Monthly Archives: November 2011

Music Program May Need More Funding in Lansing Public Schools

The Lansing Board of Education is considering an increase in funding for beginning music programs at Otto Middle School, which serves Old Town, and other elementary and middle schools.

There currently are no band, string or orchestra programs at the elementary level in Lansing Public Schools, explained Deputy Superintendent James Davis.  Every elementary building has put in a request to re-instate the programs, he said.

“We had orchestra and band in elementary until this year,” said Davis.  “It was cut as part of our budget cuts at the end of the semester.”

Davis explained that in the current system, there is a general music teacher for each elementary school.  This teacher has a 45 minutes class in each grade level that meets twice a week.  The band, string and orchestra programs are pull-out programs (program that ‘pulls-out’ students from their regularly-scheduled academic class) that operate independently from this general music course.

Lansing School Board met Oct. 20

Davis stressed that some middle school bands were still in great shape, namely Pattengill Middle School which has received high rankings in solo and ensemble festivals for the last few years.

“We used to have an amazing music program, and Pattengill and Everett still have amazing music programs,” said Myra Ford, secretary of the Lansing Board of Education.  “When I look at Pattengill, which is our smallest middle school,  and I see what they are offering, and then I look at Gardner and I look at Otto, I’m really disheartened at the fact that we have what we have there.”

Otto Middle School serves much of the North Lansing Area, including the Old Town Community.

Board Member Nicole Armbruster also raised the issue that there are intermediate and advanced band programs at the middle school level while there are no beginning opportunities, which alienates the students who were unable to learn music in elementary school.

Band and orchestra are not the only music classes the district lacks according to board member Dr. Nino Rodriguez who urged the school board to add more choir opportunities at the secondary level.

Operating Expenditures in Lansing Schools (2010)

“I don’t think it’s going to be this huge amount of dollars necessary to build a foundation, but it’s the maintenance of [the program] that without the foundation [the program] falls apart,” Davis said.

The board did not have specific statistics for the number of music students enrolled in band last semester and Dr. Rodriguez said that they would need that information before any final decisions are to be made.

 

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Lansing Board of Education Regular Meeting

The main topic of disscussion was a lack of music education in Lansing’s middle and elementary schools, including Otto Middle School which serves Old Town, when the Lansing Board of Education met Thursday, Oct. 20.

The Lansing School District’s music program has been on the decline, explained James Davis, the district’s deputy superintendent.  Davis and other board members cited lack of fifth grade and elementary music programs as well as mediocre middle school music classes as the root of the problem that stems into smaller high school bands and orchestras.

“We need to revisit the issue of band and strings at the elementary level,” said Myra
Ford, secretary of the Lansing Board of Education.

Because of past cuts, Lansing Public Schools currently do not have any band, strings or orchestra programs at the elementary level, only generic music classes that are
primarily vocal music oriented, explained the Deputy Superintendent James
Davis.

Board Member Nicole Armbruster also raised the issue that there are intermediate and
advanced band programs at the middle school level while there are no beginning
opportunities, which leaves no room for the students who were unable to learn
music in elementary school.

“I had the opportunity to get a little more information about our secondary music
program recently and I am very disturbed about where it seems to be headed,” Ford
said.   “We used to have an amazing music program. Pattengill and Everett still have amazing music programs.  When I look at Pattengill, which is our smallest middle school and I see what they are offering, then I look at Gardner and I look at Otto, I’m really disheartened at the fact that we have what we have there.”

Schools like Sexton High School have suffered from the lack of lower level music, since there are few students coming from elementary and middle schools who are involved in band, explained Davis.

“There are only 12 or 14 students in the band,” said Davis, referring to Sexton High School.  “The parents are so desperate for that program to grow again.

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Habitat for Humanity Lansing Joins with The Old Town Commercial Association

Habitat for Humanity Lansing has joined with the Old Town
Commercial Association
to continue its mission of bringing affordable
housing to low-income families.

