Category Archives: Kalamazoo Featured News

Gov Snyder Says More Time and Work Needed to Resolve Questions on School Closures or Restructuring

From the Governor’s Office of Urban Initiatives:

School Reform Office and MI Department of Education collaborating with local districts on best ideas for schools and the students they serve

LANSING – Gov. Rick Snyder today announced that more time and work are needed to determine the best course of action for the 38 schools on the state’s potential closure list.

“The entire team at the School Reform Office has worked diligently to analyze data, visit schools and review potential options, but we need to do more before any final decisions can be made,” Snyder said. “Any action we take will have long-lasting consequences and we need to take the time to get this right. That’s why I want our SRO team to work closely with State Superintendent Brian Whiston and the Michigan Department of Education to reach out and coordinate all the latest information with local superintendents and districts.”

Each year, schools in the bottom 5 percent of all public schools in Michigan are identified as Priority Schools and monitored for turnaround in subsequent years. State law requires that schools identified in the bottom 5 percent of all schools write plans and receive support services. Schools are eligible to leave Priority School status if they meet three exit criteria after four years of implementing redesign plans. Earlier this year, 79 schools exited the priority list.

“Our vision at the SRO is for every kid in Michigan to have access to a globally competitive education,” said State School Reform Officer Natasha Baker. “All kids deserve access to a quality school that will prepare them for a good life after high school. That’s why our team remains dedicated to taking action when schools are not providing students with a quality education; in some instances this has been the case for over a decade.”

Gov. Snyder said that while closure may not be the right option for serving students and their families due to the hardship it would create, there still must be some action taken to fix a failing school. That’s why he is having Baker’s and Whiston’s teams collaborate on possible solutions.

“I appreciate the good working relationship that has developed between the Michigan Department of Education and the School Reform Office, and now we can build upon that to help students in struggling schools,” Whiston said. “Closing a school is a tough decision and sometimes there just are no other options that make sense, but we need to work closely with a local district and the community they serve to reach our conclusions together.”

Gov. Snyder has asked the SRO and the MDE to have all reviews and decisions by May, and that any decisions available before then should be announced as soon as they are ready.

“I understand the anxiety that parents have when there is a discussion about a school being closed and that everyone wants answers right away. But if we are going to do this right, we are going to have to take the time to do the right thing,” Snyder said. “We have heard from communities and their elected officials about the desire to have more input into this process and we will consider feedback from local communities as we move forward. The focus in all of this needs to be on helping and teaching the kids involved, so even if a school is not closed, there will be some changes made.

“We also know that legislators want to review and possibly replace the law that the SRO is governed by and I look forward to working on that with them. We must ensure all students have a pathway to Michigan’s future success. That path starts at home and continues straight through the school doors.”

City Commission Shows Support for Washington Writers’ Academy & Woodward School

At its regular meeting on Monday, February 20, the Kalamazoo City Commission adopted Resolution 17-3, “in support of keeping open Washington Writers’ Academy and the Woodward School for Technology and Research”.

The two elementary schools were recently among 38 Michigan schools identified as low performing by the State School Reform Office (SRO). The SRO has the authority to close schools that remain on the list for three years.

Resolution 17-3 notes the strong support showed within the community to keep these two schools open, and also notes recent improvement grants that have been received, renovations of the two facilities, and a history of improvement within Kalamazoo Public Schools. Three schools previously included on the priority list were removed this year, and a recent report by the Upjohn Institute for Employment Research and Kalamazoo Public Schools data both show improvements in student achievement.

You can read the resolution and a letter from Mayor Hopewell to the School Reform Office here.

City Leaders Seek Resident Opinion through Community-wide Survey

The City of Kalamazoo is asking residents to participate in The National Citizen Survey™ (The NCS™), a survey designed to provide a baseline of how the city government is serving residents, to gauge perceptions of the city and to make comparisons with peer cities.

A random and scientific sample of 1,500 households will receive invitations to participate in the mail and their confidential responses will be weighted and analyzed. The NCS™ will be administered at periodic intervals in the future to track progress towards goals.

The survey centers on community livability and includes questions about the quality of life in the community, local policies, demographics, rating of local government services and resident use of services. The survey includes questions directly related to the Imagine Kalamazoo 2025 community visioning process, which will allow the results of Imagine Kalamazoo to be compared to a statistically significant survey sample.

“The NCS will provide another valuable source of community input as we begin drafting a new Master Plan and Strategic Vision later this year,” said City Manager Jim Ritsema. “As we shift from planning to action, the NCS will also provide benchmarks, allow us to track progress, and make comparisons to other communities.”

Community members are encouraged to visit www.imaginekalamazoo.com to learn more about Imagine Kalamazoo 2025, stay connected to the process, and find opportunities to get involved.

The NCS™ was developed by National Research Center, Inc. in partnership with the International City/County Management Association (ICMA) in 2001 to provide cities with a low-cost, high-quality method to conduct research. It has been used in more than 350 jurisdictions across 46 states and is endorsed by both the ICMA and the National League of Cities.

