Creekside Intermediate’s media center was filled with dozens of people last Monday evening, all in attendance of the Dexter Board of Education’s May 6th meeting. More than half sported the yellow vest of a Dexter Lions Club member, as they turned out to celebrate the naming of the new alternative education building at 8100 Shield Rd after long-time member, Louie Ceriani.
The meeting opened with remarks by Board President, Michael Wendorf, who recognized the many guests present in support of the new building’s namesake. Wendorf shared Ceriani’s story and expressed the board’s appreciation for Ceriani’s many contributions to the Dexter community and the school district. Board member, Dick Lundy, then moved that the board approve the Facilities Committee’s recommendation to name the new building the “Louie Ceriani Building.” The board voted unanimously to approve the motion, and the room gave Ceriani a standing ovation as he shook the hand of each board member in thanks.
The Michigan Board of Education is in the process of hiring a new state superintendent, and the finalist will be interviewed this week. In addition, the search committee for the new high school basketball coach has completed its final interviews, and is currently checking references.
[UPDATE – The State Board of Education selected Michael Rice as the new state superintendent on May 7th. Dexter School District hired former Saline assistant coach, Jason Rushton, as the new DHS boys’ basketball coach on May 8th.]
The legislature is hoping to pass a bill to change the snow day forgiveness for this school year. If the bill passes, the scheduled make-up day of May 24th will revert back to a no-school day. [UPDATE – The bill passed on May 10th – no school on May 24th.] The district is also working with the Washtenaw Intermediate School District to secure grant money from the state to be used for mental health education.
Student Representatives Update
Hollie Pastorino shared school updates, starting with the news that Carly Curry (HS soccer) was named the Ann Arbor-area Athlete of the Week by MLive, and that the women’s soccer team beat Chelsea on May 3.
In other high school news, students from the National Honor Society have implemented a new trash recycling system in the high school cafeteria where students can recycle all plastic trays. These same students have also started a composting system.
The Senior Survivor competition raised close to $20,000 with the yellow team coming out victorious. The money raised will be given to the family of a current 7th grade DCS student battling cancer.
And The Squall, the high school’s student newsmagazine, received the Spartan Award at the recent Michigan Interscholastic Press Association awards ceremony in Lansing, with at least 15 Dexter students winning individual awards. SEE WLD STORY
In other Dexter school news, the 8th graders at Mill Creek recently returned from their trip to Washington DC where a number of students had the opportunity to see Bernie Sanders, as well as meet and be photographed with Senator Debbie Stabenow. At Creekside Intermediate, the staff participated in a professional book club learning about social comprehension. Mrs. Kohler, a teacher at Wylie, recently received new yoga mats for her classroom, about which she and her students are very excited. Anchor Elementary students are taking part in a city-wide rock hunt, while Beacon Elementary got a head start on Teacher Appreciation week.
After giving her report, President Wendorf asked Pastorino to share with the board her past-years’ experience as the head of a tutoring program at the high school. Pastorino has worked over 100 hours on this initiative, which reaches students at the high school, Mill Creek and Creekside. At Creekside, the program offers tutor buddies where 4-5 students meet several times a week with a high school tutor. They learn skills such as how to write note cards and reading in order to gather information. At Mill Creek, the tutors work with after-school Academy students. And at the high school, tutors sit in the library during a designated time to be available for any fellow students needing additional help outside of class. Wendorf congratulated Pastorino on her efforts, saying it was important that such good work was recognized.
Following the student update, many Dexter parents and a current Dexter student contributed to the public participation portion of the meeting. All were present to express their opinion regarding the April 22 board discussion regarding the removal of the words “sexual orientation and transgender identity” in the district’s antiharassment/nondiscrimination policies. The speakers as a group were extremely concerned and troubled by the suggested language removal, which they feel is unacceptable and would put Dexter students and staff at risk.
One parent, who works for the Ann Arbor Department of Education, stated that Dexter’s current policy is great and that, “Dexter has a model program which aligns with best practice and the Michigan Board of Education.” One speaker stated that to remove the language from the policy would be a huge step backward for the district.
Another parent urged the board to keep the current language, sharing that “our family has been embraced in this community and in our schools in a way I never thought was possible. You’ve created a culture here that says we’re going to support everybody, and we believe it. We’ve lived it. We have faith in you.”
Several board members broke protocol to comment on the public presentations. President Wendorf stated, “the board has no desire to discriminate against any student,” and that the district’s legal council recommended keeping the language as is. Dick Lundy called the situation a “significant misunderstanding,” and that he wouldn’t want anyone leaving the meeting thinking the board would allow any kind of discrimination.
At the end of this discussion, it was also suggested that the board revisit the “opt out” policy.
Consent & Action Items
The board accepted the retirement letter of Cheryl Kessler, a valued Dexter teacher for 37 years.
Support for the WISD bond proposal was discussed and unanimously approved. Dr. Timmis shared that the WISD’s proposal was a good plan and very thoughtful. This bond will allow WISD to reconstruct High Point School, a school dedicated to meeting the special needs of area students with disabilities from ages 3 through 26, which is in need of renovation.
The ongoing discussion regarding the placement of the B2B trail extension has made substantial progress. The board has provided the city with a letter allowing them to move forward with permitting, but the placement is still contingent on a successful final agreement between the school and the city. Bill Brown, the resident whose property abuts DCS property north of Jenkins was also present at the meeting, concerned about the placement of the trail.
Discussion commenced regarding the future sale of Copeland Administration Building. An Ad Hoc committee formed for this purpose recommended that the board prepare a draft purchase agreement consistent with outcomes and timelines previously discussed. With minor wording changes, this recommendation was unanimously approved.
Barb Santo updated the board that the application for Dexter to implement an Early Middle College program in the 2020-2021 school year has been completed and will be sent out for approval.
Dr. Timmis shared the continuing progress of the bond projects. A furniture bid package is going out for Anchor and the High School. The Mill Creek band and orchestra addition is still on pace, and the Wylie office is almost complete. Summer work is currently being scheduled.
The Athletics Committee stated they are pleased with the leadership Athletic Director Mike Bavineau is showing as the leader of a sub-committee discussing topics such as pay to play, coach and player review processes and policy governing how sports can make the transition from funded to non-funded.
Board member, Mara Greatorex, shared the take-aways from the Community Chat session held before the evening’s board meeting. Questions raised by attendees included how best to communicate with board members; the board recommends attending Community Chats, sending letters and emails and using the Dexter Schools website and app, particularly the “Let’s Talk” feature. Greatorex also shared that Dr. Timmis and President Wendorf create the BOE meeting agendas, so contacting one of them is the best way to get something put on an agenda.
There was also discussion regarding a culture of fear when speaking out on some issues; specifically fear of retribution being taken out on students. Greatorex again recommended the “Let’s Talk” feature of the website, through which submissions can remain anonymous. The communication chain of command was also shared for both athletics (coach, athletic director, principal, superintendent) and academics (teacher, principal, superintendent) as how to proceed with feedback.
The board then adjourned their open meeting to a closed session to discuss negotiations.