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

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    Rendez_Vous_Hookah_lounge.JPG

    Now re-opened as a hookah lounge, Rendez Vous sits next to South U. Pizza and Oasis Mediterranean Grill, owner Nizar El Awar's other South University businesses.

    Ben Freed | AnnArbor.com

    Nizar El Awar had operated the Rendez Vous Cafe on South University for more than 20 years before closing for renovations earlier this summer.

    The former restaurant has combined with the upstairs Smoka Hookah hookah lounge and re-emerged as soley focused on the Middle Eastern water pipe. El Awar said the changing face of South University forced his hand in the decision.

    “When I opened Rendez Vous there were maybe 10 to 12 restaurants in this three block area,” he said.

    “Now there are over 30 in the same area. So I have three restaurants right next to each other and they are competing with each other and with all of the newer places also.”

    Another restaurant, Burger Fi, plans to open on the corner of South University and South Forest sometime this fall in a space that has previously been a coney island, New York Pizza Depot and most recently Sushiya Japanese restaurant.

    South University Area Association executive director Maggie Ladd told AnnArbor.com earlier this summer that she has also noticed a change in the makeup of the area.

    As new developments such as Zaragon and Landmark have brought a higher concentration of students to the neighborhood, Ladd said she sees a market for more non-restaurants to flourish.

    "Not just diversity of housing, but diversity of businesses," she said. "And we think one will follow the other with new business spaces being available in the bottom of these new buildings."

    El Awar agreed that there is more potential for non-restaurants to succeed with the current mix of businesses, but lamented the fact that he had to close the cafe.

    “It’s a tough market now and I just had to make the decision. It’s a shame because it has a great history and I had many loyal customers,” he said.

    “People come and they see a busy street and they don’t realize that it’s fairly limited customers, really the students are the only customers.”

    El Awar also owns Oasis Mediterranean Grill and South U. Pizza, both located next to Rendez Vous. He said that due to regulations regarding food service and tobacco use, patrons at Rendez Vous would be able to make orders for delivery from the other two restaurants.

    “We’re not allowed to serve food in a hookah lounge,” he said.

    “So they can call in an order to one of the other restaurants and it can be delivered and they can pick it up.”

    The Smoka Hookah tobacco shop across the street next to Ulrich’s bookstore, also previously owned by El Awar, has been absorbed by the new lounge. The space it occupied is currently vacant and has not been listed by any local Realtors.

    The only other hookah lounge in Ann Arbor is the Smoke Station on Packard Road, which opened last year. A new lounge, Hail Hookah Lounge, had planned to open earlier this summer but is experiencing delays. According to the lounge’s Facebook page and a banner hanging in the window, a grand opening is “coming soon.”

    El Awar said that business has been brisk at Rendez Vous since it reopened on August 18.

    “Business has been very promising so far,” he said.

    “We opened without any announcement or advertising. We really just opened the doors and people have been coming in. That’s even without all the students back already so it’s a good sign for us.”

    There is still more remodeling to do on the upstairs lounge, but El Awar said he plans to complete those fixes without further closings. He hopes to rent out the former Smoka Hookah lounge as an events space for birthday parties and other events sponsored by local companies and campus groups.

    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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    It's hiring season for bus drivers in Washtenaw County.

    As of Thursday, the Washtenaw Intermediate School District has a staff of 150 drivers for 143 routes. It is seeking to hire 20 more for the entire school year, said Tom Moore, transportation coordinator.

    Job vacancies occur at such high rates because all of the bus driver positions with the WISD are part-time, temporary jobs, Moore said.

    ypsilanti school bus-thumb-646x411-136297.jpg

    Students board a bus in Ypsilanti in this file photo. Buses that transport students to Ypsilanti Community Schools and Ann Arbor Public Schools are staffed and managed by the Washtenaw Intermediate School District.

    AnnArbor.com file photo

    “We’re in a constant hiring mode,” Moore said. “It’s the nature of the job.”

    Last year at this time, the WISD was looking to hire six bus drivers.

    Moore said about 20 bus drivers leave on average during the summer months between school years, as most aren’t needed to drive a bus.

    Those 20 positions are each for a regularly assigned route where the bus driver will be working with the same group of students every day of the school week. Drivers work three hours in the mornings and three hours in the afternoons on weekdays.

    The WISD is also hiring for six bus monitor positions on regularly assigned routes.

    Licensed bus drivers start at $13 per hour. They have the opportunity to make up to $16 per hour, based on experience. The WISD also hires retired school bus drivers and pays them at a higher hourly rate, Moore said.

    The WISD provides busing transportation for students in Ann Arbor Public Schools and Ypsilanti Community Schools.

    As of Thursday, there are 105 bus drivers on AAPS routes and 45 bus drivers on YCS routes. Drivers also do some routes for WISD programs.

    Last year, there were 120 drivers in Ann Arbor, 30 in Ypsilanti and 19 in Willow Run. Included in those numbers are substitute drivers who are on call and used as need.

    Though the WISD is hiring drivers, Moore said he has enough staff to cover every bus route on the first day of school.

    However, some routes likely will have a substitute driver for the first days and weeks as the WISD will be utilizing retirees to fill many open spots, Moore said.

    This year, AAPS has moved three more of its high school bus routes over to the responsibility of the Ann Arbor Area Transportation Authority. That makes a total of six high school bus routes formerly serviced by WISD drivers that are served now by TheRide buses.

    WISD bus drivers that service AAPS routes are responsible for high school, middle school and elementary school routes. Each route costs AAPS about $12,500 per year.

    The switch doesn't have much of an impact on staffing at the WISD, Moore said, noting that most of the staffing issues are a result of employees leaving when they find full-time jobs.

    Throughout a school year, about 40 bus drivers will leave their jobs with the WISD, Moore said.

    Amy Biolchini is the K-12 education reporter for AnnArbor.com. Reach her at (734) 623-2552, amybiolchini@annarbor.com or on Twitter.


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    Forest_Avenue_081613_RJS_002.jpg

    Forest Avenue, shown here on a recent evening, has been in bad shape for years, but it's about to get a complete makeover.

    Ryan J. Stanton | AnnArbor.com

    South Forest Avenue — possibly the most tattered street in all of downtown Ann Arbor — is about to get a major facelift, and detours will be in effect starting Tuesday.

    The city has announced a temporary traffic control plan that runs through Oct. 31, during which time Forest Avenue will be reconstructed between South University Avenue and Hill Street. The road will be closed to through traffic along the two-block stretch.

    Forest_Avenue_detour_2013.jpg

    Beginning on Tuesday, Sept. 3, South Forest Avenue will be closed to through traffic between South University and Hill Street. These detours will be in effect.

    City of Ann Arbor

    The city is purposefully waiting until after the University of Michigan's student move-in before starting the two-month project in front of the Landmark student high-rise.

    Maggie Ladd, executive director of the South University Area Association, said the road has been in bad shape for years and her group has had to ask the city to patch potholes regularly.

    "It's been a horrible mess for a long time, so we're really glad it's going to get taken care of finally," she said.

    In addition to fresh pavement, underground utility work is planned along Forest Avenue as part of the nearly $1.3-million project.

    That includes replacement of the existing 6-inch water main with 600-plus feet of new 12-inch ductile iron water main along Forest Avenue from Hill Street to Willard Street.

    Nick Hutchinson, the city's interim project management unit manager, said the water main on Forest Avenue is in poor condition and undersized.

    The work being done also includes installation of a stormwater management system, replacement of curbs and gutters, curb ramps and some sidewalks.

    The new stormwater management system will allow rainwater to collect in a stone reservoir located under the street surface and infiltrate back into the ground, thereby removing flow from the city's storm sewer system, which can become overwhelmed during storms.

