New bill in the House of Representatives seeks to change teacher evaluation guidelines

House bills 5223 and 5224, which aim to change the standards by which teachers are evaluated, were read in in the House of Representatives on Jan. 22.  These could change goals for teachers beginning as early as next year, but there is still much dispute about whether these changes will be for the best.

These bills would set up a new system for teacher and administrator evaluation in Michigan.  Under the proposed legislation, student growth will comprise at least 25 percent of a teacher’s evaluation for the first three years and would increase to at least 50 percent beginning in 2017.  The rest of the evaluation will be based on teacher practice, namely the results of observations.

Additionally, the bills will require schools to set up a mentor system in which teachers with high evaluations are partnered with teachers who are deemed less effective.  While some schools already use a mentor system, the bills propose making it a requirement.

Dexter Education Association President Joseph Romeo, a computer teacher at Dexter High School, said he supports this aspect of the bill.

“Mentors are absolutely critical,” he said.

While the intent of the bill is to provide a concrete measurement for how effective individual teachers are in communicating the material, the fear among many educators is that the emphasis on student growth will shift focus from benefiting the students to simply producing test scores and grades.

“All of our jobs are to prepare (students) for college,” Principal William Moran said.  “I’m disappointed that we’re going to create a situation where teachers aren’t trying to do the best teaching. I want my teachers to focus on teaching the kids that show up every day to the best of their ability.”

Part of the problem, Romeo said, is that all students do not come from similar situations outside of school.  The differences in students’ ability to focus on education outside of school will be reflected in their test scores and, in the new system, in their teachers’ evaluations.

“I would say to understand whether schools are adequately doing their job, we must address (other) issues,” Romeo said. “You would expect … students from higher socioeconomic communities to outperform students from lower socioeconomic communities.”

In order to ease such fears, legislators went to the Michigan Council on Educator Effectiveness for recommendations on which to base their bill.  This way, educators would be involved in forming the education bills.  Much of the bills are based on these suggestions, but more weight was given to student growth in the bills than was advised by council.

“The (MCEE) recommendation was excellent,” Moran said, despite his qualms about the bills themselves.

According to Moran, the effects of the bills changes in teacher evaluations would primarily be seen when deciding which teachers will be laid off in times of financial strain.  Therefore, the changes would be less evident in districts such as Dexter, where mass layoffs have not yet been a problem.

As these bills are only the most recent in a string of proposed changes to the Michigan educational system, teachers cannot yet be sure what changes will come in the near future.  Moran is not confident, however, that the legal system will produce an ideal system for teachers and students.

He said, “I wish I was more optimistic.”

Lockdown procedure gets overhaul

During the summer of 2013, Principal Kit Moran and School Liaison Deputy Jeremy Hilobuk decided to implement ALICE lockdown training for the Dexter Community School District in an effort to enforce safer procedures if an intruder were to enter the building.

ALICE, an acronym standing for Alert, Lockdown, Inform, Counter and Evacuate is a critical incident-response training company that specializes in active shooter and violent intruder response strategies. It is more of an active-response training as opposed to what Moran described as the passive-response training that was used previously.

With the new procedures, students and teachers will be instructed differently. For example, if an intruder were to enter near the office door, and students were in the art room on the bottom floor of the opposite side of the building, they would exit the building and get to the next-safest destination.

As for teachers, the training is designed to make them more aware of how to handle a life or death situation if it were happening, as quickly as possible. They’re scheduled to have a first meeting about the new training on Jan. 23.

“Teachers will learn defense tactics like latching the door, blocking the entrance with desks, different kinds of barricades, and essentially anything they can do to slow down the intruder,” Moran said. “Many of these instances only occur in 5-10 minutes, so finding anything to slow an intruder down will save lives. There is a body count for every minute or two it takes for the police to get here. If you can get out of the building, get out of the building.”

It was a training session in August that made it apparent to Moran and Hilobuk that ALICE would be the new lockdown method for the district.

