A new school year begins

By: Maria Allard | Grosse Pointe Times | Published September 12, 2017

GROSSE POINTES —  New backpacks, jitters and excitement set the tone when local students started the 2017-18 school year Sept. 5.

Grosse Pointe Public School System Superintendent Gary Niehaus predicted “a great year” in the district and also offered advice to staff.

“We have had a great first week of school with plenty of energy and enthusiasm,” Niehaus said in an email. “At our opening day, I encouraged our staff to challenge themselves to model the continuous improvement we expect of our district. I specifically suggested finding a mentor. When I looked out over that crowd of educators, lead teachers in our administrative team, and support staff, I saw many mentors who lead by example.”

The new school year began with a few administrative changes. School officials welcomed new Defer Elementary Principal Lisa Rheaume, and Hussain Ali is the new principal at Poupard Elementary after the retirements of Karen Sullivan and Penny Stocks, respectively.

Michelle Davis is the new assistant principal and athletic director at Grosse Pointe North High School, and new assistant principals Cindy Parravano and Joseph Spryszak began at Grosse Pointe South High School.

GPPSS officials won’t know the district’s exact enrollment until after count day, which is scheduled for Oct. 4.

“Enrollment appears to be on target for our budget predictions, but we are waiting a bit longer to announce official counts as families settle into the school year,” Niehaus said.

Plans are set this fall for the district to host a Blue Ribbon Facilities Study, which will follow a similar process to the district’s Strategic Plan. According to Niehaus, more than 45 community members representing each school and various demographics have been invited to participate in the study. That includes community members without children in the school system.

The Blue Ribbon Facilities Study members will analyze the Plante Moran Commercial Real Estate Advisors report on building utilization and needed repairs that representatives have studied in the district. The members also will make recommendations on the study to the Board of Education by December to allow enough time for any repairs to be part of the district’s ongoing budget process.

University Liggett School in Grosse Pointe Woods also began a new school year Sept. 5 and welcomed new administrators to the upper and middle schools.

Brock Dunn is the assistant head of school and head of the upper school. Dunn recently completed a master’s degree in independent school leadership from Vanderbilt University in Nashville and has a bachelor’s degree from the University of New Hampshire. Dunn was previously at the Ethel Walker School, in Simsbury, Connecticut, where he was executive director of strategic initiatives and also served as head of the middle and upper schools and dean of students at Ethel Walker.

Robert Butler Jr. is the assistant head of school and head of the middle school. Butler Jr. comes to Liggett from the Whitfield School in St. Louis, where he held positions including middle school dean, admissions associate and English teacher. Prior to that, he spent 10 years at his alma mater, Holland Hall in Tulsa, Oklahoma, where he taught English and coached varsity track. He earned a master’s degree in English from Oklahoma State University and a bachelor’s degree in English from Northeastern State University.

As the 2017-18 school year began last week, the Liggett juniors kept others in their thoughts when they volunteered at Cass Community Social Services and Gleaners Community Food Bank of Southeastern Michigan.

Cass Community Social Services is a Detroit-based agency that provides food, housing, health services and job programs. Gleaners operates five distribution centers in Wayne, Oakland, Macomb, Livingston and Monroe counties and provides food to 534 partner soup kitchens, food pantries, shelters and other agencies throughout southeastern Michigan.

While at Cass Community Social Services, the students prepped and cooked meals for people who live at the shelter. Another group volunteered in the shredding building, where they sorted outdated paperwork, shredded it and then bundled it. The students also learned about the history of the center.

“They learned about how the center creates work opportunities for people who just got out of jail or who are mentally challenged,” Georgina Milenius, Upper School Spanish teacher and 11th-grade class dean, said in a prepared statement.

Another group of juniors spent time with Gleaners Community Food Bank, in Detroit, where they organized food boxes that will get distributed. According to Upper School French teacher Kristie Karolak, the students packed more than 1,200 pounds of food.

Milenius is hopeful the students will perform regular volunteer work this school year with both Gleaners and Cass Community.