Street Talk

Street Talk: GRPS bandwagon is going to pass you

Term limits.

August 15, 2014
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Despite the negative comments you’ve heard in the recent past, it’s turning the corner and you’d better hop on before it’s too late.

Grand Rapids Public Schools Superintendent Teresa Weatherall Neal is touting the district’s gains on the state’s annual Top-to-Bottom List — and with good reason. Four of the district’s schools are ranked in the state’s top 1 percent.

Neal said the state’s school rankings are a “further example of the district’s transformation plan taking root and improving academic outcomes for students.”

The state’s list, released last week by the Michigan Department of Education, shows 23 of 37 GRPS schools either maintaining or improving their ranking, and four working their way off the bottom 5 percent and shedding the “Priority School” tag.

The most notable highlight, one that Neal has personally been working on for more than a year, is Ottawa Hills High School, which worked its way off the Priority list. Additionally, Union High School remained off the Priority list for the second year in a row and slightly improved its ranking.

“I truly believe that the gains we are making — whether it’s the Top to Bottom List or the recent graduation rate and ACT score increases — are because we have high expectations, a clear strategic direction, and top talented leaders and educators who are implementing our transformation plan with a drive and commitment like never before,” she said.

The four GRPS schools ranked in the top 1 percent in the state are: City Middle-High, Blandford, Zoo and Center for Economicology (Peter Wege would be proud!). In addition to Ottawa Hills, the other schools moving off the Priority Schools list were Campus Elementary, Aberdeen K8 and Kent Hills Elementary.

Women warriors

The next crop of professional young women is ready to take center stage.

Grand Rapids Area Chamber of Commerce last week unveiled the 10 finalists for this year’s Athena Young Professional Award, which recognizes an emerging leader for contributions to community, professional excellence and commitment to serve as a personal and professional role model to young women.

“The Young Athena Professional finalists all exemplify some great qualities as emerging leaders. They are setting the course for some amazing things to happen within our community,” said Roberta Sniatecki, vice president branch manager at PNC Financial and chair of the Athena committee.

This year’s finalists are: Layna Buthker, Baker Holtz; Janean Couch, Grand Valley State University; Kim Dabbs, West Michigan Center for Arts & Technology; Heidi Hendricks, Huntington Bank; Emily Machiela, Van Andel Institute; Joanne Roehm, Gilda's Club; Megan Sall, The Right Place Inc.; Jenn Schaub, Dwelling Place of Grand Rapids Inc.; Melissa Seguin, Baker Holtz; and Lizzie Williams, Open Systems Technologies.

The winner will be named as part of the chamber’s 25th anniversary Athena Award celebration set for Thursday, Sept. 18, at the Amway Grand Plaza Hotel. The top 10 finalists will be honored along with the 2014 Athena Award recipient, Diana Sieger, president of Grand Rapids Community Foundation, during the luncheon that begins at 11:30 a.m.

Captive audience

More than 4,000 incoming Grand Valley State University freshmen will kick off their first college semester at the Grand Rapids Meijer store on Wilson Avenue NW Aug. 19 for the retailer’s annual back-to-college party: Meijer Mania.

The late-night festivities begin at 8 p.m. and feature a live DJ, photo booth, games and contests, giveaways and more during an event Meijer has deemed “a freshman year tradition.”

Nearly 40,000 students will participate in Meijer Mania across the Midwest this fall. The Grand Rapids-based retailer touts the event as an opportunity for students to socialize with their new peers.

Of course, Meijer just happens to offer all the “dorm and classroom essentials” to set them up for freshman year.

Talk about your captive audience!

Staying power

Last month, Michael Bublé got the national conversation going on Clark Retirement Community when he invited more than 100 of his Lip Dub friends to see him in concert at Van Andel Arena.

This month, a Clark resident is making national headlines.

In June, Clark shared the story of Millie Goodman, aka “the pool shark,” who was living proof that you’re never too old to learn something new. Goodman took up pool at age 99, learning to play the game during weekly matches at Clark. She loves the game and was not afraid to challenge morning host Lauren Stanton from WZZM-13 — in a televised match, no less.

But it was not the first time Goodman had reinvented herself or taken on a new challenge. She went back to school at age 49 to become a nurse, a profession she then practiced for 10 years. She did this despite the university's suggesting that "50 is really too old to go back to school."

Turns out that Goodman is an inspiration to a lot of people. Her exploits got her nominated to the Huff/Post 50 and “The Today Show’s” 50 Over 50 lists, and she earned the honors on both.

The idea with 50 Over 50 is to highlight 50 individuals who have made radical changes to their lives for the better after turning 50. The initiative serves as an inspiring reminder that it is never too late to change your life, pursue your passion or prioritize personal happiness and well-being over traditional definitions of success, as Goodman would surely tell anyone who asks.

Sunset provision

When Grand Rapids voters head back to the polls this fall, they will be asked to decide on setting term limits for Grand Rapids city commissioners and mayor, following the city commission’s approval of ballot language last week.

The ballot will read: “A Charter amendment is proposed to impose term limits on the offices of Mayor and City Commissioners. If this amendment is adopted, no person shall be eligible for election as City Commissioner if they have served as City Commissioner for two terms, and no person shall be eligible for election as Mayor if they have served as Mayor for two terms. A person is eligible to serve as City Commissioner for two terms and an additional two terms as mayor. Shall this amendment be adopted as proposed?”

Those who are spearheading the movement are pleased with the results.

“The city attorney, Catherine Mish, did an excellent job with the language,” said Rina Baker of the Grand Rapids Municipal Term Limits Committee. “Voters this fall will have a clear choice.”

“Our city clerk, Darlene O’Neal, and her staff validated the signatures very quickly. Their quick response has helped avoid any complications in the process and we would like everyone to know how pleased we are with their work,” said Bonnie Burke, also a member of the term limits committee.

With the formalities out of the way, the committee vows to vigorously campaign to pass the provision.

“We are confident voters will approve term limits. With straightforward ballot language, we can focus our campaign on the merits of term limits without worrying that citizens will be confused by the wording,” Baker said.

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