April 14, 2023 - Superintendent's Update

We have much to celebrate in the Ann Arbor Public Schools during April and this exciting spring season, including National Arab American Heritage Month, National Occupational Therapy Month and Autism Acceptance Month.

Celebrating National Arab American Heritage Month

April is National Arab American Heritage Month (NAAHM). This is a time to celebrate the rich history, heritage, culture and diversity of Arab Americans, as well as to honor their many significant contributions to society. An estimated 3.7 million Americans have Arab roots, and  according to the U.S. Census Bureau, Dearborn, Michigan, is the home of our nation’s largest percentage of Arab Americans. Americans of Arab heritage are valued as a part of the fabric of our Ann Arbor Public Schools community, the state of Michigan and our nation in their contributions to every field and profession. 

We celebrate the accomplishments of educators, artists and writers, poets and musicians who promote the Arab American heritage and culture - a testament to the contributions Arab Americans have made to America's rich diversity. Notable individual highlights include Farouk El-Baz, NASA lead geologist for the Apollo Space Program, and James Abourezk, the first Arab American U.S. Senator, elected in 1970, who recently passed away at 92. In addition, Rashida Tlaib, born and raised in Detroit and of Palestinian descent, is currently serving as the first Palestinian-American Muslim woman elected to the U.S. Congress.

Highlights from our celebrations in the AAPS include fifth-grade band students at Thurston, Wines, Eberwhite and Lawton learned the Lebanese folk song Tik, Tik Tik Ya Em Slaiman with their band teacher, Melissa Carpenter.  

And we appreciate the Arab Series Slides, created by one of our very own Arab American elementary teachers, Fatema Alqamoussi from Eberwhite, that are shared during morning meetings or closing circles so students may learn more about these important topics:

  1. Arabs vs Muslims
    This information affects more than a quarter of the world's population, yet a shocking number of people do not know this basic information.
  2. Arabic 
  3. Cuisine
  4. Music
  5. Poetry
    April is also National Poetry Month, so this could be a nice way to discuss both

AAPS teachers are sharing read alouds, highlighting Arab authors and stories, recipes, dance and music with their classrooms to honor Arab American Heritage month; impressive library collections are on display across our media centers in AAPS schools. 

We are a stronger school community as we honor, embrace and celebrate our diversity, continually create a culture of belonging for all and value the connections that unite us as an inclusive Ann Arbor community.  

The full Arab American Heritage Month message can be read here.

National Occupational Therapy Month

Each year, during the month of April, we have the opportunity to express our appreciation to our outstanding AAPS occupational therapy practitioners for the significant health and wellness work they provide as integral members of our Special Education and AAPS school teams.  

The National Theme for 2023 is: Occupational Therapy Brings Possibilities to Life. Our AAPS school-based occupational therapists enable students to live life to its fullest every day by helping them promote health and prevent—or live better with—injury, illness or disability. Common occupational therapy interventions may include helping children with disabilities to participate fully in school and social situations or helping students recover from injury to regain cognitive and physical skills. 

We join AAPS students, staff and families and our Board of Education in celebrating AAPS occupational therapists for their tremendous role in empowering our students every day to achieve personal, school and life success.

Swim Team Movie Screening

During April Autism Awareness Month, we invited the AAPS community to a screening of the film Swim Team, offered by the AAPS Office of Special Education. The movie is the real-life inspiring story of teens with autism who form a competitive swim team. This screening took place at Pioneer High School on Thursday evening, April 13th, and those attending were able to participate in a discussion afterward with the film’s director.

Extended Day Before and After School Programming Spring 2023 Update 

In the AAPS, we continue to hold a deep core value of supporting our students and families with before and after care; we have always been driven by our belief that the school location is an excellent place for before and after school care.

We continue this long AAPS tradition, despite the setbacks of this challenging time during the past two school years, and currently, we are offering daily extended day programs at 10 school locations. We continue to support families in need by offering scholarships (fee waivers) for families who qualify for Free/Reduced Lunch, as well as a continued partnership with the Child Care Network for additional scholarships. 

The AAPS has maintained LARA licenses at all 20 elementary and K8 school buildings, so we are poised to reopen as soon as staffing is in place. We are committed to continuing our diligent work to expand before and after-school programming, as staffing allows, to achieve programs across all our elementary and K8 schools.

You may review the recent full spring update shared with the Board of Education here, and we invite you to share the word about the job opportunities now open in extended day programs in the AAPS across your networks.

Listen & Learn Ann Arbor: A Community Conversation

We value the input of our students, families, staff and community, and we are currently engaging our Ann Arbor community in a conversation as we plan the future of AAPS. 

The premise of the Listen and Learn is straightforward: No one knows better the strengths and celebrations, the challenges and areas for improvement, dreams and hopes for the future than those individuals who live, work, and bring their children to learn and grow in the Ann Arbor Public Schools each day. 

As we prepare to move forward in planning for our future together, to focus our work toward equity, inclusion and opportunity for all our students, we want to align our school district improvement and enhancement work with the direction, experience, needs, and aspirations of our students, parents, staff and community. 

Over the past three years, our stakeholders have shared their opinions, hopes, dreams and concerns about AAPS in a variety of ways.

We are checking back in with you to confirm top priorities, strengths and areas of improvement. Your input will help shape and refine the district’s Strategic Equity Plan. 

There are three great ways to participate in this Ann Arbor Public Schools Community Conversation over the coming weeks: we hope you will join in one of the public meetings, participate in a parent group or school-based conversation and/or use our online ThoughtExchange survey to share your thoughts and see what others are saying. Link to ThoughtExchange here: bit.ly/TECommunitySpring2023. Please note that this link is for students, families and community members. There is a separate link for AAPS staff that will be shared via staff email. 

You can learn more information and keep updated on the progress of our Listen and Learn Conversation over the coming weeks here.

This week, we have participated in meetings so far with the Team at Girls’ Group and also with students and families at Peace Neighborhood Center.

Communication from the AAPS

Last week’s A2 Schools Podcast was focused on the AAPS Capital Program and highlights of the work that will be going on in our schools this summer, thanks to the support of our community with the approval of the 2019 Bond and the Sinking Fund Millage.

To stay up-to-date with daily updates and information on school and district activities, you may want to follow us on social media.

Sharing a moment of joy as we enjoy the beautiful weather this week with a delightful piece of artwork from a 2nd grader in Ms. Leonard’s beautiful art classroom at Lakewood.

Thank you for your partnership and all our work together to support our students, staff, schools and this Ann Arbor Public Schools community we share.


Jeanice Kerr Swift
Superintendent of Schools
Ann Arbor Public Schools