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AnnArbor.com's News section covers government, crime, education, health and the environment across Washtenaw County.

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    Brick_Wall_final.JPG

    The final product after three days of painting the median outside of Brick Elementary School.

    Courtesy of David Northrop

    Brick Elementary School is continuing to take on the task of decorating its facility — inside and out — with art projects created by students, faculty and community members.

    The school, located at 8970 Whittaker Road, has made its most recent project the painting of a cement median, which divides the two sides of the parent pick-up and drop-off loop.

    “It’s a cement median just like the ones used on I-94,” Brick Elementary School Principal David Northrop said. “It was functional, but to be quite honest it looked very dull and lifeless. Now, when people pass by, it looks like there is life in this building.”

    With the help of art teacher Laura Angel, Northrop’s wish to transform the median for the benefit of the school and the community became a reality.

    “This median sits at the busiest intersection in our community so it benefits not just the students and faculty who can see it from the building, but also anyone who drives by,” Northrop said.

    Angel reached out to staff members, students, parents and community members to help with the project.

    Beginning July 8, about 30 people came out to help with the three-day project, Northrop said. About 10 of the people involved with the project were students at Brick Elementary.

    Inspired by a fence in the Ann Arbor area, Angel developed a design for the median, which was then approved by the superintendent and a few school board members.

    Brick_Painting_Kids.JPG

    Students paint the median outside of Brick Elementary School.

    Courtesy of David Northrop

    “The once unattractive median is now a floral scene,” Northrop said. “The bottom is blades of grass with a blue sky above it and then flowers set over the sky. It resembles a crayon drawing.”

    Northrop said the newly painted median is now a better reflection of the school — lively and creative.

    A 24-foot mural for the inside of the building is also underway. The artwork, depicting children’s hands in the sky, will be hung this summer.

    “The building was recently renovated and repainted and the result was a very clean looking school, but it needed to be spruced up,” Northrop said. “The past year was my first as principal at Brick Elementary and I came in with a fresh eye and made a commitment to work with people and help beautify the building.”

    Throughout the school year, murals were painted on ceiling tiles and on the wall of the cafeteria. Historic photos of the building were hung and landscaping projects have been ongoing.

    The projects were funded by money raised through fundraising efforts made throughout the year, Northrop said.

    “Our district has a tradition of getting together and rolling up its sleeves when something needs to be done,” Northrop said. “That goes back to our founding in 1924.”

    Chelsea Hoedl is an intern reporter for AnnArbor.com. She can be reached at choedl@mlive.com.


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    As Paul DeWolf's family works to understand his death, his brother tells AnnArbor.com they are remembering a life ended too soon.

    Joshua DeWolf said his family is asking for prayers Friday night. He said the family is struggling to understand his death.

    "As we struggle to understand what happened we know that Paul is now in Heaven with his Savior," Joshua DeWolf wrote in an email. "He has completed his final race and is now claiming his prize. He now is able to run and fly with the angels."

    DeWolf_Psm.jpg

    Courtesy photo

    Paul DeWolf was found dead of a single gunshot wound Wednesday in his home on the 200 block of North Ingalls Street. Police are investigating his death as a homicide.

    To this point, police have not released any suspect information. The apartment where Paul DeWolf died was in order and nothing appeared to be out of place or stolen, according to Ann Arbor police investigators.

    Paul DeWolf was entering his fourth year as a medical student at the University of Michgan and was a second lieutenant in the United States Air Force.

    Joshua DeWolf said his brother was excited about beginning a military career after graduation in May 2014.

    "His life came to an end in his prime," Joshua DeWolf said.

    On behalf of his family, Joshua DeWolf thanked friends, family and strangers for their well wishes following his brother's death.

    He said the family is taking comfort in knowing Paul DeWolf lived a full life, even before his untimely death.

    "Paul was a remarkable human being," he said. "He was a brother, a son, a man of faith, and a good friend to everyone who had the pleasure of meeting him."

    Funeral arrangements for Paul DeWolf are still being made.

    Anyone with information on his death is encouraged to call the Ann Arbor police anonymous tip line at 734-794-6939 or Crime Stoppers at 1-800-SPEAK UP (773-2587)

    Kyle Feldscher covers cops and courts for AnnArbor.com. He can be reached at kylefeldscher@annarbor.com or you can follow him on Twitter.


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    Phenomena_Pink_Symmetry.jpg

    "Phenomena -- Pink Symmetry" by Jessica Joy London

    Science meets surreal abstraction in Jessica Joy London’s “New Work” at Chelsea’s River Gallery.

    The fluid abstraction of London’s artworks in this handsome exhibit find this local artist (a former University of Michigan graduate student in the fine arts) modulating the flow of her inks — adhered at times with other elements — to create wisps of flowing mixed-media imagery that’s as haunting as it is striking.

    Indeed, one of the fascinating aspects of this exhibit is its novel approach to such abstraction. For it’s always a delightful surprise to find a talent imaginatively manipulating a style of art that arguably had its heyday at mid-20th century.

    The give and take of 1940s-50s abstract expressionism gave way to 1960s post-painterly abstraction (the so-called second generation of the New York School), which found these artists wrestling with the lessons of the first generation, yet also reveling in a painterly facture that culminated in colorfields of varying sorts.

    Add to this the work of slightly earlier European artists like Pablo Picasso, Yves Tanguy, Roberto Matta, and Andre Masson — all of whose art crafted imagery with one foot in abstraction and another in surreal imagination. These streams of influence are essentially what we find in London’s “Natural Phenomena/Synthetic Wonder.”

    “I imagine if it rained color,” writes London in her artist’s statement, “the landscape would look like my paintings. Shades of blue would flow from leaf to fallen leaf picking them up and repositioning them on bright green blades of grass and grey concrete in harmonious compositions. Passersby would step in puddles of yellow tracking footsteps across the landscape changing blues into greens and reds into oranges. Pinks and oranges would flow between spaces of rocks too heavy to be carried away, staining them and evaporating back into the clouds.”

