Grosse PointesAugust 9, 2012
Major staff decisions made in schools
By April Lehmbeck
C & G Staff Writer
GROSSE POINTES — Some big decisions were made last week when it comes to staffing some top posts, as well as some new faces in the Grosse Pointe South music department.
Kerby has a new principal, and South High School has a new assistant principal, vocal music director and band director. The school board met late last week to finalize the new appointments.
The board approved the employment of Melanie O’Neil to take over the lead role at Kerby as its new principal and Debra Higgins to join the administration at South as assistant principal.
“I am excited about both Debbie at South and Melanie at Kerby,” Grosse Pointe Public Schools Deputy Superintendent for Educational Services Jon Dean said in an email. “When we are recruiting building leaders we are looking for true instructional leaders, who understand that relationships with staff, students and parents are key.
“During their careers, both Melanie and Debbie have demonstrated exceptional instructional leadership coupled with outstanding relationships,” he said. “I am excited to have them on board.”
O’Neil held a number of positions during her previous work in Lake Orion Schools, which included principal of Orion Oaks Elementary School.
“A team of over 20 parents, support staff, teachers, and building and central office administrators assisted in the screening and interview process,” the district stated in a press release. “In addition, 109 individuals responded to the online principal profile survey and several attended the informational forum held in Kerby’s library on July 2. Melanie was chosen from 107 applicants.”
Higgins previously served as an assistant principal and principal in Brighton, according to information from Grosse Pointe schools.
Another big change this fall will be in South’s music program.
Steve Cross, teacher and band director at Pierce Middle School and South High School, was let go in June, and South choir teacher and director Ellen Bowen was placed on administrative leave in June, with the district planning to go through the process toward seeking to terminate her employment.
Cross’ firing stemmed from a letter he sent to parents that district officials felt contained information district officials said included inaccurate statements and was concerning to district officials. Bowen’s leave started after she allegedly struck a student with a cellphone.
The district launched a search for strong candidates to fill both positions and made their hiring decisions official at a meeting late last week.
“The Grosse Pointe Public School System is committed to maintaining and enhancing our vocal and instrumental music programs,” the district stated in a press release. “Please help us welcome two dynamic individuals to the team who have the talent and background to meet our community’s high expectations for these programs that add so much to the fabric our of secondary educational program.”
The new choir teacher, Christopher Pratt, has a rich background in music and performance, according to the information released by the district.
He previously served as the choir director at Center Grove High School in Indiana, among other experience in music and education, according to district information.
“At Center Grove, he directed five choirs, including the award-winning show choir CG Sound System and chamber choir, CG Singers,” the district stated. “CG Sound System has been named Grand Champion Show Choir at SHOWSTOPPERS Show Choir Invitational and FAME Show Choir Invitationals in New York City, Branson, Chicago and Orlando. Collectively, his choirs have won over 75 Grand Champions awards.”
The new Pierce and South band teacher is Christopher Takis, who is coming from Van Dyke Public Schools where his work included being director of bands.
His experience includes heading jazz ensembles, marching band and drumline work.
One of his accomplishments is boosting participation in band.
The new music teachers were chosen with the help of parents, staff, administrators and others.
“I am truly excited about our two new music directors at South high school,” Dean said in an email. “Both Chris P. and Chris T. will be able to provide the needed leadership and technical skills to advance our outstanding choir and band programs.
“For both positions we had a deep, talented pool of candidates that has allowed us to select excellent teachers for these two important positions,” he said.
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