May 13, 2022
All students signed the Welcome Back banner for Principal Lisa Rheaume.
Defer principal returns to warm welcome
The Defer Elementary community gathered to welcome back Principal Lisa Rheaume this week upon her return from maternity leave.
“The warm welcome on Wednesday was a wonderful surprise, and also very humbling,” Dr. Rheaume said. “It meant so much to me as a principal and now a mother to have such a wonderful extended family – the Defer staff, students and families. Mrs. Filiccia has done an outstanding job as the interim principal. I look forward to reconnecting with the community as I return to Defer, and our daughter Evelyn is excited to be a future dragon!”
Filling in as interim principal for the past 12 weeks “has been a joy,” Nicole Filiccia wrote to Defer families. “I truly believe that it takes all of us (teachers, support staff, parents, volunteers, etc.) to ensure that our students are provided with the best educational experience. I sincerely appreciated the opportunity to partner with each of you.”
She sent a special thank you to the students for their hard work throughout the school year.
“I am so honored to have been your interim principal,” she wrote. “You make me beyond proud to be a Defer Dragon! I believe that we have really enjoyed this journey together. I am forever grateful for your joy, astute insights and amazing talents.”
Mrs. Filiccia added she is excited to return to her kindergarten class on Monday, promising that “we have a lot of learning and fun to do over the next few weeks.”
Dr. Rheaume's return is good news for the broader school community as well, including the administrative team.
"Of course, we are very excited to have Dr. Rheaume back," said Deputy Superintendent Roy Bishop. "She is a staple within the Defer community and she was missed. One reason the building continued to thrive during her absence was because of the systems she put in place through her leadership that ultimately left every student reaching their optimal success.
"Mrs. Filiccia did an exceptional job of stepping in as interim principal during a very pivotal time at Defer, but also in education," he added. "I have personally seen her handle several very difficult situations with the utmost care and compassion for all parties involved. While our kindergarten students are very excited to welcome her back to the classroom, it was a great opportunity for us to see her leadership benefit all learners."
Takis named District XVI Band Director of the Year
Congratulations to Christopher Takis, band director at Grosse Pointe South High School, on being named Michigan School Band & Orchestra Association District XVI Band Director of the Year.
The announcement was made at the District XVI executive board spring meeting on May 9. Mr. Takis is now eligible for consideration for Band Director of the Year at the state level. Only three band and three orchestra directors are selected for this consideration among all 16 districts.
"I don’t know any teacher or band director who does this work for the recognition or the outside accolades," Chris said. "More than anything, it is nice to be seen for what your students have accomplished. Having colleagues and peers from the schools around the area objectively look at a set of qualifications among various candidates who were nominated for this award and decide that you’re worthy is a really cool thing."
Mr. Takis will be recognized for this achievement at the MSBOA banquet on May 31.
Why we chose GPPSS: Meet the Verstegen/Rossetti family
Lindsay Verstegen and Anthony Rossetti with their sons, Vincent and Nicholas.
Lindsay Verstegen first visited Detroit when she flew to the city last July for an interview for a new job. She and her husband, Anthony Rossetti, lived in Evanston, Ill., a suburb north of Chicago, with their two young sons, Vincent and Nicholas.
Lindsay is an HR and Diversity + Inclusion Executive. She moved to Detroit after a career where she primarily worked with fast-growing technology companies. Her new organization has a strong focus on a culture that promotes equity and belonging.
The couple set their sights on Grosse Pointe to relocate and purchased a house in the Park. Finding a school to enroll their school-age child, Vince, who had begun kindergarten earlier that fall, was the next order of business.
Coming from a school district in Evanston known for its quality of education, the couple knew they would settle for nothing less for their son. Also important to Lindsay personally and professionally was a culture rooted in equity and inclusion. In fact, one of the reasons she accepted her new position was because she felt it was a great opportunity to be an agent of change and progress and a steward of equity.
Lindsay was looking for a similar environment and focus for her sons in their formative early education years. While she attended public schools in Wisconsin and is a strong advocate for public education, she knew the educational approach had to be the right fit for her sons.
She has been impressed not only with what she has seen on paper in the new strategic plan, but also with what her family has experienced in practice at Defer Elementary School and GPPSS as a whole. Similar to the work she's leading inside of her organization, the school district not only promotes equity and inclusion, but points “to high performance and high accountability” at the same time, she said.
Three stakeholders drive a mission for a more inclusive community, in her view – teachers, administrators and parents.
