Wagering beers with Ypsi’s new superintendent, fighting with my daughter, and talking about Blackbeard with a young radical …on episode 22 of The Saturday Six Pack

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We tried something new this past episode of the Saturday Six Pack. We cranked the heat in the studio to 120-degrees, nailed the door shut, and watched as our guests slowly melted into their chairs… If you listen closely, you can hear it happening. What starts with tiny droplets of sweat falling gently onto our microphones during the first segment, ends with frantic sloshing, as my guests and I struggle to keep from passing out, and drowning in our own perspiration… It was station owner Brian Robb’s idea. He thought that we’d get better interviews out of people if they were exhausted and near death. And it almost worked. Dr. Benjamin Edmondson, Ypsilanti’s new superintendent of public schools, almost spilled the beans on a super secret initiative he’s got in the works to lure families back to the district. [It did work on my daughter Clementine, though, who, despite my coaching earlier in the day, blurted out that we’d eaten at Chick-fil-A several times over the past few weeks, as we drove through the American south.]

[Brian’s inspiration, I’m told, was the Angels in Springtime episode of Charlie’s Angeles, in which an evil spa owner attempts to kill Cheryl Ladd by wrapping her in hot towels until her body stops functioning and she starts babbling incoherently.]

Here are my brief notes on what transpired. I hope you find them useful.

Edmondson, who has been Ypsi’s superintendent since July 1, was our first guest. We began by talking about youth violence in Ypsilanti. Just prior to coming on the show, Edmondson told us, he’d been speaking at a “Stop the Violence” rally. And, before that, he’d stopped by the funeral of former YCS student Keandre Duff, the most recent victim of a turf war between rival groups. [More on the war between Rakk Life and Finesse Gang, and the community response, can be found here.] When asked what he, as Superintendent, intended to do in order to move things in a more positive direction, he mentioned, among other things, an ambitious new mentorship initiative called Man Up or Kid Down, through which he’s hoping to have every Ypsilanti student in middle school and high school placed with a person in the community who might serve as a positive role model. He also talked at length about establishing a culture of accountability and respect throughout the district.

We talked of his desire to bring families back to the district, and the positive pieces he already has in place to build around. He said that he would hold his principals responsible for the culture of their schools, as, in his opinion, it’s the principal who sets the tone. And he said that, if necessary, changes would be made. He said that he wants three years to turn around the district and bring people back, and that he will be aggressively trying new things in order to see that happen… from doing more to incentivize his staff, to taking a harder line on disruptive students.

Getting rid of disruptive students, he said, would not only create a more positive learning atmosphere for students currently in our schools, but signal to parents that our district would no longer just take anyone in order to keep enrollment numbers up. Calling it “addition by subtraction,” he talked of how happy, satisfied parents would suggest to friends that they bring their children back into the district if they saw that violent and disruptive students were being encouraged to go elsewhere. [His first objective, he said, is to ensure that we have safe and orderly schools. And, toward that end, he said he’d be working from the high school on both Mondays and Fridays.]

As for incentivizing staff, he said that, among other things, he wanted to look into the possibility of establishing a bonus system across the entire district, so that all employees would benefit when enrollment targets are met.

We talked about the EAA, charter schools, and other attempts on the part of Michigan legislators to defund public schools and weaken the Teachers Union… He teased some big announcements that will be coming soon… And we discussed his dissertation, which was about the importance of parental involvement and small class sizes… And, as some point, we apparently bet a six pack on his ability to get Governor Synder to tour Ypsi Community Schools within the next year.

“I’m willing to try and fail for this district,” says Dr. Edmondson, who our kids will be encouraged to call “Dr. E.”

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[If you’d like to listen to the show in its entirety, you can either scroll to the bottom of the page, where you’ll find it embedded, or you can click here.]

After Edmondson left the studio, we played a new song by our friend in Kenya, Dr. Peter Larson, and welcomed a high school student at WIHI by the name of Andres, who, like me, hosts a show on AM 1700. We talked about his program, WICKidz Radio, and an interview they’d done earlier in the afternoon with immigrant transgender activist Jennicet Gutiérrez, who recently made headlines for disrupting a speech by President Obama at the White House, calling attention to the detention and deportation of transgender immigrants. We also talked about soccer, how his mom made it to the United States from El Salvador with her family, and the pirate Blackbeard, who an ancestor of mine may or may not have taken credit for killing. Here’s Andres talking about either his childhood obsession with pirates, or his current obsession with social justice.

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And, once Andres left, Saturday Six Pack band director Jim Cherewick introduced our next segment… a father-daughter discussion of vacation memories… with a cover of the The Go-Go’s hit “Vacation.”

My daughter Clementine and I then talked about our recent road trip down south, taking the occasional call from one of her friends who happened to be listening. We talked about Savannah, Georgia, the “lost colony” of Roanoke, the Andy Warhol Museum, the archeological site at Jamestown, an awesome taco shop in Asheville, and the shark-infested waters off Cape Hatteras. She also tells everyone that she and her brother fought the entire 2,500 miles, and that I made them ignore the politics and eat at Chick-fil-A. Here she is telling her friend Amelia Marks, who had called in from California, all about the young woman whose butchered remains were found at Jamestown. [The archeologists we talked with believe she’d died before being butchered and consumed by her starving fellow colonists.]

