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SG-W:/ Good news and bad news; the campaign intensifies
Dear Supporters of Environmental Ed. in the Ann Arbor Public Schools:
I spent the whole school day Thursday on an Environmental Ed. field
trip. Dave Szczygiel (pronounced 'Sea-gull') took my thirty-one sixth
graders and me all around the city, studying water resources and the city's
solid waste program. My 11- and 12-year-old students got a first hand look
at the workings of the Water Treatment Plant, the Wastewater Treatment
Plant, Barton Dam, and the Materials Recovery Facility (where the garbage
and recycling trucks go after they pick up our waste). What an educational
experience for our future citizens! Too bad the whole program is on the
chopping block, for budgetary reasons....
I took some wonderful digital photos on this field trip. I plan to
send a few of them to the board members, to show them what we stand to
lose. If anyone wants me to email photos to them, just let me know.
The struggle is heating up. About 15 people spoke at the Board of
Education meeting last night (April 25th), arguing against the district
administration's disastrous decision to send Dave Szczygiel back to the
classroom next year, crippling Ann Arbor's 40-year old Environmental
Education program, begun by the legendary Bill Stapp and carried on for
decades by current board member (and fervent environmental ed supporter)
First, the good news: Many citizens spoke out against the cut at
the Board meeting last night. A cross section of young, middling, and
older people,-- volunteers, teachers, parents, and former students--spoke
out with passion and reason. It was very impressive. Thanks to all who
spoke! I stupidly didn't jot down all the names, but here are the ones I
*Gretchen Hahn, Slauson teacher
*Beth Caldwell, volunteer
*Judy Schmidt, retired teacher and volunteer
*'Grandpa' Don Botsford, visionary Gymkhana proprietor and volunteer
*Lisa Parsons, college student, AAPS graduate, and volunteer--she
says she should have been studying for a final, and we are
to blame if she fails!
*Ellen Stone, parent and volunteer
*______ (didn't remember name) representing the Sierra Club
*Nancy Stone, AAPS parent and A2 Solid Waste Dept. employee
*Roger Rayle, groundwater activist and AAPS parent
*Carola Sterns, U-M Geology professor
*Ben Ambrosino, AAPS graduate and Burns Park classroom assistant
*Audrey Jackson, community activist and AAPS parent
Thanks also to those who came and lent moral support to the
speakers. I recognized many of you, like Jennifer Puntenney, Richard
Pierce, Sue Monet, Nancy Ambrosino, and there were many more. The board
got a major education about how much our community values the district's
environmental education program.
Someone commented afterward that it sounded as though the speakers
had gotten together and planned who would emphasize which point, but that
isn't the case. Each speaker told what was in his/her heart, in a very
abbreviated way (there were so many people signed up for public comment
that each speaker was restricted to approximately one minute). When all
had spoken, an amazingly rich picture had emerged. If you happen to get a
chance to watch the rerun of the meeting on cable, do it!
The biggest revelation for me was the extent and the quality of the
volunteer program that supports the trips and activities. By funding 1 1/2
curriculum consultants, the district also gets the services of 34 dedicated
volunteers! That's called leverage, that's called getting the most for
your money, that's called community investment in our students' education!
I think we need to emphasize this point in our discussions with the
administration and school board. The minuscule savings from cutting a
position loses so much more value for the district...
Now, for the bad news: After public comment, the board had to deal
with two expulsions, the spectators were cleared, and there was no more
discussion of the issue. Even worse, it doesn't appear that the AAPS
administration has any inclination to back down from its recommendation
yet. We MUST continue to apply pressure, both to the administration
(Superintendent Ray-Taylor and Assistant Superintendent Fornero), and to
their bosses, the Board of Education.
1. Reserve time to speak at the next board meeting, May 9th, 7pm, Ann
Arbor Public Library, 4th floor. This may be the meeting at which the
recommendation is voted on. We need as many passionate speakers as we had
on April 25, and they need to be different faces. Call Karen Mimikos at
994-2232, during business hours, and tell your name. You will have 4
minutes to speak during the public commentary, early in the meeting.
2. Attend the next meeting at the Ecology Center to plan the
campaign. The meeting will be held from 7:30-9:00 p.m. on Monday, April
30. The Ecology Center is at 117 N. Division, near E. Huron. You can park
in the Ann Arbor News parking lot, behind City Hall. The meeting will be
in the basement meeting room.
3. Forward this email to other concerned folks you know.
4. Publicize this situation. Write brief (300 words or less)
letters to the editor of the
AA News--the first letter on our issue appeared in tonight's (4/26) paper,
a VERY effective one from Lon Kelly. Thanks, Lon! I hope we will see a
letter about this issue in the paper every night from here on out! Talk to
students, parents, neighbors, friends, and relatives and make them aware of
what they stand to lose (see below). Encourage them to email
or (especially) call school board members (see list below). Judging by the
5th grade music campaign, parent contacts with board members are the most
effective in influencing a board decision. Board members whom we
particularly need to sway include Karen Cross, Bob Rasmussen, and Henry
McQueen. It is also important to forward emails to the Superintendent
(email@example.com) and Assistant Superintendent Fornero
Here are some suggested points to make:
*Unlike any other Curriculum Dept. employees, the environmental ed.
consultants work with students every day, and they have a huge impact,
teaching every student K-6, hands-on, the most important lessons they will
*This program has been built up since 1961. It was begun by Bill
Stapp, Ann Arbor's legendary environmental educator, who went on to become
the director of the United Nations Environmental Education Program and the
founder of GREEN, the global rivers monitoring initiative. After Stapp, it
was run by Bill Browning, from 1968-1997. Dave Szczygiel is now its
leader. Browning and Szczygiel are legendary environmentalists and
teachers. To watch either of them hold a child's hand and teach him or her
about the outdoors is to see all that is best in education.
*The science and environmental education departments leverage an
amazing amount of money, community resources, and volunteer effort for the
district. As mentioned above, there are 34 dedicated volunteers,
Eisenhower Grant money, 100 programs a year put on in classrooms by the
Ecology Center, programs by the City of Ann Arbor Solid Waste Dept., other
programs by the Leslie Science Center, etc., etc.
This program is worth fighting to preserve. The decision is
hanging in the balance. Thank you to everyone who is taking time out of
their busy, hectic lives to make the effort!
Keep up the good work.
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