Sarah Cwiek

Sarah Cwiek - Detroit Reporter/Producer

Sarah Cwiek joined Michigan Radio in October, 2009. As our Detroit reporter, she is helping us expand our coverage of the economy, politics, and culture in and around the city of Detroit. Before her arrival at Michigan Radio, Sarah worked at WDET-FM as a reporter and producer.

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Alycia Meriweather announces the district's new offerings at Detroit's Cooke Elementary School.
Sarah Cwiek / Michigan Radio

The Detroit Public Schools is planning a dozen “innovative” new school programs for the fall.

They include Montessori programs, an Arabic dual language immersion school, expanded Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) offerings, new programs for English language learners, and more opportunities for outdoor experience and “place-based education,” among other things.

Sarah Cwiek / Michigan Radio

With the Detroit Public Schools on the verge of financial collapse, many people want to know how things went so wrong.

Some teachers are trying to do something about that. They want a forensic audit of the district’s finances since it came under state emergency management in 2009.

A group of DPS teachers set up a lemonade stand near Detroit’s Eastern Market to raise money for the cause this weekend.

Blanche Jackson, right, with Rep. Sandy Levin. Jackson successfully appealed a finding of unemployment fraud, but the state still says she owes $4000.
Sarah Cwiek / Michigan Radio

Michigan U.S. Rep. Sander Levin, D-Royal Oak, says the state needs to fix its “lawless” unemployment claims system, or risk losing federal money to administer the program.

The state switched to an automated claims processing system, the Michigan Integrated Data Automated System (MiDAS), in 2013.

Since then, fraud claims have spiked. But many people say they’ve been falsely accused, and that the system for appealing is a nightmare.

Michigan state Capitol
User: mattileo / flickr http://michrad.io/1LXrdJM

A set of Republican-sponsored bills to fund and overhaul the Detroit Public Schools is being met with skepticism in the state Senate. The state House adopted the legislation in a marathon session that lasted until early this morning.

Highland Park municipal building
City of Highland Park

Southeast Michigan’s new regional water authority is asking for Governor Snyder’s “personal intercession and involvement” to resolve a billing dispute with the city of Highland Park.

Highland Park now owes the Great Lakes Water Authority nearly $30 million in water and sewer bills.

In a letter to the Governor last month, the GLWA board said the Authority’s other customer communities are growing “concerned and frustrated” as they’re forced to pick up Highland Park’s tab.

DPS emergency manager Steven Rhodes.
John Meiu / Detroit Legal News Publishing LLC

Most Detroit teachers are expected back in the classroom Wednesday, after two straight days of teacher sickouts effectively shuttered the Detroit Public Schools.

The Detroit Federation of Teachers called for members to return to work, saying they’ve received written assurance from the district’s emergency manager that teachers will receive full pay for the school year.

The DFT had urged teachers to “sick out” in protest, after discovering just days earlier that DPS didn’t have the money to pay teachers who elect to spread their pay through the summer months.

Sarah Cwiek
Michigan Radio

Nearly all Detroit Public Schools are closed again today, as too many teachers called in sick to protest being asked to work without guaranteed pay.

It's the second straight day almost all the district's 97 schools have been closed.

Teachers have known for months that Detroit Public Schools will run out of money after June 30, unless Michigan lawmakers approve hundreds of millions of dollars in long-term aid.

But anger boiled over when they found out just days ago that most teachers might not get paid their full salaries for the current school year.

Student performers at the Detroit NAACP Freedom Fund dinner.
Sarah Cwiek / Michigan Radio

Hillary Clinton’s campaign for President took her through Detroit this weekend.

Clinton was the keynote speaker at the Detroit NAACP’s annual Freedom Fund dinner.

She said the kind of suffering seen in cities like Detroit and Flint are symbolic of communities across the country that are being “left out and left behind.”

Clinton, who has been vocal about the Flint water crisis since it started drawing national attention, called it “unacceptable.” But she also said there are “too many Flints in America.”

Detroit teachers protest during a January sickout.
Kate Wells / Michigan Radio

For the first time in months, Detroit teachers are planning to hold a mass sickout Monday—and for the first time ever, union leaders are helping lead the call for it.

This comes after the Detroit Federation of Teachers leadership informed members that many teachers could end up shorted on their pay this year.

The situation involves Detroit Public Schools staff who elect to be paid biweekly year-round, not just during the school year.

