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

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    The Ann Arbor Board of Education will begin a discussion Wednesday on how to precede with finding a new superintendent following Patricia Green's unexpected retirement last week.

    Green_Patricia_mug.jpg

    Patricia Green

    Green, who started with the district about 21 months ago, turned in her resignation letter to school board President Deb Mexicotte near the end of the April 10 regular meeting, which adjourned early Thursday morning.

    Green said in a statement to the community, she intends to retire this summer after a 43-year career in public education. Her resignation is effective July 9.

    The board will begin to consider various elements for moving forward with its fourth superintendent search since 2002, including whether to use a search firm; whether to hire an interim superintendent; the scope of the search it would like to conduct such as national, Midwest, statewide or local; the initial qualities it should look for in a new leader; and how to engage the public in the process.

    The board also is expected to talk about whether or not Green's resignation falls within a "satisfaction guarantee" window through Ray & Associates, which is the search firm used to hire her.

    A curriculum report was on the agenda for Wednesday's study session, which begins at 5:30 p.m. at Huron High School, but the report was pushed back to a later date. The board also will discuss its new committee structure Wednesday.

    Prior to Green handing Mexicotte her letter of resignation at last week's meeting, the board voted to enact a five-hour time limit for regular meetings and a new subcommittee structure that eliminates the Committee of the Whole.

    The subcommittees will be made up of three trustees and will be in compliance with the Open Meetings Act, meaning the meetings will be announced, open to the public and minutes will be recorded.

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


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    Music is in the air this week, with two musicals and one play about music. It’s not just any old music, either, but some of the most beloved and remarkable tunes ever, from "Oompa-Loompa" and "Pure Imagination" from “Willy Wonka” at Saline Area Players, to "Embraceable You" and "I Got Rhythm" from “Crazy for You” at the University of Michigan.

    Add to that Moises Kaufman’s poignant play about Beethoven’s 33 Variations on a Waltz by Anton Diabelli, Op. 120, commonly known as the Diabelli Variations, which is often considered to be one of the greatest sets of variations for the keyboard. It’s a week made for music lovers and theater lovers alike!

    Show: "Willy Wonka," by Leslie Bricusse and Anthony Newley, adapted for the stage by Bricusse and Timothy Allen McDonald, through April 21.
    Company: Saline Area Players.
    Type of Company: Community.
    Venue/Location: Ellen A. Ewing Performing Arts Center at Saline High School, 1300 Campus Parkway, Saline.
    Recommended ages: All ages.
    Description: Willy Wonka, the world-famous candy maker, is about to retire and is looking for an heir. He offers a tour of his factory and a lifetime of chocolate to the five lucky children who find the golden tickets in his chocolate bars. The winners are announced - a gluttonous boy from Germany, a spoiled daughter of a macadamia nut magnate, an abrasive gum-chewing girl from Georgia, and a boy who is more interested in his technology than chocolate. Charlie Bucket, a poor child, continues to hope for a chance to tour the factory as well, and eventually also finds a golden ticket. The second act takes the winners on the tour through the colorful and lively factory, complete with Oompa-Loompas and calamities for greedy kids.
    More information
    Fun Fact: This timeless classic includes songs "Pure Imagination," "I Eat More," "Oompa-Loompa," and "The Candy Man."
    For tickets and information: www.salineareaplayers.org, 248-534-7160.

    crazyforyou.jpeg

    Photo by Peter Smith Photography

    Show: "Crazy for You" by George & Ira Gershwin and Ken Ludwig
    Company: U-M SMTD Department of Musical Theatre
    Type of Company: Higher Education
    Venue/location: Power Center for the Performing Arts, 121 N Fletcher St., Ann Arbor
    Recommended ages: 10+
    Description: Loosely based on the Gershwins' 1930 musical “Girl Crazy,” playwright Ken Ludwig (“Lend me a Tenor,” “The Beaux Stratagem”) adapted the classic tale of boy gets girl after many obstacles and blended it with 19 of George and Ira Gershwin’s most beloved songs. The musical won the Tony, Drama Desk, and Olivier awards for Best Musical and Best Choreography when it debuted in 1992. From "Embraceable You" to "I Got Rhythm" and "They Can’t Take that Away from Me," “Crazy for You” is pure fun.
    Preview article from AnnArbor.com
    Fun fact: In his review in The New York Times, Frank Rich wrote, "When future historians try to find the exact moment at which Broadway finally rose up to grab the musical back from the British, they just may conclude that the revolution began last night. The shot was fired at the Shubert Theater, where a riotously entertaining show called ‘Crazy for You’ uncorked the American musical’s classic blend of music, laughter, dancing, sentiment and showmanship with a freshness and confidence…”
    For tickets and information: 734-764-2538, tickets.music.umich.edu. Best seats remaining for Thursday - Saturday.

    Show: “33 Variations” by Moises Kaufman, through June 1.
    Company: The Purple Rose Theatre Company.
    Type of Company: Professional Equity SPT.
    Venue/location: The Purple Rose Theatre Company, 137 Park Street, Chelsea.
    Recommended ages: 16+ (contains adult language and content).
    Description: In 19th century Austria, Ludwig van Beethoven works obsessively on a commission he cannot complete. In present day, musicologist Katherine Brandt struggles to solve the mystery behind her professional passion: Beethoven’s oft overlooked “Diabelli Variations”. As she races against time, Katherine not only discovers the true nature of Beethoven’s work, but gains insight into the other mystery in her life: her daughter. Moving between the past and the present, 33 Variations illustrates how the very passions that threaten to overwhelm us can also save us.
    Review from Examiner.com
    Fun fact: The shelves on the set were originally orange and purple before being painted grey.
    For tickets and information: 734-433-7673, www.purplerosetheatre.org


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    What did you think of the show? Leave a comment and / or vote in the poll at the end of this post:

    GBS-press-horiz-A.jpg

    Great Big Sea publicity photo

    Newfoundland musical export Great Big Sea brought its great big 20th anniversary show to the Michigan Theater Tuesday night.

    As expected, it was a high-energy performance for a fired-up crowd that was on its feet for most of the concert, dancing and singing along. The hardcore fan to the left of me even knew the words to the new songs, not to mention the old ones.

    Although the performance was at the Michigan, it was presented by The Ark, where GBS first played here 18 years ago.

    With no opening act, Great Big Sea took the stage as a video montage played clips of the band over the years. Starting with “Ordinary Day,” the show’s more than 30 tunes unfolded on a simple stage with a backdrop that included lit-up twin Roman numeral XXs.

    “This night has been 20 years in the making,” said front man Alan Doyle, before launching into “Heart of Hearts,” a new song with the appropriate refrain “in my heart of hearts I’d do it all again.”

    Great Big Sea got its start in 1993 as a rowdy pub band, and to some extent it still is, only on a larger stage. Doyle, Sean McCann and Bob Hallett (with drummer Kris MacFarlane and bass player Murray Foster) are all solid musicians, skilled in everything from guitar, fiddle and drums to the accordion, mandolin, Irish whistles, concertina, fiddle and bodhran.

    But strong musicianship is only half of Great Big Sea’s story. Showmanship also plays a part, and these lads know how to put on a great concert. They have an audience rapport that’s among the best, and it is clear they love what they do and have fun doing it.

