Here to listen

New superintendent creates forum for community members to be heard

Dr. Jon Dean conducted a listening session at Mason Elementary School Thursday evening. In attendance along with parents and staff members were Mason Principal Roy Bishop and Board of Education Trustee David Brumbaugh.

“Please call me Jon.”

This was how Dr. Jon Dean, Superintendent of the Grosse Pointe Public School System effective July 1, began the conversation Thursday evening with attendees gathered in a circle on the front lawn of Mason Elementary School. This was the first of a series of community listening sessions — an open forum for any community member who wants to share their thoughts on the school district — planned at each school building this spring.

In attendance along with Dr. Dean at each session will be the building principal and a member of the Board of Education.

Topics addressed among Mason parents and staff included recent changes to the magnet program, hiring practices to attract and retain diverse staff, the impact of the reconfiguration, in particular school closures and the fifth grade move to middle school, proposed changes to the Poupard Elementary School property, school funding and teacher compensation, technology during and after the pandemic, making up the learning gap, the strategic planning process, and a possible return to “normal” in the fall.

Dates, times and locations are below. Parents may choose their home school or the session that best suits their schedule. Please bring a lawn chair with you, or folding chairs will be available.

Eagle Scout project rocks!

The idea for Grosse Pointe South senior Kerrigan Dunham’s Eagle Scout project came from his earth science teacher, Lisa Bouda, his sophomore year.

Bouda suggested he make a rock garden — and even donated all the rocks she had in her possession, Kerrigan said.

Three years after this idea sparked Kerrigan’s interest, it has come to fruition. The graduating senior named the garden the Lisa Bouda Rock Garden in tribute to his former teacher, who retired at the end of the 2019-20 school year. It is located in South’s inner courtyard.

“I wanted to do something in her honor,” Kerrigan said. “That’s why the rock garden is named after her. She was a big contributor to me and my education.”

Grosse Pointe South senior Kerrigan Dunham created the Lisa Bouda Rock Garden as his Eagle Scout project in a tribute to his former earth science teacher. He plans to add flowers to the garden later in the spring or summer.

The garden features rocks from Bouda’s private Michigan collection. This includes Kona Dolomite from Marquette, limestone with celestite from Maybee, spectacular hematite from Champion, pegmatite from Republic, banded iron formation from Ishpeming, copper ore from Keweenauw Peninsula, puddingstone from Drummond Island, Jacobsville sandstone from Jacobsville, and slate from L’Anse.

In keeping with the rock theme, the names of the rocks are laser etched into pieces of slate.

“I'm so humbled and proud that he created this in my honor,” Bouda wrote in an email in response to the news. “I didn't know it was going to be named after me! As my students know, rocks are my passion and I'm so happy to share some of my collection with South. It is my hope that the rocks will inspire students to learn more about them and the geology of Michigan. Having a basic knowledge of the Earth Sciences is important for everyone. Maybe these rocks will encourage more learning about the planet on which we live. I can't wait to see the garden. Rocks rock!”

Kerrigan started as a Cub Scout, joining the ranks of a Boy Scout in the late spring of his fifth-grade year. In addition to the project — a major component of becoming an Eagle Scout, according to Kerrigan — were a certain number of required badges and six months of leadership. His leadership roles included acting as a webmaster, chaplain’s aid and an assistant senior patrol leader.

He met these requirements while juggling his schoolwork and commitment to South’s drama program.

While earning the merit badges was challenging and required considerable planning, commitment and resolve, Kerrigan described the project itself as “big and scary and important and stressful and time consuming.”

The deadline was March 15 — his 18th birthday. He completed construction on Feb. 28, but still had to fill out required paperwork and conduct a Scout Master conference.

Kerrigan’s status as an Eagle Scout will become official on June 14 at his Court of Honor, a ceremony used to honor young men and women who have attained Scouting’s highest rank.

“There were so many points along the way where I thought I wasn’t going to be able to make it,” Kerrigan said. “So many obstacles where I thought this is going to keep me from completing it or this is as far as I go. Just the ability to push through and the support that I received from friends and family really showed me how much worth there was in completing it. I am so proud of how far I’ve come in regards to overcoming all of those setbacks and failures to achieve this.”

GPEA Teachers of the Year

In keeping with its commitment to recognizing the achievements, hard work and dedication of the educational practitioners working in the Grosse Pointe Public School System, the Grosse Pointe Education Association has named its Teachers of the Year for each building. Final selections were determined by the Teacher of the Year Committee.

“We had such an outpouring of nominations for so many wonderful teachers, social workers, counselors — all of our educators,” GPEA President Chris Pratt wrote in an email. “It made the committee’s review a real challenge.