“They reenacted Columbine (the school shooting incident in Colorado in 1999 where 16 people including the two student-gunmen died), and it was scary to say the least,” Moran said. “It was frustrating to watch because there were so many instances where kids lost their lives because they were following an illogical lockdown method, and we don’t want that to happen here.”

However, training didn’t stop there. Moran underwent multiple training sessions to become more accustomed to the ALICE procedures.

“Training entails raise level of awareness,” Moran said. “Showing what ALICE looks like,  going through each letter of ALICE and seeing how we can do that here, with scenarios, and practicing those scenarios in the location where you hide.”

But that’s the milder side of training. It becomes more realistic when the sheriff’s department gets involved.

“Hilobuk comes in with a cap gun and it gets frightening,” Moran said.  “They show us what we used to do, when we hid in a corner and the guy could come in and shoot us.  Then we practiced ALICE, finding ways to slow down the intruder and evacuate as many people as we can to safety.  It’s all very eye opening.”

Moran said he expects to have the school participate in an ALICE lockdown drill during lunch.

“It’s a very unorthodox procedure because students must act on their own judgement and teachers won’t have as much structure and organization over their students,” Moran said.

A large issue lies in the elementary school and how young children will handle a situation like this. Good judgment and critical thinking skills, attributes that are needed for ALICE to be executed successfully, may not be fully developed yet for these children.

“The main thing we want to do is give people options,” said Hilobuk. “One advantage when it comes to the elementary schools is since they’re so close together, if one thing happens at one school, they can take them to the other school.”

Not only can ALICE be applied to the classroom, but also in everyday life.

“It’s good life skills,” Hilobuk said, “you can be aware in other environments too.” It is evident that ALICE is a more effective lockdown method, and while hopefully it is a procedure we will never have to use, we will all be capable of performing it if need be.  As Moran said “ALICE is us fighting back.”

 

Common App creates common problems

The fourth version of the Common Application, often referred to as the Common App, was released on Aug. 1, and since then, at least 42 colleges and universities pushed back their early deadlines due to system malfunctions.

Complete application submission became a problem under this year’s version of the Common App, a nonprofit college admission application company that allows students to create one master application that will be submitted to its member colleges for consideration.

Documents wouldn’t load, PDFs wouldn’t attach, students’ entire accounts froze and complete applications wouldn’t submit.

For senior Megan Lynch, many of these issues added extra stress to her application process.

“My University of Michigan application didn’t go through,” Lynch said. “They emailed me saying they couldn’t find my transcripts or my test scores, so I didn’t make early action.”

Senior Sabrina Meo had similar problems in her application process. She wasn’t able to submit her actual application, and sometimes she wasn’t even able to log into the Common App. website.

“I would wake up at 4 a.m. to submit and work on my application,” Meo said. “There were less people on the server, so things didn’t run as slow.”

Since 517 different colleges and universities use the Common App in some form, and 175 of those schools use the Common App exclusively, students around the country, including Meo, were starting to worry.

“The problems I had didn’t affect my deadlines,” Meo said. “Just my stress level.”

According to Scott Anderson, the Senior Director for Policy at the Common Application, the newest version of the Common App was intended to be a more robust system that would effectively guide applicants and schools through the complex application process. But he recognizes this year’s version of the Common App was far from perfect and said he appreciates the way most people reacted to the problems they encountered.

“Since the Aug. 1 launch of the 2013-14 Common Application, nearly 480,000 applicants have used the system to submit college applications,” Anderson said. “We are grateful for the patience exhibited by these applicants, their parents, counselors, and teachers as we worked to support them through the technical challenges they may have faced in the application process.”

Problems with the Common App were not only encountered by students, but by counselors and teachers too. In fact, for counselor Gerry Holmes, the Common App upgrade felt more like a downgrade.

“None of (the Common App) was working,” Holmes said. “There were plenty of upset people with important deadlines to meet. Teachers were emailing me left and right about it. It was just chaos.”

Holmes said she dealt with plenty of students as they faced problems loading documents, submitting documents and viewing recommender-submitted documents.

