"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."