    Beginning on Tuesday, northbound traffic on Forest Avenue will be directed west on Hill Street, north on Church Street, and east on South University Avenue.

    Southbound traffic on Forest Avenue will be directed west on South University Avenue, south on Church Street, and east on Hill Street.

    Access to driveways will be maintained during the majority of the project. Pedestrian traffic on Forest Avenue will be maintained at all times.

    Art Low, manager of Republic Parking, said public access to the Forest Avenue parking garage will be maintained during the project.

    "We're going to make it work," he said. "The city is going to work with us. We've got restrictions as far as directional traffic, but we're going to be open for business one way or another."

    Forest_Avenue_081613_RJS_001.jpg

    Bicyclists try their best to avoid the bumpier parts of South Forest Avenue on a recent evening.

    Ryan J. Stanton | AnnArbor.com

    Republic Parking manages the city's parking garages for the Downtown Development Authority. Low said there will be signs posted noting Forest Avenue is open to local traffic.

    If they have to put employees out to direct people, they'll do that, Low said, but he's hoping the signs will let people know they can still park in the Forest Avenue garage.

    The City Council voted in July to award a $965,990 construction contract to the E.T. MacKenzie Co. for the Forest Avenue Improvements Project.

    The total cost of the project is estimated at $1,257,000, which includes $78,063 in contributions from the developers of the nearby Landmark and Zaragon Place student high-rises.

    Other funding sources include $543,937 from the city's street resurfacing millage, $185,000 from the city's water fund, and $450,000 from the city's stormwater fund.

    The stormwater portion of the project will be repaid as a loan to a state revolving fund. The city will receive 50 percent loan forgiveness on the project for water quality improvements.

    In addition to the work on the street, renovations and improvements are planned for the Forest Avenue Plaza adjacent to the Forest Avenue parking structure. Ryan J. Stanton covers government and politics for AnnArbor.com. Reach him at ryanstanton@annarbor.com or 734-623-2529. You also can follow him on Twitter or subscribe to AnnArbor.com's email newsletters.


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    hehadenferalcats.jpg

    Flickr photo by hehaden

    For the estimated 80 million domestic cats that are kept as house pets, there are as many roaming free.

    Those numbers shouldn't be surprising, considering the rate at which felines are able to reproduce. I've previously written about the overpopulation issue with cats and dogs, and getting these numbers in check has been the focus of many. Spay and neuter programs and protocols are helping to make progress.

    First, understand that from a biological standpoint, we are in a battle with pets. Reproductive success drives evolution, pure and simple. It's the strongest biological factor in any species. Biology has a way of taking over, jumping any hurdle that is put in its path and compensating. The pets themselves have no control over their biological drives, and therefore can't curb their behavior when it comes reproducing.

    Feral cat colonies are a supreme example of biology's stronghold.

    Comprised of a clowder of free-roaming cats that are the descendants of unaltered tame cats somewhere in their ancestral line, the social structure is by no means random: at its core, it has at least one sexually-active dominant male and fertile females who are often well-bonded and who will help care for their respective litters and each other. Colonies are often formed around shelter — be it a wooded area, abandoned house, under a porch area that doesn’t get that much foot traffic or something else — and a food source of some sort.

    Because of their unique resiliency, feral cat colonies have posed a special challenge. The structure and reproductive patterns of these groups have piqued the interest of researchers and got them thinking: Could the way that a feline in a feral colony is sterilized impact the overall numbers of new litters that are born?

    A new study focusing on one method of sterilizing cats in colonies — trapping them, giving vasectomies or hysterectomies (versus ovariohysterectomy) and releasing them back into the colony (abbreviated TVHR) — offers some insight.

    The results of the study, which simulated a cat population of roughly 200, were published in the Aug. 15, 2013 edition of the Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association.

    But why a computer-simulated study?

    First, TVHR is not a common way to address feral cat populations. Trap, neuter and release (TNR) on the other hand, is a more widely-accepted approach to controlling feral cat colony populations, and for a lot of reasons.

    Because TVHR isn’t put into use as much and because the life span of feral cats is far shorter — an average of three years as opposed to the 15 that their indoor counterparts enjoy — it’s been difficult to extrapolate the long-term data that helps to give some solid numbers that researchers would be looking for. Each computer run simulated the feral cat population over 6,000 days, tracking individual cats on a daily basis, thus predicting effectiveness of TVHR.

    New cats were added to the population as they were born and cats that died were removed, creating a “family tree” of sorts.

    But before talking about the results of the study, it’s probably a good idea to flesh out the differences between the two methods and the advantages to both.

    Same goal, different approaches

    Neutering a male cat entails removal of their testicles — thus leaving them not only infertile, but sexually inactive.

    Those two things are very advantageous: the cats don't reproduce, and because they no longer produce reproductive hormones, behaviors like fighting, spraying and howling are reduced, addressing the needs of the community-at-large. (Behaviors like those would be troublesome to anyone who lives in close proximity to a feral colony.)

    A possible advantage to vasectomy as opposed to neuter procedure is that though the tube that carries semen is cut, the animal retains their testicles and their reproductive hormones. For that reason, upon being returned to the colony, the cat preserves his dominant position and can continue mating with females without producing kittens — and quite possibly protect their turf from other male competitors that are “intact”.

    Conversely, a neutered male loses his dominant position in the colony, and the next most dominant male takes his place — and the cycle continues. (It's important to note that when a female cat that has not been sterilized mates with a male that has had a vasectomy, she enters a 45-day pseudo-pregnancy, dipping the chance of fertile mating even further.)

    The findings and commentary

    Researchers discovered that with an annual capture rate of 35 percent using TVHR, the population would be cut in half and the entire colony would disappear in 11 years. To achieve the same results with TNR, 82 percent of cats would need to be captured and neutered.

    Robert J. McCarthy, D.V.M., lead author on the study and clinical associate professor of small animal surgery at the Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine at Tufts University hopes that TVHR can be put to the test in a more broad sense, rather than the controlled environments and small colonies that it has been shown promise in.

    “This opens up new conversations,” said McCarthy.

    “The computer model indicates that vasectomy and hysterectomy should be much more effective at reducing or eliminating feral cat populations than the traditional approach of neutering. The next step is to gather evidence on how it actually works in the field.”

    The topic of feral cat colonies and how to manage them is one that brings up a lot of emotion in many communities, and Washtenaw County is no exception. The feedback on two featured pieces here on AnnArbor.com — the first in February and a follow up in July — on a TNR program that was piloted in Ypsilanti along with the Humane Society of Huron Valley, was telling.

    One letter to the editor submitted by a local resident expanded on one common sticking point that many share: the wild birds that become prey to free-roaming cats.

    One thing that is certain is that it’s going to take time in order to see a favorable result, no matter the approach to managing feral colonies.

    And, some experts believe that a combination of methods would be advantageous, including Sheilah Robertson of the American Veterinary Medical Association's Animal Welfare Division.

    "…a multipronged approach will be required that includes TNVR; programs that use nonsurgical approaches, including immunocontraception and chemical sterilization of male cats; and trap-and-remove. Regardless of the method chosen, it may take 10-15 years of sustained effort to see a positive effect," she said.

    Click here to read more on the study from TuftsNow.com.

    Lorrie Shaw leads the pets section for AnnArbor.com and owner of Professional Pet Sitting. Shoot her an email, contact her at 734-904-7279 or follow her adventures on Twitter.


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    Gallup_Canoe_Livery_081813_RJS_001.jpg

    Kayakers make their way into the docks at the Gallup Canoe Livery on the Huron River in Ann Arbor on Aug. 18

    Ryan J. Stanton | AnnArbor.com

    The Gallup Canoe Livery will be closed on weekdays starting Tuesday as the city of Ann Arbor continues a $563,398 renovation of the facilities.

