Urban democracy feast organizers deliver video podcast

Urban democracy feast organizers deliver video podcast

Kalamazoo, MI- Urban Democracy FEAST organizers were not able to go with crowd-source funding for their spring event. To stay safe and comply with federal social distancing as well as executive orders put into action by Governor Gretchen Whitmer.

The organizers plan on producing a series of podcasts that will supplement the face to face meetings and provide opportunities to engage with community online. For more information visit: www.urbandemocracyfeast.org



Kalamazoo, MI-

Message from Statewide organization Michigan Liberation

Michigan Liberation Online Petition

Michigan Liberation friends & families have crafted a non-exhaustive list of demand elected officials in the position of power during the Coronavirus COVID-19 pandemic. Michigan Liberation organizers are demanding crisis protection for vulnerable populations and prevent the spread of the virus due to overcrowded conditions in Michigan state prisons and jails.

The grassroots organization recommends the following types of changes to be implemented by our Governor, legislature, sheriffs, prosecutors, and judges. Also demanding the immediate release from prison and jails for vulnerable populations, limiting arrests and warrants for low-level offenses so people don’t live in a higher state of fear, suspend criminal charges that can serve a more severe life-altering burden, and relief and care for our incarcerated loved ones. To find out more about the petition and details of the demands use the link below.

Will you Michigan Liberation by taking action on this campaign?


For more information, visit www.miliberation.org

urban democracy feast organizers cancel march feast

urban democracy feast organizers cancel march feast

March 28 event at Eastside Neighborhood Association

Kalamazoo, MI

The UDF planning committee decided it was best to cancel the 28 March Feast event. We will be rescheduling this event to occur during the fall (November 2020). Given the  CDC advice about canceling gatherings of 10 people or more, and the closure of all restaurants in Michigan, we believe canceling the 28 March event is best. 
We are working on a podcast to air close to the 28 March date, and an online event to discuss gaps in prevention, planning to deal with consequences of the virus, and other needs in the city.

We will let you know how to link to these events. 

Visit www.urbandemoracyfeast.org for more information.



17-Year-Old Creates a Website Tracking Coronavirus Cases  Globally

17-Year-Old Creates a Website Tracking Coronavirus Cases Globally

A teenager’s site  has gotten to be one of the foremost crucial assets for individuals looking for precise and up to date information on the following coronavirus pandemic. In late December, when coronavirus had not yet been identified outside of China, Avi Schiffmann, 17-year old high school student high school student from Seattle created nCoV2019.live See link for full interview by Democracy Now host, Amy Goodman

KPS Schools & Massive city-wide shutdown

KPS Schools & Massive city-wide shutdown

Kalamazoo Public School regular board meeting on Thursday, March 12 was shortly followed with breaking news of Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s order. All -12 school buildings are closed for the next three week and will re-open, April 6.

Spring break for students in Kalamazoo and Portage will continue as originally planned April 6- April 10, extending the mandated closure.

Many schools including Lake Michigan Catholic Schools announced spring break will continue as scheduled from April 3 – 13. All activities and events at both buildings, including daycare programs, are suspended until further notice. Kalamazoo and Portage will stay on schedule with spring break, April 6-10.

Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson announced the immediate closure of all Secretary of State branches statewide. Offices can only be accessible by appointment and limited reasons through April 5. Walk-ins will not be accepted and doors will be locked. The Home & Garden Expo has been cancelled as well as the St. Patrick’s Day Parade kicking off March 14.

Essential services will continue for Kalamazoo County offices but with limited staff beginning March 16 through April 5.

Kalamazoo Public Library and Portage District Libraries announced the doors will be shut from March 14 to April 5.

All public universities in Michigan have suspended in-person classes and switched to online learning including Western Michigan University. Classes will be online through April 3. Starting Monday, March, 16, Kalamazoo Valley Community College will shift to online coursework delivery..

Kalamazoo College has suspend in-person classes and using online classes for two weeks after spring break, March 17-March 26. Lake Michigan College announced campus will be closed for all face -to face classes from Monday, March 16, through Friday, March 20. Southwest Michigan College Dowagiac and Niles campuses will be suspended face- to -face classes and switch to online learning beginning Monday, March 16.

