By Lonnie Huhman, firstname.lastname@example.org
Voters in the Dexter Community Schools district have three candidates to pick from in the upcoming board of education election.
These candidates are competing for two spots on the seven-person school board. On Nov. 6, voters in Dexter will select the candidates to fill these open seats. The candidates are newcomer Mara Greatorex, school board veteran Dick Lundy and school board appointee Rob Mitzel. All three were at the candidate forum on Monday, Oct. 16, at the Creekside Media Center, which was hosted by Dexter Forum’s co-moderators Karl Fink and John Hansen.
Hansen, a former superintendent of Dexter, said the elected candidates will serve six-year terms. He said the forum should have a positive tone because ultimately each candidate has one thing in common and so does the audience, and that’s to see Dexter schools become even better.
The candidates were given questions ahead of time but were not told which ones would be asked. So some preparation was needed.
Questions began with Mitzel, who was appointed to the school board in 2016 to fill a vacancy. Mitzel works in information technology with Ford Motor Company.
He has six children ranging in ages from 3 to 20 who have, are or will be experiencing the school district. He also has experience serving in government when he lived in Novi and now in Webster Township.
He was asked what he thought the biggest challenges the school board had to consider when it came to the state legislature.
Mitzel cited the state diverting funding from the K-12 school budget to higher education and the many changes made to state standardized testing and other mandates sent down from Lansing as challenges facing all school districts.
“Part of the board member’s responsibility is to help advocate the value of education and help have an outreach towards the legislature to help shift some of that direction to better support education,” Mitzel said.
In other answers to other questions, Mitzel said some of the challenges the district must continue to address is providing a quality and equitable educational pathway for each individual student and cited special education as an important priority.
In closing, Mitzel said he’s appreciated serving on the board and he’s learned a lot, and hopes he’s had a positive impact. He said he hopes to continue to help the district. He said much of his viewpoint has been formed through his children’s different experiences.
He emphasized all students need to be the focus.
“One of my main interests is to make sure we can look at each and every student and make sure that they can have the opportunity for success upon graduation,” Mitzel said.
Lundy has served on the school board for nearly four decades and has had generations of family go through Dexter schools. He had owned and operated a local company named Control-O-Mation or later known as COM staring in 1972 and served as President and CEO until 1999 when it was sold.
He was asked about the school board’s primary responsibilities. He said fulfilling its legal requirements, such as hiring a superintendent, are important and so is governing the district in a way that helps it continue its success as a premier district. He said the board must represent all students and support administration and staff.
“I think we are responsible to represent the interests of all community stakeholders, including students, parents, taxpayers and staff,” Lundy said, and added the board must strive to continually learn as well as support the superintendent in the effort to make the district the best it can be.
In other answers, specifically to a question about expectations and budgets, Lundy said he has seen and been part of the district’s successes toward being one of the big reasons why the Dexter community has grown. He said expectations will remain and rise as time goes on, but budgets don’t grow sometimes and at times can be challenges. He said it’s important for the board to continue to look for additional, outside revenue sources to help the district while also looking out for any operating efficiencies that can be made.
In closing, Lundy said he is deeply connected to the district’s history through his board service and family. He said he believes he’s been part of the decision-making process for a longtime and is proud of what the district has achieved and become.
In closing he quoted Hall of Fame NFL coach Vince Lombardi, “We shall strive for perfection, knowing full well we will never achieve it, but in the process we will achieve excellence, and I think that speaks to how we approach things here.”
Greatorex said she would be a fresh voice for the school community. She said she’s a mom of two students in Dexter, a daughter in tenth-grade and son in eighth-grade. She said she’s volunteered in the district in many capacities, including with the Cornerstone Parent Teacher Group and coached girls at Wylie, Creekside and Mill Creek for Girls on the Run. She works at the Dexter Wellness Center and Crossfit Joust in Ann Arbor.
In answering her first question, Greatorex said in making all decisions the board should be guided by the core beliefs, which includes providing quality educations for all students; making sure curriculum is always the best it can be; eliminating any prejudice and promoting respect while also maintaining a safe learning environment.
“Because school members are elected officials we serve the Dexter community,” she said and added the board must encourage and invite community input while also doing the best it can to communicate with the public.
When asked about what the district does well, where it can improve and what should it eliminate, Greatorex cited her daughter’s experience in getting her specific educational needs met by having a good teacher. She said the district has some of the best teachers, who are working with students in unique ways. She said in improving, the district could look to bring on some additional support staff to help with students’ wellness needs while allowing teachers to concentrate on teaching.
In closing Greatorex said she loves Dexter schools. She said from advance college preparatory courses to classes seeing students learn about different trades are examples of the district working to meet all students’ styles.
“I’m so excited that my kids get to go to Dexter schools,” Greatorex said.
During audience Q and A, the candidates were asked about Title IX or Nine issues and what their thoughts are about the district’ approaches to this.
Mitzel said in prefacing his answer, explained some of Title IX as being a federal regulation working to instill equity within school sports for boys and girls. He said the board and school district has created an Ad Hoc committee, composed of community members, to look into this and it’s the district’s goal to make sure its compliant and doing the right thing for the community. He said he’s interested to see what that committee finds and recommends.
In adding his take, Lundy said the Title IX issue is a complex one and whatever the district does will probably not make everyone happy. He said this has come up as an issue in the district because, in part, the number of sport/athletic opportunities has grown because the district has always tried to welcome new athletic opportunities and not turn away requests for time and space. However, he said it’s a real struggle to make everyone happy and it can come down to a funding issue with many sports competing for limited resources. He said the district does all it can to accommodate, especially in providing the facilities and he believes it is compliant but will always work to get better.
Greatorex said some parents of athletes recently met to talk about this topic and one thing brought up was athletic programs needing substantial proportionality, which means there is true equity between males and females. She said looking at the overall population of the schools its 50/50 between boys and girls, but on the athletic field there’s an imbalance with more male athletes on the field. She said there’s also an imbalance issue in the district between funded and unfunded school sports, which she said needs to be addressed.