    The venue's gallery statement observes she’s “concentrated on studying painting but chose to also spend time exploring the concepts and techniques central to the science of biomedical research.”

    London then adds, “The systematic approach taken in the lab to understand the normally invisible variables at play presented me with the opportunity to appropriate a systematic approach to my studio practice.”

    And as the statement continues, “(London) closely observes the ordinary in the everyday for inspiration and often integrates simple materials into her art. She incorporates water from her fish tank, garlic and onion skins, grapefruit, leaves and grasses. She combines these with colored inks spilled in a systematic and methodical way onto the synthetic paper. The colors and materials play out in organic and natural ways, looking both natural and mysteriously like biological, cosmic imaginings. Her art gives the illusion of viewing the world through a huge microscope.”

    Indeed, there are 37 ink on Yupo paper artworks in this display, and they are all akin to looking at art through a microscope frozen in time. Their undulating forms secure their position; their fluidity gives the impression of being sealed in place.

    This consistent strategy gives the impression of a grand organizer and it’s at this point that London’s work so expertly pivots on that balance between first and second generation abstraction and biomorphic art.

    The first generation of abstract expressionists largely favored existential gesture, while the second generation of post-painterly abstractionists was far more interested in the chromatic application of such gesture. London adds her own surreal flights of the cosmos — and she masterfully unites these three fantastic (in every sense of the word) aesthetic impulses.

    “In my everyday life,” says London, “I’m drawn into a realistic version of this fantasy; water stains on metal water fountains, the markings on stairs from years of people walking on them, painted concrete ground that peel up giving glimpses of the past, tea and coffee stains on countertops. The artifacts of these spaces and processes engage me in a sense of wonder and I facilitate similar processes in my creative work.”

     Artifactsof_Adjacent Possibilities_Yellow and Pink Series 9-10.jpg

    "Artifacts of Adjacent Possibilities -- Yellow and Pink Series, 9 of 10"

    Take for example, London’s smallish “Artifacts of Adjacent Possibilities—Yellow and Pink Series, 9 of 10.” The application of her inks in this work is tightly rendered, and the onion skin that accretes on the working surface (coupled with metal shavings) gives the work a subtle multi-dimensionality that pulls the viewer in and out of its complex depth. Likewise, the thickened application of the inks creates a visual complexity whose varying colors play off each other in tightly rendered accretions.

    In contrast (and easily the enigmatic masterworks of the exhibit) are London’s unframed oversized paintings—if only because of the work’s heroic scale. London’s “Phenomena — Pink Symmetry” takes the notion of peering into an oversized microscope just about as far as it seemingly can go. This striking painting balances the blank background against the red ink foreground. For this mottled application — flowing unevenly from the painting’s upper-right-hand corner — gives as much of an impression of the fortuitous as it does expert modulation.

    This seems to suit London just fine. It’s no easy task to craft an art that can be read solely through its formal application or appreciated as a microbe with a life all its own. Either way, London’s appropriation of inspired gesture, colorfield, and biomorphism indicates there’s plenty of life in the worlds of art from the intergalactic to the microscopic.

    “Jessica Joy London: Natural Phenomena/Synthetic Wonder” will continue through Aug. 17 at the River Gallery, 120 S. Main St., Chelsea. Gallery hours are 11 a.m.-5 p.m. Tuesday-Wednesday, 11 a.m.-8 p.m. Thursday; 11 a.m.-5 p.m. Friday; and 11 a.m.-6 p.m. Saturday. For information, call 734-433-0826.


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    A researcher at the University of Michigan School of Nursing advocating for women to seek genetic testing who have a high risk of breast and ovarian cancer has developed a program to help people share the news with their families.

    Maria Katapodi, an associate professor at the school, has developed a pilot program called the Family Gene Toolkit.

    072413_katapodi-maria.jpg

    Maria Katapodi

    Courtesy of the U-M School of Nursing

    “Only half of the high-risk relatives are being (genetically) tested when they’re cancer-free,” Katapodi said. “What’s concerning to me the most is that everybody’s affected by this, even the person who does not have the mutation. … My concern is the well-being of the family: it’s a moment of crisis when you learn this is far bigger than a breast cancer diagnosis — which by itself is scary news to hear.”

    The program involves sessions with a genetic counselor and oncology nurse to discuss how and why to reveal the results of a positive genetic test result for the BRCA1 and BRCA2 mutations to family members, as well as which family members need to know.

    Women that are found to be carriers of either of the two genetic mutations have a 50 to 80 percent chance of getting breast cancer, compared with 12 percent of women who don’t carry the mutation, said Katapodi.

    The genes are passed down from one generation to the next. Men can also be carriers of the gene. Other cancers are associated with the BRCA mutation as well: colon, prostate and pancreatic.

    “Our goal is to help this mutation carrier talk with the family members and to help them figure out what it means to each person,” Katapodi said.

    Once a person learns they are a carrier of the BRCA genetic mutation, the people most likely to be informed are their nuclear family and those that have close emotional relationships with them.

    “The people usually left out are distant relatives,” Katapodi said, including people that geographically live far away.

    As health care professionals don’t have the authority to contact the relatives of patients, it’s on the patient to tell their family that they’re a genetic carrier for breast cancer.

    Four out of five times that a woman seeks genetic testing it’s because she has a breast cancer diagnosis, Katapodi said.

    “For a woman diagnosed at age 31 or 32, the concern is to treat the disease immediately,” Katapodi said, noting at that age, many women are planning their lives and careers. “When you have an immediate cancer diagnosis, all that goes away. You have no luxury to plan your life.”

    Katapodi is urging women to be tested earlier to give them time to be able to plan life events like getting married, having children and career moves.

    “When you know beforehand, it is a burden, and some people say they’d rather not know,” Katapodi said. “In my opinion, it’s better to make some decisions when you’re not in the hot seat.”

    Cancer treatment occurs now after the diagnosis is made. Katapodi wants to change that by promoting earlier testing for people that could be predisposed to getting cancer to see if they’re genetic carriers of the BRCA mutation.

    There’s no way to predict whether a person will eventually get the cancer if they have the gene.