Call If You Can, Text If You Can’t: Text-to-911 Now Available in Kalamazoo County

As of Wednesday, February 15th all emergency dispatch centers in Kalamazoo County have gone-live with Text-to-911.

This service will provide cell phone users in Kalamazoo County the ability to text 911 in an emergency situation.  Although text is available, a voice call is still the preferred method of communication if possible. Call if you can, text if you can’t!

Text-to-911 has been in the works since early fall of 2016 and is a collaboration of all Public Safety Answering Points (PSAPs). The PSAPs are currently working together to establish a consolidated dispatch center.

City Commission Reaffirms its Commitment to Maintain a Welcoming Community

On March 21, 2016 the Kalamazoo City Commission issued a proclamation affirming that the City of Kalamazoo is a Welcoming Community and respects the innate dignity of all people.

The proclamation resolves, “…that the City of Kalamazoo is affirmed as a place where all foreign-born and native-born Americans can live, work, and play together; share in each other’s customs and ideals, and appreciate and promote cultural diversity. We urge residents and stakeholders of the Kalamazoo community to join with the efforts and spirit of the Welcoming Michigan Initiative and others to join in lifting up the City of Kalamazoo as a welcoming environment for all.”

Kalamazoo City Manager Jim Ritsema added, “Many people from across the globe come to Kalamazoo to work, learn, or make it their home and our entire community benefits from this diversity and cultural exchange. It creates opportunities to learn from the experiences of others and enriches life in the City. We want to continue to encourage these contributions to our community.”

Recent actions by the federal government have spurred a vigorous national debate about the enforcement of immigration law in the United States and have prompted questions from many community members about how these actions will affect our community and local law enforcement. The impact of these actions in the City of Kalamazoo was a topic of discussion during the February 6, 2017 City Commission meeting.

Kalamazoo Department of Public Safety General Order G-40 identifies procedures regarding contact with undocumented immigrants. This policy was revised in 2009 and has been in effect since that time. The policy states:

  • Kalamazoo Public Safety Officers lack jurisdiction in the enforcement of Federal immigration and naturalization laws.  Kalamazoo Public Safety Officers shall not arrest or detain anyone solely suspected of being an illegal alien, unless working in conjunction with federal agencies who have requested the assistance of KDPS. Kalamazoo Department of Public Safety Officers may seek information on immigration status if they are assisting Federal Agencies in the investigation of a criminal offense, or when immigration status is relevant to the investigation or prosecution of a criminal offense.
  • Kalamazoo Department of Public Safety Officers are prohibited from soliciting information status from persons who are seeking police services or is the victim of  or witness to a crime.

The January 25 Executive Order by the Trump Administration, “Enhancing Public Safety in the Interior of the United States,” directs the Secretary of Homeland Security to only use existing authority to enter into voluntary agreements with state and local law enforcement agencies to perform immigration enforcement duties. The decision by KDPS to cooperate with Federal authorities on a suspected undocumented person(s) would be centered on public safety risk and not merely on someone’s “status”.  This is the long-standing position of KDPS and it is not impacted by this Executive Order.

“We want our operations and policies to engender trust within the community and not have certain communities live in fear of the police,” said Public Safety Chief Jeff Hadley. “If certain communities fear the police it inherently makes them less safe, makes KDPS officers less safe and makes this community less safe. These policies are in the best interest of public safety and in the spirit of the City’s efforts to foster a welcoming community.”

Following the discussion of this issue at the February 6 City Commission meeting, Vice Mayor Don Cooney voiced his support for efforts to preserve Kalamazoo a welcoming city. “I was so proud to be one of over a thousand people who stood in that park yesterday in the freezing cold for more than two hours to declare that Kalamazoo is a welcoming city,” he said, referring to the Rally Against Islamophobia and for Muslim, Immigrant, and Refugee Rights held in Bronson Park on February 5. “That’s the message that we’re sending to the world”

City Commission Explores Foundation For Excellence at January Work Session

The Kalamazoo City Commission convened on January 23 to examine how projects and programs will be selected for funding by the Foundation For Excellence. City officials presented a clearer definition of what the term “aspirational” means in relation to potential FFE programs, and demonstrated how proposals will be evaluated. A scoring process takes into account each project or proposal’s impact on community results, as well as other attributes such as the portion of the community served, community partnerships involved, and the readiness of the project/program for implementation. The priorities of the City Commission also are a factor; proposals that align with their prioritized community results will be favored in the selection process.

With 2017 being the first year of the Foundation For Excellence, the selection process for projects and programs is being created as plans are made for this year. A draft summary of potential goals was provided at the January 23 work session which draws on the input obtained through the Imagine Kalamazoo 2025 process. A variety of goals are included in the draft such as increasing the quantity of affordable housing, creating safer streets through traffic calming, improving and encouraging non-motorized commuting, expanding opportunities for youth employment & career exploration, and increasing community policing efforts.

