Jennifer Guerra

Reporter/Producer

Jennifer is a reporter for Michigan Radio's State of Opportunity project, which looks at kids from low-income families and what it takes to get them ahead. She previously covered arts and culture for the station, and was one of the lead reporters on the award-winning education series Rebuilding Detroit Schools. Prior to working at Michigan Radio, Jennifer lived in New York where she was a producer at WFUV, an NPR station in the Bronx.

Her stories and documentaries have won numerous regional and national awards, and her work has aired on Morning Edition, All Things Considered, Marketplace and Studio 360.

Jennifer graduated from the University of Michigan and received her M.A. in broadcast journalism from Fordham University. When she's not on the radio, she and her husband are making up lyrics to songs and singing them to their adorable baby girl.  

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Politics
1:12 pm
Sat April 30, 2011

Hundreds march outside UM to protest Gov Snyder's cuts

Public school teacher Cary Kocher showed up at Pioneer High School to protest the Governor's proposed cuts to K-12 education.
Jennifer Guerra Michigan Radio

About 1,000 people rallied outside the University of Michigan stadium, where Governor Rick Snyder was giving the commencement speech to graduating seniors.

Teachers, nurses and other union members carried signs that said “Some Cuts Never Heal” and “Shame on Snyder.” One union official got a huge cheer from the crowd when he compared the workers to David and Snyder to Goliath.

Ellen Stone teaches special education in the Ann Arbor Public Schools district. She says she hopes the Governor is listening to what they’re saying, because "we’re going to be showing up at the polls en masse," and she "the whole state is waking up to the fact that we elected the wrong guy, and that his mission is not our mission."

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Arts/Culture
1:00 pm
Sat April 30, 2011

Ann Arbor neighborhood opens up its lawns, porches for new music festival

Erin and Eric will perform with their band Lake Folk on Sunday at 4 p.m. as part of the first ever "Water Hill Music Festival"
Jennifer Guerra Michigan Radio

An Ann Arbor neighborhood will host a one-of-a-kind "front porch" music festival this weekend.

On Sunday, May 1 from 2 p.m. - 6 p.m., musicians who live in the city's Water Hill district will sit out on their front porch or lawn, and put on a show. It's called the Water Hill Music Fest, and more than 50 house in the neighborhood will participate.

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Arts/Culture
5:32 pm
Fri April 29, 2011

Pure Michigan ad: Live the "artful" life in Grand Rapids

"Nessie on the Grand" is one of more than a thousand entries in the annual ArtPrize event in Grand Rapids.
Daniel E. Johnson Creative Commons

Pure Michigan's latest ad features the city of Grand Rapids. 

The new commercial paints Grand Rapids as the state's 'go to' place for arts and culture, with lines like "where food is art, and music flows in every color imaginable; let's start living the artful life."

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Arts/Culture
9:41 am
Thu April 28, 2011

Artpod: Rock 'n' roll and baseball

On this week's Artpod, we revel in some old-timey music and baseball.
user Clarita morguefile

Today's Artpod is all about nostalgia...Michigan-focused nostalgia, of course.

Rock Around the Clock

Did you know that 50 years ago this week, "Runaway" by Del Shannon was the #1 song in the U.S.? Don't worry, neither did I. But Michigan Radio's Mike Perini did! He's the station's resident music head. Turns out Del Shannon was born in Grand Rapids, and he grew up in nearby Coopersville. "Runaway" was the first rock 'n' roll song by a West Michigan-born artist to hit the top.

Mike talks to me in the first half of the podcast about some other classic rock 'n' roll songs written by Michigan artists, including the always popular "Rock Around the Clock," by Bill Haley.

Let's play ball!

A new play pays tribute to long-time Tigers baseball announcer Ernie Harwell. The play is called "Ernie" and it was written by best-selling author Mitch Albom. The play looks back at Harwell's life and includes vintage footage of the Hall of Fame announcer.

On the podcast I talk to Will David Young, the veteran Michigan actor who plays Ernie: 

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Arts/Culture
2:36 pm
Wed April 27, 2011

New stage play pays tribute to Tigers announcer Ernie Harwell

The play "Ernie" pays tribute to Hall of Fame announcer Ernie Harwell.
Joel Dinda flickr

Ernie Harwell fans will get to relive some of the famed baseball announcer’s past in a new play called, appropriately enough, “Ernie.”

The play, which opens Thursday, Apr. 28 at the City Theatre in Detroit, was written by Mitch Albom. The story takes place on the night the beloved Tigers announcer gave his farewell speech at Comerica Park. Before his speech, he runs into a young baseball fan, who coaxes Harwell to reflect on his own life.

