Wednesday, November 16, 2016

Go See YPT's Crazy for You this weekend

Gentle reader, are you looking for some wholesome entertainment in these troubled times? Are you looking to reinvest your hard earned money in the community? Do you love theater and/or Gershwin? If you answered "Yes" to any of these questions, you owe it to yourself to see Young People's Theater's production of Crazy for You this weekend at the Lydia Mendelssohn Theatre this weekend.

Crazy for you is the classic "put on a show to save the theater" musical. It has everything you want in a show: tap dance, cowboys, assumed identity. It's a real triple threat. EJ, my wife and occasional DA contributor is the show's choreographer and an can promise the dancing will be stellar. There is nothing quite like the sound of 80 children tap dancing in perfect rhythm.

In all seriousness, YPT puts on incredible shows with amazing singing, dancing and acting. The sets are awesome and the costumes are too. The show opens tomorrow and runs through Sunday. Evening shows are at 7:00 pm with manatees at 1:00 pm and 2:00 pm on Saturday and Sunday, respectively. Tickets are just $10 and the show runs 2 hours 15 minutes including at 15 minute intermission. I have hung out with the production team a lot throughout the planning and rehearsal process and I know this is going to be a great show.

Tuesday, November 8, 2016

Election party roundup

Gentle readers, are you looking for a place to watch the election results roll in this evening? Fortunately for you there are several great options. Michigan Radio is hosting an election viewing party at Fraser's Pub from 8-11.

Earlier in the evening, there is also an election night taco truck block party. It's on William between Third and Fourth st from 5 - 9.

The cool folks at Workantile are hosting a BYOB election party. I'm sure some of the #a2council tweeps will be there:

Alley Bar is also hosting an election viewing party with drink specials:
Gentle reader, do you are you planning on attending one of these parties. Alternately, do you have a line on a different election party we should check out?



Friday, October 28, 2016

Candidate Interview: Steve Gray - YCS Trustee Candidate

Gentle readers, a few weeks ago, Erika and I were approached by Steve Gray, a candidate for Ypsilanti Community Schools Trustee. Steve was Erika's clinical law professor while she was studying at U of M. We met with Steve and decided to do googledoc based interview/ candidate questionnaire with him. We, Damn Arbor, are interested in providing an opportunity for other YCS Trustee candidates to answer our questionnaire as well. If you are a candidate, for YCS Trustee, or for any other public office in Ann Arbor or Ypsilanti, and would like to do a questionnaire, please contact us at damn.arbor@gmail.com.

Damn Arbor: What position are you running for?

Steve Gray: Ypsilanti Community Schools Board of Education Trustee

DA: Do you have a campaign website? What’s the best way to keep up to date with your campaign? SG: Website: http://www.stevegray4ycs.org/ and FB: https://www.facebook.com/friendsofstevegray/.

DA: I realize this is a broad question, but why are you running for YCS School Board Trustee?

SG: I am a firm believer in public schools. I think they are one of the last strongholds of democracy. My community school (YCS) in particular faces a unique set of challenges. I want to help our community meet those challenges and see our kids thrive.

DA: Could you explain to our readers a little about what the School Board does?

SG: Generally a school board is charged with educating We have four major areas of responsibility: (1) Finances: setting our district budget and overseeing major expenditures, disposition of school assets and financial decisions, (2) Superintendent. Hire, fire and evaluate our district superintendent (3) Curriculum. Oversee and approve curriculum and (4) Employee Contracts. Oversee and approve teacher and staff contracts.

DA: One of YCS’s biggest challenges is the loss of students to other districts through school of choice and the loss of students to charters. How would propose to address these issues?

SG: One thing we can do, and I think YCS is doing, is offer great education choices to families in our district. With the new international baccalaureate, elementary, middle and high schools, the ECA program with EMU and the STEMM Middle College with WCC with have a lot of great options.

With these options in place I think we need to focus on the students we have and give them the best education we can.

Here are a couple of ways I think I can help with that:

Consistency
I will work to maintain consistency across all areas of our District. We have been plagued by high turnover at many key positions in recent years. That, along with other factors, has resulted in frequent programmatic changes. The high volume of change creates serious challenges for teachers, students and families. Over the past year we have made some solid hires at key positions. Now we need to ensure we a solid plan for meeting our challenges in place. Then follow the plan, measure our outcomes and hold ourselves accountable.

Keeping and Supporting Great Teachers and Principals
Teachers are the heart and soul of a school district. I won’t sugar coat the fact that we lost some great teachers after consolidation (and with them some good families). But we have replaced them with a talented group of teachers who have followed their calling to teach. I want to do everything in my power to keep great teachers in the district. That means paying them fairly and ensuring they are supported. In turn principals have a profound impact on the atmosphere in a school. They ensure fair and just discipline is maintained. They are key to keeping and supporting great teachers. I want to work with the Superintendent to ensure we keep and support great and effective principals.

Marshal Support of Local Governmental Leaders
As part of this campaign I have spoken to many local leaders. I am struck by how important a strong local school district is to the overall health of a community. Our local elected officials are aware of this and keenly interested in the success of our school. I will work to ensure we have regular communication with local leaders and engage them in the work of meeting our challenges

DA: In the last decade, the ranking of Michigan’s public schools has dropped greatly. YCS is not alone in the issues that face it. Are there other districts in the state that are experiencing success in spite of the current state of public education in Michigan? Could any of these districts serve as a model for YCS?