The City Commission will continue discussing the Foundation For Excellence at their annual retreat on Saturday, March 4 at 8:30 a.m. in the Governing Board Room at Metro Transit (530 N Rose St). During the retreat proposed 2017 projects and programs will be presented, and the Commission will discuss 2017 priorities.

You can view the presentation slides here and the draft of potential Imagine Kalamazoo 2025 goals here.

City Commission Approves FY2017 Budget

On January 17, the Kalamazoo City Commission unanimously approved the budget proposal for FY 2017.

The citywide Proposed FY 2017 Budget, issued by the Administration to the City Commission on December 1, 2016, initially totaled $147,368,761, with total General Fund expenditures of $57,960,076. Since December 1, 2016, changes have been required, resulting in a revised city-wide FY 2017 Proposed Budget of $148,011,073, with no change to the FY 2017 General Fund Budget of $57,960,076.

You can view the original budget proposal here. Additional information is available in the City Commission agenda report here.

KHPC Seeks Nominations for Historic Preservation Awards of Merit

The City of Kalamazoo’s Historic Preservation Commission is currently seeking nominations for Historic Preservation Awards of Merit.

For the last two decades the Kalamazoo Historic Preservation Commission (KHPC) has presented awards to preservation related projects in the city of Kalamazoo. Past awards have recognized a diverse group of projects including the Ladies Library Association building, the restored neon sign on Paris Cleaners, infill houses by Kalamazoo Neighborhood Housing Services, and both rental and owner-occupied housing rehabilitation projects in the River’s Edge area.

Historic preservation is an important part of the Kalamazoo we know and love and the KHPC acts to encourage and recognize the efforts made by local people to preserve our heritage and history. These awards also recognize individual people who have made a contribution to preservation (such as contractors and architects) and institutions with a track record of preserving their historic resources.

To be nominated for an award a project must:

  • be located in the city of Kalamazoo – the KHPC especially encourages nominations outside the historic districts.
  • maintain the historic character of the building or resource
  • have work substantially completed within the past five years
  • have a complete nomination submitted by Monday, March 6, 2017 at 5:00 pm

Complete details are included in the Nomination Packet, available from the City of Kalamazoo’s Historic Preservation Coordinator or online here. Nominations must be submitted by 5:00 p.m. on Monday, March 6. An awards ceremony will be held in May to coincide with National Historic Preservation Month.

16th Annual Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Community-wide Day of Service

The City of Kalamazoo and Gryphon Place, in cooperation with and Western Michigan University, Kalamazoo College, and Kalamazoo Valley Community College, will sponsor the 16th Annual Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Community-Wide Day of Service on Monday, January 16, 2017.  The City is still looking for volunteers to participate in the event at non-profit and community organizations throughout Kalamazoo.

In addition to the community-wide day of service on January 16, a number of events will be held to honor the life and legacy of Dr. King and celebrate the theme, “The Transformative Power of a Unified Dream”. Events include:

Sunday, January 15, Northside Ministerial Alliance MLK Service

4:00 p.m. at Mt. Zion Baptists Church (120 Roberson St, Kalamazoo, MI 49007);  Keynote speaker Bishop John Franklin White, presiding prelate of the Fourth Episcopal District, African Methodist Episcopal Church and president of the AMEC Council of Bishops will highlight this community celebration.

Monday, January 16, MLK Park Day of Service

8:00 a.m. at City Hall; Anyone who would like to volunteer is encouraged to come to City Hall and sign up with Gryphon Place.  Citizens can sign up prior to the 16th at http://www.gryphon.org/events

Monday, January 16, March to MLK Park

3:30 p.m. at the flagpole at Kanley Chapel, WMU; to Kalamazoo College Red Square, corner of Thompson and Academy streets, at 4 p.m.; to MLK Park, corner of Rose Street and West Michigan Avenue, at 4:30 p.m.

Monday, January 16, Bronson Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Community Celebrations

5:00 p.m. at the Radisson Plaza Hotel – Arcadia Ballroom; All individuals, businesses and organizations are invited to join this gathering to reflect and celebrate “The Transformative Power of a United Dream.”  This short, family-friendly program featuring local performers and speakers is an opportunity to connect as a community in a unique way.  We hope that you are able to participate in this event and also encourage others to attend.

Tuesday, January 17, Presentation of Dr. Lewis Walker Youth Social Justice Awards

7:00 p.m. at City Hall during the scheduled City Commission Meeting;

For additional information about the MLK Day of Service, contact the City of Kalamazoo City Manager’s Office at (269) 337-8082 or mlkday@kalamazoocity.org. The City of Kalamazoo would like to extend our gratitude to the sponsors of this year’s event Envirologic, Fifth Third Bank, MacKenzie’s Bakery, PlazaCorp, Schupan and Sons, Zoetis, and the City of Kalamazoo’s Brownfield Redevelopment Authority.