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SG-W:/ Saving Environmental Education in Ann Arbor



Dear supporters of Environmental Education in the Ann Arbor Public Schools-

	Here is a long-delayed update:  The administration of the AAPS
reversed its decision to send our beloved Environmental Ed specialist Dave
Szczygiel back to the classroom next year.  This is great news and is a
credit to all who phoned, wrote, and spoke on behalf of this program and
all it does for our students.  However, the victory was only partial, and
much remains to be done...
	Over 30 people, students, parents, grandparents, teachers, science
and environmental professionals, and volunteers, spoke with passion at two
board of education meetings in April and May, eloquently expressing their
insistence that the school district not abandon or cripple a program that
had been built up over 40 years and that benefits every AAPS student in
grades K-6. Board trustees and central administrators received hundreds of
phone calls and emails, there were several fine letters to the editor in
the A2 News.  The message was heard, but we were basically granted only a
one-year stay of execution....
	While the Science Dept. and Env. Ed staff will remain as is for
school year 2001-02, the district has made it quite clear that they will
continue to look to cut personnel in these departments in future years,
probably in 2002-03...
	Also, administrators have already decided that the transportation
cost of the env ed field trips, hitherto paid out of a district budget,
will have to be borne by school buildings next year.  This could easily
result in an inequitable situation, where some schools (perhaps those with
staff who are particularly interested or who have rich PTO's to turn to for
field trip funding) send their students on field trips and other, less
fortunate buildings do not....
	In the midst of the struggle, the founder of the AAPS Env Ed
program, the magnificent Bill Stapp died in May.  Though ill, he had sent
letters to all school board trustees supporting the program.  In his
memory, we need to carry on...
	Joe Riley and Janet Kahan, the visionary leaders of our district's
science deartment, are already deeply involved with two efforts that will
need everyone's help and creativity:
	1. (immediate and urgent): enlist local civic groups to help pay
the bus costs for  next year's field trips, to ensure they continute to
serve all and not just some students.
	2. (a little less immediate, probably even more urgent): find
outside grant (or endowment) funding for the environmental ed. program in
future years.  The ultimate vision (this is my idea, not Joe and Janet's)
is a $2,000,000 Bill Stapp Endowment for Environmental Education in the Ann
Arbor Public Schools, the income from which would fund a staff member and
ancillary costs of env ed programs for all students in the AAPS in
perpetuity.  Anyone who has ideas about where some or all of the money
could be found, please let me know...
	It has been an amazing experience meeting all the people who came
out of the woodwork to support this cause, and it has been very moving to
hear the personal testimony of so many people who, like me, have had their
lives changed by this program...
	I think a very good case could be made that science and env ed
should continue to be staffed and funded at the current level (or higher)
despite dwindling AAPS resources (due to Proposal A).  However, it also
clear to me that the district intends to reduce funding to these areas (and
many other fine programs) as the Proposal A budget nightmare goes on into
the foreseeable future.
	I don't relish advocating for doomed causes, however noble.  I
would urge all who want to make sure that env ed and science are preserved
and strengthened in our district to join the new phase of the struggle,
which is finding permanent and stable outside funding to supplement the
AAPS's diminished future contribution....
	Please let me know what you think....

	Dan Ezekiel







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