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

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    Saturday was the last time Michigan and Notre Dame will play in Ann Arbor for the foreseeable future. Devin Gardner and Jeremy Gallon sent the Fighting Irish out with a bang in Michigan's 41-30 win.

    Melanie Maxwell is a photographer for AnnArbor.com.


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    saline-travis-brown-injury.jpg

    Saline quarterback Travis Brown is helped off of the field after sustaining an injury against Ypsilanti Community Friday, September 6, 2013.

    Patrick Record | AnnArbor.com

    In the second half of Saline’s 37-29 Friday night win over Ypsilanti Community, the Hornets had one quarterback and one primary running back.

    That’s not how it was drawn up before the season.

    Saline had planned platoons for the two positions through the early part of the season, and looked to get more players experience and to find the best personnel for the upcoming Southeastern Conference season.

    Saline coach Joe Palka had what he felt were two legitimate No. 1 quarterbacks in Travis Brown and Trent Theisen and two legitimate No. 1 running backs in Kevin Gross and Griffin Wooley to start the season.

    By the second half of the second game of the season, he was down to one of each.

    The injury bug has visited Saline early. And the decisions on both key position battles may have been made not by coaches, but by availability.

    Now before you go feeling bad for the Hornets, keep this in mind: If there’s one team that can get away with losing two important offensive weapons, it’s Saline. Sixty-one players appeared on its varsity roster Friday night.

    The platoon system that Palka has instituted with that depth means that if a player gets injured there’s likely a replacement ready who has significant game experience.

    griffin-wooley-reaching.jpg

    Griffin Wooley, bottom, has inherited the primary running back position after an injury to Kevin Gross in Week 1.

    Patrick Record | AnnArbor.com

    Such was the case at running back: Gross will be gone for the year after breaking his leg on the third play of his team’s Week 1 win over London A.B. Lucas. As a result, Wooley received the lion’s share of the workload in Week 2 with 14 carries for 106 yards and three scores.

    The more interesting situation is at quarterback, where Saline brought in two new starting candidates and planned to give each equal time through the first three games before deciding on one in time for the SEC season.

    The two quarterbacks put up nearly identical stats in Week 1, and were very close throughout camp. But a devastating second-quarter hit from Ypsilanti’s Daouda Sylla on Brown may have fast-forwarded the timeline and necessity of making the decision final.

    After the second quarter hit, Brown didn’t return and Theisen threw 14 times, completing nine for 100 yards.

    Having two quarterbacks with first-team repetitions came in handy.

    “I think it paid off today,” Palka said of his team’s depth. “Trent really has started every game, started every scrimmage, and I think his poise showed off.”

    It’s possible Brown can come back in Week 3, and Saline keeps its rotation going another week.

    But the games are getting tougher now. There are no more Canadians or first-year programs on Saline’s schedule. Even if Chelsea is 0-2, rest assured the Bulldogs will present a larger challenge than A.B. Lucas or Ypsilanti.

    The Hornets came into the season looking for a quarterback to separate himself and prove worthy of extended time.

    And whether or not it was by choice, they saw one in the second half Friday night.

    Kyle Austin covers sports for AnnArbor.com.


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    Canada's Old Man Luedecke, who is actually a pretty youthful guy, brings his literate, banjo-driven songs to The Ark on Tuesday.

    Old_Man_Luedecke.jpg

    Old Man Luedecke

    Courtesy

    Clearly, he has a penchant for literature. The singer-songwriter’s latest album, “Tender Is The Night,” gives nod to F. Scott Fitzgerald’s novel, a title lifted from John Keats’ poem “Ode To A Nightingale.”

    “I am a prisoner for my appreciation for language; language that moves me is language that is unusual,” he says. “I feel like it’s an important thing I can contribute to songwriting.

    “(My) songs are about a variety of topics, a meditation on art and ambition is present in a lot of what I do. Art and whether there is spiritual success without worldly success, that’s at the heart of ‘Tender Is The Night,’” Luedecke adds.

    He says the origin of his stage name is fairly ordinary.

    “I put the name on my first gig poster and it stuck,” he explains. “In a way, the name gives me the space to be the performer I need to.”

    Old Man Luedecke plays at The Ark, 316 S. Main St., Tuesday, Sept. 10 at 8 p.m. Tickets are $15. Details at www.theark.org or 734-761-1800.


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    The stark cover of University of Michigan professor Douglas Trevor's new novel, "Girls I Know," features an empty diner booth.

    But once you start reading about Walt, the novel's 29-year-old, Boston-loving main character, and his beloved regular breakfast place, The Early Bird Cafe, that empty booth, the centerpiece of a cover bathed in primary colors, starts to look portentous.

    With good reason. Walt, a lapsed doctoral candidate at Harvard, previously escaped his Vermont hometown - where his grandmother now takes care of his multiple sclerosis-suffering mother - to study poetry; but after his academic pursuits stall, and he establishes a routine in which he subsists on odd jobs (like dry cleaner employee and an apartment building superintendent), he finds himself surviving a shooting at The Early Bird Cafe.

    In the wake of this tragedy, Walt's relationship with The Early Bird owners' 11-year-old daughter, Mercedes, and a self-absorbed, privileged female undergraduate named Ginger, deepens and evolves.

    In anticipation of Trevor's upcoming reading/signing at Nicola's Books, AnnArbor.com asked some questions about "Girls I Know."

    Q. What was the seed of the novel's story for you?

    A. There were a few seeds. One was the desire to write about characters from different walks of life: different ethnic, racial, and class backgrounds. I wanted to do a much smaller version of something like John Dos Passos's USA Trilogy (1930-1936). I thought focusing on a restaurant would be a manageable setting, and I thought of a restaurant shooting as the central event around which my novel would pivot, because I couldn't think of any other novels structured around such an event, and I thought it would be interesting to try to write one.

    PREVIEW

    Douglas Trevor, author of the novel “Girls I Know”

    • What: Trevor, an associate professor of renaissance literature and creative writing at U-M, previously won the 2005 Iowa Short Fiction Award, and was a finalist for the 2006 Hemingway Foundation/PEN Award for First Fiction, for his story collection, “The Thin Tear in the Fabric of Space.” In Trevor’s new novel, “Girls I Know,” a 29 year old lapsed doctoral candidate in English survives a shooting in his favorite Boston breakfast restaurant, altering his relationships with a privileged, ambitious undergraduate student and a suddenly orphaned, silent 11 year old girl.
    • Where: Nicola’s Books, 2513 Jackson Ave. in Ann Arbor.
    • When: Tuesday, September 10 at 7 p.m.
    • How much: Free. 734-662-0600 or www.nicolasbooks.com.
    Q. How did it feel to watch a tragedy unfold in Boston earlier this year when your novel is about dealing with tragedy and loss in that same town?

    A.

    It was very difficult. Patriot Day is a day unique to New England, and when I lived in Boston I absolutely loved the festivities surrounding it. "Girls I Know" begins in the Back Bay before moving into Cambridge and then Watertown, so the book follows a path similar to that taken by the perpetrators of the Marathon Bombings. It felt a little eerie, going to Boston a short time after the attack to promote the novel. But the response of the city to the attacks reminded me of why I had been drawn to explore and write about Boston in the first place, and the feedback I received from Bostonians in response to "Girls I Know" was incredibly warm, I think because of its depiction of the city. That said, the Boston portrayed in "Girls I Know" is actually a much more divided city than it was in the days and weeks following the attacks.

    Q. Did you struggle with the novel's structure - specifically, the point of entry? (Trevor introduces readers to Walt and the people in his daily life in some depth before the violence occurs.) It seems like it would be tempting to start with the shooting and then go backwards in time to fill in what precedes it.

