On Nov. 6 the Dexter School District will vote to fill two available 6-year terms on the School Board. There are three candidates and we get to choose two.
In a forum held Oct. 15 at Creekside Intermediate School, the three candidates had the chance to tell us why they would make a good school board member for Dexter Schools. The three candidates are Dick Lundy, Rob Mitzel, and Mara Greatorex.
The forum was moderated by Dexter Forum co-moderators, Karl Fink and John Hansen, in much the same way the Dexter Forum itself is conducted. Karl is a retired judge and John is a former Dexter school superintendent and state representative. Candidates were first given the chance to tell the audience a little about themselves and their motivation in running for school board.
Part 1 of this article relayed each candidate’s opening statement to the audience. Part 2 had the question from the moderators with each candidate’s response. In Part 3, the candidates responded to questions from the audience.
Question for Mara Greatorex: How would you create more transparency and increase more readily available opportunities for community input to the Board?
“The easiest way is to put out when the board meetings are. I know they are on the website and emails are sent out, but we have to make sure the board is communicating to all of the Dexter community. I like this idea that Chris Timmis had of having a coffee hour where people can come and talk to board members.”
Question for Dick Lundy: Where does Special Education fall in the overall picture of Dexter School?
“Dexter has been a leader in special educational services. We hear a lot of anecdotal information about families moving to district because of the quality of our program. It’s a high priority and rightly so. We have well-trained people running the programs. It’s challenging in that some students require special education and some require services, and that’s increasing.
“We must continue to address the increasing emotional and societal pressure on student. There’s lots of pressure on our kids. We must do a good job of supporting kids when they’re on campus and we have to do things in a way that gets the services funded that we are providing.”
Mara Greatorex also commented:
“I believe that it should be a high priority. I have a kid that went through and had some special services. Making that a priority is number one.”
Question for Rob Mitzel: What is your position on making the Title IX issues right?
Note: Title IX of the Education Amendments Act of 1972 is a federal law that states: “No person in the United States shall, on the basis of sex, be excluded from participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any education program or activity receiving Federal financial assistance.”
“The board has created an ad hoc Athletics Committee to look at bringing in voices from the community, also some board members. They’ve been charged to look at athletics in Dexter to make sure they are compliant with the law and doing the right thing for the community.
“There is a desire that we are compliant and that we have appropriate programs in place for both boys and girls. At this point I don’t have a position that I would change x, y, and z. I’m waiting to get some more information back from that committee. The committee will come back with the information and the board will make recommendations at that point. The board will deliberate that with community input, and we’ll make a decision. It is definitely on the radar to address and make sure we are hearing the views of the community and compliant.”
Follow up question for Rob Mitzel: Is that information from the ad hoc committee going to be shared with the public?
“The committee meetings are public. They are on the district calendar. Also the committee reports are out at the Board meetings, which are also public. Information about the meetings and reports can be found on the District website.
Dick Lundy also commented:
“One of the reasons that this has come up as an issue is that, over the years, we’ve tried to be very responsive to the community. When the requests have come in that somebody would like to start a new sport, we’ve tried to accommodate them.
“Saline leads the state with something like 34 sports. We’re somewhere around tenth with 26 sports. The reason we have so many sports is that we’ve had these requests from people in the community. It goes from something as simple as track where you get them a shirt, shorts, and shoes and have them run, to football, hockey. The cost disparity is tremendous.
“We value athletics as a wonderful part of the kids’ opportunities growing up, with a lot of room to grow and learn. We work very hard to accommodate all sports. You can see what’s going on in the community with providing more facilities for all the sports that have come on board. Other than equestrian for insurance reasons, I don’t know who we’ve turned down when they’ve requested that we work with them. We have all these competing groups for a very limited pot of money because everything we spend on athletics, as wonderful as it is, has an impact on teacher and support staff. It’s a real struggle. Nobody’s going to think it’s perfect.”
Mara Greatorex also commented:
“There was a great group of parents of athletes that had a meeting a couple of weeks ago and they went through all the ins and outs of Title IX. One of the most important things we need to remember is that you need to have substantial proportionality in athletics. That is what Title IX is there for, equity between males and females.
“What ‘substantial proportionality’ means is that looking at the population of your school, you need to make sure you have the same amount of athletes on the field. So for instance in Dexter, we are 50/50. It’s not the amount of sports you offer. It’s the amount of athletes you have on the field. Right now we run about 5-6%. We should be at 1.5%. That’s the legal standing. We have more male athletes on the field than we do females.
