Sarah Hulett

Assistant News Director

Sarah Hulett became Michigan Radio's assistant news director in August 2011. For five years she was the station's Detroit reporter, and contributed to several reporting projects that won state and national awards.

Sarah considers Detroit to be a perfect laboratory for great radio stories, because of its energy, its struggles, and its unique place in America's industrial and cultural landscape.

Before coming to Michigan Radio, Sarah spent five years as state Capitol correspondent for Michigan Public Radio. She's a graduate of Michigan State University.

Contact Sarah Hulett at sarah@michiganradio.org.

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Education
11:14 am
Thu January 13, 2011

Report: Michigan has inflated idea of school quality

One school in Michigan is bucking the trend. English language learners come up with adjectives to describe fruit and vegetables in Marilyn Castillo's class at North Godwin Elementary School in Wyoming, Michigan.
Sarah Hulett Michigan Radio

A new report out today paints a grim picture of Michigan’s schools.

Education Trust-Midwest says students in Michigan’s schools are not doing as well as test scores suggest, and the state’s education problems reach far beyond Detroit.

“We are far from a leader in education right now. Though glowing reports from state education leaders regularly inform us that the vast majority of our children (around 80 percent in elementary and middle schools) are meeting state standards, performance plummets when those students take the more rigorous national examinations.”

The report goes on to cite what it calls Michigan’s inflated standardized test scores (you can see some of the charts in the slide show above).

Its author, Amber Arellano, a former Detroit Free Press education reporter and Detroit News editorial board writer, says people tend to think of Detroit as the only school district in the state with major problems:

“Michigan really has a statewide education problem. This isn’t just about Detroit kids. It’s not just about African American kids. It’s about white kids, it’s about brown kids, it’s about black kids. It’s really about kids all over the state.”

Arellano says it might surprise people to know that students in other districts – including Flint, Lansing, Pontiac, Grand Rapids, and Kalamazoo – have all registered lower proficiency rates than their Detroit counterparts.

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Education
3:41 pm
Thu January 6, 2011

DPS chief: Long-term strategy could include GM-style restructuring

Detroit Public Schools officials are getting ready to submit their latest plan for shoveling the troubled district out from under a crippling deficit.

The plan could include a proposal to split the district in two. It’s an idea Michigan Radio first reported last April, and the concept is similar to the way General Motors restructured.

Emergency Financial Manager Robert Bobb says he’s reduced expenses by more than $500 million in the last several months, but there’s still a “legacy” deficit that tops $300 million:

"We’re whittling away at it, but we have to create a long-term plan so that we’re not in this situation 12 months from now or two years from now."

 DPS officials say another option is a New Orleans-style overhaul that would convert many schools to charters. A third option is to use the state’s tobacco settlement money to erase the district’s debt, or the state could opt for some combination of all the above options. Lawmakers rejected a proposal last month to use the state's tobacco settlement to pay off the district's debt.

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Education
3:28 pm
Thu January 6, 2011

DPS wants businesses to adopt schools

Detroit Public Schools is recruiting businesses to adopt schools for academic and beautification projects. Angela Hoston heads the program:

"The goal is to have every school have a partner, and not just one partner but multiple partners. We want to raise the academic achievement levels of the bottom one-third of every classroom, and get them to the highest achievement level possible."

Hoston says each business can work with a principal to craft a unique program based on what the school needs and what the business can offer.

The initiative was announced at Gompers Elementary, where staff from the Doubletree Fort Shelby Hotel have built a garden and mentor students.

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Education
2:08 pm
Wed January 5, 2011

Detroit school tries innovative instruction concept

jimmiehomeschoolmom flickr

An experimental school in Detroit is trying something new with its seventh and eighth graders.


Palmer Park Preparatory Academy is the first “teacher-led” school in Michigan. It’s instituted a program that puts students into customized reading and math classes based on their abilities instead of their grade level.


Ann Crowley is one of the school’s founders.


"We had to get the schedule set up so that the three teachers in those subject areas taught side-by-side at the same time, and also have a common planning period together," said Ann Crowley, one of the school's founders. She added:



"The logistics of it, with over 250 kids, was pretty intense."


Crowley says students are constantly monitored for improvement so they don’t get stuck in an instructional track for low-performing students.