    A. I tried the book that way but it didn't seem to work. I think I wanted the reader to care about, and know, the characters before the shooting took place. So I experimented with several approaches before deciding - based in part on my friend and colleague Eileen Pollack's strong insistence - to allude to the shooting in the opening of the book but then wait to show it. That way the reader knows something horrible is going to happen, but is permitted to watch the early action of the novel unfold without feeling restricted by flashbacks and reminiscences.

    Author-Douglas-Trevor.jpg

    Douglas Trevor

    Q. Did you worry about how readers would respond to, and feel about, Ginger?

    A.

    Yes. She is quite abrasive early on, and I think it's asking a lot of readers nowadays to wait and see how an immature character might evolve. The risk is always that a given reader might just put your book down. But Ginger is just one of what ends up being three central characters and she does evolve and soften, I think. At the same time, I encounter driven, focused young people like her all the time - at least a handful every year I have taught - and a part of me really admires people like her, who work hard and pursue their projects with some abandonment. Perhaps, as a teacher, I'm more inclined than the average civilian to be patient with 20-year-olds like her. A funny side note: when the short story "Girls I Know" first came out, now some years ago, I had a number of female friends ask if I had based Ginger on them. So not everyone finds her to be absolutely objectionable. Since the novel has appeared, many of the emails I have received have focused on her. I hope that she is, if not universally likable, then at least interesting. But I also think the tendency to evaluate characters based on whether or not we like them is a mistake. I don't like Humbert Humbert, but I love Lolita.

    Q. You earned your doctorate at Harvard, but it's not your hometown. Were you nervous about setting the book there?

    A. I was nervous, and in part because of this nervousness, I decided early on that Walt Steadman, the central character, would be from Vermont. That way I wouldn't feel responsible for getting everything right, so to speak. But I also wanted to take some risks, and by the time I ventured into the portions of the book narrated by Mercedes Bittles, the 11-year-old who really is from Boston, I felt ready to see the city from her perspective.

    Q. What kind of responses have you heard from readers so far?

    A. The response has been overwhelmingly positive. "Girls I Know" is basically a book about people who reach out, with varying degrees of success, to other people they barely know: a young, 11-year-old girl who is grieving the death of her parents, a survivor of a grisly restaurant shooting, a young woman whose life is spiraling out of control. I think readers today - in a world that is increasingly fractured and in many ways, paradoxically, more solitary than ever - understand the stakes of such gestures. And the book emphasizes the importance of education: of helping young people learn the value of the written word, and of the positive benefits that come with participating in the education of others. Those central themes have been well received. But the humor of the book, which made it possible for me to write it, has also been appreciated by some, and that means a lot to me, because attempts at humor can be idiosyncratic and can make a writer feel very exposed and vulnerable.

    Q. Do you map out your stories before you launch into the writing process?

    A. I do outlines fairly regularly as I am writing, but they change quite a bit as I proceed and I want to see them change. If a story unfolds as I first imagine it unfolding, then it seems to me that something must be wrong: that the characters aren't establishing themselves enough to push back against my designs. By virtue of this outlook, I tend to write a lot of drafts and rewrite a lot. My process is not very economical, and as a result I move slower than I would like, but at the end, I feel like I have done my best to imagine a full range of possibilities for whatever story it is that I am trying to tell.

    Q. The writing process itself often teaches the writer something along the way. What did you take away from the experience of writing "Girls I Know"?

    A. I think I have a sense now, a greater sense, that setbacks in the course of writing a book like this are ultimately beneficial. That having to rethink characters and situations ends up improving the final result, even if such a process is maddening and - at times - despair-inducing. I would say that I trust my instincts more now than I did before this book. I feel that I learned from the characters who populate this book, and that they provide something of a snapshot of America in the winter of 2001.

    Jenn McKee is an entertainment reporter for AnnArbor.com. Reach her at jennmckee@annarbor.com or 734-623-2546, and follow her on Twitter @jennmckee.


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    Huron High School basketball players line up before a game against Bedford last spring.

    Courtney Sacco | AnnArbor.com file

    Dottie Davis first came to Huron High School as a coach in 1979 and quickly found herself with a problem.

    The budget for her softball team was $5,000, and the young coach had no idea how to spend it.

    “I had so much money,” Davis said. “I’m like ‘What do I do?’”

    More than three decades later, Davis has moved from the dugout to the athletic director’s office. None of the coaches in her charge have the same problem she did.

    The days of $5,000 team budgets for equipment, uniforms and other expenses have been gone for two decades, Davis said, and today's coaches are left to mostly build their own budgets through fundraising and team fees.

    071311-AJC-Ann-Arbor-Public.JPG

    Huron Athletic Director Dotti Davis, right, listens as Skyline Athletic Director John Young talks about the proposed athletic funding cuts during the planning committee meeting for Ann Arbor Public Schools on July 13, 2011.

    Angela Cesare | AnnArbor.com file

    Ann Arbor Public Schools has cut its athletic budget by around $1.8 million in recent years, to a current level of around $3 million.

    While AAPS has ensured that its expansive athletic offerings haven’t diminished and its participation levels remain high, the principal result has been more costs being transferred from the district to parents, along with worries about what future athletic cuts could mean for the district.

    In the last five years, many high school athletes and their families have seen their dues go up by hundreds of dollars, so that they're now paying upwards of $1,000 for some sports like crew and hockey. This fall, it will cost more than $500 to play high school football in Ann Arbor.

    In June, the district approved an increase in its pay-to-participate fee to a flat rate of $250 regardless of the amount of sports one plays. This is up from $150 for the first sport and $75 for the second. Athletes also pay a $30 insurance fee. Middle school athletes pay $150 to participate in sports, up from $50.

    But for most families, that’s only part of the burden in what’s become a changing financial athletic landscape.

    “It’s just an unfortunate reality of where we’re at,” Pioneer athletic director Eve Claar said.

    Download: 2011-12 AAPS Athletic Budget (PDF) | 2013-14 AAPS Athletic Budget (PDF)

    Team fees

    pay-to-participate.png

    The pay-to-participate costs for every school district in Washtenaw County, plus other schools in the Southeastern Conference.

    When AAPS first implemented its pay-to-participate fee in 2010 and increased it this spring, the decision was made after extensive research, public input and school board debate.

    But in reality, students have been paying to play sports for much longer than that.

    Nearly every AAPS player pays a team fee to their team’s booster club at the beginning of every season. That money can go to cover equipment, uniforms, end-of-year banquets and awards, and other things a team deems necessary but can’t be funded by the athletic department.

    Athletic directors say those fees differ by sport and school, and can change year-to-year depending on costs and how much fundraising the teams have done to offset those costs.

    They can range anywhere from $25 for sports like track, where equipment needs are minimal, to $800 or more for sports like crew and ice hockey, where equipment and off-campus facility rentals are pricey.

    And for golf and ice hockey, those numbers could be increasing this year, as the 2013-14 budget eliminates athletic department funds for off-campus facility rentals. Pioneer golf coach Steve Rodriguez said he’s unsure how much of that will be transferred to students and their families.

    “It doesn’t feel good, I tell you that,” Rodriguez said.

    Athletic directors have guidelines for those fees and monitor them to ensure they are affordable and not excluding athletes from participating. But the responsibility for setting that fee falls largely into the hands of the team’s parents and coaches.

    Thumbnail image for 011913_Pioneer_vs.jpeg

    Sports like ice hockey will see increased fees this year because they don't use on-campus facilities.

