Patch. (Sigh.) Patch.

patchcapture

It’s really too bad about Patch. They launched with lots of high-minded talk about the essential nature of journalism in a democracy, the importance of neighborhoods, and the need for some sort of news outlet to serve them both. The idea was to run them on a shoestring, with one professional editor supplemented by freelancers and contributions from the community.

At the time they launched, a regional editor explained their copy flow, with everyone working remotely, would enable them to observe the usual journalistic stopgaps — multiple pairs of eyes on stories, mostly — but still be fast and nimble. I knew this was crap after I observed a Patcher typing a story into the content management system (blog software, to you civilians), writing the headline and hitting “publish,” but no crime there, as long as someone is reading behind publication (pretty soon after, too).

As recently as just a few weeks ago, Patch was recruiting for the local-editor job. I told them I’d consider recommending a Wayne State student, but after some thought, couldn’t in good conscience plug a kid into a job that likely wouldn’t last longer than whatever the plug-pulling horizon is at the moment.

Face it, the content’s been a joke for a while (THIS POST SPONSORED BY GRAPE-NUTS), but today may well have been a nadir.

It’s really too bad. I didn’t think anything could make the Grosse Pointe News look good, but it seems to have happened.

– NND

Posted at 8:01 pm in Media | 1 Comment
 

A dispatch from old Grosse Pointe.

A charming Kathy Ryan story in today’s GP News, about the sale of the Tennis House – which, if you’re a crass newcomer like me, you know as “the Quonset hut-shaped building next to Brownell” – to new owners.

(At least, I think we’re talking about a sale here, if that’s what “stewardship of the facility was recently passed to long-time member Gene Kornmeier and his family” means.)

The club was most recently featured in a New York Times style story in the depths of the recession, which called it the most exclusive club in the Pointes. Membership was capped at 100 families, but Ryan reports it hasn’t been close to that number in years. It’s at 40 now, but the new owner/stewards hope renovations will help boost that.

Go read. Worth your time.

Posted at 10:12 am in History, Recreation | 1 Comment
 

The DSO in GP.

The Detroit Symphony Orchestra has announced its schedule for the third season of its Neighborhood Concert Series, which includes four appearances at Grosse Pointe Memorial Church, 16 Lake Shore Dr. in the Farms.

A general admission, four-concert subscriptions to each neighborhood venue is $100, and can be purchased at the Max M. Fisher Music Center Box Office in Detroit, or by calling (313) 576-5111.

Individual tickets will be $25 and will go on sale Nov. 4.

The season features repertoire from select Orchestra Hall concerts, as well as selections prepared especially for the neighborhoods.

The Grosse Pointe venue, programs and dates are:

January 19, 2014: Mozart and Bach

Jaime Laredo, conductor and violin
Yoonshin Song, violin
BACH Concerto for Two Violins
GABRIELA LENA FRANK Elegía Andina
BARTÓK Romanian Folk Dances
MOZART Symphony No. 40

March 16, 2014: Copland’s Clarinet Concerto

Martin FrÓ§st, conductor and clarinet
GRIEG Holberg Suite
COPLAND Clarinet Concerto
LUTOSLAWSKI Dance Preludes
STRAVINSKY Pulcinella Suite

May 11, 2014: Mozart and Haydn

Ward Stare, conductor 
Elena Urioste, violin
MOZART Overture to The Marriage of Figaro
VAUGHAN WILLIAMS The Lark Ascending
PROKOFIEV Symphony No. 1, “Classical”
RAVEL Tzigane
HAYDN Symphony No. 60, “The Distracted”

June 20, 2014: Mozart and Schubert

Christopher Warren-Green, conductor
Hunter Eberly, trumpet
ROSSINI Overture to L’italiana in Algeri
MOZART Divertimento, K. 136
TELEMANN Trumpet Concerto
SCHUBERT Symphony No. 5

Posted at 1:32 pm in Recreation, The commons | Leave a comment
 

Seven silly moms, one great school.