    “Still, the person can make an informed decision,” Katapodi said. “You give people the opportunity to choose.”

    Genetic testing can cost as much as $4,000. A recent Supreme Court case may result in a decrease of the cost in the future, as the court ruled that one company cannot be the sole holder of the patent for the testing, Katapodi said.

    Katapodi is seeking families to participate in the pilot program that she’s testing. A person in the family must have been identified as a carrier of either the BRCA1 or BRCA2 gene.

    Families interested in The Family Gene Toolkit can contact Katapodi by email at mkatapo@umich.edu or by calling (734) 647-0178, or contact the Clinical Research Project Manager Kari Mendelsohn-Victor at karimend@umich.edu or (734) 615-4017.

    Amy Biolchini covers Washtenaw County, health and environmental issues for AnnArbor.com. Reach her at (734) 623-2552, amybiolchini@annarbor.com or on Twitter.


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    Ypsilanti Township is labeling a creative solution to controlling its booming feral cat population a success.

    In March, the township began a “Trap-Neuter-Return” pilot program in six neighborhoods that has reduced the number of orphaned feral kittens there by 83 percent from 2012.

    feral_cat.jpg

    A "community cat" with a tipped ear to signify it has been sterilized and treated for disease.

    Photo Courtesy of the Humane Society of Huron Valley.

    "This is a very good start on a very difficult endeavor," said Trustee Mike Martin. "The cats haven't been sterilized or spayed or neutered for so long that it will take a while get to where we can start really limiting feral cat reproduction."

    Officials counted 163 orphaned kittens in the test areas in 2012 but only 28 in 2013.

    The program, which is a partnership between the Humane Society of Huron Valley, the township and volunteers, also exceeded the goal of 130 sterilizations by 17 spay/neuters.

    Cat_TNR.jpg

    "Community cat" colonies have been placed around neighborhoods in Ypsilanti Township. One is near Parkside Street and South Ford Boulevard, though the exact location is kept secret.

    Tom Perkins | For AnnArbor.com

    Martin said the program will be continued, though he isn't sure on what level or how it would be funded. More information might be available when Humane Society representatives speak about the results to the Board of Trustees at its next regular meeting.

    The $10,000 effort involves building shelters that attracted feral cats, which were then live-trapped and brought to the Humane Society. Volunteers care for the shelter, and maintain food and water supplies.

    The Humane Society next sterilizes the cats, treats them for disease and releases each one back into the colony where they were found. Their ears are tipped so officials know the cat has been treated.

    Feral cats — or “community cats,” as the HSHV refers to a broader population of outdoor, wild cats averse to human contact — have particularly been an issue in Ypsilanti Township. On more than one occasion, township ordinance officers have encountered vacant homes sheltering up to 60 cats.

    Cats are known to have up to three litters annually.

    Martin highlighted that the program limits cats' ability to reproduce, so the population will only slowly decline as cats die of natural causes.

    "Until we can get the population under control we’re going to have to establish colonies to ensure their health and safety, the health and safety of other animals that come in contact with the cats and prevent them from becoming a public nuisance," Martin said.

    In each neighborhood, volunteer “caretakers” work with Humane Society staff to develop community cat “TNR colonies.” Brittany Keene, the HSHV’s community cat coordinator, previously explained the colonies will be in wooded, secluded areas adjacent to identified neighborhoods.

    The colonies are in the West Willow neighborhood; the Greene Farms and Millpoint subdivisions; near Merritt Road and Hitchingham; in several locations in south Ford Lake neighborhoods; at Big Pine Drive and Huron River Drive; in the neighborhood bordered by Holmes, Prospect and Clark Roads; near Ecorse Road and South Ford Boulevard; and in the Elmcrest neighborhood.

    Officials try to keep the exact location secret because residents have been known to attack and kill feral cats.

    Each colony will include a shelter similar to a dog house with entrances that are too small for predators. Caretakers will provide food in the shelter and the relative isolation and will pull the neighborhoods’ community cats away from other areas where they may be living inside the neighborhood.

    The problems associated with community cats in a neighborhood don’t threaten humans’ safety but the yowling, spraying and other similar behaviors can be a nuisance

    Tom Perkins is a freelance reporter. Contact the AnnArbor.com news desk at news@annarbor.com.


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    erickson_crystal_harding.JPG

    Erickson Elementary music teacher Crystal Harding created the You Can't Stop Me Now Project at the end of 2012. She has taught music for 26 years.

    Janet Miller | For AnnArbor.com

    Erickson Elementary School in the former Ypsilanti Public Schools had a reputation for splashy musical productions. Each year, it would pack Pease Auditorium on the campus of Eastern Michigan University to perform a musical version of Shakespeare’s “As You Like It,” “Annie” and even the opera “Carmen.”

    layla_jones_williams.JPG

    Choir member Layla Jones-Williams performs with the You Can't Stop Me Now Project. "We're like 'Glee' junior," the director says.

    Janet Miller | For AnnArbor.com

    So when Erickson music teacher Crystal Harding wasn’t able to win school district approval for student performances for the academic year that just wrapped up, she took matters into her own hands and created the justly named You Can’t Stop Me Now Project, a children’s choir that has performed more than 20 gigs since it was founded at the end of 2012.

    “Performance is my life’s work,” said Harding, who has taught school for 26 years. “I’ve got to do it. I didn’t become a music teacher so I could teach kids how to sing songs and then go home.”

    But that didn’t happen last school year. The district was in transition as it consolidated with the Willow Run Community Schools to create the new Ypsilanti Community Schools district. And there was concern about pulling students away from instructional time for performances, Harding said. “No one would say that I couldn’t do it, but no one would say that I could. I couldn’t get an answer.”

    lakayla_daugherty_jenkins.JPG

    Lakayla Daugherty-Jenkins is entering the fourth grade and performs a solo in one of the performances.

    Janet Miller | For AnnArbor.com

    In December, Harding created the You Can’t Stop Me Now Project, named after a song she had written. Their first performance was with the Ypsilanti Symphony Orchestra’s holiday concert.

