Kyle Norris

Weekend Host/Producer

Kyle Norris got her start in radio as a Michigan Radio intern. Her features have appeared on The Environment Report, All Things Considered, Weekend Edition, Marketplace, The Splendid Table, World Vision Report, Justice Talking, and The Health Show.

In 2008, she won a Division A (News Staff of 5 or more) first place award from Public Radio News Directors Incorporated for best investigative journalism.

Norris is endlessly fascinated with people and their struggles. She's also fascinated with the figurative beating of the human heart. She loves public radio because it gives her the chance to explore all of those things.

In her downtime she enjoys soccer, yoga, and coffee. Her website is at kylenorris.wordpress.com.

Ways To Connect

Lester Graham

A bill passed by the Michigan House would freeze educators’ salaries during contract negotiations.  It would require employees (and not their employer) to pay for increases in insurance fees during negotiations. The bill would also ban retroactive bargaining. So if an agreement was reached six months down the road, employees would not be reimbursed for the higher rates they paid.

Doug Pratt is with the Michigan Education Association.  He says the M-E-A wants the Senate to reject the bill.

“I’d like to see a real conversation in this state about what’s driving our financial crises. It’s not the compensation we provide to dedicated educators. It’s a broken tax structure; it’s a failure on the part of our state leaders to make tough choices to invest in the kind of state we all want to live in.”

Supporters of the bill say school districts cannot afford to pay the rising benefit costs, nor pay for the raises teachers get with time and experience.

Flickr user wili_hybrid

A nonprofit organization is rushing to clone some of the world's biggest and oldest trees in an audacious plan to restore forests that could help cleanse the environment and fight climate change.   

The Archangel Ancient Tree Archive is based in Copemish, MI. The group has tracked down and made genetic copies of "champion" members of more than 60 species. Among them are redwoods and giant sequoias from California's northern coast and oaks up to 1,000 years old from Ireland.   

Co-founder David Milarch says the group is focusing on 200 species that perform ecologically valuable jobs such as absorbing toxic chemicals and storing carbon dioxide, the greenhouse gas responsible for global warming. Archangel hopes to sell millions of its trees for replanting in cities and rural areas.

The emergency financial manager for Detroit's public schools is floating a new proposal to cut into the district's costs by turning over the operations of 41 academically struggling schools to outside groups or charter school operators.  

The district says Saturday in a release that Robert Bobb's "Renaissance Plan 2012" would reduce operating costs by up to $99 million and address the district's declining enrollment heading into the 2011 to 2012 fiscal year. It also would mean closing fewer schools as called for in a state-approved plan to eliminate the district's $327 million legacy deficit.

The deficit elimination plan would close 70 schools and increase class sizes in some high schools to 62 students. Bobb has said that plan would not be good for the district or students.

Flickr user Dextera Photography

The University of Michigan is reviewing its trespass policy after faculty members have requested an update.  The review follows an incident last fall when former assistant state attorney general Andrew Shirvell was banned from campus. He allegedly harassed the U of M student body leader in person and online. The ACLU has complained about banning Shirvell from campus.  

COCOEN daily photos / flickr

A newspaper analysis shows standardized test score gains from 34 Michigan schools over a one-year period are statistically improbable.

The Detroit Free Press joined a nationwide investigation with USA Today and other partners. The analysis of millions of test score results found 304 schools in six states and the District of Columbia had test scores so improbable they should be investigated.

The analysis that was specific to Michigan scores found that in 2008 to 2009, 34 schools, including 32 in the Detroit area, had test score deviations that statistical experts say are virtually impossible to explain through improved instruction alone.

Flickr user Bkonrad

A yearly display of a sunken crucifix in Lake Michigan is scheduled to take place in Petoskey on Saturday.

The monument to people who have died in water-related accidents is submerged 21 feet down in Little Traverse Bay. The cross is 11 feet long and the figure of Jesus measures 5 feet, 5 inches.

It was put in place in 1962 and moved to its current location in 1984. A once-a-year winter viewing is held when the ice is firm enough.

Visitors can park Saturday at Sunset Park, then walk to where a large hole has been cut in the ice. Viewing hours are 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Coordinators say the showing will be canceled if the ice becomes unstable, but conditions look favorable.