“We also have this other crazy thing in Dexter that we have funded sports and we have unfunded sports. What ‘funded sports’ means is that when you pay to play, you’re paying directly to Community Education. My daughter’s on the cross country team so I pay $250 for her to play. My son is on the cross country team at Mill Creek so I pay $150 for him. If they go into other sports, for instance my daughter is in track in the spring and my son is in swimming, there is a $700 cap. That is what we call ‘funded sports’. It’s football, volleyball, cross country, track, tennis, basketball.
Moderator Karl Fink interjected: “By ‘funded’ do you mean funded by the school?”
“Yes, funded by the school. The other thing that we would call ‘unfunded’ are actually called ‘club sports’. Club sports are the ones where you don’t pay the school, you pay the club and the club pays for the transportation and the field time. Club sports can get super expensive and they don’t fall under the umbrella of the $700 cap. They also don’t fall under, I believe, the count of athletes on the field. What we need in my opinion and what was presented at the meeting was getting policy in place so that a club sport can go to a funded sport. That is a way to fix a lot of things especially our Title IX discrepancy.”
The candidates were given the opportunity to give their closing statements.
Rob Mitzel: “I appreciate the opportunity to serve on the School Board over the last couple years. It’s been a great learning experience and hopefully I contribute to the community in regards to making our education better. I think there are a lot of opportunities within the District. We have a great school system, great staff, administration and I think it would be wonderful to continue to strengthen that opportunity for all the students within the District.
“The viewpoint that I bring, with all my children going through, is that I’ve seen each one taking advantage of different aspects in the District. I feel strongly that in Dexter Schools we should be working toward each and every kid finding the pathway for their own success and provide programs, and opportunities to foster that, and look for more ways to create individualized programs. I don’t mean computer-based, but opportunities for them to explore the areas that can help them be successful upon graduation from the District, recognizing that does not mean a college-bound pathway for everyone.
“There are a lot of students that have other interests and other talents. We need to make sure we’re addressing that across the board. The high school, at times, can be very high pressure with regards to the peer pressure to take the maximum amount of AP and IB courses. There’s another aspect to students out there that we need to make sure we address. So that’s one of my main interests to make sure we look at each and every student and make sure that they have the opportunity for success upon graduation and also that they can graduate and get through the District. Hopefully people will share that viewpoint and support me on Nov. 6.”
Mara Greatorex: “I love Dexter schools. I feel like I projected a little of my passion on you about how I’m so excited my kids get to go to Dexter Schools. I love that they are there. I have two different learning styles. I know that there are kids out there that have different learning styles. We are incredibly lucky to have AP and IB programs for our kids, but not all kids are going that way and that’s OK.
“Kids shouldn’t have to be pressured into that route. I didn’t know about our consortium program until my daughter started high school. I think that is something that we need to shout from the rooftops. I knew all about AP and IB, but the trades and consortium, I had no idea. That’s a great aspect that Dexter offers for our kids. I think that is something we really need to share with everybody. My daughter will probably go straight through high school and we’re lucky that we have great teachers and she won’t need an AP or IB to get an awesome education. So, vote for me, Mara Greatorex, November 6.”
Dick Lundy: “I’ve had kids and grandkids and eventually great grandkids that will cover from 1974 to 2034 with one break of about 8 years from 1990 to 1997. I think it’s interesting to note that Dexter was the fastest growing community from 2000 to 2010. I have also been led to believe that from 2010 to 2020, we are likely to be in the same position or very close.
“I think that Dexter Schools define this community to a very large degree. I think that, where we came from as to where we’re at now, is something to be very proud of as a community. I think the schools have a lot to do with that. We certainly want to continue to do that. In terms of what we’re doing well, for starters, how about that football team? It’s tremendous to see the energy in the kids from their successes.
“Our test scores, compared to peers and local districts, we’ve been first and second in every category for the past three years. That’s a nice indicator but to me that’s only the bare minimum measure of how well we’re doing in educating every kid to achieve their highest potential and become successful productive lifetime contributing members of our community. That’s really what our ultimate goal is. We can’t ignore the testing, but we can’t make things better by measuring. We have great teacher support for students and family. We have a very strong staff from the Superintendent down to the support staff.
“I’d like to end with a quote I particularly like from Vince Lombardi, “We will strive for perfection knowing full well we will never achieve it, but in the process we will achieve excellence.” I think that speaks as to how we try to approach things here.”
The forum was adjourned and the audience was invited to converse with each candidate individually.