Dexter Schools BOE Listens And Responds To Concerns Over New Elementary School Project – Part 1

During the first public participation segment of Dexter Community Schools Board of Education (BOE) meeting Oct. 30, community members voiced their concerns to the Board over the new elementary school construction project.

In Part 1 of this article, you will get to hear the concerns raised. In Part 2, you will hear the Board’s response.

There are a few guidelines for public participation at BOE meetings:

  • Those wishing to address the Board during public participation must first fill out a form available at the meeting.
  • Participants have five minutes to speak.
  • Points made by a previous speaker may not be repeated.
  • The Board may not engage in any discussion during this time.
  • The Board is available for further conversation after the meeting.
  • Participants may request a formal response from the Board.

The following is a transcript of the concerns raised. Parenthesis have been used for clarification purposes where possible.

Trish Machemer

“I’m a parent of the community. I have a ninth grader who plays lacrosse and loves to snowboard. I also coach in the community. I coach Field Hockey, soccer. I believe it’s important for all of us to participate in the community.

“One of the things that’s come up with the Bond, and Chris (Timmis) and I have talked a number of times, is in the summer I started asking questions about planning. I have twenty years experience. I teach at Michigan State University and I teach Urban Planning and Landscape Architect. So my area of expertise is participatory planning.

“I do engage outreach so that means I’m constantly doing projects out in the community trying to get input from people, trying to figure out how you do a comprehensive plan, how you get different groups to come to life and sort of figure out how you do a comprehensive plan.

“So when you say my concern with the facility planning, and I know the work that Beckett and Raeder (architects) does, worked on projects with Beckett and Raeder, I’m not as familiar with TMV (architects), but I think it’s prudent that with this money that we’re good stewards of this money and I know that’s important to all of you and that there’s thoughtful planning, and that we don’t rush. So that when you made the motion that this is a discussion (item on the agenda), not an action item, I was very excited.

“So I don’t want to make a rush to a decision about how that money is spent and I certainly don’t want to see us do things that are our physical infrastructure that may move us in a direction that once you start it, you can’t stop it. As a stakeholder, as a coach, I do not believe I’ve been asked for my input. I have offered to do this in terms of consulting. And I would do either as either myself as a consultant or as a class project to get that input.

“So I’ve given you (in a handout) an example of a facilities assessment study. I’ve done a number of SWAD (soil, water, and drainage) assessments and facility assessments to develop the comprehensive plan. And in the end I just want us to make a thoughtful decision. And I know all of you want to do that as well.

“But to not get input from the stakeholders, and I know it’s challenging, and unfortunately I know it’s time consuming, and it will slow up the process, I understand that that is not a desired effect. But  let’s make sure that the decisions that we make with this money, with putting in infrastructure, are thoughtful and the best decisions that we can make at this point in time ‘cause we’re going to live with this for  ten or fifteen or twenty years.

“With that I requested, when you said, “Are there requests?” I have not seen the site plan. There is a site plan out there. I know it’s a moving target. Again I was really excited to hear that the action item is about the school. But now I hear that the action item is actually encompassing. We’re moving the baseball fields.

“You said you’re putting up the fences by November one and it includes the fields. And I just want to make sure that the thought that’s gone into putting those fields there and the decisions that have been made, have had thorough sort of planning and comprehensive from all the stakeholders. That’s essentially it.”

Jeff Harshe

“My name is Jeff Harshe. I’m also a community member. I’ve had four kids in school here, one is graduated and I’ve got three who remain in school here. I’m also here about the facilities. And, I give kind of a little bit of background, I talked to Michael (Wendorf) coming in here. It’s helpful to hear the planning that has gone into it, the community involvement that’s gone into it. From my perspective as a dad with kids who are actively involved with sports, there hasn’t been much outreach to the community in order to get feedback from the community about what needs to happen.

“So I’ve talked to soccer parents and I’ll say “Well we’re getting a turf field next year.” (And they say) “Really? I didn’t know that.” I don’t think anybody really knows what’s going on. So I’ve gone back to, today I’ve researched and said, “What is the real plan?” And I look at the FAQ’s before the bond and it’s got a little diagram and a picture of athletic fields next to the high school.

“That’s totally different now. And I hear Dr. Timmis say today, “Well we’ve met with …” I think I wrote it down … “We’re working on a plan. We’ve met with the architects so this week or something we should start drawing them.”

“I don’t think that there’s been input from the community probably to the extent that the Board feels there has. I went to see what are the plans now? I couldn’t find them. Where are the meeting minutes from the facilities meetings? I couldn’t find them. Where are the plans evidently drawn? Because I saw a cover page to a sheet of plans. I couldn’t find them.

“There’s reference, in the FAQ’s to the facilities meeting, to a three hundred person survey, a  telephone survey that was going to take place. I couldn’t find any results. I don’t know if it took place. I wanted to go to the last facilities meeting. It was on Thursday when I had a daughter playing in a field hockey tournament. I had a son playing in a soccer tournament. Lots of other parents had kids at a Halloween concert.