On the city's website it says organizers believe it's, "the only freshwater shrine in the world dedicated to divers."

Mark Brush / Michigan Radio

Let’s say you get busted for speeding, disobeying a stop sign, or failing to yield. You still have to deal with the ticket by contesting it or paying up. But if you’re eligible you’re going to get a letter in the mail from the state. It’ll tell you about a class you can take online or in a classroom.

The new driver improvement course is a refresher on traffic safety.

Drivers who pass the class within sixty days can avoid getting points put on their records and that helps keep insurance rates low.

The program started in January and more than 1,000 drivers have taken the course so far.

Arts Council of Greater Kalamazoo

Restaurants, businesses and galleries will showcase local art in downtown Kalamazoo at the city's monthly art hop. It happens on the first Friday of the month. (This month the gig runs from 5-9 pm.)

Colorful paintings will hang on the walls of businesses and galleries, musicians will be playing inside and outside, and restaurants feature special menus for the evening.

Beth McCann is with The Arts Council of Greater Kalamazoo. She says art hop is about showcasing local talent. But she says it’s also a great economic development tool.

 “We hear it coming back from the artists themselves, because obviously they sell their art. So we hear a lot of positive feedback from artists. And we also hear it from the business community that this is a night they count on for sales.”

McCann says so far, several nearby towns have picked up on the art hop idea including Paw-Paw and Plainwell. Normally there are 20 places to visit during art hop. But the March event is a super-sized version and 51 sites will have art on display.

Mercedes Mejia / Michigan Radio

When you think about improvisation you might think of comedy or jazz. The idea of cartooning or drawing comics is probably not what comes to mind. But a little comic book shop in Dearborn is giving artists a space to try out new ideas, together, on paper.

Green Brain Comics hosts a monthly  comic jam.  It’s similar to the writing exercise known as an exquisite corpse. In this case, an artist draws one panel, then passes it to someone who draws another panel, and so forth.  The end result is an entire comic strip, created by eight artists.

user Marlith / Flickr

Scholarships for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender students are popping up all over the country and Lansing Community College has just created its own version of an LGBT scholarship.

The LCC scholarship is for gay students, under age 25, who have done advocacy work within the community. There are approximately fifty national scholarships for LGBT students, straight students who have supported the community, and children of gay parents.  There are more than a dozen similar scholarships for students who want to attend Michigan’s four year universities.

Candace Gingrich-Jones is with the Human Rights Campaign.  She says they’re seeing a lot of gay alumni who decide to donate money and create scholarships for LGBT students.

“It’s like if you’re a member of a fraternity or sorority, or if you’re a member of the theater club. You want to pass something on to the next group of people.”

The LCC scholarship was funded and named in honor of Betsy Lou Robson, a woman from Lansing. 

Human Rights Campaign maintains a database of LGBT scholarships, broken down by state.

Efforts to attract and keep well-educated immigrants to the Detroit and Ann Arbor regions may provide stepping stones to a statewide program.    

Governor Rick Snyder has asked state officials to develop an initiative to encourage immigrants with advanced college degrees to come to Michigan to live and work. The Republican governor says the effort could help reverse the "brain drain" that hampers Michigan's ability to attract high-tech industries.    

Global Detroit tries to make the region more welcoming to immigrants. And Cultural Ambassadors in Ann Arbor aims to capitalize on the region's international population - driven in part by the University of Michigan - to attract international business.

Supporters say well-educated immigrants often seek advanced college degrees in science, math and technology that can be used to help launch new businesses.

Courtesy: Birmingham Athletic Club

You can check-out some high-level squash in metro Detroit this weekend. And no, I’m not talking about butternut and acorn. I’m talking about the sport.

The Birmingham Athletic Club is hosting The Motor City Open professional squash tournament over the next few days.

The sport is similar to racket-ball. But the ball used in squash is not pressurized, so it doesn’t have much of a bounce. The strategy used in squash is also different.

The Cost of Creativity

Part 1

Part 2

Part 3

Thanks to the following Michigan musicians, whose songs are featured in the documentary:

Ben Benjamin, Luke Winslow-King, Midwest Product, and The Red Sea Pedestrians.