    Besides the obvious tunes (“Paddy Murphy,” “Consequence Free,” the bodhran-driven “River Driver’s Lament,” “Lukey,” “Concerning Charlie Horse” and the call-and-response “Come And I Will Sing You”), the set list also included the early hit “What Are You At” (used in an old Newfoundland telephone commercial that was played for the audience’s amusement on a video screen at the back of the stage), as well as the lesser-known “Tom White,” “Something Beautiful” and “Scolding Wife.”

    Doyle sent a shout-out to The Ark before launching into “Good People,” saying it is “great to have a relationship that has lasted for so long. It doesn’t happen in every town, but it does here.” There was also a bit of banter from McCann about the tasty treats he consumed earlier in the day at the Cupcake Station (“an epiphany”), delivered just after showing off his vocal skills on the lovely ballad “Graceful & Charming.”

    A cover of the Pete Townshend tune “Let My Love Open the Door” got the second part of the show off to a good start, and from the there the energy went up considerably from what I thought was a slightly subdued (at least for GBS) first half. Doyle shredded like a rock star on an electric guitar during “When I Am King,” with the harmony-driven “Safe Upon the Shore,” the energetic “When I’m Up I Can’t Get Down” and the first-pumping hockey song “Helmethead” following.

    By the time the band got to the lively, fiddle-driven “Mari Mac” the crowd was in a frenzy, the perfect setup for an encore set that included the equally rowdy “Old Black Rum,” another classic. The final song, “Wave After Wave,” was a sway-along tune that was perfect ending for a pretty much perfect show.


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    huron-chess-champ.JPG

    Huron High School junior Atulya Shetty, right, shakes hands with his opponent before his final game of the SuperNationals chess tournament in Nashville April 5-7. Shetty was crowed the K-12 national champion at the tournament.

    Courtesy of Atulya Shetty

    While other students spent time lounging on beaches, Huron High School junior Atulya Shetty and 10 chess team members spent their spring breaks waging intellectual battles over knights, bishops and pawns.

    The 11 students carpooled to Nashville April 5-7 to compete with thousands of students in grades K-12 in the United States Chess Federation’s SuperNationals tournament.

    After three days of competition and seven games of chess, Shetty was named the K-12 SuperNationals champion, clinching the first-place trophy for individual play and a $2,000 scholarship. The Huron High School team took second place in the K-12 championship division, the highest division at the event. A team from Edward R. Murrow High School in New York was the overall team champion.

    Five students from Huron competed in the K-12 championship division. They were Shetty, sophomores Alexander Deatrick and Jeffery Zhang and freshmen Justin Chen and Marco Lorenzon. The four best individual scores were totaled to determine the overall team score.

    huron-chess-club-wins.JPG

    The Huron High School chess club took second place in the national tournament during spring break.

    Courtesy of Atulya Shetty

    Aside from Shetty's win, other student accolades included Deatrick's 17th-place finish in the championship division and Nir Glazer's second-place finish in the K-12 under-800 division.

    The five other lower-division players from Huron were Adam Abu-Shtayyah, Franklin Bromberg, Andy Hsiao, Hao Tang and Valerie Peng.

    "I am very, very proud of them," said Huron chess coach Ken Long. "Atulya (Shetty) is the best player I have ever had the acquaintance of. ... He's just a true genius. But not only is he a great kid with chess, he's a great leader and a great student who's also had tremendous success academically."

    Long said Shetty and the Huron chess club also volunteer their time at Mitchell Elementary School running a chess program there.

    Shetty began playing chess when he was about 4 1/2 years old. He said it was his two preschool teachers who sparked his interest in the game and first taught him to play. Unlike many chess prodigies, the strategy game was not a skill passed down through his family.

    "I think people usually learn from their parents or grandparents. A love of chess seems to run in families," Shetty said. "If it weren't for those teachers, I probably would have learned from my dad (who plays chess casually) at some point ... but I might not have been as serious with the game."

    Shetty also is the No. 1 player in Michigan across all age groups, including those who are his elders. Shetty said the one thing he enjoys most about chess is it never gets old.

    "You are never done learning," he said. "There is always something you can get better at ... You find a new weakness you have to improve and then you start slipping in old weaknesses ... it's always a challenge."

    Despite popular misconceptions, chess is akin to a varsity sport in the amount of practice and preparation needed before a competition, Long said.

    In the weeks before the SuperNationals, Shetty said he did a variety of "chess puzzles" to keep his mind active and alert. The puzzles involve trying to get out of check and other sticky situations in check.

    During a game, the Huron chess players take notations of what moves they make in order to review the moves after the match to determine what mistakes were made and what they can do better next time. Shetty said there also are databases to look up one's opponent and see what opening moves and plays they make most frequently, similar to reviewing tape before a football or basketball contest.

    It was Long's first trip to the national chess tournament and he described the event as very exciting with a lot of energy. He said going into the seventh round, the team buckled down.

    "It was really intense," he said. "We knew we had a chance at first place, so everybody played really tight and made their best moves."

    The event drew more than 5,300 participants from 44 states, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico and an overseas military base.

    "It's awe-inspiring being in a massive convention center with that many people," Deatrick said. "And you all share the same interest, so you've got something in common with everyone and can make a lot of friends."

    Long said the great thing about chess is it's a game of opportunity. It also teaches children about consequences, the benefit of thinking things through in advance and how that sometimes in life, you have to make sacrifices, he said.

    "Chess doesn't care about your age, ethnic background, religion, who your grandpa is, your athletic ability — anybody can win games in chess. Anybody can study chess and become successful ... and studies have shown brain games help sharpen mental skills."

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


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    Two new bills introduced in the Michigan House of Representatives would lessen restrictions on how school districts are allowed to spend sinking fund money.

    mjm_10913_HouseofRepresenta.JPG

    State Rep. Adam Zemke, D-Ann Arbor, claps to congratulate a colleague on being sworn in to the 97th Michigan House of Representatives in January. Zemke recently introduced two bills to change how school districts can spend their money.

    Mike Mulholland | MLive.com file photo

    Ann Arbor Democrat Adam Zemke and Dearborn Heights Democrat David Knezek introduced the legislation. If passed, the bills would permit sinking fund dollars to be used for technology purchases and upgrades, as well as transportation-related spending and busing repairs.

    House Bills 4483 and 4515 are in addition to legislation introduced by Zemke in March (HB 4368) that would allow sinking fund expenditures to include security equipment and other school safety measures.

    "These bills expand local control by giving school districts, and the people who live in them, more of a say in funding decisions," Zemke said. "Rather than simply accepting the decisions made for them in Lansing, community leaders can have another tool at their disposal to improve schools and give kids a brighter future."

    Sinking funds may only be used for capital improvement or enhancement projects under existing laws.

    "Many school districts find themselves unable to provide students with the latest technology as a result of the deep funding cuts that have been imposed over the past few years," Knezek said. "Technology in the classroom supplements a high quality education and ensures our children are ready to enter the 21st century workforce."

    The Ann Arbor Public Schools district is preparing for a sinking fund millage renewal sometime within the next year. Planning a millage campaign was identified as one component of the board's financial goal for the 2012-13 academic year.

    Ann Arbor's current millage collects 1 mill from district taxpayers and expires in 2014. It was last renewed by voters in 2008.

    Passing a sinking fund millage has financial benefits that a bond does not, school officials said. A bond millage requires the district to borrow the full amount of the bond upfront from a third-party lender, whereas a sinking fund millage enables the district to spend taxpayers' money as it is collected.