    The livery and coffee shop will be open weekends only and will offer still-water paddles in Gallup Pond, park officials said.

    Gallup_Canoe_Livery_081813_RJS_002.jpg

    Livery attendants haul kayaks out of the river at the Gallup Canoe Livery on Aug. 18

    Ryan J. Stanton | AnnArbor.com

    The Argo Canoe Livery will remain open seven days a week, offering river trips and still-water paddles.

    The Ann Arbor City Council voted earlier this year to award a $512,180 contract to Construction Solutions Inc. for the upgrades at Gallup.

    The first phase of work took place before Memorial Day and now the remaining work will resume after Labor Day, with the project expected to be done by mid-November.

    The improvements include barrier-free paths leading to new barrier-free docks and fishing facilities, and expansion and modification of the patio area to create barrier-free outdoor seating.

    Other elements of the project include new sliding glass doors from the livery's meeting room to allow for events and camps to take advantage of scenic riverfront views and fresh air, and a redesign of the park entryway so there is separation between the service drive and the pedestrian pathway. Park officials believe that will increase safety for park users.

    The project is funded in part by a $300,000 grant from the Michigan Natural Resources Trust Fund, with matching funds coming from the city's parks millage.

    The city has budgeted a 10 percent construction contingency totaling $51,218 to cover potential contract change orders, pushing the project budget up to $563,398.

    Colin Smith, the city's parks and recreation manager, said there isn't a set closing date for the liveries — when the season ends is weather dependent.

    Previous coverage: Ann Arbor's Gallup Park canoe livery to get $563K makeover this year

    Ryan J. Stanton covers government and politics for AnnArbor.com. Reach him at ryanstanton@annarbor.com or 734-623-2529. You also can follow him on Twitter or subscribe to AnnArbor.com's email newsletters.


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    A 20-year-old woman reported that an unknown man grabbed her buttocks near University of Michigan campus Saturday night.

    At approximately 10:00 p.m. the victim told Ann Arbor police that she was walking home from a party store and cut through a parking lot off of East University Avenue near the intersection of East University and Hill Street when she was approached by a male stranger.

    Ann Arbor police Lt. Renee Bush said the suspect reached around and grabbed the victim's buttocks before walking to his bicycle and riding away.

    The suspect was described as a middle-aged black male approximately 5 feet 9 inches, wearing a blue hat, shorts, and a gray t-shirt.

    Anyone with information on this incident 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).


    View Larger Map

    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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    Fast_Food_Workers-Pay.JPG

    Becky Rafter, left, Courtney Hanson and Emilia Kaiser protest in front of a McDonald’s on Moreland Avenue in Atlanta. Protests in front of fast food restaurants across the country have become more common in recent months.

    John Spink | AP File Photo

    It has been a difficult year for labor unions in Michigan.

    On Labor Day in 2012, organized labor was riding high on news of increased employment and union membership, the “Protect Our Jobs” ballot initiative had been approved by the Board of State Canvassers and picket lines in Washtenaw County had been unnecessary for more than two years.

    Since then, the wind has been taken out of union sails the by the failure of Proposal 2 and passage of right-to-work laws in states across the country, including Michigan.

    “Labor as an institution can become weakened because of changes in politics, and the evidence is that they are very much linked to politics,” University of Michigan labor research scientist Roland Zullo said.

    But — he added — that doesn’t mean labor is going away.

    “When that happens is you see more of a resurgence in ‘labor the movement,’ or labor agitating with workers acting in less organized forms.”

    ‘Labor the movement’ has been evident over the past year largely in the form of high-visibility protests and picketing at companies that do not negotiate their contracts with established unions.

    “We’re seeing a rise of worker organizations that are not tied to nationally sanctioned institutions,” Zullo said. “They don’t follow the conventions of labor law, and they push the boundaries in other ways.”

    Workers at Wal-Mart stores and fast food chains across the country have been protesting low wages, with fast food workers recently picketing several locations in Michigan demanding a near doubling of their hourly rates.

    “They use disruptive tactics, they generally have very few demands but they use disruptive tactics to press those demands and that’s what you’re seeing right now at the restaurants,” Zullo said.

    “That form of attempting to deal with grievances in the workplace tends to emerge when you make it more difficult for workers to form bona fide unions.”

    Despite difficulty of forming unions at big box stores and restaurants, the grassroots organizers often get logistic and even financial support from unions that are shifting their focus. Zullo said that help often comes even though employees and organizers have no intention of even attempting to join the established unions.

    “When you have strong unions out there negotiating terms and conditions across whole industries like what we had from the 1940s through the 60s, the general strategy is that they want to set a high standard of decent wages and safe working environments that other people reach towards,” he said.

    “When union institutions as we think often think of them are weakened, the strategy changes. Instead it becomes, ‘let’s take a look at the base, the workers really at the margins and try to lift those folks up.’”

    The workers on the margins are often found in industries that have traditionally been extremely hostile to labor organization. Zullo said that United States labor laws allows for “concerted actions” by employees regardless of whether there is a union in place or not.

    “So if I’m in a non-union setting and I walk up to the boss and I demand a raise, that’s not concerted activity because it’s just for me,” he said.

    “But, if I walk up to the boss and say we’re all hurting here we all need a raise, that’s considered concerted and I’m protected and cannot be fired for that act.”

    Non-union activists have been using this protection to plan and execute their protests, though Zullo said many of them are also harnessing a “can’t get any worse” attitude to spur their picketing.

    “Part of what gives these restaurant workers the audacity to work for almost a double wage is the fact that they don’t feel that much risk,” he said.

    “… They know the employer needs them, and at seven or eight dollars an hour that it’s very difficult for employers to find people who can come in and do the same work at that wage. There’s not much to lose at that point for them.”

    According to a Labor Day study from the Michigan League for Public Policy, employees in Michigan not in the top 10 percent of wage earners have reason for their pessimism.

    While the state’s unemployment rate has dipped to 8.4 percent, the study found that workers in Michigan have seen the largest decrease in median wage of any state in America since 1980.

    Zullo said that the wage stagnation has less to do with union participation, and more to do with the types of jobs available to Michiganders.

    “If you want a society that confers upon workers strong wages and strong benefits, workers have to be engaged in value added activity,” he said.

    “They have to be taking something, whatever it is that they do, and creating substantial value. And it doesn’t matter if they’re union or not.

    “In Michigan we’ve traditionally had the auto industry. Workers take steel and glass and rubber and plastic and make it into a product that fetches a strong price on a market. It’s the ability for them to do that that allows for the wages paid. It doesn’t matter if the workforce is union or not but the value added by the workers have to be there.”

    Between 2000 and 2010, Michigan lost 46 percent of its manufacturing jobs, and according to the MLPP report, two of the top three jobs in the state are now ‘retail salesperson’ and ‘cashier.’

    Zullo said that moving forward, unions will likely look to continue their role in the non-union organization of employees in service sector and other lower-wage jobs.

    “It all goes back to the shift in strategy,” he said. “They went from trying to create a model that everyone would reach for to directly lifting up the base.”

    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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    Ann Arbor police are searching for a man who struck a woman in the face early Saturday morning.

    Ann Arbor police Lt. Renee Bush said the victim was taken to the University of Michigan emergency room shortly after midnight Saturday morning and treated for a laceration to her head.

    Bush said the assault happened on the 2100 block of Eden Court after a confrontation between the suspect and the victim that began with him grabbing her.

    The suspect fled the scene immediately, but Bush said that he has been identified and police are attempting to locate him. He is described as a 26-year-old male.

