Vidual Feast Presented at Meridian Mall

By Bingqing Mao
The Meridian Times

Audiences enjoyed a visual feast at the Greater Lansing Chinese New Year Celebration Gala Feb. 21 at Meridian Mall.

The Lion and dragon parade throughout Meridian Mall began at 1:30 p.m. and attracted most people’s attention. Many passersby followed the lion and dragon off the stage, watching the performance by people from different religions, ages and countries.

Lion dance,a traditional Chinese ritual performed to bring good luck, especially at Chinese New Year

Lion dance,a traditional Chinese ritual performed to bring good luck, especially at Chinese New Year

Lisa Johnson and Jack Johnson are a couple who adopted a girl from China. This is the second time they came to the show, for they wanted to know more about Chinese culture. Jack Johnson said that he liked the lion and dragon dance best because it was vivid.
Lisa Johnson said,“It is really amazing! The culture is so beautiful, even drinking tea is so elegant. I love Chinese culture so much.”

Joseph Dever, a father who came to the show with his daughter, said, “My daughter loves watching fashion show. The dress is traditional and elegant and we would not see these in magazines. ”

Totaq Chaiq whose ancestral home is Taiwan said that even though most programs are fantastic, especially the group song “Happy New Year” and the fashion show, there was still something needing to improve.

“Qipao (a Chinese-style woman’s dress with a high neck and slit skirt) is beautiful, but it is Manchu, Huqin (a musical instrument) is also not Han but Hu (the northern barbarian tribes in ancient China). They are not really Chinese traditional cultures,” he said. “The selection of music is also not perfect. ‘My Hometown is the Other Side of the Mountain’ and ‘The Spring River Flows East’ are very representative Chinese songs, maybe in the future singers can sing them.”

Qing Fan

Qing Fan

Qing Fan, the solo soprano, sang three songs: “Mother”, “Sear Lover Washing Clothes in the river” and “Nessun Drma”.

“I choose ‘Mother’ to express the thoughts of mother. We are all far away from our homeland and missing families a lot,” Fan said. “My friends made a video called ‘Go Home Often’, then sent it to families on New Year’s Eve. Their families are all touched.”

In addition to the Chinese-style programs, the gala also had some modern programs, such as hip-hop dance, band music and opera.

The band “Burning Engine” drove young people crazy. Audiences sang with them, screaming and clapping. Three high school students from Lansing High thought it was pretty cool and said they became fans of the band.

Chinese New Year, also known as the spring fetival. The Greater Lansing Chinese Association held this big gala to celebrate the Chinese New Year is becuase the Spring Festival is the year’s most important festival for Chinese people. In China, families get together to celebrate their harvest and make a good wish for the next year. Even though now these Chinese people are in United States, they still come together and celebrate the festival with other cultures.

Lisa Johnson said that from her perspective, the Chinese New Year was more like a cultural feast. Joseph Dever also agreed and said Chinese New Year was more positive and happier.

This is the third year that Greater Lansing Chinese Association hold Chinese New Year Celebration Gala at the Meridian Mall. Julie Brixie, the treasurer of Meridian Township, said that after Michigan State University decided to increase the number of international students, the township wanted to soptlight Chinese people and to draw more people come to Meridian Township.

There is no doubt that the cultural difference between Chinese people and American people is huge. But just because of the cultural difference, people with various backgrounds come together and enjoy each other.

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Okemos school board honors Superintendent Ash

By Jason Ruff
The Meridian Times

The Superintendent of Schools in Okemos has been given a 3-year contract extension.

Dr. Catherine Ash

The Okemos Board of Education gave Dr. Catherine Ash, superintendent, with a contract extension during its latest meeting on Feb. 23. The extension keeps Ash employed as superintendent through June 30, 2018.

According to the review, Ash, who holds a doctorate in education administration from Michigan State University, had received a mean score of “commendable” or “distinguished” in all 54 categories evaluated.

According to the report, Ash’s leadership qualities have been a key factor in her performance. “You (Ash) keep appraised of developments relating to educational policy, and encourage staff members to achieve professional excellence through external continuing education opportunities and participation in the Professional Learning Communities,” said the report.

“These achievements,” the report continued, “ demonstrate your strong professional and leadership qualities, and the Board is pleased with your commitment to the improvement of all aspects of the district.”

Robert Clark, director of finance for the district, added that Ash’s leadership skills make her a remarkable administrator.

“I’ve worked for a lot of leaders, some good, some bad, some really good. Catherine Ash is the finest leader I’ve ever been around,” Clark said. “She is the most competent professional I’ve ever worked for.”

Okemos Board of Education President Melanie Lynn also lauded Ash’s leadership qualities.

