Kate Wells

Arts, Culture & Education Reporter/Producer

Kate Wells is an award-winning reporter covering cultural arts, education, and general news for Michigan Radio. Her work has been featured on NPR’s Morning EditionAll Things Considered, and Weekend Edition, as well as on WNYC, Harvest Public Media, KUT (Austin Public Radio) and in the Texas Tribune.

Kate got her start as an intern with New Hampshire Public Radio before heading out to the Midwest, where she covered the presidential caucuses for Iowa Public Radio and won a regional Edward R. Murrow award for investigative journalism. She joined Michigan Radio in 2012. Kate enjoys hiking, the Muppets, and cake in all forms.   

Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio

Last month the ACLU’s lawsuit on behalf of eight Highland Park students was thrown out by the Michigan Court of Appeals in a 2-1 decision.

The suit says the schools didn’t provide students with even basic literacy or math skills, and that therefore the state and the district should be held responsible for that failure.

But the court of appeals tossed the suit, basically because of three points.

Released by the family

Update 4:30 pm: 

Congressman Dan Kildee, who represents Flint's disrict,  says news of Hekmati's hunger strike is worrying, but:

"I understand that he’s sitting there in the lonely and quiet of his own cell feeling like he’s isolated, where he can't see all the ongoing efforts on his case, where he would feel like he could do something to call attention to his case. He’s doing what I think he thinks he can do.

"We literally work on this case every single day. Our main goal, and hopefully Amir hears this, our main goal is to keep his case in frontal lobe of everyone who is paying attention to Iran, so that if a moment occurs when Iran see it’s in their interested to make a gesture towards the international community, they will see that the release of Amir Hekmati would be a tangible gesture that demonstrates that they are truly serious about becoming a member of the international community. "

Michigan Radio has learned that Amir Hekmati, the US citizen and former Marine who has been imprisoned in Iran for 3 years on charges of spying, which he denies, has sent a letter to President Obama describing his fading hopes for release and begging that his own fate not be tied to nuclear negotiations. 

His sister Sarah Hekmati has confirmed to Michigan Radio that he has also launched a hunger strike. 

The full letter is below: 

Michigan State Police

Detroit-area residents are getting a reported $246 million in federal recovery money after the August floods.

FEMA has approved $141 million in grants, while businesses will get another $104 million in low-interest loans.

But others are still waiting.

Kate Wells / Michigan Radio

Is everybody at Grand Valley State University just ridiculously friendly and cheery? Is this a thing?

Even in the student club for women who have an extremely high risk of breast cancer, meetings are less Lifetime-movies-about-sadness-and-sisterhood and more like Legally Blonde: a dozen women laughing self-consciously through dance aerobics in leggings and breast-cancer pink tank tops.

Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

About 20% of Michigan’s inmates suffer from some kind of mental health condition.

So if the state could divert people away from prison and into treatment, the prison population would drop.

That’s the thinking behind a “diversion” program being tested in a few areas of Michigan.

Jake Neher / MPRN

What is the Education Achievement Authority?

Opened in the fall of 2012, the idea was to create a bold new kind of school district that was run by the state and less restricted by administrative red tape, in order to do some radical turn-around work in some of Michigan’s worst schools.

Two separate investigations are looking into reports of patient and staff abuse at the Kalamazoo Psychiatric Hospital.  

The state-run hospital has been embroiled in controversy since a patient died from a lack of oxygen in March.

Meanwhile, staff at the hospital are being repeatedly injured by violent patients, says AFSCME's Stacie Dineen.

user krossbow / Flickr

It's not every EMU Regents meeting that ends with students and community members staging "die-ins" and screaming "Black lives matter! The EAA is killing me!" as the college president leans over them, asking them to calm down and get up off the floor. 

But that's what happened Friday. 

Sono Tamaki / flickr

University of Michigan researchers say a woman's weight during pregnancy may have a much bigger impact on her infant than previously understood.

A study that looked at 1.8 million live single births in Sweden found that women who had a BMI of 35 or higher had twice the infant mortality rates of women who were not obese.

Kate Wells / Michigan Radio

“Black lives matter! The EAA is killing me!”

