What’s behind the divide between Wayland, Dorr?

To the editor:

Why do Dorr (and Leighton) people hate Wayland schools?

I first came to this area in 1992 when I moved to Dorr.  For several years I ran the summer ball program for Dorr Rec and then started a winter youth basketball program.  Because I used the facilities at Dorr and Moline elementaries, I was in frequent contact with WUS officials.  When I brought this up at public meetings, I would get an outpouring of anger and even hatred toward Wayland schools.

The perceived attitude was that “Dorr was THEIR school, not Wayland’s,” and that they needed to build their own high school and not send their kids to Wayland. I left Dorr in ’97, not liking many of the people there.

A dozen years later I was running the summer ball program for Wayland schools Comm Ed.  I developed an extensive proposal for the enhancement and growth of the Wayland program, which I presented at a public meeting in the middle school.  Afterwards, a few people stayed to ask questions.  One woman really lit into me and blasted Wayland schools.

It turned out that she came over from Dorr, and wanted to hate on Wayland schools because its summer program was taxpayer funded and we wouldn’t give a single dime to Dorr Rec for their kids.  Not a pleasant little exchange! 

(Side note: a year later I took the program from Comm Ed and formed a private, non-profit corporation to run the ball program. I set up a board of directors and then I got out.)

When I saw the vote totals by precinct Aug. 2, I was furious at Dorr (and Leighton) townships for destroying the bond issue.  Over the past 20 years I’ve had grandchildren in the Wayland ageg roup, middle school and high school swim programs.  I’ve seen our kids get screwed because other schools did not want to come here because our pool was non-legal and it damaged their swim times.  For years I’ve wanted the pool-related bond issues to pass, and I am really down and upset today.

I’ve never been able to learn the history of Wayland schools.  Because of the word “Union,” I assume that, like many school systems in the past, Wayland consolidated outlying schools such as Dorr and Moline.  Maybe there were more one-room schools incorporated.  Maybe the inclusion of Dorr created a big community fight.

I don’t know, but what did create the animosity of Dorr residents toward Wayland schools?  You’ve been around this area a lot longer than me; what do you know of its history?  Was there a big fight somewhere in the past?

Tom Andrews

PS: That same anger also existed in the ball programs.  Dorr coaches would do anything, including cheating, to defeat Wayland teams after we introduced inter-league play.  And in the past the Wayland Rocket football director got rid of coaches that didn’t beat Dorr teams.

EDITOR’S NOTE: Tom Andrews is the father of the man by the same name who died seven years ago after being recognized for his efforts with the Wayland Athletic Boosters.


  • Mr Andrews the answer to your question is they believe they’re victims. We see it happening all over this country in urban America.

  • Mr Andrews,

    Your generalizations are over the top and my opinion you are SO wrong. Did you experience some of what you are writing here, sure I won’t call you a liar. To make this excuse for the loss of the millage request is way out of line and ignorant. Sir you owe the WUS district voters and more important the citizens of Dorr an apology ASAP.

    This line of thinking NEVER once crossed my mind when voting on this issue. There were many thoughts that came to mind when I was considering this request however hatred towards Wayland never did.

    1-Truth or lack of. “This will not raise your taxes” Slippery slope when they pick their words. The quick fact propaganda sheet never mentioned this free money would tack on another 25 years to the debt.

    2- Recession we are currently in.

    3- Inflation is currently out of control. have you noticed fuel prices, food, transportation?

    4- My current property tax bill, I can’t handle any more taxes.

    5- Need vs Want, Education is definitely a need a pool is a want.

    Just to name a few.

    Have a great day!


  • I have no doubt there were a number of voters who didn’t and still don’t like a “union” school district. Historically, area residents have always had the option of sending their children to local Christian or Catholic rather than the public school. Those parents have never been viewed as a solid Yes vote in school millage.

    It’s a tough sell for millage requests regardless of how they are marketed/packaged in 2022. Unless your district has substantial growth, the school board is looking at a pool number of potential No votes and its growing.