    State law allows schools to levy up to 5 mills in property taxes for no longer than 20 years.

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


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    huron-girls-soccer-053112.JPG

    Huron's Ify Odom dribbles the ball during a district game last season.

    Melanie Maxwell | AnnArbor.com file

    Girls Soccer

    Ann Arbor Huron 5, New Boston Huron 0
    Story | Boxscore

    Huron opened its season with a shutout, defeating host New Boston Huron 5-0 on Tuesday.

    New Boston Huron coach Dan Rossow said he knew Huron was going to be a skilled team.

    "I wanted to test my girls and see what we need to work on going forward," he said. "We need to improve our general work ethic and not play down to our competition level. We need to play up whenever it's needed."

    Saline 2, Troy Athens 0
    Story | Boxscore

    Saline was unable to convert plenty of scoring opportunities in the first half, but rallied from a 1-0 halftime deficit to knock off Troy Athens 2-1 in a non-league game.

    Caitlin Ellis and Taylor Mulder combined for both Saline goals in the second half, as Mulder assisted Ellis at 45:00, and Ellis returned the favor for the game-winning goal at 55:00.

    “In the second half we changed our formation up top, which led to openings and opportunities,” Saline coach Dana Restrick said. “We weren’t able to test the keeper in the first half, but in the second half we spread our shots out to the corners, away from the keeper, and we were able to capitalize.”

    Chelsea 3, Parma Western 2
    Story | Boxscore

    Chelsea denied Parma Western a shot on goal in the second half to overcame a 2-1 halftime deficit and defeat Parma Western 3-2.

    Chelsea's Hayley Bunten scored two goals. Meghan Cole also scored a goal assisted by her sister Maggie Cole. Krista Pagliarini had eight saves.

    "Even though we trailed at the half, we still felt as if we were the better team," Chelsea coach Shawn Hayes said. "It was a back and forth game and the girls elevated their play to win the game."

    Boys Track

    Saline 109, Temperance Bedford 28
    Story | Boxscore

    Saline won eight of 12 events at Temperance Bedford on Tuesday, with John Smutney winning discus (141-feet-3) and shot put (48-6), Joey Liptich taking first in the high jump (6-0) and Andrew Kitto winning the 1,600 meter run in 4:27.5.

    Boys Lacrosse

    Skyline 9, Greenhills 5
    Story | Boxscore

    Dan Lee's hat-trick powered host Skyline past Greenhills 9-5 in boys lacrosse action on Tuesday.

    Lee led Skyline (3-2) with three goals, while Jack Fisher and Kevin Vasher each added two goals.

    Jordan Hickman recorded seven saves on ten shots, while PJ Merica added two saves on four shots.

    John Lazarsfeld recorded three goals and one assist to lead Greenhills (3-1), while Henry Aspegren and Rishi Goel each added one goal.

    "I didn't know what to expect coming into this game, as we were playing a tough opponent, and we were short-handed due to injury and illness," Greenhills coach Mike Costello said. "I hate to feel good about a loss, but it was a good game for us, something we can build on for the rest of the season.

    Kyle Austin covers sports for AnnArbor.com.


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    Why not spend Earth Day at a place in a natural setting among flora and fauna? It only makes sense.

    Earth Day 2013 poster_web.jpg
    The Leslie Science and Nature Center will hold an Earth Day Festival that will feature displays from 40 local environmental, non-profit, and governmental organizations; live animal demonstrations and many other activities and displays.

    Dress up the kids as their favorite animal, plant or bug for the All-Species Parade at 3:15 p.m. There will also be the opportunity to recycle toner cartridges and small electronics. Check the LSNC website at www.leslisnc.org to see what they will take. Attendees can also bring toys and home products to test for toxic chemicals.

    Sunday, April 21, 2013. Noon-4 p.m. Free. 1831 Traver Road, Ann Arbor. 734-997-1553.


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    Phil Tolliver had longed to open a barbecue restaurant in his native Chelsea. "There's just no good barbecue" in the area, he said. He and his wife, Jenn, owned four businesses previously, including True North Jerky Company, providing him with experience in smoking meats.

    On Feb. 20, their dream became a reality with Smokehouse 52 BBQ, a spacious restaurant that seats 174. The restaurant is a family affair. On a recent Saturday night, The Tollivers' 10-year-old son, Nick, bused tables while his 8-year-old sister, Sophia, tagged along with servers to greet diners.

    Jenn and Phil Tolliver renovated the interior themselves, attempting to maintain the charm and character of the market that was housed in the 123-year-old building. "Anything I could, I salvaged," Phil said. That includes the exposed brick and original tin ceilings.

    He installed solid oak floors and a hand hammered copper bar top. Burlap feed bags hang from the ceiling, while antlers perch over the bar. There are two rooms; one features the exposed brick walls, while the adjoining room has walls painted in brick red. "I wanted it to look like a tavern," Phil said. It's a look that he's successfully achieved in this welcoming space.

    The menu is extensive, with a large selection that also includes salads, macaroni and cheese, and salmon. There's also a kids menu with six choices beyond the typical grilled cheese (though that's one option).

    My advice is to come with a hearty appetite, as all the portions are huge and the dishes are rich and heavy. The Smokehouse nachos were immense and laded with pulled pork, baked beans, cheddar cheese, jalapenos, and scallions, topped with sour cream. The chips were sprinkled within the dish instead of just serving as a base. The nachos were outstanding and filled us up so much that we had difficulty making a significant dent in our entrees on our first visit.

    RESTAURANT REVIEW

    Smokehouse 52 BBQ
    125 S. Main St., Chelsea
    734-585-5562
    Smokehouse 52 on Facebook
    • Hours: Sunday-Thursday, 11:30 a.m.-9 p.m.; Friday and Saturday, 11:30 a.m.-10 p.m.
    • Plastic: Visa, Mastercard, American Express, Discover.
    • Liquor: Yes.
    • Prices: Moderate. Many entrees are in the $13 range and include a choice of two sides.
    • Noise level: Loud.
    • Wheelchair access:Yes
    I enjoyed the warm cream cheese and onion dip that accompanied the homemade potato chips, but I had envisioned warm, soft, thick potatoes at the mention of the word homemade. These were simply crispy chips that tasted baked, but not very different from packaged chips.

    My husband ordered the pimento mac and cheese without the bacon. It was creamy, with an in-house made bechamel sauce, but was served lukewarm, diminishing its appeal.

    My daughters each opted for a similar sandwich. The BLT was wonderful, served with thick slabs of bacon on Texas toast. The MLT provided a nice vegetarian version of this, using a Portobello mushroom on fresh ciabatta bread. My daughter asked if she could have it with blue cheese; our server happily obliged and that made the sandwich even better.

    Both the French fries and sweet potato fries were served hot and crispy. The thick, wedged-shaped sweet potato fries were particularly tasty. The house smoked wings were also moist and delicious.

    This restaurant also does its more healthful offerings right. The Smokehouse Cobb salad was full of fresh Artisan greens; the highlight was the abundant pieces of smoked chicken.

