Thursday, January 30, 2014

Ann Arbor parents "Celebrate" Rec & Ed

Jenna Bacolor, Executive Director, Community Education and Recreation (Rec&Ed)

Back in September, new superintendent Dr. Jeanice Swift promised the seemingly impossible. Not only was she going to conduct community and staff forums at all 34 Ann

Arbor Public Schools, but she was going to accomplish this "Listen and Learn Tour" by the December school break.

Incredibly, Dr. Swift did all of that and several more forums with community members and students. Her grand total: 80 forums, attended by 2,000 community members, students and staff. The full Listen and Learn report and video are now available to the public on

Ann Arbor parents had a lot to celebrate -- including Rec & Ed programming

I accompanied Dr. Swift at eight of her community forums at elementary schools. Although I was primarily there as staff support to Dr. Swift, I was also eager to hear what parents said about Rec&Ed. Before and after each forum, I was available to talk with parents about their thoughts and concerns regarding Rec&Ed.  

At all of the forums, Dr. Swift facilitated the World Cafe process which allowed participants to talk with each other in small groups about their perspectives on Ann Arbor Public Schools. These small groups rotated to four stations:
  • Celebrate 
  • Reflect 
  • Dream 
  • Prioritize 
To my delight, at almost every forum, parents mentioned something related to Rec&Ed in answering the Celebrate question, "What is going well in the district and what are we proud of?" Often, rather than saying "Rec&Ed," parents would mention summer camps, after school activities, and/or sports that their children had particularly enjoyed. 

I also had many conversations after the forums were over (several in parking lots!) during which people gave me kudos to pass on to individual Rec&Ed staff members and thoughtful programmatic suggestions.

The Listen and Learn final report (p. 7) says the following: 
"Parents, students and community members...are grateful that we have retained, despite years of budget reductions, robust offerings in the world-class arts, extra- curricular, athletics and Rec & Ed programming. Ann Arbor parents and staff highly value these rich offerings as an important part of the Ann Arbor 'brand.'"  
Well, Ann Arbor, the feeling is mutual. At our Rec&Ed staff Listen and Learn meeting with Dr. Swift, one of the items in our Celebrate column was Community Support. Rec&Ed is here to serve you and your family and we're grateful for your support. 

Dr. Swift is hosting five Listen and Learn Results Forums over the next two weeks. I'll be attending the forums held on Thurs., January 30 (tonight) at Forsythe and Wed., February 5, at Slauson. Both forums are from 6:30 - 8:00 p.m. If you're attending one of these forums, let's chat!

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