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twoshort

The SE side and GRPS

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I was reading someone's blog last night and it reminded me of an article I read in the press this weekend:

Kuyper students go onto mean streets with Bibles

I'm really bad at putting what annoys me about this article and the media coverage as a whole into words, but nice title, seriously. I'm so sick of how the SE side is portrayed. And the GRPS too. That article makes it sound like those kids are literally risking their lives hanging out on that corner. It's Franklin and Eastern, not Baghdad. It reads as if all the people walking in that area need saving and are charity cases because they're all drug pushers, pimps, and prostitutes. Nevermind that it is just down from the youth center (lots of foot traffic) and two convenience stores (even more foot traffic). If you went by what the press and woodtv are saying you'd think you couldn't drive through the area bounded by franklin/division/wealthy/fuller without being shot at or solicited. Don't these reporters realize that by constantly focusing on the negative issues in that area and with the GRPS as a whole that they are only making things worse? I know they need to report on shootings and all that, but where's the balance? Why aren't the GRPS's success stories on the front page? Why not highlight the block parties? Interview prominent Grand Rapids people who send their kids to GRPS and find out why and how their kids are doing/did (ie: Lighthousedave, Rob Bell, etc). Talk to GRPS graduates who went on to U of M, Grand Valley, Duke, and who knows where else. I just don't understand why no one is putting more emphasis on the good things happening in our neighborhoods everyday.

As an aside, whoever is doing PR for the GRPS is NOT doing their job. It's time to find someone else. Find a person or firm who has disaster response experience and let them go to work.

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This story, while on the surface seems to be positive, does help reinforce stereotypes. There are people who have never driven through the area and because of the way it's been portrayed in the story probably never will. I have friends who live in Alger heights and I drive down Eastern (from Cherry) all the time to get there. Sure there are people out walking around, milling about, but so what? I've never felt like I was driving through "the mean streets" as the article says. It also sets up a judgement I'm not particularly comfortable with and can't completely articulate at the moment. I'll have to while it out and see if the words come to me.

*fish

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...

I'm really bad at putting what annoys me about this article and the media coverage as a whole into words, but nice title, seriously. I'm so sick of how the SE side is portrayed. And the GRPS too. That article makes it sound like those kids are literally risking their lives hanging out on that corner. It's Franklin and Eastern, not Baghdad. ... I know they need to report on shootings and all that, but where's the balance? Why aren't the GRPS's success stories on the front page? ...

Because that space is reserved for yet another piece on a professional prize fight taking place three time zones away. Or sensationalized stills from the Va Tech shooter's home video. Or "Easter lilies kill house cats!" pieces.

[no formal journalism training, but I know tabloidism when I see it]

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Furious does not even begin to touch on how angry I was when I read this article. I shot out a quick email to the President of Kuyper College, the Kuyper Staff person represented int he article and to Charlie Honey. I also posted about it on my personal blog. Here is what I wrote:

Mean Streets? My Streets...Our Streets

Did anyone from Grand Rapids read today's article in the Religion section? Several weeks ago Donna and I were driving to the Cottage to meet up with some friends. As we passed the corner of Franklin and Madison we noticed a bunch of white kids passing out coffee and slices of pizza. Needless to say it was a curious site. Last week we noticed the same thing on the corner of Eastern and Franklin.

Today's article in the Press titled Kuyper students go onto mean streets with Bibles explains the odd phenomenon of white kids hanging out on my street corner giving folks pizza and coffee, it appears Bibles were in the mix as well.

From the article:

Since October, an average of eight to 12 Kuyper students have carted with them a carafe of coffee, goodies and pocket-size Bibles, to stand on the intersection of Franklin Street and Eastern Avenue for two hours to offer a message of hope in a blighted neighborhood.

For the students, most raised in cozy suburbs, heading off to an area of the city where crime, drugs and gang activity are common, the task has its share of fears.

Still, they mustered the evangelistic moxie to get out of their comfort zone and help people find relief from the fray spawned by unemployment and alcoholism.

"I was really curious about it and I have an adventurous side, so I wanted to do something new I haven't done," said Jessie Pimmer, a pre-nursing student from Hudsonville.

Not everyone is happy with her decision to chat up scam artists and prostitutes, she said.

"My mom is really scared," said Pimmer, 18.

Pimmer echoes a New Testament Scripture if the worst were to happen: If killed, she'll inherit eternal life.

"I knew that if I lived or died, God would use it as a positive thing," said Pimmer.

Wow, I was speechless when I read this article. As a RBC/Kuyper College Alum and resident of the Madison Square Neighborhood I take great exception to the way my neighborhood was portrayed in this article.

