Jon Dean ready to take on role of superintendent

By: Maria Allard | Grosse Pointe Times | Published May 27, 2021


GROSSE POINTES — After being named Grosse Pointe Public School System superintendent May 12, Jon Dean felt “excited” and “honored.”

“I’m two-thirds excited and one-third like, ‘Wow.’ I’ve lived here since 1997 and raised my family here,” the Grosse Pointe Woods resident said. “The idea of being superintendent has been a dream of mine for a long time. I’m just honored to get the opportunity. I love the people here.”

Although the 4-3 school board vote was not unanimous to select Dean, “We’re prepared to move forward,” the appointed superintendent said. “We are all doing this for the same reason. We care about the kids. We care about this community.”

Dean is the current deputy superintendent of educational services. He officially will become superintendent July 1, pending successful contract negotiations. He will succeed Superintendent Gary Niehaus, who is retiring at the end of the 2020-21 school year.

“It’s been a good relationship,” Dean said of Niehaus. “I’ve learned from him. He’s taught me as superintendent you need to listen first by creating a structure so people feel heard. You have to stay in the big picture.”

Dean said there are plans to design a strategic plan for the district. Strategic planning is a process that school districts, organizations and businesses use to identify goals, what’s needed to accomplish those goals, and the management system that will be used to monitor and evaluate progress.

“We have a lot of things to work on. We’ll start it in September,” Dean said, adding that there are plans to put together a committee of community members, administrators, teachers, support staff, parents and students.

Dean is coming into his new role during a time in which the school district has been divided over several issues, including full-time face-to-face learning during the COVID-19 pandemic, the district’s reconfiguration of bringing fifth-grade students to the middle school level and the closing of Poupard and Trombly elementary schools.

“I still think it’s painful for the adults,” the educator said. But he recently met some Defer students, who formerly attended Trombly, who told him that they were having a “great year and that they wish they could be in school more.” One student told Dean that at her new school she made more friends, “which is a good thing,” she reportedly told him.

Dean has developed relationships with the district’s teachers, administrators and support staff over the years, describing them as “outstanding, excellent educators” and “an incredibly talented group of people.”

“Our adults can do anything,” he said. “At the end of the day we’re all here to provide an outstanding and quality education for every kid in Grosse Pointe.”

Dean also takes on the job as top administrator as the district continues with its $111,040,000 bond proposal that passed in November 2018. Bond money is paying for building updates across the district.

“We’re in good shape,” he said. “We’ve been coming in under budget with high quality work.”

Dean’s wife is a preschool teacher in the district. His daughter is a junior at Michigan State University, and his son is a junior at Grosse Pointe North High School.

“I didn’t go to college thinking I was going to be a teacher,” Dean said. “I had a passion for working with kids. I think it comes from some good teachers I had in school.”

There was another source behind his inspiration: Dean’s parents were educators. They met in the 1960s when teaching middle school in Detroit 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.