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Education, Public Safety Focus of Dexter Election Forum

Candidates for Dexter Village Council and the Dexter Board of Education answered questions from the public Wednesday.

Dexter Village residents were able to gain some insight for the upcoming Nov. 6 election during a candidates forum Wednesday at Creekside Intermediate School.

The event was hosted by the Dexter Area Chamber of Commerce and the Dexter Education Association and was divided into three mini forums. Up first were Board of Education candidates Larry Cobler, Bonnie Everdeen, Chris Gordon and Barbara Read.

Read and Gordon are each running for a part-time seat on the board, while Cobler and Everdeen are both uncontested for a full six-year term.

Education was the dominate focus of the forum, with topics ranging from student publication censorship to elective class choices and charter and cyber schools.

"The school board serves three purposes - to set a vision for the district with measurable goals, to manage the budget responsibly and to hire and fire the superintendent," Gordon said. "The goals we set should be aligned with the state and community expectations."

In her opening comments, Read advocated the importance of athletics and fine arts programs in Dexter schools and believes both operate in harmony with education, stating that students in such programs have a high success rate in the classroom.

Cobler agreed with the other candidates on "pro choice" for parents in regards to charter and cyber schools, but such schools must have the same level of accountability as public schools, he said.

Everdeen said that public schools offer more for students, while cyber schools cut out the social aspect for students. She also was against privatization of school services.

"Privatization should be looked at as a last resort and crisis mode," Everdeen said.

Education was an equally important issue during the second half of the evening, when Gretchen Driskell, Democratic candidate for Michigan's 52nd District, and incumbent Rep. Mark Ouimet took the stage.

Driskell said investing in education will attract businesses and jobs to the district.

"We need to give teachers the tools to be the best," Driskell said. "The recession caused restraints, but the teacher value is recognized. Early education is also an importance piece for a successful system, but funding should not be taken from K-12 education. We need that to be stable."

Ouimet acknowledged the importance of education, but said he is also focused on paying down the state's longterm debt and helping local businesses.

"I think we’ve got to continue to deal with our long-term debt in the state that’s on our balance sheet. We’ve paid down $15 million … I think continuing to work on our balance sheet to make it much more manageable, to be less intrusive in how government has to act because it’s so deeply in debt," he told Ann Arbor.com.

Public Safety Dominates Dexter Village Forum

The second half of the evening focused on Dexter Village president candidates Jim Carson and Shawn Keough along with village trustee candidates Julie Knight, Paul Cousins, Joe Semifero and Jim Smith.

Carson and Keough addressed the importance of local government communicating with residents.

"When we proposed the economic development plan in 2008, we got input from local businesses. We can do better in making a continued effort to gain input from the community," Carson said.

Both presidential candidates agreed that the condition of the Dexter Area Fire Department Station No. 1 on Main Street is below satisfactory operating standards, and renovation should be a priority for the next fiscal year.

While Keough has a future plan in dealing with the station, Carson is looking to take more immediate action.

"A leader is someone who moves toward the problem, and we can't wait until 2017 on the fire station," Carson said.

Each of the four trustee candidates agreed that the fire station should be addressed by the next council.

Cousins said if elected, he would like the council to bring a public safety millage before voters to help update the station.

Editor's note: This article focuses on highlights from the election forum. To view the forum in its entirety contact the Dexter Area Chamber of Commerce at info@dexterchamber.org.

Individual candidate information can be viewed on Patch.com.

