Back to school

2021-22 school year off to a great start

In their new roles as superintendent and deputy superintendent, Jon Dean and Roy Bishop made a point of visiting nearly every school building this week during opening week.

“I’m thankful for the intentional efforts I saw each staff member make to build community in their classroom,” Dr. Dean wrote in an email to staff.

Dr. Bishop will complete his school tour next week with a visit to Barnes Early Childhood Center.

“Our staff is so amazing,” he said. “We have collectively gone above and beyond to make sure we are prioritizing learning throughout our district.”

His focus this first week was having conversations with teachers. He came away from each conversation with a similar impression.

“We are a community that is driven by doing what is best for kids,” he said.

He also noted the resilience of the students.

“Our students have been great about wearing masks,” he said. “They’ve been great about keeping themselves safe and keeping each other safe by doing their part.

“Just seeing the dedication that’s going into making sure that our schools were safe and learning continued and we did our best to continue to be face to face has been an inspiration,” he added.

Board President Joseph Herd accompanied Dr. Dean to six schools and plans to visit the remaining schools in the coming weeks. Highlights included observing the adaptive gym class at Grosse Pointe South and, while explaining the role of the superintendent and the board president to some third graders, being mistaken — along with Dr. Dean — for a security guard.

“The schools look good and everyone looked really happy to be back at school,” Mr. Herd said.

Trustees David Brumbaugh and Ahmed Ismail also visited schools, in part to witness in-person learning in action and in part to see the completed bond renovation projects at Brownell, Maire, Richard and Grosse Pointe North.

Brumbaugh noted that “all of the things that needed to be done for kids to go back to school were done” in spite of the major scope of work that took place over the summer and some supply chain issues the construction team encountered due to the pandemic.

He also was impressed by the number of intentional outdoor spaces for learning and lunchtime.

Brumbaugh said he experienced a few unexpected moments, like being challenged to test out the new slide at Richard’s playground by Principal John Kernan and seeing a different side of Dr. Dean.

“I’m used to the numbers and all-business side of Jon,” he said. However, away from formal meetings and in a school setting, he witnessed “a very calming and patient force” while Dr. Dean assisted students in opening their lockers or directed them to a classroom or the cafeteria.

Principal impressions

In addition to kids and teachers happy to be back, principals noted a smooth transition back to a learning environment.

“The kids and families knew what to expect,” Ferry Principal Jodie Randazzo said. “There wasn’t a learning curve for this school year, which allowed teachers to focus on teaching and relationships.”

Moreover, she said teachers shared that they could not tell which students were in the OneGP Virtual learning program last year and which remained in face-to-face instruction, “which is a compliment to the comfort they provide in class for all students.”

“Our entire Maire staff was excited to welcome back our students to our newly renovated school,” Principal Ryan Francis said. “Just having families and students back, building that sense of community, was the best part of our kickoff this year.”

Richard Principal John Kernan also reported a great start to the school year.

“Not only have we opened up a remodeled school, but our students were able to enjoy a brand-new playground thanks to our PTO and the GPFPE,” he said. “Though we cannot see the smiles, their eyes have said it all. We are all excited to see what the year has to bring.”

Principal Shelleyann Keelean attributed much of the energy and excitement at Monteith to the fact the school community welcomed nearly 100 kindergarteners and 24 Young 5 students to the building this fall.

“There were lots of little ones very excited for their first time at school,” she said.

Another special aspect for many parents was it was their first time inside the building since bond renovations last summer.

“We have such a mix of returning staff and new staff so it was just wonderful for the parents to be able to come in, meet the staff and see the school,” Mrs. Keelean said. “We’re building a great community and we’re just so happy to have our new and returning families.”

Kerby Principal Walter Fitzpatrick was sorry to say goodbye to summer, but happy to welcome the Kerby Cougars.

“We all love summer vacation, including me,” he said. “But the saddest part of summer is not hearing the sound of children in the halls. So to me, opening day is the best part of the school year.”

“What an amazing start of the school year at Mason Elementary School filled with smiles, high fives, collaboration, commitment to excellence, and teamwork. Thank you to all the families who have been instrumental already collaborating with all Mason family members communicating their student’s needs, motivating us by sending messages such as, ‘Thank you very much for your support and ensuring [my child] is safe!’ To the exceptional team at Mason, I am honored to be amongst a dynamic group of educators working united with many hands, but as One Mason! Together we learn, together we lift, and together we lead! When I am told, ‘you read all of our minds,’ this confirms we are united with a shared motto focused on Teamwork it is! One Mason, One Family, One Team!”
— Anita Hassan, Mason Elementary School principal

Secondary highlights

“Joyful and focused on fun” were the words Brownell Principal Rodger Hunwick chose to describe the first week of school.

