Three seats on the Dexter Community Schools Board of Education are up for grabs on the ballot this election, with three candidates pursuing two full terms and another three candidates pursuing a partial term.
Julie Schumaker, Tom Diab, and Daryl Kipke will be on the ballot for the pair of six-year terms and Dick Lundy, Shawn Letwin, and Marlo Rojeck are seeking the partial two-year term.
The candidates participated in a public Candidate Forum with the Dexter Forum leading the way, which was recorded and published as an audio log last month.
Thank you to candidates Schumaker, Diab, Lundy, Letwin, and Rojeck for taking this opportunity to represent who they are as candidates for public office to our readers throughout the Dexter Community School district.
Name: Julie Schumaker
Office sought: Dexter School Board – 6 year term
Residence: Webster Twp.
Party Affiliation: N/A. School board is non-partisan
Ph.D. Educational Foundations and Policy, University of Michigan
M.A. Educational Foundations, Administration, Policy, and Research Methods, University of Michigan
M.A. Guidance and Counseling, Eastern Michigan University
B.A. University of Michigan
Professional background: 35-year career as an educational researcher and program evaluator.
Past offices held: Dexter School Board Trustee since 2003
Family: Husband, Kevin Dombkowski, and 2 adult children who are Dexter graduates (2006 & 2014).
Name: Tom Diab
Office sought: Dexter Board of Education Trustee
Party Affiliation: Independent
Education: Bachelor Biology, Master Physiology, Bachelor Education
Professional background: Professional Teacher
Family: Wife and 4 children
Name: Dick Lundy
Office sought: Board Member Dexter Community Schools (Two Year Partial Term)
Residence: 1833 N Parker Road Dexter
Party Affiliation: None
Education: BSE Electrical Engineering University of Michigan 1964
Board Member—Numerous Community and Non Profit Organizations
Founder, President, CEO — Control-O- Mation, Inc (COM, Inc) 1972– 2003
Project Engineer – Information Instruments, Inc 1963-1971
Past offices held:
Dexter School Board
Trustee 1979 To Present
Vice President 1979-1983
Treasurer 1983 To Present
Family: We have been a part of the Dexter community since the late 1960s.
Wife: Ellen, married for 45 years until she passed away in 2009. She graduated from the University of Michigan, was dedicated to our family, and was extremely instrumental in raising our children and grandchildren. Children: Dexter Schools since Kindergarten Elizabeth and Peter, still live in Dexter, graduates of the University of Michigan. Elizabeth is a Family Nurse Practitioner in Ann Arbor Peter is a Project Manager for an underground utility company.
Grandchildren: All live in Dexter and have attended Dexter Schools since Kindergarten
Elena: graduate of IUPUI (#1 in her class) Lilly Family School of Philanthropy, moved back to Dexter with her husband –Harold, and son—Trey. Harold graduated from Kalamazoo College and teaches at Washtenaw International High School in Ypsilanti. Trey is slated to start Kindergarten in Dexter in 4 years. Brannon Wiegers: Senior at DHS, letter winner- Tennis and Golf; Drum Major Marching Band. Dane Wiegers: Freshman at DHS, letter winner- Tennis; Marching Band, will play Basketball, Golf Nathaniel Orlowski: DHS 2016 (3 rd in his class) attends University of Michigan Grace Orlowski: Sophomore at DHS Christian Orlowski: 8th grade at Mill Creek
Name: Shawn Letwin
Office sought: Dexter School Board Trustee, 2yr partial term
Residence: Webster Township
Party Affiliation: not applicable
Education: Eastern Michigan University, Professional Chemistry with some post-Baccalaureate teaching classes
Professional background: had spent 3 years as a substitute teacher at all levels and subjects in K-12 (including High Point and other special needs classes) throughout Washtenaw County and parts of Livingston County…in addition to my previous roles as an ISO 9000 auditor, Manager of Quality Assurance and Executive National Accounts Manager.