    My dish, Southern fried chicken, was the best we tried. The crust was thick and crispy, with a sweet honey taste, while the interior was moist. Though my dining companion enjoyed the Smokehouse ribs, I thought they were disappointing. They were prepared with a rub, with the tableside sauces expected to add sufficient flavor and moisture. But they didn't overcome the tough texture of the meat, which was difficult to pull away from the bone. The pulled pork on my son's sandwich had the same issue; it was too dry.

    There are four different types of sauces offered at the table, all gluten free. My favorite was the most basic of all: the All American, a sweet/spicy mix of all regions containing vinegar and tomato. The Smokehouse was also great, a South Carolina style mustard barbecue sauce. I didn't care for the ultra-sweet Root Beer sauce, which tasted just like the carbonated drink. It didn't provide an optimum complement to the meat. Kiss and Vinegar is a North Carolina barbeque sauce that I found too bitter.

    There are a variety of sides here, and Smokehouse does some better than others. The stewed tomatoes and green beans side was bland, while the collard greens had a slightly bitter taste. Later I was told by Phil that adding the Kiss and Vinegar sauce would enhance them, but our server never mentioned that. I thought the corn bread, made from a mix from the nearby Jiffy plant, was flavorful, yet not too dry. The corn bread pudding was also rich and sinfully sweet.

    All the desserts we tried were amazing. We were so full it was difficult to shovel them in, but we persevered, opting for the brownie sundae on our first visit. Served in a mason jar, this was a homemade brownie topped with ice cream, hot fudge and whipped cream and was delicious.

    The second time around, we dipped our spoons into the thick, creamy banana pudding with vanilla wafers. The chocolate-chip bacon cookie sounded unappealing, but it was delicious, soft and chewy, with the bacon adding an interesting maple flavor.

    The prices here are also extremely reasonable, with many entrees as little as $10.

    The only significant issue here was the service. This wasn't a problem on our first visit, when the restaurant was less crowded. But on a busy Saturday night, we were told there was a half-hour wait (the restaurant doesn't take reservations for fewer than 10) even though several tables were left empty, an observation made by several waiting customers. We didn't have that long a wait, but once we were seated, we endured a significant amount of time for our entrees to appear. The place is clearly short-staffed, at least on this night. Eager to turn over our table, the server brought our check before asking if we wanted dessert. When we said we wanted to order, she didn't even clear the dinner plates, so we were forced to squeeze in the dessert plates while looking at our leftovers.

    It's not surprising that Smokehouse 52 is attracting crowds. Word has clearly gotten out about the fun atmosphere and high quality food in an area that was lacking a family-friendly barbecue place. If they hire more staff, this place has all the ingredients of a winner.


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    The Ann Arbor Public Schools Board of Education meets Wednesday night, for the first time since Superintendent Patricia Green handed her letter of resignation to President Deb Mexicotte at the end of the last meeting.

    It's been a long week for the schools and the community, as we're left to consider so many steps in the future: Decisions need to be made on how to replace Green, and whether anything in the district or the process should change at the same time. Coinciding with that: The district is pursuing "business as usual," educating 16,000 students and confronting a moving target of budget cuts.

    In light of all that, here are the top five answers I'd like to have from tonight's meeting:

    1. Why is Patricia Green making this decision now?

    There's plenty of discussion over what's next, and Mexicotte told the community in a letter that she thinks Green did a good job in many key areas. The timing of the letter was good: We heard from district leadership at the exact same time that we learned Green was leaving.

    But here's what's missing: A reason. Yes, we get that it's her choice and that the step is retirement. And we have to trust that the school board will get in front of the endless critical issues it faces over the coming months.

    But it feels wrong that one of the highest-paid superintendents in Michigan gets to walk away without providing enough information to let us know why. Is it personal? At her level, she should be able to convey that without giving away details that invade privacy.

    Is it the district? The board? The public, including criticism? She should be able to convey that in a constructive way, too.

    And on a related note:

    2. Is resigning two years into a five-year contract really not worth a comment to this community besides a prepared statement?

    Let's face it: Our expectations for communication from Green already are low. She set the tone for public silence from the superintendent's office early, and she stuck to it. I was incredulous that we didn't get more leadership from her during the Pioneer-Huron brawl, when it became obvious over months that leadership was sorely needed due to the range of emotions that festered across this community. We got a written statement, then silence.

    So while we may not expect more from Green, we should expect more from a superintendent — especially one who's leaving. She trained us to know she'll be silent, but that doesn't mean that's OK.

    3. Why has so little changed in the last two years that the same reports that accompanied Todd Roberts' hiring in 2006 could be written today?

    Consider this from an AnnArbor.com story about his resignation in 2010:

    Employee morale was low. Board members were trying to figure out how a construction project had gotten a year behind schedule and millions of dollars over budget. Budget cuts were looming. Key administrative posts were open. A redistricting process had caused hurt feelings among some parents.

    Roberts was credited with solving much of that. Yet today, description of all of it — except the Skyline construction and redistricting — fits what the next superintendent will face.

    That means we only lost ground since Roberts left, and that's not good enough, either.

    4. Why was zero-based budgeting the focus of Green's resignation letter?

    Is it really a success? What kinds of concerns do teachers and building administrators have about it? Are they even getting the information they need to make it work? And why is it important?

    It's the second paragraph of a two-paragraph resignation letter, yet we're left to just accept Green's assertion that "this is absolutely essential to the future of the District."

    5. What were Green's shortcomings?

    This is not finger-pointing, and shouldn't be presented as such. We've seen what the board's president views as significant accomplishments — that was a gracious act.

    But for this district to move forward, to regain lost leadership ground, to give us all a chance to coalesce around what we're all warned are the tough budget decisions that are looming, we need to also acknowledge what didn't work. Beyond gracious, that's good management.

    That kind of assessment is coming from the public, fueled in part by Green's silence.

    We also need to see our district leaders publicly conduct that kind of gut-level, analytical assessment.

    The school board meeting starts at 5:30 p.m. at the Huron High School Media Center.

    Paula Gardner is Editor of AnnArbor.com. She can be reached by email or follow her on Twitter.


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    mark-whitley-dex-softball.jpg

    Dexter Varsity Head Coach Mark Whitley talks with players during the game against Monroe on Monday, April 15.

    Daniel Brenner | AnnArbor.com

    Every ship needs a captain. And the Dexter Dreadnaughts varsity softball team sails with a loud, enthusiastic one at the helm.

    Mark Whitley, a longtime football coach, took over the Dexter softball program last year on an interim basis. After a 17-9 season, the interim tag is gone and so are any doubts that he’s the right man for the job.

    But before Whitley even left the dock on what he calls an “exciting” journey, there were some things he needed to change in order to better face the challenges ahead.

    “The first thing I wanted to change was the attitude of the team,” Whitley said, sitting in the dugout between games against league rival Monroe on Monday. “They needed to know that if they put the work in, they can compete with anyone at any time. I wanted them to know that we can play at a high level and compete with teams like Tecumseh, Chelsea, Saline and Monroe.”

    The Dreadnaughts did exactly that last year, going 17-9, a big turnaround from 2011 when the team was under .500. Whitley believes that his players must know first and foremost that he believes in them and that he has faith in their ability to compete with the best. The next step was for the players to believe what he did.

    “He’s different because he’s very loud and always in your face, but in a good way,” said senior Lauren DeHaan, a four-year varsity player. “He knows the game and teaches us strategic things to help make us better.

    whitley-player-softball.jpg

    Dexter softball coach Mark Whitley speaks to a player during a game against Monroe on Monday, April 15.