    “It becomes much more challenging for the athletic director to convey those policies, and then to have exclusive supervision over those groups when kids and families transition in and out of your program every four years,” said former Pioneer athletic director Lorin Cartwright, who retired last year after 32 years at the school, the last 17 as athletic director.

    “The athletic director can pretty well have their hands full just in dealing with booster clubs.”

    Ann Arbor booster clubs are registered as non-profits and are audited yearly by an outside firm. Davis said that policy was enacted after a Chelsea woman, Kimberly Knight, was found to have embezzled nearly $1 million from the Ann Arbor Area Hockey Association from 2005-07.

    Fundraising

    When they’re not competing on the fields, the courts or in the pools, you can find the area’s high school athletes doing a wide range of fundraising activities, in-season and out.

    Some teams go the traditional route of selling concessions during Michigan football games or picking up bottles from parking lots after they end, and selling value cards that get buyers discounts at various local establishments. Increasingly, though, teams are being forced to think outside of the box, like at Skyline where a number of teams have counted chips at the poker room at the Roundtree Bar and Grill in Ypsilanti, where half the rake goes to a local charity every night.

    pre-game-michigan.jpg

    Pioneer Big Booster Club member Jim Gallagher installs cushions on seats at Michigan Stadium prior to the Wolverines' game vs. Central Michigan.

    Patrick Record | AnnArbor.com

    It’s all in the name of fundraising to cover the increased high school sports expenses.

    For students, that means spending an increasing amount of time in season and out making sure their program has enough money. For coaches, that means organizing those fundraisers and keeping track of all the money raised.

    “Fifty percent of their job is fundraising,” Davis said of coaches. “Back in the day, we used to get to coach.”

    Chris Morgan, who coaches boys and girls soccer at Skyline, said when he first started coaching at Pioneer 24 years ago his team would do one fundraiser per year and participation was often optional.

    Now, each of his teams are doing doing four or five fundraisers per year, with a goal of raising $5,000 to $10,000 per season. The money goes toward uniforms, basic equipment and transportation.

    “The role of the coach and the role of the program in that financial realm has changed dramatically,” Morgan said.

    Other programs have been able to do their fundraising without relying as heavily on students. Rodriguez said his program has been able to cover most of its costs, outside of uniforms, by relying largely on donations from the program’s large alumni base. That will change dramatically when the greens fees stipend is eliminated from his budget.

    “It’s going to have to be increased, that’s for sure,” Rodriguez said. “We’re going to have to lean on those former players and those former parent groups a lot heavier than we’ve ever had to in the past.”

    Hardships

    Families with multiple high schoolers playing multiple sports could see their bills climb into the thousands, between pay-to-participate and team fees. For some, that amount can post a hardship. Saline has a family cap of $700, as does Dexter, but AAPS has no such policy.

    The district has gone to great lengths to make sure there are options for those families. Scholarships are available to cover the pay-to-participate fees up to 100 percent. Families may request a waiver for the pay-to-participate fee by providing one or more of the following: SNAP/Food Stamps, Medicaid or Free and Reduced Lunch eligibility.

    Coaches say they also make sure finances don’t prevent someone from participating. Students can often do extra fundraising to lower their out-of-pocket costs, and booster clubs also have scholarship funds to help cover the costs.

    Yet concerns remain about whether students eligible for the programs take advantage of them.

    “My biggest concern always has been those kids you don’t know that won’t come forward and say ‘I can’t afford it,’” Claar said. “That troubles me. To not even have the opportunity to help a kid and let them know there’s other avenues.”

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    The Pioneer football team takes to the field before a 2012 game.

    Joseph Tobianski | AnnArbor.com file

    First-year Pioneer football coach Jari Brown said much work is done to get the message out and help families who may not qualify for school aid, but who still need help.

    "Not everybody can pay that and I think that sometimes people are a little embarrassed or whatever, so what we try to do... if someone needs any help, (our booster club does) a good job of getting those guys taken care of," Brown said. "Our thing is we want to encourage kids to play and say you know what, 'If you don’t have the means to do it, we have the resources to help you out."

    Brown said there's still room for improvement.

    "We spend time in the offseason and I spend time during school, during the year trying to get that message across, but one of those things is we need to find a better way to communicate that information," Brown said.

    The discrepancies in fee levels between districts has also raised concerns about whether students would transfer districts to pay lower fees, but athletic directors say multiple barriers are in place to prevent that. Most districts require residency to enroll, and the MHSAA requires students who transfer without a change in address to sit out for a semester. That will increase to an entire year in 2014.

    Cartwright, though, said she knows of students who have enrolled in districts specifically because of pay-to-participate fees. And if districts start losing students -- and the thousands in state funding their enrollment brings -- the budget situation changes.

    “There’s a fine line there,” Cartwright said. “And I know that there are kids who have already said ‘I don’t want to play in Ann Arbor Public Schools, and I’m going to go someplace like Ypsilanti.’"

    “When you start to look at those kinds of things, why would I continue to want to stay when I can go to an open district and pay nothing to play the same sport?”

    Unfunded sports

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    The Skyline lacrosse team during halftime of an April game.

    Daniel Brenner | AnnArbor.com file

    In the first few waves of AAPS budget reductions, the district was able to cut line items like part-time secretaries, equipment and travel budgets to keep the changes from directly affecting students.

    But in 2011, all of those options had been exhausted. So part of the round of budget cuts included removing athletic department funding for lacrosse, bowling, freshman girls basketball and freshman baseball.

    Students in unfunded sports still wear their school uniforms, earn varsity letters and compete for state championships. The only difference is where the money for their sport is coming from.

    “From a kid’s point of view, we want it to remain the same,” Skyline athletic director John Young said. “We don’t want there to be any barriers to you playing because all of a sudden we’ve got to charge money. Is there going to be a different perspective from the parents’ viewpoint? Absolutely. It’s going to cost me more money.”

    For one of AAPS’s new unfunded programs, Pioneer boys lacrosse, unfunding resulted in an extra $15,000 in coach’s salaries, officials’ fees and transportation. For the athletes, the total cost stayed the same: the booster club fees went up, but the pay-to-participate fees went away.

    But booster club president Alan Matney said the team had a well-organized booster club that had planned for the possibility of being unfunded. He said he could see the financial situation becoming tougher in future years. Pioneer girls lacrosse coach Zachary Maghes took a systematic approach to dealing with losing funding as well. While many parents were asking for blood, Maghes asked for time and the lacrosse program has persevered.

    “I think the real financial burden comes in years three through five,” Matney said.

    While district participation numbers overall have held steady, Young said he’s seen a slight dip in girls sports in the first year of being unfunded. It’s something he will continue to monitor.

    “That is one of the areas that we kept an eye on from the day we started all of this, making sure that the girls hold their own, making sure there’s opportunities for the girls, making sure we’re not losing girls because of it,” Young said. “Not that we don’t want to lose the guys either, but we want to make sure we’re in line with what we’re supposed to be doing (for Title IX compliance) and that we’re responsible for everybody.”

    Across Washtenaw County

    Whether it’s in school or not, the cost to play youth sports has increased dramatically in recent years. For sports that include out-of-school offseason teams, like soccer, the cost to participate is often in the thousands.

    Skyline_girls_soccer-1.jpeg

    Skyline soccer coach Chris Morgan talks to his team during a game this spring.

    Courtney Sacco | AnnArbor.com file

    “$250 is a drop in the bucket,” Morgan said of youth soccer costs.

