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

The Flint school district is sending out some 250 pink slips this week.

They're laying off non-classroom staff, from janitors to secretaries to school safety workers. 

 Administrators say they have no choice: they're coming up against a state deadline to eliminate the district's $10 million general fund deficit. 

Now the district will look to outsource those positions through a private company.

Karon Grubb is a secretary in the administration office.

Catherine Ferguson Academy

It's kind of heartbreaking. 

The Catherine Ferguson Academy in Detroit is closing at the end of this month, due to low enrollment and financial trouble.

That's the announcement from the Wayne RESA, the intermediate school district that held the school's charter, and the whole thing feels like deja vu.

A beloved school repeatedly finds itself on brink of closure    

user futureatlas.com / Flickr

If there's one issue uniting Michigan's old and young, Republican and Democrat, it's the need to fix our crumbling roads.

Things are so bad, state legislators are even considering hiking the gas tax.

But critics say small businesses will struggle if they have to pay any more at the pump.

Charlie Owens is with the National Federation of Independent Businesses.

He says he's hearing from Michigan companies that are worried about higher gas prices right now, considering the minimum wage just went up, and the economic recovery is still fragile.

user blwphotography / Flickr

This week in ArtPod, we look at the "great wave" generation of young adults and children with autism. 

We spent a few days on a film set where those teens and adults are learning job skills, social interaction, and how to walk back on set after a small breakdown. 

Then we visit a children's hospital that's using art –murals, patient portraits and more – to help parents and kids navigate the stressful, chaotic experience. 

You can also check out ArtPod in iTunes.

Rebecca Wilbanks, photo and makeup credit

The“great wave” of kids with autism is growing up.

That’s what experts are calling this generation, since more than 80% of people diagnosed with full spectrum autism are under 21.

In Michigan, about 16,000 kids are eligible for special education services, according to a state report.

But when those kids grow up, the same report says, the state doesn’t have nearly enough services to help them get jobs or transition to adult lives.

That’s why one program in Rochester is giving young adults with autism the skills to get a job in an unusual way: by training them in the movie business.  

MDE

Detroit Public Schools spokeswoman Michelle Zdrodowski (say "stroh-dow-ski") wants you to know that administrators get it: Nobody likes closing schools. 

"We look at a school as the anchor or the center of a  neighborhood. And for us to take it away could do some serious damage, and we don't want to do that," she says.

But they do have a $120 million deficit this year.

Mercedes Mejia / Michigan Radio

If you've got a charter school management company and you'd like to run the chaotic, broke school district of Muskegon Heights, today is your last day to submit a bid.  

That's because the school system's emergency manager recently announced a mutual split with their previous contractor, a company called Mosaica Education.

Mosaica was losing money.

And it was getting a lot of flack for hiring teachers without proper certification (which earned the district state fines) and not delivering all the required special education services. 

Detroit Skyline
Shawn Wilson / Wikimedia Commons

Let's start with the good news from today's census numbers.

Michigan is growing overall, up to about 9.9 million people.

That's two straight years of growth for the state, a welcome uptick after seven years of declining population.

And some of that growth is in areas you might expect: Grand Rapids, Ann Arbor, and their suburbs.

Detroit itself, however, is still shrinking. It's down 10,000 people from the previous year, with just under 689,000 people now.

UltraViolet

"University of Michigan has a rape problem. Find out more before you decide."

"Accepted to University of Michigan? You should know about its rape problem."

Those are the Facebook and mobile ads seen recently by some prospective Michigan students and their parents.

They ran during the critical weeks when students have their acceptance letters and are deciding where to enroll.

“This is information a lot of colleges have been trying to hide.”

Kate Wells

Felicia McMillon and her husband are the kind of people who do not like hospitals. 

"My family, we really don’t do too well with hospitals,” she says, standing in the Newborn Intensive Care Unit of C.S. Mott Children's Hospital in Ann Arbor.

And that was before they gave birth to their first child, Elijah.

He was born a month early with an intestinal infection. He’s now in his fourth surgery.

Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

A University of Michigan student is suing the school over a sexual assault case, but this time, the student says the school took its investigation too far.

Drew Sterrett was a rising sophomore the summer of 2012, when he was accused of sexual assault.

He says the school suspended him until 2016, at least, without ever giving him a fair shot at defending himself.

There's no indication that there was ever a criminal complaint or investigation.

GsGeorge / WIKIMEDIA Commons

Ann Arbor stayed true to its reputation for being eco-loving and tax-friendly in today's vote to expand the local bus system.

Some 20,000 Ann Arborites went to the polls Tuesday, with 70% of them voting for more buses running expanded routes for longer hours. 

There's a price tag, of course: higher property taxes.

The millage will cost about $70 a year for a resident whose house is worth $200,000. 

Opponents of the expansion argued that this wasn't a smart move, given that housing in Ann Arbor isn't cheap to begin with.

Today on Artpod, we're talking with writers: how they stop being terrible and start being good.

How they start with their own weirdness and turn it into talent.

And how Midwest writers can take anything - learning how to make fudge or throwing tomatoes at their sister's butt - and turn it into a great story.  

First, we'll hear from Garrison Keillor, who's celebrating 40 years of "A Prairie Home Companion" and the release of his new book of essays, poetry and memoir.

Alfred T. Palmer / U.S. Government

It looks like Rosie the Riveter's famous "We Can Do It!" line is proving true once again. 

The campaign to save part of the historic Willow Run bomber plant, where Rosie and thousands of others worked during World War II, says it believes it's raised enough money to keep it from being torn down. 

For the last year or so, the Yankee Air Museum has been trying to raise around $8 million.

That, organizers said, would be enough to buy a corner of the plant and separate it from the rest of the building, which is set to be demolished.

