The leader of Ann Arbor Public Schools makes a difficult situation worse with a one-day shutdown message that some parents say is "spin" and "insulting."
Superintendent Jeanice Swift draws sharp criticism in a Reddit forum for posting Wednesday that classes are cancelled next Monday at all 34 schools "in the interest of providing a small respite for students and staffs, schools, families and the community." The real reason, she acknowledges, is that "full staffing of operations for that day will present a significant challenge."
Swift's communique about "this challenging time" adds:
We are stronger when we work together. This schedule adjustment for next Monday will provide a solid next step in the process. I appreciate your understanding, patience and support as we navigate the challenges of this fall together.
That tone strikes some residents as off-key, as shown in a r/AnnArbor thread with 118 comments in under a day.
Some participants voice understanding about nationwide labor shortages this fall and about the absence of easy, immediate remedies. "Try to be sympathetic to the teachers and institutions that are trying to keep your kids safe and do their best to provide a good education in these externally difficult times," one post says.
But Swift's language provokes pushback, as does what critics see as "vague" information and a lack of candor. Excerpts from the posts attributed only to screen names:
► "My elementary-aged kids have loved in-person school so far. This is definitely not a respite for them or us."
► "Such an absurd thing to say: 'The current strains we are experiencing do not diminish the joy and learning occurring across our vibrant classrooms ...' Cancelling school literally and unquestionably diminishes joy and learning."
► "It's more telling what's NOT in the letter than what is."
► "The framing is so insulting. If you were a true champion of public education, as any superintendent should be, how do you not send an email to the tune of 'it pains me to deliver the news to you that in this time of tremendous hardship we are unable to fulfill our most important obligation.'
"Instead, I'm supposed to be grateful that you didn’t tell us at the VERY last possible moment. Fuck right off."
► "This isn't about the tough environment affecting all school districts. It's about poor leadership. ... Openly, honestly and completely communicate the "whats" and "whys" of the situation. Offer a path forward. Don't insult my intelligence with tone-deaf spin and BS.
"Instead, what we're getting is a whole heap of 'Golly, things are hard all around! We'll study it and let you know what we find.' ... This is hard, so be a damn leader and offer solutions. And, if the problems are truly insurmountable, tell me why."
► "Instead of closing every school, shuffle your resources to provide in-person [learning] for K-5. If that can't be done, then explain why. Maybe it's complicated for funding reasons or the collective bargaining agreement. If so, say so. Don't spin the closure as a positive thing."
► "At my job, I'm fully accountable to my clientele and actually, I'd be embarrassed if we canceled all of our appointments and closed up shop for the day."
► "They don't outwardly appear to have even tried to work on even a 'bad' solution. It's just 'oh well, shut it down!' If I ran a business with 20 locations and 1,000 employees, and I knew 250 employees were unavailable next Monday, I probably wouldn't shut down all 20 locations."
► "It does come off intentionally vague and non-direct. That still doesn't change the fact that the situation itself may be out of their control. Have some compassion, people."