“The college application process is stressful enough as it is,” Holmes said. “Students don’t need anything added to that.”

English teacher and yearbook adviser Barry Mergler was one of the many teachers who had problems submitting a recommendation. He said a recommendation letter that appeared to be complete and submitted wasn’t received by the University. His problems were eventually solved when he switched browsers.

Mergler, who has used the Common App for years, said he has never had problems before this year.

“Usually things are easy, very straightforward,” Mergler said. “This year, things were rather rocky.”

Former English teacher, Jo Muszkiewicz had problems that surpassed submission difficulties, though. After Muszkiewicz set up her account under the new version of the system and submitted recommendations for several students, she said she could not even log into the site.

“At first I thought it was because I was in Europe when I was trying to submit the recommendations,” Muszkiewicz said. “But when I got home, I still had problems. There were times when I was able to access the site and times when I simply could not sign in.”

So Muszkiewicz called the Common App help desk, and they were able to fix the problem quickly. After that, though, she had more trouble getting help.

Finally, the help desk suggested that Muszkiewicz switch browsers, just as Mergler had.

“Rollouts of new systems always seem to have bugs that need to be ironed out,” Muszkiewicz said. “Sometimes the only way to find the problems is to have people use the system.”

That being said, the Common App still feels responsible for the complications users have, and Anderson said they are working to make sure the problems users encountered this year don’t happen again.

“We want to reinforce the message that we are sorry for all of the frustrations experienced during the rollout of the new system,” Anderson said. “We are fully committed to guiding each applicant and recommender to a successful submission.”

Prom moves to the Big House

What’s happening?

For about 25 years on the Friday before Prom, just under 100 prom committee volunteers flooded the halls after school, glue guns in their hands and determination in their eyes.

They had one mission: transform the whitewashed walls and tiled floors of Dexter High School into something unrecognizable, something fit to host a prom for hundreds of juniors and seniors.

And for almost a quarter of a century, they’ve succeeded with the extreme makeover. In just over 24 hours, they’ve created enchanted forests, Mardi Gras festivals and schools of witchcraft and wizardry.

But this spring, the prom committee won’t need to wield their staple guns and extension cords. Instead, breaking with tradition, the junior-senior prom will be held at University of Michigan’s football stadium a.k.a. “The Big House.”

How did it get this way?

According to student council adviser and high school teacher Al Snider, there were two major factors that led to the venue change: liability and a declining number of volunteers.

“It became harder and harder for the prom committee to make it as big as they wanted,” he said.  “I know people are busy, and the committee was having a tough time getting people to help.”

In fact, at one point a few years ago, some students were given the responsibility of a couple halls due to a lack of parent volunteers.

According to Paula Staebler, chair of the prom committee, parents are busy and oftentimes over committed, which is probably the main reason the numbers of volunteers have dwindled over the years.

“Because of the extent of time, energy, and creativity that is needed, many parents just cannot commit to such an undertaking,” Staebler said.  “A committee chair spends at least three months planning and executing their ideas, and the weekend of prom they literally spend the entire weekend at DHS.”

So, as Staebler put it, the new location will make this year’s prom “kinder and gentler for the volunteers.”

The number of volunteers was shrinking, and, although the prom committee was never actually cited by the fire marshall, the concern about liability was growing.  Sprinkler heads, fire alarms and fire extinguishers at the high school were covered up by decorations and creating a fire hazard.

And just last year there was a slight snafu in the “Nearlyweds” game room, where one of the powerstrips became overheated and started smoking.

“That really clued us and the administration in that we needed to look elsewhere because of the liability issues,” Snider said.

And so began the hunt for a new venue.  Other locations on the U of M campus such as the League and the Union, as well as Eastern Michigan and Washtenaw Community College’s new venues were all in the running before the final decision was made. Staebler said she was brainstorming with her son, junior Tristin Staebler, and one of her son’s friends, junior Chris Ryan, when having the prom at Michigan Stadium came up.

