Sharrar promoted to new position

When new Superintendent Chris Timmis was hired on June 12, he said he saw changes right away that he wanted to make in the district administrative structure.

And with an announcement on Dec. 3 that Assistant Principal Mollie Sharrar would be accepting a new position as the Executive Director of Instruction and Strategic Initiatives, Timmis started the first of these changes.

After working as an assistant principal split between the high school and Mill Creek middle school from 2006 to 2007, Sharrar became the principal at Creekside Intermediate school. She worked there full time until 2010, at which time she returned to the high school to once again be an assistant principal.

Throughout her time at the high school, Sharrar has seen her fair share of changes, one of them being the implementation of the International Baccalaureate curriculum.

Timmis said he noticed a conflict in the district between supporters of an Advanced Placement curriculum and those who supported the International Baccalaureate curriculum. But in his view, there really shouldn’t be a conflict.

“The way I see it, they’re all smart kids,” Timmis said. “There isn’t a program that works for all students because everyone learns differently, so why not figure out a way to make them both work.”

Such debate between supporters of AP and IB was just one of the factors that has lead Timmis to begin putting together a district instructional support team that he wanted Sharrar to lead.

“There’s nothing more important that we do than teach,” Timmis said. “And right now, we don’t have anyone in charge of that. The whole concept is to have a team that will lead what we do in terms of teaching. There’ll be a team to oversee and manage new initiatives to make sure we get them done.”

Sharrar was on a short list of people Timmis said he considered for the position. He said he met with her to discuss some of the details and sent her a proposal. After he worked with Sharrar to tweak the proposal a bit, he appointed her to the position.

“I looked for strong leaders in key roles,” Timmis said. “I had no need to look outside the district, since we already had her here. Now, I’m most looking forward to putting this instructional support team model into place.”

What most often ends up happening in a school district is that a principal doesn’t necessarily have control of making the changes they want to make happen, happen, Timmis said. His plan is to set up a team so Dexter has the people in place to implement new curriculum, changes and ideas, and implement them well.

But as Sharrar’s influence in the district expands, it means changes for the high school’s administration.

Sharrar, who was in charge of testing at the high school, was part of a three-person team that also included Principal Kit Moran and the other assistant principal, Ken Koenig. And Moran said he’s going to miss Sharrar immensely.

“I have the best team of people on the planet,” Moran said. “We all know each other’s strengths and weaknesses really well. We all kind of do our own thing, so it’s really the three of us in charge, collaborating.”

Moran also said he enjoys working with Sharrar, and has worked with her for five years, so filling her shoes would be no easy task.

“Our new job is to find someone with the skills (Sharrar) has,” Moran said. “Someone who will fit into the team just as she did.”

And find someone they did.

On Jan. 20, the board of education approved former high school teacher consultant Karen Walls as the new assistant principal.

Walls was among 160 applicants for the position and was called back for two rounds of interviews.

“We’re all looking forward to working with her,” Moran said. “Her energy and enthusiasm is fantastic. And so is her knowledge of special education students.”

Although she won’t be moving very far within the building, Walls is just as excited about the new position.

“What was so enticing about this is that as an administrator, I will still stay connected with kids,” Walls said. “I’m not far removed from any of the staff, and I’m looking forward to being able to have a really positive influence. I’m really so thankful to transition with Sharrar, but I know I have big shoes to fill.”

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.”

 

District works to update security

After the shooting in Newtown, Conn. schools across the country have dealt with ways to make buildings safer for students. Dexter is no exception.

According to Principal Kit Moran Dexter not only focuses on shooting security but also fire and tornado safety. If there’s a fire, doors can auto-lock to stop the fire from spreading. And if there’s a shooter trying to come into the building he said the secretaries in the office looking for people who enter the building unauthorized are the first line of defense.

Moran said, “The ladies in the front office really do a great job of looking for visitors. If somebody enters the building without signing in, they’ll stop em’.”

Even if a person does get by the office, Moran said there are over 120 cameras to locate the person. Deputy Jeremy Hilobuk has two large monitors in his office that cover not only the high school, but all schools in the district.

In addition, Hilobuk said in order to upgrade district security, all teachers, counselors and administration will have to go through a safety course in case a shooter does enter the building.

“It will take a while to have all of the administration trained, but I do think it will protect the school,” he said, adding that the training will consist of alerting teachers about how to handle intruders with weapons..

But while security training to stop an outside shooter is in progress, what if a student has a weapon? Hilobuk said that now, if a staff member is concerned or know that a student is having troubles and might be violent, they let a school counselor know. The counselor will follow up with the student’s parents/guardians to see what the issue is.

But what if there are weapons in their house that the child has access to? Dexter takes full precaution to this issue, Hilobuk said. In fact Moran said Hilobuk has visited students’ houses when a concern like this is raised.

“We have had a few instances where Hilobuk had to go to the families house to check on the family,” Moran said. “The school protects its students without making them feel they have no freedom. It’s kind of a freedom-order issue. We don’t want the students feeling they’re under lockdown, but we do want them to feel safe.”

New superintendent comes from Adrian

He smiled, shook hands with the Board of Education, embraced his wife. He had been offered–and had accepted immediately–the career opportunity that he felt he could work until retirement.

On June 12, the Dexter Community Schools hired Dr. Chris Timmis as the new district superintendent.

The position was vacated after Mary Marshall, Dexter’s superintendent of three years, left for a job at Pentwater Public Schools. Dennis Desmarais then filled in as interim superintendent until the Board of Education hired Timmis.

“I was extremely excited and continue to be quite excited by this new opportunity,” Timmis said.

Timmis, who worked as the superintendent for Adrian Public Schools before coming to Dexter, said he was drawn to the district because of its huge potential.

“There are opportunities here to take a really outstanding school district and make it one of the best school districts in the country,” he said. “This is a school district that could do it.”

Timmis said he was confident in Dexter’s ability to become the best because of the success he had at Adrian.

Much of this success was oriented around establishing programs for the students. From an interactive virtual school–which allows students to work from anywhere at anytime–to sending students to sister schools Japan and Germany to learn about the culture, Timmis said he has tried to expand the learning environment of students.

These achievements have inspired Timmis concerning Dexter’s future.

“I look at what we were able to do at Adrian, and I think about what the potential here at Dexter is,” he said. “There isn’t a ceiling for what can happen.”

And the first step for Timmis is to create a strategic plan for the district, something that will determine what direction Dexter’s future is heading.

To do this, he said he will spend the first 120 days of school meeting with different groups to get their opinions on the condition of the district, culminating in Timmis releasing a “State of the District” sometime in January.

And the most important part of his job is paying attention to the needs of the community, according to Timmis.

“There is an infinite amount of things you can do in a school system to make it an even more attractive school system to students and parents, and it just has to be whatever the community wants it to be,” he said. “As soon as you get that bold vision, that plan, my job is to get us there.”