SG: If you take the average of all 550 or so districts in MI, our state has lost ground. But the disaggregated rankings tell the real story. The districts that have locked-in higher foundation grants are doing just fine. (There are 10 or so - A2, Grosse Pointe, East GR, etc.) Also, the districts that are experiencing growth due to suburban sprawl are financially stable (like Novi, and Caledonia which is outside of GR), which means they can sustain their programming and pay higher wages to the teachers who run it. These successes aren't predicated on innovation. These districts are simply the beneficiaries of a system stacked in their favor. All the schools in MI that look like YCS are struggling (high poverty due to job losses, majority minority student body, often adjacent to a wealthy district that siphons students via SOC or surrounded by charters). That should be a red flag that systemically something is broken.

In terms of innovation Ypsi has done some amazing (and courageous) things! In some ways, we hope to be a model ourselves. But as long as funding follows kids, and kids can jump to charter schools (without the same contracts or expenses as we have) or SOC (make no mistake - A2 is balancing its budget on our back), we will have to balance our own budget by cutting our cool programs, and salaries and benefits, and deal with the fallout of high teacher turnover.

For models for YCS and our state, we should look to other states where charters are capped and held accountable, funding follows kids over multiple years (ex 25% over 4 years), and so-called virtual academies get a fraction of the grant (seriously - how do you even make a case for receiving 100% foundation grant funding when there are NO BUILDINGS?). I'd also ditch the whole SOC thing. Competition means there are winners and losers. That might be ok for coffee shops, but not for kids and communities.

DA: Make us a pitch. Why should our readers vote for you?

SG: My background as an legal aid lawyer means I have a demonstrated commitment to fight for marginalized groups. My involvement in county-wide party politics means I have the skills and connections to build relationships with community leaders and engage them in the work of our schools. I am ready to invest my time and energy in building a thriving school in our community.

Thursday, October 27, 2016

ypsiGLOW tonight

ypsiGLOW, the newset event from the founders of FestiFools, is tonight in downtown Ypsi. The event starts at 6:30 and runs until 9:00 on Washington between Pearl and Michigan Ave. Attendees are encouraged to wear anything that glows. There is also an afterGLOW party at Bona Sera starting at 9:30. I'm excited to see what the party looks like tonight.

Thursday, October 20, 2016

Spooktacular Nerd Nite tonight

Gentle readers, are you looking for a seasonal plate censer after watching last night's debate? fortunately for you, there is a Halloween themed Nerd Nite tonight at Live. Friend of Damn Arbor, @proctor's talk on the History of Spirit Communication Technology. She promises the talk will include ghostly cat videos. There will also be talks about serial killers in the American West and the history of women in comics. Doors are at 6:30 and the talks begin at 7. Cover is free thanks to the AADL.

Tuesday, October 11, 2016

Last day to register to vote in November Election

Gentle reader, are you getting as excited about the November Election as I am? Not only is there the presidential race, there are several important local and regional races. I am particularly excited about the opportunity to vote on the Regional Transit Authority millage. It promises to be an exciting election season.

Here's the catch: if you want to vote in the November 8th election, you have until today to register to vote, or to update your registration. You can register at any Secretary of State branch office and at the Ann Arbor and Ypsilanti City Clerk's offices. The Ypsilanti City Clerk will be open until midnight tonight so there is not excuse not to register.

Happy voting gentle readers.

Friday, August 26, 2016

Exciting weekend in Ypsilanti

Gentle readers, are you getting pumped for an exciting weekend in Ypsilanti? Heritage Festival starts tonight and runs through Sunday in Riverside Park. It promises live music and an eclectic mix of history, entertainment and vendors. If you're looking for a reason to get out of Ann Arbor, look no further.

After you check out Heritage Fest, why not swing by DIYpsi, it's just up the hill at Corner Brewery. DIYpsi will also feature an eclectic group of vendors hawking their wares. It's always a fun event.

So gentle reader, will we see you in Ypsi this weekend?

Thursday, August 18, 2016

Go Big at Nerd Nite

Nerd Nite 37 is tonight at Live. There will be lectures on everything from Wagner to genetic engineering and data storage. Doors open at 6:30 and the presentations start at 7:00. Cover is free thanks to the Ann Arbor District Library.

Tuesday, July 5, 2016

#A2Council Viewing Party July 7

During the July 7 City Council meeting, we’ll be hosting a viewing party at Workantile, the Main St. coworking space. Join us!

City council meetings start at 7pm, so we'll gather at Workantile around 6:45. We'll have a video feed of the meeting running on a big TV, and many of the #A2Council Twitter folk plus our friends will be there for real-time commentary and socializing.

Arborwiki has a preview of the meeting's agenda.

Whether you're heavily invested in local politics or just curious, this should be a fun and useful event. All are welcome.

Please bring your own drinks & snacks, if you're so inclined.

Workantile's address is 118 S. Main St.
Facebook event: Ann Arbor City Council Viewing Party.

Thursday, June 30, 2016

LWV hosts public forum on Water Street debt reduction millage tonight

Gentle readers, the most important election of 2016 is just weeks away. Not only will the August Primary determine the composition of the Ann Arbor and Ypsilanti City Councils, but citizens of Ypsilanti will also get a chance to vote on the Water Street debt reduction millage. If you'd like to know more about the millage proposal, the League of Women Voters is hosting a public forum tonight at the EMU Student Center, Room 320 from 5:30 - 7:00. Mark Maynard has a good article with background on the issue of the Water Street debt.