    Since, there have been more than 20 performances at senior citizen homes, churches, community gatherings and even at an athletic center. When Harding took choir members to the Romulus Athletic Center for some fun at the water park as a reward, students were asked to perform for guests who were exercising. “We’ll perform anywhere,” Harding said. Dance moves are part of the performances, she said. “We’re like 'Glee' junior.”

    But it’s about more than music and dance. With many of the performances at homes for the elderly, it’s about bridging the generations, Harding said. “I tell the kids they are rock stars. They go in and greet the residents, shake hands.” While the choir showcases young talent, said parent Ayana Jones, it also connects the generations. “It’s good to have the generations interact both ways,” she said. “It makes everyone happy.”

    The You Can’t Stop Me Now Project practices once a week at the Parkridge Community Center in Ypsilanti. There is no break for summer. While there are about 60 members in total, the choir on any given week or at any given performance can vary in size. “No matter who shows up, it’s a show,” Harding said. “At one show we had seven kids and we rocked the house. I tell the kids, ‘The Jackson 5 only had five kids.’”

    lexi_justice_darrius_johnson.JPG

    Lexi Justice and Darrius Johnson are a part of the choir. The kids have performed at senior citizen homes, churches, community gatherings and even at an athletic center.

    Janet Miller | AnnArbor.com

    Choir member Larry Jones-Williams looks at his involvement in the choir as a career move. “I just want to be famous,” the 9-year-old said. He started singing when he was 3 years old and hasn’t stopped, he said. While he’s a big fan of rap, Larry said he loves of all music. The way Larry sees is, The You Can’t Stop Me Now Project is his first stop on his way to the big time.

    But the group’s growing reputation and invitations from places farther afield have created a new problem: Financing. Its shoestring budget — with revenue coming from a handful of organizations and Harding’s mother — isn’t enough to provide transportation to performances scheduled this summer in Rochester Hills, Sterling Heights and beyond.

    Harding is looking to the community for support. They don’t charge for performing. “We want to serve. We are a community service group,” she said.

    Finances are tight. “We can’t afford buses. I wanted to send a flyer home and we couldn’t afford paper. I had to do everything electronically,” Harding said. With invitations coming from senior communities more than an hour away, transportation is needed. And that costs money, Harding said.

    Then there are the things that money can’t buy: Ask Harding if she has any choir members who are exceptionally talented and she’ll answer affirmatively. “They are all exceptional with phenomenal voices,” she said. “I tell the kids, “Whoever shows up, you’re the star.’”

    For more information or to donate, go to https://www.musicpage.com/ycsmp.

    Janet Miller is a freelance reporter. Contact the AnnArbor.com news desk at news@annarbor.com.


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    071713_superintendent_final-3.JPG

    The Ann Arbor Public Schools Board of Education and community are still waiting on a definite answer from New Jersey superintendent candidate Brian Osborne.

    Courtney Sacco | Ann Arbor.com

    Previous coverage:

    One week ago, the Ann Arbor Board of Education offered New Jersey Superintendent Brian Osborne the position of leading its university-town district of 16,600 students.

    But to date, Osborne has not responded to the board with a decision on whether he will accept the position.

    The board voted 7-0 July 19 to extend a job offer to Osborne, superintendent of South Orange-Maplewood School District in New Jersey, and to enter into contract negotiations with him.

    Osborne has been in discussions this week with board President Deb Mexicotte, whom trustees authorized to begin the negotiations with Osborne on their behalf.

    Mexicotte told AnnArbor.com Monday formal negotiations have not begun at this time, but both she and Osborne "committed to making a good decision as soon as possible." On Friday, Mexicotte said there is no update and conversations are continuing, but nothing formal yet.

    During their discussion during the weekend, Mexicotte said Osborne asked questions about operations and amenities in the school district.

    Some members of the community have begun getting anxious about Osborne's delay to say he will be accepting the position, provided an agreement on his contract can be reached.

    Ann Arbor parent and public schools advocate Steve Norton is surprised it's taken Osborne so long to think over the board's job offer.

    "I would have imagined that if you were a finalist for a job somewhere, you'd be pretty far along in the process of considering what it might be like to move there," he said, adding that in everything he heard and read from Osborne, it seemed like Osborne had an intense interest in the district and did a significant amount of research and homework on the Ann Arbor Public Schools.

    "So that makes me much more than a little surprised," Norton said. "A week might not be an unreasonable thing, but I would think in a very short order an answer ought to be given."

    Osborne's board in South Orange-Maplewood also recently approved a $12,001 salary increase to try to keep him in the district. The salary increase would only be good for a year. When Osborne's contract expires in June 2014, a salary cap recently instated by New Jersey's governor will take effect and his pay will drop from $220,001 to $167,500.

    But while community members are beginning to fret about Osborne's silence, trustees have faith in the process they've established. However, Vice President Christine Stead said if Osborne does not give Mexicotte a more definitive answer by Monday, she thinks it could be time to discuss next steps or back-up plans.

    "If we haven't heard from him by then, then it'd be my expectation that that should trigger some kind of touch-base, regroup with the board around do we want to put something more formal in place in terms of a deadline or our expectations (for accepting the position)?" Stead said.

    Stead added she is not that worried that the board has not received a decision from Osborne yet.

    "I'm OK. I want this to be a good decision for him and his family that they are actually excited about," she said. "If they are uncomfortable or unsure at all... it's a big deal for them (moving), so hopefully they're thrilled and looking forward to it."

    Trustee Glenn Nelson said he "quite deliberately" has not thought much at all this week about the superintendent selection. He said he's chosen to honor the delegation the board made to Mexicotte for this step in the process.

    "In my view, negotiations are a very delicate thing. And we've delegated that to Deb," Nelson said. "I have complete confidence in her. ... I expect to hear from her when there is something definite to hear.

    "Deb hasn't told me I should be concerned (about Osborne not taking the position). She also hasn't told me I should be relaxed," Nelson said, chuckling. "But I choose to live life optimistically."