“We all have to be invested in the work,” she said.
While working full-time doesn’t allow a lot of free time for school involvement, at least during this first year, Lindsay made a point of attending one of the district’s monthly Communities United in Diversity meetings and said she found it “thoughtful, intentional and holistic. It really validated where I decided to send my kids to school.”
Looking back on her family’s transition to a new school and community in the midst of the school year, Lindsay admits it was difficult, but said they are “meeting more people now that things are starting to thaw.”
“Even in the pandemic, for someone like me who is really gregarious, it’s hard to come into a new community and put yourself out there,” she said. “It’s nice to know this community will reach out and support you. It’s scary at first because of course it’s new, but so far it’s been great.”
Her advice to other new families is to ask questions and "don’t be afraid to be a little vulnerable. Remember in the kindergarten scene, everyone is a new parent. No one is an expert. It takes a village to raise all of us.”
North students take a step forward for suicide prevention
Students from Grosse Pointe North High School will be spending their Sunday spreading awareness about suicide prevention and they invite the community to join them.
The 6th Suicide Prevention Awareness Walk & Mental Health Fair, held at North on May 16 from 10:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m., is hosted by The Family Center of Grosse Pointe/Harper Woods and Healthy Grosse Pointe/Harper Woods. No registration is required.
The students got involved as members of North’s Peer 2 Peer club, a team centered around promoting help seeking and reducing a stigma around mental health.
The mental health fair creates a welcoming environment in which attendees can visit awareness booths, play yard games, listen to student speakers, and even pet a few therapy dogs. According to event organizers, the one-mile walk is intentionally short so that everyone will have plenty of time to take advantage of what’s available at the fair.
North senior Isabella Stephanoff is participating in Sunday’s event for the same reason she got involved in Peer 2 Peer.
“I think mental health is so important to living a healthy, balanced lifestyle and often goes overlooked,” she said. “I got involved in the walk because I think the community needs more access to mental health resources and this is a great way to help reach a wide range of people.”
Isabella would also like to see more students participate even if they aren't currently navigating any mental health issues.
“You can always learn new ways to take care of yourself or how to help others who might be struggling,” she said. “If the whole community is involved, then we can reduce the stigma surrounding mental health, which allows people to feel safer when deciding when and how to seek help.”
Senior Madeline Yee agrees.
“The Suicide Prevention Walk is an event that will spread awareness, help people find new resources and help in our community,” she said, adding it also erases the stigma of talking about suicide.
“As teenagers, we’re either too scared to talk about suicide or wanting to get help, or we think it’s considered ‘weird.’ The walk will be an amazing way for students to realize that there are so many resources and people there to reach out to for help.”
Junior Lauren Veitengruber decided to get involved because she herself has struggled with mental health and has seen her peers struggle as well.
“The walk means a lot to me,” she said. “The walk is inspiring, and it’s great to see so many groups of people come together to create an awesome community event.”
She hopes other students will join in.
“We all need to be educated and aware of these issues,” she said.
Freshman Jhilmil Chhaya is happy to participate because it "means that I get to shed light on a relevant topic that is vital to many teens like me. I get to experience and educate myself as well."
She, too, hopes other students will participate "because it exposes them and their friends to solutions and advice to issues that they might have never been able to come up with because they might have felt uncomfortable to ask for help. It also connects different age groups to a cause that sometimes doesn't receive a lot of attention."
As speakers during the mental health fair, seniors Areion Swain and Ada Johnson both have special messages to share.
For example, Ada hopes to encourage other students to look to each other for support rather than social media.
She also wants to share information about resources her peers can turn to rather than relying on coping mechanisms that may lead to bad habits and addiction.
“I believe that everyone deserves to live a full life and it shouldn’t be cut short because the resources aren’t available to them,” she said.
Areion hopes to show support and uplift people who have lost someone to suicide. She also wants to let people who go through depression and experience suicidal thoughts know they are not alone and their voice is heard.
“I am honored to be a part of something that brings the community together and it speaks volumes,” she said. “An event like this can literally save someone’s life.”
The Suicide Prevention Walk supports Kevin’s Song, a local nonprofit organization whose mission is to empower communities to save lives and to offer hope and healing for survivors. Donations can be made at kevinsong.org. Please enter “Walk 2022” in the “In Memory/In Honor of” section of the donation form. A donation is not a requirement to walk.
Parcells PantherPalooza a hit
Parcells runners (aka teachers and administrators) pose with Petey the Panther after the 5K Color Run.
