By the time Andy Ingall was hired as Chelsea’s school superintendent, he’d been in the district administration for thirteen years. He’d been director of instruction under superintendent Dave Killips, and, when Killips retired last year after ten years on the job, the school board chose Ingall to succeed him.
That smooth transition didn’t happen in Dexter, where superintendent Mary Marshall resigned last October. Though Marshall had been with the district twenty years, rising from sixth-grade teacher to middle school principal to superintendent, she’d only had the top job since February 2011—and the school year had barely begun.
Larry Cobler, then and now Dexter’s school board president, says Marshall “did a very good job. She had a good following of people, and, though she had some who disagreed with her, they were in the minority.” Those who disagreed with her would likely include two former Dexter athletic directors, Scott Lucas, who was fired by Marshall in 2011, and Brett Steele, who resigned in 2012 because, Marshall said, he didn’t “share the same vision and philosophy as the higher administration does.”
Asked Marshall’s strengths, Cobler cites her “love of kids.” Asked her weaknesses, his list is longer. “Some people felt she micromanaged. One of the reasons we want a sitting superintendent for our next superintendent is that if you’ve never been a superintendent, it’s hard to make the transition from the classroom or building administration to superintendent, and she was just getting to that point when she left.”
“I don’t agree [with those criticisms],” says Marshall in a phone interview from her new job. While being superintendent in Dexter is “a very challenging job,” she says, she left because “my husband and I always dreamed we’d live on this side of the state. We fell in love with Pentwater.” Being superintendent there should also be a lot less demanding: while Dexter has 3,523 pupils, Pentwater has just 283.
Beyond someone with previous experience, Cobler says, the board sought a superintendent who understands that the district has “a very collaborative relationship with the teachers’ union, and they have to be comfortable with that. We’ve never had confrontations with our union. And we need someone who can make a decision.”
When first interviewed in late April, Cobler said the search was “going slower than we hoped. We had a pool of thirty to thirty-five candidates, and out of that there were three we thought were potential candidates, but none we wanted to go forward with.”
As the Observer went to press in late May, though, things were looking up. After reviewing a new crop of candidates, the board was zeroing in on Adrian superintendent Chris Timmis. “We will have a public interview on June 4th and a visit to Adrian the following week,” wrote Cobler in an email. “I expect that the board will make a decision shortly after the site visit.”
Born in 1973, Timmis grew up in Wyandotte and graduated from Adrian College, where he majored in math and education. He taught in Royal Oak and in Southgate before returning to Adrian six years ago, first as high school principal, then as superintendent. The districts are roughly similar in size—Adrian currently has 3,100 students—and budget—both have $32 million budgets this year.
Timmis figures he’s got a “pretty good chance” of getting the job. “It’s a unique situation,” he explains. “They’re only interviewing one candidate.” If interviews and the site visit go well, Timmis could start as early as mid-July, in time for the next school year.
Update: In June, the Dexter Community Schools hired Chris Timmis as their next superintendent.