Update: 11:07 a.m.:

The Detroit Free Press has an update on the shooting at a Detroit police station yesterday:

Police today identified the man they say shot four officers in the Detroit Police Department’s Northwestern District Sunday as Lamar Deshea Moore.

Detroit Police Chief Ralph Godbee Jr said they don't know what the shooter's motive was. The police chief said Lamar Deshea Moore has a relative who is being prosecuted on murder charges today.

Godbee said security changes will be made at the station.

Here's where the police station is located:



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Erik Olson

Detroit’s empty buildings are the focus of an art exhibit at the Northville Art House.

Erik Olson is a painter and teaches at the College for Creative Studies. His portraits include an old, brick home in the middle of a field, caving in on itself. And an empty house warmed by the morning sun.

Olson says his message is that these empty buildings are here, and will probably remain for awhile.  He also thinks Americans could take a cue from Europeans.

Michigan is in need of more volunteers, especially men / State of Michigan

Plenty of kids in Michigan need an adult mentor.  That’s according to Paula Kaiser VanDam, executive director of the Michigan Community Service Commission.

“This year the network of mentoring organizations that we work with are serving about 24,000 children. What we know is that there are thousands more kids that want a mentor that currently do not have one.”

Kaiser VanDam says the time commitment is one hour per week. Mentors are expected to spend time with their young person and listen to them.

A group of artists in Saginaw has been spray painting the lyrics to Simon & Garfunkel's bittersweet song "America" onto vacant buildings in Saginaw.

NPR has more on a story we posted earlier. The man spearheading the project, Eric Schantz, says he can relate to the song's lyrics:

Sign of Flint Police Headquarters
Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

The Flint Police Department is closed on the weekends following the latest round of officer layoffs.

The Flint Journal reports new office hours took effect Saturday, the day after 20 police officers were laid off.

Flint Mayor Dayne Walling laid off a total of 66 police officers this year to cope with a multi-million-dollar deficit. The city also made other cuts.

Kyle Norris / Michigan Radio

In the basement of a church in Grand Rapids, there's a rehearsal for the Beginners Swing Band.

Most of the musicians here are in their sixties and seventies.

User respres / Creative Commons

The Genesee County Bar Association is sponsoring a free seminar on how to avoid foreclosure.  It’s one of many free seminars the bar association will offer this winter.

Tatilia Burroughs is executive director of the association. She says they’ve gotten feedback from the public about what topics people would like addressed. She says they include child support, custody, consumer issues, debt collection, and issues having to do with small claims court.

The foreclosure seminar is Thursday, November 18th.  It will be at the Flint Public Library.

Here's a map of foreclosure listings in Michigan:



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Opera Legend Dies

Nov 6, 2010

Acclaimed American mezzo-soprano and soprano Shirley Verrett has died at age 79, in Ann Arbor.  New Orleans-born Verrett was one of the top black opera singers of the 1970s and 1980s. She taught at the University of Michigan.

Here's a great excerpt from a speech she once gave to her students:

Russ Hicks

Russ Hicks has recently experienced the death of his spouse and the loss of his job of 22 years. The thing helping him cope, is his writing. Two big changes recently happened to Russ Hicks.

Gerry Bose has worked as paint contractor for much of his life in new construction. He actually painted the insides of a lot of new mc-mansions. But when the housing bubble burst a few years ago, Bose lost 80% of his work. Since then he's laid off his two employees, and he's had to scramble for work as a painter.

But he's also had more time and energy to book jobs as a juggler.

Gerry Bose is setting up his show at the Grant Public Library, about 30 miles north of Grand Rapids. Bose cracks-open what looks like a pirate chest.

Tori Zackery

Kids can learn a lot about a place through books, television, and the web. But one Kalamazoo woman thinks you can't really know a place or its people, unless you go and visit, which is why she started a travel club.

About twenty girls and several adults board an Amtrak train in Kalamazoo. "We're going on a mystery train ride with the travel club," exclaims travel club member Claire Khabeiry. Like a lot of kids in the group she's never been on train before.

A Kalamazoo arts organization that was considered a real success story has shut its doors, for now. Michigan Radio's Kyle Norris looks at why The Smart Shop Metal Arts Center has closed and what the future may hold.

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