Emergency Manager disbands public school system in Muskegon Heights, saying that the district will be “all charter” next year

As you’ll recall, a few weeks ago, I mentioned here that the Philadelphia School District had been disbanded. Well, it looks as though Michigan may have just one-upped them, eliminating public education altogether, at least in one district… A reader of this site, who was, until recently, a teacher in the Detroit public school system, just alerted me to the fact that Don Weatherspoon, the appointed Emergency Manager overseeing the Muskegon Heights School District, has announced that all public school employees are being terminated, and that, next year, the district will be “all charter”… The following clip comes from the Michigan Education Association.

There will be school in Muskegon Heights this fall, but it will look very different.

Late last Friday afternoon, Don Weatherspoon, Muskegon Heights’s appointed Emergency Manager (EM), announced his plan to turn the school district into the first charter school district in Michigan. He is taking bids from private companies and is expected to award the job on June 6.

Earlier in the week, teachers were notified they were being laid off and could reapply for their jobs. Now, however, they’ve been told they are terminated and their jobs sold off to the lowest bidder.

“Our teachers had no advance knowledge of the Emergency Manager’s plan to convert the school district into a charter school system. We have been left out of the planning process. The staff, students and community are paying the price for the district’s financial mismanagement that they had nothing to do with creating,” said Muskegon Heights EA President Joy Robinson…

According to MLive, there’s a public meeting scheduled for tomorrow night.

While it remains to be seen whether or not the people of Muskegon Heights will approve of this radical move away from public education as we know it, it should be noted that, according to articles written in March of this year, the people of Muskegon Height’s were “begging” for an Emergency Manager to be appointed to take over their struggling school district.

Posted in Civil Liberties, Education | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | 100 Comments

Beer with Bloggers is this Thursday evening in Ypsilanti… and you don’t have to be a blogger to attend

I just wanted to quickly remind everyone that the big Beer with Bloggers event will be taking place this Thursday evening at the Corner Brewery, in Ypsilanti. In addition to myself, we’ll be joined by the likes of Chris from Eclectablog, Ben from Damn Arbor, Murph from Common Monkeyflower, Anne from The Savage Feast, Sam from Sam’s Thoughts, Christine from Blogging for Michigan, Whitney from The Creationista, Vinnie from VinnieMassimino.com, Elizabeth from Wits and Vinegar, Leslie from Painting with Fire, Patti from The Palate of Patti, and Tony from First Shift with Tony Trupiano. And that’s just the folks that I know for certain will be there. I suspect there will be quite a few more… Among others, I’ve heard from Mike from the Cashiers du Cinemart blog, Steven from EMU Talk, Hillary from The Hamtramck Star, and Jeff from Concentrate that they’re hoping to attend as well… So, I’d say we should be close to reaching critical mass.

I should add that you don’t have to operate a blog to attend. I thought the “with” in the title of the event made that obvious, but I just heard from someone who wasn’t aware that he, as a non-blogger, could attend. I don’t know how everyone else feels about this, but, as much as I’m looking forward to meeting my fellow bloggers, I’m probably looking forward to meeting my readers even more. So, if you’ve got some time free, please drop in and say hello. It’s not very often that us bloggers, who, by and large, are an anti-social lot, get motivated to emerge from our parents’ basements and mix with surface dwellers, so we’d like to cram in as much meaningful dialogue as possible into this two hour span of time… So, come and engage with us. Tell us what you like, what you don’t like, what’s important to you, etc… Seriously, we want to know. As I’ve said before, without blog readers, blogs are nothing. And I really mean that.

I don’t want to overstate it, but this, as I see it, is about more than just drinking beer with people whose writing we like. This is about engaging in a conversation about how we, as a community, come together, leveraging the online tools that are available to us, to make Michigan a better place to live, do business, grow as human beings, and raise our families… At least until we’ve had our first few beers. Then, who knows.

If you’re planning to come, and feel inclined to do so, you can RSVP here, on Facebook.

See you Thursday.

Oh, and I think I speak for everyone when I say that, while a little good natured sparring with those who disagree with us can be fun, we’d rather not have to spend our evening fending off assassination attempts. So, if you feel as though you might need to punch one of us, if you should meet us in person, we’d appreciate it if you’d just stay home and work on your trolling skills.

