removed without injury.

    Ben Freed covers business for AnnArbor.com. You can sign up here to receive Business Review updates every week. Reach out to Ben at 734-623-2528 or email him at benfreed@annarbor.com. Follow him on twitter @BFreedinA2

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    The sign upgrade project along Interstate 94 through Washtenaw County continues this weekend as the Michigan Department of Transportation announced Friday a series of overnight lane and ramp closures for the highway.

    From 10 p.m. Friday to 5 a.m. Saturday, two lanes of westbound I-94 at Huron Street in Ypsilanti will be closed. The off ramp from westbound I-94 to Huron Street also will be closed during those hours.

    Saturday, one lane of westbound I-94 at State Street in Ann Arbor will be closed from 8 p.m. to midnight.

    From midnight to 4 a.m. Monday, two lanes of westbound I-94 will be closed at State Street. The on-ramp from State Street to westbound I-94 will be closed during that time as well.

    View Interstate 94 closures May 3-5 in a larger map

    Amy Biolchini covers Washtenaw County, health and environmental issues for AnnArbor.com. Reach her at (734) 623-2552, amybiolchini@annarbor.com or on Twitter.

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    Two women leave Ypsilanti High School Friday afternoon and wave to two teachers seated underneath a tree, taking in the news of their employment status with the new district. Teachers in Ypsilanti and Willow Run were notified Friday of whether or not they would be offered a position in the consolidated school system.

    Daniel Brenner | AnnArbor.com

    Teachers at Ypsilanti and Willow Run schools received notice Friday of their status with the new consolidated district.

    Of the 258 total internal applicants, 171 or 66.3 percent received "yes" letters, informing them that they had met the criteria established by the joint Board of Education and the High Quality Teachers and Teaching Committee and will be offered jobs with Ypsilanti Community Schools.

    Of the 171 teachers guaranteed spots in the new district, 43 employees, or 25.4 percent, were from Willow Run, while 126 people, or 74.6 percent, were from Ypsilanti.

    Ypsilanti Public Schools, which currently staffs 184 teachers, had 183 people apply for a position in the new district. YCS and Washtenaw Intermediate School District Superintendent Scott Menzel said while it appears nearly every teacher from YPS applied, in actuality there were some paraprofessionals and administrators from within the district who also applied for teaching positions because they also have the appropriate teaching certificates.

    YCS officials have encouraged employees of both districts from the beginning of the merger process to apply for multiple positions within the consolidated district.

    From Willow Run Community Schools, there were 73 applicants. The district employs 90 teachers for the 2012-13 academic year.

    Thirty-two teachers, or 12.4 percent of the total applicants, were told they met the consolidated district's hiring criteria, but because of enrollment uncertainty and budgetary restrictions, they will be placed on a callback list for if a position becomes available. The breakdown of "maybe" teachers was 12 from Willow Run and 20 from Ypsilanti.

    Roughly 21 percent of the total applicants or 55 teachers were given "no"s from the new district. Eighteen of those were teachers from Willow Run, while 37 were teachers from Ypsilanti.

    Of the 171 teachers who were told they will be given a job within the new district, 131 of the teachers were white, 26 were black and 14 were an unknown ethnicity. Documents provided by WISD officials show that 15.5 percent, or 40 of the total applicants, were black.


    WISD and YCS Superintendent Scott Menzel speaks about the teacher notification process at a press conference at 4:30 p.m. Friday at the Ypsilanti Public Schools Administration Building.

    Daniel Brenner | AnnArbor.com

    Menzel said just because a person receives a "no" doesn't mean he or she is not a good teacher.

    "There were some cases where not enough evidence was provided in that short window to demonstrate that a teacher met the criteria," he said. "If additional postings for positions have to go out, people who were given a 'no' can be reconsidered and will have more time to provide that evidence."

    He added the interviewing and the methodology used was not foolproof: "Could it be possible that a strong teacher didn't get a 'yes' letter? It's possible. Could it be that someone got a 'yes' who might not be the greatest? It's possible.

    "… (Hiring's) a human process," Menzel said. "We tried to be diligent and we worked to be consistent."

    Teams of retired teachers and retired administrators were assembled to conduct the interviews. They were given training prior to the interviews to ensure consistency throughout the process, officials said. Candidates were scored on a scale of 1 to 5 in four key areas: application review, references, a classroom visit and an interview.

    But teachers in Ypsilanti and Willow Run have been critical of the hiring process and of the teams who did the interviewing and application review.

    Ypsilanti teacher Barbara Martin called the process "weird" and "mysterious" saying some of her colleagues did question whether it was equitable.

    Teachers from Willow Run, who asked to remain nameless for fear of losing their "maybe" status in the new district, said the team of retirees didn't ask candidates what they taught often until the end of the interview. And despite having observed the candidates in the classroom first, on more than one occasion the teams could not figure out the teachers' roles without asking. One Willow Run special education teacher said the team confused him for a paraeducator.

    Teachers also expressed concern that their references were not contacted. Menzel said the "references" that was included in the teacher's overall score was not based on the references the applicant provided. This score was based on a survey initially given to the teacher's supervisor or building principal to complete about the candidate.

    Menzel said the hiring team quickly realized calling of the candidates' references would be too time-consuming and would push back the decisions even further. Officials wanted to give teachers adequate time to make other arrangements, especially if they were not guaranteed positions, he said.

    School officials determined how many teachers it would need to hire back by estimating the new district's enrollment totals for 2013-14 at 80 percent of the current school year. Officials do not anticipate losing 20 percent of its student population, Menzel said, but they wanted to be on the safe side and be able to confidently offer positions to the "yes" teachers without those teachers needing to worry about being laid off when school resumes in the fall.

    "We wanted to make sure we were not overcommitting. We didn't want to get to August or September and realize half our students didn't show up and we have more teachers than we need… That has a financial impact as well," Menzel said.

    Eighty percent of Ypsilanti and Willow Run's fall 2012 enrollment would be about 3,825 students. Ypsilanti had 3,339 children enroll at the beginning of the year, while Willow Run had 1,442.

    Menzel said although the new district still does not know yet what its total operating budget will be for the 2013-14 school year, officials are working closely with legislators to try to pass a state statute that would allow two consolidating districts to keep the highest per-pupil foundation allowance. Ypsilanti receives $7,513 per student, whereas Willow Run receives $7,310.

    Right now, state law requires consolidating districts to use a blended foundation allowance, which Menzel said is not an incentive for smaller districts to consolidate.

    If the new legislation succeeds and the 3,825-student projection is correct, Ypsilanti Community Schools could expect to receive about $28.7 million in state funding.

    Danielle Arndt covers K-12 education for AnnArbor.com. Follow her on Twitter @DanielleArndt or email her at daniellearndt@annarbor.com.

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