South Lake High School’s Robert Beato is the Michigan Association of Secondary School Principals Principal of the Year.

South Lake High School’s Robert Beato is the Michigan Association of Secondary School Principals Principal of the Year.

Photo provided by Gloria Tilley

South Lake’s Beato named Principal of the Year

By: Kristyne E. Demske | St. Clair Shores Sentinel | Published March 29, 2019

 South Lake High School junior Amir Ray stands with Beato.

South Lake High School junior Amir Ray stands with Beato.

Photo by Kristyne E. Demske


ST. CLAIR SHORES — Robert Beato doesn’t know what he’s done to deserve being named the Michigan Association of Secondary School Principals Principal of the Year.

In his third year as principal at South Lake High School, however, staff, administrators and students alike sing his praises.

“He is amazing with connecting with kids. (Beato is) just a really good leader and advocate for students, makes connections with kids and is present,” said Gloria Tilley, a school counselor.

“He knows how to talk to people. He has the skill to speak, and he knows how to deal with young people,” said building aide Linda Colaluca, who has worked at the school for 19 years with Beato.

And some of the highest praise comes from a student who wrote a letter in support of Beato’s nomination: South Lake junior Amir Ray.

“Mr. Beato is more like a father figure in school to me, and he’s always been around to really help me and not one of those up-tighty principals who’s ready to suspend someone,” Ray said. “One thing he told me (is) he’s going to make sure that I get to college, no matter what happens. He’s going to make sure that I’m going to fulfill my dreams in life.”

But when you ask Beato, himself, why he was chosen for the honor, he’s very humble.

“I’ll be honest with you: I don’t know,” he said. “I don’t know why they chose me.”

Beato has served all of his years as a teacher and administrator at South Lake High School. Before being named principal to succeed Carmen Kennedy, Beato was the assistant principal for two years. Prior to working in administration, he was a social studies teacher, teaching history, world history and government since 1999.

“My philosophy as a principal is, I pretty much want to do everything that I can for my staff. Therefore, they can do everything they can for the students,” he said. “What my staff needs, I might not always deliver, but I will try my hardest.

“At the end of the day, if it works for kids, let’s try it; let’s do it.”

The Michigan Association of Secondary School Principals, or MASSP, requires nominees to show a sense of collaborative leadership; involvement in curriculum, instruction and assessment; and positive personal involvement with district staff, students and families.

“MASSP is proud to recognize the work of Mr. Beato,” said Wendy Zdeb, executive director of MASSP, in a prepared statement. “He genuinely embodies servant leadership and prioritizes the needs of the staff and students at South Lake above all else.”

Beato said that he’s excited to be recognized at the statewide conference for secondary principals in Traverse City and also to represent Michigan at the Secondary School Principals National Conference in Washington, D.C., as it will be his first visit to the nation’s capital.

South Lake High School Assistant Principal Rebecca Schroll-Riedel nominated Beato for the award. Like Colaluca, Schroll-Riedel has worked with Beato the entire time he’s been in the building.

“I’ve known him as a teacher and as an administrator. He’s my sixth principal that I’ve worked for, and it’s what he’s meant to do,” she said. “He’s just so good at it. I’ve learned so much from him.

“He’s really good at problem solving and in seeing the bigger picture. He’s always willing to listen to ideas, takes criticism, takes feedback, is really good at building relationships. I would be really shocked if he didn’t know a student’s name at this school.”

Beato said that he loves the smaller community of South Lake, which is why he’s spent his career in education at the school.

“There’s something about that — it’s just that small atmosphere where we know each other that, to me, is the selling point,” he said.

At South Lake High School, Beato said that his goal is creating an environment where everyone wants to be there every day. He said that he understands the difficulties his staff members can face, working with dozens of personalities every hour, so he wants to make sure they know their efforts are appreciated.

“It’s kind of like an extended family — that’s my ultimate goal,” he said. “Students feel they have a right to voice their opinion” along with staff.

And achievement, he said, obviously tops his list of goals.

“I said to the juniors this year, if they do well on their SAT, if they beat the scores from the previous year, I will shave my head,” Beato said. “I’ve done it before. I’ll spend the night on South Lake’s roof. I will do whatever is necessary to make them take the test seriously and make them perform. I will do whatever it takes.”

It’s that type of confidence in and support of his students that they appreciate, said Ray.

The 11th-grader said he knows that he’ll be able to achieve his dreams of becoming a law enforcement officer and a youth minister with the support he receives from Beato. He said that he appreciates Beato’s style of helping students instead of just turning to discipline right off the bat, “because you don’t learn by just discipline.”

Ray said he wasn’t surprised that Beato won, and he is extremely happy for his mentor.

“This is something that you can really enjoy in life. You can look back and say, ‘I did that,’” Ray said. “I was happy for his family. His family, I applaud also, because they make sure he’s here on time with a smile on his face.”

Beato, 46, lives in Chesterfield Township with his wife and 8-year-old daughter.

Schroll-Riedel said that Beato is always looking out for the best interests of his students. Along with leadership skills, she said that she told the Michigan Association of Secondary School Principals about the positive changes he has made in the school. Beato is a great leader when it comes to recognizing and rewarding students for positive behavior.

“I think that it says that, even though we’re small and maybe have limited resources with budget cuts ... when you have someone who is dedicated and loves their job, you can make things happen,” she said. “You do the best with what you have.”

Beato said that he believes the award is really a reflection of what South Lake has been able to achieve for its students.

“That’s what I’m happiest about. It’s really an award for South Lake. It’s an award for the high school; it’s an award for the district; it’s an award for the students and staff,” he said. “I couldn’t do it without the staff. They’re the ones who are working in front of the students every single day, so, to me, (this) is really an award for them.”