    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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    09042012_NEWS_Back_To_School_Buses_DJB_07.JPG

    An Abbot Elementary student embraces bus driver Ken Cameron on the first day of school in 2012.

    Daniel Brenner I File Photo AnnArbor.com

    It's time to pick out a first-day outfit, start writing that "what I did over summer" essay, and counting down the days until summer vacation starts again. That's right, school is nearly back in session.

    Tuesday, Sept. 3 is when most children across Michigan will head back to their respective classrooms. AnnArbor.com will be visiting some area schools to capture photos of that first day, but we're also looking for your photos, whether it's of your little one heading off to their very first day or, if you're a student, a shot of you and your friends back in class.

    To have your pictures featured here on AnnArbor.com and MLive.com submit the photo using the form found below or by using the hashtag #a2photos on Instagram or Twitter.


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    milan-football-group-shot-083013

    The Milan high school football team gets ready to kick off the ball to start the game on Friday night, Aug. 30.

    Patrick Record | AnnAbor.com file

    It may be a holiday weekend, but our AnnArbor.com Game of the Week voters aren't taking time off.

    In the three days since our second weekly poll opened on Friday afternoon, we've seen 700 votes cast between the five choices.

    And the leader, with just over a day to go until our vote closes, is Milan's Huron League opener at Riverview. The Big Reds' game has just over 300 votes, about 50 ahead of Ypsilanti at Saline. The poll will remain open until 6 p.m. Tuesday.

    Three other games are also in the running for the poll: Skyline at Dexter, Pioneer at Dearborn Edsel Ford and Chelsea at Belleville.

    Milan opened its season Friday with a 13-6 win over Ypsilanti, in a contest that was delayed by lightning for a day.

    Saline, meanwhile, started its season with a bang in a 42-0 win over London A.B. Lucas.


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    Kornelius-Saxton-Skyline-football-082913

    Skyline's Kornelius Saxton catches the ball mid air to score a touchdown during the third quarter of their game against Hartland, bring the score to 27-10, Thursday, Aug. 29.

    Courtney Sacco I AnnArbor.com file

    There may have been no players on the Skyline football roster more eager to start the season Thursday night than Kornelius Saxton .

    Saxton played 8-man varsity football his sophomore year at Eastern Washtenaw Multicultural Academy in 2011, and was ready to return to the team as a junior in 2012, before EWMA decided to cancel its season.

    Saxton transferred to Skyline, but had to sit out the 2012 season due to transfer rules. He attended every practice and game, but on Friday nights was relegated to the sideline.

    “It was very hard,” Saxton said. “I wanted to win, and seeing them lose was just hurting me. But it was making me better.”

    Now, he’s making up for lost time.

    “I’m very ready for this season, because it’s my last season, and my last chance that I can show everybody what they missed out on last year,” Saxton said.

    In Skyline’s season-opening win Thursday over Hartland, Saxton lead all Eagles receivers with a pair of catches for 81 yards and a touchdown. He also led the defense with 5.5 tackles as it allowed the least amount of points in a game in program-history.

    For one of his two catches, Saxton elevated over a Hartland defensive back in the corner of the end zone, and held onto the ball despite taking a hard fall.

    “He knows that I can go and get it if he throws it far,” Saxton said of Skyline quarterback Askaree Crawford. “And I have trust in Askaree too to throw it up there so I can get it.”

    The Eagles lost a pair of standout receivers in Jack Clark and Purcell Franklin due to graduation, but coach Lee Arthur is confident in his new crop this year. Mike Nichols also had two catches Thursday, and 6-foot-7 Tristan Wilson had one catch.

    'Fiasco' at Ypsilanti

    lamanzer-williams-083013

    Ypsilanti athletic director and assistant football coach Lamanzer Williams reacts to a penalty called on the Grizzlies.

    Patrick Record | AnnArbor.com file

    Ypsilanti Community has played one game as a merged football program from Ypsilanti and Willow Run high schools, and has already incensed an opposing coach.

    Milan coach Jesse Hoskins called Ypsilanti “unorganized and dirty,” after his team’s Week 1 win over YCS, calling the game a “fiasco.”

    “There were tons of penalties, and tons of helmet-to-helmet contact,” Hoskins said. “I told my team that I've been involved with a lot of football, and this was probably the biggest victory I've been a part of. The guys were challenged and they showed their true character.”

    The game took place over two days, after lightning postponed the game in the first quarter Friday. The Grizzlies were assessed 140 total penalty yards during Friday’s action.

    YCS coach Rufus Pipkins said neither team played rougher than the other.

    “For the first week, you're not used to a lot of the hitting,” Pipkins said. “It was definitely a physical contest. We were physical, they were physical. We delivered a lot of hits, and we took some. It was a physical brand of football.”

    Hoskins told the Monroe Evening News that Milan will never again play Ypsilanti as long as he is the head coach.

    Gross out

    The excitement of Saline’s 42-0 win over London A.B. Lucas Friday was tempered by the fact that starting running back Kevin Gross left the game three plays in with a leg injury.

    Gross ran for 733 yards and 16 touchdowns last year, and tacked on 327 receiving yards.

    "It's a big blow,” Saline coach Joe Palka said Friday night. "He's a star player for us and was a big-time player last year. We have other kids we will rally around. We will make some changes and do what we need to be competitive."

    The Hornets will now turn to Griffin Wooley, who had 448 rushing yards in 2012.

    Milan also got an injury scare in their opener, when quarterback Robert Kanitz left during the first series with leg and head injuries. But he returned the next day following the lightning day to help his team seal up the win.

    “Kanitz coming back and playing today after the shot he took in the knee and head yesterday was pretty remarkable,” Hoskins said.

    Friends don't let friends go winless

    Huron snapped a 15-game losing streak on Thursday, though the River Rats did it in an unconventional way, defeating Canadian high school team Windsor Massey, 41-10.

    The reason Huron was playing a Canadian team was because new Huron coach, Craig Jobe, is friends with Massey coach, Dan Gray. Gray and Jobe were teammates on the Wayne State football team and roommates as well. When Jobe mentioned to his old friend that Huron was in need of a game for the home opener, Gray was all about it.

    "It's good for our guys to come and see what football's all about and to play under the lights under American rules," Gray said. "I did it when I was in school and we just thought it'd be a good experience.

    "It's an exhibition game for us, a regular season game for them, but it's good to get this experience."

    Though the Canadians didn't leave with a victory, they left with full stomachs as players from both teams were treated to a pizza party on the field after the game.

    -- Pete Cunningham contributed to this article.

    Kyle Austin covers sports for AnnArbor.com.


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    Ken Evans brings his boy-next-door persona back to the Ann Arbor Comedy Showcase Friday and Saturday.

    Ken_Evans.jpg

    Ken Evans

    Courtesy

    Evans has an observational style of comedy. His energy is electric and his act is visual. The Orlando Sentinel said Evans’ “biting wit is like viewing life through broken glass …”

    A seasoned comedy veteran, Evans has performed alongside Joan Rivers, Brian Regan and Weird Al Yankovic.

    Besides appearances on NBC’s “Ed,” Caroline’s Comedy Hour, Showtime, "Law & Order," and NBC's “Last Comic Standing,” he’s been a studio guest of the Bob and Tom Show and the Bob and Sheri national radio shows.

    A cancer survivor, he’s the only comic to be chosen three times to perform at the prestigious annual “Laugh for the Cure” fundraiser, and was also the main speaker for 1,200 cancer survivors at the Henry Ford Theater in Detroit.

    Ken Evans performs at 8 and 10:30 p.m. Friday and at 9 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 6-7, at Ann Arbor Comedy Showcase, 314 E. Liberty St. Tickets are $10-$12. Details at www.aacomedy.com or 734-996-9080.