The play also includes vintage footage of Harwell, including some of his most famous calls.

Veteran Michigan actor Will David Young plays Ernie, which he calls "the biggest rush" he's ever experienced:

"So many people considered Ernie a grandfather figure, uncle figure, father figure. People who knew him well considered him a mentor with his gentleness, humor, humanitiy; it’s daunting playing a figure like that."

As for that famous Harwell cadence? Young says he tried to get into "that touch of Georgia twang."

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Education
5:00 am
Wed April 27, 2011

Detroit area students to create "educational bill of rights"

The Mosaic Youth Theater of Detroit will host a youth forum on Wed., April 27 from 5:30 p.m. - 8 p.m.
Mercedes Mejia Michigan Radio

More than 100 students are expected to attend a youth forum in Detroit on Apr. 26 to share their ideas for what makes a good school. The forum is  put on by the Mosaic Youth Theatre of Detroit and starts at 5:30 p.m.

Rick Sperling is the group’s founder. He says lawmakers, school board members, and teachers have all voiced their opinions about school reform, but he says student voices have been missing from the conversation:

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Politics
1:00 pm
Fri April 22, 2011

A look at who wins, who loses under Snyder's budget proposal

Michigan State Representatives Pscholka (left) speaks with Rep. Mark Ouimet (center) and Gov. Rick Snyder.
Michigan House Republicans

(This story originally aired on Marketplace)

Across the country, states are weighing competing funding priorities as they work to close gaping budget deficits.

In Michigan, Republican Governor Rick Snyder isn’t just trying to erase $1.4 billion in red ink. He also wants to fundamentally remake the state’s tax code. Snyder says it’ll help reverse years of economic decline.

Re-writing the tax code

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Politics
4:35 pm
Wed April 20, 2011

Lawmakers debate penalties for illegal teacher strikes

Noah Smith Flickr

Michigan lawmakers debated today whether teachers should face more stringent penalties if they were to participate in an illegal strike.

The state House Education Committee heard testimony for and against a bill that would revoke teachers' licenses for at least two years if they went on strike.

Republicans claim that the law needs to be strengthened to act as a successful deterrent. Democrats claim the measures punish too severely and and also unfairly, compared to other public employees.

Greg Baracy, superintendent for the Wayne-Westland Community Schools district, testified in favor of the stricter bill; his teachers went on a 4-day strike in 2008.

But David Hecker, president of the American Federation of Teachers - Michigan, says strikes like that are rare. And he says teachers shouldn't lose their careers over a strike:

"This has nothing to do with preventing strikes, because they already really don't happen. This is just another attack on teachers and education employees."

This debate occurs as the possibility of an actual statewide teacher strike looms.

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Education
4:30 pm
Tue April 19, 2011

MSU finds one of its education professors guilty of plagiarizing

MSU Education Professor Sharif Shakrani has been found guilty of 'research misconduct'
Jane M Sawyer morgue file

Michigan State University has found one of its education professors guilty of plagiarism in a 2010 report about school consolidation.

The Booth newspaper chain commissioned MSU professor Sharif Shakrani to do a study about school consolidation. Shakrani’s study found Michigan could save more than $600 million by consolidating school districts.

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Economy
6:42 am
Mon April 18, 2011

Personal finance: What it takes to become 'mortgage-free'

The Murphy family says "living below their means" helped them pay off their mortgage early.
Photo courtesy of the Murphys

In 1950, more than half of Americans owned their homes free and clear. No surprise that number has shrunk over the years.  But those who count themselves mortgage-free are still out there. The 2010 U.S. Census shows 1 out of every 3 homeowners owns their home free and clear. In a story produced for Marketplace Money, we look at what it takes to become mortgage-free.

Meet the Murphys

Mike and Kate Murphy live in a working-class neighborhood of Chicago, with two of their kids, Becky and Tommy, and their pet fish. They bought their charming, 3-bedroom brick house in 1996 for $156,000.

They originally started with a $110,000 mortgage. Mike Murphy says it was " obviously the largest mortgage we had ever taken out."

At the time, Kate brought in $30,000 a year, designing theater costumes part time. Mike was making $50,000 as a public school teacher:

At first they paid $1,100 a month on the mortgage. Refinancing dropped the payment to just under a $1,000. But they decided to pay a little more each month -- first $100, then $150 more.

Fast forward 13 years and they owned their house free and clear.