GPN

I promised myself I would sleep on the events at Monday’s school board meeting before saying anything about it. It’s easy to get angry about something you really should be laughing at, and the plea by a cadre of Farms mothers fell squarely into the laughable category.

So, get this: In a district where opposition to schools of choice is so widespread the concept isn’t even argued, a small corner of the Farms north of Moross wants its own version of it. Students living there go to Monteith Elementary and Brownell Middle, and then on to North High School. If you can guess the point at which this progression becomes problematic, go to the head of the class.

This section of the Farms is asking for a choice — not for anyone else, just for them — so that their children will be spared the trauma of having to leave their friends and attend Grosse Pointe North.

There’s a way that certain parents around here talk about their children that makes you wonder how any of the precious darlings make it to adulthood. Because you have to understand, none of the objections to North are based on any problem with North, oh no. Rather, it’s about the necessity of their children to have “a consistent peer group” to travel through their school years with. To have to peel off from some of their Brownell friends is a “cruel and unnecessary hardship.”

I don’t want to go on, because I don’t believe this train will leave the station. To these parents, I say: Relax. It so happens I have direct experience with the Monteith/Brownell/North progression, who is at this moment off registering for her junior year there. As a consequence, her peer group stretches from the Park to the Shores, something I always thought was a good thing. (Isn’t that the point of education? To expand your horizons?) But then, we live west of Mack in the Woods, which, to listen to the women who pleaded to the board Monday, might as well be Somalia. Certainly, it has a different park pass.

Here’s what I’d rather concentrate on: Grosse Pointe North is a fine school that comes in for a disproportionate share of abuse from the very people who should be lifting it up. It is every bit South’s equal, with the same curriculum, the same graduation requirements, the same top-quality teaching staff, the same honors and AP courses, the same everything. And yet, it seems a school year isn’t complete until someone who should know better aims a kick at the place.

Diane Karabetsos, running for the board a few years ago, pledged to look into its test-score gap with South. And who can forget last year’s grilling in the Shores, which summoned the principals of North and Parcells Middle School, as well as Superintendent Tom Harwood, to address “concerns” about safety at the two schools. This Patch story captures the grim hilarity of the occasion:

Committee member and area realtor Alex Lucido asked the officials to address the concern about security, which he says directly effects property values in the Shores and the Woods. “We are hearing that there are so many fights going on in the schools. We keep hearing there are fights every day. Girls fighting. Boys fighting,” he said.

Parents in the audience said they were worried the schools weren’t strict and fast enough to deal with troublemakers.

The school officials dismissed all of this, and said rumors of rampant fighting are false.

“We do not have fights every day. That is not true,” Bearden said. He said hallways at North are orderly and when trouble breaks out it is dealt with swiftly. He also said rumors circulating that a teacher was severely injured by a student were unfounded. “A teacher was not put into the hospital by students. This is a rumor.” The teacher did have a minor injury while breaking up two students in a scuffle. It was an accident, and the students were punished promptly, he said.

P.S. Don’t read the comments to that story unless you actually enjoy bathing in sewage.

As for test scores — and may I just say, this is so often cited as a reason for concern I’m wondering if we should add “test scores” to the official Grosse Pointe euphemism list — it’s really pretty simple. The strongest predictor for test scores is a student’s economic advantages (or disadvantages). As Daniel Pink put it succinctly: The higher their parents’ income, the higher their kids’ SAT scores.

As former board member Brendan Walsh laid out in his blog in 2010, North has a sharply higher percentage of economically disadvantaged students than South. He goes on at some length, presents data in graphics, but if you’re pressed for time, see the previous paragraph: Richer parents = higher test scores.

There are no cooties in the hallways that will drag down a North student’s test scores. Sitting next to a poorer kid from Harper Woods won’t do it, either.

But what about elite colleges, who might look at North’s lower scores and say we don’t want kids from this hellhole? Judging from the number of North graduates I’ve known or read about over the years, who have enrolled everywhere from Harvard to the University of Michigan, you’re going to have to prove this problem exists. And so much goes into an typical Ivy League admission decision, I simply can’t believe one’s high school’s aggregate SATs are that much of a factor. Admissions officers aren’t that dumb.