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    chelsea-football-cheerleading-sexton.jpg

    The Chelsea High School cheerleaders have good reason to smile with the Bulldogs football team near the top of the AnnArbor.com power rankings.

    Brianne Bowen | AnnArbor.com file photo

    It may be a little premature to rank all the high school football teams in Washtenaw County after just one week of games, especially since only two of them - Ypsilanti and Milan - have played each other.

    The rankings will get a little easier next week when more area teams begin to play each other and common opponents. Southeastern Conference teams playing each other as part of their non-conference schedule in Week 2 will be Ypsilanti and Saline, Dexter and Skyline, Whitmore Lake and Father Gabriel Richard, and Lincoln and Huron. Chelsea's game against Belleville should also provide somewhat of a gauge as Lincoln played the Tigers in Week 1.

    So even though the case for each of these teams, good or bad, will be based on very little, we’ll give it a shot anyway:

    Washtenaw County Power Rankings:

    Rank, School (Record), Latest result

    1. Saline (1-0), def. A.B. Lucas, 42-0
    2. Chelsea (0-1), lost to Lansing Sexton, 21-14
    3. Father Gabriel Richard (1-0), def. Lake Fenton, 25-13
    4. Lincoln (1-0), def. Belleville, 30-9
    5. Skyline (1-0), def. Hartland, 28-10
    6. Pioneer (0-1), lost to Birmingham Seaholm, 24-0
    7. Milan (1-0), def. Ypsilanti, 13-6
    8. Huron (1-0), def. Windsor Massey, 42-10
    9. Ypsilanti Community (0-1), lost to Milan, 13-6
    10. Manchester (0-1), lost to Clinton, 26-14
    11. Dexter (0-1), lost to Fowlerville, 17-10
    12. Whitmore Lake (1-0), def. Stockbridge, 32-22

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    The woman accused of fatally stabbing her boyfriend last year is on course for trial in October after a court hearing last week, according to records.

    donnaturner.jpg

    Donna Turner

    Courtesy of the WCSO

    Donna Turner, 47, is charged with one count of open murder for allegedly killing Keith Walton on Dec. 4 in her Ypsilanti apartment. According to police, Turner stabbed Walton once in the abdomen with a large knife as he tried to leave the apartment following an argument.

    Court records show Turner appeared in court in late August for her final pretrial hearing. The case continued on to trial, scheduled for 8:30 a.m. Oct. 7 in front of Washtenaw County Trial Court Judge David Swartz.

    Turner is being represented by Erane Washington.

    Turner faces a maximum term of life in prison, if convicted. She remains held in the Washtenaw Coutny Jail without bond.

    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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    BBall_Hoop_Ordinance_1.jpg

    A makeshift court in a cul-de-sac in the Greene Farms subdivision sits without a hoop, which has been moved up the driveway.

    Tom Perkins | For AnnArbor.com

    Since Ypsilanti’s Township enacted its new basketball hoop ordinance on July 6 prohibiting basketball in the street and public-right-of-way, ordinance officials have received at least 14 complaints about violations.

    Of those complaints, four have led to the township confiscating hoops.

    Needless to say, some township residents are upset about what they say is the township barring a wholesome activity kids have enjoyed for generations.

    “If you drive through Greene Farms you won’t see as many kids outside playing (since the ordinance was enacted),” said Greene Farms subdivision resident Helen Bryant, who has six kids from 10- to 25-years-old and received a warning to move her hoop. “My kids don’t go outside as much anymore.

    "Basketball rims or games aren’t interfering with anything. If you want kids to get exercise and be productive, let them play outside like kids.”

    But township officials say the ordinance is a result of years of complaints from neighborhood watch groups and residents about kids playing basketball in the street or right-of-way and not moving for traffic or pedestrians.

    The state and county have laws that say items like hoops can’t be in the right-of-way, but neither has the manpower to enforce them.

    Per the ordinance, residents playing basketball in public streets, cul-de-sacs, with hoops on lawn extensions or otherwise in the right-of-way will have an adheisve sticker placed on the hoop and their front door that warns that the hoop needs to be pulled out of the right-of-way.

    If the hoop still is found to be in the public right-of-way after 24 hours, then it could be confiscated and the owner written a municipal civil infraction punishable by a $100 fine. The owner can then retrieve the hoops from the township.

    Township officials have stressed that the ordinance is complaint driven and Mike Radzik, director of the office of community standards, previously said “we aren’t driving around looking for hoops to take.”

    Greene Farms resident John Hoops is a neighborhood association leader who has lodged complaints with the township about hoops in the public right-of-way. He said he has seen groups of kids playing street basketball or basketball on a sidewalk not move for traffic or pedestrians.

    “It dirties up the neighborhood,” Hoops said. “Some lady walking down the sidewalk shouldn’t have to feel afraid because a bunch of kids aren’t moving. People have driveways. Park the car in the street, which is a legal thing to do, and play basketball in the driveway.”

    Radzik said the township has received complaints in West Willow, Ford Lake Heights, Tremont and Greene Farms since the ordinance went into effect. He said placing hoops in the right-of-way has always been illegal at the state and county level and the ordinance just gives local officials here a way to enforce it.

    BBall_Hoop_Ordinance.jpg

    Helen Bryant's family moved their hoop from the left side of the sidewalk, which is in the right-of-way, to the right side, but slightly further up the driveway.

    Tom Perkins | For AnnArbor.com

    Radzik also previously said the hoops are a safety issue.

    Hoops agreed.

    “If they’re standing there in the road again and again they’re going to become a hood ornament. We don’t need to have kids getting hit to play street ball,” he said.

    In the case of the Greene Farms and Ford Lake Heights subdivisions, the public right-of-way extends from sidewalk to sidewalk, which means the tract of lawn between the road and sidewalk is the public right-of-way and is included in the ordinance.

    In Greene Farms, driveways are flat near the street and where the sidewalks run, while the rest of the driveway is on enough of an upward slant that it makes playing basketball difficult.

    Most residents there placed their hoops in the tract of lawn between the road and sidewalk and faced the hoop in toward their driveway. So most of the games took place not in the street, but still in the public right-of-way.

    The ordinance has forced hoop owners to place the hoops further up the slanted driveway.

    But Hoops stressed that the flat part of the driveways is in the county’s right-of-way and residents can’t have hoops there because it is encroachment.

    “The bigger issue is the ordinance helps uphold state law and county law," he said.

    In Ford Lake Heights, there were no violation notices posted on the hoops until mid-August. Ford Lake resident Paul Nucci said most residents aren’t aware of the ban or that there was a vote by the Township Board of Trustees, who unanimously approved the ordinance.

    But he added that those who do know of it are “against it, but not vocal.”

    “There are no issues with the games in the street in this sub,” he said. “If you cruise this sub you will see hoop board in the street right now. The (neighbors) that I have talked to think it's sad one or two neighborhoods have issues and it impacts the entire region."

    But a week later, Ford Lake resident Amber Nazimek came home and discovered a notice posted to her hoop, which was out in the street. She said her husband moved the rim back to the tract of grass between the sidewalk and street and left it facing the road.

    The sticker posted to the hoop had very little information, Nazimek said, and it took an explanation of the ordinance from an AnnArbor.com reporter for her to understand that the hoop was still illegally positioned and could be confiscated.

    She said her husband and his friends play basketball in the street because there is more room, but said it is probably safer for her 6- and 8-year-old kids to play in the driveway. Still, she didn’t like the idea of having to move her cars.

    “It’s sort of a bummer to have to park the car in the street. That’s the reason we have a driveway, and it should be our choice,” she said.

    Ford Lake resident Jeff Kompanis said he doesn’t have kids but he finds the ordinance “a bit heavy-handed” if kids are letting traffic through.

