Schools can count many highlights in 2017

By: Maria Allard | Grosse Pointe Times | Published January 2, 2018

 On June 26, members of the Grosse Pointe Public School System Board of Education voted 5-2 on the proposed budget for the 2017-18 school year.

On June 26, members of the Grosse Pointe Public School System Board of Education voted 5-2 on the proposed budget for the 2017-18 school year.

File photo by Sean Work

GROSSE POINTES — The year 2017 saw a number of achievements from students and staff in local schools, including those of the Grosse Pointe Public School System. GPPSS officials also cut costs this past year to balance the budget, and due to retirements, the district welcomed several new staff members.

Students throughout the Grosse Pointes held fundraisers to help others, including patients at the John D. Dingell VA Medical Center in Detroit, and for Guardian Angels Service Dogs, which provides medical service dogs to veterans and police officers with post-traumatic stress disorder.

Here is a look back at some other highlights from the past year.

At the beginning of the year, Niche, a website that helps people discover schools and neighborhoods, ranked GPPSS third on its 2017 Best Public Schools and Districts rankings. More than 80,000 public schools and 10,000 school districts were analyzed, according to Niche.

GPPSS was ranked No. 1 on the Niche 2017 Districts with the Best Teachers in the State, and all nine of the district’s elementary schools were ranked among the top 100 elementary schools in the state, per the website’s survey.

On Jan. 14, the audio tape of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s “The Other America” speech — via  the Grosse Pointe-Harper Woods Branch of the NAACP — was played inside the Grosse Pointe South High School gymnasium. The civil rights leader had presented the same speech in person at South March 14, 1968 — about three weeks before he was shot and killed in Memphis, Tennessee. Since March 14, 2018 will mark the 50th anniversary of King’s speech at the school, a special event is planned at South, according to Grosse Pointe district officials.

At the Eastside Catholic Forensic League competition Feb. 4 at. St. Anne Catholic School in Warren, St. Paul on the Lake students won a first-place trophy and many individual awards. The competition for fifth- and sixth-grade students featured local Catholic and private schools. The St. Paul team is coached by Beth Reilly. St. Paul on the Lake is located in Grosse Pointe Farms.

During midwinter break in February, several Advanced Placement environmental and AP biology students from both South and Grosse Pointe North High School traveled to the Newfound Harbor Marine Institute in Big Pine Key, Florida. In February, Brownell Middle School students, led by teacher Sharon Drew, finished in first place in a math competition at Detroit Country Day, which has campuses in Bloomfield Hills and Beverly Hills.

Local schools felt the impact of the high winds that hit metro Detroit March 8. According to the website, high winds brought gusts in excess of 60 mph, which caused power outages and tree damage.

Because of the power outages, classes at Defer Elementary School, Pierce Middle School, Parcells Middle School and North High School were canceled March 9-10. Several after-school and evening activities also were canceled or rescheduled because of the school closings.

In March, the National Association of Music Merchants, or NAMM, based in Carlsbad, California, named the Grosse Pointe district as one of 14 school systems in the state among the Best Communities in the Nation for Music Education. The program recognizes outstanding efforts by teachers, administrators, parents, students and community leaders who have made music education part of the curriculum.

Good news continued in March when school officials announced that seven high school students were named National Merit Finalists, placing them in the top half of 1 percent in the nation. The list included South students Jack Burgoyne, Kurt Huebner, David Scupholm and Kara Semanision; and North students Annelise Hofmann, Lindsey Hoshaw and Adam Schreck.

The national rankings by U.S. News & World Report were released in April, and South was ranked No. 13 in Michigan and No. 695 in the nation, while North was ranked No. 28 in Michigan and No. 1,169 in the nation. On April 18, the Grosse Pointe South High School Band & Orchestra of Michigan, directed by Christopher Takis and James Gross, performed a program at Carnegie Hall in New York City.

Things moved along in May when German 1 student Rory Angott, of North, earned the highest score of students who took the German National Exam test in the Midwest region, as classmate Amelia Fly finished No. 14.

As the 2016-17 school year winded down in June, North High School teacher Sean McCarroll was selected as one of 10 grand-prize winners across the nation for The Henry Ford Teacher Innovator Awards.

At the June 26 GPPSS board meeting, the school board voted 5-2 to adopt the proposed budget for the 2017-18 school year. The district’s 2017-18 proposed budget had revenues projected at $102 million with expenditures projected at $100 million. The district had faced a $2.3 million deficit, and the vote included several budget considerations to balance the budget so that expenditures did not exceed revenues.

Board members Brian Summerfield, Margaret Weertz, Judy Gafa, Kathleen Abke and Christopher Profeta voted in favor of the budget; Ahmed Ismail and Cindy Pangborn voted against it. Summerfield, the board president, was not present in person for the meeting, but Deputy Superintendent of Educational Services Jon Dean called him so he could vote via speakerphone.

Over the summer, the North iStudies program was invited to be one of six student organizations to attend the Governor’s Education Summit in Lansing. Five North students visited with state school board members, Gov. Rick Snyder, CEOs and district administrators.

Not long after the 2017-18 school year began, the Maire Elementary community learned that the school had been named as a National Blue Ribbon School for 2017. The National Blue Ribbon Schools Program honors public and private elementary, middle and high schools where students achieve high learning standards or make notable improvements in closing the achievement gap. In Maire’s case, it was chosen based on its overall academic performance.

Lt. Gov. Brian Calley, R-Portland, was the guest speaker at the GPPSS annual Community Luncheon held Nov. 6 at Richard Elementary School in Grosse Pointe City.

On Nov. 7, the University Liggett School Board of Trustees unanimously appointed Bart Bronk as Liggett’s next head of school. The announcement followed a six-month national search.

Bronk has served as interim head of school since longtime Head of School Joseph P. Healey retired in June after 10 years of leadership. Bronk officially will begin as head of school July 1, 2018.

In December, GPPSS school officials announced staff members Sara Delgado, Lisa Rheaume and Daniel Quinn earned their doctorate degrees. In addition, North senior Adam Weinkauf won first place in the 12th-grade category out of 825 entries for the North American International Auto Show poster contest. He will receive a cash award of $500 and tickets to the event, and he will have his poster on display during the 2018 auto show at Cobo Hall during January.

Also in December, three North students remained separated from school as the Grosse Pointe Woods Public Safety Department continued to investigate a Snapchat conversation between the three students that school officials deemed as a threat. The public safety report had been forwarded to the Wayne County Prosecutor’s Office for review and possible charges.