“She is wonderful at commanding the respect of her team. She has a wonderful leadership team and I think she does a good job of utilizing the significant skills of all of her team,” Lynn said. “She also has a very wonderful appreciation of the Okemos School District.”

One of Ash’s most notable achievements, according to Lynn, has been ensuring that the Okemos student body has continued to grow and thrive despite economic challenges.

“Our student body has continued to thrive educationally, socially and I think that is a testament to her leadership and the position of the board,” said Lynn.

Ash, who has been superintendent since 2010, had three primary goals as her focus for the 2014-15 academic year.

“My goals this year were to create a culturally competent and responsive school environment, also to create and implement a plan of renovation for some of our existing facilities,” Ash said. Ash also emphasized the need to increase the educational proficiency of identified subgroups, children at a disadvantage due to economic status or learning disabilities.

According to the report, Ash made “commendable progress” toward all three goals.

Ash insists that her successes are due largely to her leadership team.

“I was very pleased with way that (the evaluation) turned out … but I would also comment that my success is only because of the great people I have surrounding me,” she said.

When asked what the future holds for the district, Ash expressed both concern and optimism.

“I think right now the biggest challenge facing the board is financial. You know, I think we will continue to progress towards academic excellence and success for all of our students,” Ash said. “We’re never happy with where we are, so we’re constantly striving to be better and looking for ways to enhance our excellence.”

Despite the challenges ahead for the school district, Lynn believes that the future is bright under Ash.

“I think that we will continue to be the wonderful district that we are because Dr. Ash is a wonderful superintendent,” Lynn said. “This district is an exemplary district because Dr. Ash is an exemplary leader.”

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Board Sets Timetable for Finding New Legal Counsel

By Lauren N. Shields
The Meridian Times

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Meridian Township Manager Frank Walsh discusses the meeting’s events with a local resident.

The Meridian Township Board has decided on the process in the selection of its new legal representation. In a special meeting on Feb. 24, the board passed the motion for a committee of three board members, along with Meridian Township Manager Frank Walsh, to develop the criteria for the search. Once proposals came back, the committee will narrow the field to three candidates that will be interviewed by the full board.

“I move to set up a committee comprised of the manager, who we also need on that committee, Supervisor (Elizabeth) LeGoff, Trustee (Ronald) Styka and Clerk (Brett) Dreyfus to evaluate the (request for proposal) for legal services and to carry out the search process and bring to the board three finalists to interview,” said Treasurer Julie Brixie.

In the Feb. 17 meeting, Trustee John Veenstra mentioned the possibility of hiring an in-house attorney. The board has since decided that it will hire an outside firm that is more generalized, giving preference to those that are local.

Since 2001, Hubbard Law Firm represented the board as a general counsel. Because Hubbard Law Firm closed on Feb. 13, the board is without legal representation during this selection process. Not having legal counsel concerned Trustee Angela Wilson.

“We don’t know what is going to happen tomorrow, or next week, that maybe the treasurer’s office needs to deal with, or our planning department or our assessor or our clerk’s office or any one of our parks – anybody,” said Wilson. “Something could come up that (a department is) going to need legal counsel for and right now we don’t have it.”

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Plans for Central Fire Station continue despite neighborhood controversy

By Samantha VanHoef
The Meridian Times

After years of lawsuits and court rulings, plans for the Central Fire Station construction are moving forward. The Meridian Township project has been on hold since 2012 after residents of the neighboring condominium complex sued the township in hopes of receiving a court order to stop progress on the site.

“Now we’re waiting for the Michigan Supreme Court,” Meridian Township Treasurer Julie Brixie said. “The (condominium residents) have appealed the decision, but we have won all the way up and we’re waiting for the Supreme Court to reject it.”

Although there has not been an answer from the Michigan Supreme Court, the project is allowed to move forward because the court order to stop any progress was not granted to the residents of Autumn Park condominiums.

“When I arrived here to be the fire chief in 1998, some of the first things I looked at were equipment, the chain of command and the fire station replacement as one of the top priorities,” Fire Chief Fred Cowper said. “So we now have put a lot of work and effort in making that happen.”

The new Central Fire Station will be at the corner of Okemos Road and Central Park Drive, and includes space for the fire department’s administrative offices, new living areas for firefighters and will be up to “green” standards.

“When I started in the fire service back in 1972 in Detroit, there were 1,600 firefighters and there were zero females,” Cowper said. “So with the station we aborted, which was built in 1957, there weren’t any female firefighters. There was one shower, one bathroom and one living area, which was a struggle. Now we’ll be building a new fire station with separate showers for men and women, bathrooms and living areas and those kind of things. Those are just a few things that will help move us into the twenty-first century.”

Plans for the new station include a main entrance off Okemos Road. According to Autumn Park real estate agent Erica McAvoy, this driveway could reduce the impact the station would have on condominium residents who use Central Park as their main drive.

