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Dexter Board of Education Approves Six-Year Term Lengths

Board members cite leadership stability as the main reason for switching from four-year terms.

Members of the Dexter Community Schools Board of Education can now be elected to a six-year term following an unanimous decision by the board at its meeting on Monday.

The decision comes after Gov. Rick Snyder signed House Bills 427 and 4005 in 2011, which standardizes school board elections across the state. The law requires school districts to hold elections during the general elections in November of even-numbered years.

Previously, school districts were allowed to hold elections independently of state and national elections. The change is expected to save some school districts upward of $8 million over a two-year election cycle according to the governor's office. President Larry Cobler said the new requirement has the potential to adversely affect the makeup of Dexter's board, however, which currently holds school board elections yearly, along with staggered board terms (two seats up for election each year).

Under the standardized system, if the board keeps its four-year terms, three board seats would be up for election in November 2014 and four seats in November 2016.

"I think all of us are in favor of four-year terms with annual elections, however I think board stability and continuity is important and directly related to superintendent stability, which in turn is related to institutional quality," trustee Julie Schumaker said. "In districts where you have the ability to switch the dynamic of the board on a single issue, often you will see the average tenure of superintendents is around three years. I think that is detrimental to our students."

Trustee Dick Lundy agreed, stating: "If you can have the majority of a board change in one election, it changes the dynamic of elections. We've seen it right here in Dexter. You can have a hot item and a write-in candidate can beat everyone on the ballot over one single issue. That could lead to (electing) people who don't necessarily have a broader perspective of the issues; that's very unhealthy for the school district."

Dexter resident Julie Norwood said she feels increasing board term limits is a deterrent for individuals who might want to run for office.

"The issue over high turnover does not make sense. If you are doing a good job, most likely some of the incumbents would be re-elected. The only reason there would be turnover is if constituents weren't happy and they wanted a total change," she said. "That's the point of elections in our country. The President of the United States doesn't have a six-year term, and I don't think this board should have a six-year term."

Under the new six-year terms, President Larry Cobler and trustee Bonnie Everdeen will be up for re-election in November 2012. Vice President Michael Wendorf, and trustees Chris Gordon and Ronald Darr will be up for re-election in November 2014. Trustees Julie Schumaker and Richard Lundy would be up for re-election in November 2016.

In other board action:

  • Board members recognized the staff of The Squall, the student newspaper. The newspaper was in April. Newspaper staff writers also received 46 individual awards from MIPA. "It's an amazing honor to be recognized for such consistent quality over the years. Working with such a great group of kids has been amazing. It's been the highlight of my career for sure," journalism adviser Rod Satterthwaite said.
lgm May 08, 2012 at 03:42 PM
It's nice to know they elected themselves into this six year term. I don't understand why this was not put on a ballot and left to the tax payers of Dexter to decide.
c j 5 May 08, 2012 at 04:15 PM
I have to agree with Lisa. Is this even ethical? Where did they get the authority to do such a thing? I'm shocked.
Barbara Read May 09, 2012 at 04:21 PM
You can watch the board discussion and vote in favor of 6 year terms online here. Skip to 1:04:23 at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XJjlaJxFcUU. The actual vote takes place at 1:19:10 after 15 minutes of discussion, and the only community member to speak against the longer terms can be seen just before the discussion period at 1:03:08.

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