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

"Spirit: Stallion of the Cimarron" soundtrack is a refreshing mix of pop and Hans Zimmer

The other day while cleaning my room, I stumbled upon my old DVD collection with all the best movies of my childhood. Flipping through the stack, I recalled all my favorite characters and storylines: “Shrek,” “The Iron Giant,” “Toy Story,” “James and the Giant Peach,” and undoubtedly my favorite of them all “Spirit Stallion of the Cimarron.”

Immediately I ran to my TV room and popped the movie in.  The movie was as wonderful as I had remembered. However, one thing stuck out to me this time that I had never noticed before: the music.

The music resonates beautifully with every theme and emotion that the story line conveys.  Upon further research I found that the score was produced by none other than the legendary Hans Zimmer.

For those of you who are not familiar with Zimmer, he created the scores for such films as “The Dark Knight,” Gladiator,” “Inception” and “The Lion King.”  It was all starting to make sense now.

I went online and purchased the soundtrack to “Spirit,” and I’ve been secretly listening to it ever since.  While it may be hard to admit to listening to a soundtrack from a kids movie, I have to make the argument that these musical scores are not just for kids. Great music knows no age, race or gender.

The album starts with alternative rock and pop songs with a driving beat, sung over by Bryan Adams.  A few tracks in we receive a guest appearance from Sarah McLaughlin on the song “Don’t Let Go.”  About two-thirds through the album, the content changes entirely.  However it’s a smooth enough transition that it works, especially in context to the movie.  This is where the work of Hans Zimmer appears.  Epic and nearly overwhelming scores finish out this album strong.

The music on this album really needs to be experienced in order to understand what I’m talking about here.  It’s as epic and touching as the movie itself, which is also worth a viewing.  I would recommend that everyone, regardless of age or gender, immediately purchase both the movie and its soundtrack.  You won’t be disappointed.

This is an absolute 5/5 in my book.

Prom's moves to Michigan Stadium is a step in the right direction

The Dexter prom experience in the past has been all about games and karaoke and no dancing.  Dexter’s prom is not comparable to the traditional prom.  We have cared more about how the “dance floor” has looked like than the dance itself–If you can even call it a dance.

However, this year, the Dexter High School made a step in right direction.  We are having our prom at the Michigan football stadium, which is awesome compared to all of the previous years.

Previously, Dexter’s prom has worked like this: first you buy tickets for you and your date for seventy dollars.  Next, you rent a $200 tux.  Then you take your date out to a fancy restaurant that costs way too much money.  Then you and your date go to the prom.

This process for prom night is normal.  However, Dexter’s prom differs from the norm.  Instead of keeping the night classy and going to the dance at a specific venue, we go back to our school, where we play games like putt-putt golf and card games.  Most of our prom is spent walking around and waiting in lines for our favorite games.  And in my opinion prom was a huge waste of money, to dress up and play games.

Finally, Dexters prom will be like other schools prom, where it will actually be a dance instead of like a “carnival”.  I definitely support the change in venue as well as the change in prom style.

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.”

Freshmen learn from upperclassmen as part of varsity sports

Freshman Andy Dolen was sitting on the soccer field after the third day of soccer tryouts, sweating.  But the 90 degree weather wasn’t the only reason why he was sweating; the mens varsity soccer coach was reading off the players who had made varsity.

“I was the last one called, so I was pretty nervous throughout the whole time he was reading the names,” Dolen said.

Almost immediately, though, he said he was welcomed by the upperclassmen when the captains invited him to go to lunch with them after he was named a varsity player. And throughout the season, the veteran players supported Dolen by helping him out when he was struggling at practice and giving him rides home.

“It was a good experience,” Dolen said. “People on varsity were really nice and welcoming, and it was good to have interactions with upperclassmen.”

While some might argue that experiences are lost when a student-athlete skips over freshman and junior varsity teams, Dolen found the season to be a positive one.

“The only thing different between JV and varsity is maybe the level of maturity.  It seems like they act more organized and better disciplined on varsity,” Dolen said.  “But team bonding is the same no matter what team you’re on.”

Team bonding examples included going to pre-game dinners at a player’s house and camping out in one of the captain’s yards.

From a coach’s standpoint, having a freshman on varsity can affect the team’s dynamic in a number of ways, both positive and negative.

“Negatively, their inexperience may open opportunities for opponents to take advantage of,” men and women’s varsity soccer coach Scott Forrester said.  “However, if a player makes the varsity team in our program, he must be a very good player.”

There are also advantages to having a novice on the field, according to Forrester.  He said they sometimes play better because they don’t realize the high stakes.

“The pressure isn’t the same as someone who knows the significance of high pressure games,” Forrester said.

According to Forrester, the experience of playing for one’s high school team is different from that of a club team.

He said the experience is sometimes better because “you go back to your school the next day and the topic is how the game went last night.”

Dolen also said having played with the upperclassmen on varsity will aid him with potential leadership positions in the future.

He said, “Now I’ll know how to treat the underclassmen in future years.  I’ll remember how I felt when the upperclassmen were nice to me, and I’ll know how it feels to be an underclassmen and how they’ll want to be treated.”

Senior Savannah Krull knows from experience that Dolen’s hypothesis is true.

Krull has played on the varsity womens softball team since her freshman year, and she will be a captain this spring.

“From watching the senior captains when I was a freshman, I know how I want the team to run,” Krull said.  “I know how to help the underclassmen on varsity and how to give them good advice that senior mentors gave me when I was a freshman.”

Krull found other benefits to playing varsity all four years, including having the same coach and being able to go to districts every year.

Above all, Krull found she was able to learn about the social aspects of playing on a team from her upperclassmen teammates four years ago.

“I already had the softball skills coming in, but I learned skills about cooperation and trusting my teammates,” she said.  “These are things I wouldn’t have necessarily learned if I had played with other people my age.”