Celebrating our principals
GPPSS staff reflect on their building leaders
Each October, National Principals Month recognizes the essential role that principals play in supporting students and staff.
To show their appreciation for the leaders at their respective schools, Grosse Pointe Public School System staff members shared examples of how their principals go above and beyond. They also provided fun facts others might not know about the administrators they work with every day.
This is part one of a two-part series. Look for more principal appreciation reflections next week.
High school principals
“There are so many things to say about Dr. Kate Murray! But what I think you should know is how she makes everyone who enters our ‘home’ feel. She’s warm and welcoming, kind and encouraging and protective of ‘this house.’ Her desire to make everyone feel safe is one of the most important things to her. Everything she does is about having a sense of belonging and knowing to point your compass North and you’ll always be home.
“It takes someone special to be able to have so many feel this way. Kate is ‘true North’.”
Mary Tocco, secretary to the principal, Grosse Pointe North
“I have worked with Moussa for eight of my 10 years at South. When you spend five days a week at eight hours a day with someone, you get to know them pretty well. Here is a little something that I know about him that you may not.
“He is proud to have the opportunity to work in GPPSS. He works hard for this building and the people in it. Moussa will fight for what is right for his staff. When making a decision pertaining to students, he always thinks of their well-being and safety first. Decisions he makes are done with much planning and he spends time reflecting on conversations he has had with staff or his peers. He is passionate about family and work and finding the balance for his wife and four daughters. I have heard him tell staff, ‘Family comes first.’ He is a spiritual man of faith and he truly feels blessed to live the life he has.
“I am grateful that I have had this opportunity to work with Moussa these last eight years and have gotten to know him the way I do. I hope you get the chance to know him as I do, to truly appreciate the man he is and what he is doing for everyone at South and in this district.”
Linda Schultz, secretary to the principal, Grosse Pointe South
High school assistant principals
“I have had the pleasure of working with Geoffrey Young for the past four and a half years. He is one of the finest gentlemen I have ever known. Geoffrey strives for excellence — not only for himself, but he tries to impart that to his students as well. He combines this with empathy for students as he takes the time to sit and listen to them so he has a better understanding of them. He is always available, always gives someone the benefit of the doubt, and somehow manages to maintain his trademark sense of humor. Students at Grosse Pointe North are fortunate to have such a fine educator in their midst.”
Georgette Hogan, secretary to the assistant principal, Grosse Pointe North
“Katy Vernier was the chair of the math department when I was hired at North. She was an incredible resource for me in the beginning of my career and still is today. I have no doubt that I would not be the teacher I am today if I did not have Katy’s influence on me. It has been an honor and a pleasure to work with Katy for the last 10 years.”
Eric Vanston, math teacher, Grosse Pointe North
“Michelle Davis’s title as assistant principal/athletic director is a very taxing job. I am sure that many people do not realize that this position has two major roles within the school. The assistant principal portion involves teacher evaluations, discipline, lunch supervision and administrative meetings, just to name a few. Then you add another major responsibility of overseeing nearly 50 sports teams, the hiring of all the coaches, attending various MHSAA/MAC meetings along with sporting events that occur most every evening. It is among the most demanding jobs in the district. In this position Michelle, on many occasions, has shown great concern and empathy toward those of us in the building and on her clerical staff. We appreciate her kindness, generosity and support.”
Teresa Bennet, administrative assistant to the AD/AP, Grosse Pointe North
“I have had the pleasure of working with Cindy Parravano over the last couple of years. You can hear me say more than once that I wish I was a younger parent when I started this job. I would have learned so much about how to raise kids from observing her. She often plays the role of disciplinarian and does so with respect and a goal of teaching life lessons in the process. She is also the testing coordinator for South. We share the testing responsibilities and there is no one else I would want to work with in this role. In moments of stress, she can always make me laugh.
“Outside of school, Cindy is very involved in sports. She is a Little League coach, rides bikes, volunteers as an ambassador at Chandler Park, and she has on occasion suffered through nine holes of golf with me. She also has an artistic side and has created beautiful paintings.
“Cindy gives so much of her time and energy to the job. South is very fortunate to have her on the team.”