    Daniel Brenner | AnnArbor.com

    “But he’s always about having fun and he’s always pumping us up.”

    DeHaan credits her coach for being a big part of the team’s success last year.

    “We have bought into the way he coaches because he makes it fun,” she said. “But at the same time, it’s very hard core and very demanding. We want to win and so does he.”

    Taylor Passamani is another senior on the Dexter softball team and she shares her teammate’s enthusiasm for their coach.

    “Coach Whitley makes the game fun and knows how to make us better as players and as a team,” Passamani said. “He demands a lot from us and expects us to play the right way, but we do that in a fun way and as a team.”

    The players aren’t the only ones having fun. Whitley said he may be having more fun than anyone else in the dugout. He said it helps to have the support of his wife, Laura.

    “She has listened to the instant replay of every match, game or contest I have coached for the past 20 years,” Whitley said. “Without signing up for it, Laura has been my assistant coach for every sport I've ever coached. She's just amazing.” Whitley, 48, graduated from Dexter in 1983. He is always talking, pumping up his players and on the move. Even in the coach’s box at third base, he can’t stand still.

    “I want the girls to understand that we are here for a purpose, but their high school careers come and go so fast that I want their experiences and memories to be of great times, winning games and having fun doing it,” Whitley says. “I think you can be serious, work hard and accomplish goals while having fun and being motivated, which I think are some keys to our success.”

    It’s clear that Whitley has brought a football coaching mentality to girls’ softball.

    “The truth is that football and softball are so very different, that it is hard to compare,” said Whitley, who spent eight seasons as an assistant coach for the Dexter varsity football. He hasn’t coached football since 2010 when Tom Barbieri was fired. “One comparison is that both the young men and young ladies I have coached really love to be motivated and coached with enthusiasm and I try hard to bring that every day.”

    Whitley has proven to be an effective teacher. One of Dexter’s young players on the roster this year is freshman catcher Anna Love. In her first varsity at-bat on Monday, Love made an out with an infield pop-up and wasn’t pleased with herself. “When you are done being mad at yourself, come talk to me,” Whitley said to his young star-to-be.

    After a few seconds, Love met Whitley at the fence for a chat.

    “You have to learn to get over things,” Whitley said before going into detail about how long the softball season is and how Love can’t obsess over every out. “It’s going to happen.”

    It’s moments like this that make a good coach.

    whitley-3rd-base-coach.jpg

    Dexter softball coach Mark Whitley said he's enjoying his transition from the football sidelines to the third base coach's box.

    Daniel Brenner | AnnArbor.com

    “Over the years I have coached youth and high school wrestling, basketball, youth baseball, youth and high school football, and youth and high school softball,” said Whitley, who guided the Dexter JV softball team to a 52-8 record in the two years prior to taking over the varsity. “I love coaching sports for various reasons, but the reason I coach and teach today is because I looked up to my childhood mentors like the late Tom Walsh and the late Al Ritt who were teachers and coaches themselves that worked extremely hard for the athletic and not-so athletic youth.

    “They showed me what it meant to give to your community and I always said if I could do half of what these two did for the youth I would be happy.”

    Whitley is happy and content about where he is in life. He’s not on the sidelines on Friday nights anymore in the fall, but he wouldn’t trade the third-base coach’s box for anything at the moment.

    “I may someday return to coach football, but right now I'm happy coaching softball for the Dreadnaughts,” he said.

    She has listened to the instant replay of every match, game or contest I have coached for the past 20 years. Without signing up for it, Laura has been my assistant coach for every sport I've ever coached. She's just amazing.”

    Terry Jacoby is a freelance reporter for AnnArbor.com. He can be reached at tajacoby@comcast.net.


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    The Michigan Theater, 603 East Liberty Street

    For local middle school and high school students who "really just want to direct" - film, that is - there's the Michigan Theater's seventh annual summer Filmmakers Camp.

    Full details appear in press release:

    Now in its seventh year, the Michigan Theater's Young Filmmakers Camp gives middle and high school students the chance to bring their imaginations out from behind the lens and onto the big screen. "Media literacy and the language of film are really important tools for youth to learn and understand," says Amanda Bynum, Michigan Theater Director of Programming and Education. "But summer's a time for having fun - so Young Filmmakers Camp combines the two!" Campers will receive hands-on experience in making their own short films in a collaborative setting, plus an introduction to the rich and storied history of film. By the end of camp, these budding filmmakers will gain insight on how directing, acting, producing, editing, shooting, and all the other behind-the-scenes magic shapes a film from a simple idea all the way to a Hollywood blockbuster.

    The Michigan Theater offers three different film camp age/ability levels:

    Intro To Filmmaking (suggested for grades 5-8) July 8-July 12 from 9 AM-3 PM

    Intermediate Filmmaking: Middle School (suggested for grades 5-8) July 22-July 26 from 9 AM-3 PM

    Intermediate Filmmaking: High School (suggested for grades 9-12) July 29-August 2 from 9 AM-3 PM

    Additionally, all campers will participate in a Grand Finale Screening on Sunday, September 8 at 1 p.m. Their films will be shown on the Michigan Theater screen at a special Young Filmmakers Camp matinee that is free and open to the public. Campers will also receive a DVD of all their projects to take home.

    All sessions will be led by award-winning Eastern Michigan University Film Studies Professor Brooke Dagnan and Michigan Theater Film Programmer Brian Hunter. Additional instructors will include experienced motion picture professionals, as well as film and video instructors from Eastern Michigan University.

    Registration for Young Filmmakers Camp is now open at michtheater.org/camp. Campers will receive an early bird rate ($469 for the general public; $419 for Michigan Theater members) if they register before May 24. Non-members can purchase a membership and receive the member registration price immediately!

    The Michigan Theater will award three full-tuition scholarships for this year's Young Filmmakers Camp, one for each week. Applicants must provide the following:

    A fully-completed Young Filmmakers Camp registration form

    A typed 300-word essay on why they want to come to film camp

    Additional materials to support the application, such as storyboards or scripts (may be submitted via email or as links to online video hosting sites such as YouTube, Vimeo, etc.)

    All materials must be faxed, emailed, or mailed to the Michigan Theater by Friday, May 24. Applicants will be notified of receipt of their application and will receive notification about their acceptance by June 14.

    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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    As of 12:50 p.m., Willow Run High School and Willow Run Middle School were no longer locked down.

    Willow Run High School was locked down Wednesday morning after a student showed up with a handful of handgun ammunition, Washtenaw County Sheriff’s Office officials said.

    WillowRunHighSchoolFlyersbrick.jpg

    Website courtesy photo

    Derrick Jackson, Washtenaw County Sheriff’s Office director of community engagement, said deputies were called at 8:30 a.m. Wednesday to the high school, 235 Spencer Lane, after being notified that a student had ammunition.

    “The kid had ammunition on him but did not have a weapon on him,” Jackson said. “He claims there is not a weapon.”

    Jackson said the ammunition was a “handful of rounds.”.

    Investigators from the sheriff’s office went through the high school to make sure there is no weapon, Jackson said. The lockdown was precautionary.

    Jackson said some parents showed up to the school for everyday business late Wednesday morning and were unable to get inside, due to the lockdown.