“It’s just not a very, it doesn’t feel like as a citizen paying a lot of taxes with kids who are here, it doesn’t feel like the community has been consulted on where these athletic fields should go. It feels also like there’s a lot of nice talk and a picture of where it was gonna go, and frankly there’s probably a lot of planning that happened before and after that, but there hasn’t been updates to the constituents, the stakeholders, to the coaches.

“I think athletics is such a tremendous opportunity for this community. They touch so many kids. It’s a great tool for retaining kids who, who go to Skyline and other places. They want excellence. Boys and girls, they want excellence and I feel like we’re taking the fields right now and with what I feel is a false sense of urgency trying to get a plan. Man we’re going to get it done. We’re going to get started or we’re going to lose some momentum. 

“What I urge the Board to do is please just tap the brakes. Get the feedback from the stakeholders. Where should the fields be? Where do the kids want to go? If they’re Middle School should the field be right outside of their school or be somewhere else? Are there gonna be bleachers? Talk to the construction people about low lying, you know, wetlands and issues there. I feel like there’s a rush to get started that may be culminating in a vote tonight to authorize two million dollars of expenditure by Grainger to get started on.

“Please, tap the brakes, get input. It may not change, the plan may not change, but at least you’ll have a lot of people in the community who’ll say, “They stopped. They listened to us. They wanted to get our input.” That’s what I would like.

“And by the way, thanks for the work that went into it this far. I know that there has been a lot of time from people, and you’re looking at me and saying, “This guy’s coming in at the twenty-third hour and saying stop.” I’m not. What I’m really saying is get us up to speed and then let’s go forward with everybody’s involvement. Thanks.”

Brad Skinner

“I have four kids come through the district – two out, two still comin’ through, sixth grader and a sophomore. (To say I’m) heavily involved in Dexter youth athletics and high school athletics is an understatement. I’ve coached youth wrestling, youth football, youth softball, all the way up varsity coach in lacrosse. Been around quite a bit, and spent a lot of hours on those fields.

“Been in similar discussions as this six years ago when a study was done by some group, some P-H-D out there somewhere who came up with a plan we spent all kinds of money on, went nowhere, nothing happened. And all I wanted was a flat green place to play. And it sounds like here it comes again.

“So I don’t want to repeat too much of the points that Mr. Harshe made so eloquently but I would like a response from the Board on exactly how the public and all the stakeholders, from coaches on down to the youth level, have been involved in the decision making  process so its transparent that all stakeholders have had a say before a finalization is made. So we don’t wake up  and find out one morning, boom, this was done in the heat of battle, dark of night and we’re living with it again for twenty-some years.”

Jordan Sorkin

“I have two children that don’t yet attend Dexter School system but will shortly and hopefully play for Trish at some point. I’m also the men’s lacrosse coach. Very quickly, my ask would be as we move forward with something as massive of an undertaking as the investment we’re about to make here is that we consider all of the current challenges that we have with our facilities.

“As a fourth year coach now, third year coach now, we’re dealing with a lack of storage space, lack of indoor space. We’re constantly competing for resources to get our fields aligned. Thank you again Trish for that. We don’t have running water in our locker rooms until about three-quarters of the way through our season. Concessions are never (intact). It’s on the coaches to make sure that we’re locking up at night. Things like that.

“My ask of this group as I look across my varsity squad, thirty-five, forty kids this year all the way down to youth that has enrollment up around three digits, that we’re just taking into consideration what’s needed to grow youth programs, to grow sports for this town.

“My ask is that all those sports are taken into equal consideration regardless of the sport or when they were introduced to Dexter and that those needs are heard.”

Tony Roperti

“I heard someone talk about Beckett and Raeder. I worked for Beckett and Raeder about 20-some years ago. I have a background in landscape architecture. I now work for a large residential builder in Ann Arbor as a project manager. I’ve been in project and construction management for roughly twenty years. I see a big problem, just to touch very brief on what I view on spending even as little as two million, that’s a small number in comparison to eighty, without having people involved.

“Where I see this going is not good because no good design, no good plan starts without something we can visibly see and touch. You can’t just start out with, “Well, we’re gonna start with this and then run from there.” I don’t see that as being successful and I see you as the Board getting a lot of flack for it. And I see the community getting upset by it. My hope is that before we spend any money that we (come together). The entire community can see the plan and see what’s going on and can have some interaction with it unlike tonight which I understand that’s the process here.

“In addition to that I’d like to know that when the money is spent on facilities that it is spent equally. I have five kids in the school district all of which are from, vary in age from nine to fourteen. And I’d like to know when money is put back into these facilities; One, they’re well thought out,  and Two, they’re equal to boys and girls, to all the sports across the board not just certain, not just football, not just soccer, not just lacrosse or baseball but everyone.

“I don’t see the facilities today, as they stand, as being equal for those kids. So that is what I’d like to see. I’d like some transparency to the community so we can see what’s going on how we’re going to spend the money ‘cause after all its our vote it’s our tax dollar and I’d like to see that when it is done that it’s done thoughtfully and done with respect to all kids boys and girls.”

In Part 2 of this article, you get to hear the Board’s response to the concerns that were voiced.

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