Inside the Newsroom

News, commentary, insight on local happenings and fun from the staff of The Saline Reporter and Milan News-Leader.

Thursday, June 28, 2007

Milan girls' soccer web site in jeopardy

Longtime Milan girls' soccer coach and science teacher Phil Zuber is leaving for a teaching post in Jenison, Michigan. As a teacher he'll be missed and as a coach he'll be missed; he was skilled at both.

Zuber built a terrific and thriving soccer program that had its best season ever this year, going 15-3, and cultivated talented players that should serve the team well in years to come. The future of Milan girls' soccer, I believe, is promising.

What I'm worried about, though, is the future of the team's Web site that Zuber created and maintained. It is the finest I've ever come across for a high school team. It has everything: schedules, rosters, stats, game summaries, league standings, pictures, team records, individual records, awards and scores from the past nine years!

It's fantastic. An invaluable resource. Coaches from across the state should take note. Zuber should open his own consulting business on how to design a high school sports Web site.

I'm sure whatever head coach Milan appoints as Zuber's successor will know plenty about soccer.

The question I have is: will they know HTML? I sure hope so.

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Hi, everyone. This is Jerry Hinnen, your friendly neighborhood award-winning sports writer. This is my first post on our new Internet digs, so I wanted to give you an example of what you can expect from my end on our little project.

In our paper (papers, rather) you're going to get the sports news. It's going to be good sports news, too, plus --have I mentioned this? -- award-winning design and column-writing.

But there's not going to be, for a lack of a better word, a lot of flair in the sports news. The paper (as it should be) is facts first and flair second. (Aside from, of course, any award-winning columns it might include.) For example, in my June 21 article about the NMRA Nationals at Milan Dragway, I wrote this: "Visitors to the dragway Sunday were able to see more than 100 customized Mustangs and other vehicles battle for titles in 12 different classes, but there was plenty of other attractions as well, including a Ford car show, activities on the midway, and an appearance by 'Thriller,' a 300 mile-per-hour jet-powered dragster."

What that doesn't tell you is that "Thriller" was the closest thing I've ever seen in person to an actual Batmobile. Remember those huge flames pouring out of its rear end in the movies? "Jet-powered" in this case means what it says -- "Thriller" used an honest-to-God blue-fire-spewing jet engine. Oh, it was loud, and let's just say if they had asked for volunteers from the audience to take a ride in the thing, I wasn't raising my hand. But watching that dragster blaze down the dragway at 260+ miles-per-hour with flames trailing behind it ... well, I'm not the world's biggest car guy or racing enthusiast, but it was more than enough to get the blood pumping. You can see for yourself here, though you'll have to be patient and I promise you it's even more impressive in person.

So that's what you'll get here at the blog -- the same sports, just with a little more flair, a little more of the feel of the event and some of that (stop me if I've told you this already) award-winning "Fun and Games" personality. Hope you'll check back. It might not be jet-powered, but it's going to be a fun ride.

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Saline's 07-08 budget presentation among the best

There can be nothing more boring than a budget presentation if you're not a numbers person. I know because I've sat through quite a few over the years. Budgets are also tough to write about succinctly while at the same time giving the complete picture.

But I have to say that Saline's assistant superintendent for adminisrative services, Tom Wall, gave one of the finest, clearest budget presentations I have ever seen at the June 26 board meeting. It was comprehensive without being overwhelming; compared well the 07-08 budget to the 06-07 budget; and gave excellent insight into the complexity of a district's financial structure. He used pretty pie charts, too!

If you didn't get a chance to see Wall's presentation (and many didn't because attendance was around 15), you can find it in all its PowerPoint glory here.

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Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Is school of choice in Saline less of a flashpoint than in years past?

About 60 people or so attended an open forum held in the Liberty School auditorium the evening of June 25. They came to hear Superintendent Beverley Geltner explain her decision to begin a school-of-choice program in Saline.

I was struck by the attendance. I expected to see a packed house.

I was struck by the mostly sedate atmosphere. There was disappointment, disagreement, and disgust, sure, but I expected to see fire, outrage, and accusations.

I expected to see, in short, what I saw at similar forums on the issue a few years ago. I remember well the first "townhall" meeting then-Superintendent Sam Sinicropi called to discuss school of choice. It was held in the high school library. An estimated 160 people crammed in. And they were not happy. Their anger was palpable. It turned out to be a bloodbath. Opponents of school of choice chewed Sinicropi to pieces and spat him out. I don't know that he was prepared for the virulent reception. If he was, it didn't help. Looking back, I believe from that moment Sinicropi's days were numbered. I don't think he ever recovered a segment of the community's confidence, and school of choice became a flashpoint for disaffected residents displeased with the district's direction on a variety of fronts.

Flash forward then to Monday night. School administrators who were veterans of the first School of Choice War seemed relieved to me; revved up for an all-out assault, they really only had to fend off a few volleys. It wasn't even vigorous enough to be characterized as a skirmish.

And at the Tuesday night board meeting following the forum, not a single person rose to speak in opposition to school of choice.

Why? I wondered. What has changed over the past year since the school board voted 4-2 before a crowded boardroom to reject a school-of-choice plan presented by Sinicropi as his final shot over the bow?