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Education
3:33 pm
Wed April 13, 2011

Educators developing "next generation" of tests for Michigan students

Michigan's new English and Math tests will be rolled out in 2014
jdurham morgueFILE

Education professionals from around the country met in Louisiana this week to talk about the “next generation” of student assessment tests.

More than 30 states – including Michigan – are part the Smarter Balanced Assessment Coalition, which received $176 million from the federal government to develop these new tests.

The online English and Math tests will be rolled out in 2014. The state will still use the Michigan Educational Assessment Program (MEAP) and Michigan Merit Examination (MME) to test students in science and social studies, as well as students with cognitive disabilities.

Joseph Martineau is with the Michigan Department of Education and was the the National Council on Measurement in Education conference in Louisiana.

He says the new tests will not just be “end-of-year” high stakes tests. He says there will also be "interim assessments throughout the year so that people can track the progress of their students."

Martineau calls the tests "game changers" because of their focus on higher-order thinking skills:

"Things like analyzing data or synthesizing something to create an argument, or doing a project that requires you to do some problem solving while you’re doing the task. Things like that that are typically costly for us to create on a test."

The new tests will be for Michigan students in third through eighth grade, and eleventh grade.

Pilot testing will begin in 2012.

Auto/Economy
12:00 pm
Mon April 11, 2011

Average gas price in Michigan is $3.86 per gallon

Michigan gas prices have been on the rise for 8 weeks straight
Futureatlast.com creativie commons

The average cost of gas in Michigan is $3.86. That’s nearly $1.00 more than it was this time last year.

Nancy Cain is a spokesperson for Triple-A Michigan. She says generally prices don’t go up this much so early into spring, "but this is our 8th weekly increase, and we’re seeing prices just going up."

Cain says the price at the pump follows the crude oil price, which she says is "topping $111-$112 a barrel. So that’s up to a 2.5-year high."

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Arts/Culture
5:03 pm
Fri April 8, 2011

The Detroit Symphony Orchestra strike has officially ended

After six long months, the DSO musicians return to the stage
Jennifer Guerra Michigan Radio

The musicians of the Detroit Symphony Orchestra have agreed to return to work after a six-month strike.

They ratified the $34.3 million, three-year contract this afternoon. The deal includes an initial 25% pay cut for the musicians the first year. Starting musicians used to earn $104, 650 their first year; they'll earn $79,000 under the new contract.

There’s an additional $2 million pot of money which management will use to pay musicians for optional community outreach work and educational programs that include teaching, coaching and chamber music.

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Politics
2:52 pm
Fri April 8, 2011

Michigan's film industry urges compromise on tax credits

The state's film tax credits are on the chopping block under Governor Snyder's budget proposal
Andrew McFarlane creative commons

Governor Rick Snyder’s proposal to get rid of the current film tax credit and replace it with a more modest grant program has met with a lot of resistance from the film community.

But now some film folks say they’re willing to compromise.

Since 2008, Michigan has offered up to a 42% tax credit for movies made here. That amounted to the state paying out  $60 million last year.

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Arts/Culture
3:19 pm
Thu April 7, 2011

Detroit Symphony musicians return to stage, first time since strike

The DSO will perform 2 free, sold-out concerts this weekend
Jennifer Guerra Michigan Radio

The Detroit Symphony Orchestra musicians returned to the stage today for a rehearsal - their first since they went on strike last October.

The orchestra is rehearsing for two concerts this weekend, both of which sold out almost instantly. Leonard Slatkin, the DSO’s music director, says it helped that the tickets were free. He says "the real test is going to come next season when we try to see if we can sustain the positive energy that's been a result of this settlement."

Leonard Slatkin, who was uncharacteristically quiet during the strike, says he’s very excited to be back. He says as the DSO moves forward, it will have a bigger and stronger presence not only in Detroit, but in the suburbs, too:

"Another plus of the strike is more people that didn’t know about us, know about us! We were in the news all the time, and we need to capitalize on that. An orchestra is an institution that only appeals to a relatively small percentage of a given population in any city; now we at least have a recognizable name."

Slatkin says people will begin to the see the "hand-print" of what the new model for the orchestra will be as we move into the Spring season, and he says "no decisions will be taken without the complete consent of the orchestra."

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Arts/Culture
5:46 pm
Wed April 6, 2011

"Art X Detroit" puts spotlight on the city's literary, visual and performing arts scene

Art X Detroit runs Apr. 6 - 10, 2011
Photo courtesy of Art X Detroit

The Detroit arts world will be in the spotlight this week.

The first ever Art X Detroit event runs Wednesday, April 6 - Sunday, April 10 and will feature everything from hip hop performances to classical and jazz music to poetry readings.