I live on the corner of Madison and Hall, and my daughter and her husband live in the Baxter neighborhood on Sigsbee and Fuller, but near the corner of Eastern and Franklin. Jori too has noticed the kids out there. To have our neighborhood portrayed as dangerous, full of prostitutes and drug dealers, or a place where one young student thinks she may die by standing on the corner simply perpetuates the stereotypical image the media has recently been placing on Grand Rapids South East Side.

To have this image portrayed and perpetuated in the name of Christ, is appalling to me. Christ calls us to love the Lord our God with all our heart soul and mind, and to love our neighbor as ourself. Christ goes on to say that our neighbors not just those around us, but all of mankind. Are the students and leaders of this endeavor viewing their neighbors in the Southeast side of Grand Rapids as equals or people to be feared, pitied, and ultimately saved?

One of the Kuyper College reps said "They go about and are tangible Christ." Somehow I do not believe Christ would stand on the street corner handing out Bibles and coffee. I think he would rent a place in the neighborhood and be a good neighbor.

As far as GRPS goes, we have just listed a new job posting Director of Communications. We are looking for someone to handle all commuications and marketing for GRPS. We are not looking for someone that is a former educator, but someone that has schooling and experience in the field of communications and marketing. This is a very high profile job with a total compensation range between $125-$160K. It is long over due.

Edited by lighthousedave

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As far as GRPS goes, we have just listed a new job posting Director of Communications. We are looking for someone to handle all commuications and marketing for GRPS. We are not looking for someone that is a former educator, but someone that has schooling and experience in the field of communications and marketing. This is a very high profile job with a total compensation range between $125-$160K. It is long over due.

It was your blog that inspired my post. :thumbsup: As for the new position at GRPS, thank goodness. Hopefully you will be able to find someone who likes a challenge and can make a difference. I think a great place to start would be showcasing people who graduated from GRPS and were successful. Point out the fact that not every student is trying to gun down their classmates with thier CD player faceplates. :rolleyes:

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It was your blog that inspired my post. :thumbsup: As for the new position at GRPS, thank goodness. Hopefully you will be able to find someone who likes a challenge and can make a difference. I think a great place to start would be showcasing people who graduated from GRPS and were successful. Point out the fact that not every student is trying to gun down their classmates with thier CD player faceplates. :rolleyes:

Did not know you read my blog...I better watch what I write. :whistling:

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I have to shake my head on this one. I know crime is common in the city, but... I really question the magnitude they clearly suggest. My guess is that the folks who got free pizza and coffee are less annoyed by their presence then some in the community.

This goes beyond annoyance to read this as if the trip is futile. You know people, law abiding proud people, make their home in that side of the community...

Edited by Rizzo

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Didn't GRPS fire their communcations director a couple of years ago? Now they're re-adding the position?

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I don't know. It's unfair and irresponsible for the media to lump that whole area as a bad seed, but Franklin and Madison is a BAD intersection, no matter how you slice it. I don't think this article was that far off the mark of what it's really like on that corner. I lived on Franklin and Fuller for two years, and I don't think there was a single time I was on foot at F&E that I WASN'T solicited, either being hit up for money or asking if I wanted drugs.

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I don't know. It's unfair and irresponsible for the media to lump that whole area as a bad seed, but Franklin and Madison is a BAD intersection, no matter how you slice it. I don't think this article was that far off the mark of what it's really like on that corner. I lived on Franklin and Fuller for two years, and I don't think there was a single time I was on foot at F&E that I WASN'T solicited, either being hit up for money or asking if I wanted drugs.

A THING, in this case, an intersection, cannot BE anything more than it's properties, least of all - BAD. This article is so far off the mark of what is helpful and what is condescending, I am seething. First I've read of it - I read The Press online and I missed this on Saturday - thanks for calling it to my attention.

Edited by mejane

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Didn't GRPS fire their communcations director a couple of years ago? Now they're re-adding the position?

Yes, however, the person that was let go had a background and education in the field of education and nothing in the field of communications or marketing. That is a big problem with the public schools too many people in positions that require a business, legal, or organizational background, but they have only experience in education.

What I like about this move is that we are looking for someone with education and background in communications and marketing.

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http://www.wzzm13.com/news/news_story.aspx...59&catid=14

Any one want to give me the non-media-tainted logic behind this one? The person from the teachers union said exactly what I was thinking. I believe the administration and school board are made up of intelligent people, so I feel like I must be missing something.

Edited by twoshort

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http://www.wzzm13.com/news/news_story.aspx...59&catid=14

Any one want to give me the non-media-tainted logic behind this one? The person from the teachers union said exactly what I was thinking. I believe the administration and school board are made up of intelligent people, so I feel like I must be missing something.

I am right in the middle of something...but check back a little later and I will give a detailed explanation of this issue.