All ‘non-essential’ meetings for the City of kalamazoo have been cancelled. Including meetings planned to seek citizen input on a proposed ordinance to stop landlords from discriminating against prospective tenants. Senior Services of Southwest Michigan offices will close starting Monday, March 16. Home care and meals on wheels will still function as normal. The Kalamazoo County Jail does not have in-person visitation, only remote visitation by video.

Kalamazoo Public Schools Superintendent Interview schedule

Kalamazoo, MI-

kalamazoo Public Schools Board Trustees superintendent search is well underway and the Board will be preparing for the first round of candidates submitted by MASB, the search firm hired to scout perspective candidates for the district. All meetings are open to the public.

The Administration Building is located at 1220 Howard Street, Kalamazoo, MI 49001

Special Board meeting of the Board of Trustees regarding the superintendent search

at 6:15 p.m. on the following dates and locations:

 January 16, 2020 – West Main School Professional Development Center – Workshop for Trustees to prepare for video interviews

 January 28, 2020 – Board Room, Administration Building – Board Workshop viewing of first round video interviews

February 5, 2020 – Board Room, Administration Building – Second Round Interviews

February 6, 2020 – Board Room, Administration Building – Second Round Interviews 

February 18, 2020 – Board Room, Administration Building – Finalists interviews

February 19, 2020 – Board Room, Administration Building – Finalists interviews (possible board decision date)

February 25, 2020 – Board Room, Administration Building – alternate board decision date

Seeking Justice at Kalamazoo School Board Meeting

Seeking Justice at Kalamazoo School Board Meeting

Kalamazoo, MI- Kalamazoo Public Schools’ Board of Education meeting on November 29th, 2018 was a lengthy one, well attended by members of the community and education officials who came to speak on current issues impacting our district.

The meeting began with the recognition of  Northeastern Elementary’s “Turnaround Students”, followed by committee reports given by trustees highlighting their efforts in wellness, curriculum development, and marketing and policy.

Trustee Carol McGlinn relayed information on an initiative to provide “Diverse Classroom Libraries”, sets of books that reflect  the diversity of the student population, at each grade level. Second and third grade classrooms will benefit from these sets during the current school year, while kindergarteners and first graders should have them by the beginning of the next school year. The process of choosing books for fourth and fifth grade students is underway.

McGlinn also relayed that the evaluation committee is continuing to explore the use of Panorama Education Surveys in the district to evaluate the needs of the school community.

Trustee Ken Greschak shared information from a recent meeting of  the Operations Committee, including the efforts of the district’s communications team to “build awareness of the strengths of Kalamazoo Public Schools”. A billboard campaign is underway currently, as well as an increased use of social media and Excelsior to promote this narrative. Another part of the team’s plan involves creating videos for each school building which will feature students “talking about how and why they enjoy their particular school”. Though according to Mr. Greschak, budget constraints limit what they are able to accomplish currently, there has been talk of contracting with a marketing firm to assist these efforts. “We could look at hiring a marketing firm to help inform and advise us on better activities and we may yet do that.”

As reported by Trustee Craig Herschleb, KPS’ Policy Committee has been working on updates to graduation requirements, as well bringing the district in line with a State of Michigan mandate to include policy restricting school employees from making referrals or otherwise providing assistance to students seeking an abortion. The policy requires a district to impose a financial penalty to any individual found in violation of the restriction, and return an equal amount to to the State’s School Aid Fund.

An outline of purchase recommendations was provided by Assistant Superintendent Gary Start, including a $75,000 expenditure for Lexia Learning, literacy programming offered by the Rosetta Stone Company. This purchase will be paid out of a State Early Literacy grant and Title I funds. Updates to schools’ technology resources made possible with the 2018 bond include a plan to purchase over 3,000 Chromebooks for secondary ELA and Social Studies classrooms. 2018 and 2013 Bond funds will also pay for building remodeling at El Sol and South Westnedge (Phoenix) Schools, in addition to four new computer labs at Loy Norrix.

A higher than usual number of individuals took advantage of the opportunity to address the board during Thursday’s meeting, including Rebecca Leighton, teacher at Loy Norrix High School, who has facilitated the work of a group of students to develop a Women’s Studies Course, which has been submitted to the Curriculum Department for review.  Two of the curriculum’s designers, Emma Hilgart Griff and Isaac Moss, spoke on the need for the course as a way to provide a full and accurate depiction of womens’ historic struggles and contributions to society, including those of women of color, stating that current curriculum focuses almost entirely on “white men”. Mr. Moss stated that while he and Ms. Hilgart Grif are at opposite ends of the political spectrum (referring to himself as “fairly conservative and pro-gun”), it is his passion for history that inspired him to take on the project. Fellow student Hannah Sherman also came forward to express her support. The team urges the district to consider adding the Women’s Studies to a list of Social Studies course options. Students must currently fulfill four social studies course requirements in order to graduate.