Barbara Read October 26, 2012 at 01:49 PM
Even though I was invited to the forum as a participant, I stayed for the entire event and am so glad I did. I learned a great deal about all the candidates. There were many similarities, but also some key differences. I would recommend watching the recording. If you would like to read more about my background, family and ideas for the Dexter Schools, you will find the information on my website. http://www.barbararead.org/ If you are interested in following my campaign and reading opinion letters I've written and finding out more about my volunteer work at the schools and my community involvement, I have a facebook campaign page dedicated to those topics. https://www.facebook.com/elect.barbara.read
Barbara Read October 26, 2012 at 02:03 PM
I have a child in 3rd, 5th, 7th and 10th grades and a 2012 DHS graduate. My school volunteer work has been done entirely in the Dexter school district and has been concentrated over the past 9 years. Add to that my masters degree from U.C. Berkeley in neuroscience and graduate school teaching experience and my qualifications are clear. I know the schools, and I am the better candidate to fill Kim Covert's vacated seat as a school board trustee. Barbara Read
Chris Gordon October 26, 2012 at 03:21 PM
Barbara, I’m sure your experience as a graduate teaching assistant at Berkeley 20 years ago was challenging, but my experience includes teaching student pilots how to land on aircraft carriers and I continue to serve public education every day as the director of the student team project center at the University of Michigan College of Engineering. During my last semester as a Michigan Aerospace Engineering undergrad I taught science courses to middle and high school students in Detroit as part of a NASA outreach program. I was a Navy flight instructor for 3 years, including 2 years as manager of 5 jet pilot training curricula for 4 training squadrons; I conducted syllabus and publication reviews, curriculum conferences, standardization inspections, and coordinated change recommendations for academic courses. Along the way I received my Masters in Aeronautical Science (with Distinction) while serving on active duty. I finished my Navy career teaching student leadership teams how to manage professional development and physical training programs for 115 Midshipmen at the U-M Naval ROTC Unit. I am currently mentoring 31 U-M College of Engineering student project teams and I oversee a safety and skills training program that has served over 500 students so far this semester. While at the U-M ROTC Unit I also managed the operational budget and collaborated with an architectural firm to develop plans for a $1.8 million renovation project for the ROTC Building.
Chris Gordon October 26, 2012 at 03:35 PM
As the father of 4 children 3-16 (preschool, kindergarten at Bates, 9th and 11th grades at Dexter High School) and the husband of a teacher I have devoted countless hours over the past 22 years as a volunteer in pre-K through post-secondary schools in 4 states and 2 foreign countries; from digging through San Diego store bins in search of 30 red folders on sale for 10¢ each to weeding flower beds in front of a Virginia Beach school for the PTO landscaping committee to serving on a curriculum task force and manning the coat check at the Dexter High School homecoming dance to traveling as faculty adviser for a cross-country solar car race team. The Secretary of Defense awarded me the Military Outstanding Volunteer Service Medal for my tireless dedication to coaching youth sports and supporting parent-teacher-student organization events at the Brussels American School over a 3-year period while I was assigned to NATO. I can’t speak for my colleagues on the Board of Education but I am confident the depth and breadth of my engagement in Dexter Community Schools contributed to my unanimous selection for appointment as Kim Covert’s successor, and I further believe my clear understanding of the role of a Trustee and the particular perspectives and temperament I bring to the Board were deciding factors in my selection for service over you and the other applicants back in January. http://dexter.patch.com/articles/dexter-school-board-selects-chris-gordon-to-fill-vacancy
Chris Gordon October 26, 2012 at 03:58 PM
I am a current parent of K-11 students in Dexter Community Schools, I share my life with a professional educator, I have diverse experience teaching and managing educational programs, I have a long history of dedicated volunteer service in Dexter and many other schools, I have managed operational budgets and capital improvement projects, I have 21 years of leadership and management experience including performance evaluation and development of strategy and policy, and I understand how to build consensus and contribute to a team. But I am not so bold as to declare which candidate is more qualified to serve as a Board of Education Trustee. I believe we should leave that judgment to those who cast their votes on November 6. Chris Gordon http://www.gordon4dexterschools.org
Barbara Read October 26, 2012 at 04:32 PM
That's a lot of military experience. Very impressive and certainly not easy to accomplish. I'm sure it helps you in many aspects of your life and career. Very well done. Here's what I've been doing lately and why I still am still the better school board candidate--not the better engineer or Navy flight instructor, of course! But my experience and unique skills will be more valuable to the school board. • Bates library volunteer for two years 
• worked in classrooms with both reading groups and math groups 
 • tutored students individually in catch-up reading for a year at Bates 
 • led small "gifted" math groups for two years at Bates and Wylie 
• I have gone on nearly every field trip with my children's classrooms: Bates, Wylie and Creekside for the past 9 years 
 • Team Bates member and volunteer 
• organized the Team Bates Family Fun Run two years in a row http://teambatesfamilyfunrun.weebly.com/ 