A Detroit water shutoff notice
Ali Elisabeth / Michigan Radio

Detroit water customers behind on their bills have one more day to set things straight — or possibly face having their service cut off.

The Detroit Water and Sewerage Department is hosting a customer assistance fair on Saturday.

The idea is to provide a one-stop customer service blitz for the roughly 23,000 Detroiters who have defaulted on payment plans, or are otherwise delinquent on their bills.

DWSD director Gary Brown had this message for them: “You need to come into the fair and get current on your plan.

Dearborn Police Chief Ronald Haddad, left, with Noble Wray, head of the Policing Practices and Accountability Initiative.
Sarah Cwiek / Michigan Radio

In the wake of two police shooting deaths, Dearborn Police will be getting some help from the U.S. justice department.

Dearborn Police Chief Ronald Haddad reached out to the DOJ’s Office of Community Oriented Policing Services (COPS) earlier this year.

Haddad says he did that after two high-profile police shootings in December and January, when Dearborn officers shot and killed two unarmed African Americans in separate incidents.

The former Hudson's site, prime real estate along Woodward in the heart of downtown Detroit, has been a city-owned underground parking garage since the Hudson's building was demolished in 1998.
Sarah Cwiek / Michigan Radio

An iconic spot in downtown Detroit is one step closer redevelopment.

The former Hudson’s department store has been a city-owned underground parking garage since the Hudson’s building was demolished in 1998.

But officials with Detroit’s Downtown Development Authority gave the tentative go-ahead for a new high-rise development there Wednesday.

Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan said the deal still needs a few final approvals. The City Council still needs to OK elements of the deal, including the transfer of the parking garage to the developer for $15 million.

A Detroit water shutoff notice
Ali Elisabeth / Michigan Radio

Detroit will start shutting off water to residential customers behind on their bills next week.

23,000 households that have defaulted on payment plans could face service interruption.

This is the third straight year that Detroit is pursuing its controversial, aggressive shutoff policy. Just a little over 23,000 households were shut off last year.

Sarah Cwiek / Michigan Radio

After working more than a month without contracts, unionized Detroit News and Free Press employees have ratified a new, three-year deal.

Detroit’s two major newspapers have different owners. But their business operations are run jointly through a joint operating agreement, with Free Press owner Gannett media company holding almost all the purse strings.

Berrien County Sheriff's office / via Facebook

A recent Michigan Court of Appeals ruling paves the way for using “support dogs” in courtrooms.

The ruling stems from the case of a Berrien County man, Jordan Conrad Johnson, convicted of sexually abusing his young niece.

During his trial, the girl and her brother both testified accompanied by a black lab named Mr. Weeber.

The dogs are trained to calm and comfort vulnerable witnesses, particularly young children, and help them testify.

Robert Bobb helps student with homework
Sarah Hulett / Michigan Radio

In Detroit, 12 public school principals are accused of taking kickbacks on supplies that were never delivered.

The charges, announced late last month, pose another blow to the long-troubled Detroit Public Schools, which needs hundreds of millions of dollars in long-term state aid if it wants to see another school year.

Here's how the alleged kickback scheme worked: 12 principals, all working separately, gave contracts for school supplies to a vendor, Norman Shy, who then kicked back some profits to them.

DTE Energy

Michigan’s US Senators want the Environmental Protection Agency to step in if the state doesn’t act on a plan to curb Wayne County air pollution soon.

In a letter to EPA head Gina McCarthy Friday, Debbie Stabenow and Gary Peters urged “swift completion” of that plan.

In 2013, part the county was found to be in “non-attainment” with new National Ambient Air Quality Standards for sulfur dioxide emissions.

The Michigan Department of Environmental Quality was supposed to submit a plan to fix that to the EPA in April 2015. But to date, MDEQ still hasn’t done that.

Alberto G. / Creative Commons http://michrad.io/1LXrdJM

 Michigan’s state superintendent has outlined his “vision” for student assessments, and it seems like students might be in for more big changes.

Brian Whiston addressed lawmakers from two State House education panels Wednesday.

The state currently uses the Michigan Student Test of Educational Progress (M-STEP) to measure student achievement.

This is only the second year for the M-STEP, which students take in the spring.

But Whiston, who took over as state superintendent in July, advocates a different approach.

A DDOT bus in Detroit.
Sarah Hulett / Michigan Radio

Detroit is tweaking bus service again as the city plugs away at revamping its notoriously bad transit system.

The latest changes kick in this coming weekend.