Vicki Clevenger, finance secretary, Grosse Pointe South
“Joe Spryszak is a pleasure to work with. He is approachable and makes himself available to listen to the concerns of students, staff and parents, always handling issues promptly with fairness and consistency.
“Joe is a sports lover and participates in a recreational softball league in his free time. He also enjoys time with his family and his pet dog, Egypt. As an administrator he often arrives early and leaves the building late, but always has time for a smile and a helping hand if needed. Joe cares deeply about the students and employees at Grosse Pointe South and this is evident in the way he approaches his many responsibilities.”
Heidi Hannan, secretary to the assistant principals, Grosse Pointe South
“South’s Athletic Office welcomed Brandon Wheeler in August 2021. From the moment Brandon walked in, you could tell he was ready to hit the road running. There is always a lot to learn coming into a new job, but he has handled all the facets beautifully. From learning about our school culture to managing all the sporting events in the evenings, he has been present. Even our parents are commenting how nice it is to see him show up for all sporting events, not just the big-ticket events. He truly embraces the team philosophy every day when he shows up for work from his tie down to the Grosse Pointe South blue and gold socks he wears. I couldn’t imagine working with anyone else and can’t wait to see what our future endeavors hold.”
Kristen Stovall, administrative assistant to the AD/AP, Grosse Pointe South
“Jodie Randazzo’s laugh is infectious — and loud! When you hear her laugh, you automatically laugh too. She is extremely involved with all the students and treats them as if they are her own. I’m sure parents see that too, but in my role, I see it all the time. She has gotten shin splints chasing the students while playing ‘Sharks and Minnows.’ She’s gotten elbow burns playing on the inflatables during our Day of Awesomeness. She is involved every day, all day.”
Jenny Smith, secretary to the principal, Ferry Elementary School
“Dr. Rheaume truly is an amazing person and principal. She is well organized and remembers something about everyone she meets. When she greets people, she asks them how they’re doing and asks them about a detail she remembers about them.”
Dineen Krotche, secretary to the principal, Defer
Below are more comments from Defer staff:
“Dr. Rheaume fosters a community of self-growth, self-love, and self-care among the educators she leads. She reminds us that even on the days when we may be struggling, we never have to wonder if someone’s got our back because we know she does.”
“She is a compassionate and understanding person. She always listens first. She continues to look at the good in all situations.”
“Lisa always goes above and beyond with her communication. When I need assistance with any personal matters, she is always willing to help however she can. I also appreciate all of the visits I get when she comes to see what new activity we are doing in the gym. Seeing her presence really shows me how much she cares about my teaching and the students at Defer.”
“Lisa is thoughtful! If I’m out taking care of a sick child, she will text to ask how we are doing. Her thoughtfulness extends way past the school building.”
“Lisa is kind and compassionate. She is able to connect with you on a personal level to make sure your personal needs are met, while still supporting you professionally. I am thankful to work with such a supportive administrator who really cares.”
“One of the many things that makes Lisa a great principal is her calm, thoughtful approach to any issue. Even when others around her want to jump or react, she always takes a step back and gives thoughtful consideration to any possible decision. And she is able to have a good laugh about some of the crazy things that happen in an elementary school. That makes working with her fun!”
What is something parents may not know about Dr. Rheaume?
“She loves Ted Lasso. A lot!”
“I was really impressed with Walt Fitzpatrick right off the bat after I was hired. I drove to Trombly the summer I was hired to unload my classroom items and things and he met me at my car with a flatbed cart and the building engineer to welcome me and bring my stuff in. He also looked me up at our new teacher meeting at North the week before school activities started. Needless to say, I immediately felt lucky to be working with him in his building.
“The other thing was the time he slept on the roof of Trombly for a night in the winter when the students reached a goal for a fundraiser. It snowed the night he slept up there with another staff member!”
A Kerby teacher
“We all love how he is a creature of habit — coffee first thing, scrambled egg and spinach, yogurt, box of raisings, granola bar, salad or bologna sandwich for lunch.
“He is a super supportive principal and cares so much about the well-being of all our staff and students.”