“The Brownell staff brought to life the learning experiences the first week of school by infusing the curriculum with activities based on relationship building,” Mr. Hunwick said. “For me personally, the conversation that stands out most was one I had with a group of sixth-grade young ladies. They think I should get a pair of custom Brownell Bronco Air-Jordan High Top shoes. It looks like this principal needs to do some shopping.”

These were the types of moments he has missed, he added.

Ken Milch, Parcells’ new principal, also noted a positive and energetic first few days welcoming more than 700 students back to school.

“Our outstanding student WEB leaders were a visible presence in their tie-dyed shirts and helped smooth the transition to Parcells for our new students,” he said. “We were visited by Board of Education President Mr. Herd and Superintendent Dr. Dean, who helped students find their way and even took on the challenge of learning how to open lockers!

“Our students have enjoyed beautiful weather and having lunch outdoors the first few days,” he added. “We’ve welcomed new faces in new places, and found some wonderfully fixed up spaces all over our building. Our renovated auditorium is anxiously awaiting the first of many great performances, and we’re getting ready for PantherPalooza and our first ever 5K Color Run. The 2021-22 school year promises to be a year of Panther Pride.”

“I always look forward to the beginning of the year and the first day of school. Someone said to me last week, ‘What is the big deal? You do this every year!’ Yes, I do, but every year comes with a sense of excitement and energy, mixed with a bit of nerves. This year because we were able to start together in person was even that much more special. It started with the warm welcome our eighth grade WEB leaders gave our incoming fifth graders, followed by kicking off the year with our staff all together, and culminated with all staff and students together on Tuesday. One of the unique things about school is there is a marked start and finish to each year. Our students and staff are given a fresh start each year, and it is exciting to think about all the great things that will happen over the course of this new school year.”
— Sara Dirkse, Pierce Middle School principal

Grosse Pointe North, too, experienced “a fantastic start to the school year,” according to Principal Kate Murray. “It’s been wonderful to hear our classrooms and hallways full of joy and laughter again. Our students have done an amazing job navigating the new layout of the building and everyone is enjoying the parts of the construction project that are already completed. We have fantastic new classrooms, an amazing new Counseling Center and beautiful new bathrooms. We are very grateful for all the people who made these renovations possible.”

Director of Student Services Stefanie Hayes also observed a smooth transition within the categorical classrooms.

“The staff and kids were back in their structured environment and they were happy and ready to learn,” she said.

Alumni Through the Decades

During the 100th anniversary of the Grosse Pointe Public School System, we plan to celebrate 100 alumni through the decades. These alumni will be featured on the district’s social media channels and shared by the Grosse Pointe Alumni & Friends Association. Each week one alumnus or alumna will be highlighted in School Pointes.

It seemed appropriate to kick off this series with a district employee, Peggy Thompson Bonbrisco.

Peggy Thompson Bonbrisco
Grosse Pointe North High School
Class of 1976
Nominated by: Beth Rainbolt

According to Beth Rainbolt, Peggy’s daughter and a literacy coach at Monteith, Grosse Pointe North is a bit of a family tradition. While Peggy’s mother graduated from Grosse Pointe High School, she and her sister and brother all graduated from North. Her three daughters, including Beth, also graduated from North and Peggy has seven grandchildren, all of whom attend a Grosse Pointe public school or will when they are of school age. Peggy deeply supports Grosse Pointe schools as a parent and grandparent and currently works as North’s student activities director. Among her many responsibilities, she runs the student union, which “offers a fun and safe place for kids to hang out,” Beth said. She also plans homecoming and graduation.

“She connects, and continues to connect, with current Grosse Pointe North students and alumni,” Beth said. “She also makes the students feel connected and pride for their school.”

Most recently, Beth added, her mother planned the all-staff launch for the start of the 2021-22 school year, held in North’s gymnasium. It meant a lot to Beth to see her mother be recognized for her hard work in front of all the district staff. She was particularly struck by the number of shout-outs Peggy received for creating such a warm, welcoming and comfortable environment for everyone.

“I was just so happy for her because it’s been such a challenge for her to do this job during COVID,” Beth said. “I think the district has done a great job of recognizing how much work goes into the job.”