Dave

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It may have something to do with the Labeling Theory. If you continually call people a failure then they will internalize it.

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OK-Here is my best shot at explaining the issues surrounding this issue in a succinct way:

Last year the Michigan Legislature passed a law dictating new graduation requirements for all students in the State of Michigan. These new requirements are extensive, but let me point out the most salient points:

All students must complete high school in 4 years. If a student does not finish in 4 years they cannot receive a High School diploma and must get a GED.

All students must take 4 years of Math, 4 years of English, and 4 years of science. Think about this one for a minute 4 years of math means Freshman Algebra, Sophomore Geometry, Junior Algebra II, and Senior Trigonometry.

There is more to the new graduation requirements but these are the two points that have the most to do with our new attendance and grading policy.

In our previous attendance policy a student that misses too much school for any reason...sickness, family issues, etc...their grades would be lowered. Hypothetically, if a student had a C and missed too much school, even legitimately their grade could be lowered. I am sure you can see why we had to change the policy so that the grades cannot be lowered. As long as a student does his/her work and masters the knowledge they get the credit.

In regard to the grading policy, students that fail a class or fall behind have the opportunity to make up their work in order to pass the class. There are some students that have absolutely no hope of passing a class and it is up to a teacher's discretion to flunk them. However, if a student can work harder at the end of a semester or whatever to make up work they missed or key tests they flunked, they have a chance to make up the work. Until they make up the work they receive an H which means their grade is on hold until they accomplish their work.;

Here is an interesting point, there are suburban schools that have employed a variety of outside the box ideas as a response to these new graduation requirements. Jenison school district allows HS students to not even show up at school but do their work at home on a computer. They are being praised for their creative thinking. Grand Rapids Public Schools is trying to come up with some ways to help our kids be successful and we are accused of lowering the bar or the standards.

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OK-Here is my best shot at explaining the issues surrounding this issue in a succinct way:

Last year the Michigan Legislature passed a law dictating new graduation requirements for all students in the State of Michigan. These new requirements are extensive, but let me point out the most salient points:

All students must complete high school in 4 years. If a student does not finish in 4 years they cannot receive a High School diploma and must get a GED.

All students must take 4 years of Math, 4 years of English, and 4 years of science. Think about this one for a minute 4 years of math means Freshman Algebra, Sophomore Geometry, Junior Algebra II, and Senior Trigonometry.

There is more to the new graduation requirements but these are the two points that have the most to do with our new attendance and grading policy.

In our previous attendance policy a student that misses too much school for any reason...sickness, family issues, etc...their grades would be lowered. Hypothetically, if a student had a C and missed too much school, even legitimately their grade could be lowered. I am sure you can see why we had to change the policy so that the grades cannot be lowered. As long as a student does his/her work and masters the knowledge they get the credit.

In regard to the grading policy, students that fail a class or fall behind have the opportunity to make up their work in order to pass the class. There are some students that have absolutely no hope of passing a class and it is up to a teacher's discretion to flunk them. However, if a student can work harder at the end of a semester or whatever to make up work they missed or key tests they flunked, they have a chance to make up the work. Until they make up the work they receive an H which means their grade is on hold until they accomplish their work.;

Here is an interesting point, there are suburban schools that have employed a variety of outside the box ideas as a response to these new graduation requirements. Jenison school district allows HS students to not even show up at school but do their work at home on a computer. They are being praised for their creative thinking. Grand Rapids Public Schools is trying to come up with some ways to help our kids be successful and we are accused of lowering the bar or the standards.

I have family in the Lansing area and they recently switched to Trimesters to meet the new requirements. Now the kids get about 15 classes per year instead of 10. Has GRPS looked at this?

I think one thing that GRPS suffers from is a communications problem. These ideas come out and GRPS gets slaughtered in the media, and there's no comprehensive explanation as to why they are making these decisions.

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Their grade is on hold until they accomplish their work? Oh brother. This used to be called flunking, and having that kid take the class over again. But feelings are hurt, and that simply cannot happen!

How on Earth did people manage to pass through school with tougher standards all of these years without this hokey nonsense?

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Their grade is on hold until they accomplish their work? Oh brother. This used to be called flunking, and having that kid take the class over again. But feelings are hurt, and that simply cannot happen!

How on Earth did people manage to pass through school with tougher standards all of these years without this hokey nonsense?

But maybe the kid can't take the class over again since the state is requiring 4 years of math within 4 years of high school? I dunno, I don't think there is an easy solution in this case. The state raising the bar sounds good and looks good on paper, but is it realistic for students in the situations that some are in at the GRPS system? I don't feel familiar enough with the situation to try and make that call. At the same time, I can feel for teachers that are put in an uncertain situation.