• co-chaired the fledgling Wylie PTT (parent group) and developed the charter document using the Team Bates charter as a model http://www.weebly.com/uploads/9/3/7/3/9373541/wylie_charter.pdf 
 • created the Wylie PTT website http://wylieptt.weebly.com/ • Bates, Wylie and Creekside Book Fair volunteer 
• Creekside classroom book club group leader (3 years)
Barbara Read October 26, 2012 at 04:33 PM
Part 2 • Mill Creek Family Math Carnival and pie sale volunteer 
 • 7th grade camp, bus volunteer 
• high school dance chaperone 
 • track & field and cross country community contributor and sports photographer http://dexter.patch.com/articles/dexter-track-teams-defeat-ypsilanti-participate-in-golden-triangle-invitational and http://dexter.patch.com/articles/dexter-girls-excel-at-spartan-invitational#photo-11372883 
 • DHS swim and dive team parent volunteer and sports photographer 
 • as Wylie PTT co-chair registered the PTT as a certifying organization for the Presidential Volunteer Service Award http://dexter.patch.com/articles/wylie-elementary-school-parent-teacher-organization-partners-with-national-service-program 
• advertiser for the district Dexter Tornado Relief Rummage Sale https://www.facebook.com/DexterTornadoReliefRummageSale I apologize if the list is too detailed or self-promoting, but I take exception to the other candidate's implication that I have been sitting around for 20 years not accomplishing anything. You can add to this teaching Sunday school, volunteering with the cub scouts and raising five beautiful children. I'm a good community member and I will be an outstanding school board trustee.
Barbara Read October 26, 2012 at 04:45 PM
I met your daughter Avery at a parent IB meeting this month and I was very impressed with her and her ability to answer parent questions and clearly share her thoughts on the program. You seem to be a great dad. Please don't take my comments as criticism of your accomplishments or commitment. I've just lived in Dexter longer and spent more time in our schools and with our parents and teachers. Sometimes the school board is perceived as being out of touch, and I can help with that.
Sharon October 26, 2012 at 06:43 PM
Barbara, While your have a long list of activities to your name, I think what worries most people about your candidacy is your involvement in attempting to silence the DHS newspaper, The Squall. Your blog, cleanupdhs.blogspot.com, shows a lack of sophistication for the issues facing our children. You seem to want to bury your head in the sand and pretend like things don't happen, rather than fostering a community where our teens aren't forced to pretend like they are all goodie two-shoes just to make the adults in town feel good. If one digs into your lists of "accomplishments," it's actually kind of sad what you're holding up as evidence you'd be a good school board member. You chaperoned a dance? You sold pies at the math carnival? Really? With you on the board, I worry about what happens if a pregnant teen wants to go to the prom. Or if a gay teen couple wants to go to that same prom. Even though we are a small town, we are not an insular community. This town is filled with intelligent, worldly people who are not close-minded and scared of nudity and bad words. You are a nice person with a good heart who no doubt is trying to do what's best for her kids. But your views are out of line with most of the rest of this community, so that's why I'm voting for Chris Gordon.
Barbara Read October 26, 2012 at 07:42 PM
Sharon, I wish you had brought your accusations to me directly. I did submit a comment to the blog you are referring to. I said that my husband and I were concerned about a sexually inappropriate photo of a teenage girl and boy in a recent article. I said how we spoke with the principal and media advisor and they firmly told us it was not inappropriate. So then we went to the school board and expressed our disappointment that the high school should be publishing photos like this. We were right. The photo was removed from the online version. The girl in the photo had complained as well and her parents were also quite upset. After commenting on the blog--with my real name--and sharing this experience, I received a very angry and explicit response from a woman who threatened me personally and strangely enough, my mother. I asked that my comment (using my name) be removed from the blog, and it was. I'm going to find a link to the angry personal letter I received. I believe it is still online somewhere. I will also try to find my original comment. I keep drafts of things. But it has been two years and a change of computer, so that may not be possible. I am really shocked by your anger. You only live down the street from me and our girls have been friends. I really wish you had called me. I'll give you a call and maybe we can straighten this out. I'm happy to answer all your questions. Truly I am. Barbara
Sharon October 26, 2012 at 08:10 PM
Barbara, I'm not angry -- I know it's hard to read tone. And I've never sent any angry emails to anyone, so if you're implying that I did, I want you to know that I've not done that. I just honestly think we've got different opinions on how the schools should be run, and I think your actions at board meetings have shown that your opinions are in in a spectrum of the political views that most people in town wouldn't feel comfortable with. And although it would be nice to have these conversations one on one, the fact of the matter is you are using Facebook, Patch and a lot of other Internet sites to get your message across, and you are presenting yourself as someone who is primarily interested in athletic schedules and busing, and I find that disingenuous. Again, I'm not angry. I don't think there's even a need for us to debate the issues we have, because neither of us will convince the other we're right. But if you are running for a public office, you should expect that people will speak up. This is not personal at all. There are just some beliefs I hold dear, and will stand up for them if I feel they are being challenged. Best, Sharon