    Costs for the Ann Arbor United Soccer Club’s highest level are between $1,200 and $1,800, not including travel costs, according to the organization’s web site. Costs to play for the U18 Michigan Wolves Academy will be $1,600 for 2013-14, not including travel costs. Boys travel hockey at the Ann Arbor Area Hockey Association costs between $1,760 to $2,204 for a season according to figures provided by the organization.

    Nearly every school district in Washtenaw County and the state is grappling with how to deal with decreasing state funds, and how much of those funds to devote to athletics. And they’re coming to different conclusions.

    Chelsea eliminated its pay-to-participate fees last summer, and the newly formed Ypsilanti Community Schools will not charge a pay-to-participate fee. Dexter, meanwhile, recently raised its pay-to-participate fees to $250 for a first sport, $150 for second and $100 for the third. Saline voted to freeze its rate at $325 to participate in any number of sports.

    Ann Arbor took the rates from surrounding districts into account when settling on its pay-to-participate fee for this year -- and even though it costs more than ever to be a high school athlete, AAPS still says it’s one of the cheapest tickets in town.

    “If you look at what other districts are doing, we’re still a bargain,” Young said.

    Kyle Austin covers sports for AnnArbor.com. He can be reached at kyleaustin@annarbor.com or 734-623-2535. Follow him on Twitter @KAustin_AA.


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    Kathy Scharp works on stretches with a group of students in her Depot Town ballet studio.

    Tom Perkins | For AnnArbor.com

    On a recent afternoon, Kathy Scharp's 9- and 10-year old ballet students worked at the barre, performing strengthening and stretching exercises.

    The girls in the class are learning pointe, while the boys are learning jumps and preparations for turns.

    It's one of the first serious classes Scharp offers young students at the Russian Ballet Theater School

    "That’s a great class. It's where they kind of start to pour it on," Scharp said.

    Several months ago, she wouldn’t have been able to offer the class as her available time was limited in the studio she rented from the Riverside Arts Center.

    Now, with a space where she can hang her own sign at 44 E. Cross St., the Russian Ballet Theater School is poised to continue growing. The new digs are a work in progress, but the space provides Scharp with what she needs most — an economical place to call her own with the option to add as many classes as she can fit into a day.

    “This is a perfect space on the first floor and it’s just me. I have complete control and I can add classes whenever I want, which I’ve already done,” says Scharp, who opened the new studio on July 8 but has mostly kept the curtains closed as she gets set up. “All my students love the space; we’ve got 12-foot ceilings. It’s just really cool.”

    Scharp partly attributed the Russian Ballet School’s success to her mission statement. She tries to take the fear out of ballet and provide a comfortable place for those who have always wanted to try it but never have.

    “I made ballet accessible. That’s one thing I wanted to do and that was a clear goal. I want to do something anyone is comfortable trying,” she says. “It’s not competitive; it’s your personal best. I’m real disciplined, but it’s a real loving discipline.”

    Over the last year and a half, the number of students at the Russian Ballet School grew from a dozen to 70. Around half of those students are taking more than one class, and they range in age from 5 to 40 years old.

    New_Russian_Ballet_School.jpg

    Students at the Russian Ballet Theater School.

    Tom Perkins | For AnnArbor.com

    While Scharp offered classes twice a week when the business launched in late 2010 and early 2011, the Russian Ballet School is now operating five days a week, and the schedule includes more offerings for young children.

    In the new space, Scharp holds a Bolshoi-Kirov exercise class for adults, which involves weight bearing and non-weight bearing stretches based in Russian ballet that strengthens and tones bodies.

    The Russian style, along with the Italian cecchetti method of ballet, is the most popular form of the art in Michigan, Scharp said. She has trained with well-known names in the Russian Ballet world, like Juergen Schneider and Janina Cunova.

    Her career highlights include the lead in "Carmen"; Titania and Helena in "A Midsummer Night's Dream"; Coffee in "The Nutcracker"; the Snow Queen in "The Nutcracke"r; and roles in several original works.

    While the Russian Ballet School is mostly still a one-woman operation, Scharp has several assistants in training and several young teenagers helping teach the 5- to 6-year-old age group.

    “They love it. They started out young, and they now are helping others who were like them,” she said.

    Scharp, who is an Ypsilanti-native, searched outside of the city when it came time to look for a studio, but she said she knew she would remain here.

    For starters, the school has developed a synergy with Scharp's mother's Russian-based ballet school, the Ann Arbor Ballet Theatre, in Ann Arbor. Students who miss classes at one school can make them up at the other, and Scharp said there is a definite business advantage to the family having schools in two Washtenaw County locations.

    “It really meant something to me to stay in Ypsi, and logistics-wise it made sense. We widened our net to include more people, and I just have a real soft spot for Ypsilanti,” she said.

    Depot Town became an attractive option for the amount of foot traffic and interest Scharp expects to generate once she has her logo on a sign outside the shop. The aesthetics were also better in Depot Town than in some of the strip mall options elsewhere, she said.

    “It was important to me to have a community feeling, and in Depot Town there’s plenty of stuff within a walking distance. It meant something to me to be part of a community rather than a place off by myself,” she said.

    Scharp’s students come from as far away as Saint Clair Shores, Canton and Milan, and she said she loves to see the families discover Depot Town.

    “I’ll see my student’s parents with a pizza box from Aubree’s and that makes me feel good,” she says.

    Tom Perkins is a freelance writer for AnnArbor.com. Contact the news desk at news@annarbor.com or 734-623-2572.


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    Dawn Farm will host its annual jamboree in celebration of recovery from chemical dependency and the organization’s 40th anniversary from 1 to 6 p.m. Sunday.

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    A clown walks by the tractor pulling the hayride during last year's jamboree.

    The organization, which was founded in 1973, will also celebrate its 40th year providing the community with the support needed to recover from chemical dependency.

    The entire community is invited to celebrate and support the non-profit organization with a day of free entertainment and activities geared toward all age groups on Dawn Farm’s 74-acre working farm at 6633 Stony Creek Road in Ypsilanti Township.

    There will be live music, a live and silent auction with goods and services donated by local businesses and individuals and a gift table with donated items sold at discount prices.

    Local vendors will sell food during the event and donate a portion of their proceeds to Dawn Farm.

    A children’s tent will offer arts and crafts, hayrides, pony rides, a large moon bounce obstacle course and other fun activities.

    Admission for the day is free and all proceeds made from the auction, gift table and gift shop go to support Dawn Farm, an organization that provides community members with the support needed to recover from alcohol or drug addiction.

    Dawn Farm does not turn anyone away for lack of funding and so the organization often relies on the generosity of the community during the annual Jamboree and throughout the year, Dawn Farm Development Director Megan Rodgers said.

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


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    Michigan quarterback Devin Gardner smiles after Michigan's 41-30 win over Notre Dame at Michigan Stadium Saturday, September 7, 2013.

    Courtney Sacco | AnnArbor.com

    Why is this rivalry going away again?

    Michigan's quarterback Devin Gardner and his favorite wide receiver Jeremy Gallon put on a show and the Wolverines beat Notre Dame, 41-30 in the second night game ever at Michigan Stadium. Notre Dame put a scare in the Wolverines late with an interception from Stephon Tuitt, but Michigan was able to hold off a late Fighting Irish charge.

    But as much as Michigan fans loved stopping Notre Dame's comeback, they probably wished the Irish would come back as Ann Arbor bid adieu -- for now -- to one of its great rivals for the foreseeable future.

    Post game coverage

    In-Game coverage

    Pre-Game coverage

    More Scores:


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    The former Willow Run GM Powertrain plant in Ypsilanti Township, pictured here in August, is slated for demolition beginning in October. Plans for a connected vehicle research center at the site were announced last week.