“I quickly, as we were sitting there talking, emailed the contact at the Jack Roth Stadium club,” Staebler said.  “And the idea was born.”

How is it playing out?

Despite the drastic change in venue, many of the aspects that made up former proms will still be present this spring.

For example, neither Snider nor Staebler predict that the price of $35 a ticket will change much.

According to Snider, the price has been the same for about 10 years, a factor that will be taken into consideration when deciding this year’s ticket cost.

“If it did increase, it would not increase more than $5 per ticket,” Staebler said.  “Prom ticket prices have been the same for a number of years, so an increase would not be unreasonable.” Many of the games and activities that have made an annual appearance at former proms, will also make the trip to The Big House.

“We store the poker tables and the putt-putt in the building at Creekside,” Snider said.  “We just have to trek it a little bit farther, as opposed to around the corner.”

Staebler agreed that the prom parent volunteers will try to keep the games consistent, too, in order to maintain the integrity of past proms.

“We are hoping to keep some of the same old favorites available for the students, to keep the same feel as in years past, just in a new format,” she said.

The prom will also still be theme-based. This year’s theme, decided by an upperclassmen vote,  is “Under the Stars.” However, decorations will not hang from the walls and ceilings like they have in the past, due to the same liability issues, according to Snider.

As for venues in the years to come, Staebler wants to keep her options open, but she is also considering having prom at The Big House each year.

She said, “I would like to see how it goes and possibly keep it there.”

New superintendent hosts community conversation

On Dec. 5, new Superintendent Christopher Timmis held a meeting attended by seven Dexter citizens. Timmis held this open meeting with the community to address community concerns regarding the school district. His said his purpose was to figure out where the school system lies within the community and find a long-term way to success. Timmis organized the meeting like a question and answer interview with 10 questions he had for the community. Below are his questions and the community answers, summarized as bullet points.

What are we most proud of with Dexter Schools?

•The strong sense of community within the school system.

•The accomplishments throughout the schools.

•We are equal to or surpassed the success and accomplishments of other schools.

•The growth that the school has seen.

•The strong extracurricular activities.

What are we least proud of with Dexter Schools?

•Needs to be more effort with communication between building to building.

•Keep everyone on the same schedule and calendar to avoid confusion.

•We can expect more and set the bar higher.

What do we need to start doing?

•Have an eye on the next step for the student.

•Need to challenge kids to do more and better.

•Learn to not forget about the kids that are in the average category.

•We need to not be settled with mediocrity.

•Make the transitions for kids easier from school to school.

What should we stop doing?

•Nothing was stated.

What is our greatest strength?

•The faculty is caring and dedicated.

•People are often on top of things throughout the school and make sure certain things get done.

•The staff and students often go the extra step to help others.

What is our greatest weakness?

•Need more money to help those who need it.

•Need to compete more for state funding.

As a superintendent, what do you need from me?

•Be strong, consistent, a leader, and keep working on the little things.

•Address problems that need focus.

What can I expect from the parents?

•Support

•Communication

•Help

Teacher receives early holiday gift from fellow union members

When a teacher needed the help of the community as they faced an unexpected situation where personal sick days were not enough to cover an increasing need for absences, fellow members of the teachers’ union came to his rescue.

“Teachers in Dexter Schools are lucky to have a strong union, the Dexter Education Association,” the teacher, who asked that we not use his name, said. “They support teachers in a variety of ways such as advocating for our positions, securing reasonable salaries and benefits, and ensuring a safe working environment. When I unexpectedly needed to take a leave of absence, the DEA stepped forward and offered to help me by donating sick days. I did not request the days; they were an unsolicited gift. I am tremendously grateful for the compassionate generosity of my colleagues.”

However, this process of teachers donating their extra sick days to fellow teachers in need is not covered by the union contract, meaning it is not a process that is guaranteed or regulated by the school.

“The contracts are silent regarding loans of days from one employee to another,” Superintendent Chris Timmis said. “Occasionally, a situation arises where we need to look outside of contracts and do the right thing.”