An official with the school district says the program could be a model for other schools in Detroit.

Auto/Economy
2:59 pm
Wed December 29, 2010

Energy credit brings businesses last-minute flurry

The tax credit can be applied to projects including insulation.
Ryan McFarland Flickr

Michigan businesses that make and install residential furnaces, windows and other energy-related products are getting a burst of last-minute jobs before the year ends.


Tony Ianni is a sales manager for WeatherGard, which installs windows, roofs and insulation – all of which qualify for a federal tax credit for energy efficiency:



"It’s definitely been a big push, everybody’s calling and the first question out of their mouths is, 'Can we still get the tax credit?'” 


Ianni says informing customers about the credit has been a big push for his industry. "Of course all your last-minute people are coming through now, trying to get everything done," he said. 


The tax credit also applies to hot water heaters, furnaces and stoves that burn wood or pellets. It’s good for 30 percent of the cost of the project, up to 15-hundred dollars.

Freighter aground
4:16 pm
Fri December 24, 2010

Freighter aground south of Detroit

Wikimedia Commons

A freighter carrying coal to a power plant has run aground in the Detroit River.

Patricia Baca is with search and rescue at the U.S. Coast Guard in Detroit. She says the channel the vessel was trying to navigate is a difficult one:

"It is, because it’s not navigated very often by the commercial mariners. They only go in there maybe, like, four times a year. And this happens to be one of the four times a year." 

Baca says four tug boats are trying to free the McKee Sons freighter – which got stuck early this morning near Grosse Ile. A Coast Guard investigation is under way.

Taking care of the troops
5:13 pm
Thu December 23, 2010

Traveling soldiers, sailors get a place to relax

David Pope relaxes in the holiday lounge before his flight to Okinawa.
Sarah Hulett Michigan Radio

A special lounge at Detroit Metro Airport is open for members of the military and their families traveling over the holidays.


David Pope checked into the lounge before his return flight to Okinawa, where he serves in the Navy. He says it’s nice to have a quiet spot away from other travelers to start the long trip:

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Politics
2:18 pm
Fri December 17, 2010

Detroit indictment puts water dept. future in question

Ruben Diaz Alonso Flickr

This week’s indictment against Detroit’s former mayor and others is likely to renew interest in changing the way the region’s massive water system is run. The federal government identified 13 scams in which water department contracts worth tens of millions of dollars were steered to a friend of former mayor Kwame Kilpatrick.

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Crime
2:13 pm
Thu December 16, 2010

'Underwear bomber' arraigned on new charges

Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab was arraigned on new charges today.
U.S. Marshals Service

The young Nigerian man accused of trying to bomb a Detroit-bound airliner last Christmas was arraigned on new charges in federal court today.

Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab entered the courtroom in prison khakis, canvas shoes and red handcuffs.He  stood mute to the new charges, which include conspiracy to commit an act of terrorism. The original indictment, filed almost a year ago, never used the word “terrorism.”

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Economy
9:43 pm
Wed December 15, 2010

Governor signs tax break legislation for shipping hub

Gov. Jennifer Granholm signs the tax break bills.
Sarah Hulett Michigan Radio

Governor Granholm signed legislation today that will allow for lucrative tax breaks for businesses that want to locate near Detroit Metro Airport.

The project is called the “aerotropolis,” and supporters say it could ultimately create tens of thousands of jobs.

Granholm said:

"I  think people can really look forward from here to see what the build-out will be around this area.

"The communities that are going to take advantage of the warehousing and the movement of goods and the logistics and the technology that’s associated with it as well," she said.

Read more
Crime
4:28 pm
Wed December 15, 2010

Feds unveil corruption charges against Kwame Kilpatrick, his father, and 3 others

Former Detroit Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick

Update 6:54 p.m.:


Here's some video of the release of the indictments from the Detroit News:



Update 4:28 p.m.:


Barbara McQuade, the U.S. Attorney in Detroit, had this to say of the new indictment:


“The indictment charges all of them with working together to abuse Kwame Kilpatrick’s public offices. Both his position as state representative, as well as his position of mayor of Detroit, to unjustly enrich themselves, through a pattern of extortion, bribery and fraud.”