So, then. Could there be another reason North-area parents try so hard to get their children admitted to South? Could there be?

I dunno. You tell me:

Posted at 8:34 am in Education, The Farms | 7 Comments
 

An alternative to a tech bond?

No matter how you feel about the technology bond proposal being discussed by the school board lately, I recommend you read ex-school board treasurer Brendan Walsh’s blog proposing an alternative to the original proposal. Breaking the shopping list into must-haves and nice-to-haves, he posits that maybe there’s a better way to skin this particular cat, and get the cost to taxpayers down from 2.2 mills to 0.5.

Posted at 8:08 pm in Education | 3 Comments
 

Shores councilman charged with domestic violence

A press release just arrived from Wayne County Prosecutor Kym Worthy’s office:

Grosse Pointe Shores Councilman Charged with Domestic Violence

Prosecutor Kym L. Worthy has charged Grosse Pointe Shores Councilman Daniel Thomas Schulte, 59, in connection with an alleged domestic violence assault involving his wife that occurred on August 7, 2013, at approximately 10:22 p.m. The Grosse Pointe Shores Police Department received a 911 call to the marital residence on Hampton Street. Officers interviewed the victim and another family member at the scene. As a result Schulte was placed under arrest.

He has been charged with Resisting and Obstructing (2 years), Preventing a Crime Report ( 1 year) and Domestic Violence ( 93 days). We were informed this morning that Schulte was arraigned during the evening of Thursday, August, 8, 2013. His preliminary examination is scheduled for August 21, 2013. The local judge has disqualified himself. The State Court Administrator will be assigning another judge to the case.

UPDATE: Schulte speaks to the Free Press, says nothing really happened.

Posted at 1:15 pm in Government, The Shores | Leave a comment
 

Ex-pats.

In 2010, Gail Perry Mason was one of the people I talked to for a story about African-American residents of the Grosse Pointes. (Sorry, no link. Our GPToday archives are somewhere in the ether.) Another was Hubert Sawyers III, and I forget the name of a third woman I interviewed, although it’ll probably come to me as soon as I post this.

Sawyers was the most reluctant resident, and a renter. He liked it OK in the Park, but thought the cities did a terrible job marketing themselves to would-be home buyers like him and his wife. He also thought he was unlikely to stay; the casual racism he encountered here and there was enough for him to think they’d be happier in Detroit, and sure enough, that’s where they moved shortly thereafter.

But Mason loved it here, as I recall. Sure, sometimes her preppy sons had people cross the street when they approached on a sidewalk, but on the whole, the Park was a great place to live, she said.

I hadn’t thought of her for a while, until I saw she was the subject of a Rochelle Riley column in the Free Press the other day. Looks like we lost her, too:

Mason moved back to Detroit, she said, because she wanted to come back home.

“Most people come back home. I think people feel welcome when they come back home. I think people feel loved when they come back home,” she said. “I’ve never felt so much love from my neighbors, people in the stores that I go to in Detroit. I speak to everyone, and everyone speaks back. I love our city. Detroit is my home, my roots. I came home.”

Posted at 9:18 am in The commons | Leave a comment
 

Patch-less?

Will Grosse Pointe’s be one of the roughly 300 Patch sites slated to be shut down tomorrow (Aug. 9)? I guess we’ll find out.

I’ve heard secondhand that GP’s Patch had the highest traffic of all the Metro Detroit sites. Certainly traffic has plummeted with the loss of local editor Sara Eaton Martin some weeks back, but the potential is there. On the other hand, the site never had much local advertising, and the plan is to pull the plug on those Patches that aren’t profitable and aren’t on track to be. Under that criteria, are any of them prospering?

UPDATE: Layoffs at Patch have been postponed for another week.

Posted at 11:22 am in Media | Leave a comment
 

Calling all dirty dogs.

Make your plans now. Because there’s no dog wash like this dog wash, and it’s Sunday:

DOG-WASH-2013

All proceeds benefit the Grosse Pointe Animal Adoption Society. It’s $10 well-spent.

