David Cassleman

Morning Edition Host, Reporter

David Cassleman is a reporter and Morning Edition host for IPR News Radio. He got his start in public radio at WDET in Detroit, and joined Interlochen Public Radio in June 2014. He’s a graduate of the University of Michigan.

David Cassleman

Kids struggle to learn to read in Michigan. Nearly 70 percent of students reach fourth grade without being proficient in reading, according to national standards.

Governor Rick Snyder has said that fixing this problem will be an "overwhelming task." But state Republicans have a solution in mind that includes holding back more third graders.

Teachers call that retention.

Kyle Novy will embark on a 52-song music project in 2016.
Kyle Novy

Kyle Novy is a singer-songwriter who teaches at Interlochen Arts Academy, and he’s embarked on an ambitious music project called Mount Valor.

Kyle sees himself as offering some alternatives to the often times, shallow pop music of today. His goal is to write songs that have a rich depth of meaning and that peer above the fray. Stylistically, he’ll be all across the board— from piano ballads, to folk music, to what he calls journeying songs, with sweeping string sections and tom-tom drums. 

During a recent crowdfunding campaign, Kyle raised over $22,000 dollars from fans, and people who believe in his vision as an artist.

Kyle says often times today, artists are simply viewed as entertainers. And while he says he doesn’t have a problem with people who are focused on entertaining others, that’s not his ultimate goal.


School districts in northern Michigan face declining enrollment and tough financial decisions.

"When you lose ten percent of your population in a ten year time frame, something has to give," says Paul Soma, superintendent of Traverse City Area Public Schools.

Enrollment in the Traverse Bay Area Intermediate School District has declined about ten percent in ten years.

TCAPS is on the brink of closing up to three elementary schools: Interlochen Community School, International School at Bertha Vos, and Old Mission Peninsula School.

When Joseph Morrissey took the position of Director of Dance at Interlochen Arts Academy earlier this year, one of the shows he was most excited about producing was The Nutcracker.

“One of the first things I asked about is, ‘Do you have a Nutcracker?’ And they said, ‘Not only do we have a Nutcracker, but we’re building a brand new set.’”

Morrissey has high ambitions for this classic, and wants to make sure it appeals to a variety of audiences. He says there are a lot of different elements—  romance, comedy, and some suspense. 

“Especially with the mice,” says Morrissey. “They are supposed to be scary— they are the conflict of the story. But we also have to keep in mind this is a holiday production. So, there is a lot of comedy as well,” he says. 

 


Traverse Bay Area Intermediate School District

The Traverse Bay Area Intermediate School District plans to give out fewer dollars this year to local schools, like Traverse City Area Public Schools, for special education.

This funding is extra money for schools, drawn from the Intermediate School District's fund balance – and doesn't affect the many services provided to school districts by the ISD.

But Paul Soma, superintendent of Traverse City Area Public Schools, says the ISD is not giving enough money to local schools.

He says the ISD is sitting on tens of million of dollars, which should be spent on special education classrooms.

"Our fundamental issue is that those dollars are not serving the needs of the children of our region while they're sitting in a bank account of the ISD," says Soma.

David Cassleman


Throughout this series, we’ve heard from a number of listeners concerned about the cost of housing in northwest lower Michigan.

 

Almost nothing is happening that would improve the situation for people struggling to find an affordable place to live.

 

Builders and developers are building new homes in the region. But they’re more expensive homes, and they’re being built in or near Traverse City, where land is the most costly.

But a developer named Bryce Gibbs has a new house on the market for $89,000, and his future plans include building historic replica homes that are affordable.

Paul Maritinez/Flickr

Last week Governor Rick Snyder signed off on a long-awaited roads funding deal. The laws will raise more than $1 billion a year by 2021. The money will go towards repairing the roads and bridges in Michigan that have been neglected for years.

"This is the largest investment in transportation in Michigan in the last 50 years," Snyder said this month.

But many in the state are not happy with the final product, which includes a gas tax hike and higher car registration fees.