Barbara Read October 26, 2012 at 08:58 PM
I'm glad you are not angry. Differences of opinion are par for the course, so go ahead. No, the woman who wrote the comment signed her name and she wasn't you.
Pete Bigelow October 26, 2012 at 09:01 PM
Barbara, I too am troubled by your connections with the group that ran the anonymous blog that attacked the principal and students at the newspaper two years ago. That you don’t mention your positions on The Squall controversy, nor intent to censor the student paper, on your campaign website under the “What I Stand For” banner makes it seem like your hiding your motivations for running for school board. For those who attended those school board meetings, your positions on censoring the Squall were very clear. Why do you avoid mentioning them now? Your response above is pretty misleading, in that you attempt to portray this as a dispute over a single photo or some irrelevant letter you received, when that’s not the case. Everyone who followed the Squall controversy knows that. When you mentioned at the debate Tuesday night that you would be in favor of taking about the occasional elephant in the room openly, it was ironic, because this was the elephant in the room and you never addressed it. (Continued).
Pete Bigelow October 26, 2012 at 09:01 PM
To be clear: I believe any adult who advocates for censorship or participates in a nameless blog that’s critical of our students and school officials has no business being on our school board. I also find it interesting that in your response above, you sidestepped the question asked about same-sex students at a school dance or prom. As a member of the school board, would you support allowing same-sex students to participate in these activities? Based on your censorship position regarding The Squall, would you also attempt to ban certain books from the school library? In conclusion, I find both your pro-censorship stance and attempt to distance yourself from the Squall controversy deeply concerning. Unlike cowards who hide behind anonymous blogs, I’m not afraid to put my name behind my thoughts. Sincerely, Pete Bigelow
Barbara Read October 26, 2012 at 09:30 PM
I guess I"ll say it again. I submitted a comment--with my name on it-- telling about the experience I had visiting the school. I complained about a photo of an underage girl (a Dexter High School student) in a sexually suggestive pose with a boy. The photo was used without her permission and her parents were very angry. The photo was run in the hard copy of the newspaper and handed to every student at the high school as well as posted online. What adult wouldn't object to that? No school board member thought the photo should have been published and it was, in fact, removed. This is not censorship, it's protecting a minor, and it's exactly what you should expect from board members. Since that March 2010 issue, I have had no objections to any article in the Squall. I think the students do an excellent job, and I sometimes get better information on topics there than from the mainstream papers (sorry, Patch, Leader and AA.com). The students really know what's going on and are not afraid to talk about it. Barbara
Nellie October 26, 2012 at 09:36 PM
What's disingenuous about getting involved and improving the schools as best as we can? Some may have some skewed perception of what they think will happen, but I doubt that one person on the school board is going to change every aspect of the schools as we know them now – there are still 6 other members who help to keep things in line. It sounds like there are some who are afraid and scared of their own imaginations, and not based in reality. There are lots of checks and balances at the school board level, and no one person is going to overthrow how things are functioning now. Also, it is a sad day when comments about doing the menial things and helping out the schools is not an "accomplishment". I just want to say that all of those that volunteer at the schools do a great service and I appreciate all that they do to make our schools a better place for kids. I am saddened by some harsh and negative comments about people who volunteer at the school. They are put down as if their contribution is not worth very much, when in fact the education of our children should be our highest priority. It might be something small to those who don't value volunteers, but I don’t think our school would function on the level that it does if we didn’t have great people doing the “small” tasks. I am happy to see that there are such great quality candidates for school board. In years past, people had to beg and plead to get anyone to pay attention to the school board.
Barbara Read October 26, 2012 at 09:56 PM
At the forum Wednesday night, I was asked about the media policy. I'll share what I said. The board has drafted a policy which gives a lot of freedom to the students, but reserves the ability (in emergencies only) to ask for a change. I support this policy. I see the media policy being like an emergency brake in the driver's ed. car. Kids can't learn to drive if they aren't allowed behind the wheel. But the drivers ed. car has a second brake on the passenger side for the instructor. Same for the media policy. The kids should be coming up with their own topics and writing their own pieces. How else would they learn to be journalists? But it's important to have an adult take a look before it is printed and handed to the entire student body. This could be the advisor. This could be the principal. Who wouldn't agree with that? I'm not mentioning it anymore because that was two years ago and it has a good resolution. The board considered lots of input and found a balance. Are you not happy with the proposed policy? If that's the case then you will want to contact the policy committee.
Sharon October 27, 2012 at 12:23 AM