“We just recently joined the Old Town Commercial Association so that we get more involved there and create some relationships with the businesses,” said Dena Vatalaro the development director for Habitat for Humanity Lansing.  “Now that our fall fundraiser is over, we will be reaching out to them.”

Habitat Lansing has also worked with the Ingham
County Land Bank
to build homes, including a project west of Old Town on 1719 Robertson Ave.  While this location is not in Old Town, the Land Bank has expressed the need for more residential housing in and around Old Town.

“Old Town, I think, suffers from a pretty significant lack of residential dwellings,” said Eric Schertzing, Ingham County treasurer and chairman of Ingham County Land Bank.

Habitat Lansing completed one project in the Old Town area in 2010 and three in 2009, according to the Habitat for Humanity website.  A house at 1433 Massachusetts Ave. was renovated last year, while 1633 Massachusetts Ave. was remodeled in 2009. 
1719 Vermont Ave. and 1540 Ballard St. were both constructed by Habitat Lansing in 2009 in partnership with local churches.

OTCA does not see the need for creating more residential
housing, but instead making existing homes more livable.

“Based on vacancy rate in the surrounding neighborhoods there doesn’t seem to be a need,” said Brittney Hoszkiw, executive director of the OTCA, when asked about increasing the number of homes.  “However, programs like the
Landbank have identified the Old Town area as a concentration area for taking
vacant or blighted properties and making the appropriate improvements to get
them back on the tax roll.”

“They [Habitat Lansing] will receive member service and assistance from our office in business development, marketing and promotion,” said Hoszkiw, about the terms of the partnership.

 

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Michigan Welfare Limit Raises Questions

By Katie Harrington
Old Town Times staff writer

The new four-year limit on families receiving welfare in Michigan has raised questions about increased crime and homelessness in Old Town.

Sheila Maxwell, an Associate Professor at Michigan State University’s School of Criminal Justice, said that since the assumption is that the people who are being taken off welfare really need assistance, there would be a lot of people in trouble.  “[The senate] didn’t want people to abuse welfare, but if these people indeed really did need assistance, they would be out on the street,” Maxwell said.

“Whenever you see people removed from welfare rolls, you can expect to see an increase in crime and disorder,” said Bonnie Bucqueroux, former associate director of the National Center for Community Policing at Michigan State University’s School of Criminal Justice.  “For a community like Old Town, my concern would be an increase in shoplifting, panhandling, prostitution and street corner drug sales.”

Lansing Police Lt. Noel Garcia said he would not speculate about possible outcomes and that the police department currently doesn’t have any strategies to deal with the issues if they do come up.

“I would think police would want to get ahead of the issue rather than play catch up,” said Bucqueroux.

Judy Putnam, the communications director for the Michigan League for Human Services, said there is no concern for increased homelessness and crime in the Lansing area.  “I don’t think we should assume that because people are low income they are criminals,” Putnam said.  “And we have to remember that Ingham County is not going to be affected as much as other counties because there are only 70 cases of people losing their assistance here.”

In fact, Ingham County is ranked number 12 on the list of most families being affected by the measure.  Wayne County is number one with 6,560 families affected.

“Particularly in Detroit and Flint, we will see a rise in homelessness because there’s a huge concentration in people losing their cash assistance,” said Putnam.

Colleen Rosso, a spokeswoman for the Michigan Department of Human Services, agrees that there is not much to be concerned about.

“We have been reaching out to these families since the beginning of August,” Rosso said.  “We sent them three letters, instituted a job navigator program to help folks find employment, worked with our state emergency relief fund to assure these families have three months rental assistance should they need it and connected them with a social worker who helped them chart their paths,” Rosso said.  “As far as I know, that’s unprecedented in the U.S.”

Rosso also said that the families are still eligible for food assistance, child care, Medicaid and a plethora of other programs.  However, it is up to the individuals to take advantage of the programs.

“We have to make sure the families don’t reach any point of desperation,” said Rosso.  “But if they reach out to the Department of Human Services, it will help them with the resources that they need.”

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