Lisa Sicklesteel, secretary to the principal, Kerby Elementary School
“John Kernan is a hands-on administrator. He always sets high expectations for both his staff as well as our students. He has created a fun atmosphere for these young learners to grow, learn and succeed. He is always involved in supporting the students and their learning. Whether he is checking in on a classroom, talking to a student one-on-one, or attending and helping out during a fun STEM challenge in the classroom, you can always count on Dr. Kernan to support both his teacher and young learners.”
Susan Tawile, kindergarten teacher, Richard Elementary School
“Dr. Kernan always goes above and beyond to help make connections with his students, staff and community in fun-loving ways. Every year for March Madness he sets up a bracket for his staff to compete in. This past year’s challenge was ‘Chip Madness,’ where every staff member brought in their favorite chip for a taste-off battle. He’s always up for a little fun rivalry!”
“With students, Dr. Kernan goes the extra mile to make connections. In recent years he and a student would wear bowties on Tuesdays, resulting in the infamous ‘Bowtie Tuesdays’ at Richard. Dr. Kernan is always up for a costume to bring excitement into the day whether it’s Dr. Evil Double Digit whom the kindergarteners try to defeat on 100s day, a Halloween costume selected by his staff or potentially MSU gear if Richard meets their Fun Run goal this year. Dr. Kernan is passionate about building relationships and reminding everyone to ‘be awesome.’”
Kelly Goddard, kindergarten teacher, Richard Elementary School
“Dr. Kernan takes leadership to a whole new level for Halloween. Every year, he enlists our new teachers to create a presentation regarding Halloween costumes for teachers to vote on. It just so happens, the past couple of years the staff has voted on a collective theme that requires one main character. Dr. Kernan embraces these costumes wholeheartedly. Halloween 2021 will bring another pop culture character for our fearless leader to embody. Dr. Kernan’s ability to model leadership through fun continues to make Richard an amazing school to work at. Thank you, John, for your continued support, vision for learning and fun you bring every day.”
Stephanie Erhard, reading specialist, Richard Elementary School
GPPSS is a family affair for the Stackpooles
While Michelle Stackpoole now has taught at all three levels in the school district — first at Grosse Pointe North, then Pierce Middle School and now Monteith Elementary — her husband, Brian, has been a strong, steady presence in the TV production department at North for 23 years.
He was the first one to get hired at North. The two met as undergraduates in February of 1998 at Central Michigan University.
“We started dating and that was it,” Michelle said.
Brian was a senior and Michelle was a sophomore. Both were education majors, although Brian originally was in the sports broadcasting program.
The two met through their sorority and fraternity.
“We kind of knew each other peripherally because we had a lot of mutual friends,” Michelle said. “After we started dating, people said, ‘Why didn’t we think of that beforehand? You are such a perfect match.’”
“I was interested and I liked her personality,” Brian said. “It thought we would go well together.”
Their first date was dinner and a movie — dinner at Bennigan’s in Mount Pleasant followed by “The Wedding Singer.” Michelle didn’t realize dinner was part of the date so ate beforehand with friends in the cafeteria. To keep Brian company while he ate, she broke her promise to give up sweets during Lent and enjoyed a hot fudge sundae.
The two dated long distance while Brian began teaching at North and Michelle completed her degree at Central. Then she, too, was hired at North right out of college. By then the two were engaged.
“It was fun because we were young,” Michelle said. “It was a busy time. We were both getting our master’s degrees and we were planning our wedding. I was living in a spare bedroom at Brian’s parents’ house so we were commuting together. I was directing three productions and Brian was coaching. It was a busy time, but it was a great time. We met some great people we’ve been really close friends with ever since.”
They got married on June 22, 2002. Their first house was in Harper Woods and for the past 12 years they’ve lived in Grosse Pointe Park. They have two boys — Jack, 6, a first grader at Richard Elementary, and Henry, 2, who is in the toddler program at Barnes Early Childhood Center.
Michelle remained at North from 2001 to 2006, teaching public speaking, freshman literature, film literature, acting and dance. She also directed three productions a year — the fall play, winter musical and spring student directed one acts.
She then took a two-year sabbatical to pursue performing and choreography, working for a few different theater companies and doing commercial voiceover work. She also served as a substitute teacher for the district during that time.