Brad, I have met Chris. He has a reputation for being reasonable. I don't mind voting for people who have different political views, provided they are able to work with people who have different beliefs.
Laura Jones October 27, 2012 at 01:23 AM
I am not a big fan of censorship myself, but there is a clear difference between journalistic integrity and publishing a minor's photo without permission. Especially one that has the potential to create problems for someone. It's not a question of censoring a story. It's a question of poor editorial oversight. The different between the two is tremendous and a legal one. Not understanding it has a high probability of causing the district to incur legal costs. All other issues about the censorship aside - only in reference to the photo, as I think this is a serious point.
Laura Jones October 27, 2012 at 01:29 AM
It would be helpful to hear Chris Gordon's comments on these same issues - censorship of the Squall, support for gay student participation and the value or merit of volunteer activities at school done by mothers. (sorry, that really grinds me - those mother's and father's who volunteer keep our kids safe on trips, teach them to read, help with projects and make other things possible and they sure as heck DO matter. I find the denigrating of this type of work sexist and uncalled for).
jason October 27, 2012 at 02:24 AM
I find it odd that those who talk so much about censorship complain about others exercising their right to free speech. As Mrs. Read pointed out, the board has a well balanced policy. It seems there are some personal attacks above that are distracting from the real issues. It is clear that Mrs. Read cares a lot about this district and will devote all she has to serve and improve the school community. I wish I was able to do more to help out, and am thankful for all those who do. Having children in most of the schools gives her a keen interest and understanding in what is going on in the district.
No Name October 27, 2012 at 01:01 PM
Barbara, I am still awaiting your response to the question about same sex couples attending prom.
Barbara Read October 27, 2012 at 01:30 PM
When I chaperoned the homecoming dance there actually was a gay couple attending. They were very polite and better behaved than many of the straight kids. This was a couple of years ago when the dances were more of a mosh pit than a dance. I didn't volunteer this year, but my daughter said it was more of a dance than a group grind. Chris said he was there, so he can probably shed some light on it. But the dances are for the students to go and socialize.That's not a school board decision, anyway, so you must be asking my personal opinion. I have no interest in excluding anyone from attending dances, prom, classes, etc. And in reference to the pregnant girl mentioned above, that includes her. Anyone saying I believe otherwise has never asked me what I think. Assumptions are not generally a good way to get to know a person.
Pete Bigelow October 27, 2012 at 01:45 PM
Barbara, You've provided a very muddy answer to a very straightforward question here. No one is making assumptions. The commenter above is asking you what you think. That you happened to chaperone a dance where a same-sex couple attended (well behaved, even!) is irrelevant. As a prospective school board member, your personal opinion is important. Do you think same-sex couples should be allowed at school functions, and as a member of the school board, what position would you advocate? Also, you still haven't answered my other question above. As a school board member, would you attempt to ban and/or censor books in the library or classroom? Some clarity on your positions here would be much appreciated.
Barbara Read October 27, 2012 at 02:00 PM
Pete, I would not attempt to ban same sex couples from dances. Here's the long answer to the banned book question you asked. My daughters read several books as freshmen that would be on the standard "banned books" lists at other schools. Although she did not enjoy the language in them, she read them for class, and I made no attempt to ask for her to be excused or to ask the teacher that the selections be changed. I do tend to answer questions with stories. It drives my kids crazy. They say, mom just give me the answer. But to me a story not only tells the answer, it also shares why and gives more information. But if you insist, here's your answer: I don't know if I would object to a book. Here's why: I've never even seen the board discussing the issue of classroom reading. I imagine if a book ever came before the board it would have to be a real zinger (based on what's already being read), so I would read the book and think about the audience (is it for the freshmen who may be as young as 13 or is it for the seniors who are nearly adults?) and participate in a discussion with the other board members. We would then vote and I would vote in the way that made the most sense to me based on the goals of the district and the age of the students. To me, books are relevant based on the reader's age, not the content.
Barbara Read October 27, 2012 at 02:02 PM
And if you can tolerate another story . . . for example, in our house we set the Hunger Games at 13. I read it for a book club and thought nothing of it. Then my teenagers read it. But when my 12 year old wanted to read it, I looked at her and I thought about the intensity of the book and I told her that she could not read it . . . yet. My earlier comment is pending approval based on the word sex, so this may be published first. The other answer is coming. I promise.
Julie Norwood October 27, 2012 at 04:14 PM
Pete and No Name shouldn't you be asking ALL of the school board candidates for a response to your questions. When you just target one candidate with a conversational question it appears you are out attacking someone rather than really wanting to know what your school board candidates think.

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