The Purpose of “Dread Strong”
New Superintendent Chris Timmis said he didn’t want to wait to settle in. He didn’t want to take a year or two to figure out the system to see if he liked where he had ended up. Instead he decided it was time to take charge and make a change by kicking off a district-wide marketing campaign using one central theme: “Dread Strong.”
He said the goal of the campaign is to get the community involved with the schools and give them an opportunity to recognize excellence in Dexter.
“You need to have some kind of common brand that everyone understands, something to draw people back in and celebrate what is really great about where they live and where they go to school,” Timmis said.
And he said a brand like Dread Strong offers Dexter a chance to grow into one of the best school districts in the state and even the nation.
“We’re really good right now,” Timmis said, “but we have so much potential, and we can do some incredible things for students and for the community. In order to do that you need some kind of theme to work around, something that’s common.”
Right now, in the early stages of the campaign, Dread Strong consists of a variety of methods of spreading the message, including yard signs and a Facebook page. These media are used to give a slogan to the community and instill a sense of pride.
“We have those things, but it can’t be hidden,” Timmis said. “It can’t just be on T-shirts. It can’t just be when students walk in the building. It should be out there, so that people it every neighborhood can say, ‘We feel a lot of pride in our school, and we want to make sure everybody knows.’ ”
But social media is where Timmis believes Dread Strong will really take off. “The Facebook presence gives us the opportunity to just celebrate good things,” he said.
“It’s not necessarily the school’s site,” he said. “It engages alumni, and it engages community members. It focuses on one common experience that everybody has: they all went to Dexter schools.”
While Dread Strong has been built from scratch this year, Timmis said it can grow into something much more significant within our district in the coming years.
He said, “We’re gonna build a strategic plan over the next few months that’ll talk about what we’re gonna look like as a school district in the next 5-10 years, and it will be trying to really become one of the best school districts in the country.”
As far as what defines a terrific school district, he says doesn’t know exactly what it would look like. However, he said Dread Strong gives the district the chance to find out by opening the conversation to everyone.
“It won’t be what I think,” Timmis said. “It’s what the community thinks. DreadStrong opens the doors.”
The Growth of “Dread Strong”
While Timmis said he plans for Dread Strong to grow into a much wider scope and purpose than it currently possesses, athletic director Michael Bavineau said he didn’t see it has already exceeded his original expectations.
The idea began as a simple way to unify the athletic department and create a common mindsight. “We were trying to create this new culture and this new identity,” Bavineau said.
After the process began, Bavineau said it simply kept moving forward. He said, “We got the new logo and just thought, ‘OK, where do we go from here?’”
“We wanted a new slogan,” Bavineau said. “Something that could capture who we are not only as an athletic department but as student-athletes and as kids in our school. Michigan has ‘Go Blue’ and Alabama has ‘Roll Tide,’ so what’s Dexter?”
Bavineau thought about having a standard, common phrase like “Go Dreads.” But when he thought of Dread Strong, he immediately fell in love with it. “Dread Strong sounds like something you’d want to be a part of,” he said.
Dread Strong seems to Bavineau like something the entire district could build around. “It’s a way for the community, the school, the students, regardless of age or grade, it’s something they can be a part of,” he said. “I hope it becomes sort of like a sense of pride.”
The Community Perspective
Bavineau and Timmis both have high ambitions for the Dread Strong campaign. But what does the community think? Doug Smith, the initial designer of the Dread Strong logo, has been following the operation since its beginning.
In addition to simply making the logo, Smith is a DHS graduate of 1990, has two children in the Dexter school system, and is very involved with many community organizations and programs. He said he has supported Dread Strong since it began and likes the direction it’s going in.
“You can have parents, alumni, businesses and anyone else who loves Dexter Schools all showing their support together,” Smith said.
Like many Dexter residents, the most visibly apparent component for Smith has been the arrival of Dread Strong yard signs. Smith said, “I know there’s always been a tradition of yard signs for certain sports, but having one sign and one campaign that everyone can be involved in is a big plus.”
“It’s great to drive around town or out of town in any direction and even when you get a couple miles away, you’ll still see a Dread Strong sign by someone’s driveway,” Smith said. “It just makes you think that it’s everywhere, and that’s pretty awesome.”
While Smith does appreciate the yard signs, he said he doesn’t believe they, or the Dread Strong program as a whole, are the end of Timmis’ plans to improve the school district.
“I know Superintendent Timmis has a lot of really great ideas and a focus on community support for our schools,” Smith said. “I think the Dread Strong campaign is just the start of some really cool stuff. I’m proud to be a Dexter alum and I’m proud to be a part of this.”