Amiri Skyes, student at Milwood Middle School, came forward to speak on her awareness of the shortage of substitute teachers in the school. “I know teachers who didn’t have time for lunch because they have to sub in for a different class during their lunch break and planning time”. She also shared a letter written by Milwood teachers and staff on the subject, which said that, “The excessive shortage of substitute teachers in the district, and specifically at Milwood Middle School, is impacting the staff and students significantly.”, adding that the district’s emphasis on Professional development during instructional hours is using up too much of a limited resource.

When Amiri’s three minute limit had expired, her Mother, Shannon Sykes Nehring, picked up where she left off. “Fundamental to building relationships and trust is time.” reading the letter, which emphasized the need for building subs that are able to build trust and rapport with students, alleviating classroom behavior problems that often arise in presence of a substitute teacher. The letter also points out how the shortage of substitutes places a higher burden on teachers, increasing their workload and stress levels – major factors in teacher retention.  At Milwood, the letter contends, there is a need for two building substitutes. They currently employ only one, and the teachers wonder in their letter if the district is doing enough to recruit for the vacant position at the school.

Amanda Miller, President of the the Kalamazoo Education Association came forward with similar concerns, saying that a lack of substitute teachers has become “an emergency” and that the problem is worsened by PD trainings scheduled during class time. Miller also reported that many teachers and staff members have come to her with concerns about increased violence in the classroom and a “degrading culture and climate” that the schools have failed to adequately address. While she agrees with the districts efforts to reduce suspensions, she says that the way to accomplish this is with “consistent consequences, targeted interventions and increased supports”, rather than simply tolerating misbehavior or sending students home.

Miller also took time to express the KEA’s gratitude to outgoing Trustee Lauren Freedman for her service and advocacy.

The KEA’s Vice President, Loy Norrix Teacher Jen Aniano, also spoke on a challenging school culture. She says that she appreciates that the district came through and provided A.L.I.C.E (Alert, Lockdown, Inform, Counter, and Evacuate) training when teachers expressed their concern for school safety, but more must be done to support the vast number of children suffering the effects of trauma, and the impact of toxic stress on social and emotional learning and academic progress. “The time has come to stop talking about restorative justice and trauma informed schools and make these two concepts a reality. We will not truly be safe and create nurturing environments if we do not wholeheartedly adopt these programs consistently throughout the district.” Jen said, imploring the district to develop a plan that will be ready for implementation at the start of the next school year. “The time is now”.

Following Ms. Aniano’s remarks, a father of a Kindergartener at Northeastern Elementary came to the podium. Jeremy Anderson said his daughter was subjected to the use of occupational therapy and restraint tools without his consent during a crying episode earlier in the year. This was Mr. Anderson’s second address regarding the issue, having first brought the matter to the board during the November 8th meeting. He said that as a result of school employee’s actions his daughter has been diagnosed with PTSD and he is concerned that continued contact with staff members involved is not conducive to her ability to heal from the event, and his desire is to see the teacher and behavioral specialist transferred or terminated. According to Anderson, statements from those involved indicate that the tools used on his daughter were recommended and supplied by both the teacher and the behavior specialist, yet only the aid who used them has been removed from her position. He said that he has experienced difficulty obtaining information from the district, and suspects that the outcome might be different if it had been a white child at the center of the incident. “I can guarantee I will be at every board meeting speaking until my child and family gets the justice any family deserves”. The child’s mother and grandmother also came forward to question the districts handling of the case.

Following public comment, Cindy Green, Director of Teaching and Learning Services, brought forward for review several changes and additions to the middle and high school course offerings. Too numerous to list here, a complete description of these changes can be found within the November 28 meeting packet on the Kalamazoo Public Schools website. Notably absent, however, was mention of the proposed Women’s Studies class brought forward by speakers earlier in the meeting. After Ms. Green’s presentation, Trustee Lauren Freedman expressed that she would like more information about that course in particular before the board votes on the proposed offerings at the next meeting. Trustees Greshak, McGlinn, and board President Sholler-Barber echoed her remarks.

