When a municipal entity or school district brings on an interim employee to fill a position that is unexpectedly vacated with little notice, as was the case with the departure of now former Bates Elementary School Principal Tim Authier, usually that candidate’s job is to simply keep the organization whole until a permanent replacement can be found.
While former Saline Area Schools administrator Jesse Stevenson is indeed only tapped for one year, until a formal candidate search process can produce a field of candidates for consideration for the job next year, he plans on making his time in Dexter matter as much as possible.
“I’ve gotten a feel that Bates is a very successful school and I want to continue that, but I don’t want to just rest on my laurels for a year,” Stevenson said. “I want us to be looking at new and exciting things that teachers want to do with children. Really, that’s what I’m about so that’s what I want to do.”
Stevenson had only been in the district for five-and-a-half hours when WeLoveDexter spoke to him in person yesterday, but his familiarity with Dexter is deep and comprehensive, spanning not just his career, but also his personal life.
He grew up in Pinckney, attending those schools as an elementary school student himself decades ago. With only nine miles and 15 minutes between them, Stevenson couldn’t help but have exposure to the Dexter community during his formative years.
“I know Dexter, I know Dexter kids and I know the area — Dexter’s a great town, I’ve always liked it,” Stevenson said. “I’m very pleased and honored that I have a chance to work here, to tell you the truth.”
Stevenson didn’t have to think very hard about taking the job, as evidenced by Authier’s departure just a little over a week ago now and the speed of Stevenson’s arrival, thanks to the recommendation of beloved Cornerstone Elementary School Principal Craig McCalla and positive references from both administrator’s mutual colleagues in Saline.
McCalla himself worked in Saline at one point, before coming to Dexter Community Schools.
“I had no idea I’d be doing anything like this,” Stevenson said. “I got a call from Chris Timmis, he left a message on my phone while I was working in the yard and when I got the message, I was like ‘wow.’ It’s happened very fast and been very exciting. In fact, I couldn’t sleep last night because it felt like coming in for the first day of school.”
Stevenson had thought that his last first day of school was behind him, after the closure of Saline’s Houghton Elementary School in 2010, which he thought was his “last stop” on his journey through the literal halls of public education.
He started teaching in Pinckney Community Schools, before going into administrative work in Fowlerville. He then arrived in Saline, where he focused his efforts on secondary elementary education at all levels. His final years were spent in early childhood education and at Houghton in its waning years leading up to its closure, due to declining student population in Saline.
The final chapter in the history of a school that he loved seemed like the property corresponding time with the end of the final chapter in his career in public education.
“It was just the timing, everything was like the perfect storm, I would have had to go to another building, and I was only going to work a few more years anyway, so I thought that Houghton may be the right time — it was like going off into the setting sun,” Stevenson admitted.
But as he says, “school is always in you” and even in retirement he would wake up every morning feeling and thinking like a school teacher, only without a building or any kids whose education and future were reliant on his stewardship.
“When I left Houghton and I thought I was going to be retired, it was bittersweet,” Stevenson said. “It was exciting to think you’re going to be doing something different with your life, but when you’re an educator, really I felt we had a great school and really good things were happening.
“When that all came to an end, it was kind of sad, but I’m an educator and will always and will always be an educator and I think school all the time, and I have since then. So to be here now is exciting.”
Stevenson said he is currently going over the events calendar, the teacher roster, and looking at the curriculum to get his finger on the pulse of what’s happening at Bates during the few remaining days before summer’s over and the new school year begins.