DEA President Joe Romeo said he appreciates Timmis’ willingness to work with the union on this issue while he and other members of the union facilitate the process of aiding teachers in such situations.

Romeo said that once a need is brought to the table, DEA officials discuss the situation with the administration to determine how to help the individual. After this, they let the members of the DEA know—always anonymously to protect privacy— that there is someone in need.

When the help offered is in the form of a donation of days, Romeo said that he records the members volunteering to donate their extra sick days. After this, Romeo said that he checks with the superintendent’s office to make sure that the donors have enough sick days of their own.

Once this is done, Romeo arranges the list of donors by order of most sick days. He then takes one sick day from the teacher with the most days to give and then goes down the list in that order. This goes on until either he runs out of donors or enough days have been donated.

This process, however, is not a new one. There have been two such cases this year already along with numerous cases in years past.

“We have done this several times over the last dozen or so years,” Romeo said. “Although we have also experienced times lasting as long as five or six years when nobody has needed such help.”

All things considered, facilitating uncontracted aid is not an easy task, according to Romeo, and he is thankful for the extra administrative support as is the leadership of the DEA.

In a prepared statement, they wrote, “We appreciate the efforts of our superintendent to facilitate our members’ attempts to help other members who are experiencing unusual and unforeseen health difficulties. Also, the efforts of the district human resources department has been necessary for us to be able to provide the kind of help most needed in times that can feel overwhelming to someone experiencing a major unexpected health problem.”

And the DEA isn’t the only one giving thanks this time of year. The teacher who was aided is thankful as well.

He said, “Thanksgiving has extra meaning for me this year thanks to the wonderful staff of Dexter Schools, our DEA officers and Superintendent Timmis.”

 

asking.for trouble

Being called “slut,” “whore,” and pregnant have lead senior Eden Krull to completely delete all posts off her ask.fm wall. She has now been off of the site for over a month.

“I think it’s dumb,” she said of ask.fm. “But I don’t give a crap about (the things that were said about me) because it was anonymous. It was probably just one or two people who don’t like me.”

Ask.fm, a social media website which was launched on June 16, 2010, allows people to ask anonymous questions to each other. Users can then answer questions that they have been asked of them. These answers then become viewable to the public.

Questions can also be asked to a specific person with the option of anonymity, but all of the user’s followers can view the question and the answers to it.

The anonymous nature of the site seems to be the problem according to Assistant Principal Ken Koenig.

“The problems are not constant,” Koenig said. “They just tend to pop up. In general, they mostly come up at the beginning of the school year. People have less time to be directly social so the turn to social media.”

As for counselor Craig Rafail, “Ask.fm is the latest edition of of social media that is used for inappropriate conversation. For ask.fm users, they know bullying is a part of it. So the question is why sign up for an account?”

Krull says that she chose to get an account because “everyone did it and I thought it would be a good idea.”

After using the site for only 2 weeks Krull says she no longer accesses her account although she has not deleted it. “It was not worth it to get it originally. It is so dumb, I don’t even know why that site exists.”

According to Rafail this is the right thing to do.  In fact, he said if a student signs up for an ask.fm account, they are “accepting and participating in the bullying.”

“You have to block them or shut it down,” he said of bullies on sites such as ask.fm. “It creates situational depression, anxiety and low self-esteem. A trend coming from mental health professionals is recommending you don’t get an account like this.”

Koenig agrees and said he wishes students would realize that they do not have to respond to what is asked to them. They can simply ignore or delete the questions or comments which were directed towards them if they are inappropriate. They they will not go public thus avoiding the problem.

“The issue with the bullying lies in the maturity level of the people on the social media site, both the people who are putting out the mean comments and those that are letting them appear on their profile,” Koenig said. “They need to just use good judgement and not get themselves into potentially bad situations.”

Even with all of the problems surrounding the site, there are still many students who continue to use it such as junior Kimi Camara. Camara said one of the main things that appeals to him about the site is the ability to look at other people’s drama from the outside.