Michelle returned to the district for the 2008-09 school year, joining the faculty at Pierce to teach drama, broadcasting, sixth grade English and innovation and design. It was the latter class that led her to becoming the media specialist at Monteith beginning this school year. To make the switch, she completed a library endorsement program at Wayne State University in July.
What Michelle loves about her new position is summed up by one of her students.
“The nicest compliment I got was from a little girl the other day who said, ‘I love when we come to library because we dance like it’s gym class, we sing like it’s music, we make art projects, and we read books.’
“That’s everything,” Michelle said.
Brian, in addition to teaching TV production at North, is in charge of the Career Technical Education programs for the district.
“We started that several years ago and that’s been really impactful,” Brian said. “It’s really changed what we do in the classroom and allowed us to prepare students when they leave to go on to college or into the field and have more experience than most other students and a lot of great hands-on work.”
Last year their family “covered everything from high school to early elementary school in the district,” he pointed out. “We had someone at every level.”
The year was a particularly difficult one due to the pandemic, as they found themselves at home trying to teach and learn under one roof while a babysitter took care of Henry.
“I was in the storage area in the basement,” Brian said. “Jack was doing kindergarten in the finished, nice part of the basement. Michelle had the upstairs.”
“I was in the dining room with the fireplace roaring in the background and the Christmas tree at Christmas time watching the snow fall,” Michelle said. “Brian is literally huddled in a blanket in the nastiest part of the house.”
They are happy to resume to a more traditional school day in their respective buildings, although Michelle and Brian miss the days when they were together at North.
“It was nice to be able to see each other during the day and be able to eat lunch together,” Brian said.
Now they compare notes on their school days, although their respective teaching worlds can seem very different, especially now that Michelle is with some of the youngest students while Brian is tackling adolescent issues.
Regardless of the level, both “enjoy working for the school district,” Brian said. “We love being part of the community and we really enjoy all the people that we’ve gotten to know over the years and the tremendous support we’ve had through the community. It’s really helped us in a lot of ways.”
Look for more GPPSS couples in future editions of School Pointes.
SMART Technologies connects with district
Lights, camera, action! Filming began Tuesday morning in Alexis Lecznar’s social studies class at Parcells Middle School. SMART Technologies selected the Grosse Pointe Public School System to feature in its global campaign. Schools from South Africa, Europe, Canada and the U.S. will be sharing their learning stories.
Hattie Strong, an education sales consultant for SMART Technologies, was on-site during filming to interview several of the students about their experiences, both in and outside of school.
Strong worked with Director of Instructional Technology Chris Stanley three years ago to assist with what she described as “one of the most detailed evaluations I had ever been a part of in terms of where are we moving with our displays and what does our ecosystem look like.” The district’s devices at that time were 10 to 13 years old.
The theme of the campaign is “inspiring greatness,” Strong said, and the focus is how the technology directly relates to students.
One thing that struck her at the time was how much dedication Stanley put into the process and how he brought along a full evaluation team to ensure he included teachers’ perspective on what they needed in the classroom.
“When SMART came back to me and asked, who would be some good schools who would fit into our Connections Campaign, Grosse Pointe was the only school district in the state that popped up,” Strong said. “So that’s who we chose.”
Stanley selected Lecznar’s classes for filming because of her track record of implementing technology into her classroom.
“She’s one of our leading tech coaches in the district,” he said. “She’s one of those people that if something is brand new, she’s ready to take it on. I also know Alexis does a great job with students when it comes to collaboration. There’s a lot of student voice involved in there. That’s really the key component when you’re using technology in the classroom.”
Stanley added it was an honor to be selected to showcase the technology along with schools across the world.
“It just goes to show the amazing things we’re doing as a district,” he said. “We’re adding $18.5 million with this passing of the bond and teachers have done a great job being able to dive right into it. It’s important to showcase all the things that are happening not only with the technology we’re putting in there, but it also says a lot to the community about who we are as a district.”
School Pointes is a publication of the Grosse Pointe Public School System. To submit story ideas or Pointes of Pride, email firstname.lastname@example.org.