Posted at 10:46 pm in The commons | Leave a comment
 

Blowing off the dust.

Hey, apologies for the long absence. Believe it or not, I have other duties in the world, one of which is working full-time for another publication. That one pays me money; this is just for fun. So you can see how the priorities break down.

But really, there’s no excuse for keeping a website sailing untended through the internet like some digital Flying Dutchman, and there’s no time like the present to get chores out of the way. Besides, so much to blog about lately in our leafy Eden.

Take the steep decline of Grosse Pointe Patch, which was once a direct competitor and now is a sad shadow of its former self. Any one-person operation — and make no mistake, each Patch is only as good as the local editor, who is the sole reporter, too — is a precarious one, and when founding editor Sara Martin left, the air really went out of the balloon. I know they’re looking to hire someone; they even contacted me. (Not interested.) Patch claims to be a going concern, but the jungle drums of the journalism world say they’re circling the drain. I believe there’s a real need for a lively, interactive, online local news source, but there’s this stubborn reality we all need to face: THERE’S NO DAMN MONEY IN IT. Maybe a super-dedicated person could figure out a way to write, edit and photograph the news around here, and sell the ads to put food on the table in their off hours, but I wouldn’t hold my breath. Anyone who saw poor Sara trying to run from one city council meeting to the next, maybe with a school board marathon thrown in, knows it can’t be done by a single person.

I missed Sara’s work when I read about the travesty of Monday’s school board meeting, during which Cindy Pangborn produced a document out of thin air that she said would cut the proposed $48 million technology bond by more than half. Gotta tell you, I laughed out loud when I read this:

“I looked through this, and I’m having a real problem with the amount,” Pangborn said. “I picked out some things, like I say, with experts, of what we had to have to get that security and that infrastructure started – that’s under $20 million for what is absolutely necessary to get us up to speed.”

Pangborn said the $20 million over seven years, according to accountants she spoke with, would net the district $6 million in interest savings, while maintaining the proposed upgrades.

Look! I have experts! (No, I won’t tell you who they are.) They say $20 million will do it! Let’s all vote now!

Finally, speaking of Patch, I see Pete Waldmeir has time on his hands, and is talking shit about me/GPToday again. He’s entitled to his opinion, but not to his twisted version of our history. Which, in his head, is this:

GP Today folded months ago when Nancy Nall Derringer left following the death of founder and publisher Ben Burns. It had held a 501(c)(3) charitable tax exemption, presumably because Burns provided part-time jobs for some Wayne State JO students. Last I checked, Derringer was working for, or just contributing to, a lib-leaning magazine named Bridge or something like that owned by publisher Phil Power.

We did fold GPToday 2.0 after Ben’s death, but I left months beforehand, when I took a job with The Center for Michigan. Pete’s always had a bug up his butt about our 501(c)(3) status, which we earned fair and square. We were a learning lab for Wayne State journalism students, we tried to cover our community to the best of our ability, and I don’t think we have very much to apologize for — Ben, Sheila Tomkowiak and I poured hours into the site, because we thought, and think, Grosse Pointe deserves better than one timid weekly. We may have failed, but we tried. And whatever was left over in the bank account went to WSU.

Meanwhile, Pete has his own causes. One was working hard against last fall’s millages in the Woods. He brought up, many times, the new pool liner at Lake Front Park, an unexpected expense that he liked to call “Vicki Granger’s million-dollar no-bid pool contract,” or some such. Every time I heard this, a memory nagged at me. Was it a photo? Where did I see it? It must have been the Grosse Pointe News, but when? Did I hallucinate the whole thing?

I finally dived into the scanned archive. Turns out it wasn’t a mirage. You ask me, this picture says everything about politics around here. I post it here not because I want to fight with a senior citizen, but because why the hell not:

Woodspool

Hope to be around more often in weeks to come. Is everyone having a great summer?

– Nancy Nall Derringer

Posted at 3:36 pm in Commentary | 3 Comments