Finally, Superintendent Dr. Michael Rice delivered an annual State of the  Schools Presentation. Titled “KPS Rising!”. Supplying district data on enrollment, graduation, academic proficiency, the report outlined Board of Education’s goals, highlighted the gains that KPS has made in recent years, and compared increases in graduation rates and standardized test scores with comparable districts across Michigan. Notable achievements include:

  • An overall increase of KPS students taking Advanced Placement courses of 156% between the 2007/2008 school year and 2018/2019 school year, and during the same period an increase of 313% among African American/Multi-Ethnic students, 402% among those students who are economically disadvantaged, and a 1212% increase among those who identify as Hispanic.
  • According to the report, KPS graduation rates have risen overall each year for 6 years in a row.
  • District Enrollment has increased 25% since 2005, and graduation rates have risen 52%
  • A breakdown of graduation rate increases by race/ethnicity was not provided in the report.

The report also identified “Selected Challenges for the Year”, which included a need to promote Dignity and Respect for all students, “especially those who are poor, special needs, ELLs, LGBTQ or refugees”

The lengthy presentation also gave an overview of literacy programming, staff training initiatives and improvements to facilities.

Following the presentation, Trustee McGlinn congratulated Dr. Rice and the district for “moving the needle”, and working collaboratively to solve problems. President Sholler-Barber echoed these remarks.

Trustee Dr. Lauren Freedman spoke up to remind everyone in attendance that “we are not moving needles, we are moving children” and that though “a lot of what we do as a district is fabulous”, she is disheartened to learn about the kindergarten student from Northeastern, who’s family came to speak earlier in the evening.  “There is a child hurting, who doesn’t want to come to school” she said, urging district to do everything in their power to support she and her family, adding that she suspects that “there are more of those five year olds out there” and thinks that race is a factor. She implored the district to do more to own up to and address racism within the district, and “call it what it is”, suggesting participation in anti-racism training as well as create policy around restorative justice and becoming trauma informed.

A full recording of the November 29 meeting can be viewed on publicmedianet.org, and full minutes will be published on the Kalamazoo Public Schools website in advance of the next board meeting, scheduled for 7:00 pm on December 20th.

Writer Credits: Tandy Moore

3rd Kalamazoo School Board Candidate Forum at Vine Neighborhood Association

3rd Kalamazoo School Board Candidate Forum at Vine Neighborhood Association

Majyck Radio- All four candidates in the race for Board of Education appeared at a public forum Thursday to discuss challenges facing the school system.

The forum, third in a series of 4 held at the Vine Neighborhood Association, covered several issues under the board’s purview, but highlighted budgetary priorities, school safety and curricula.

Each candidate responding to each question with time allocated for the forum. Each candidate had one-minute to respond to each question with an optional rebuttal. The next forum is October 25, 2018 at Allen Chapel AME at 804 West North Street.

Opening statements from KPS Board Candidates:

Jermaine Jackson


People’s Lobby Day 2018 Attracts Local Youth to State Capital Building

People’s Lobby Day 2018 Attracts Local Youth to State Capital Building

Kalamazoo, MI- Hundreds of socially activated citizens from around the state descending to Lansing for, “The People’s Lobby, known in recent past as, “Capital Day”. 2018 makes the 7th year residents meet with their local legislators on issues ranging from Criminal Justice Reform, the Long Term Care Study Bill, Universal Family Care, Medicare for All, Water for Flint and Immigration.

S.E.E (Social. Economic. Educational) Change, group of families, students, educators, and community members working together to break the School to Prison Pipeline and dismantle
barriers to success through advocacy, education, empowerment, and action. S.E.E Change took a group of teen members from Kalamazoo’s area Girl Scouts and Kalammazoo Public Students and parents to meet with 60th House District Rep. Jon Hoadely and State Senator Margeret O’Brien.

Students were able to participate in a Direct Action Rally demanding a resolution for Flint residents and the water crisis that continues to this day.

S.E.E Change youth invited Representative Jon Hoadley to the 2nd Annual E.R.A.S.E Celebration on June 13, 2018 to celebrate all youth and the end of 2017/2018 academic school year at 1009 E. Stockbridge Street in Kalamazoo, MI.