Past offices held (up to last three): Served on the Boards for DCAC (Dexter Community Aquatics Club), ABCD (Athletic Booster Club of Dexter)-2 years as Secretary and 2 years as Chair of Concessions and also serving as the ABCD liaison for developing and implementing the Think Dexter First Discount Card.
Family: married almost 30 years and have a daughter who had attended all 13 years in DCS who graduated in 2010-having played in band and swam on the varsity team.
Name: Marlo Rojeck
Office Sought: Dexter Board of Education Trustee
Residence: 10161 Dexter Chelsea Rd, Dexter, MI
Party Affiliation: Non-Partisan
Education: BA in Communications, Michigan State University
Professional Background: Business Development, small business owner, recruiting, business management
Past Office held: none
Family: Married to Steven Rojeck (24 years), son Tristin (age 20), son Chase (age 18), daughter Kathryne (age 16)
Why are you running for office?
Schumaker: I believe that the best investment we can make as a community is in the education of our children.
Strong schools build strong communities. I am deeply committed to providing the best education possible to the children in the Dexter community.
I am deeply passionate about two things – education and the Dexter community. I have devoted my career to education and know the power of education to transform lives. Serving on the Dexter School Board allows me an opportunity to give back to the community which I love.
It is through the combined efforts of all groups – the Board, administration, staff, parents and the community – that we can provide the best education possible to students and ensure the success of ALL Dexter students.
Diab: I would like to use my years of experience as a teacher and businessman to help our school provide the best opportunities for our students and teachers.
Lundy: I believe that I can continue to be an effective member of a Team of Board Members, Administrative Leadership, Professional Staff, Support Staff, and the Community which has guided the Dexter Community Schools to its position as a premier District in the State.
Letwin: In my 10 plus years of attending school board meetings, I believe that there is a pervasive culture at the Board level that is disingenuous and tone deaf to the community in general. I discovered this culture when joining forces with Michael Wendorf and Alison Paine to lead the way for a community effort to defeat the one million dollar 2003 Rec Millage (defeated 3:1). The district soon claimed almost 2 million of deficit spending shortly thereafter…yet the audit found the district had an actual surplus of 1.5 million. A few years later, the board called for cuts of over 3.5 million dollars, yet 1 million dollars of those real cuts where then used to start up a duplicate IB program for a few dozen kids. Just over a year ago, I led another community effort to squash the districts efforts to annex Whitmore Lake. Most recently, I became aware that for one of our subdivisions, the bus rides had an increase of over ½ hour per day in the afternoon due to consolidation of bus routes. When the issue was raised by parents, the taxpaying parents were told there was no money. But didn’t the district just receive over 1 million dollars to help general fund balance with the passage of the Special Needs millage? Finally, we have over 10 million dollars in repairs due to lack of budgeting for years in building and grounds, but millions in the bank. We need change on the board.
Rojeck: I am seeking a seat on the Dexter Board of Education because I want Dexter to be the District that families continue to choose to edcuate their children at time when there are many choices. I will work to ensure that all students receive a valuable education.
Why should the voters in the jurisdiction you would be representing if elected want you to be their chosen candidate?
Schumaker: In addition to my 13 years on the Dexter School Board, my background as an educational researcher and parent of two Dexter graduates has given me a broad perspective and long-term commitment to the district. My experience working with school districts, colleges and universities, foundations, and the Michigan Department of Education provides me with unique insights regarding education, teaching, andnthe needs of our students.
During my tenure of the Dexter School Board, I have served in a number of leadership roles including: Vice-President since 2014; Board of Directors for Washtenaw Association of School Boards (WASB); pastnchair of WASB’s Legislative Relations Network; and at various times have served as chair of the Finance,nPersonnel, Ad-Hoc Annexation, Policy, Superintendent Evaluation, Strategic Planning, and Communications Committees.
In making any decision, I always consider three questions: 1) What is in the best interest of students? 2) What is in the best interest of the district? 3) What does the community want? I listen to the many perspectives of community members and keep the best interests of students at the forefront of decision-making.
I strive to provide calm, thoughtful leadership weighing both the facts and research at hand, as well as the input of the community. This was especially true as chair of the Ad Hoc Annexation Committee. I pledge to continue providing sound financial stewardship of district finances, working collaboratively, and being open and available to community members.