    Melanie Maxwell | AnnArbor.com

    Related story: Connected vehicle research center slated for former Willow Run plant

    Developing a connected vehicle research center on the site of Ypsilanti Township’s former Willow Run GM Powertrain plant could be a game-changer for Washtenaw County, said Ann Arbor SPARK CEO Paul Krutko.

    For Ypsilanti Township, it’s an opportunity to reactivate a 332-acre property that contains the historic Willow Run plant, boost the tax base and bring thousands of jobs to the township.

    For southeast Michigan, it’s a chance to ensure the region remains at the forefront of automotive research and technology at a time when the industry is rapidly changing.

    “(Southeast Michigan has) a lot of companies that are actively engaged in information technology as well as automotive research,” Krutko said. “I think having this kind of facility would draw the best and brightest from around the world. I think it would be a great attraction.”

    Officials announced on Thursday that Detroit-based Walbridge Development LLC plans to purchase a majority of the former Willow Run plant property and build a test track for connected vehicles with R&D facilities.

    Connected-vehicle technology allows sensor- and computer-equipped vehicles to communicate with each other and outside devices such as traffic signals or electronic signs to prevent collisions and improve traffic flow and fuel efficiency. The University of Michigan's Transportation Research Institute is conducting a major connected vehicles study in a contract with the federal government.

    Krutko said the connected vehicles plan for the former Willow Run plant, which was facilitated in part by SPARK, has been in the works for months. SPARK created a case report in early 2013 about the need for a world-class connected vehicles test facility in southeast Michigan.

    “We had the University of Michigan talking to us about all the connected vehicle work they are doing with the pilot going on, and we meet regularly with Toyota and Hyundai,” he said.

    “We need to get our arms around this because other regions of the U.S...are doing work with driverless cars. What happens next with transportation really is our legacy, and not other communities’ legacy. If we don’t do something, (other regions) will become the center of automotive research in the future.”

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    Researchers say connected vehicles can help to mitigate crashes on busy urban streets.

    USDOT Photo

    The Ypsilanti Township property has been on the market for redevelopment since 2011. RACER Trust, the group charged with liquidating GM’s holdings and cleaning up environmental contamination at 89 sites across 14 states, has been marketing the property.

    Bruce Rasher, a redevelopment manager for RACER Trust, said Walbridge has entered into a written agreement with the trust to take ownership of the property once the 4.6 million square foot plant on the site has been demolished and the environmental contamination is removed.

    “Walbridge has had preliminary discussions with potential users of this facility,” Rasher said. “We reached the point that the interest was serious enough that it would be prudent to give this control to Walbridge.”

    The process to redevelop the site could take years, and Walbridge would first need to enter into a development agreement with Ypsilanti Township. RACER Trust has the right to review the plans, Rasher said.

    Krutko said Walbridge, or another entity, could then create an open environment where different types of companies could lease parts of the facility for research and development purposes.

    “We want to create an environment in which many, many companies — large and small, early-stage to mature — would then be able to use this research facility. We could see automotive suppliers, technology companies, or (original equipment manufacturers) themselves booking a period of research time at the facility.”

    “University of Michigan has been key contributors to thinking about this opportunity. At some point in the future, if this is a reality, it may be that U-M would consider at some point conducting some of its research there.”

    Stephen Forrest, U-M's Vice President for Research, said the university is building a separate track to test connected vehicles in Ann Arbor.

    Forrest called the proposed Willow Run redevelopment "a very synergistic and important development" for U-M and one that would help make southeast Michigan a hub of connected vehicle research.

    "If Michigan can be the center of this, that's going to make a huge difference to the country, to the region," Forrest said. "It will give a rebirth to our automobile industry that we cold only have dreamt about several years ago."

    He added: "I am sure that any plan that comes out of there will have significant involvement from the university."

    Krutko said the facility at the Willow Run site would have roadways and simulated city environments where vehicles could be tested in a controlled environment. SPARK’s case report contains a conceptual site plan that says the facility could have realistic lane markings, simulated tunnels, buildings of varying scales, realistic infrastructure and roundabouts.

    The conceptual site plan — which Krutko said is just an example of what could be done with the connected vehicles facility — suggests there could be 12 buildings on the site with a job creation potential of 1,950 people. The estimated construction investment listed in the plan is $90 million.

    “There’s a lot to do and there’s a lot that could go wrong, but I think we’ve stepped on a journey now that has a goal and a plan in mind that creates a very dramatic future, a different future, than what has been at that site now for a decade,” Krutko said.

    Lizzy Alfs is a business reporter for AnnArbor.com. Reach her at 734-623-2584 or email her at lizzyalfs@annarbor.com. Follow her on Twitter at http://twitter.com/lizzyalfs.


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    Ann Arbor City Council candidates competing in the November general election will share their ideas about city issues as part of a series of forums being held next month.

    The League of Women Voters in Ann Arbor is hosting the forums, which will be broadcast live from the Community Television Network studios at 2805 South Industrial Highway.

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    The schedule is as follows:

    Tuesday, Oct. 1

    • 7-7:40 p.m. — Ward 3
    • 8-8:40 p.m. — Ward 5

    Wednesday, Oct. 2

    • 7-7:45 p.m. — Ward 1
    • 8-8:45 p.m. — Ward 2

    The forums will be rebroadcast regularly until the day before the election. They can also be viewed on the CTN website.

    Members of the public can submit questions to candidates via lwv.ann.arbor.area@gmail.com. The deadline for submitting questions is 5 p.m. Sept. 27.

    The 1st Ward race pits Democratic incumbent Sabra Briere against Independent challenger Jeff Hayner. A second Independent challenger, Jaclyn Vresics, has dropped out of the race.

    The 2nd Ward race pits Independent incumbent Jane Lumm against two challengers — Democrat Kirk Westphal and Independent Conrad Brown, a member of the Mixed Use Party.

    The 3rd Ward race pits Democratic incumbent Stephen Kunselman against Independent challenger Sam DeVarti, another member of the Mixed Use Party.

    The 5th Ward race pits Democratic incumbent Mike Anglin against write-in challenger Tom Partridge.

    In the 4th Ward, Jack Eaton, who defeated incumbent Marcia Higgins in the Democratic primary in August, is unopposed.

    To see what else is on the Nov. 5 ballot in Ann Arbor and elsewhere in Washtenaw County, visit the county's elections website.

    The League of Women Voters, a nonpartisan political organization, encourages informed and active participation in government and works to increase understanding of major public policy issues and influence public policy through education and advocacy.

    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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    This map shows the affected areas as of 10 a.m. Sunday morning.

    DTE outage map

    Update at 11:30 a.m.: DTE officials said all power was back to customers as off 10:50 a.m.

    More than 5,000 DTE Energy customers in Washtenaw County were without power Sunday morning after a Pittsfield Township transformer fire, officials said.

    The DTE Outage map showed a power outage that went from the Interstate 94 and U.S. 23 interchange south along the U.S. 23 corridor through Pittsfield Township and into York Township.

    Pittsfield Township Fire Chief Sean Gleason confirmed the outage was the result of a transformer fire at Michigan Avenue and Morgan Road that took place about 9:30 a.m. Sunday.

    Dispatchers told AnnArbor.com that firefighters had cleared the scene and DTE Energy crews have been notified.

    DTE spokeswoman Erica Donerson said the outage came due to "animal interference." All power was restored by 10:50 a.m. Sunday, Donerson said.


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    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 record-setting crowd watched Michigan take on Notre Dame in Michigan Stadium Saturday. Police said it was a very busy day, but there were no major incidents.