Posted in Art and Culture, Mark's Life, Other, Uncategorized, Ypsilanti | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 6 Comments

Class size doesn’t matter (when it comes to your kids), says Romney

Republican nominee for President, Mitt Romney, is beginning to take some heat for his statements on the irrelevance of class size… Essentially, he’s come out saying that smaller class sizes don’t necessarily correlate to better educational outcomes, and educators are beginning to call him on it. (When pushed, he backed-up his claim by relaying an anecdote about how some of the smallest classrooms in Cambridge turned out the poorest performing students in the entire state of Massachusetts. I haven’t begun digging yet, but I’d be willing to bet that the kids in these classrooms were already performing poorly, which is why they were put into small classrooms to begin with, but we’ll leave that for another day… He also referenced a McKenzie study, which, according to him, showed that high performing schools in Singapore, Finland and South Korea had roughly the same number of students in their classrooms as we do.) The message, I think, is clear. The reasons that our kids… especially our poor kids… aren’t doing well academically, has nothing to do with public education funding, and everything to do with the involvement of their parents. It’s the perfect Republican argument, in that it removes all blame from those, like Romney, who continue to push for the further defunding of public education. According to his logic, you see, it doesn’t matter if Detroit gets to a point where they’re warehousing 60 kids in every classroom. Those kids wouldn’t have succeeded even if they’d had the same student-to-teacher ratio that we enjoy, here, in Ann Arbor. (And, let’s not forget that some introductory courses at Harvard have as many at 300 students in them, right?) Of course, it’s not a hypothesis he seems willing to explore when it comes to his own family… It’s being reported today that the private school that Romney sent his sons to, the Belmont Hill School, advertises an average class size of 12… Personally, I don’t care that the guy sent his kids to private school, but it pisses me off that he has the nerve to stand up in front of America and lie through his teeth, saying that there’s no evidence that kids learn better in environments where they can be given individual attention… Sure, I’ll agree that a lot of the blame lies with the parents, but don’t tell me that the kid in a classroom of 12 is likely to have the same educational outcomes as someone in a class of 45. That’s just insulting.

Posted in Education, Politics | Tagged , , , , , , , | 20 Comments

Marjorie Kelly on the emergence of the generative economy

I suspect I’ll give up after a few days, as my memory fades, and my enthusiasm wanes, but, for the foreseeable future, I’d like to keep sharing tidbits that I picked up during the recent BALLE conference, on the subject of strengthening local business ecosystems. Tonight, I’d like to share my notes on the presentation given by Marjorie Kelly, author of the new book, Owning Our Future: The Emerging Ownership Revolution. When she’s not writing, Marjorie is a Fellow at the Tellus Institute, and Director of Ownership Strategy at Cutting Edge Capital. Prior to serving in those positions, she was Co-Founder and President of “Business Ethics” magazine.


Kelly talks of “human scale,” meeting the needs of all people, and the fostering of “joyful human life.” She implies that we could shift society in this direction in a single generation, if we tried. She says that, right now, we’re doing some things well, but that we need to scale them up, building on the work of the visionaries among us, and those who came before. Her new book, she says, is about how we scale, through the implementation of alternative ownership models. She talks of foundation-owned companies, like Novo Nordisk, communally-owned wind farms in Denmark, community-owned banks throughout Europe, and cooperatives spanning from Kenya to New Zealand.

“There is an ownership revolution rising across the world,” she says. She mentions, for instance, that cooperatives, right now, employ more people across the world than all of the multinational corporations combined. The phrase she uses to describe this newly evolving system is the “generative economy.” The fundamental architecture of this economy, she says, is that of fairness and sustainability. The term “generative,” according to Kelly, means “the carrying on of life.” We need to develop a framework, she argues, that allows for the carrying on of life. And that means exploring alternatives for how we own things.

The more of the following five things that you have, she says, the better off you are: Purpose, Rooted Ownership, Mission Controlled Governance, Stakeholder Finance, and Ethical Networks.