    Emma Jackson, spokeswoman for the Washtenaw Intermediate School District, said at 12:50 p.m. the high school was given the all clear. She said a lockdown drill was scheduled for Wednesday afternoon and was moved up after the ammunition was discovered.

    "The Washtenaw County Sheriff’s Department was contacted and under their advisement, as a precautionary measure, the entire high school and middle school complex was placed on lock-down," Emma Jackson said in an email. "After a search of the building, no weapons were discovered and all students and staff are safe."


    View Larger Map

    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 suspicious letter prompted the evacuation of the office of Sen. Carl Levin in Saginaw Wednesday, MLive reported.

    Also, Capitol police Wednesday said they are investigating the discovery of at least three suspicious package at Senate office buildings in Washington, The Associated Press reported.

    Senate Sergeant at Arms Terence Gainer said in an email that packages were dropped off at the offices of two senators, and Sen. Richard Shelby, R-Ala., said in a statement his office had received one of them, AP reported.

    A third package was found in an atrium on the first floor of one of the two buildings. A person who delivered at least two of the packages was being questioned, Gainer said in the AP report.

    Wednesday's incidents follow the discovery of suspicious substances in mail addressed to President Barack Obama and Sen. Roger Wicker.

    The FBI said those letters are related and tested positive for the poison ricin, The Associated Press reported. They both bore Memphis, Tenn. postmarks.

    A member of Levin’s staff flagged the letter and contacted authorities, MLive reported. The building that houses Levin’s office was evacuated as a precaution, according to the report.

    Levin's office released the following statement from him shortly after noon Wednesday:

    "Earlier today, a staffer at my Saginaw regional office received a suspicious-looking letter. The letter was not opened, and the staffer followed the proper protocols for the situation, including alerting the authorities, who are now investigating. We do not know yet if the mail presented a threat. I’m grateful for my staff’s quick response and for government personnel at all levels who are responding.”


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    Enjoy Wednesday’s sunshine while it lasts. Another round of clouds and rain is headed toward Ann Arbor. At least we’ll get some very warm temperatures out of it, with highs pushing 80 on Thursday.

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    A windy and rainy day is on tap for Ann Arbor Thursday.

    AnnArbor.com file photo

    But the warmth will be short-lived. Temperatures will begin to drop after reaching a high of about 78 Thursday afternoon, said Rachel Kulik, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in White Lake Township.

    Kulik said it’s possible the high could even reach 80 Thursday in some areas, though it’s not very likely.

    As for the more immediate forecast, the sunshine the Ann Arbor area has enjoyed Wednesday likely will be gone by late afternoon. The forecast calls for mostly cloudy skies and a chance of showers after 3 p.m.

    Showers are likely Wednesday night and possibly a thunderstorm, though Kulik said heavy rain is not expected.

    Thursday, showers are likely and thunderstorms are possible. It will be cloudy with the high temperature coming around 4 p.m., Kulik said. After that, temperatures will be on a downward slide after a cold front moves into the area.

    It will also be windy with winds gusting up to 37 mph. The chance for rain is 70 percent with new rainfall of a quarter- to a half-inch possible.

    Temperatures will be falling all day Friday until they get to around 40 degrees late Friday night or early Saturday morning. Showers are likely and windy conditions will persist with gusts up to 44 mph.

    The rain should end by about 9 p.m. Friday night, but it will be colder, with the low dropping to about 32.

    Sunshine returns Saturday, but the high will only be about 44. Sunday will be a bit warmer with a high of 52 and mostly sunny skies.

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


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    A team of three sisters from Ann Arbor's Dominican Sisters of Mary, Mother of the Eucharist - "a Roman Catholic community of women … founded in the Dominican tradition to spread the witness of religious life in accord with Pope John Paul II's vision for a new evangelization," according to DSM's website - are headed to the season two finals of Game Show Network's "American Bible Challenge."

    "American Bible Challenge," hosted by comedian Jeff Foxworthy, features, in each episode, three teams of three squaring off over their biblical knowledge. 18 teams compete over the course of the show's first 6 episodes, and then two semi-final rounds narrow the field to three teams that compete in the finals.

    Each team chooses a charity, and the sisters - who could win a total of $140,000 if they win the finals - are raising money for a retirement fund to support retiring sisters. (The DSM team has already raised $40,000 with their wins in the first round and semi-final round.)

    On the "ABC" episode that aired April 11 at 9 p.m., the Ann Arbor sisters' team - consisting of Sisters Peter Joseph, Evangeline and Maria Suso - claimed the first spot in this season's finals competition - though the date that the finals will air has yet to be announced, according to DSM's Facebook page. New episodes generally air Thursdays at 9 p.m.

    Check out MyFoxDetroit's television interview with the sisters, which aired in anticipation of the team's appearance on the March 21 season premiere of "ABC."

    Fox 2 News Headlines

    And here's an extended clip from the season premiere episode of the show.

    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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    Two days in, it’s a two-horse race.

    The Chelsea High School girls track team and the Skyline High School baseball team have emerged into the top two spots of this week’s AnnArbor.com Team of the Week poll.

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    Skyline High School is going for its second Team of the Week nod

    Daniel Brenner | AnnArbor.com file

    As of noon Wednesday, Skyline baseball had 231 votes, and Chelsea girls track had 189. In all, 558 votes have been cast -- already surpassing the total of either of our first two Team of the Week polls.

    Our poll will close at noon Friday. The winner will be the focus of our coverage next week -- that means game coverage, feature stories, photos and more as was done for the Skyline boys lacrosse team last week and will be done for the Pioneer girls tennis team this week.

    The Bulldogs jumped out to an early lead after our poll went up Monday after some encouragement from coach Shane Rodriguez in the form of an athletic department-wide email. But more than 150 of Skyline’s votes have come since late last night, when the school sent out a call for votes on its Twitter page.

    So consider this another nudge to both fan bases -- and our three other competitors, Huron softball, Milan baseball and Saline water polo. There’s still two more days to get in on the action.

    Kyle Austin covers sports for AnnArbor.com.


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    State health officials say an 87-year-old Livingston County man is the 19th person from Michigan to die as a result of contaminated steroids supplied by a Massachusetts pharmaceutical company.

    The Michigan Department of Community Health says at least 262 people have contracted illnesses including fungal meningitis that are part of a national disease outbreak.

    The Michigan total includes three state residents treated in Indiana and listed in that state's count.

    The state health department confirmed this week that the Livingston County man died on April 11. His name wasn't released.

    Read past coverage of the outbreak.


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    Can stem cell injections delivered directly into a patient's spine lessen the effects of Lou Gehrig's disease?

    The University of Michigan Hospital is participating in a ground-breaking clinical trial that is seeking to answer that very question.

    The hospital will be involved in the second phase of a clinical trial exploring how stem cell injections work in patients with the deadly degenerative neurological disease commonly known as ALS or Lou Gehrig’s disease.

    For nearly two years, U-M neurologist Eva Feldman has led the first phase of the trial at Emory University. A new approval from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration has paved the way for U-M to become the second site in the trial, pending approval of the U-M Institutional Review Board.

    The FDA approval of the second phase was announced today by Neuralstem, the company whose product the trial is testing.

    The doses used in the trial include up to 400,000 cells per injection, with a patient receiving a maximum of 40 injections. Doctors are testing whether the injections impact patients’ ALS symptoms or progression.