Diab: I have 18 years experience as a current secondary school teacher outside our district. This means I have an intimate knowledge of the workings of a school district. I have also owned two successful businesses. Taken together, I have business and education experience that is well suited for this position. Furthermore, I am of the opinion that I will be working for the community and represent their concerns and not my own to the board members.
Lundy: I have served on the Dexter Community Schools Board of Education for more than 37 years. I am active in the Dexter community and on a number of local non-profit boards. I have been involved in all aspects of governance in the school district and of the non-profit organizations. I have helped facilitate the positive relationships between our Board and our Employees which are a major part of our District successes. I have had significant involvement in the success of the past six bond projects in the school district, including renovating and expanding all district facilities, building the Community Pool, Cornerstone, Mill Creek and its addition, and the new Dexter High School plus repurposing Creekside. I have been actively involved in budgeting process and reviews, district audits, and school investments. I believe that the school board and administration have responded quickly and effectively to maintain and enhance our financial integrity during many changes and directives from Lansing. While some districts have floundered, Dexter has successfully accepted the challenges of managing its programs to meet the detail and spirit of the new, ever changing, and often exciting world of education.
Letwin: I have a strong understanding and appreciation for education in the classroom yet also understand that we must balance that with the financial realities that all school districts face in Michigan. The community requires not only someone who is a Champion for the children but who is also a Guardian of the taxpayer. The general response that the “…state doesn’t give enough…” as the reason for everything is both tired and worn. Many districts are doing just fine with the money that they get and spend responsibly within their means. Would they like more?
Sure. We have millions in the bank yet we borrow more money to help pay for the other money we borrowed, funded a duplicate IB program at a cost of over 1 million dollars while we underfunded Buildings and Grounds and have a real cost of over 10 million dollars in repairs and replacement of items. Many of these items would still be in useable condition or cost significantly less than 10 million dollars had we spent the necessary money for nominal inspections, maintenance and repairs instead of spending the 1 million plus used for the IB program.
Rojeck: Dexter voters should choose me because I will listen, evaluate and then carefully decide on board issues. I will cooperate with the stakeholders for successful outcomes, always with the best possible education for students at the center of the decision.
What is the greatest challenge faced by the people that you’d represent in the office you’re seeking in the next few years?
Schumaker: The most pressing issue is maintaining the district’s financial stability. As Chair of the Finance Committee, I know that it is crucial that we continue to focus on careful management of the district’s resources for the benefit of students. Given stagnant State funding over the last decade which has resulted in budget cuts, we aim to reverse that trend by pursuing alternative funding.
One example is the Special Education Millage approved by voters in May. This will generate $1.3M- $1.5M/year for Dexter Schools. Dollars which previously covered the cost of special education are now available to fund programs for all students. As a result of the community’s support, no budget cuts were needed in 2016-17.
Another example is Excellence for Dexter Students (E4DS), a new non-profit dedicated to raising funds to enhance opportunities for students. E4DS hopes to add enrichment coordinators at all K-8 buildings and a HS internship coordinator.
The Dexter International Academy (DIA) is another example which will expand opportunities for students and holds promise as a new source of revenue. This new program provides online courses for K-12 students and expands learning opportunities beyond our physical buildings. Students will be able to take classes to accelerate or catch up, or take courses not currently offered in Dexter. It will be open to both Dexter students and students beyond our district. Out-of- district students will be charged tuition, and any revenue generated will be used to enhance program offerings within Dexter Schools.
Diab: Operating funding challenges, classroom sizes and providing teacher resources are the challenges we face in the coming years.
Lundy: With the current financial problems and mandates from Lansing, the next two years will continue to be a tremendous challenge, which we will deal with in a way that continually emphasizes making a positive impact on student learning in the classrooms and providing a variety of other educational experiences. We will continue to expand student opportunities and enhance District Revenue through discipline, hard work, and innovation.