The event features the 40 artists who have won visual, literary, or performing arts fellowships through the Kresge Foundation over the past two years.

Lewis Aguilar is a 2010 Kresge Literary Arts fellow. For Art X Detroit, he’s written a story about Frida Kahlo and Diego Rivera and their time in Detroit. A dramatic reading of the work will take place at Rivera Court in the Detroit Institute of Arts:

"I will have people reading that story in the form of a 3-act play, while more than 100 images are being shown on a very large screen behind them."

Chido Johnson was a 2009 Kresge “Visual Artist” fellow, and he’s excited to display his new work during Art X Detroit. He says "Detroit has been identified over and over again as a decayed city, and this is a way to really emphasize how rich and cultural it is.

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Arts/Culture
4:36 pm
Tue April 5, 2011

Detroit Symphony may face "steep" hills once strike is resolved

DSO musicians to return to Orchestra Hall this week for rehearsal, concerts
Nate Luzod creative commons

The Detroit Symphony Orchestra musicians strike may be nearing its end, but there’s still a lot of work that needs to be done to get things back on track at Orchestra Hall.

For starters, the organization has to figure out how to overcome some ‘image’ problems that come with a six-month strike.

Elizabeth Weigandt is a DSO spokeswoman. She says it hasn’t been pretty to watch the strike unfold, and some patrons may not be happy with how things were handled over the last six months, but "we're hoping that as we get back to making music for them, doing what they love, they will be able to let go of what’s happened, just as we will, and move on to an even better future."

Then there's the music. Nearly all of the current season has been lost to the strike, and the summer season was threatened as well. But Weigandt says the summer season is back on and she doesn’t think the 2011-12 season will be delayed:

"Obviously we have to move quickly to get the word out about what next season will be, but we do have a lot of interest. We will probably make the announcement as soon as we can. I would say within the next couple weeks."

Neither side has released details about the proposed contract.

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Arts/Culture
10:04 am
Tue April 5, 2011

400 to attend Rust Belt to Artist Belt conference in Detroit

The 3rd annual Rust Belt to Artist Belt conference is April 6-7 in Detroit
Dani Davis

Hundreds of artists will be in Detroit this week for the third annual Rust Belt to Artist Belt conference.

The goal is to get artists, educators and creative entrepreneurs together to brainstorm how they can help revitalize post-industrial cities like Detroit, Flint, and Cleveland.

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Arts/Culture
8:02 pm
Fri April 1, 2011

DSO management, striking musicians to schedule "face-to-face" talks this weekend

The DSO musicians have been on strike since Oct. 4, 2010
MaxiuB creative commons

The Detroit Symphony Orchestra board gave management and its striking musicians until today to reach an agreement in order to avoid canceling the orchestra's summer season.

But according to a DSO press release issued at 5:37 p.m. today, the two sides will continue talks through the weekend:

Conversations with the Musician's leadership via phone and email have been robust this entire week.  TheDSO agreed to get together to work through the remaining issues as soon as acceptance of terms proposed by one of our intermediaries had been acknowledged by both parties.  The DSO agreed to these terms on Monday.  The DSO learned this afternoon that the musicians have accepted this framework as well and we will be scheduling a face-to-face meeting this weekend to resolve all other remaining issues.  A decision regarding our summer season is on hold pending the outcome of these meetings. 

Earlier this afternoon we spoke to Greg Bowens, the musicians' spokesperson. He said the head of the United Auto Workers and the AFL-CIO have shown their support for the striking musicians:

"The longer that things delay, the more national attention and pressure is put on the DSO to settle this situation."

The current $34-million, 3-year contract under negotiation is similar to a proposal musicians rejected back in February.

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Education
3:55 pm
Thu March 31, 2011

2 ex-Eastern Michigan University students may have used stolen IDs to file fradulent tax returns

Federal authorities investigate security breach at EMU
John-Morgan creative commons

Eastern Michigan University officials say two of its former student employees may have filed fake tax returns using other students’ personal information.

The two students were already under investigation for allegedly stealing 58 student records.

Walter Kraft is VP of communications for EMU. He says now six more students have come forward to say their personal information was stolen:

"Apparently what happened in this case is that the student records were used for the purpose of filing fraudulent tax returns in order for someone to obtain a tax return to which they were not entitled."

Kraft says EMU police and federal authorities are investigating the two former student employees, whose identities have not been released.

He says EMU already does background checks on student employees, and is looking to see what other steps can be taken to ensure this doesn’t happen again.

 Nearly 2,000 EMU students currently work for the university.

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