Michigan Public Radio's Rick Pluta explains the mechanics of the deal:


Rusty Blazenhoff/Flickr

Marijuana activists say a Michigan State Police policy is leading to unfair felony drug charges in the state. The policy involves the distinction between natural and synthetic THC. That's the active chemical ingredient in marijuana.

The source of THC determines whether someone will be charged with a misdemeanor or a felony, if they are caught with an extract of marijuana. A State Police crime laboratory is accused of classifying extracts of marijuana as "synthetic," even when the source is unknown.

Michigan Public Radio's Jake Neher explains the case of a medical marijuana cardholder from Spring Lake, who was charged with a felony – and had his young son placed in a foster home. The man says he should have been charged with a misdemeanor.


David Cassleman

The number of kids enrolled in public schools is dropping across northern Michigan.

That’s putting pressure on school districts to downsize because state funding is based directly on the number of kids enrolled.

Traverse City Area Public Schools could soon close up to three elementary schools to save money, including Interlochen Community School.


Linda Stephan

More eight and nine-year-olds would be held back in school as a result of legislation meant to boost the reading skills of kids before they reach fourth grade. House Bill 4822 passed the state House earlier this month, and largely split the chamber along party lines.

Democrats and other opponents argued that holding back more third-graders would create lasting social problems for kids.

But Republicans supported the bill, like co-sponsor Rep. Lee Chatfield. He is a former high school teacher who represents Emmet, Mackinac and Chippewa counties.

"The fundamental principle of this bill ultimately is that reading is a building block to learning," Chatfield says. "Studies show that children who are not proficient in reading by the fourth grade end up struggling for the rest of their lives in school."


Linda Stephan

Kids in Michigan are struggling to read, compared to students in other states. Nearly 70 percent of students are not proficient in reading when they begin fourth grade, according to the U.S. Department of Education.

David Cassleman

There aren’t many businesses left in Thompsonville, and one of the few that remains is closing.

Paul’s Party Store is a place to grab a gallon of milk or buy a pack of cigarettes. But you can also find a more hard-to-find item, like balsamic vinegar.

The store is a small, blue pole barn. It used to be a fishing shop — you can still find fishing gear for purchase — and it’s retained the feel of a tackle shop, dark with a concrete floor.

Michigan State Police

Police can make a lot of money off crime and criminals. Law enforcement might seize a drug dealer’s house, cars or cash through a process called civil forfeiture.

But sometimes police take things from people in Michigan without even charging them with a crime.

Bills that have moved through the state Capitol will make it easier for these people to get their assets back from law enforcement. But the legislation stops short of eliminating civil forfeiture entirely, which some groups in Michigan advocate.

Rick Pluta, Capitol bureau chief for the Michigan Public Radio Network, says the origins of civil forfeiture go back to the War on Drugs:


The members of PigPen Theater Co. get asked a certain question a lot: How did they come up with their name? 

They have a number of different stories about its origin, but Curtis Gillen says this one is true:

Seven freshman guys arrived at Carnegie Mellon School of Drama in 2007 and found out about a student-produced arts festival. Despite being short on time, the group decided to put a show together anyway.

The boundaries of legislative districts can sometimes look like jigsaw puzzles in Michigan. That's because politicians draw those lines. It happens in the Michigan legislature every ten years after the census.

Opponents say legislative redistricting leads to gerrymandering, where lines are drawn to favor one political party against another.

"The fox is guarding the henhouse in essence," Judy Karandjeff says, "where the elected officials are choosing their voters instead of voters choosing elected officials."

Karandjeff is president of the League of Women Voters of Michigan, a group which is hosting town halls across the state on redistricting and possible reforms.

She says almost every district in the state is clearly dominated by a political party.


After covering the fall of the Taliban in Afghanistan for NPR, author Sarah Chayes decided to stay in the country and start a non-profit. The many types of corruption Chayes witnessed there firsthand, led her to write the book, Thieves of State: Why Corruption Threatens Global Security. She argues that while everyone around the world agrees corruption is bad, it’s a subject that usually get’s pushed to the back burner.

