High Profiles

June 5, 2002
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Everybody knows their names; they are high profile West Michigan business leaders asked to serve on the boards of prestigious Michigan (and national) institutions, well recognized for their entrepreneurial acumen with all manner of awards and visible for their philanthropy.

And they, too, have fallen victim to racial profiling as they drive regional roadways and highways. Imagine the indignation of being stopped by a police officer for driving two or three miles over the speed limit and then asked a dozen questions about where you work, what time you need to be at work and why you are on the highway as another officer searches your car. And only after being allowed to reach in your pocket for a business card to prove you own the company or are the professor you say you are is there reprieve from the battering.

Imagine riding your cycling club bike through your neighborhood for the cardiovascular workout the doc says you need, and being stopped by police and asked why you are in the neighborhood, where you really live, “where did you get the bike,” and then being told you were stopped because you did not wear a helmet on the neighborhood tour, or that it’s too early in the morning to be doing so.

It’s worse when your children are stopped.

High profiles are one thing, but when it comes to area police agencies, these black community leaders are the subject of racial profiling and it has occurred more often than we think, to all our embarrassment.

And, unfortunately, the cases cross jurisdictional lines.

The Grand Rapids Area Chamber of Commerce’s ongoing fight against discrimination and promotion of diversity in the workplace would be a welcome ally on the public service side.

When respected business — and community — leaders such as JimHackett, FredKeller, BrianHarris, JimMeyer, etc. get involved, their higher profiles can be put to good use and help institute change that is both necessary and welcome.

  • If the opening reception was any indication, Mexico is a big hit for West Michigan businesses. The opening night crowd for World Trade Week, attending the reception by invitation only, was forced to use the north overflow lot at the Gerald R. Ford Museum, dodging rain as well as protestors.

World Trade Week Chairman RichCook, president and CEO of X-Rite, noted the increasing diversity of the West Michigan region, and commented, “We’re even big enough to have our own crowd of NAFTA protestors.”

Grand Valley State University marketing professor BenRudolph on Monday night was eagerly anticipating his role as emcee of the WorldQuest Game, suggesting the team from Amway (the Androids) had made it too easy with its name selection. Rudolph is certainly the West Michigan persona we’d pick as most likely successor to AnneRobinson of The Weakest Link. He may not look all that great in leather, but we bet Rudolph has some steel on his persona somewhere.

  • Logie a-go-go: GRMAYOR walked and waved to the crowd, pausing to shake hands while apologizing, “Good to see you, I’ve gotta go.”
  • Standard & Poor’s, the bond-rating expert and financial evaluator, is turning its attention to a new direction — education.

On Friday, May 25, the firm is rolling out its School Evaluation Services, which is a comprehensive analysis of student results, school resources, and other important information for every public school district in the state of Michigan. The Web site, which can be accessed through www.standardandpoors.com, goes live Friday.

Michigan is the first state in the nation to participate in the program. The information was complied over several years and offers assessments of student results, spending, return on resources, learning environment (e.g., class and school sizes, staffing levels, technology safety), financial environment (e.g., revenue sources, reserve levels, tax and debt burdens) and demographic environment (e.g., socioeconomic characteristics).

One thing the site will not do, however, is rank the state’s public school districts.

Rather, it will provide concise, written reports describing the strengths, challenges and risks for each school district.

The analysis will compare each school district to clusters of similar districts and to the state as a whole. Users will have to spot their own trends, highlight successful practices and detect problems that may need further attention.

“SES is a decision-making tool that will unleash the power of the data which are already collected, but underutilized,” said WilliamCox, managing director of Standard & Poor’s School Evaluation Services. “We are providing a powerful Web-based solution to a chronic problem — uneven and inconsistent information.”

S&P organized more than 1,500 pieces of information currently gathered by the state to complete an analysis of every public school district in the state. It also convened an advisory panel of local leaders in the education and business communities, including representatives from the Michigan Education Association, the Michigan Association of School Administrators, Michigan Association of School Boards, Michigan School Business Officials and Michigan Business Leaders for Education Excellence.

Former North Carolina governor and education advocate James B. Hunt Jr. chairs S&P’s national advisory board, and he said the endeavor is a noble one.

“Schools need measurement tools that are constructive and that offer appropriate context. I have always believed in the importance of evaluating school performance because you can’t fix what you don’t measure,” he said.

Spoken like a true businessman.

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