“I check (the site) a couple of times a day,” he said. “I think it is fun to watch what people ask each other questions because it’s funny. The site is intense. People really go hard, and I enjoy being a spectator to that.”

People who do this are a major part of the problem in Rafail’s opinion, “Ask.fm users know bullying is a part of it. (They) let the bullies be heard.”

But according to Businessweek.com, the approximately 60 million users on ask.fm will have to adapt to changes that have been made to the site. Ask.fm recently released an update which makes it easier to report inappropriate behavior as well as allow users to opt out of receiving anonymous questions. They would then only receive questions when the questioner identifies themselves.

Businessweek.com also reported that these changes are in response to the suicide of a  British teenager who had a lot of messages directed toward him in a negative manner. A statement on the blog Techcrunch reported that ask.fm is going to hire more staff in order to try to monitor and stop problems with bullying on this site.

Following these changes Krull says, “Nobody uses it anymore, It’s already dying so it won’t last much longer.”

As for anybody who is thinking of getting an ask.fm in the future Krull says, “Don’t do it because it’s dumb and it’s a pathway for bullying.”

Murals cause controversy

Senior Maitreya Menge stood in the hall, paintbrush in hand.  She got ready to pour herself out, expressing the subjects nearest to her heart.  With the first stroke of her paint brush, Menge started a conflict that she couldn’t have seen coming.

“I was told to paint a mural that meant something to me, something that I cared about, and that’s just what I did,” Menge said.

Murals have lined the walls of the school for years.  They are created as a part of the “Drawing and Painting” class taught by art teacher Autumn Campbell.  Student artists like Menge take this as an opportunity to share their artwork in a public space with the rest of the school.

Before the designs are finalized and painted, they are sent to Principal Kit Moran, who ultimately approves or denies them.  Moran said he has not turned down a single mural idea.

“As long as the content doesn’t make a personal attack on a certain group or student or causes a disturbance to the school day, then I generally will allow it,” he said.

But sometimes self-expression, though deemed not offensive by administration, can cause problems with the beliefs of other students or faculty.

But with thousands of students passing through the school each year, it’s inevitable that some controversial mural ideas would collide with the views and beliefs of certain students, even if they are principal-approved.

Last year, Menge themed her murals around the subject of transgenderism.

“It’s really the idea that most people don’t recognize the struggles of transgenderism,” Menge said.

Her mural features characters with word bubbles surrounding their heads containing words such as “who,” “him,” “she,” “it” and “her,” etc.–making a statement about the characters’ sexuality.

But almost as soon as these murals appeared a concerned student contacted Principal Kit Moran, outraged.  This student agreed to be interviewed for the story only if The Squall didn’t use her name.

“It is my personal belief that the mural showing a transgender’s struggle is not appropriate for the walls of our school,” she said. “In general, I enjoy the art murals in the school. However, I believe that they should not have any subject matter that promotes certain views one way or another.”

She said that although she knows public schools aren’t allowed to promote religious beliefs, she thinks that schools also shouldn’t be able to promote ideas that oppose these religious beliefs either.

But for Menge, the murals weren’t about promoting a certain idea. Instead, she was focused on educating people.

“I did not foresee people being upset about the mural,” she said. “I’m not trying to influence anyone to think a certain way, but rather to shed light on a subject that is generally ignored.”

Several meetings were held between the concerned student and Moran, but in the end, Moran made the decision to leave the murals up.

“The student has a right to express themselves,” Moran said. “All murals are signed and dated. The content does not necessarily express the school’s views, but rather the views of the artist. We have to learn to respect that other people have different views and opinions.”

 

Freshman house changes frustrate teachers

Freshmen house was created four years ago to make an 8th grader’s transition to high school a little bit easier.  Now a senior, Sarah Griffith said she still remembers her freshman experience and how Freshman House helped her.

“I really liked that we had the same teachers all year long,” she said.  “And what I remember most is the freshman house war we had between two teams.”