“We’re under-appreciating the degree to which a lot of the turmoil we’re seeing the world today is actually sparked by indignation at acute public corruption,” says Chayes. 

Michigan's U.S. senators have unveiled legislation they say will protect the Great Lakes from oil spills.

The bill would require a review of all pipelines in the Great Lakes region, plus it would ban transporting crude oil on tanker ships. That's something that doesn't happen at all right now, but Sen. Gary Peters says it could be a threat in the future.

"This has been a possibility that's being discussed," Peters says. "It has not been done up to this point because people frankly believe that it's just unacceptable."

Morgan Springer

Incarcerated poets get together weekly at Writer’s Block, a poetry writing workshop at Macomb Correctional Facility outside Detroit. Eight inmates file into a conference room. Dressed in navy and orange jumpsuits, they greet everyone with affectionate handshakes.

 


Vanderbilt University Press

Some people move to northern Michigan to get a fresh start in life. Brian Hoey, an anthropologist at Marshall University, calls them "lifestyle migrants." He’s studied this phenomenon in northern Michigan for years.

Hoey’s newest book is called Opting for Elsewhere and profiles people in their prime working years who choose to move to places like Traverse City.

“When I say lifestyle migration, I’m emphasizing migration that’s done for non-economic reasons,” Hoey says. “That people are moving for reasons that might be considered more about identity and what they feel is important in order to live a certain lifestyle to reemphasize things like family or community.”


U.S. Rep. Dan Benishek surprised voters in northern Michigan last week when he announced he's retiring at the end of this term. That decision has also piqued interest among possible Republican candidates for the 1st Congressional District.

"We don't know for sure who is definitely going to run just because the filing deadline is a while away and this news was unexpected," says Rick Pluta, the Capitol bureau chief for the Michigan Public Radio Network.

But Pluta does have the names of some Republicans who are interested in making a run for U.S. Congress:

Maryfrances Phillippi in front of her "Circle of Angels" barn quilt.
Daniel Wanschura

Have you ever been driving around and noticed huge, quilt-like squares hanging on the sides of barns?

Those are called barn quilts, and just as fabric quilts tell stories with what's stitched into them, so do these wooden quilts. 


The fall season of the National Writers Series opens in Traverse City tonight with best-selling historian Hampton Sides, who will talk about his newest book, In the Kingdom of Ice.

The book is about a failed attempt to sail to the North Pole in the late 1870s and 1880s by a crew of U.S. Navy sailors.

“It is an amazing story of comradeship, of leadership, of men sticking together through thick and thin to try to make it to safety," Sides says.

He spoke with IPR's David Cassleman about the story, which Hampton Sides says was well-known in the United States at the time – but has since been largely forgotten.


Northern Michigan's U.S. Rep. Dan Benishek has decided not to run again in 2016, months after announcing he would be seeking a fourth term.

Theater director Minda Nyquist getting acquainted with her new office at West High School in Traverse City.
Daniel Wanschura

Ready or not, it’s back to school time!

While students are cherishing their last days of summer, teachers are busily preparing for the upcoming school year.

Minda Nyquist is one of them. She’s getting ready for her new role as the theater director at West High School in Traverse City. She’s taking over for Kristie Bach, who developed the theater program at West into the renown program it is today. Minda hopes to continue to build on what Kristie started 18 years ago.

David Cassleman

A new report in Bridge Magazine this month questions how much state and federal officials know about the condition of an oil pipeline that crosses the Straits of Mackinac.

Reporter Ted Roelofs also details the inspection process governing oil and gas pipelines in the United States.

“The pipeline network in this country, which is about 2.5 million miles, it’s essentially self-regulated by the industry," Roelofs says.

"The federal agency that oversees it [Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration, or PHMSA] essentially outsources the inspection to the industry itself.”


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