Update 4:18 p.m.:


Here's an excerpt of the indictment (info in parens added):


"(Former Detroit Mayor) Kwame Kilpatrick, (Kilpatrick’s long-time friend) Bobby Ferguson, (Kilpatrick’s father) Bernard Kilpatrick, (former director of the Detroit Water and Sewerage Department) Victor Mercado and (Chief Administrative Officer then Chief Information Officer to Kilpatrick) Derrick Miller… extorted municipal contractors by coercing them to include Ferguson in public contracts, and/or by rigging the award of contracts to ensure Ferguson got a portion of the revenue from those contracts…. Ferguson got tens of millions of dollars in work and revenues from municipal contractors."


Update 3:39 p.m.:


Federal Prosecutors in Detroit are announcing more corruption charges against former Detroit Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick.


The indictments also include Kilpatrick’s father, Bernard Kilpatrick; former city contractor Bobby Ferguson; former Detroit Water Department head Victor Mercado; and former city official Derrick Miller.


Representatives from the FBI, IRS,  U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Department of Housing and Urban Development are also on hand for the announcement.


The new charges are a sign the years-long investigation into Detroit municipal corruption is approaching an apex.


Peter Henning is a Wayne State University law professor. He says this investigation has been typical of public corruption probes that slowly “work from the outside in.”



“The government’s committed a lot of resources. When that happens then it’s much more likely to see charges brought, simply because the government wants to see some return on its investment.”


Kwame Kilpatrick already faces federal tax evasion and other charges for allegedly using a non-profit civic fund as a personal slush fund.


Ferguson also already faces federal charges in an alleged city bid-rigging scheme.


3:27 p.m.:


The other shoe is finally dropping on former Detroit mayor Kwame Kilpatrick.   The US Attorney in Detroit is holding a news conference at 4pm to announce indictments against Kilpatrick, his father Bernard, and others allegedly involved in city hall corruption in Detroit.


The Detroit News is reporting:



The U.S. Attorney's Office is considering prosecuting the mayor under the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations statute, among other federal criminal laws, according to a source. The Department of Justice's Organized Crime and Racketeering Section reviews and approves each proposed federal prosecution under the RICO statute. 


So far, 14 people have pleaded guilty to felonies and one person has pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor in connection with the Detroit investigation and a spinoff probe in the city of Southfield. Those convicted include former Detroit City Councilwoman Monica Conyers.


Courts
11:10 pm
Fri December 10, 2010

Group asks state's high court to hear union dues challenge

Joe Gratz flickr/creative commons

A conservative group has asked the Michigan Supreme Court to hear a challenge to union dues paid by home-based child care providers.

Read more
Governor-elect
5:46 pm
Thu December 9, 2010

Governor-elect touts nerd cred to accountants

Michigan Governor-elect Rick Snyder
wikimedia commons

Governor-elect Rick Snyder told a crowd in Detroit today that Michigan will beat analysts’ economic growth expectations in the coming years.

Snyder spoke to a group of accounting students at Wayne State University. He recounted an experience at a recent National Governors Association meeting.

Snyder says the investment firm Moody’s ranked each state for projected job growth. He described what he saw when he opened the folder for Michigan.

"The first number from 2009 to 2011 was 47," Snyder said. "The number from 2009 to 2014 was 50."

But the governor-elect called those projections "a piece of fiction."

"We’re going to beat the living daylights out of that number."

Snyder added that he plans to use his background as a CPA to put Michigan’s finances in order.

Shrinking Detroit
5:36 pm
Thu December 9, 2010

Detroit officials cagey about plans for shrinking city

Detroit officials say there are seven to nine areas of the city that will be targeted for investment.
Sarah Hulett Michigan Radio

The future of Detroit will be the subject of dozens of meetings in the city early next year.

Detroit Mayor Dave Bing says there are seven to nine sectors that will see investment. But his deputy in charge of the Detroit Works Project, Karla Henderson, says it’s too early to define their boundaries. She says:

"What we do know is that some of our stronger neighborhoods tend to be the boundaries of the city of Detroit, and some of our neighborhoods where we’ve seen an increase in population are immigrant communities," said Henderson. "So we’re taking a look at all that data. "

Henderson says her team is looking at things like household incomes and education levels, as well as “quality of life” indicators like parks and schools, to determine the most viable neighborhoods. She says federal grants will be used to rehab city-owned and foreclosed homes in those areas.