“If you buy a condo on a mall service drive, you’re going to expect traffic,” McAvoy said. “If you bought 10 acres out in the country, you’re expecting some serenity to come with that, but not a brownstone next to the mall. I have a feeling the majority of the people like where they live, but they just didn’t think about vacant land is not always forever going to be vacant land.”

The previous fire station on Clinton Road has been vacated and, according to Brixie, is “functionally obsolete.”

“The roof started leaking and the mold got really awful and we had to close it down,” Brixie said. “The reason that it became such a mess was that we planned to replace it for about 15 years but we couldn’t scrape the money together. Finally we said ‘We can’t go any farther. We have to ask the voters if they would be willing to pay for this and what direction do they want us to take with our future ambulance and fire service.’ The voters overwhelming supported it.”

Currently, the previous Central Fire Station crew is working out of the township Service Center which also houses the Parks and Recreation Department.

“I think firefighters have the ability to adapt to whatever situation you put them in, but knowing that it’s just a temporary situation I think it’s working very well,” Cowper said. “The center they’re at now is not optimal at all, but it will work temporarily.”

Ground for construction of the new fire station will be broken in late March with plans for completion by December 2015.

“We are so excited about this,” Cowper said. “We’ve put so much time and effort into planning this. A lot of great things are happening in the township and we feel we’ll be prepared to respond to all of the needs— they’re going to continue to be increasing. We understand that and we are going to be prepared.”

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Faculty and students track technology updates at Okemos Schools

By Stephanie Hernandez McGavin
The Meridian Times

The faculty member from Okemos High School and Chippewa Middle School discussed the progress of the newly implemented personal learning devices at the Okemos School Board meeting on Monday, Feb. 23.

Chippewa Middle School Principal Jody Noble displays a student’s personal learning device, which pulls apart to become a tablet and comes with a stylus and carrying case.

Chippewa Middle School Principal Jody Noble displays a student’s personal learning device, which pulls apart to become a tablet and comes with a stylus and carrying case.

The 2013 Technology/Security/Transportation Bond funded the technology updates that allowed equal access to computers for all students in the two schools. The laptops were distributed to students at the beginning of the 2014-15 spring semester.

Okemos High School technology education teacher Dean Buggia said the laptops created an opportunity to use interactive, online content with the confidence that all students would have access to it.

He had previously used learning and course management systems for online materials like daily class content, quizzes and tests. But Buggia said he was limited in distributing online material outside the classroom.

Buggia said, “I was not sure which students had a computer to use at home, It would limit what I expected students to do away from class time.”

Now, Buggia said he could upload and distribute all kinds of classroom content for every student.
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ITC awards Meridian $5,000 tree grant

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ITC Customer Relations and Community Education Manager Luba Sitar (left) and General Manager Cynthia Stump grant Meridian Township $5,000 for replanting trees.

By Lauren N. Shields
The Meridian Times

ITC General Manager Cynthia Stump announced that this would be the second consecutive year that the ITC has donated $5,000 toward tree replanting in Meridian Township. At the Feb. 17 Meridian Township Board meeting, ITC Customer Relations and Community Education Manager Luba Sitar discussed this donation and the ITC’s vegetation management program.

“With extreme weather events hitting Michigan, we are finding that the ‘right tree, right place’ philosophy is becoming more critical,” said Sitar. “We are very pleased to partner with the township in this effort in replanting for a better urban canopy.”

The ITC is an independent electric company with many high-tension lines, one of which goes through Meridian Township and cuts through Wellington Estates north of Grand River Avenue, just west of Van Atta Road. According to Trustee John Veenstra, the ITC’s proposal was to cut down all the trees under its high-tension lines and leave the stumps, which angered many Meridian Township residents.

“The township was about to pass an ordinance – we actually got a draft of it – that said when the ITC cuts a tree and leaves the stump, it has to remove the stump down to about three inches below the grade level of the soil,” said Veenstra. “The ITC didn’t like that proposed ordinance and so it objected strongly and we dropped it and so on, but somehow that prompted them to start giving us $5,000 grants to start planting trees.”

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Award-winning photographer finishes last class of the winter

By Stephanie Hernandez McGavin
The Meridian Times

On Wednesday, Feb. 18, award-winning photographer and author Ron St. Germain concluded the last of his winter season classes at the Harris Nature Center in Okemos.

Ron looks at student Jessi Adler’s photography with her.

Ron looks at student Jessi Adler’s photography with her.

St. Germain, who has been photographing since high school, holds the class twice annually, once in the spring and once in the winter.

The class covered skills like lighting, focal points, angles and matting.

For class, he pulled out his early collection of photos and asked students to point out the flaws in his work. St. Germain said during the class that he wanted to prove that improvement is inevitable with practice and a keen eye.

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