Kate Wells

Michigan’s Iraqi community heads to the polls this week in the first major election since U.S. troops left the country.

It’s both an ecstatic and extremely tense time.

One voting site is a big, ornate banquet hall in Dearborn, and it's packed with Christians, Sunnis, Shiites and Kurds – all Iraqis, many with kids and grandparents taking pictures of each other holding up ink-stained fingers, souvenirs from casting their ballots.

Multiple people mentioned “feeling like this is a wedding,” and several made big sacrifices in order to cast their ballots.

Bureau of Land Management

"How many of you are here to stop the drilling?" one woman asked the crowd of about 200 at a town forum in Scio Township last night.

Big applause broke out.

It was the first indication that the crowd was not going to be a friendly one for the executives from West Bay Exploration, a Traverse City-based drilling company that has asked several landowners in Scio Township to sign over leases for their mineral rights.

The town forum was billed as an opportunity to "become educated about oil and gas leasing."

user Marlith / Flickr

Saginaw is putting off a decision about whether to have a citywide ban on discrimination based 

on sexual orientation or gender identity.  

The Saginaw Council chambers were packed to capacity, according to the Associated Press. 

But the council voted not to make a decision just yet. A few members said they wanted time to talk with the city's business and religious community.

But Councilwoman Annie Boensch says she thinks churches will support it, once they understand they're exempted from the ban.

The return of Artpod!

Apr 22, 2014
Dave Trumpie

It's been a long, stupidly cold and soul-killing winter. 

Few people know that Artpod cannot survive until we've had at least three days above 70 degrees.

So it's only now that Artpod can emerge from hibernation,  much the way men's feet are unfortunately baring themselves to the world in flip flops again.  

Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

At first it doesn't sound that great: 1 in 3 people who have mortgages still owe at least 25% more on their house than it's actually worth.

But a year ago, it was even worse. At that time, more than half of all Michiganders with mortgages were in that position.

user Cbl62 / Wikimedia Commons

The University of Michigan is using what it calls its own interpretations of privacy laws to keep student investigators and media from understanding why it took four years to expel Brendan Gibbons for violating the school’s sexual misconduct policy. 

The university, however, has not disclosed what those interpretations are, or if they are a written internal policy.

Unemployment line in California
Michael Raphael / Flickr

Anybody who's out of work in Michigan knows they can't get an unemployment check for as long as they used to. 

Ever since the federal government stopped offering emergency benefits extensions at the end of last year, Michiganders can get just 20 weeks of jobless benefits.

They used have up to 99 weeks, back when the recession was at its worst.

For months now, Democrats and a handful of Republicans have been trying to get those extensions up and running again. 

But some Republicans say no.

Dave Trumpie / trumpiephotography.com

Cellist Yo Yo Ma and a few other renowned artists were in Detroit this week, working with some very young musicians.

"Can we say 'Tchaikovsky'?"

"Tchaikovsky!" screamed a classroom of obedient fourth graders.  

John M. Cropper / Flickr

There’s still so much we don’t understand about war vets and PTSD, or Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder. 

Why some experience it, but so many others don’t. 

Why one vet can have symptoms right away, while another can be fine for years.

Jennifer Guerra / Michigan Radio

Parents looking to adopt a child in Michigan could soon have a little less red tape to deal with. That's if Governor Snyder signs off on a package of bills the legislature just passed.  

For parents like Kimberly Naik of Holland, the adoption process started when her son was less than a year old ... and didn't finish until he was three and a half. 

FBI / Wikimedia

The Michigan Senate unanimously passed a bill Wednesday that would make it illegal to charge minors with prostitution. 

"Right now, when children who are victims of sex trafficking in Michigan are found, they’re frequently criminalized," says Bridgette Carr of the University of Michigan Human Trafficking Clinic. "We don’t have a path for them to be treated as victims of sexual abuse, rather than criminals."

Kate Wells

I like movies. You like movies.

So let’s get together, watch some new documentaries about Detroit, and then talk with the people who actually have the power to fix some of the stuff that’s wrong in this city.

That’s the idea behind the first-ever Detroit Free Press Film Fest, which kicked off last week with a line stretched for blocks around the Fillmore Theater.

Lindsey Smith / Michigan Radio

Update 5:05 p.m.

In a reversal from what it signaled earlier in the day, the U.S. Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals has issued a temporary stay on the decision to strike down Michigan's ban on same-sex marriage. 

The court said it issued the stay to allow a "more reasoned consideration" of Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette's request for a hold on Friday's decision.

3:43 p.m.

GsGeorge / WIKIMEDIA Commons

First, there's the mystery of the disappearing kids. 

Ann Arbor's enrollment dropped by about 200 students this year. 

That's a surprise, School Board Treasurer Glenn Nelson says, because enrollment was basically stable last year. 

Administrators do know where about 50 of those kids went: the Washtenaw Intermediate School District, which offers specialized programming. 

But the other 150 students?

"I don't know," says Nelson. "And that's something I wish we knew more about." 

Ok, first, the stats. 

The bad news: the problem is rampant

For every 10,000 women on a college campus, as many as 350 could experience attempted to completed rape every school year. 

Those numbers come from the U.S. Department of Justice, in a 2005 report on what schools are doing about sexual assault on campus. 

If those stats bear out, then at a school the size of the University of Michigan, as many as 490 women will experience attempted or completed rape every school year.

Lindsey Smith / Michigan Radio

Almost a year after Grand Rapids was slammed by major flooding, the Red Cross is rallying West Michigan aid groups in case this spring’s snowmelt leads to another big flood.  

Chip Kragt, of the Red Cross in Michigan, says the organization is getting updates from the National Weather Service.    

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