    Patrick Record | AnnArbor.com

    It was a day characterized as extremely busy by police, but officials reported few major incidents in Ann Arbor Saturday as Michigan and Notre Dame duked it out in the second-ever night game at Michigan Stadium.

    Inside the stadium, officials from the University of Michigan Police Department said officers ejected 72 people, and arrested 11, from the record-setting crowd. Outside the stadium, officials reported a couch fire and a fight on East University Avenue, but no other major incidents.

    U-M police officials reported six people were arrested for being minors in possession of alcohol, three for resisting and obstructing a police officer, one person for trespassing and one person for disorderly conduct. Eleven other people were given citations — 10 for having alcohol in the stadium and one for unlawful entry, according to police.

    Fifty additional people were ejected for a variety of offenses, ranging from disorderly conduct to urinating in public, police said.

    In addition, 133 people had to be treated by emergency medical personnel, police said. Of those 133 people, 21 were taken to the hospital.

    The official attendance at the game was 115,109, a new Big House, and NCAA, record.

    The stadium was the main hub of activity Saturday in Ann Arbor, but with a flood of people coming into all parts of the city, police were kept busy.

    Ann Arbor police Sgt. Colleen McCarthy said some officers that were scheduled to work until 7 a.m. Sunday ended up leaving the station a couple hours later than planned. She said police were busy with calls for service the entire day, but there was nothing too out of hand.

    “(We were) just really busy. A lot of disorderlies and calls for service, but nothing too major,” she said.

    Ann Arbor police Lt. Renee Bush said in an email early Sunday morning that an exact number for code violation tickets written by officers from 8 a.m. Saturday through 1 a.m. Sunday wasn’t available. She said there were a lot of code violations written by police.

    Police did respond to a fight in the 800 block of East University Avenue but details on the incident were not immediately available. McCarthy said the officer’s report on the fight was not finished.

    U-M police sent out a crime alert Sunday afternoon regarding an unarmed robbery just off campus that is being investigated by Ann Arbor police.

    Ann Arbor firefighters responded to a couch fire in the city as well, but police did not have more information. A call to the Ann Arbor Fire Department was not immediately returned.

    Huron Valley Ambulance spokeswoman Joyce Williams said the majority of ambulance requests in Ann Arbor on Saturday were for intoxicated people. There were a variety of calls inside Michigan Stadium during the game as well, but Williams said it was all to be expected.

    “For a night game of this importance, being the last Notre Dame game for however long it is, (it was very normal),” she said.

    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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    Geddes Road will be restricted to one lane at Valleyview Drive in Superior Township Monday while a new storm sewer is installed.

    Traffic will be restricted to one lane under flag control operations during the day while work is occurring. Access for residents, businesses and deliveries will be maintained. However, delays are likely.

    The storm sewer is being installed to service the new Woodlands at Geddes Glen Subdivision.

    Anyone with questions should contact Mark McCulloch at 734-327-6679 mccullochm@wcroads.org.


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    Washtenaw County residents with questions about changes in health care laws and what options are available to them are encouraged to attend a public meeting in Scio Township.

    State Rep. Gretchen Driskell, D-Saline, will host an informational session about health care options in Michigan from 5:30-7:30 p.m. Tuesday at Scio Farms, 6655 Jackson Road.

    Gretchen_Driskell_headshot.jpg

    Gretchen Driskell

    Discussion topics include Medicaid expansion, the Affordable Care Act, and a question-and-answer session about health care in Michigan.

    Joining Driskell at the event will be Marianne Udow-Phillips, director of the Center for Healthcare Research and Transformation; Josh Fangmeier, a policy analyst at CHRT; and Ellen Rabinowitz, executive director of the Washtenaw Health Plan.

    The Michigan House of Representatives, in a 75-32 vote on Tuesday afternoon, gave final legislative approval to a plan to reform Medicaid and expand eligibility under the Affordable Care Act.

    The move allows the state to use more than a billion dollars in federal funding next fiscal year to expand Medicaid access to individuals earning up to 133 percent of the poverty level.

    That's around $15,000 for an individual or $31,000 for a family of four.

    Gov. Rick Snyder's administration estimates the expansion could eventually cover up to 470,000 new residents. The governor also believes the measure will steer people away from expensive emergency rooms and toward primary care, reduce state spending and improve the economy.

    The Ann Arbor/Ypsilanti Regional Chamber applauded the bipartisan passage of Medicaid expansion this week, saying the concept has broad support from the business community.

    The chamber believes the money saved by Medicaid expansion can be used for other important and pressing budget issues facing Michigan, including transportation and education. The chamber issued a statement saying the move also protects employers from penalties under health care reform and lessens their costs by reducing uncompensated care, thus lowering premiums.

    "Expansion will save taxpayer dollars by reducing emergency room visits and uncompensated care by hospitals, physicians and other providers, while leading to healthier and more productive workforces," the chamber stated. "It can generate additional business activity by increasing Medicaid payments to hospitals, physicians and other providers, in turn creating new jobs in health care, one of our largest fields of employment. Finally, Michigan businesses in many sectors will benefit from the newly hired health care employees buying goods and services."

    Andy LaBarre, the chamber's vice president for government relations, said Washtenaw County's delegation was at the forefront on this issue.

    "We want to thank representatives Driskell, Irwin, Rutledge and Zemke for their votes in favor of this vital legislation," he said. "We also thank Senator Warren for her support and Senate Majority Leader Richardville for his leadership in moving the bill and supporting it."

    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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    The University of Michigan Golf Course and Ann Arbor Golf and Outing course were both ready for golfers by 10 a.m. Sunday after the Michigan-Notre Dame game.

    Kyle Feldscher | AnnArbor.com

    The first tailgaters arrived at the University of Michigan Golf Course at noon Saturday. Some weren’t off the course until 1 a.m. Sunday following Michigan’s win.

    Even with all the trash that accumulated during those 13 hours, golfers were still out on the course as of 10 a.m. Sunday, officials said.

    U-M Golf Course employee John Phillips said the first tee time was at 10 a.m. Sunday and the clean-up crews were completely off the course by noon. The crews start by picking up trash at the first hole and go through the entire course, he said.

    “If you get someone who has done it before and can organize it, it can go pretty quick,” Phillips said.

    It was a similar story at Ann Arbor Golf and Outing Club, where pro shop employees said all the clean up was done by 10 a.m. Golfers were out enjoying their Sunday morning round, officials said.

    Phillips said there’s a large group made up of Saline High School hockey team members and their families that clean the Ann Arbor Golf and Outing Club course — one that he used to work with when his son played for the team. Local high schoolers also help clean up the U-M course, he said.

    Officials at Ann Arbor Golf and Outing Club said their crew of Saline hockey players and their families is usually between 50 and 60 people.

    Clean-up work was continuing at Pioneer High School, another major tailgate spot across the street from The Big House, just before 1 p.m. Sunday.

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    It will take most of Sunday for crews to clean up Pioneer High School's parking lot from Saturday's tailgates.

    Kyle Feldscher | AnnArbor.com

    Ann Arbor Public Schools spokeswoman Liz Margolis said the district uses a contractor to clean up the school's parking lot the day after the game. The work will continue throughout Sunday but the lot will be ready by the time school starts Monday morning.

    "The contractor's clean up crew began last night and will continue throughout the day," she said. "They estimate (the crew will need) in excess of 224 man hours for the clean up. This includes the use of street sweepers and field vacuums."

    While crews worked on breaking down stages and tidying up Pioneer Sunday afternoon, the scene across South Main Street on the golf courses was positively idyllic.

