Three Ann Arbor schools administrators to retire by the end of June
This story has been updated to reflect that Sharman Spieser will continue working for the district on a part-time basis during the 2011-12 school year.
The end of June will be a time of upheaval in the Ann Arbor Public Schools’ Balas Administration Building — three administrators are set to retire on June 30 and new superintendent Patricia Green arrives July 1.
Among the administrators retiring will be interim deputy superintendent for instruction LeeAnn Dickinson-Kelley, who has been in the district for 38 years. Joining Dickinson-Kelley in retirement will be Ruth Williams, interim assistant superintendent of elementary education and Michele Madden, elementary curriculum coordinator.
Dickinson-Kelley said she’s been spending portions of the last few weeks preparing district officials for the transition. She said she’s been blessed to spend her career in Ann Arbor.
“It feels less like work and more like being in the right place at the right time,” she said. “My job chose me as much as I chose it. It’s truly very satisfying and I’m glad I’ve been able to affect the lives of children for all these years. That’s what’s sustaining and fulfilling.”
With Dickinson-Kelley, Williams and Madden all leaving the district at the same time Green enters, the new superintendent will have some important hires right as she joins the district.
District spokesperson Liz Margolis said interim Superintendent Robert Allen has kept Green abreast of happenings in the district in weekly discussions. Margolis said the position of deputy superintendent for instruction will be posted shortly and the district will go through the hiring process with Green becoming involved, and ultimately making the decision, once she comes on board.
Margolis said she was not aware of an immediate plan to fill the other positions left vacant by Williams and Madden. It will be hard losing all of the administrators who are retiring, but Margolis said the district is prepared.
“The people that we’re losing we’re going to really miss, but there’s some good people out there too,” she said. “You’ve gotta have hope and keep moving forward.”
Margolis said Williams had retired last year but returned to help fill Dickinson-Kelley’s old position as the head of elementary curriculum after previous Superintendent Todd Roberts left the district. Madden had also previously retired and was working on a part-time basis.
Spieser was one of 32 AAPS employees who had accepted the one-year extension of the retirement package offered by the state of Michigan at the end of the 2009-10 school year.
School board President Deb Mexicotte said the district is going through a time of transition but she believes AAPS will be able to handle the arrival of Green, the return of Allen to his role as deputy superintendent for operations and the loss of the four administrators.
“It’s my job to try and make Dr. Green’s transition as seamless as possible and support Robert Allen back into his deputy superintendent for operations role, and all of the remaining administrators,” she said. “It’s a time of transition for the district but it’s been a time of transition for the district,” emphasizing the word "been."
Dickinson-Kelley said she wanted to do her best to keep her retirement quiet to not be a distraction for the district near the end of the school year. She’s planning to spend her retirement being “Grammy” for her 2-and-a-half-year-old granddaughter and spending more time with her family.
During the past school year,Dickinson-Kelley was involved in starting several major initiatives in the district, including the Mitchell/Scarlett-University of Michigan Partnership and the Ann Arbor Language Partnership with U-M. She said she was confident the leadership in both programs would allow them to continue without major disruption following her departure.
She said she’s been working with Kevin Karr, the incoming principal at Mitchell Elementary School, and Gerald Vazquez, principal at Scarlett Middle School, recently to prepare them for her departure. She’s also met with various members on the district and U-M sides of the partnership and she’s very confident both programs will continue as planned.
“It would not be in my nature to leave anything that had loose ends and was not well-cared for,” she said.
Losing Dickinson-Kelley and her knowledge of the Ann Arbor schools will be a tough pill to swallow, the school board president said.
“It’s certainly a well-deserved retirement. Her retirement is a huge loss to the district and she has been tireless in her pursuit of achievement for our students,” Mexicotte said. “She loves her work in a way only the most passionate educators do.”