Jon Dean is the new GPPSS superintendent

By: Maria Allard | Grosse Pointe Times | Published May 13, 2021




FARMS — Jon Dean, deputy superintendent for the Grosse Pointe Public School System, was appointed superintendent at a special board meeting held May 12 at Brownell Middle School in Grosse Pointe Farms.

The school board voted 4-3 to name Dean superintendent.

Board President Joseph Herd, Vice President Margaret Weertz, Secretary Christopher Lee and Treasurer Colleen Worden voted in favor of appointing Dean. 

Trustees Lisa Papas, David Brumbaugh and Ahmed Ismail voted against the measure. Papas and Brumbaugh were in favor of selecting the second finalist, Stephen Bigelow, current Bay City Public Schools superintendent, but the vote on that motion failed 5-2. 

Prior to the votes, each board member stated who they wanted to lead the district. Ismail passed on naming either educator as someone he wanted to see move forward. The board voted to appoint Dean the same evening that he had his final superintendent interview with the board. Bigelow’s final interview was held May 11. 

Brumbaugh and Papas wanted to take more time to make a decision. Brumbaugh wanted to wait a week so the community could digest the information from both candidates.

“We have received a ton of feedback,” he said. 

“I feel the process has been very rushed,” Papas said. “We really didn’t have a lot of time to make the decision.”

Papas felt Bigelow would have brought a fresh perspective to the district.

“I loved his zero point budgeting,” she said. “I thought we needed a fresh set of eyes in the district with all the divisiveness.”

“I think this process was thorough. In the end we had two stellar, stellar candidates,” Weertz said. “I thought Dr. Bigelow was very well prepared to be our superintendent. Dr. Dean is someone you can really rely on. He’s all about kids. My vote is for Dr. Dean.”

“My vote is going to be for Dr. Dean,” Herd said. “I believe the man is a man of integrity.” 

Dean came to Grosse Pointe in 2012 and has served in several leadership roles in human resources, curriculum and currently as deputy superintendent for educational services. 

While in Grosse Pointe, Dean has worn many hats, including administrator representative for the Board Of Education Policy Committee, coordinator of the Peer District Group of eleven similar Michigan districts, and chief recruiter for GPPSS. He also has been providing COVID-19 updates at the school board meetings this year. Currently, students are either attending online only classes in the GP Virtual program or face-to-face full-time classes with a list of safety precautions.

He has organized and facilitated teacher and administrator recruitment, collaborated with various employee and community groups to advance the mission and vision of the district, worked to align the integration of special education and general education programs, and negotiated collective bargaining agreements.

He started teaching in Detroit Public Schools in 1995. He worked both as a teacher and elementary principal in Algonac Community Schools, as an elementary principal in Allen Park Public Schools, and as an elementary principal and assistant superintendent in Birmingham Public Schools.

Dean earned a bachelor’s degree, a master’s degree in educational leadership, and a doctorate in education from Wayne State University. He also holds an education specialist degree from Saginaw Valley State University.

“I think we ended up with two highly qualified candidates,” Worden said. “I have to go with Dr. Dean. It’s clear that he loves this community.”

“I changed my mind back and forth many times,” Lee said. “These individuals are both immensely qualified individuals. They are both world-class people. Dean, he’s in and out of the schools all the time. I’m choosing Jon Dean.”

The superintendent search began earlier this school year when current Superintendent Gary Niehaus announced his coming retirement. Herd said Dean’s appointment will begin July 1, 2021, pending successful contract negotiations. School Exec Connect, based in Oak Park, Illinois, assisted the district with the superintendent search. 

Bigelow began his career in education in 1998. He taught in South Lyon Community Schools, and he worked in Warren Consolidated Schools as a teacher, assistant principal and principal. Bigelow also has been the superintendent of Capac Community Schools.

Bigelow earned a bachelor’s degree from the University of Michigan, a master’s degree in public administration from the University of Michigan-Dearborn, and an education specialist degree and a doctorate in education from Oakland University.

The school board held interviews with Bigelow April 27 and Dean April 28. Interviews also were held with candidates Ryan McLeod and Lawrence Rudolph April 27, who were among the four finalists.