Creating a smooth transition socially as well as academically was a goal of the freshmen house.  Team bonding– like the team “war” Griffith experienced– allows for freshmen to get familiar with their peers and not feel intimidated entering a school with twice the number of students compared to middle school.

The academic component is vital according to Principal Kit Moran.

“Our goal for high school is for you to graduate 12th grade ready to go to Harvard,”  Moran said.

But due to a smaller freshman class and budget cuts, there are fewer freshmen house teachers this year, meaning there aren’t well defined “teams” like there have been previous years, leading to frustration among freshman house teachers.

“The changes made this year were due to a very small freshman population,” freshmen house Earth Science teacher Beau Kimmey said.  “One of the teams had to be reduced down to three teachers, and it ended up messing up the American Studies blocks.”

The first year freshmen house was implemented, there were three teams of four teachers with two math teachers shared among the three teams.  This year the block sessions like the American Studies block which includes English and social studies, have been broken apart.  Now freshmen also travel between teams for science as well as math.

For example, teachers Ryan Baese and Andrew Parker used to work together by opening up the walls between their classrooms and having a two-hour, or “blocked” class period.  Now the American Studies block session is replaced by two separate classes, one English and one American History.

This changed the whole premise of freshmen house–of belonging to a smaller community within the big high school.

“The idea of freshman house where you belong to a certain team has fallen apart this year,” Kimmey said.

And this new version of freshmen house may result in lower freshman academic success according to Moran.

He said students who are failing classes during high school fail most in freshman year.  The concept of the original freshmen house was to prepare these students better and intervene early to avoid such failures.

“A lot of kids come in and they’re not ready. They don’t do homework. They’re not organized. They don’t see the value of it,” he said.

And the house concept seemed to work, according to Kimmey.

The class of 2014 was the first class that went through the freshmen house, and they had some of the highest standardized test scores on record for Dexter.

“We know that the freshman house at least helped a little bit because the class of ‘14 had the highest MME scores in science Dexter’s ever had,” Kimmey said.  “Something that was going on caused the scores to be higher.”

So despite the changes to the house and potential to impact student learning, Moran said he and other administrators will still work to make the transition into high school a positive one.

“We are bringing you in, 9th grade, from middle school and there is a big change that needs to happen between the first day of 9th grade and the last day of 12th grade, we have to deal with that 9th grade,” he said.  “Ninth grade is the most important grade–behind senior year of course.”

Local car wash makes its return

When Dexter was hit by a tornado on March 12, 2012, hundreds of homes and businesses were left damaged, and the town was scarred by the disaster but ultimately thankful for minimal injuries and no casualties.

A little more than a year later, much of the damage has been restored as many businesses and families have gotten back on their feet. One of the testimonies to this recovery is the reconstruction of the village car wash.

At the corner of Second Street and Central Street, the Village Car Wash and Laundry owns three separate buildings, including a car wash, laundromat and a small management building. Each of these buildings together have served as a landmark in the Dexter area since 1970, the year that the company was founded.

Its long history, however, was threatened when the winds from the EF-3 tornado struck. During the windstorm, the car wash served as a protective hiding place for several stranded travelers, but the structure itself did not fare as well as its inhabitants.

According to owner Pete Caffrey, “The tornado descended upon (the car wash) and blew certain portions of the roof off and one of the walls caved in. All three of the buildings were totaled.”

Despite this natural disaster, Pete and his wife Cheryl did not lose hope in their business. Wanting to rebuild from the ground up, the Caffreys sought insurance to recover their losses.

“We wish they had (covered everything), but we had to fight them tooth and nail for them to cover about two thirds of the costs,” Pete said.

Now, as the business has been completely rebuilt and refurbished with new equipment, the owners have a great outlook on the business. The owners hope that this will lead to better business and said that the reconstruction is a symbol of the town’s recovery from the tornado that hit a little more than a year ago.“We’re definitely excited, it’s all brand new, easier to keep up,” Pete said. “The car wash has much better lighting, the equipment has all been revamped and is better for the customers to use.”