    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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    The Ann Arbor Board of Education deliberates at a 2012 Committee of the Whole meeting. At Wednesday's meeting, the topic of deliberation was launching a new superintendent search.

    Melanie Maxwell | AnnArbor.com file photo

    The Ann Arbor Board of Education approved several parameters Wednesday night for a superintendent search that trustees hope will yield a new leader of the district by late July.

    School board members voted on a four-item list at the close of its meeting at Huron High School. The parameters approved were:

    • An expedited search to try to have a permanent superintendent candidate fully vetted and hired in time for the 2013-14 academic year.
    • Using the Iowa-based consulting firm Ray & Associates to help conduct the superintendent search.
    • Scheduling a special meeting (start time to be decided) for prior to the April 24 regular meeting at which the board will develop a superintendent profile that outlines what the board is looking for in a candidate.
    • Appointing an interim superintendent from within the district in the short-term.

    Even though a few trustees raised some concerns about specific items on the list, the list passed unanimously.

    Every board member was in favor of using the search firm Ray & Associates for a second time, given that the bulk of the firm's services will be free. The board cited the benefit of being able to start the search immediately and not having to go through the lengthy process of bidding out and selecting a search firm again.

    Ray & Associates was the company the Ann Arbor Public Schools board contracted with during its 2010 search that resulted in the district hiring Superintendent Patricia Green, who resigned on April 10 to enjoy retirement.

    Green's resignation came less than two years after her initial date of employment in the district, evoking a "satisfaction guarantee" clause from the contract between AAPS and Ray & Associates. This clause states if the employment relationship between the district and the superintendent is dissolved via resignation, retirement or termination within a two-year time period, Ray & Associates will conduct a new search at no cost to the district, except for "reasonable expenses."

    These expenses could include things such as travel, food and lodging to bring Ray & Associates consultants to Ann Arbor, as well as some printing and survey costs associated with the search and the cost of advertising for and posting the position, said Board President Deb Mexicotte.

    The initial contract with Ray & Associates was for $21,000, but the firm only charged AAPS $14,000, said board assistant Amy Osinski. She said the incidentals that Ray & Associates consultants racked up last time "probably was not much more than $1,000." The remainder of the $29,919 the district spent in total on the 2010 search is not clear.

    The district did pay for six candidates to come to Ann Arbor for site visits and interviews, which Mexicotte said the board could choose to do differently this time or to reduce the number of candidates included in this stage of the process.

    Trustee Susan Baskett said she would push for doing this search as cost effectively as possible, which could include using some of the same materials as last time and having Ray & Associates fly to Ann Arbor less.

    "They've met us; we've met them… They just need to hear from us, so let's use Skype or speaker phone or whatever," she said.

    The majority of the board wanted to move quickly on the search, with a target of having a candidate selected around mid to late July and able to start prior to Sept. 1, if not earlier.

    Vice President Christine Stead was apprehensive about the quick turnaround and concerned it could add to the stress felt by community members. She said she can't imagine sending out surveys to the community about what it would like to see in a new superintendent at the same time the board is "vetting what massive amounts of cuts it would like to make" for the 2013-14 budget.

    "I would like to keep those a little separate if at all possible… I just don't know that (doing both simultaneously) is going to generate the focused attention from our community that this (search) deserves … and in a positive way," Stead said.

    Ray & Associates assured the board there still would be good candidates out there if the district starting searching right now, Mexicotte said.

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    Vice President Christine Stead and President Deb Mexicotte, right, interact at Wednesday's meeting about the superintendent search process.

    Danielle Arndt | AnnArbor.com

    "If we don't find what we want, we can always pause, regroup and go on until we do find it."

    Stead said in the district's superintendent profile this time around, she does not want to set a single number as the target salary. She explained this was something Ray & Associates pushed for in 2010, but she would be more comfortable with a range. She added anyone interested in applying for the job could easily look up the past salary at AAPS, as well as national averages and superintendent salaries statewide.

    To select an interim candidate, the board will request a recommendation from Green. Each board member also will be able to propose someone.

    The suggestions will be submitted to Mexicotte who will work with Green to determine the best candidate or candidates to bring forward to the board in about a month in a formal recommendation.

    Previous Superintendent Todd Roberts, when he resigned in 2010 to take a job in North Carolina, recommended the board appoint then-Deputy Superintendent for Operations Robert Allen as the interim leader. Mexicotte said the board favored Allen as a temporary superintendent at the time because he was not interested in holding the position permanently. She said knowledge of a viable internal candidate sometimes can impact the overall pool of candidates a district is able to attract.

    The board decided Wednesday that this time it would consider an interim who wanted to apply for the position long-term, and he or she would not be discouraged from doing so.

    The idea of an interim superintendent from outside of the district, such as a retired administrator, was debated around the board table but eventually was dismissed due to the fact that this interim position is expected to be very short-term. Board members felt having someone with an established knowledge of and trust within the district would be better suited to serve as a temporary, "strong and informed caretaker" of the district, as Mexicotte described it.

    Green will be with the district until her resignation is effective on July 9, so the greatest length of time an interim superintendent would serve would be less than two months, if all goes according to plan. But Stead stressed it could be longer if the board has to extend its search to find a permanent replacement.

    Stead, Baskett and Trustee Simone Lightfoot said they want to see the board do more work to evaluate the backgrounds of the proposed interim candidates and to select the best one, rather than be given a recommendation from Mexicotte. They stressed the timing with the budget and the need for the interim to handle key transitions in AAPS, to implement the cuts the board will approve and to prepare the district for the start of the school year.

    "I liken it to selecting a babysitter for your kids," Lightfoot said. "If there are two parents in the house, you may not be as selective. But if one parent dies, your going to be more careful about who you get to watch your kids… The kid down the block may have sufficed in a different time. But when there has been trauma … special considerations need to be taken into place."

    Mexicotte said the board could go back at any time and revisit the topic of an interim superintendent and could appoint a new interim if the search takes longer than expected.

    Stead was not in favor of hiring an interim, followed by another interim and then possibly a permanent: "That doesn't feel like the best we can do for families in the community."

    The type of search the board would conduct — be it national, Midwest, statewide or local — was not finalized at the meeting by way of a vote, although most trustees discussed launching another national search. Mexicotte said a national search does not preclude internal candidates from applying.

    "The type of search we conduct is really how wide we cast our net," she said. "The idea that if we cast a wide net, we somehow aren't catching the close fish, that just isn't the case... Internal candidates were in the process last time."

    Baskett suggested being more creative, and perhaps having an initial application window solely for internal candidates, prior to opening the position up to the outside. She said this is how the Ann Arbor Administration Association posts principal positions.

    Other components of the search that are still to-be-determined include how and when the board plans to engage the community.

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


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    Ann Arbor officials have released a draft update of the city's Non-Motorized Transportation Plan after a year and a half spent taking a fresh look at all things walking and biking.

    The 62-page report is the first update to the plan since 2007 and includes new policy recommendations on everything from bike lanes to crosswalks to new sidewalk funding.

    It discusses coloring some bike lanes green, launching a community bike sharing program and creating special "bike boulevards" and "cycle tracks."

    Colored_bike_lane_Fifth_and_Liberty.jpg

    Ann Arbor's non-motorized plan update shows this example of what a green-colored bike lane could look like along southbound Fifth Avenue just south of Liberty Street, where cars must cut through the bike lane to enter the ramp down into city's new underground parking garage.