    “On our street this wasn't really a problem as kids play in the street areas and pause for traffic to get through,” Kompanis said. “I've heard that there are areas where the kids do not let traffic through, and that's a problem, but it's a people problem, not something that needed legislation. I think a couple of cops stopping and letting the kids know 'the rules and customs' might have been fine. The ban seems like overreach.”

    And he noted that the ordinance doesn’t apply to other activities.

    “Kids on our street play street hockey, so the ban really doesn't affect them and they'd still be able to block traffic,” Kompanis said

    In West Willow, New West Willow Neighborhood Association President Deborah Hawkins said that neighborhood’s residents were made aware of the ordinance at their neighborhood watch meeting.

    “The vast majority of the residents there were in favor of there being a way to control and deal with this issue,” she said. “I think the idea of a warning is good as some may not know the ordinance or realize the danger that having the hoops in the street can pose for both players and drivers.”

    Bryant noted that in Green Farms, there is nothing for teenage kids to do. She said the nearby park only has equipment for younger kids, and there is nothing in the area that kids can bike to.

    “After 10 years of my basketball hoop being in the exact same spot, I finally moved it just because it’s not worth the fight,” she said. “I can take my kids to the Y, Washtenaw Rec Center, but there are a lot of kids who can't go do that.

    “Now what? Kids will start smoking pot. You should let kids play outside.”

    And Bryant added a final thought.

    “Why don’t you guys put rims out at the park so the kids can play basketball there?” she asked.

    Tom Perkins is a freelance reporter.


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    080713_NEWS_PedCrashPlymouth_MRM_06_display.jpg

    Ann Arbor police continue to investigate the crash that killed Sharita Williams in early August.

    Melanie Maxwell | AnnArbor.com

    Ann Arbor police continue to investigate the crash that killed Sharita Williams in early August and work could continue for weeks.

    Officer Jamie Adkins, the lead investigator on the case, said more investigation has to be done before the case can be turned over to the Washtenaw County Prosecutor’s Office for potential charges. She said no arrests can be made before the investigation is complete.

    “Any time you submit an investigation, you want to make sure all your i's are dotted and all your t’s are crossed,” she said.

    Williams was hit by a green Chevrolet Cavalier on the afternoon of Aug. 7 while crossing Plymouth Road between Nixon Road and Traverwood Boulevard. She died two days later at University of Michigan Hospital from injuries sustained in the crash. She was 20 years old.

    sharitawilliams.jpg

    Sharita Williams

    Facebook photo

    On Friday, Adkins corrected initial reports that Williams was crossing Plymouth Road from south to north. She said Williams was actually crossing the road from north to south, meaning she was hit just feet before she got out of Plymouth Road. Williams was hit in the far right lane of eastbound Plymouth Road and came to rest in the grassy portion of the pedestrian island.

    Witnesses told AnnArbor.com the Rapid Rectangular Flashing Beacon (RRFB) lights at the pedestrian crosswalk where Williams was crossing had been flashing for at least 30 seconds.

    Adkins said the driver of the Cavalier was interviewed at the scene of the crash, but did not show up for a follow-up interview the next day. Police told AnnArbor.com the woman hired a lawyer and informed police through her attorney that she would not be interviewed again.

    It’s normal for police to want to re-interview people involved in crashes 24 hours later, Adkins said.

    There was no sobriety test done on the scene because there was no indication one was required, Adkins said. Without the driver appearing intoxicated or another extenuating circumstance, no arrest could be made at the scene of the crash.

    “At that point, an investigation isn’t complete,” she said. “The investigation has to be completed to see if there are any violations. If there are violations, the charges must be determined by the prosecutor’s office.”

    Adkins declined to comment about what portions of the investigation remain.

    Officials have previously told AnnArbor.com the woman driving the Cavalier is allowed to drive while the investigation continues.

    Adkins acknowledged the high amount of interest in this particular case, but urged patience. She said investigations into fatal crashes involving pedestrians often take weeks to complete and then prosecutors can take weeks to consider pressing charges.

    “These investigations don’t happen overnight,” she said.

    Adkins added, “Unfortunately, someone’s life is already affected by this and there’s another person waiting to see how their life will be affected.”

    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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    michigan-football-student-section-central.JPG

    Michigan students were out in full force Saturday for the team's home opener against Central Michigan University.

    Courtney Sacco I AnnArbor.com

    The student section at the Big House was full Saturday.

    It was full 30 minutes before kickoff. It was loud.

    There are many factors that go into when a student decides to show up for a football game, but the new general admission seating system appeared to have changed the calculus. Some students lined up as early as 7 a.m. to secure front row seats.

    The team noticed the difference. Head coach Brady Hoke used his opening remarks at the post-game press conference to thank the students for showing up early and staying involved.

    "One thing I really want to do is thank our students and our fans,” Hoke said.

    “It was really neat to see that student section in the maize and all that stuff when we went out for our warmups and it just kept building. I want to thank our students because it's fun when they're there. They make the atmosphere and the game fun."

    The new system was not without kinks, but associate athletic director and chief marketing officer Hunter Lochmann said that the first game proved that the system will solve the problem it was intended to address.

    “I think we're all really thrilled with the results, with the amount of students who were in the stands and when they got there,” he said.

    “Everyone related to the football program was extremely happy. It’s fantastic to have a game under our belt, but this week is a whole new set of challenges.”

    Those challenges include figuring out the timing for opening the queue that students wait in to get seats in the first few rows of the stadium. The line opened at 7 a.m. for the Central Michigan game, and Lochmann admitted that it was probably too early after seeing only approximately 100 students arrive in the first three and a half hours.

    “The first three games are huge learning opportunities,” he said.

    Thumbnail image for Student_section_cheering_final.jpg

    Students cheer on a Michigan touchdown during the second quarter of the game against Central Michigan University at Michigan Stadium Saturday, Aug. 31, 2013.

    Ben Freed | AnnArbor.com

    “We learned a ton of immediate improvements we can do, things as simple as signage and where the queue is to traffic patterns and where students are coming from. We can work on the flow of students from queue to shoots, and then from the chutes down to their seats.”

    Lochmann said the line will open as announced at 11 a.m. for the Notre Dame game that is scheduled to kick off at 8 p.m. on Saturday.

    “It’s fantastic to have a game under our belt, but this week is a whole new set of challenges,” Lochmann said.

    “Now with [ESPN's] Gameday here you’re going to have students up there till noon. And there are a lot of other things going on around campus, there’s a volleyball game at 2 p.m. but we still think we’re going to have a much busier queue.”

    Some students at the Central Michigan game said they planned to arrive well before 11 for the Notre Dame game, but there is no plan from the university for dealing with a line to get into the queue.

    “We’ll see who’s there and what happens at 11,” Lochmann said. “We’ll see if there are people loitering around and we’ll go from there.”

    One of the primary complaints from students attending the Central Michigan game was that it was difficult to seat large groups together if they did not enter the stadium at precisely the same time. Lochmann said that there are not going to be any changes in regards to group seating at the Notre Dame game, but that a special emphasis will be placed on ensuring that every seat is occupied.

    “With general admission, not everyone packs in a row which leaves a few gaps here and there and then once you get to the top you’re getting a lot of seats that aren’t packed in,” Lochmann said.

    “The biggest change will be enforcing and making sure that every row and every seat is taken before we move on. If there are 20 seats in a row, there should be 20 students.”

    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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    About $7 million worth of repair and upgrade work to Ann Arbor Public Schools buildings and properties have been completed while students were out of the classroom for summer break.

    At the start of classes Tuesday, there will be a number of changes students will see in their respective buildings besides different principals and teachers.