Letwin: I believe the greatest challenge is that the DCS board and admin has a pervasive culture that is disingenuous and tone deaf to the greater community. The district has a communication portal called “Talk to Us” which openly solicits communication with the community yet the board has never, ever reviewed any of the communications from the community. When the community then comes before the board, the board claims board policy from having an open dialogue. Most recently this happened with the Drama community as they learned AFTER the fact that their paid for leased space was being used by others. I think that the other greatest challenge is our current debt. We have been borrowing for almost the last twenty years money to help pay for the other borrowed money due to the passage of the 70 plus million millage in 1998 and the 50 plus million millage in 2008. Our projected debt for borrowed money to help pay for other borrowed money is about 25 million. Add to the current debt of almost 120 million, Building and Grounds had outlined to the Board this past summer the need for another bond totaling well over 10 million dollars.
Rojeck: I think that personalizing education is the biggest challenge. We should focus on supporting every student to reach the highest level of learning throughout their time in Dexter Schools. Striving to keep education relevent and individualized is the job of our Schools, particularly related to technology. We should make choices with this in mind at all levels.
If you were talking to voter who was undecided despite hearing your replies to the above three questions, what would you say to that undecided voter to tip them over the edge into your camp?
Schumaker: As a district, our goal is to provide an excellent, world class education to our students within a caring, supportive community of learners. Our teachers and staff strive to do this every day. Dexter Schools consistently ranks among the best in the State.
In 2015, Dexter was the top ranked district in Washtenaw County on the State’s M-STEP assessment in 12 of the 20 subjects/grades tested. Dexter was also one of 15 districts in the state to be recognized by the College Board for increasing student participation and exam scores on the college-level Advanced Placement (AP) test. Additionally, an impressive 94% of Dexter’s IB Diploma candidates successfully earned an IB Diploma in 2015, far exceeding the national average (72%).
Our students also have won numerous district, regional and state competitions in a variety of sports as well as journalism, debate, forensics, Ocean Bowl, Quiz Bowl and robotics to name a few areas. Our band, orchestra and choir programs consistently achieve top ratings at regional and state festivals.
While we are very proud of our students’ accomplishments, to compete in a global environment, we must do an even better job to ensure that students are well prepared with the skills, knowledge and competencies needed in the future. I am committed to providing the quality of education that our community expects and that our students deserve.
Diab: I will host community meetings at a local business regularly to hear parent concerns. I will be impartial, fair, confidential and knowledgeable on the topic of their interest. Also, my children are 6th generation Dexter-ites so my integrity and reputation in the community must be maintained.
Lundy: It takes time and effort to become an effective Board member and part of the Leadership Team for the District. If you ask current or former Board members they will usually say that it takes a year or two to get a good understanding of the actual roles and responsibilities – recognizing the legal and ethical restrictions, the legitimate role of a Board member and the role of the Superintendent, and to establish a good working relationships. I am already in this position. A new Board member would just be getting acclimated by the time this partial term is over.
Letwin: All of the information presented and statements I have made are based on information that I have found directly on the district website, obtained from attending board meetings and/or community forums and from FOIA’ing multiple documents since 2003. Here is a recent example of the board being disingenuous/not forthright. I remember asking Schumaker just two months after the budget from two years ago that was formally approved, where did the extra 2 plus million dollars come from that was not in the original budget? Schumaker told me matter of fact that she did not know and I should ask our CFO. It should be noted that Schumaker was/is the Chair of the Finance committee and had been a long standing member of that committee when I askedn that question. I have repeatedly seen in my last 10 plus years, community members repeatedly told information that is incorrect, maybe just enough to get them to quit asking questions, or in my case with Schumaker that they “don’t recall”. In other situations, the board would just stare blankly at board meetings in hopes that the community would stop asking the questions or quit raising issues (most recently was the issue about the GPA calculations changing). Our community deserves an honest and open dialogue with our school district and I intend to bring that to the board if elected.
Rojeck: I love Dexter, I have a deep commitment to the community, I am here to stay! The most important thing I have to offer is the promise to work with a positive attitude to provide excellence for our students, staff and community!