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Next, local historian Matt Siegfried came in to share a new installment of the “People’s History of Ypsilanti.” This time, we talked about Ypsilanti in the 1860s, which at some point morphed in a discussion about the Confederate flag which, until a few days earlier, had flown over the capital of South Carolina. Here’s Matt explaining why it’s so important that the Confederate flag came down. “450 Washtenaw County people died (in the Civil War) to take down that flag,” he said, and we need to recognize their sacrifice.

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And, just as the beer was running out, Bee Roll dropped in with the better part of a six pack and a chocolate bar, to discuss her work in Ypsi on behalf of presidential candidate, U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders. [Bee loves Bernie so much that she’s hoping to become a US citizen in time to vote for him.]

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And Jim and I ended the show by just talking with one another, and taking calls. We kicked around the idea of forming an all-cat band called Kittywampus. We discussed the possibility for shooting a sitcom here in town. [Jim says he’d like for me to write him in as an employee of the US Postal Service, as he likes their uniforms.] Given how well his cover of “Vacation” went, I ask him if, next time, he could cover the entire “Raw Power” album. [My idea is to call Iggy Pop, ask him one question, and then interrupt his as he’s answering, saying, “If you can hold on for a little while, I’d like to cut now to Jim Cherewick, who will be performing your album “Raw Power” in its entirety.] And we left with an original Jim Cherewick composition about how fucking hot it was in the AM 1700 studio. Here he is performing, “We Sweated and Sweated.”

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Thanks, as always, to AM 1700 for hosting the show, Brian Robb for running the board and keeping the bills paid, and Kate de Fuccio for documenting everything that happens. [All the photos above come courtesy of Kate.]

If you like this episode, check out our archive of past shows at iTunes. And do please leave a review if you have the time, OK? It’s nice to know that people are listening, and, unless you call in, that’s pretty much the only way we know.

AND NOW, THANKS TO SCIENCE, YOU CAN LSTEN YOURSELF:

Oh, and at some point during the broadcast of this show, the station was picked by a number of scientists carrying signs about teeth… Just another day in Ypsi.

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16 Comments

  1. Posted July 27, 2015 at 4:59 am | Permalink

    Everyone had an interesting time.

  2. Eel
    Posted July 27, 2015 at 8:58 am | Permalink

    At what point did all the color fade from the studio?

  3. site admin
    Posted July 27, 2015 at 9:10 am | Permalink

    We put on the civil war filter to talk with Mr. Siegfried, and forgot to take it off.

  4. Ellen
    Posted July 27, 2015 at 10:10 am | Permalink

    I like hearing smart local kids talking. It gives me hope, especially now when other kids are shooting up our town. Thanks for that.

  5. XXX
    Posted July 27, 2015 at 10:59 am | Permalink

    The heat drained the life from them. (Or the photographer chose to shoot in black and white so as not to show the sweat stains.)

  6. Posted July 27, 2015 at 6:59 pm | Permalink

    Wait wait wait–let’s back the train up to the thing about the picketers with signs that say “teeth exist”. Was there some debate about this?

    There is also this: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Teeth_%28film%29

  7. Peri Stone-Palmquist
    Posted July 27, 2015 at 8:41 pm | Permalink

    This community has tried suspending students as a way to attract students in the past and it didn’t work, just as the research shows. Around the country, alternatives are being tried. When many of us invested hours and hours into reimagining the district, we committed to restorative practices as one tool in the toolkit. I hope more will be invested in this and other proven methods, like SEL, academic supports (there is no reading recovery at the high school). I love Dr. E’s great idea to increase access to books, listen and respect teachers, improve communication, pay attention to class size. But going back to a suspension heavy district puts us on the wrong side of history.

    http://www.pbis.org/…/Safety%20Without%20Suspensions.pdf

  8. Posted July 28, 2015 at 6:25 am | Permalink

    Nice! Glad your show is jammin. Are you going to come to Freek Fest 3? https://ypsilantinews.wordpress.com/2015/07/28/get-ur-freek-on-ypsi/

    https://www.facebook.com/events/1438927539749103/

  9. Posted July 28, 2015 at 10:22 am | Permalink

    Also, does Bee ever NOT look completely adorable in a picture?? As someone who takes awful pictures, I am super jealous :) :)

  10. Anonymatt
    Posted July 28, 2015 at 11:40 am | Permalink

    Wasn’t Kittywampus the name of the metal/reggae hybrid band that played in between Yeti Load and Sandy Duncan’s Eye?

  11. Posted July 28, 2015 at 3:33 pm | Permalink

    Peri-Stone Palmquist, the hyphenated voice of reason. If you kick out all the difficult kids, they will for damn sure soon be up in our houses, stealing our consumer electronics and fenceable dry goods. Or, we could educate them…

  12. Posted July 28, 2015 at 7:56 pm | Permalink

    Patti, the vaccine deniers have moved on to teeth… Haven’t you heard?

  13. Posted July 28, 2015 at 7:58 pm | Permalink

    And yes it was, Anonymatt… Yeti Load’s only show outside of Ypsi-Arbor… Our big, one-stop tour!

  14. Posted July 28, 2015 at 8:04 pm | Permalink

    CreateHarmony, the Six Pack is already booked for this weekend, so I don’t know that I can do anything. I did, however, put Colin in touch with Brian. Maybe they’ll come up with something.

  15. Eel
    Posted July 30, 2015 at 7:30 pm | Permalink

    In some cases, teeth exist one day, and not the next.

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=g1CWEa2P7gs

  16. Grant Phiro
    Posted June 7, 2016 at 5:17 am | Permalink

    Show Blackbeard some fucking love.

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