    City of Ann Arbor

    "I think that the proposed update keeps Ann Arbor in a leadership role with regard to creating a community that supports non-motorized modes of transportation," said City Planner Jeff Kahan.

    The Planning Commission passed a resolution Tuesday night encouraging the City Council to authorize distribution of the draft to surrounding municipalities, the University of Michigan, and other stakeholders for feedback before it's officially adopted as part of the city's master plan.

    "The review aspect is important as it allows for folks to see what we are suggesting and provide feedback prior to formal consideration and adoption," said Eli Cooper, the city's transportation program coordinator.

    "As a planner, public input is a fundamental building block to crafting a plan that is both technically sound and also acceptable to the community."

    The report recommends colored bike lanes at locations where conflicts arise between bicycles and automobiles due to configuration of bike lanes, travel lanes, and turning lanes.

    Adding color to some bike lanes, the report states, can help increase visibility of the bike lane, reaffirming the cyclist's place in the road and encouraging drivers to yield.

    The plan shows an example of what a green-colored bike lane could look like along southbound Fifth Avenue just south of Liberty Street where cars must cut through the bike lane to enter the ramp down into city's new underground parking garage.

    "The goal of green pavement for bikes is to create a safe and unique lane that sends a clear message to all road users," the report states.

    In addition to Fifth Avenue, the report recommends westbound Catherine Street from Fourth Avenue to Main Street as another potential location for a green bike lane.

    One portion of the report talks about engineering special "bike boulevards," or low-traffic, low-speed roads where bicycle interests are prioritized.

    NACTO_urban_bikeway_design.jpg

    The city's non-motorized plan update includes this illustration from the National Association of City Transportation Officials showing what a two-way cycle track looks like. A cycle track is a buffered bike lane that uses pavement markings or physical separators or barriers to protect the bike lane from traffic.

    City of Ann Arbor

    "Typically, bike boulevards are designated on streets that parallel to a major roadway not suitable for accommodating bicycling," the report states. "Bike boulevards are created by deploying a system of signs, pavement markings, low speed limits, and intersection treatments facilitating an environment that welcomes cyclists and discourages automobile through traffic."

    The report notes Washington Street is a candidate for conversion to a bike boulevard to serve the east-west bicycle traffic between the western suburbs and downtown and campus areas.

    "However, the Washington Street corridor is busy at select locations, including the segment in front of the Ann Arbor YMCA, between 1st St. and Chapin St., and staff will need to consider these factors in the bike boulevard planning process," the report states.

    Another idea not mentioned in the previous non-motorized plan from 2007 is a community bike sharing program for Ann Arbor, something the Clean Energy Coalition has been working on.

    A bike sharing program would enable residents, visitors and students to access a system of bicycles available throughout town. Under the program, users would be able to pick up a bike from one bike parking station, use it for a trip, and then drop it off at any of the system's stations.

    "There are a number of issues that the CEC needs to explore through the planning process prior to initiating a local bike share program," the report states. "The placement of bike share facilities in downtown locations where space is limited will require careful planning."

    Under a separate section, the report talks about the possibility of having bike stations that include showers and lockers, bike repair and rental, refreshments, bike maps, and sale of parts and accessories. It's not readily apparent the city has an immediate opportunity for a standalone bike station, the report states, but the YMCA on Washington Street and city hall on Huron Street both have locker rooms and showers and could offer a first step toward a bike station concept.

    "It is recommended that the non-motorized program explore willingness of these community resources to expand access to bike support facilities," the report states, going on to mention the possibility of building a bike station in conjunction with a new Amtrak station in Ann Arbor.

    bike_sign_modeled_after_Portland.jpg

    The plan update recommends branding the non-motorized system by installing signs displaying direction and distance information to popular destinations throughout the city. The thinking is that would help encourage more walking and biking to places such as Kerrytown.

    City of Ann Arbor

    Similar to the bike boulevard concept, so-called "cycle tracks" are identified as a new way of moving bicyclists throughout the community.

    A cycle track is a buffered bike lane that uses pavement markings or physical separators or barriers to protect the bike lane from traffic. Cycle tracks can be one-way or two-way. Some cycle tracks are elevated from the road by a few inches to further separate bicycles from traffic.

    A small segment of Catherine Street and Zina Pitcher Place near the U-M Medical School could provide a setting for Ann Arbor's first cycle track, the report states.

    The report also recommends branding the non-motorized system by installing signs displaying direction and distance information to popular destinations throughout the city. The thinking is that would help encourage more walking and biking to places such as Kerrytown.

    City officials have discussed special assessments as a funding mechanism for new sidewalks where there are gaps in the sidewalk system, but the plan update notes property owners often are opposed to that. The report indicates that's why many gaps identified in 2007 remain unaddressed.

    The city's special sidewalk millage approved by voters in 2011 only covers repair and replacement of damaged sidewalks, not installation of completely new sidewalks. To address the sidewalk gaps in the city, the new report states a wide-scale funding program is needed.

    The plan update maintains the 2007 recommendation to estimate the total cost of filling gaps, and it expands on that to prioritize the search for sidewalk funding programs in the near term.

    A funding source also needs to be identified for installing, improving and maintaining mid-block crossings throughout the city, the report states, noting there still are nearly 100 crossings that were identified in 2007 as near-term opportunities that remain unfunded.

    North_Main_opportunities_041613.jpg

    The non-motorized plan update includes suggestions for a stretch of North Main Street that lacks accommodations for pedestrians and bicyclists.

    City of Ann Arbor

    City staff recommends installing flashing beacons at crossings on roads with three or more lanes, speed limits at or above 25 mph, and average daily traffic at or above 12,000 vehicles.

    The report includes a map showing 24 locations where flashing beacons could be installed at an average cost of $12,500 — or about $300,000 for all 24 locations.

    Additionally, the plan update identifies near-term opportunities for improvements on AnnArbor-Saline Road, Depot Street, Jackson Avenue, Huron Street, Dexter Avenue, North Main Street, South Main Street, Miller Avenue, Platt Road, Huron Parkway, South State Street, Washtenaw Avenue, William Street and other areas around downtown and the University of Michigan campus.

    There also are long-term recommendations for the proposed Allen Creek Greenway, the Border-to-Border Trail and paths in Gallup and Fuller parks.

    The report highlights the city's progress since 2007 on becoming a friendlier place for bicyclists and pedestrians, noting 35.6 miles of bike lanes have been added (up to 70.4 miles now) and 5.7 miles of shared-use arrows have been added to encourage motorists to share the road with bicyclists.

    As far as pedestrian improvements, 29 major crossings have been added (up to 88 now) and seven minor crossings have been added (up to 21) since 2007, along with 3.4 miles of new sidewalks.

    The report includes some documentation of the impacts of non-motorized improvements, noting 354 bicyclists were observed during a count in 2007 at the intersection of Liberty and Seventh. After bike lanes were added on Seventh, 488 bicyclists were observed during a count in 2011.

    • Download the report to see the specific recommendations for new shared-use paths, bike lanes, sidewalk improvements and traffic lane reductions on the various roadways.

    24_flashing_beacon__possibilities_041613.jpg

    The 24 pedestrian crossing locations where city staff thinks flashing beacons could be installed at an average cost of $12,500 — or about $300,000 for all 24 locations.

    City of Ann Arbor

    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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