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Posted on Fri, Apr 30, 2010 : 2:10 p.m.

Write-in candidate challenges incumbent for lone Dexter school board seat

By Ronald Ahrens

A late write-in candidate is challenging a two-term incumbent for the lone available seat on the Dexter Community Schools’ board in the May 4 election.

J. Shawn Letwin is trying to unseat Richard “Ron” Darr Jr.

Letwin, who launched his write-in candidacy April 13, proposes moving school board elections to the November ballot to save the district $15,000 in costs.

He also seeks to strengthen alliances between the district and local businesses.

“My spin is, the money that we’ve got coming in here, let’s keep as much of it as we can,” he said.

Darr wants to boost student enrollment to bring in more money for the district, which recently had to issue layoff notices to 24 teachers. The state doles out money to local districts on a per-pupil basis.

“In the absence of increased funding from the State, the first-step solution (to meeting financial obligations) is to maintain and attempt to increase our student count,” he said in a prepared statement.

He recommends developing an “action plan” in conjunction with village and township officials in order to compete for new families.

He also advocates offering as many advanced placement courses as possible and moving toward an international baccalaureate program in the high school.

Letwin, 49, is a full-time substitute teacher at schools throughout Washtenaw and Livingston counties and works seasonally as park manager at Independence Lake County Park. Letwin earned a bachelor of science degree in chemistry from Eastern Michigan University.

He is a 15-year resident in the Dexter district and has a daughter who is a senior at Dexter High School.

He chairs the concessions committee for the Athletic Booster Club of Dexter.

He was also part of the committee that founded the Think Dexter First campaign to keep commerce local.

Darr, 54, is University of Michigan construction manager for the medical campus. Darr graduated from Dexter High School in 1974 and holds a bachelor of science in architecture from the University of Michigan.

Elected to the board in 2002, he is seeking a third term. He serves on four board committees, including the construction committee overseeing projects related to the bond approved in May of 2008.

He has two children in the Dexter schools.