Superintendent George Heitsch, center, and other local officials gather during the Farmington STEAM Academy ribbon cutting Oct. 12, 2017.

Superintendent George Heitsch, center, and other local officials gather during the Farmington STEAM Academy ribbon cutting Oct. 12, 2017.

File photo by Donna Dalziel

Heitsch to retire in 2019 from Farmington Public Schools after decades in education

By: Sherri Kolade | Farmington Press | Published December 20, 2018


FARMINGTON — Farmington Public Schools Superintendent George Heitsch has made a 40-year career out of helping shape students’ minds.

Heitsch is set to retire July 1, 2019.

“It’s been a blessing to serve this community — (it’s an) amazing place,” Heitsch said at his office Dec. 18.

Heitsch announced his retirement in late November.

According to a press release, the Board of Education will soon bring together a Succession Planning Committee, which will make recommendations to the board on the next steps required for filling the vacancy and more.

“During this transition period, I want to assure you that together with the Board of Education and the district leadership team we will continue to focus on our most important work, which is and always will be, teaching and learning for the more than 9,000 students of Farmington Public Schools,” Heitsch said in the press release.

Teaching and learning, some could say, are part of who Heitsch is.

A district colleague remarked that Heitsch is always reading and learning.

In a world that revolves around education, Heitsch is an eternal student — learning, achieving and growing.

“Dr. Heitsch has been a tremendous asset to the district. He inherited several matters that needed to be addressed quickly,” said Board of Education President Terri Weems said in a press release. “He’s taken us through painful, but necessary restructuring needed in order to position us well for the future.”

Weems added that the school district is on its way to financial stability.

“We’ve seen growth in student achievement, and we are well on our way to expanding in areas where we’ve seen pockets of excellence,” she said. “I’ve sincerely enjoyed working with Dr. Heitsch and look forward to his continued leadership over the next few months.”

Heitsch has worked in FPS, the West Bloomfield School District and Huron Valley Schools.

He earned his educational doctorate in curriculum and instruction from Wayne State University.

According to an FPS document, Heitsch has been in public education as a teacher, building administrator and superintendent for more than 40 years.

He began his educational journey, professionally, as a teacher and athletic director at Huron Valley Schools and a principal in the West Bloomfield School District.

He and his wife, Lisa, have two grown sons who are both married with children in Michigan. He loves running and sports.    

When hired in FPS four years ago, he said his first plan was to build relationships by talking to the school board and staff, and finding out with whom he needs to engage.

Four years later, those plans haven’t changed.

In the time he has been at FPS a bond was passed, the Farmington STEAM Academy opened up, and a host of schools were repurposed and reconfigured.

Heistch said that to be a public educator is to be passionate about public service, and that means doing what is right by the school district and its community, even if people don’t agree.

“I think (the FPS community has) been patient with us, understanding for the need for change,” he said, adding that not every decision was greeted with 100 percent approval.

But Heitsch doesn’t dwell on hardships — he is more focused on how he helped overcome them.

He said his most memorable moments during his time at FPS include the numerous transition meetings on the changes that were necessary in the district.

“There is still a lot of stuff in transition,” he said.

He said some more difficult dialogues that the school district is having are the honest conversations that surround student achievement gaps.

“The conversations about success is a challenging moment layered around wealth and race that students influence and don’t control,” he said.

Differences aside, Heitsch said, what brings people together is educating students.

His passion for education started when he was a child.

“I started kindergarten in 1959,” he said chuckling, adding that on a more serious note, the education landscape has changed.

“Somewhere along the line we decided that school had to be harder for kids,” he said. While it is important for students to be challenged, it is important to note that they don’t have to be sent a toxic message that they are not doing well enough, he said.

“That didn’t use to be — only been a more recent occurence,” Heitsch said.

Inside his office overlooking the grounds of the school district’s administration building are treasured family photos and school-related mementos collected over the years. Those stay with him no matter where the road takes him.

And while the road will soon lead him away from FPS, the school district will never be that far from his mind, he said.

“It has been an honor and a privilege to have served as your superintendent for the past five years,”  stated Heitsch in the press release. “This has been, and will continue to be, a great place to work and learn because of the dedicated staff, outstanding students and committed families that we have here in this district.”

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