    There are voters over 60 whose children may have attended public school but they aren’t excited about raising/continuing taxes on their homes. If their children are grown and left the district they aren’t voting for their grandchildren’s schools.

    There’s a significant group of voters, sometime a multi-generational group who attended the Christian schools, went on to South Christian for high school never attending WSU schools and their children/grandchildren are following tradition. They have few reasons to vote Yes.

    However the largest headwinds are being caused by the explosion of additional choices parents have available. There are brick and mortar K-12 and HS charter school options like National Heritage and West Michigan Aviation Academy. If you watch any TV, you can’t miss commercials for “virtual schools” that are often replacing the older home schooling that’s become more prevalent n the last two decades.

    Add all those groups together and it’s a formidable task to present a proposal that will motivate any of the groups mentioned because they have already voted No with their choices for their children.

  • Everybody is offering their excuses for why the bond issue failed — inflation, recession, increased taxes, private schools, kids are gone so don’t support the schools, pools are luxuries, etc.
    But those issues exist beyond geographical lines. They don’t answer my question about why the animosity of Dorr and Leighton people toward Wayland schools? I told you about multiple times when I experienced that attitude; one woman even drove from Dorr to a meeting that didn’t pertain to her just to hate on Wayland schools.
    Mr. Wilkens demands an apology from me to Dorr Citizens. FOR WHAT? Nearly 60% of Dorr voted AGAINST the bond issue. And nearly 60% of their neighbors in Leighton also said no. That against the nearly 60% of Wayland City and Township citizens who supported their schools’ request. Because the population of Dorr and Leighton townships is nearly double that of Wayland (city and township), these no votes overrode Wayland’s positive votes.
    I think it is fair to assume that there are more WUS families in Dorr/Leighton than in Wayland; so why do Wayland voters value their schools more? Another telling statistic: a greater percentage of Wayland city/township citizens showed up to vote than that of Dorr/Leighton citizens.
    Some history. Wayland township (and village) developed prior to the Civil War; its first school was started in 1844. Dorr township development and first school was primarily post war. (Dorr village never did incorporate.) Both had large two-story high schools by 1910. Wayland’s is gone; replaced by a new high school in 1941 which was replaced by the current high school in 1974. Dorr’s high school is gone, though the building is still there. (Red brick building on 18th Street just north of 142nd Avenue.) Obviously, Dorr’s schools were annexed in to Wayland “Union” Schools sometime in the past; the Dorr high school was closed and all Dorr (and Leighton) middle and high school students are now bused to Wayland.
    Was that the problem? And is it still?

    • Mr Andrews,

      Using your analogy, 40% of Wayland City/Township also hate WUS? Is this correct? You quickly discount recession, inflation, lack of transparency, needs vs wants… Additionally, you want to blame a small percentage of Dorr residents whom you had contact with for defeating the millage. You have a twisted viewpoint, in my opinion. No worries, the voters will have another chance in the general, count on it!


  • Another possibility…the animosity toward public schools in general is the result of several decades of misinformation and conspiracy theories that have only accelerated in the last few years. Once upon a time, within my memory, the school was the centerpiece of a community and the focus of community life. Teachers were respected. Social life revolved around school events. There were community festivals held in school buildings, traveling cultural events, sports events, and the community turned out for them all.
    Then came a cultural shift, beginning, I think, sometime in the 60’s(?). Now teachers were suspect, and schools were drains on the community, not assets. Education was no longer a community value. Students were told they did not need to listen to their teachers. People complained about the inequities between districts and the tax burden of supporting public schools. Districts began to lose local control when Proposal A passed, sending local tax money to Lansing to redistribute in an attempt to make funding more equitable (which, of course, still hasn’t happened). Testing issues, unfunded mandates, and a multitude of other issues chipped away at public school perceived effectiveness. Throw in politics and partisanship and things continue to deteriorate.
    I heard a speaker once who stated that a community gets the school district it deserves. If the public is not happy with their local school district, it is because they made it that way.
    By the way, the same could be said of our local township boards as well.
    In my opinion.

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