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Interim Superintendent to Review Curriculum, Athletics at Dexter Community Schools

Former Riverview Superintendent Dennis Desmarais will lead the administration in Dexter through June.

"When you take great pride in what you do, it makes for a great place to work." -- Dennis Desmarais.

When visitors step into the superintendent's office at 7714 Ann Arbor Street in Dexter, they are immediately greeted with the warm smile and baritone voice of Dennis Desmarais.

Desmarais, the former superintendent of Riverview Community School District, was hired in December as the interim superintendent for Dexter, and officially began his duties on Jan. 1.

"I'm excited to be in Dexter," he said. "This is a wonderful district with a strong reputation for academics."

Desmarais brings 38 years of experience to his role as interim superintendent. In his time as an educator he has been a teacher, track coach, cross country coach, head football coach, high school assistant principal, athletic director, assistant superintendent, and superintendent. He retired as superintendent from Riverview Community Schoois in 2011.

With classes resuming across the district Jan. 7, Desmarais has spent the last eight days on a whirlwind tour of building principals, classrooms, faculty, students, and staff.

"We came in on Monday and I was in buildings by 9 a.m. to talk with people. I've interviewed every administrator. I've met with every director. I've been in the kitchen with kitchen workers. All you have to do is start talking with people and it's very easy to understand the pride in this community.

"I'm loving every minute of it," Desmarais continued. "There are so many issues that are the same in many school districts. Having dealt with them before, it's a little easier to say, 'I've been there, I've done that, and here's what works.'"

As interim superintendent, Desmarais said his job is to "keep the ship moving" while the district continues its search for a permanent replacement.

"I have six months to do as much as I can to make Dexter Schools a better place," he said.

Up first, he said, are plans to review the curriculum at the elementary schools and evaluate the district's athletic program.

"The big issue is continuity (with curriculum)," he said. "Dexter's test scores are well respected everywhere, but there's always ways we can be better. I'm looking at how can we become better than we were before."

Desmarais said he also plans to meet with the curriculum council to review Mill Creek Middle School's plans to meet the state's Adequate Yearly Progress rating.

Addressing concerns from parents on Patch.com about the prevalence of bullying in the school district, Desmarais said he would like to review the district's bullying policy before determining how to proceed.

"Every school district has a problem with bullying, it's not just Dexter," he said. "I would be more concerned if people were saying 'no, it's not a problem.' It's one of those things that has come to the forefront based on many things that have happened in our society.

"From an interim standpoint, I take (bullying) very seriously. I am more than happy to talk to parents, but we have to be looking for solutions. I have an open door policy for any parent who is concerned about bullying. Let me know you're coming, and we'll sit down and talk about it. It's not an issue that can be ignored."

When asked what area of athletics are being evaluated, Desmarais said the district's entire athletic program is being reviewed.

"I don't have anything specific," he said. "We're looking at all of it."

In the mean time, Desmarais said he is looking forward to more conversations with members of the community and meeting with students.

"I love being with students. I take great energy from being around children," he said. "There's wonderful teaching and learning going on in Dexter, and I'm happy to be a part of it. When you take great pride in what you do, it makes for a great place to work."

Shawn Letwin January 18, 2013 at 04:39 PM
"I don't have anything specific," he said. "We're looking at all of it." With that said, so how do you plan to communicate in a more definitive way on what you are specifically working on so that there is complete transparency to the community. I certainly hope that you can elevate the level of transparency in Dexter to the same degree that you did at Riverview. With just six months on the job, I sincerely hope you will be consistently communicative to the entire community on a regular basis. The last superintendent had a blog, but it was not maintained. Board minutes are not published till after they are approved (versus posting "draft minutes"). A review of any of the meeting minutes provides virtually no information to the reader...especially the committee meeting notes. As a community, we have not seen a newsletter in 7 years. I do get quarterly ones from Whitmore Lake and Pinckney. Good luck with the negotiations and securing of contracts for all 3 groups that expire in less than 6 months. The board is looking to expand admin and I would love to hear more about that too! Don't forget to follow up about getting out much more definitive information to the community regarding Athletics. There was NO coverage when the Feds came here last fall to give a presentation about Title IX. Feds come to Dexter. Why? It wasn't a regional presentation. All the best in preserving the Dexter Difference. Actually no. We don't need that same mentality.
Barbara Read January 18, 2013 at 06:53 PM
Denny, great to have you on board. As a side note, anyone interested in U.S. Attorney Chandra Bowling's Title IX presentation at the CPA can watch it online here http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4IMEap-7D1U There was also a handout, but Ms. Bowling covered the topic pretty thoroughly. Lots of good information. Also, questions from the audience. Well worth attending or watching.
Fort Mackinac February 20, 2013 at 12:10 PM
Perhaps a review of the budget-busting and Dexter-Patch-controversial IB program would be a good project for the interim superintendent? Dramatic increases in pay-to-play, and cancellation of traditional programs at DHS are already limiting educational experiences and access for all the students in the name of helping a very few.

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