A comment Beth said she heard often during the staff launch was, “The room looks great because Bon knows how to throw a party.”

Know a GPPSS alum? Click here for an alumni nomination form. Alumni willing to be featured may complete this alumni profile form.

A perfect score

Sophia Graham, a senior at Grosse Pointe North High School, earned the highest possible ACT composite score of 36.

According to Janet Godwin, ACT Chief Executive Officer, this achievement is “significant and rare.” Fewer than half of 1 percent of students who take the ACT earn a top score. In the U.S. high school graduating class of 2020, only 5,579 out of 1.67 million students who took the ACT earned a top composite score of 36.

The ACT consists of tests in English, mathematics, reading and science, each scored on a scale of 1–36. A student’s composite score is the average of the four test scores. The score for ACT’s optional writing test is reported separately and is not included within the ACT composite score.

“Earning a top score on the ACT is a remarkable achievement,” said Godwin. “A student’s exceptional score of 36 will provide any college or university with ample evidence of their readiness for the academic rigors that lie ahead.”

The ACT is a curriculum-based achievement exam that measures what students have learned in school. Students who earn a 36 composite score have likely mastered all of the skills and knowledge they will need to succeed in first-year college courses in the core subject areas.

ACT scores are accepted by all major four-year colleges and universities across the United States.

Fall Frolic: A party with a purpose

There are many reasons to come to Cadieux Café on Thursday, Sept. 30, from 6:30 to 9:30 p.m. for the Grosse Pointe Foundation for Public Education’s inaugural GPFPE Fall Frolic.

First, attendees may connect with other families in the convivial atmosphere of the outdoor biergarten at the popular Detroit venue.

Second, participants may celebrate the beginning of the school year with GPFPE supporters and the community at large, while learning about GPFPE’s mission and impact. The GPFPE has provided close to $3.5 million in funding to the Grosse Pointe Public School System since 2007 through biannual grants and signature projects.

But the most enticing reason may be to see GPPSS principals and administrators compete in a guest DJ contest. These include Deputy Superintendent Roy Bishop, Ferry Principal Jodie Randazzo, Monteith Principal Shelleyann Keelean, Richard Principal John Kernan, Trombly Principal Walter Fitzpatrick, and Pierce Principal Sara Dirkse.

Along with spinning their favorite music and competing for the Golden Record prize — to be chosen by the audience and awarded at the end of the night — the DJs also will highlight GPFPE grants that have positively impacted their schools and classrooms.

There also will be a door prize giveaway with more than $800 worth of prizes, food and drinks, and even an opportunity to enjoy the Cadieux Café’s legendary feather bowling lanes along with their newly renovated outdoor biergarten.

The fall event is following on the heels of the GPFPE’s successful benefit at the Grosse Pointe Yacht Club in June. While the annual “Be the Beacon” fundraiser brings together longtime GPFPE supporters, the idea behind this new event is to connect the organization with families who may not be familiar with the GPFPE.

“We were looking for an opportunity to introduce ourselves to the many families who were new to the district or might not be aware of all that the GPFPE does within the district,” said Maria Quint, GPFPE board member and Fall Frolic co-chair. “And we wanted to have fun and celebrate all that makes our public school system and our community so special.”

Tickets for the event are $25 in advance and $35 at the door, and can be purchased at gpfpe.org/event/fall-frolic. The affordable ticket price was made possible by Presenting Sponsor Dino R. Ricci, Realtor, Sine & Monaghan Realtors and a host of business sponsors.

“Our goal was to provide an all-inclusive, fun event at a low ticket price,” Quint said. “It is not a fundraiser and we wanted anyone who was interested to be able to attend. Our generous sponsors made this evening possible.”

The Grosse Pointe Foundation for Public Education is an independent, non-profit organization with the mission of funding extraordinary educational opportunities for the students of the Grosse Pointe Public School System. For more information, visit gpfpe.org or contact Karen Lawrence at (313) 432-3058 or lawrenk@gpschools.org.

Multi-year contract means we have a calendar through 2022-23

You have likely heard that at this Monday's board meeting the school board will vote on a multi-year contract with the GPEA Teachers Union. That means we have a school calendar through the 2022-23 school year! When you open that link, you can use the calendar icon in the upper right corner to add the district calendar to yours!

School Pointes is a publication of the Grosse Pointe Public School System. To submit story ideas or Pointes of Pride, email info@gpschools.org.