School board prepares to appoint new superintendent

By: Maria Allard | Grosse Pointe Times | Published May 11, 2021

 Grosse Pointe Public School System Superintendent Gary Niehaus announced his retirement during a Sept. 14 board meeting held in a virtual format.

Grosse Pointe Public School System Superintendent Gary Niehaus announced his retirement during a Sept. 14 board meeting held in a virtual format.

File photo by Sean Work

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GROSSE POINTES — The Grosse Pointe Public School System Board of Education is on its way to naming a new superintendent.
    
The school board plans to appoint the district’s new top administrator May 12 after conducting final interviews May 11-12.
    
On April 28, the school board had narrowed the field of candidates down to two: Jon Dean, deputy superintendent for GPPSS, and Stephen Bigelow, Bay City Public Schools superintendent. School officials provided background information on both candidates on the district’s website at www.gpschools.org.

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

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 a superintendent in Capac and Bay City.

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 superintendent search began earlier this school year when current Superintendent Gary Niehaus announced his retirement during a Sept. 14 board meeting held in a virtual format. He was appointed superintendent in the spring of 2015, and his intent is to stay for the 2020-21 school year.

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; they were among the four finalists. On April 28, after the final interview with Dean, each school board member voted on their top two candidates, which narrowed the field down to Dean and Bigelow.

Board President Joseph Herd, Vice President Margaret Weertz, Secretary Christopher Lee, Treasurer Colleen Worden and Trustee Lisa Papas voted for Dean and Bigelow as their top two candidates.

Board Trustee David Brumbaugh voted for Bigelow and McLeod. Board Trustee Ahmed Ismail passed on the vote.

“I don’t have anybody that I want to see move forward,” Ismail said.

Thus, the field was narrowed down to the final two candidates.

“I think, initially, I would have liked to have seen a more diverse pool of candidates, and I know a lot of our community said the same thing, but I went into these interviews with an open mind and with optimism,” Worden said. “I’m actually pretty impressed with some of these candidates. I’m not necessarily looking for someone from a like district. I think that I’m looking for someone, rather, that has some real vision for our district, someone who can help heal our divided district, someone who can build relationships and someone who can really work at keeping our district a top district.”

A community meet-and-greet for the general public is scheduled to begin at 3:30 p.m. May 11 with Bigelow at Brownell Middle School, 260 Chalfonte in Grosse Pointe Farms. His final interview will be held May 11, beginning at 6 p.m.

A community meet-and-greet for the general public is scheduled to begin at 3:30 p.m. May 12 with Dean at Brownell. His final interview will be held May 12, beginning at 6 p.m. The school board is then expected to deliberate and name the new superintendent the evening of May 12.
    
The interviews, meet-and-greets and deliberation are open to the public, and social distancing protocols will be followed. The interviews will be televised on the district’s website after all are complete.

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