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I have family in the Lansing area and they recently switched to Trimesters to meet the new requirements. Now the kids get about 15 classes per year instead of 10. Has GRPS looked at this?

I think one thing that GRPS suffers from is a communications problem. These ideas come out and GRPS gets slaughtered in the media, and there's no comprehensive explanation as to why they are making these decisions.

We switched to trimesters along with Lansing and it has helped a lot. Really it does not matter what we do at GRPS, the media will always slant things. Add to that the Teacher's Union and their current stance in negotiations demanding a raise and to not pay a dime for their Cadillac health insurance and their blasting the administration at every turn and you have a formula for a media relations disaster.

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We switched to trimesters along with Lansing and it has helped a lot. Really it does not matter what we do at GRPS, the media will always slant things. Add to that the Teacher's Union and their current stance in negotiations demanding a raise and to not pay a dime for their Cadillac health insurance and their blasting the administration at every turn and you have a formula for a media relations disaster.

Where's the reset button? You guys are getting slaughtered. This is what happens when media uses generalists that aren't embedded in the community.

Edited by Rizzo

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Where's the reset button? You guys are getting slaughtered. This is what happens when media uses generalists that aren't embedded in the community.

There is an old adage that fits here... we will never be able to fight barrels of ink. The media will always win. Add to that the advent of the blog and the internet comment post (have you checked out the GR Press articles on line lately and seen some of the comments? Holy Crap!) and this is yet another storm we must ride out.

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But maybe the kid can't take the class over again since the state is requiring 4 years of math within 4 years of high school? I dunno, I don't think there is an easy solution in this case. The state raising the bar sounds good and looks good on paper, but is it realistic for students in the situations that some are in at the GRPS system? I don't feel familiar enough with the situation to try and make that call. At the same time, I can feel for teachers that are put in an uncertain situation.

the whole problem seems to be that 4 year thing. when I was in school kids got 5 years if they struggled. that's what happens in college. shoot, you can get 6 or 7 years if you need it. sometimes you flunk for reasons beyond your control as well. what happens to some kid that lands in the hospital for 3 months for whatever reason. he/she misses an entire term and now will have a very difficult time catching up. If a GED were respected then that would be an option but unless you're 15 years old people will assume that you got that because you're an idiot or have some other functional deficiency that prevented you from graduating high school like all the normal kids. this law really needs to be re-written. I do agree with the math and science requirements as our country is horribly deficient in those areas but people shouldn't be punished for excused abscences and should be given the opportunity to correct their mistakes.

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the whole problem seems to be that 4 year thing. when I was in school kids got 5 years if they struggled. that's what happens in college. shoot, you can get 6 or 7 years if you need it. sometimes you flunk for reasons beyond your control as well. what happens to some kid that lands in the hospital for 3 months for whatever reason. he/she misses an entire term and now will have a very difficult time catching up. If a GED were respected then that would be an option but unless you're 15 years old people will assume that you got that because you're an idiot or have some other functional deficiency that prevented you from graduating high school like all the normal kids. this law really needs to be re-written. I do agree with the math and science requirements as our country is horribly deficient in those areas but people shouldn't be punished for excused abscences and should be given the opportunity to correct their mistakes.

I agree. It seems to me the goal of the educational system is to produce adults who are productive and employable members of society. Some kids will be Rhodes Scholars, some will do manual labor. Some will take 4 years, some will take 5 or 6 (or 3). At this point in time, GRPS should be commended for trying just about anything to reach that goal.

And our country is desperately lacking in math and science skills, but it can't be applied or encouraged to the mass of students. The kids who are getting H's instead of F's probably aren't the best candidates. Teachers should be aggressively identifying those students who already find math and science to be easy, and putting them into advanced courses with other students who enjoy those studies. Programs where it's "cool" to like math and science, away from peers who degrade these talents.

Dave, those MLive forums are a cesspool. Ironically, it seems that much of the worst criticism comes from people who don't have kids in GRPS.

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Did anyone see the interview on Fox (?) with the GRPS Sup ... Bernard Taylor?

How the heck did he end up getting the job? He came across as arrogant and confrontational.

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Can anyone provide information on ownership of the old Big Bob's Pizza restaurant at the corner of Giddings/Hall Street SE? We have been trying through a realtor (unsuccessfully) for many months to reach the owner and discuss possible purchase or lease of the building.  Owners of the adjacent auto repair shop and dry cleaners, hair/nail salon have been very helpful but their leads have not resulted in any progress reaching an owner.  If you know of anyone living in that neighborhood that may have a name or contact information we would be most grateful.  We are nonprofit about to open Grand Rapids' first tuition free music conservatory and hope to bring some beautiful music to that neighborhood. Thank you!  

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