    A Michigan Stadium-record crowd of 115,109 took in the game and good portion of those fans enjoyed the pregame festivities on the two golf courses. Tailgates stretched as far as the eye could see Saturday afternoon.

    Of course, with a large amount of people usually comes a large amount of trash. The rolling hills and the lush grass in the roughs of the two courses had more than their fair share of bottles, cans and the ever-present red Solo cups scattered among the pregame parties.

    “The bigger the rivalry, the more garbage,” Phillips said with a laugh. “With Notre Dame, Ohio State and Michigan State, there’s stuff everywhere. Some of these other games, there’s not as much.”

    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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    Ypsilanti police are investigating a motor vehicle theft reported Friday afternoon when a woman went inside a gas station to pay and someone stole her vehicle, police said.

    Lt. Deric Gress said police responded at 1:30 p.m. Friday to the 1300 block of Washtenaw Avenue for the incident. Gress said the woman left her keys in her vehicle when she went inside to pay for gas.

    “A subject walked by her car and drove away,” he said.

    The woman didn’t leave the vehicle running, but left the keys in the vehicle while she went inside.

    Information in a police summary released Saturday stated the vehicle was recovered at a hit-and-run accident scene several hours later. Gress said he didn’t have any information about the hit-and-run accident immediately available Sunday afternoon.

    No suspect description was released, but investigators are reviewing video of the incident, Gress said.

    Anyone with information on the theft is encouraged to call the Ypsilanti police at 734-483-9510.


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    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 group of men robbed a University of Michigan student south of Central Campus early Sunday morning, according to a crime alert sent out by U-M Police.

    The alert stated a student was walking alone near Hill and Oakland streets about 3:25 a.m. Sunday when he was approached by between six and eight men. The men patted the student down and took his wallet, according to police.

    No weapon was seen or implied, and the men fled the scene. At least three of the men fled toward the parking structure on Hill Street, but police could not find the suspects, according to investigators.

    One of the suspects was a black man wearing a dark tank top, black skinny jeans and a flat-rimmed baseball hat. There were no suspect descriptions available for the other men involved in the incident.

    Ann Arbor police are investigating the robbery. Anyone with information on the 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).


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    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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    You have to admit, the resemblance to the late singer-songwriter John Denver is uncanny.

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    Ted Vigil

    Courtesy

    Ted Vigil brings his John Denver tribute show to The Ark Thursday night. With the help of Steve Weisberg, who was lead guitarist in Denver’s band in the 1970s, Vigil offers some of Denver’s most familiar tunes, including “Thank God I'm A Country Boy,” “Calypso,” “Annie’s Song,” “Rocky Mountain High” and “Sunshine on My Shoulders.”

    Denver died in 1997 when an experimental aircraft he was flying crashed into the Pacific Ocean.

    Vigil, who has been performing since he was 10, as well as writing, recording and performing his original compositions, won a national Talent Quest title in 2006. After winning a celebrity look-alike contest, he began planning his John Denver tribute show.

    “My mom was a huge John Denver fan, she was always singing the songs in the car (and) I’d be singing along … I’d say I was a fan growing up as a kid, definitely,” he said in a video interview posted on YouTube.

    Fan reviews of Vigil’s show are positive, and the fact he’s got Weisberg on board seems to suggest this show might be more than just mere impersonation.

    In an interview posted on the website ctpost.com, Weisberg said he is pleased to be part of Vigil’s show.

    “I don't know if it's the artist, or the music, or a combination thereof, but there's something about John Denver's music that I'm convinced takes people more than just down memory lane,” Weisberg explained. “There's just something about John's music that warms the human soul.”

    Ted Vigil performs with his band at The Ark, 316 S. Main St., Thursday, Sept. 12 at 8 p.m. Tickets are $22. Details at www.theark.org or 734-761-1800.


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    In a sea of maize and blue Saturday night, I was a speck of orange.

    No, it's not because I'm a fan of the Netherlands soccer team.

    I was volunteering as an ambassador, serving as an extra set of eyes and ears for the University of Michigan and the Ann Arbor Police Department as 115,000 fans filtered into Michigan Stadium Saturday night and thousands more tailgated in the yards and bars downtown.

    The game, which ended with Michigan beating Notre Dame 41 to 30, was the second night game in Big House history and the last time, for now, that the Wolverines will battle the Fighting Irish in Ann Arbor.

    U-M and city officials knew from the start that the energy —as well as the potential for confusion and disorder— would be high and asked people to volunteer for two hour shifts Saturday to keep watch over downtown and help visitors with questions.

    "Your visibility will be a great deterrent in itself, the fact that people see you're out and about," Ann Arbor Police Department officer Tom Hickey said during my 90-minute ambassador training Saturday. As it turns out, 72 people were ejected from the stadium on Saturday, out of a record-breaking crowd of 115,109.

    About 100 people heeded the call to volunteer, and I was one of them. Here's what I learned during my 7 p.m. to 9 p.m. shift:

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    From left to right: Amy Colton, Sue Cooper and me. The three of us patrolled Main Street from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m. Saturday night.

    Ryan J. Stanton | AnnArbor.com

    1) People who volunteer as ambassadors are a rare but very kind breed.

    Volunteers didn't get paid, we didn't get entry into the game after our shifts were over... heck, we didn't even get to keep our obnoxiously bright orange T-shirts. We did, however, have to attend a 90-minute training, check in at the Michigan Union before heading over to our patrol area and head back to the union to return our shirts.

    So going into this experience, I was curious to see what motivated people to come out and volunteer— because I was pretty sure it wasn't the chance to win an Apple gift card or a pair of tickets to the Akron game this weekend.

    What I learned was pretty cool. A good amount of volunteers was from U-M's Greek Life community, but the majority were probably local citizens over the age of 50. Most of the latter group volunteered because they care about Ann Arbor and like new experiences.

    Becky Davis was in my Saturday noon training session. She's from Chelsea and works at a local truck stop as a coffee hostess. One of her frequent customers told her about the volunteer opportunity, so she signed up. She said it was the perfect opportunity to put her people skills to work. "Talking to people, that's what I do," she told me.

    What's almost unbelievable is that Becky hasn't attended a football game since the 1970s, but she volunteered anyway. I hope she wins a pair Akron tickets.

    2) Please don't shoot the messenger.

    No purses allowed in the stadium. No exceptions.

    Let me repeat, no purses. Part of our job was to let people know they couldn't bring restricted items, including bags and purses, into the stadium. I thought most people knew that already. Boy was I wrong.

    This part of the job definitely did not help me win any popularity contests. Many people with purses had already walked a long distance from their car to the stadium, so they weren't happy about trekking all the way back to their vehicles and missing kickoff.

    One guy took a woman's purse and shoved it far down his pants. I think he was able to successfully sneak it in, but I don't know why that woman would ever want to touch her purse again.

    As my group told people, as kindly as possible, that they'd have to chuck their purses, we received some colorful responses.

    One guy spat a profanity at me when we told his mom that her overflowing handbag wouldn't be allowed in the stadium. Befuddled by the rule, he told me: "Well, women and purses, they go hand in hand."

    He headed back to his car and about 15 minutes later he passed me again as he shot me a very withering stare.

    3) Come on guys, plan your ticket purchases ahead of time.

    It didn't take me long to get over the stare because the drunk people standing outside the stadium were ridiculous, and mostly entertaining. Well into the second quarter there were dozens of people still sticking their hand up, with one or two fingers pointed to the air to indicate they were looking for tickets.

    Really? The game is halfway over and you still think you're going to get a ticket?

