Michigan Land Use Institute

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Methodology and Credits

February 22, 2004 |

Hard Lessons required months of research, hundreds of hours of interviews, and thousands of miles of travel to document how school development decisions are made and how they affect the community. Because school development decisions are such intensely local issues, much of the information we sought for this report is in the superintendent’s office in each of the 553 public school districts.

There are a few sources that compile statewide information: The Michigan School Bond Loan Program has 20 years of reports on the schools it finances, which is approximately 75 percent of the state’s public school construction. Also, the state Office of Fire Safety maintains current information on closed schools.

In all, over 70 other sources of information on school development were reviewed and approximately 120 interviews were conducted.

We compiled case studies to better understand how school districts and citizens decide to renovate old buildings or build new ones, and where to build. We interviewed school staff, board members, parents, students, and citizens and reviewed many financing and construction documents. One of the report's central findings was unmistakable: The more extensively a school district engaged its citizens, and the more intensively it studied existing facilities, the more frequently the district decided to either renovate existing buildings or construct new facilities near town centers.

Hard Lessons is a research and publishing project of the Michigan Land Use Institute. It is the latest in a series of penetrating studies of land use decisions in Michigan that date to the Institute's founding in 1995. For other Institute special reports see the publications section of our Web site.

Hard Lessons was funded by People and Land, a program of the W.K. Kellogg Foundation that seeks to inform the land use debate in Michigan and help diverse participants find common ground. 

Mac McClelland, Policy Specialist

Keith Schneider, Deputy Director

Jim Dulzo, Managing Editor

Gail Dennis, Art Director

205 S. Benzie Blvd.
Beulah, MI 49617
TEL: 231-882-4723
FAX: 231-882-7350


The Michigan Land Use Institute gratefully acknowledges the Michigan Chamber of Commerce for its assistance in this project to connect schools and land use. We are especially appreciative of the contributions made by:

Doug Roberts, Director, Environmental and Regulatory Affairs

Jim Sandy, Director, Michigan Business Leaders for Education Excellence

Rich Studley, Senior Vice President, Government Relations

Jim Barrett, President

The Institute also thanks the following People and Land staff for their support, assistance, and leadership:

Public Sector Consultants
Amy Spray, PAL Assistant Program Manager
Julie Metty Bennett, PAL Assistant Program Manager
Bill Rustem, PAL Program Director

Pace and Partners
Jennifer Wolfin, Marketing Counselor

Public Policy Associates
Lisa Marckini, Executive Officer

Special thanks to Tara Penders for tremendous support as part of her Masters of Urban Planning project at the University of Michigan. Tara is an architect involved in school design and construction who wrote her masters thesis on school development and land use.

Michigan Land Use Institute

148 E. Front Street, Suite 301
Traverse City, MI 49684-5725
p (231) 941-6584 
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