    Tim Gruszczynski said his staff first evaluates which projects are critical to maintaining the infrastructure of the school buildings when deciding summer projects.

    “We put forward the projects that we feel are critical from a facility management standpoint,” Gruszczynski said.

    After getting estimates for the vital projects, Gruszczynski said the remaining funds in the district’s budget for repair projects are matched to the needs from individual school buildings.

    The vast majority of the projects have been completed with the district's sinking fund millage. The 1 mill property tax raised about $7.3 million for this year's projects. As the millage expires in 2014, the district is seeking a continuation of the millage on the November ballot.

    Gruszczynski said estimates were available for some of the projects completed this year, though others had not been completely billed so an approximate cost was not available.

    Here's some of the new features at AAPS buildings students will see this fall:

    Synthetic turf practice field at Skyline High School

    A new synthetic turf practice field has replaced the grass field inside the track at Skyline High School. The approximately $900,000 field is the second turf field at Skyline, as the other one is in the football stadium.

    Synthetic turf creates an equitable playing surface for teams year-round, Gruszczynski said. It also costs less to maintain.

    Both Pioneer and Huron high schools have two synthetic turf athletic fields.

    Universally accessible playground at Haisley Elementary School

    It's the first playground in AAPS to be specifically designed to be universally accessible. The playground includes wheelchair swings and is completely compliant with the Americans with Disabilities Act.

    Gruszczynski said there's a large special needs community at Haisley and a parent group has been active in pushing for a new playground at that location.

    Doors

    AAPS is in the middle of upgrading all of the doors on its schools that were installed when the schools were built that are in disrepair. Existing doors are made of galvanized, painted steel.

    New doors are made of fiberglass reinforced panels, Gruszczynski said. The perk of the new doors is that they don't rust, Gruszczynski said.

    Many of the older doors have either warped or rusted to the point that they can't be trusted to close completely, Gruszczynski said.

    Several years ago the exterior doors at Scarlett and Clague middle schools were updated using the district's sinking fund millage.

    This summer, exterior doors at Forsythe Middle School, King Elementary, Mitchell Elementary, Ann Arbor Open/Mack School, Wines Elementary and Abbot Elementary were replaced at a cost of about $800,000.

    Replacing school doors will be an ongoing project for the district, Gruszczynski said.

    Roofs, heating and cooling upgrades and new floors

    A number of infrastructure improvements have happened throughout AAPS buildings.

    About $1 million was invested to install new roofs on portions of Slauson Middle School, Northside Elementary School, the gym at Clague Middle School, Mitchell Elementary School and Pioneer High School. Portions of the roofs at Lawton and Logan elementary schools have been re-sealed as well.

    A number of projects to replace and refurbish heating and cooling equipment at schools across the district will give staff better control over the temperature in buildings, Gruszczynski said.

    Those projects include the boiler at the pool at Skyline High School, the boilers at Roberto Clemente Student Development Center, fans at Slauson Middle School, fans at Pioneer, fans at the music and pool at Scarlett Middle School and air handling units at Tappan Middle School.

    The main chiller at Huron High School has been replaced this summer.

    New vinyl flooring has also been installed at Lakeside Elementary, Burns Park Elementary, Clague Middle School and the music room at Abbot Elementary.

    Fresh pavement on parking lots and playgrounds

    Parking lots at Ann Arbor Technological High School ($57,000), Bryant Elementary School ($250,000), Roberto Clemente ($79,000) and Huron High ($56,000) have been repaved.

    At Haisely ($10,000), Dicken ($29,000) and Northside ($10,000), outside play areas have been resurfaced. An outdoor basketball court at Slauson has been re-done ($21,000), as well as a tennis court at Tappan Middle School ($53,000).

    Reconfigured computer labs at Huron and Community high schools

    As a result of the second phase of AAPS' tech bond, a number of new computers are coming to Huron and Community high schools this fall—and the computer labs had to be reconfigured to accommodate the new machines. New wiring had to be run for new tables that will be installed, Gruszczynski said.

    Fixed sewer issues at Community High School

    A sewer pipe at Community High School had been causing numerous backups to the sanitary system in the school, Gruszczynski said. Workers repaired the aging pipe this year to ensure that it drains properly, Gruszczynski said.

    Amy Biolchini is the K-12 education reporter for AnnArbor.com. Reach her at (734) 623-2552, amybiolchini@annarbor.com or on Twitter.


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    lawn_parking_083113_RJS_005.jpg

    University of Michigan football fans tailgate on a lawn on Keech Avenue just west of the Big House before Saturday's game. Most lawns appeared full or nearly full, though some property owners complained they lost business with Main Street closed.

    Ryan J. Stanton | AnnArbor.com

    When he first heard Main Street was going to be closed in front of the Big House for University of Michigan football games this season, Tom Raab worried it might hurt a family tradition.

    Since 1927, his family has operated a makeshift game-day parking lot on three vacant residential lots directly across from Michigan Stadium on Berkley Avenue.

    lawn_parking_083113_RJS_001.jpg

    Tom and Lisa Raab stand on the vacant residential property near the Big House that Raab's family has operated as a parking lot on game days since 1927, the year Michigan Stadium was built.

    Ryan J. Stanton | AnnArbor.com

    "My grandfather bought this property the year the stadium was built and we've been using it for parking ever since," said Raab, noting his grandfather charged a quarter to park back in the 1920s and now they charge more than $50.

    "I've been doing this since I was old enough to reach my hand in a car — it's a great tradition."

    A half-hour after Saturday's game started, Raab was satisfied that about 50 of the 65 spots were filled, which was all he was expecting for the matchup against Central Michigan University.

    "As far as what we wanted to do today, it was all achieved," he said. "We thought the road closure would affect us heavily, but for the most part it hasn't affected us at all."

    Ann Arbor property owners who allow football fans to park vehicles on their lawns in the neighborhood just west of the stadium had mixed reactions to the road closure on Saturday.

    Main_Street_closure_083113_RJS_002.jpg

    Saturday's game started at 3:30 p.m. The northbound lanes of Main Street between Stadium and Pauline closed at 12:30 p.m., while the southbound lanes closed at 2:30 p.m.

    Ryan J. Stanton | AnnArbor.com

    Some agreed that everything worked out fine and there were no major issues to report, and others expressed concerns it caused confusion and cost them money.

    Considering he collects about $30 to $40 per space, Dennis Kittel said the fact that he still had a number of spaces empty after Saturday's game started meant he lost real money.

    Kittel, who allows parking on his lawn on Potter Avenue, said normally his property is one of the first places to park when motorists turn off Main Street.

    But with traffic detoured on Saturday, motorists had to wind through the neighborhood and past a barricade to reach his block, and then he was at the end of the street.

    "I don't like it," he said. "There's very little traffic coming this way and people keep turning around, don't know where to go. It might take a while for people to figure out how to get here."

    Saturday's game started at 3:30 p.m. The northbound lanes of Main Street between Stadium and Pauline closed at 12:30 p.m., while the southbound lanes closed at 2:30 p.m.

    The enhanced security measures were recommended by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security to create a vehicle-free zone around the stadium.

    lawn_parking_083113_RJS_002.jpg

    Police Chief John Seto, right, hands his business card to Dennis Kittel, who allows parking on his lawn on Potter Avenue and was concerned about the closure of Main Street.

    Ryan J. Stanton | AnnArbor.com

    Kittel and other property owners expressed concerns about additional "soft" barricades put in place at four points along the east side of Belmar Place — at the intersections of Snyder, Berkley, Potter and Keech avenues. They said that kept some motorists from turning down their streets.

    The partial blockades — a block west of Main Street — were put up because Main Street was closed ahead, but local traffic was still allowed around them.

