Members Sound Off Over Departing Staff at Dexter Senior Center
Dexter Senior Center Program Coordinator Kim Martini and Administrative Assistant Antoinette Prawdzik abruptly gave notice of their resignations. The departure of the two beloved staff people has upset many members.
The eye of the storm revolved around a Nov 3 job posting on the center’s Facebook page for an Executive Director. Soon after the posting, Martini and Prawdzik turned in their notices. Many members saw this as the board blindsiding the popular coordinator and took issue with the move.
When asked to comment on the situation, Board President Jim Carson replied, “We haven’t had a Center Director since we closed down the Center during Covid. Several Board members have been volunteering to share the responsibilities of an Executive Director, handling the day-to-day business operation of the Center, grant writing, fundraising, and, ever importantly, working toward establishing a sustainable funding source and finding a new location for the future Dexter Senior Center. We have been working under this business scenario since March 2020.”
“Both Kim and Antoinette have played key and essential roles in the success of our re-opening from the Covid shutdown,” continued Carson. “They are loved by our membership, as well as the Board of Trustees, and will be terribly missed by all. It is our expressed desire that they stay with us.”
“The Board has been planning to hire for this position over a period of time,” he added. “Kim has attended most of our monthly board meetings as Program Coordinator and several board retreat/working sessions where this position was discussed.”
Carson also explained the job posting was premature, posted before his intended meeting with the center’s four staff people, and he understood the upsetting nature of the mistake.
Senior Center Members aired their grievances at the Senior Center Board meeting on Wed, Nov 16. Headlining the public comments were Martini’s and Prawdzik’s resignations, but other concerns, such as a lack of communication/transparency and a future facility, were voiced.
“I was very disappointed in the millage that we really didn't have good publicity about that, what it was for, and how much money we were going to get. So, it failed.”
“We are extremely curious about your explanation of why this is happening. These women are good. There's a knowledge base that these people have about the seniors, about their needs, about what facilities are available in the area…And they're disappointed in the way they've been treated. They were not consulted regarding what changes they thought could be made or if perhaps they were even interested. At least that’s the impression I get.”
“We've lost communication between you and us, and that's our biggest problem. We do not have communication. If you would even put some blip in the newsletter every month about what's going on, we would be very happy. We don't know. It’s all rumors.”
Nine members spoke during public comments. After which, Carson responded, acknowledging that Martini performed her job “better than anybody else that we know that could do it. It's going to be very hard to fill her shoes. We're very much aware of that.”
Carson also informed the crowded room that he had discussions with Martini about the Executive Director slot and that she knew of the board’s impending job search.
When asked, Martini was reluctant to comment directly on the incident. In a phone call, she stated, “I came here with the goal of growing membership and developing an activity program, filling the calendar, bringing people back here, and I feel like I accomplished those goals, and I’m leaving the place better than I found it.”
When pressed to comment directly on the job posting, Martini deftly sidestepped. “The Dexter Senior Center will always hold a special place in my heart. I cherish the friendships that I’ve made here, and I hope that they get the home they deserve.”
When asked to comment, Prawdzik provided a larger context for the issue. “We’ve created such a great community here, but we weren’t being recognized. If we had things we needed to discuss and needed help with, it wasn’t being followed up on. It wasn’t changed. We weren’t heard for the things we needed here at the center. We weren’t valued for what we brought in.”
When the job listing was posted, Prawdzik explained, “I felt like part of that job was encompassing Kim’s and my jobs. I personally felt one of us was going to have to go. Now, it turns out that was misinformation that they had no intention of letting either one of us go, which I didn’t find out till yesterday (Nov 16).”
“But when you don’t keep your employees updated on what’s happening, you don’t keep your seniors updated on what’s happening, things like this can really make you feel insecure and unstable,” she added.
Prawdzik did not attend the board meeting but said the feedback from members was positive. By the end of the session, they felt they had been heard, and the board was responding.
“We took ownership for the lack of communication with the membership and promised to make several immediate changes as we continue through this rebuilding process,” Carson said in an email afterward. “At the end of the day, we all have the same goal, and that is to save the Dexter Senior Center.”
Regarding future funding and a new center, Dexter, Dexter Township, and Webster Township are looking at forming a senior services regional authority that, among other things, could propose a senior services millage to voters for facility, program, and service funding.
Before then, however, the Dexter Senior Center lease with The Encore Musical Theatre expires Dec 31, 2023. Carson said the board is working through four location options.