They include schedule modifications, some additional trips and other adjustments across eight bus routes, to “increase reliability” and “alleviate crowding.”

Sarah Cwiek / Michigan Radio

If you have any kind of affection for penguins – and really, who doesn't? – start making plans to check out the Detroit Zoo's Polk Penguin Conservation Center.

The zoo's biggest, most complex project ever is set to open its doors next week. 

The $30 million conservation center aims to be a state-of-the-art habitat for 83 King, Gentoo, Macaroni and Rockhopper penguins.

via Detroit Public Schools

Gov. Rick Snyder is a defendant in yet another lawsuit – this time, a federal lawsuit over the state of the Detroit Public Schools.

Members of Detroit’s elected school board and some parents filed the suit, which seeks class-action status on behalf of about 58,000 students who have attended DPS schools since 2011.

The lawsuit alleges that financial, academic, and other conditions in the district have declined so much they violate students’ civil rights.

Dearborn Heights Police

The Michigan Court of Appeals says a suburban Detroit man convicted of murder in 2014 deserves a new sentence.

Dearborn Heights homeowner Theodore Wafer was convicted of killing Renisha McBride, 19, on his front porch in December 2013, after she banged on his door in the middle of the night.

Wafer insists he acted in self-defense, and appealed on a number of grounds.

The Michigan Court of Appeals upheld Wafer’s convictions for both murder and manslaughter. But it also found the trial judge made an error when sentencing Wafer.

Flickr user David Salafia/Flickr / http://michrad.io/1LXrdJM

The city of Detroit wants all its schools to test for lead in drinking water.

The Detroit Public Schools is already on board with the initiative, and has tested 60 schools so far.

But Dr. Abdul El-Sayed, the Detroit health department director, says the city won’t stop there.

Andrey Belenko / Flickr

A Michigan advocacy group is suing U.S. government officials on behalf of people who found themselves on a government terror watch list.

The two lawsuits, filed in a federal district court in Virginia Tuesday, say the designation process for the terror watch list is arbitrary, secretive, and unconstitutional.

Sarah Cwiek / Michigan Radio

After 13 years, the Detroit police department is now officially free of U.S. Justice Department oversight.

The department had been under two federal consent decrees since 2003.

Those decrees stemmed from a host of unconstitutional policing practices, ranging from excessive use of force, to illegally detaining witnesses.

Federal judge Avern Cohn signed off on a full return to local control this week, after an 18-month transition period.

Police Chief James Craig says 13 years of federal oversight helped create a “constitutional” police department.

markbwavy / Flickr - http://j.mp/1SPGCl0

The Michigan Department of Environmental Quality is moving forward on a new rule to cut air pollution in part of Wayne County.

The rule will limit sulfur dioxide emissions from two US Steel facilities. They’re in southwest Detroit and two downriver suburbs deemed in “non-attainment” of National Ambient Air Quality Standards (NAAQS).

Barb Rosenbaum is with the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality’s Air Quality division.

She says the agency is still working on a larger sulfur dioxide attainment plan for that area, after getting feedback on an initial draft.

Sarah Cwiek / Michigan Radio

Employees at Detroit’s two major newspapers are working without a contract.

Detroit News and Free Press staffers held an “informational picket” near the papers’ downtown headquarters Wednesday.

The Newspaper Guild of Detroit is trying to negotiate a new contract with Gannett Media Company on behalf of both News and Free Press employees.

Gov. Rick Snyder
gophouse.com

The Detroit Public Schools now officially has enough money to stay open through the end of the current school year.

Gov. Snyder signed a $48.7 million dollar supplemental budget bill into law Tuesday.

DPS officials had said that without state aid, the district likely faced payless paydays by early April.

flickr user Motown31 / http://michrad.io/1LXrdJM

Fourteen people face federal charges for defrauding the Detroit Public Schools in an alleged bribery-and-kickback scheme.

Those charged include 12 current and former principals, one district administrator, and a school supplies vendor.

Sarah Cwiek / Michigan Radio

Detroit State Senator Virgil Smith started a ten-month jail sentence Monday, as part of a plea deal he struck after violent domestic dispute with his ex-wife.

The democratic lawmaker pleaded guilty to one count of malicious destruction of property, for shooting up his ex-wife’s car. He had initially faced four counts, including a firearms charge that carried a mandatory prison sentence.

But Smith is still a state legislator, and Wayne County prosecutors are now unhappy with that deal.

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