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February 20, 2013

Principal Erken to retire from Shrine Schools

Veteran administrator to work part time as an assistant

By Chris Jackett
C & G Staff Writer

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Shrine Catholic High School and Academy Principal Gabrielle Erken sits in her Royal Oak office Feb. 14. The 12-year administrator plans to retire at the end of the school year.

ROYAL OAK — The face of Shrine Catholic High School and Academy recently announced plans to retire at the end of the school year.

After overseeing a long list of improvements during the past 12 years, Principal Gabrielle Erken, 55, plans to retire June 30.

“I have four parents over the age of 85 and, at some point, you have to give back to the old folks,” said Erken, a Royal Oak resident, who noted that none of her extended family resides in Michigan. “This is a great place to work, a great school. It’s not an easy decision, but sometimes you have to give back to the people who raised you.”

During Erken’s tenure at Shrine, the school underwent major renovations of new science labs, a redesign of the art room, the addition of a new field house, the conversion of a gym into the state-of-the-art Sanders Performing Arts Center and a renovation of the Student Center.

Additionally, Erken worked with chemistry and engineering teachers at Shrine to create partnerships with Lawrence Technological University in Southfield and Beaumont Hospital in Royal Oak to provide valuable hands-on experiences for high school students.

“Mrs. Erken has been a very positive influence to Shrine Catholic High School and Academy,” said Monsignor William Easton, pastor of the National Shrine of the Little Flower and president of Shrine Schools. “During her time, several innovations have taken place and we plan to build on these.”

After spending much of her life in Texas, Erken said she arrived at Shrine as the seventh- and eighth-grade academy principal in 2001 when the 20-year master plan for facilities and programming was just about to begin.

“I just happened to be there for the beginning of that,” Erken said. “It reflects the change of education in the broader world — much more global. We started Chinese classes. We have kids going on a mission trip to Nicaragua (Feb. 13).”

In 2005, the position was combined with the high school principal job, so she’s spent the past eight years serving grades seven through 12, which amounts to about 420 students this school year.

“It’s wonderfully warm and welcoming,” Erken said. “It’s very intergenerational. There are a lot of third-generation families.”

Although Erken is retiring from her role as principal, she will still work part time at Shrine, and her husband will continue as a full-time certified public tax accountant, so she doesn’t expect any month-long retirement trips to extravagant locations in the near future.

“We’re sad to see her go into retirement,” Easton said. “She will go on as administrative assistant to the pastor/president of school system.”

He said the unified school board and finance council has already created a search committee that is in the process of receiving applicants.

“We’re looking to identify someone before the end of the school year,” Easton said.

For more information on Shrine Schools, visit www.shrineschools.com.

You can reach C & G Staff Writer Chris Jackett at cjackett@candgnews.com or at (586)279-1110.