    On the idea of putting a deadline or timeframe on Osborne's decision, Nelson said he would defer to the board president and expect other trustees to do the same.

    Teachers union president Linda Carter has seen the district hire 12 superintendents during her nearly 40 years with the Ann Arbor Public Schools, she said. She did recall one time a candidate taking a week to respond to the board's decision to offer him the superintendency.

    But Carter said she understands the process of selecting a superintendent is a challenging process and accepting this position in Ann Arbor is a "major move."

    "Ann Arbor is a very high-profile district and we do a quality job in educating children, but being able to come here and hit the ground running requires a thoughtful commitment," she said. "... Whoever the person is coming in, the spotlight is shining on them and it's challenging."

    Carter hesitated with regards to setting an acceptance deadline, stating she does not want the district to come across as being threatening or desperate. But from the standpoint of the teachers union, Carter would like to see the board complete the superintendent hiring process and get someone in here prior to opening day for staff, she said.

    Danielle Arndt covers K-12 education for AnnArbor.com. Follow her on Twitter @DanielleArndt or email her at daniellearndt@annarbor.com.


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    Hiring is up across the board as Ann Arbor continues to build on its highest employment levels ever.

    According to the most recent job numbers from the Michigan Department of Technology, Management and the Budget, Washtenaw County has 3,700 more jobs than in May 2012 and the only two sectors to experience slight declines in employment were "manufacturing" and "other services" which lost a combined 400 jobs.

    Red_Hawk_hiring.jpg

    A sign outside Red Hawk Bar and Grill on South State Street advertises hiring for a number of positions.

    Ben Freed | AnnArbor.com

    For restaurants across Michigan, summer is often seen as a time to hire more staff to meet increased demand from tourists. In Ann Arbor, restaurants function on an opposite schedule.

    “Whenever school is in session we have a maximum level of employment, and then when the students leave during the summer we drop down a bit,” Red Hawk Bar and Grill co-owner Roger Hewitt said.

    Washtenaw County's unemployment rate actually grew from 5.1 percent in April to 5.9 percent in May. The increase is seasonal, and mirrors a similar increase in the county last year.

    Hewitt also co-owns the revive + replenish stores beneath Zaragon Place on East University Avenue. He said staffing levels at revive double from about 12 to 25 when students return to campus.

    While an improving economy has increased sales at his restaurant and store, Hewitt said it has also made finding quality new employees somewhat more difficult. Both Hewitt and Vinology general manager Vincent Jonna said that for skilled positions such as waiters, bartenders or cooks, they are looking to hire new employees with at least 2-3 years of experience.

    “For a while there were a lot of college graduates who maybe weren’t able to find the jobs they were looking for right away so they’d work for us and they were great employees,” Hewitt said.

    “Now with the job market bouncing back they’re having a little more luck getting employment in their fields so they aren’t available as an option for us to hire.”

    The turnover created by employees finding new opportunities has also affected the local retail job market. Morgan and York co-owner Tom York said he has hired three new full-time employees at his store within the last couple of weeks.

    062712_BIZ_Morgan_and_York_MRM_01-1.jpg

    Morgan and York was hiring earlier this summer, but just enough to cover turnover as some employees left for other opportunities.

    Melanie Maxwell | AnnArbor.com

    “It’s really hiring thanks to natural turnover and people moving onto bigger and better things,” York said. One of his employees was accepted to a graduate program in Sweden, and another left to become a manager at Plum Market.

    “You want them to stay because they’re so great, but because they’re so great other people want them as well. In the end it usually works out that the next batch is equally good as the previous.”

    In the monthly report prepared by the Michigan Department of Technology, Management and the Budget, retail jobs are part of the larger “trade, transportation and utilities” category, which added 500 jobs in May and has grown by 900 jobs, or 3.6 percent, in the past year.

    In other parts of the state, the restaurant and retail sector hiring trends are even more dramatic, with some counties seeing big drops in their unemployment rates during the summer months.Michigan Restaurant Association vice president of marketing and communications Andrienne De Ceuninck said that tourist season hiring has been boosting numbers across the state. According to industry surveys conducted by the association, Michigan restaurants hired 14,000 more people in May 2013 than in May 2012.

    “In general, the food industry is exploding,” De Ceuninck said.

    “The foodies love to eat out and they’re taking pictures on their phone and posting them to Facebook and that’s spreading excitement about restaurants and eating out.”

    The summer restaurant and retail spike can be seen most dramatically in Mackinac County. The area, which often has unemployment in excess of 20 percent during the winter months, had a jobless rate of just 6.1 percent in the most recent monthly report prepared by the Michigan Department of Technology, Management and the Budget.

    University of Michigan economist Donald Grimes said that while restaurant and retail hiring should not be used as a barometer of overall economic health, it often acts as a “coincidental indicator.”

    Grimes, who co-authors an annual economic forecast for Washtenaw County, said that he and George Fulton projected an increase of about 1.8 percent for retail jobs in 2013 and a 2.0 percent increase in employment at restaurants.

    “That’s probably about what we’re going to get, but it might be a little slower if the slowdown due to the payroll tax increase continues,” he said.

    “The economy so far has held up better than everyone feared with the [2 percent payroll] tax increase Jan. 1, the sequester (a series of federal budget cuts) and everything happening overseas. We had this lingering fear that something bad could happen and it doesn’t seem to have come true.”

    Some of the job gains have come from the opening of new retail locations throughout the area. Briarwood Mall director of marketing Denise Murray said five new stores have opened since the beginning of 2013, resulting in at least 50 new jobs at the shopping center.

    “We’ll be ramping up hiring during back-to-school time," Murray said, suggesting people looking to be hired in the fall should hit up retailers in early August.

    The National Retail Federation reported Friday that the industry added 28,000 jobs in June. The group's chief economist, Jack Kleinhenz, said in a statement that the strong jobs report may signal positive and accelerated momentum for the second half of 2013.

    More significant retail and restaurant job growth is expected to come in the fall to the Ann Arbor area with the opening of the new Arbor Hills shopping center on Washtenaw, which will include at least 15 new restaurants and retail locations.