She shares the example of the John Lewis Partnership in England. It is the largest department store/grocery store in the UK, she says. Over the employee entrance of each store, she tells us, it says, “Here is partnership at the scale of modern industry.” The company brings in $13 billion dollars in revenue each year, and it’s owned 100% by its employees. Employees elect a partnership council that oversees every aspect of the business. The company employs more people than Monsanto, she notes… I believe she also said that between 40% and 60% of profits are shared with employees… Kelly also mentioned that the company is turning to its customers and employees to fund its expansion. Toward that end, the company just instituted a bond program, through which customers and employees can loan money to the company, and earn a return of 4.5%. As she noted, the John Lewis Partnership isn’t quite what we’d consider a “human scale” business, but it’s rooted in its community, and constantly striving to do better for its employees and the neighborhoods in which it does business.

She mentions community-owned forests in Mexico. Illegal logging and deforestation, she says, drop considerably when land is community-owned, and the community, together, makes decisions as to how resources are cared for, exploited, etc. A huge percentage of forests, according to Kelly, are managed like this, and it’s having a big, positive impact on global warming. But, she says, we’re not hearing about it.

She talks of the lobster industry in Maine. Apparently, only owner-operated boats can be in the water where the lobster breed. Bigger companies have to go father out. The result is, while other ocean species are being over-fished, and populations are depleted, lobsters are doing fine. Owner-operators know better than to overfish, she says. They police one another, and they respect the living system that sustains them. The lobster industry is surviving, says Kelly, because it’s rooted in community.

Behavior, she argues, comes from structure. There are three points in the lifespan of a company that a big structural change could lead to a change in core values. Those points are: the founding, the point where outside capital comes in, and the point where a founder leaves. We need to ensure, she says, that the good companies that we create stay good as they grow. Toward this end, she talks about the practice of allotting “mission shares,” that would allow one to control the mission without controlling ownership. This ensures, she says, that “the soul of the firm is not up for sale.” The Washington Post and Novo Nordisk, she says, have created non-profits to hold “mission shares” for this very reason… So, there are ways to scale up gracefully, and build good, large companies.

Kelly concludes by bringing our attention to BALLE’s vision statement, and telling everyone in the audience, “We aren’t the fringe anymore.”

And, here’s that vision statement:

Within a generation, we envision a global system of human-scale, interconnected local living economies that function in harmony with local ecosystems, meet the basic needs of all people, support just and democratic societies, and foster joyful community life.

Posted in Economics, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

Posing as a reporter for this site, Patrick Elkins scores free grub

Lest anyone try it again, I’d like to start off this post by noting that I’m not in the habit of posting unsolicited reviews that I find rolled up inside of old copies of the Journal of Avian Medicine and Surgery and thrown into my front yard. I’m making an exception this time, though, as this particular review appears to be the handiwork of thickly bearded local troubadour, Patrick Elkins… My guess, given what little I’ve been able to decipher thus far, is that Patrick wrote this while consuming an endless supply of free drinks at the Sidetrack, during one of their “burger and beer pairing” events. I haven’t confirmed it yet, but, if I had to speculate as to the chain of events that put Patrick at this event, I’d say that, having smelled food, he wondered in, passed himself off as a reporter for MarkMaynard.com, and then promptly began inhaling free pickles, while jotting nonsense onto a pad of paper, with what he imagined to be the look of a thoughtful reporter upon his face… I know that I’m ultimately to blame, as, not too long ago, after a few too many drinks at Woodruff’s, I introduced Patrick as a MarkMaynard.com staff member, but I still find his behavior here to be reprehensible, even by Ypsilanti standards… At any rate, I just wanted to make it clear, before sharing Patrick’s review, that he doesn’t work for MarkMaynard.com. So, if he comes into your restaurant, bar, bank, or massage parlor, asking for free services, and promising to say great things about your establishment on this site, don’t believe him. Just turn him toward the door, pat him on the bottom, and send him on his way. [Then fill up a sack with free goodies, and leave them on my doorstep, so that I can review them properly.]

Now, here’s his Sidetrack review.

[A larger version can be found here.]

And, this, I believe, is the key.

[A larger version can be found here.]

As you’ll notice, Patrick doesn’t review any of the burgers himself, as he doesn’t eat meat. And that’s probably the main reason that I’m posting this here. I love the idea of going to a “burger and beer pairing” and refusing to review the burgers… Maybe I’ll keep Pat on the staff after all.

And, remember, “Don’t talk with your mouth full, during a pickle lick.”

Posted in Food, Uncategorized, Ypsilanti | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | 13 Comments


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