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WINTER
5:39 pm
Fri December 3, 2010

Counties get creative to deal with winter roads

Wayne County has outfitted its trucks to clear more snow faster, and to keep salt on the roads.
Sarah Hulett Michigan Radio

Counties all over Michigan are gearing up for another winter plowing season with higher costs and fewer resources.

Wayne County has outfitted about 20 trucks with new side plows that allow crews to make fewer passes to clear snow-covered roads.

Michael Rogers is the Roads Division director for Wayne County. During a demonstration of the equipment, he pointed out an innovation that will save on salt costs. The county has rigged up its trucks to wet the salt as it’s being spread on the roadway.  

You see the salt doesn’t necessarily make it all the way over here, to us. And that’s what you want. You want the salt to get on its intended target, and that’s what it’s doing. Because before the salt would’ve been ten feet back there, and that’s a waste of our resource.

Ten years ago, Wayne County had 726 people working for the Roads Division during the winter months. This year it has a little more than 330.

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Detroit Politics
5:22 pm
Fri December 3, 2010

Mayor, Council to weigh in on new Detroit charter

Detroit Skyline
JSFauxtaugraphy/Flickr

A panel that’s drafting a new governing charter for Detroit will hear recommendations from the city’s mayor and city council this weekend. 

The Charter Revision Commission is looking at everything that has to do with how Detroit operates: How many elected officials the city should have, and how much power they should wield. How to remove elected officials from office. How many departments the city should have, and what services should be mandated.

One issue on which the mayor and city council disagree is how big the city council ought to be. 

There is agreement that the city should move away from its current system of electing members at-large, and have most council members represent districts. But Mayor Dave Bing thinks the council ought to remain at nine members, while the city council is pushing to expand it to 11. 

The Charter Revision Commission is expected to have a draft document finished in March. A citywide vote on the charter is expected next November.

The Commission meets Saturday from 9 am to 5 pm, and Sunday from 1 pm to 4 pm, at Cass Tech High School in Detroit.

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Economy
4:38 pm
Thu December 2, 2010

White House pushes Congress for unemployment extension

The White House is ramping up its efforts to get Congress to approve extended unemployment benefits for out-of-work Americans. Michigan's unemployment rate in October was the second-highest in the nation, at 12.8%.

The president's Council of Economic Advisers released a report that touts the need for extending benefits. The report says for the typical person getting unemployment, the benefits make up a third of the household income.  As Presidential adviser Cecilia Rouse noted:

And in those 42% of households where the unemployed person was the sole wage earner, it's about 90 percent of the income. So it's quite an important source of income for these families.

The report says about 620,000 people in Michigan received benefits through October.

Republicans in Congress say the cost of extending the benefits is too high. They want to look at budget cuts and tax cut extensions first.

Budget
5:54 pm
Wed December 1, 2010

Wayne Co. slashes paychecks by 20%

Wayne County Executive Robert Ficano is imposing a 20 percent pay cut on union employees.

The move comes after two years of negotiating failed to yield an agreement. Earlier this year, Ficano instituted unpaid furlough days after the union rejected a proposed 10 percent pay cut.

Joyce Ivory represents about a thousand workers with AFSCME Local 165. She says a state labor board ruled against that move, but Ficano pressed forward anyway.

Education
5:53 pm
Wed December 1, 2010

DPS sues union over sub issue

The Detroit Public Schools system has filed an unfair labor practice against the district's teachers' union over a substitute teacher dispute.

The president of the Detroit Federation of Teachers issued a letter to some substitutes last month telling them to stop drafting lesson plans, grading students, and holding parent-teacher conferences.

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municipal finance
1:00 pm
Fri November 19, 2010

Hamtramck ratchets up bankruptcy debate

Businesses in Hamtramck, Michigan
Ian Freimuth creative commons

The city of Hamtramck is ratcheting up the pressure on the state to allow it to file for bankruptcy.

Hamtramck’s city attorney has sent a letter to Governor Granholm urging her to issue an executive order allowing the city to seek federal bankruptcy protection. The letter also says appointing an emergency financial manager would not give the city the tools it needs to correct its financial problems.

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