    A new Knight's restaurant and a Slurping Turtle will also be hiring when they open in the former Borders space in downtown Ann Arbor later this year. A new Buffalo Wild Wings in the former Damon's location on Boardwalk Drive will hire about 100 people in the late fall.

    Ben Freed covers business for AnnArbor.com. You can sign up here to receive Business Review updates every week. Get in touch with Ben at 734-623-2528 or email him at benfreed@annarbor.com. Follow him on twitter @BFreedinA2


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    The city of Chelsea is hopping with visitors thanks to the one of the city's largest events of the year, Sounds & Sights Festival. which kicked off Thursday night. The event will feature live music from the main stage in the "Social Tent," live music from 7 to 11 p.m., behind the Common Grill each night. The festival itself begins at 6 p.m.

    The festival features activities for the whole family, including music, magic and science for kids at the KidZone behind the Clocktower on Main Street, and the annual Sounds & Sights Car Show on East Middle, East, and Harrison streets, hosted by the Chelsea Classic Cruisers.

    On Main and on Middle streets, the Art Market houses vendors from noon until 8 p.m. both Friday and Saturday selling jewelry, clothing, lamps, pottery, and more.

    "I love small towns, and everybody is so nice here," said Kerrie Moyer, owner of the K3 Creating booth.

    Moyer describes her work as eclectic, multimedia jewelry and custom home decor such as mirrors and sun catchers.

    Barb Miller-Brief is a photographer who said this isn't the first time she's come to the festival.

    "Good sales and nice people keep me coming back," said Miller-Brief, who sells prints, place mats and greeting cards with her photographs that feature landmarks and landscapes from Michigan.

    Some residents like Beth Kalmbach have been coming to the festival since they were children. She said like the combination of art and sales.

    Kalmbach was visiting Janelle Songer's ceramics booth where Songer sells hand-built, wheel-blown, functional ceramics.

    "We always come to the festival, and like that there are things for kids to do," said Steve Kimcer from Grass Lake, who was sitting at a picnic table in the food court on Middle Street enjoying hot dogs with his two daughters.

    For the Girl Scouts of Troop 796, the festival provides a welcoming place to hold a bake sale and raise money for an important cause.

    "We chose to support the Starry Skies Equine Rescue and Sanctuary in Scio Township because they help find good homes for horses," said Girl Scout Sarah Gilbreath. "The festival is a good way to talk to a lot of people."

    The Sounds & Sights Festival is an annual summer weekend event that began more than 30 years ago. All activities take place in downtown Chelsea.

    Want to experience more going on in Chelsea? Saturday is the day to do it. A weekly farmers market takes place from 8 a.m. to noon, just off Main Street on Park Street. From 10 to 11 a.m., you can catch a pet parade beginning at the train depot.

    The KidZone will run from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. at the Clocktower Complex, and chalk-art demonstrations from noon to 4 p.m. on East Middle Street as well.The Art Market will be operating from noon to 8 p.m. and there is a guided walking tour beginning at 1 p.m. at the Chelsea Depot, at 125 Jackson St. The Social Tent opens at 1 p.m. Saturday with live music from 2 to 5 p.m., then reopens at 6 p.m. with live music from 7-11 p.m.

    For more information on the festival, go to Sounds & Sights Festival website.


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    Arbor Hospice at 2366 Oak Valley Drive in Ann Arbor.

    Joseph Tobianski I AnnArbor.com file photo

    Arbor Hospice in Ann Arbor is seeking volunteers to provide comfort and companionship to patients with terminal illnesses.

    Volunteers are used in numerous ways by Arbor Hospice. They can provide companionship to patients by sitting with them, reading books to them and playing music, as well as helping staff with the pet therapy program and office filing.

    A round of mandatory training sessions are about to begin. The training sessions total 18 hours and fully prepare volunteers to assist patients.

    For volunteers interested in helping at The Residence of Arbor Hospice at 2366 Oak Valley Drive in Ann Arbor, there are two series of training sessions available:

    • 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. Aug. 19, 21 and 26, as well as 1 to 3:30 p.m. Aug. 28
    • 5 to 9 p.m. Oct. 21, 23, 28 and 30

    For volunteers interested in helping patients within their homes, the following training session is available:

    • 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Sept. 23, 26, 30 and Oct. 3

    The only requirement for volunteers is that they complete the training sessions and have not experienced a death of a loved one within the past year. Arbor Hospice conducts background checks of all its volunteers.

    To find out additional information about how to volunteer with Arbor Hospice, call (734) 794-5396 or email aavolunteers@arborhospice.org.

    Amy Biolchini covers Washtenaw County, health and environmental issues for AnnArbor.com. Reach her at (734) 623-2552, amybiolchini@annarbor.com or on Twitter.


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    Can it be that time already? The Washtenaw Community Concert Band’s final outdoor concert of the season, “The Magic of Summer,” will unfold Tuesday evening at Washtenaw Community College.

    The Washtenaw Community Concert Band, celebrating its 35th season this year, will play big-band favorites, music by Andrew Lloyd Weber, the Second Suite in F by Gustav Holst, and two marches. The band will also offer “Air Force Salute,” a tribute to service men and women.

    The concert will be held at WCC’s community park. Chairs will be provided, but bring a lawn chair or blanket just in case. If it rains, the concert will move to WCC’s Towsley Auditorium.

    The Washtenaw Community Concert Band consists of 70 volunteer musicians from all over Washtenaw County. They have played four outdoor concerts this summer and will continue to perform at least six concerts in the fall and winter. Conductors are Jerry Robbins and Pat Padilla.

    Since summer is rushing by all too fast, few would blame you for pausing to take in an evening of music. And to make the event even more attractive - it’s free.

    The Washtenaw Community Concert Band’s final summer concert takes place at Washtenaw Community College, 4800 E. Huron River Drive, at 7:30 p.m. Tuesday, July 30. Admission is free. Details at 734-973-3300.


