Stories indexed with the term ‘Washtenaw County Literacy Coalition’

Literacy Coalition Faces Uncertain Future

In April 2010, Washtenaw County commissioners marked a transition – handing over leadership for a literacy coalition the county had spearheaded.

Washtenaw Literacy Coaltion meeting

At left, Amy Goodman, executive director of Washtenaw Literacy (a different entity from the Literacy Coalition of Washtenaw County), led the Sept. 26 membership meeting of the Literacy Coalition of Washtenaw County.

At the time, the Literacy Coalition of Washtenaw County had just hired its first executive director – Vanessa Mayesky – and reported progress in goals outlined in the county’s ambitious Blueprint to End Illiteracy.

But at a recent working session of the county board, commissioner Rob Turner reported that the coalition is now in crisis.

Mayesky resigned earlier this month to take a job at the University of Michigan, and funding for the coalition’s efforts is nearly depleted. Amy Goodman, chair of the coalition’s steering committee, had sent out an email on Sept. 20 stating that the coalition is at a crossroads. Based on the coalition’s financial situation, action needed to be taken, she wrote – and one of the options is to dissolve the coalition.

Goodman’s email was also a call for supporters to attend a Sept. 26 membership meeting at the NEW Center, to give input on the future of the coalition. At that meeting, which The Chronicle attended, Goodman and other steering committee members outlined the status of coalition finances. The faltering economy has tightened funding from both private and government sources, and the situation has been made even more challenging by a new coordinated funding approach being used by the county, city of Ann Arbor, Washtenaw United Way and other funders.

The coordinated funding focuses on six community priorities, ranging from homelessness to health care. But despite intense lobbying from coalition members – who noted that illiteracy is at the root of nearly every other social challenge, including unemployment and poverty – literacy is not on that list of coordinated funding priorities.

Options discussed at Monday’s meeting include: (1) trying to operate the coalition at a fully-funded level, which would entail raising funds for an annual budget of at least $71,000; (2) operating at a significantly reduced capacity, with a part-time coordinator and annual budget of $45,000; (3) creating a volunteer group to continue the effort; or (4) dissolving the coalition completely. [Full Story]

County Board Briefed on Marketing, Finance

Washtenaw County Board of Commissioners meeting (April 7, 2010): Wednesday’s meeting was filled with reports and presentations, but there was no discussion on the largest action item: Approval of 39 additional positions to staff the expanded jail. A final vote on the changes will be made at the board’s April 21 meeting.

Mary Kerr, Rolland Sizemore Jr.

Mary Kerr, president of the Ann Arbor Convention & Visitors Bureau, talks with Rolland Sizemore Jr., chair of the county board of commissioners, before Wednesday's meeting of the board. (Photos by the writer.)

Commissioners heard from leaders of the Ann Arbor and Ypsilanti convention and visitors bureaus, who explained how they’ve been using revenue from a hike in the county’s accommodation tax, which raised $3.039 million in 2009.

That tax also came up during a report by the county treasurer, Catherine McClary. Collections have been more difficult because of the economy, she said, but all hotels are up to date on their payments. Five bed & breakfasts in the county are not. McClary’s report also included updates on the county’s investments and foreclosures, and a preview of a proposal for dog licenses.

Two other financial reports were given during Wednesday’s meeting, by interim finance director Pete Collinson and Mark Kettner of Rehmann Robson, who performs the county’s financial audits. The county was also presented with an award for its 2008 financial report – it has received the same award for 19 consecutive years, given by the Government Finance Officers Association.

Another presentation marked a transition, as the county handed over leadership for a literacy coalition it had spearheaded. Now, the campaign to end illiteracy will be handled by a community group. Read about it below. [Full Story]

Events to Highlight Blueprint to End Illiteracy

Stedman Graham

Stedman Graham

At last Wednesday’s administrative briefing for Washtenaw County commissioners, the group was reminded about a VIP reception to be held before their March 18 board meeting. The special guest? Stedman Graham.

“Stedman – is that Oprah’s boyfriend?” asked commissioner Ken Schwartz.

“Yes,” county administrator Bob Guenzel replied. “But don’t call him that.”

Aside from the Oprah Winfrey connection, Graham is a management consultant, best-selling author, motivational speaker and founder of the nonprofit AAD Education, Health and Sports, which works to develop the leadership skills of disadvantaged youth. He’ll be in Ann Arbor to highlight the county’s efforts to end illiteracy, and will be speaking at five different events on March 18-19. [Full Story]