Dozens of chanting protestors overwhelmed the Eastern Michigan University regents meeting with Friday afternoon, with a handful of people lying down on the carpet in front of the regents table.

Michigan State Police

Big, often destructive storms are becoming much more frequent in Michigan.

Over the last 50 years, we've seen an 89% increase in storms that dump two or more inches of precipitation in a single day.

taliesin / Morgue File

Ypsilanti's city council approved body cameras for police officers at Tuesday night’s meeting in city hall.

Police Chief Tony DeGiusti requested the cameras as part of a series of overdue updates to the department’s deteriorating patrol car cameras, microphones and the DVD burning system police use to make copies of patrol videos for lawyers.

Brady Hoke.
User MGoBlog / Flickr

Update: 6:00 p.m.

This was not an easy choice.

That's what interim Athletic Director Jim Hackett told reporters at the press conference earlier today after announcing that he'd fired head coach Brady Hoke. 

cdc.gov / cdc.gov

As the weather gets colder, warming centers are opening their doors around the state.

In Flint, the Catholic Charities Holy Angels Warming Center runs 24/7, starting today through the end of March.

It’s not intended as a shelter, just a safe place out of the cold where people can get a meal.

But Catholic Charities’ Vicki Schultz says people end up staying permanently over the winter.

The center can fit about 65 people a night and is intended for adults, but last winter was so brutal, 179 kids came in over the season.

Sarah Kerson / Michigan Radio

  State officials are starting to figure out how President Obama's executive action on immigration could play out in Michigan.

Since last year, Michigan's Secretary of State has been giving out drivers licenses to so-called DREAMers, young people brought to the US as kids.

The President's recent executive action means parents of U-S citizens or permanent residents would also be protected from deportation, so long as they've been in the country for five years.

Sam Kim / Flickr

  Speed limits may change for Michigan's rural highways: the legislature is looking at raising them to 80 miles an hour.

State Rep. Brad Jacobsen (R-Oxford) introduced the bill earlier this month to make 80 mph the new speed limit on all highways designated "rural in nature" by the state police and the transportation department.

But that's still a long ways off - first, the bill has to get approval from the house transportation committee.

And the Michigan State Police will get to weigh in on the idea. 

Sarah Hulett / Michigan Radio

Theresa Ely, a former custodian at Dearborn Heights school district No. 7, is suing her old employer for allegedly covering up asbestos exposure to some staff and students.

According to her lawsuit filed November 25th, Ely and another custodian were instructed in the summer of 2011 to speed up their work by cleaning asbestos-contaminated floor tiles in the schools with abrasive sandpaper, rather than removing the old floor wax with water as originally instructed.

Christoper Sessums / Flickr

Almost 30,000 Michiganders still don't have power after yesterday's wind storms. The dark spots are concentrated in Wayne County, according to DTE.

Of their 180,000 customers who lost power yesterday, all but 22,000 have had it restored.

Meanwhile Consumers Energy says about 6,100 of its customers still don’t have power.

Kate Wells / Michigan Radio

READERS - PLEASE NOTE: This story was written in the afternoon of 11/25 - and is about the protests that happened during the day. This story was published before the larger protests occurred in the evening.

Small protests continue around Michigan today after news broke last night that a St. Louis County grand jury won’t indict Darren Wilson, a white police officer who fatally shot Michael Brown, an unarmed black man in Ferguson, Missouri.  

Charles & Adrienne Esseltine / Flickr / Flickr

Sixteen people were charged in an indictment unsealed today, for operating a fraudulent telemarketing scheme involving losses of $20 million and almost 300 victims around the country.

According to the U.S. Attorney in Detroit, the telemarketing ring called people offering them cheap deals on homes in Detroit, claiming the houses were bank-owned and up for a sale at a price way under their market value.  

user memories_by_mike / Flickr

 Welcome back to ArtPod, the arts-obsessed home for Michigan’s movie, music and book lovers.

Here’s what we're talking about right now:

1)      Matt Jones. The Ypsilanti indie-rocker with a cult following, a great new album (arguably his best yet) and a serious Civil War obsession. We’ll talk with him about alcoholism, getting through a self-destructive phase, depression and making great music with people you love.

