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.  

Ways To Connect

Steve Hall / Photo courtesy of Grand Rapids Art Museum

Dana Friis-Hansen will take the lead at the Grand Rapids Art Museum next month. On this week's Artpod, we talk with Friis-Hansen about his museum philosophy, the state's art ecosystem, and what he means by "negative space."

Bump it up!

user: taliesin / morguefile

There's no shortage of musicians who got their start in Michigan: Madonna, Iggy Pop and The White Stripes come to mind. Problem is, they left the state to make it big. 

Emily Fox reports there's a movement to try to encourage musicians and bands to stay in Michigan. On today's Artpod, we look at how local "music collectives" are hoping to keep homegrown talent in the state.

user: jdurham / morguefile

Professors at the University of Michigan plan to launch a statewide study of Michigan’s charter schools.

One criticism of past charter studies is that the data is skewed because they compare apples to oranges; since charter school participation is voluntary, some worry the kids who sign up for charter schools have different characteristics than those who attend traditional schools.

Michigan's art museums have been on a hiring spree lately.

Lindsey Smith / Michigan Radio

In case you've been living under a couch cushion for the past week or so and haven't heard about the Grand Rapids LipDub video getting rave reviews, let's bring you up to speed:

Photo courtesy of Toyota

Toyota has issued another recall, this one due to steering issues in its first generation Prius hybrids.

If the steering wheel is turned as far as it can go repeatedly and rapidly, Toyota says the nuts holding the steering shaft in place might get loose and make it harder to turn left.

The recall is for 2001-2003 Prius models and involves 52,000 hybrids nationwide.

Bill Visnic. an analyst with edmunds.com, says it’s been a rough couple years for Toyota in terms of recalls:

user earl53 / morgueFile

The Detroit Symphony Orchestra will announce its 2011-12 season on Friday, May 20. Most orchestras announced their seasons months ago, but the DSO had to postpone its plans because of a six-month musicians’ strike.

Drew McManus says the late announcement will likely hurt the orchestra’s revenue stream. McManus is an arts consultant in Chicago:

user jdurham / morguefile

It’s morel season in Michigan!

May is morel month in Michigan, and people from all over comb the state for the delectable mushrooms.

Phil Tedeschi is president of the Michigan Mushroom Hunters Club. He leads folks on more than 50 mushroom hunts throughout the year in southeast Michigan, starting with the first mushroom of the season: black and white morels.

Tedeschi has this advice if you're on the hunt for morels:

Dani Davis

On today's installment of Artpod, we hear how artists use their talents to raise money for a local nonprofit.

People don’t often think of “art” as a money-making endeavor, but a group in Saline, Michigan is proving otherwise. Their story is about taking little pieces of art and turning them into big money makers. And all that money is being used to help feed hungry people in Washtenaw County.

user hotblack / morguefile

The Mosaic Youth Theatre of Detroit will perform a play this weekend to commemorate the anniversary of a student walkout at Detroit Public Schools.

user ppdigital / morguefile

Michigan and other states may soon compete against one another to try to win a new round of grants from the U.S. Department of Education.

Congress allotted another $700 million to Race to the Top, the education reform program where states compete for federal grants.

Dani Davis

A new national survey shows that, despite what many may think, students who major in the arts are not destined for a life of unemployment.

The Strategic National Arts Alumni Project (SNAAP) surveyed more than 13,000 alumni from arts schools around the country were surveyed.

Bernt Rosad / creative commons

There’s another effort underway to get more people to move to the city of Detroit.

This latest one is called 11-11-11, as in: 1,100 new Detroit residents by November 11, 2011.

Jennifer Guerra / Michigan Radio

The Detroit Symphony Orchestra is cutting its ticket prices for the upcoming season – in some cases more than 50% – in an attempt to get more people back to Orchestra Hall.

Paul Hogle is the DSO’s executive vice president. He says the new ticket prices will go into effect for the 2011-12 season:

Jennifer Guerra / Michigan Radio

The number of vacancies in Michigan rose by nearly 50% over the past decade.

According to the latest U.S. Census data, the number of vacant housing units across the state jumped from about 448,618 in 2000 to 659,725 in 2010.

Mercedes Mejia / Michigan Radio

The Detroit Public Schools district is moving forward with its plan to turn dozens of its schools into charters. It’s part of current emergency manager Robert Bobb’s Renaissance 2012 plan. Just this week, 18 organizations put in bids to take over 50 DPS schools and convert them into charters.

At the top would be a charter leader who does everything from fundraising to student recruitment to academic planning. But a study out late last year by the Center on Reinventing Public Education shows charter leaders have a high turnover rate.

Dani Davis

The “creative process” will take center stage at a conference this week at the University of Michigan.

Theresa Reid heads up ArtsEngine at the University of Michigan, and she believes “art making” should have a higher profile at research universities:

user Sultry / creative commons

On today's Artpod, we'll take a look at how the image of the "rich" arts patron is starting to be re-imagined, thanks in large part to the internet.

Meet the artist...

Arts Patronage 2.0

May 1, 2011
Jennifer Guerra / Michigan Radio

Dave MacDonald is finishing up his doctorate in music composition at Michigan State University. When his friend asked him to compose a new piece for saxophone, MacDonald said sure, no problem. But there was one catch: he wanted to get paid. 

Arts patronage 1.0

MacDonald says getting paid would be hard for a few reasons: There's not a lot of money in classical music, and it's hard to get an arts grant if you're an unknown composer. Plus, he says, arts patrons are hard to come by: 

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."

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.

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."

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: 

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."

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:

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

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.

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.

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.

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.

Pages