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    Singer Erika Henningsen and others from the University of Michigan Musical Theatre Department offer a cabaret show Tuesday to benefit the Room to Read program.

    The show, “Give Us Room To Read & Space To Sing,” at Kerrytown Concert House, consists of repertoire from musicals that were originally written as novels, such as “Ragtime,” “Oklahoma!,” “Showboat,” “Matilda,” “Peter Pan” and more.

    Room to Read is a nonprofit program dedicated to improving literacy and education equality throughout the world by establishing libraries and schools in impoverished areas.

    The group’s website pretty much sums it up: “Imagine a world in which every child has access to an education. Room to Read is doing our best to make this dream a reality, one child at a time.”

    Here’s a chance to do your part.

    “Give Us Room To Read & Space To Sing” takes place at Kerrytown Concert House, 415 N. Fourth Ave., Tuesday, July 30 at 8 p.m. Tickets are $5-$15. Details/ reservations at www.kerrytownconcerthouse.com at 734-769-2999.


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    The two men accused of abducting a woman from her Ypsilanti apartment in May will face trial in December, according to court records.

    jeremyabston.jpg

    Jeremy Abston

    Courtesy of YPD

    Jeremy Abston, 27, and Raymond March, 22, are scheduled to return to court for final pretrial hearings at 1:30 p.m. Nov. 20 before their trials begin on Dec. 9, court records show. Abston and March are accused of abducting 25-year-old Farrah Cook on as she left her Hamilton Crossing apartment on the way to work.

    Abston and March were in front of Washtenaw County Trial Court Judge Archie Brown last week for pretrial hearings, records show. Both men are still lodged at the Washtenaw County Jail.

    Raymond_March.jpg

    Raymond March

    Raymond March

    Abston and March are accused of abducting Cook in the parking lot of Hamilton Crossing at 5:30 a.m. May 6. According to police, Cook was taken to an apartment in The Villas, in Ypsilanti Township, where she was held for hours before escaping.

    The two men face a litany of criminal charges related to the case.

    Abston is charged with unlawful imprisonment, conspiracy to commit unlawful imprisonment, interfering with the reporting of a crime, assault with a dangerous weapon, larceny in a building, three charges of interfering with electronic communications, aggravated domestic violence, assault and battery and malicious destruction of property worth less than $200.

    March is charged with unlawful imprisonment, conspiracy to commit unlawful imprisonment, interfering with the reporting of a crime and aggravated assault.

    Both men are being held on $250,000 bonds.

    Kyle Feldscher covers cops and courts for AnnArbor.com. He can be reached at kylefeldscher@annarbor.com or you can follow him on Twitter.


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    A MacBook laptop was stolen from an unlocked apartment, according to the Ypsilanti Police Department/

    The victim reported the incident happened sometime between 4 p.m. Thursday and 12:30 p.m. Friday at his apartment on the 900 block of Railroad Street, in Ypsilanti.

    It did not appear anything else was taken from the apartment and there are no suspects at this time.

    Police are continuing to investigate this incident.


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    Washtenaw County Sheriff's Office dispatcher has confirmed there has been a crash on eastbound I-94 near Zeeb Road. It is unknown whether there are any injuries or how many cars were involved.

    As of 3:40 p.m. Saturday, the accident was blocking one lane of traffic.

    Police are still gathering information on the scene.

    This story is developing and will be updated as information becomes available.


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    Paul DeWolf

    Ann Arbor police continue to investigate the death of Paul DeWolf, but there was no new information to be released Saturday, according to Detective Lt. Robert Pfannes.

    Police are still doing interviews and gathering evidence, which may mean no new information will be released in the next few days.

    DeWolf was found dead Wednesday in his home in the 200 block of North Ingalls Street, in a building identified as the Phi Rho Sigma medical fraternity. He was 25.

    According to police, his death is being investigated as a homicide. An autopsy report showed DeWolf was killed by a single gunshot wound.

    Police said Friday DeWolf was found in his apartment, but the room appeared to be in order and no valuables appeared to be missing. No firearm was found at the scene.

    DeWolf was entering his fourth and final year of medical school, expecting to graduate in May. He was a reserve officer for the United States Air Force and would have entered the service after he graduated.

    The Schoolcraft, Mich. native was a graduate of Grand Valley State University and planned on becoming a surgeon.

    Police have increased patrols in the area around North Ingalls Street following DeWolf’s death. No suspect information has been released by Ann Arbor police.

    Anyone with information on DeWolf’s death is encouraged to call the Ann Arbor police anonymous tip line at 734-794-6939 or Crime Stoppers at 1-800-SPEAK UP (773-2587).

    Kyle Feldscher covers cops and courts for AnnArbor.com. He can be reached at kylefeldscher@annarbor.com or you can follow him on Twitter.


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    Washtenaw County has been issued a Severe Thunderstorm Warning until 5:45 Saturday, according to the National Weather Service.

    Severe thunderstorms are expected near Manchester around 4:40 p.m., Chelsea around 4:50 p.m. Dexter around 5:05 p.m., Ann Arbor around 5:20 p.m. and Ypsilanti at about 5:30 p.m.

    The NWS reported there could be winds of up to 60 miles per hour as well as hail in some areas. Saturday night's low is expected to be around 51 degrees.

    Showers likely will continue into Sunday with a high of 67 degrees. Monday and Tuesday will warm up a bit with a forecast of mostly sunny and high's of 73 and 77, respectively, but both nights will dip down into the 50s.

    The temperature are expected to slowly climb throughout the rest of the week.

    For updated conditions and forecasts anytime, check AnnArbor.com's weather page.


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    Dogs and families met at Hudson Mills Metro Park during the third annual Dog Days of Summer on Saturday.

    The event featured activities including training clinics, herding demos, doggy contests, dog baths and more.

    AnnArbor.com photographer Daniel Brenner captured these images.


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    Beer brewers, connoisseurs and just plain drinkers are gathered at Ypsilanti's Riverside Park in Depot Town for the 16th Annual Summer Beer Festival Saturday. The festival featured more than 600 different beers from more than 65 Michigan craft breweries, as well as food and live music on the last day of the two-day festival.