2)      But first, let’s go back to a story that was just cool and different and got some press in the papers but nothing that really did it justice.

Jennifer Guerra / Michigan Radio

A new twist in the debate about children’s vaccinations: parents really have no idea how many little kids are not fully vaccinated. 

That’s one finding from a new national poll done by the University of Michigan C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital.

The majority of parents – 74% to be exact– say they would remove their kids from day care if another child was not up-to-date on vaccines.

But in reality, one in four preschoolers aren’t up to date on their vaccinations, according to the CDC.  

Kate Wells / Michigan Radio

Between 40,000 and 50,000 classroom kids watched a live high-definition web stream of the Detroit Symphony Orchestra today, according to the DSO.

The symphony says it’s the first concert of its kind, reaching kids across Detroit and Michigan.

Paul Hogle is the DSO’s executive vice president.

"I think there's an opportunity for us to do this for hundreds of thousands of students,” he says, "because the Detroit Symphony Orchestra could become America's orchestra for educational concert programming."

Mercedes Mejia / Michigan Radio

When students are failed by their school, who is legally responsible? 

Is a basic education a constitutional right?

And if it is, can the courts enforce it?    

These are the questions at the heart of this case, in which the ACLU of Michigan sued Highland Park schools and the state of Michigan, saying students were not taught basic literacy skills.

The Michigan Court of Appeals says the ACLU cannot sue the state and the school district on behalf of students – even if those students were “abysmally failed.”

Theresa Thompson / Flickr

Hahaha! No. We're just kidding. 

It's really hard. 

But we were serious about there being only two steps. 

We looked into this question as part of our MI Curious project - people send in their questions about Michigan or its people, questions are put up for a vote, then we look into the winning question.

This time, the winning question came from Michael Bieri.

"What would it take to realistically end gerrymanding in Michigan?" 

(photo by Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio)

So here’s the good news: It could soon be a whole lot easier to make a down payment on a house.

If you’re in the market right now, you’ve probably heard that Fannie Mae wants to start accepting down payments as low as just 3% for conventional loans.

For many households, that’ll make saving enough for a down payment possible in just a couple years, rather than the 12 years it can often take now.

Of course, lower down payments often come with higher monthly mortgage payments.

Beaumont Health System

Doctors, trauma specialists, and some EMS workers are meeting in Detroit today for the annual Detroit Trauma Symposium. 

It’s run by the Detroit Medical Center and Wayne State University.

Among other things, they're talking about lessons learned from how other states are handling Ebola, and how they’ve prepared to treat it in Michigan.

Update: 11/4/14

You probably know Rob Bliss, even if the name doesn’t ring a bell.

He’s the guy behind the Grand Rapids lip-dub video, the Pure Michigan sing-along ad, and now, the street harassment video that’s racked up 16 million views on YouTube.

In case you still haven’t seen it, the two minute video follows a young women in jeans and a t-shirt walking through New York. Bliss says they spent 10 hours filming with a hidden GoPro as the actress, Shoshana B. Roberts, endured more than 100 instances of street harassment, including stalking.

Michigan State University / http://msutoday.msu.edu/news/2014/msu-partners-with-detroit-to-investigate-death-scenes/

It sounds like "CSI" meets "Bones." 

The Wayne County Medical Examiner is sending swab samples from dead bodies to Michigan State University researchers.

They're going to run a new kind of analysis in hopes of determining when someone died, whether they touched a weapon, and possibly even where they've been. 

What they’re looking at are the teeny-tiny things that live on our bodies: microbes.

You can’t see them with the naked eye, but we all have bacteria, fungi, and even tiny worms that live on our bodies and form their own ecosystems.

Whitmore Lake Public Schools / https://sites.google.com/a/wlps.net/wlps/

Next week, voters will decide whether Ann Arbor schools should annex the small, struggling district next door: Whitmore Lake.  

And some Whitmore Lake students say this may be the best way to save the small-town schools they love.

The 11th-graders in Jill Henry's advanced-placement government class are bright kids.

Even before they started doing their election projects about this possible annexation, they obviously knew their district was struggling.

After all, the whole district is down to just about 1,000 kids.

It’s $60 million in debt.

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