“Our teachers have invested decades in Grosse Pointe schools into one of the finest districts in the state of Michigan and in the country, always putting the interests of their students at the top of their priorities,” Pratt continued. “That is why Grosse Pointe schools have earned a reputation of excellence. The dedication of our teachers has created that educational excellence.”

The GPEA recognizes one educator from each building whom their colleagues nominated and recognized as “standing on the shoulders of giants.”

The following recipients will receive a plaque and be featured in individual profiles on the GPEA website — myGPEA.org — and on Facebook and Twitter.

Barnes/Trombly — Marinel Gaitain
Brownell — Rosemary Birchmeier
Defer — Amy Hermon
Ferry — Karen Aldrich
Kerby — Mary Ann Magill
Maire — Michelle Hunwick
Mason — Anna Court
Monteith — Therese Schrage
North — Jonathan Byrne
Parcells — Drew Kisskalt
Pierce — Rebecca Churray
OGPV — Andrew Montague
Richard — Stephanie Erhard
South — Taryn Loughlin

North art department unveils spring art show

Michael Lamb, CTE multimedia and art and design teacher at Grosse Pointe North, is pleased to announce the GPPS spring art show.

“This year, we in the art department would like to pay tribute to all the creativity and hard work exhibited by our amazing students,” the introduction to the online show reads. “We had the fortunate opportunity to welcome students from South High School into our classes through OneGP Virtual and have included their work in the show as well, so rather than a North Spring Art Show, we now have a spectacular GPPS Spring Art Show."

The show includes artwork from both Lamb and Lisa Warren’s art classes, with all levels and classes represented from those who wanted to participate, Lamb said. Click on individual images to view the artwork by each contributor.

Visualizing a year like no other

Grosse Pointe North sophomore Bella Yoakam will have three photographs on display from May 15 to August 15 at Michigan State University’s Broad Museum as part of an exhibit called Visualizing a Year Like No Other: A Michigan Teen Photo Project. According to the exhibit website, this project “presents the photographic storytelling of teenagers from across the state of Michigan in response to the disruptions, obstacles, and new realities presented by the past year.”

Bella shared her interpretations of each of her photos.

“Into a New Light” represents driving into the future and embracing what’s to come, she said.

“Neon Faces” is a self-portrait that “shows this vibrant side that gets cut off or pushed back in order to be like everything else in the photo. It represents the mask people put up to hide their differences.”

Finally, “Cloudy Game” represents Bella’s perspective on how student athletes might have felt “during this weird year.”

“It shows this gloomy dark time that we had to push through,” Bella said. “Thanks to the pandemic, doing things is hard and not knowing if or when normalcy will come back is depressing.”  

Tower Belles named festival finalists

Two Grosse Pointe South Tower Belles vocalists, sophomores Lilly Hunwick and Gabby Duso, were finalists in the 2021 Kalamazoo Bach Festival. Selected among many talented soloists, both girls sing in South’s nationally award-winning choir under the direction of Chris Pratt with voice coach Marla Moore.

Click on the link to listen to Lilly, contemporary finalist, perform “Gravity,” by Sara Bareilles, and Gabby, musical theater/jazz finalist, perform “As Long As He Needs Me,” by Lionel Bart.

Lilly, Gabby and the other members of South’s choirs will perform in their one and only concert this year on the high school’s front lawn at 6 p.m. Friday, June 4. The community is invited to bring a lawn chair and enjoy a return to a live performance.

GPFPE awarded $25,000 Ralph C. Wilson grant

Grants from the Ralph C. Wilson Jr. Legacy Funds at the Community Foundation for Southeast Michigan were announced last week, and the Grosse Pointe Foundation for Public Education was among the 10 grant recipients chosen to receive funding from the Fund for Grosse Pointe Community Assets.

The grant will provide resources to support students’ journey to recovery and promote community healing in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic. The GPFPE plans to dedicate the funds to its SEED — social emotional encouragement and development — initiative, which will fund grants year-round for programs that support the social and emotional health of students and teachers in the district.

Funds raised at the GPFPE’s “Be the Beacon” benefit on Thursday, June 3, will support SEED as well as the organization’s grant fund.

For more information, visit gpfpe.org or contact Karen Lawrence at (313) 432-3058 or lawrenk@gpschools.org.

The Community Foundation for Southeast Michigan is a full-service philanthropic organization leading the way to positive change in our region. As a permanent community endowment built by gifts from thousands of individuals and organizations, the Foundation supports a wide variety of activities benefiting education, arts and culture, health, human services, community development and civic affairs in the seven counties of southeast Michigan. The Ralph C. Wilson, Jr. Legacy Funds at the Community Foundation for Southeast Michigan honor Mr. Wilson’s charitable legacy by supporting efforts across the region in caregiving, design and access, and youth sports, as well as for community assets in Mr. Wilson’s home community of Grosse pointe. For more information, visit cfsem.org.

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