The Dexter Board of Education meeting on July 22nd was called to order and momentarily presided over by Superintendent Chris Timmis, prior to the formal election of the 2019-2020 school board officers. This month’s meeting primarily focused on annual board business items such as officer elections, renewing business partnerships and approving district memberships.
Officer elections were unanimously approved; Michael Wendorf will continue on as BOE President, Julie Schumaker will serve as Vice President, Mara Greatorex as Secretary and Dick Lundy will continue as Treasurer. Julie Schumaker commented that Lundy has served as the BOE Treasurer for 36 of his 40 years on the board (his first four years were as Vice President).
Dr. Timmis shared a new initiative from the Communications office, ICYMI@DCS, a weekly summary of Dexter School social media posts shared via the Dread Strong Facebook page and other social media. The district is finalizing staffing for the fall; there are several open positions around the district, namely a kindergarten teacher at Beacon, speech pathologist at Anchor and special education teacher at Mill Creek. Timmis stated there are many positions available through Community Education, including lunch monitors, paraprofessionals, lifeguards, aftercare and bus drivers.
Student representative Chad Robards updated the board regarding the new boys’ basketball coach, Jason Rushton, sharing that he is well-liked and has made himself available to help students in any way.
Robards also reminded the board of a suggestion he made at the April 22, 2019 meeting, asking for an anonymous year-end athletics review process to be implemented for students to provide feedback on their programs. Wendorf and other board members acknowledged the request, and asked that Robards write up a proposal to be forwarded to the Athletics Ad Hoc Committee.
Analisa Shehab, also representing the student body, commented that fall sports are starting to pick up. The cross-country and field hockey teams recently returned from their team camps in Traverse City and Michigan State University, respectively.
As there were no public comments, the board moved on to approving multiple new hires for the district: Anna Romano, Mill Creek social worker; A. Jouel Truesdell-Lewis, preschool speech and language pathologist; Kalli Nowitzke, Mill Creek special education; Karen Reeves-Wagner, DHS guidance counselor; Robert Dubay, DHS social studies; Ann Rossman, Spanish teacher for Anchor and Mill Creek. In addition, the board accepted the resignation of Beacon teacher, Stacey Plott.
The action items portion of the meeting consisted of annual housekeeping items for the coming year, including renewing district relationships with current banking and legal entities and the board’s membership in the Michigan Association of School Boards (MASB), the MASB Legal Trust Fund and the Michigan High School Athletic Association (MHSAA). Board members also signed their annual declaration of commitment and conflict of interest forms. In addition to these and other business items, the board approved a comprehensive course catalog document listing every course Dexter Schools currently or have ever offered for compliance with state auditing requirements.
Jim Carson, President of the Dexter Senior Center, spoke at this time to inform the board they have started negotiations with potential Copeland building buyer, The Encore Musical Theater Company, in regards to continuing their lease of a portion of Copeland. Carson stated the senior center is very confident they can come to a reasonable agreement on a lease, and is, “most impressed that there is an understanding of senior needs,” from Encore. He continued by saying that Dexter Schools has been the senior center’s landlord for 25 years, and that Dexter wouldn’t have a senior center at all without the lease from the district.
Board member, Dick Lundy, reminded those present that the sale agreement includes wording that states there will be no sale without a satisfactory lease agreement between the buyer and the Dexter Senior Center. The board then voted unanimously to approve the district moving forward with the sale of Copeland to The Encore Musical Theater Company.
Mill Creek Middle School will now have a girl’s field hockey team, after a recommendation from the Athletics Ad Hoc committee was unanimously approved by the board. Also, under the athletics heading, the board approved recommendations from both the Athletics Ad Hoc and Finance committees to pause the pay-to-participate discussion in order to include community input. Click here for the full story.