    Beer enthusiasts were not dissuaded by the passing rainstorms and solved that by quickly taking cover under the tents.

    "This is the biggest beer festival I've been to," said Elise Pawlowski from Rochester Hills. "There's so much space to move around and so many options."

    The Dark Horse Brewing Company out of Marshall, Mich. has 99 options — more than twice as many as the brewery offered last year. Many of the participating brewers say the festival is an ideal place to experiment with new brews.

    "I love making beer," said Bryan Wiggs, Dark Horse Brewery operations manager. "I get to do this because of all the people that drink our beer and support us. We're in 15 states, and Michigan is the best."

    Both Friday and Saturday of the oldest of the Michigan Brewers Guild's four annual festivals were sold out this year.

    "I love this venue," said Joe Larno, a home-brewer who came with his wife from the Chicago area to attend the festival.

    Larno said the trip was well worth it because the people are so friendly and the lines are never very long,

    "His beer is very good," said his wife Mary Larno, who added, "You guys know how to throw a party in Michigan."

    At the American Homebrewers Association booth, volunteers explained what's sold at the festival are craft brews and the festival did not offer any home brews.

    "We travel all over because we like microbreweries," said Diane Montie, who came from Lansing and was scoping out the festival for her friends who own EagleMonk Pub and Brewery in Lansing.

    Owner of the Paw Paw Brewing Company Ben Fleckenstain said, "I love the energy in this part of Michigan."

    Brewer Trevor Klimek, who works for the Paw Paw as well, said, "Our beer is easy drinking, and it's clean and crisp. We're starting to distribute our beer more on the east side of this state because this is where it's at."

    The festival offers the services of several cab companies as well as the option to stop by the Party Safe tent, where imbibers can "Blow before you go" and find out the results of an alcohol breath test.

    "This is my third year here because it is so much fun," said Trisha Briedenbaker, an Ypsilanti resident . "It's a time to get a break from our kids and be adults."


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    Pokey LaFarge

    photo by Glenn Hall

    Reinventing and reinvigorating old-time music for a contemporary audience, Pokey LaFarge will be in Ann Arbor this Tuesday for his first-ever headlining appearance at The Ark, generating well-deserved accolades for his self-titled new album.

    Released on Jack White’s Third Man Records, LaFarge explores western swing, ragtime, blues and folk with a ton of energy and style, taking traditional American music out of the museum and making it vital and fresh once again.

    The Illinois native who was born Andrew Heissler comes to town on the heels of some major concert and television appearances, performing on David Letterman’s show earlier this month and at the SXSW Festival in Austin, Texas earlier this year. Recently I caught up to LaFarge via phone during a tour stop in Atlanta to discuss his new album with an old-time feel.

    Q: How did you first meet Jack White and get signed to his label Third Man Records?

    Pokey LaFarge: Well, Jack lives in Nashville and heard a song of mine while listening to WSM, 650 AM. He’s always got his ear to the ground for talent and called me up and said he liked my voice. He wanted to know if I wanted to do a single with him. So I did that over two years ago and then backed him up on the song “I Guess I Should Go To Sleep” off his “Blunderbuss” album, opened up a bunch of shows for him, and when it came time for my new record it seemed like a natural fit, really.

    Q: Why did you choose Ketch Secor of the alternative-country band Old Crow Medicine Show to produce your new album?

    P.L.: Ketch and I go way back. I grew up playing old time music and wanted to be a fiddle player. I was living in North Carolina and Kentucky and would go to shows and find him backstage and talk and we became pals over the years. This is the first time I’ve worked with a producer and Ketch was the guy I wanted to give a call to. He concentrates very much on the lyrics and has a very positive attitude and was a pleasure to work with.

    Q: What led you to become interested in the music that you play? Why roots Americana instead of rap or rock or heavy metal?

    P.L.: I was listening to classic rock growing up, but very early on I wasn’t really a fan of any of the popular music that was coming out. I felt like I could see through it; just the sheer lack of quality in the music made it seem like it was all manufactured, computer garbage. In fact it seems like it’s just getting worse and worse.

    I was exposed to early music at a young age, and that became what I wanted to write and play, what I wanted to listen to. I don’t believe in any kind of evolution without taking the good qualities from the past. Think of a craft brewer or a barber or a carpenter; these are people that are taking old techniques and utilizing them for the future. People misinterpret what I do sometimes because they don’t know a great deal about old-time American music. There’s also a stigma attached to doing anything old-timey; they think it’s a museum piece. We want to make people dance and have a good time and be open minded, because that sound is here to stay.

    Q: Who were some of the keystone artists you discovered growing up?

    P.L.: Howlin’ Wolf was a big guy early on, both literally and figuratively. I also admire Tommy Duncan, Bob Wills, Lefty Frizzell, Jimmie Rodgers and Merle Haggard.

    Q. Speaking of Bob Wills, you and rockabilly singer J.D. McPherson recently released a cover of the Bob Wills tune “Good Old Oklahoma” as a charity effort to raise money for those affected by the tornado which hit the state of Oklahoma earlier this year. How did that come about?

    P.L.: J.D. is from Tulsa and we’re both big Bob Wills fans. When the tornado blew through there he had an idea to help out and I came up with the song. We recorded it and the rest is history. I hope that it continues to sell and that we can help contribute to the cause.

    Q: Tell us about your contribution to “The Lone Ranger” film soundtrack. I haven’t caught up to the movie yet myself, but I understand you’re in it as well, right?

    P.L.: We’re the band in the saloon doing a song that Jack (White) wrote (“Red’s Theater of the Absurd”). I haven’t seen it yet either, but I understand that if you blink you’ll miss me. We’re on the screen for a whole second (laughs).

    Pokey LaFarge plays The Ark, 316 S. Main St., at 8 p.m. Tuesday, July 30. Tickets are $15. Martin Bandyke is the 6-10 am morning drive host on ann arbor’s 107one, WQKL-FM. Follow him on Twitter, Facebook and at www.martinbandyke.com.


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