ProKazoo General Meeting: Intersecting Narratives

ProKazoo General Meeting: Intersecting Narratives

Kalamazoo, MI – First Congregational Church in Kalamazoo, MI is the current host site for ProKazoo’s monthly meetings. Local grassroots organizers and community advocates presented their work with the goals of connecting allies with marginalized communities in Kalamazoo County. Local community leaders, Prosecuting Attorney, Jeff Gettings, Kalamazoo County Commissioner, Julie Rogers and Sherine Miller, Kalamazoo Charter Township Treasurer, were among those present to hear from local activists and organizers. Gwendolyn Hooker, Co-Founder of JABS (Justice Against Bullying in Schools) shared that Michigan ranks number one in the nation for bullying in school. Not isolated to Kalamazoo, bullying is a huge problem for youth, especially ages, 6 to 12 years old. October is national bullying month and JABS will have announcements of their next events coming up. Dr. Strick Strickland, Interim President of the Metropolitan Branch of the NAACP, explained his involvement with the Citizen Public Safety Review and Appeal Board.  The members are appointed by Kalamazoo City Manager Jim Ritsema and serve two-year terms. The goal of the CPSRAB is to review complaints citizens have filed against the Kalamazoo Department of Public Safety and are unsatisfied with the result. If a  citizen wishes to appeal this decision, it is reviewed by Ristema with input from the review board. Lead organizer for SEE Change, Elisheva T. Johnson spoke in detail and passion, the construct of the “School to Prison Pipeline”. Racism, a social construct that is invisible, targets African-Americans and youth of color, especially males. Recent data show that K-12 students are 3.8 times as likely to receive one or more out-of-school suspensions as white students. Johnson also shared that there is a lack of transparency between the school and parents and many of youth are “medicated and separated”.

Kelli Redman, the Restorative Justice Program Manager from Gryphon Place, shared out with the group, a presentation outlining the services that some KPS buildings have access too. Outreach to all KPS buildings is a discussion that is in the works. Amanda Miller, current KEA President shared insight on whats called a “bargaining crisis”. Negotiations stalled for KPS teachers and KPS Board on step raises and transparency. KPS teachers are asking for smaller class sizes and a proposed letter of agreement. Miller also urged members of the community to run for school board as two seats will be available December 2018. Ed Genesis, Rapper and community organizer shared first hand his experience going through the “school to prison pipeline” and his transformation and success story. The meeting concluded with a Know Your Rights Panel, consisting of SEE Change advocates answered questions from the audience. SEE Change is planning to Know Your Rights Workshop for parents, caregivers, and students, who wish to have additional support navigating through the educational system.

KPS Teachers Protest Outside Administration Building

KPS Teachers Protest Outside Administration Building

Kalamazoo, MI- Prior to the start of the regularly scheduled Kalamazoo School Board, dozens of teachers, parents and community members were seen holding signs protesting outside the administration building. Standing room only, recognizing area students for their athletic achievements. The meeting’s priority for many in attendance, t step raises for teachers after one year of service. KEA, President, Amanda Miller states, “the other way teachers receive compensation increases are when we bargain an increase on the step schedule. The money budgeted doesn’t even get us to the step that teachers earn for last year’s service”.

A very emotionally charged meeting, parents and former KPS students shared their experiences of support from a  KPS teacher that “took that extra time” or provide resources to them that they were not able to get on their own at the time. Teachers current and retired shared emotionally charged stories as well. Students that were able to move past a barrier or challenge in their lives and contributing part success to the dedication of KPS teachers.

George White,  Lead parent advocate for SEE Change a local group from Kalamazoo, states, “It appears there was an agreement in principle to a 2.2 percent step increase for teachers this coming school semester.  Recruiting and retaining quality teachers depends on stability/dependability of employment and step increases after their first year to assure that teachers feel valued and are able to support their families”.  

White has met with many KPS parents and working with them to “navigate” through the “chain of commands”. In addition, White adds, “80 new teachers last year aided by a very high turnover ratio in Kalamazoo Public Schools.  Kalamazoo Public Schools enrollment is thriving/growing over the last 10 years and students received an increase in per pupil funding this school year.  It is no secret the school board has never met with teachers and this action serves to even deepen the rift. Our pupils deserve a school board that visits the schools and talks to the students/teachers and places the value where it belongs”. 

The next KPS school board is scheduled for August 31, 2017, at 7 pm. The administration building is located 1220 Howard Street.

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