Moving to the discussion portion of the meeting, the first topic concerned the naming of two turf fields at the high school. At the June 24th BOE meeting, Julie Schumaker suggested that in honor of Dick Lundy’s 40 years of service on the school board that the fields be named after him. Lundy was not present at the June 24th meeting and upon learning of the proposal, while touched by the sentiment and gesture, declined the honor. Recent community social media posts have suggested the fields be named after Dexter athlete and graduate, Karen McKeachie, with an accompanying petition garnering over 1,100 signatures of support.
The conversation then turned to the board’s naming policy, its application and usefulness. Policy Committee chair, Barbara Read, suggested the board take time before the next meeting to read the naming policy and submit to her any potential changes or suggestions for further review.
The second topic for discussion was the recommendation from DHS Principal Kit Moran to move the high school graduation ceremony from the DHS gymnasium to Hill Auditorium at the University of Michigan. Moran shared that class sizes have increased over the years, and holding the ceremony at DHS is not optimal due to seating space limitations and lack of comfort in the gym, as well as limited parking. Hill Auditorium seats 3,500, which gives the ceremony room to grow as needed, and offers comfortable seating for all in an air-conditioned environment. In regard to parking on campus, according Hill Auditorium’s facilities manager, UM usually offers free structure parking for graduation ceremonies.
Challenges to the proposal include lack of space for the band/orchestra to perform at the ceremony and a date change for the 2020 ceremony. Due to Hill’s unavailability, the 2020 graduation exercises would be held on Friday night instead of Sunday afternoon, returning to Sundays for 2021 and beyond. The board and Dr. Timmis suggested Moran survey 2020 senior families for their input. An email was sent to senior parents this week to gather thoughts regarding the proposed change of venue.
The final discussion item of the evening was presented by Jennifer Mattison, Food and Nutrition Director for DCS, regarding an increase in school meal prices. According to her memo to the board, “After completing the PLE Tool that evaluates Dexter’s average meal cost against the USDA minimum price, the results show the need for a price increase for the upcoming school year. The USDA SY19-20 Weighted Average Price Requirement is $3.00; based on SY2018-19 data, Dexter’s current weighted average price is $2.91. This already leaves a $.09 gap between the USDA required average pricing level and Dexter’s existing level. Best practice says that when implementing a price increase it is best to do so in $.25 increments, as was done in at least the previous two price increases. Our last price increase occurred in SY15-16.”
Mattison’s recommendation is to increase Dexter’s lunch prices to $3.00 for Young 5’s through 6th grade, and $3.25 for 7th-12th grades. The breakfast prices would move to $1.65 for grades Y5–6 and $1.90 for grades 7-12, to offset rising costs.
Dr. Timmis shared updates regarding bond construction. At the high school, infrared scans are planned for the roof to find areas needing repair. Also, signage will be installed at the twin turf fields designating the emergency entrance, handicapped parking, and “no pets allowed” on the fields. Administration will be moving their offices from Copeland to Bates and the subsequent office design work is in progress.
At Wylie, the pool is undergoing chemical and filtration work and the district is looking to replace the starting blocks in the near future. The pool locker rooms are getting new flooring – “the best slip resistant ceramic tile available” – and new shower towers, with the girls’ locker room being completed first. Also, the mechanical room at Wylie floods during heavy storms which washes copious amounts of dirt into the room; the cause has been identified and repairs are underway. The Wylie main office work is almost completed and the robotics team has moved into the Wylie shop area.
At Mill Creek, the band/orchestra addition will be done by the end of August and completion of the choir room/flexible learning space is scheduled for the end of September. A portion of the roof at Jenkins is being repaired, and finish and playground work is underway at Beacon. Approximately $350,000 of new furniture will be coming in across the district, furnishing 60 rooms before school starts.
Wrapping up the meeting, member Barbara Read shared some quotes regarding how the presence of divergent views on a board is valuable – “Leaders needs to recognize that a board member who strongly disagrees with the majority or with the board’s officers may be playing a vital role.”
After some comments regarding the community chat held on July 15th, at which only one community member was present, the board adjourned to closed session.