Are opponents of school of choice weary of the fight? Do they see it as a fait accompli? Maybe many of them changed their view and have come to think of school of choice as disagreeable but palatable -- a lesser evil than laying off teachers and support staff? Did the administrators' decision to package the presentation differently by focusing more on school of choice's potential to reduce elementary class sizes than its potential boon to the budget appease people? Is it simply because Geltner is a new voice and was the candidate of choice for many of those who were most ardently opposed to the Sinicropi administration and so has been granted greater leeway?

Could be, I guess.

Then, again, maybe Monday night was not indicative of lessened opposition to school of choice in Saline. Maybe something's brewing.

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Monday, June 25, 2007

Sportscars to Saline Sensational

For anyone who missed it Sunday, downtown Saline was the place to be as Sportscars to Saline took over Ann Arbor Street. If you're interested in catching a glimpse of it, check out our Web site at I captured some of the cars on video and interviewed a participant.

The event, organized by Doreen and Richard McGuire and sponsored by the Saline Downtown Merchants' Association, seemed to be a hit as American and European sports cars lined the street and were showcased in the city parking lot behind Brecon Grille. I saw lots of Porches, Corvettes and other beautiful cars. While I am certainly no gear head, I can appreciate a beautiful sports car. I have a BMW Z4 and absolutely love it. It was supposed to be a fun summer car to zip around town in, but with the mild winters we've had, I've pretty much driven it year-round and racked up more than 30,000 miles in two years. Don't tell my insurance provider.

The problem is, I got spoiled. After my first spring and summer of driving it, I hated going back to my 1997 Eagle Talon with manual roll-down windows and locks, cloth seats and cassette player. I wanted my leather interior, heated seats, CD player and electric-powered locks and windows, not to mention the infrequent oil changes at every 15,000 miles, tight suspension and lightening speed. The comments are nice, too. While sitting at a traffic light or rolling slowly through a parking lot at the mall, I get lots of compliments on the car.

Now I am considering a new "winter" car to replace the Talon, as I just can't handle another winter, whether it's just a week or two and then a break in the Beamer, in that "hunk of junk," my pet name for it. I just don't know what to get. I am not really inspired by many cars. I like the Saturn Sky, the Pontiac Solstice and Lotus Elise, but those are roadsters like my Z4. I need something that can handle the snow, a little bigger, but sporty-looking and fun. I don't want a SUV, mini-van, truck or run-of-the-mill car like the Ford Focus. Those just aren't my style. But I do think I need something with four seats. If you have any ideas, let me know.

By the way, winners in the Sportscars to Saline event were David Reid of Saline, Mayor's Choice Award, 1962 Corvette; Shirley and Tony Caruso of Clinton, Best American Sports Car, 1963 Corvette; Hermann Schaller of Clarkston, Best British Sports Car, 1949 Triumph 2000 roadster; Bill Rohrer of Ann Arbor, Best German Sports Car, 1963 Porsche 356; Nick Vermet of Ann Arbor, Best Italian Sports Car, 1987 Ferrari; and there was a tie for Best Japanese Sports Car, with John Bandrofchak of Saline and Bob Miller of Milan capturing the award with their 1999 Mazda Miata and 2001 MX5 Mazda Miata, respectively.

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Thursday, June 21, 2007

A New Frontier

The Saline Reporter and Milan News-Leader are entering a new frontier, facilitating an online dialogue with their readers via blogging on the World Wide Web. The newspapers were the first in the Heritage group to post video online of local events, sports coverage, man-on-the-street and athlete interviews, as well as movie reviews. Blogging is another way for us to reach a wider audience and share community news, insight and perspective, while encouraging our readers to join in the conversation. We welcome your thoughts and hope you will initiate discussion on topics of interest to you. Staff reporters Brian Cox, Jerry Hinnen and Sue G. Collins will be contributing, as well. We plan to have something fresh for readers on a regular basis.

For my first official blog, I'd like to congratulate Brian and Jerry on their recent awards. Brian won first place in news column writing and honorable mention in feature writing, while Jerry captured first in sports column writing and swept the sports page design category with first, second and third place in the Society of Professional Journalists Excellence in Media Awards contest. They picked up their awards June 19 at the San Marino Club in Troy during the SPJ Detroit chapter's annual banquet.

I was on hand to support them and capture the moment on video. You can view the video on our Web site. In particular, it was nice to see the emcee marvel at Jerry sweeping the sports page design category and noting that this young reporter covering small-town Milan is someone to watch in the industry. We're lucky to have Jerry, who came here last year from Alabama.

And Brian, of course, is our shining star, having been named Heritage Newspapers' Star of the Month in February. A multi-talented reporter, he has won journalism awards from the Michigan Press Association and has impressed me with his ability to write news, features, sports, entertainment reviews and news columns, a talent not all journalists possess.

Sue rounds out our reporting staff. She joined us five months ago and has helped raise the bar at the newspapers. A graduate of the Saline Leadership Institute, she knows many people in our area and has a strong desire to report on all facets of the community. Just a few months ago, she emceed a school board candidates' forum in Saline that the newspaper sponsored and did an outstanding job. Video coverage is still on our Web site, so check it out. She's very impressive. She carries herself well in front of an audience and has a commanding presence. I've encouraged her to launch a new video venture called "Two with Sue" in which she interviews local officials, characters around town and community leaders in two-minute videos posted on our Web site.

Well, that's it for now. I will return and I am eager to hear what you have to say. Please join the discussion. I want to know what your thoughts are on a variety of topics that affect Saline and Milan, and we're always looking for story leads.

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