    Police Chief John Seto said signs should have been posted to alert drivers that local traffic was still allowed and that lawn parking was still open. He said that should be in place for the next game.

    Jack Schultz, who was still trying to direct cars to fill empty spots on his lawn on Potter Avenue after Saturday's game started, said he witnessed people stop at the blockade on his street, sit there for 15 to 20 seconds, and then keep driving. He said he lost business because of that.

    "It's killing me," he said. "People don't know to come through because they've got the road blocked. I've got a lot of holes — I'm probably 10 short, and I should not be short any."

    lawn_parking_083113_RJS_004.jpg

    With barricades in place to stop through traffic on some streets west of Michigan Stadium, residents took to tossing a football around in the street, while fans walked to the game down the middle of the street.

    Ryan J. Stanton | AnnArbor.com

    Kathy Jackson, who charges $35 per spot for people to park on her lawn on Keech Avenue, said she didn't notice any impact from the road closure.

    "It's nice having the street closed because there's a little more safety for the people walking around," she said. "So it seems like it has worked out great."

    Shelley Sibbold also said she didn't notice any impact. Her lawn at the corner of Belmar and Keech was packed with cars on Saturday.

    "I think people were just a little surprised that Main Street was closed, and then luckily they've been able to find their way around," she said. "I think people kind of work around it."

    Seto walked the neighborhood on foot before and during Saturday's game and spoke with several residents about their experiences.

    "We have six additional officers who are just dedicated to this neighborhood to address any of the traffic-flow issues or parking issues," he noted.

    No major traffic backups were observed before or during Saturday's game, city officials and residents who spoke with AnnArbor.com said.

    Main Street reopened to traffic at the conclusion of the game.

    A community meeting with the Ann Arbor Police Department is scheduled for 6 p.m. Sept. 24 at Pioneer High School to discuss any potential modifications to the road closures.

    Ryan J. Stanton covers government and politics for AnnArbor.com. Reach him at ryanstanton@annarbor.com or 734-623-2529. You also can follow him on Twitter or subscribe to AnnArbor.com's email newsletters.


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    082713_Wendy-Rothman.JPG

    Mitchell Elementary School teacher Wendy Rothman smiles as she begins her "TED" Talk at Pioneer High School on August 27, 2013.

    Melanie Maxwell | AnnArbor.com

    Before the first pencils hit paper Tuesday on the first day of school, teachers in the Ann Arbor Public School district gathered for an event much like a pep rally to ready themselves for the year ahead.

    This year, the event was somewhat different than in the past. Instead of listening to presentations of statistics and school performance, AAPS communications director Liz Margolis coordinated a series of inspirational speeches modeled after TED Talks.

    Four teaching professionals shared their inspiration and insights with a large crowd of teachers and school staff: Wendy Rothman, teacher at Mitchell Elementary School; Ellen Daniel, English teacher at Scarlett Middle School; Alesia Flye, deputy superintendent for instructional services; and Don Packard, English teacher at Pioneer High School.

    The presentations from each speaker received a warm reception from the audience.

    What you say matters

    Rothman spoke first in a reflective address to remind teachers that how they talk to their students and arrange their classroom has a major impact on how a student's day and school year goes.

    She began with an example of how to deal with a student that's sitting in the hallway before class begins, refusing to come in and sit down at his desk because he's forgotten his library book, lost his coat and lost his homework folder.

    “What is he thinking? He's thinking, well, I can't take a book out from the library because I don't have the other one to turn in. He's thinking, I don't know where my homework folder is at my house. I don't have a coat and I can't go outside-that's my favorite time of the day,” Rothman said. “It's a crucial moment for him. And that moment is in my hands. In fact, his entire day is in my hands. I could, by using the wrong words and the wrong tone, sacrifice this day to all that he doesn't have.”

    Rothman cautioned that what she says to the student to get him to come in to the classroom is vitally important-not only because it sets the tone for how the student perceives the classroom experience, but to set an example to the other students in her classroom on how to treat people with respect.

    “So what is my response to this student to communicate to him. 'Look, these problems are not serious. I want you to bring your things to school but we can't worry about those problems all day. I know you can turn this day around—I want you to be here learning with us,'” Rothman said.

    The layout of a classroom and the names that are given to each part are important to communicate what happens in each space so that there's a structure for positive activity and interaction, Rothman said.

    “There is something about being a teacher that's like being a rock star. ... Think about that time in the classroom when you're inside preparing and the students begin to gather in the hallways. The excitement is palpable. In my school, the kids cannot wait to get in to see and hear what we teachers have prepared for them,” Rothman said. “We have to be cognizant of the messages we're sending to kids.”

    Give your students unique experiences

    Daniel spoke next. Working in AAPS was her "dream job" in college, Daniel said. She tries to be best version of herself that she can be for the children in her classroom to set a good example, she said.

    “We teach children from extraordinary privilege in this district—yet some of my children have never been downtown. Parents of some of our students are among the most accomplished the world has to offer—and some are unable to navigate educational institutions effectively or to assist their own children in doing so,” Daniel said. “Some have never walked the Diag or explored the U of M campus or the campuses of Eastern Michigan University or Washtenaw Community College.

    “Some of my students are definitely living the life on the fringe of our rich educational environment. In a society that requires higher and higher levels of academic competence just to survive, some of our students truly need more from us in order to make the connection between success in school and success in life. Unless I make deliberate choices about expanding their lives beyond their current situation, I haven’t done my job.”

    Daniel said she's found that one of the most fulfilling experiences as a teacher have come after she's found partnerships and collaborations with organizations and other teachers that have resulted in classroom experiences that her students would have never had otherwise.

    In her classroom of 7th graders, they were able to publish a book of student works through a collaboration with 826 Michigan.

    “Those experiences happened in my building and for my students because we take the extra time—and I’m not going to sugarcoat it— it does require extra time. However, I feel like I’m a much better teacher because I take that time. It’s an investment I ask of them but it’s an investment that’s required of me,” Daniel said. “While it’s indisputable that we’re challenged by declining monetary resources, and the shame of that is a topic for another day, it’s never been easier to collaborate to bring in high-quality resources in to our classrooms.”

    Not only are partnerships with organizations, local colleges and universities important to pursue, but online tools like NPR are valuable ways to expand the realm of expert voices that you can bring in to the classroom, Daniel said.

    “For me, collaboration has been the way to maintain my enthusiasm for the profession and continue to grow as a professional,” Daniel said. “Resources are there. We just have to be on a constant quest for how to best utilize them to serve our students.”

    Learning from abroad

    Flye was a part of a team from AAPS that traveled to Singapore this summer in a partnership funded by Toyota. The team consisted of teachers and administrators.

    Much of the trip was focused on science and math programs, and some of the institutional differences between the two educational systems. Flye said Singapore teachers say they're "privileged" to do 100 hours of professional development, while it's common for teachers in the U.S. to describe professional development as "required."

    “It elevates us as professionals when we talk about the privilege of learning and growing our craft,” Flye said.

    Schools in Singapore have a strong focus on pedagogy and research-based instruction. The team from AAPS toured a classroom of the future—which of course did not contain one pencil or sheet of paper.

    Flye said she also spoke with industry partners while on the trip about what the needs are for the workers of the future—many need engineers.

    While she sees those skills developing in high schools in AAPS, talking with industry partners in the future to see what professions will be in the highest demand is something Flye said is important to pursue.

    Making literacy fun

    Packard, chairman of the English department at Pioneer High School, ended the TED Talks with an engaging, humorous look at how to inspire literacy and why it's important.

    Watch a video of Packard's talk:

    Amy Biolchini is the K-12 education reporter for AnnArbor.com. Reach her at (734) 623-2552, amybiolchini@annarbor.com or on Twitter.


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