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Ann Arbor Public Schools board meeting becomes heated over superintendent debate

Ann Arbor school board meeting get heated as debate held over superintendent's removal
Ann Arbor school board meeting get heated as debate held over superintendent's removal 03:25

ANN ARBOR, Mich. (CBS DETROIT) - The Ann Arbor Public Schools Board of Education met on Wednesday to hear from community members after it took action to remove Superintendent Jeanice Swift earlier this month. 

The meeting lasted nearly five hours and ended just before midnight. 

The Board heard public comments following the Aug. 7 meeting, in which trustees presented two motions to remove Superintendent Swift without cause. 

"The sudden plan towards terminating the superintendent not only disrupts the stability but also sends a disconcerting message about the school district's commitment to (students') wellbeing and education," said assistant principal Stephan Hogan. 

Hogan addressed the board on behalf of the Ann Arbor Education Association, which, along with five other educator and administrator unions, has slammed the Board's decision to remove Swift without cause.  

Watch: Ann Arbor Public Schools employees "extremely distressed" as school board moves to oust superintendent

The union groups held signs that read "Due Process" and "Transparency" in the front rows of the auditorium throughout the meeting. 

According to the board, the meeting garnered "unprecedented" signups.  

In total, 64 community members delivered and submitted public comments, the majority of which supported cutting ties with the superintendent. 

Many community members accused the district of ignoring abuses of students of color and students with special needs.  

"The status quo is not good enough," said AAPS parent Julia Blough. "We demand that there not be one more abused child, not one more transgender child belittled or harassed, not one more parent ignored repeatedly for years by the administration." 

In two instances, a recess was called as exchanges became heated between trustees, who did not vote unanimously on the motion to fire Swift. 

Ann Arbor School Board President Rima Mohammad said she cannot share the full details behind the Board's decision due to a lawsuit in a child abuse case against the district involving an autistic child on a school bus and ongoing negotiations with Swift. 

"I know the community wants to hear cause and reason," said Mohammad. "So, I can only provide my general thoughts about all of this. I do truly believe that we need new leadership and that starts with Dr. Swift." 

Mohammad said she's concerned about achievement gaps in the district, issues with AAPS' special education services, and declining mental health among students. 

"I have brought up a lot of these concerns with Dr. Swift and never got that full answer or accountability or transparency for a lot of these issues," said Mohammad. "A lot of times it's, 'Trust me.' 'We've got this.' But I need to govern. I was elected by the community to do my job, and it is to govern the district. And I don't feel like I can." 

She told CBS News Detroit that Swift has requested a closed-door hearing. Once complete, the board can move forward with another public meeting to share a decision with the community. 

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