    I did see a pair of men sell their tickets for $150 apiece, which was surprising because on Friday the cheapest tickets on StubHub were in the $190 range.

    Aside from 'What's an ambassador?,' the most common question I received —usually from tailgaters with glassy eyes— was 'Do you have a ticket?'

    After asking us what the orange shirts stood for, a pair of men clad in Michigan gear and tailgating on Main Street directly across from the stadium told us about the perils of haggling for last minute tickets. One guy offered them two tickets for $150, but they tried to barter him down to $100. Big mistake, because less than a minute later the tickets were sold to someone else and the opportunity was gone, never to reveal itself again.

    When his companion asked if we were getting paid, the failed barterer did offer this: "You couldn't pay someone enough money to do this. They have to do it out of the goodness of their hearts."

    After dealing with a few more inebriated people and bucking angry women with purses from the stadium, I have to say I disagree. A paycheck would not have been unwelcome.

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    The scene at the start of my 7 p.m. shift Saturday. To the far right are my two ambassador partners, wearing orange.

    Kellie Woodhouse | AnnArbor.com

    4) Football Saturdays are always evolving, which really means becoming louder and boozier.

    I was really lucky to be paired with two women from Michigan —one from right here in Ann Arbor and the other from Farmington Hills and whose daughter lives in Tree City. They knew a lot of history about Ann Arbor and the atmosphere around Football Saturdays and they were kind enough to share it with me.

    When Amy Colton was a kid, she used to sell CocaCola to fans inside Michigan Stadium. The going rate for a cup? Seventy-five cents. She lived near Bo Schembechler and recounted a story of how the coach lifted the spirits of her son on his 16th birthday.

    Both Amy and our other partner Sue Cooper explained to me how tailgating had morphed since their college days. Back then, there were no large flatscreen TVs or plush couches in the yards, and the music wasn't nearly as loud. Drinking, they said, has become much more public— for better or worse.

    Also, they told me that fans used to be able to get into the stadium for free after halftime. That's a practice I'm sure many in Ann Arbor would be happy to see reinstated.

    5) Binoculars are allowed in the stadium.

    I feel compelled to end this column in an apology. In the midst of telling people their purses, water bottles and zippered cushions couldn't go into the stadium, we led one fan astray.

    As he was barreling toward the entrance, my group stopped a man with binoculars around his neck and told him the field glasses were prohibited. In reality, binocular cases are prohibited and not binoculars themselves.

    What makes this worse is the guy was very nice about it, much nicer than most of the ladies who had to return their purses to their cars. He ran off to hand the binoculars off to his wife.

    It took my group of three less than a minute to realize our advice was wrong, but when we looked for the man he had disappeared into the sea of maize and blue.

    So, to this man let me say I'm sorry. I hope you realized we were wrong. If not, and you end up reading this, I'll buy you a beer.

    Kellie Woodhouse covers higher education for AnnArbor.com. Reach her at kelliewoodhouse@annarbor.com or 734-623-4602 and follow her on twitter.


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    Kindergarteners on their first day of school at Wines Elementary School on Sept. 3 in Ann Arbor.

    Brianne Bowen | AnnArbor.com

    With students back in school, districts across Washtenaw County have been quickly tabulating enrollment figures to adjust class sizes and staffing levels.

    Preliminary information shows a stabilizing trend in enrollment at about half of the public schools in the county since last year. However, for districts like Saline Area Schools, stable enrollment is partly a result of more school of choice students.

    Saline Area Schools and Lincoln Consolidated School District were the only two public school districts in the county to see a slight increase in enrollment from the preliminary data. Dexter Community Schools estimated a slight .03 percent decrease in its student population as well.

    Districts that appear to be losing students include Manchester Community Schools (.93 percent decrease), Chelsea School District (3.21 percent decrease), Whitmore Lake Public School District (4.13 percent decrease) and Milan Area Schools (7.15 percent decrease).

    Many charter schools in the county continue to report increased enrollment in double-digit percentages.

    Ann Arbor

    Ann Arbor Public Schools is projecting flat enrollment this year, said Superintendent Jeanice Kerr Swift. According to state data, 16,635 students were enrolled in fall 2012.

    The district declined to release its preliminary enrollment figures for the 2013-14 school year to AnnArbor.com due to its own policy.

    “Being a large district, we’re still processing,” Swift said, noting: “I don’t think there’s any surprises.”

    High school staff throughout AAPS are continuing to drop students from their rosters who haven’t arrived to class yet for the new year, said district spokeswoman Liz Margolis. It's also the largest district in the county with about four times the number of students as the next-largest district.

    Ypsilanti

    Registration in the newly formed Ypsilanti Community Schools had reached about 4,000 as of Friday. Students registered in the district in double-digit figures throughout the week, said Superintendent Scott Menzel.

    “On the first day, we had 50 students in the high school that hadn’t registered,” Menzel said. “They continue to trickle in.”

    District officials budgeted for 4,100 students in the district this school year. Menzel said he’s optimistic that YCS will meet that figure.

    Last fall, about 3,300 students enrolled in Ypsilanti Public Schools and about 1,400 to 1,500 enrolled in Willow Run Schools, Menzel said.

    “We don’t know what the fallout might be from consolidation,” Menzel said.

    Menzel said it's too early to tell how many students have left the district for charter schools.

    In the past, districts in Ypsilanti have budgeted for higher student counts and then had to make staff adjustments when there weren’t enough students, Menzel said.

    For YCS’ first year of existence, Menzel said the district budgeted “very conservatively…so that if we had more students we could add staff instead of telling teachers that we didn’t have enough students.”

    There are still open teaching positions within Ypsilanti Community Schools due to teachers resigning the week before school started, Menzel said.

    “From my perspective: most things have gone pretty well for the first week of school, and for launching a new consolidated district it’s gone pretty well,” Menzel said.

    Challenging the district in its first week, besides the 50 students that arrived at Ypsilanti Community High School on the first day and hadn’t registered, were delays of 30 to 45 minutes on school buses on the first day of school.

    “A lot of things are still in flux with respect to transportation,” Menzel said.

    Saline

    Early estimates show that enrollment at Saline Area Schools increased by 1.28 percent to 5,316.

    “We feel like our enrollment is going to be in the neighborhood of where it was last year,” said Steve Laatsch, assistant superintendent of instructional services, Saline Area Schools. “We haven’t lost a significant number of students.”

    Larger class sizes at Saline High School of about 450 students have graduated out of the district and smaller class sizes of about 335 are entering kindergarten, Laatsch said.

    The gap in class size would have meant that the district would lose money because the state allocates money on a per-pupil basis, but the district has been mitigating the loss of students with school-of-choice spots, Laatsch said.

    More than 50 kindergarten openings were filled by school-of-choice students.

    In general, the number of students in the district that fill school-of-choice spots has increased, Laatsch said.

    “We’ve had quite a bit of interest this past summer and past spring in people wanting to do school of choice in the district,” Laatsch said.

    Generally, school-of-choice students come to Saline from Ann Arbor, Lincoln, Milan and Ypsilanti districts, Laatsch said.

    “Our overall goal is to try to maintain the current population in the school district,” Laatsch said, noting that it allows the district to continue to offer a variety of programs to its students.

    The official "count day" for students in school districts across Michigan is Oct. 2. The data is used by the state as a major factor in determining the per-pupil foundation allowance that each district receives. Foundation allowances account for the majority of a school district's operating revenue.

    090613_ENROLLMENT.jpg

    Initial enrollment figures compiled by AnnArbor.com as of Friday, Sept. 6. Charter schools included in the list were the schools that replied to AnnArbor.com.

    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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