The Parcells Middle School community finally got to experience PantherPalooza, rescheduled from the fall.
Food trucks, bounce houses, a DJ, face painting and more created a festive fair on the school’s athletic field. Students also participated in a tin can raffle and experienced a performance by an African dance troupe from Wayne State University.
The troupe performed first for the seventh and eighth graders, who were a respectful audience, Principal Ken Milch said, adding, “The fifth and sixth graders were out of their seats, cheering and participating exactly how you would want them to. It was a great time.”
After school, about 350 students signed up to participate in the 5K Color Run. Runners received a “swag bag” complete with a medal, bib, chip timer and an official race shirt.
Teachers and administrators participated along with the middle school students and members of North’s cross country team.
Overall the day “couldn’t have been more perfect,” Principal Milch said.
Detroit Public TV films Shelley Denison's magnet classroom at Monteith.
Learning caught in action at Monteith
Detroit Public TV’s Great Lakes Now program spent Thursday morning in Shelley Denison’s magnet classroom at Monteith Elementary filming a visit with 2014 Michigan Teacher of the Year and former North science teacher Gary Abud as he shared a lesson for the program.
Now an educational consultant, Mr. Abud develops lessons in conjunction with new segments from the monthly Great Lakes Now program.
Students were introduced to the phenomena of buoyancy and water displacement. Mr. Abud helped them understand why a boat floats and learn about how boats have been made out of various materials over the years.
After going on a virtual visit to The Great Lakes Boat Building School, the third and fourth graders will join the director via Zoom to ask questions that they researched. On Friday, they engineered a boat according to certain constraints to hold a certain amount of weight.
“Gary is an awesome teacher and designs great lessons,” Mrs. Denison said. “The kids were definitely ‘minds on’ all morning and completely engaged in rich discussion. It was fun to watch.”
Tips and tricks to address anxiety and depression
If you missed the livestream with Dr. Gretchen Moran Marsh Tuesday evening, you can watch the recording at your convenience this coming week.
Dr. Marsh, a licensed clinical psychologist, provided practical and concrete tips and tricks to address anxiety and depression, and shared engaging examples of what you can do to help yourself, your friends or your student. From breathing techniques you can use anywhere and adjust for age (3 seconds for little ones, 6 seconds for teens and adults), to specific triggers like a 10% weight gain or loss that might indicate professional help could be needed, this is an hour participants are saying was well spent.
Dr. March discussed resources like psychologytoday.com to find the right fit in professional help, and journaling and listening to music as things you can do while waiting for an appointment. She also recommended family games like Peaks and Pits (where you share the best and worst parts of your day) to model coping skills and connect as a family.
To View the Recorded Presentation: CLICK THIS LINK
We ask that after viewing, you please take the survey LINKED HERE. This provides an opportunity to measure the effectiveness of this offering both for Dr. Marsh and the GPFPE.
This presentation is one of the SEED grants (short for Social Emotional Encouragement and Development) Grosse Pointe Foundation for Public Education has generously funded in response to our community’s request for programming that promotes mental health. The link will only be available for one week following the live presentation.
ALUMNI THROUGH THE DECADES
Grosse Pointe South High School
Class of 2019
Journalism students at Grosse Pointe South enjoyed a visit on May 9 from Tower alumna and Detroit-based journalist, Grace Reyes, a 2019 South graduate. Grace talked to the students about what it’s like to be a journalist and food critic.
While only a junior at Wayne State University, Grace already has articles published in Forbes, USA Today, Entrepreneur Magazine, the Detroit Free Press, Eater Detroit, Bridge Detroit and more.
Grace says she enjoyed returning to the Tower room, where she spent many hours as web editor and web editor-in-chief of Tower Pulse, The Tower’s online publication.
“It’s one of the best school newsrooms in the state,” she said. “It was a very healthy and creative environment, but also it was a real newsroom where we were putting out newspapers weekly and stories daily.”
Looking back, Grace says the experience reflects the reality of life as a professional journalist. It also may inspire students to pursue journalism in college, in her view.
Grace got her first break her junior year at South when she was awarded an apprenticeship at the Detroit Free Press. That opportunity was invaluable and provided a starting point for her to continue journalism in college.
Through this apprenticeship she discovered the Journalism Institute for Media Diversity, founded by the WSU Department of Communication and editors of The Detroit News and the Detroit Free Press. Grace applied and was accepted, receiving a full scholarship to WSU.
One of the requirements of the scholarship is that Grace participates in an internship each semester. Her first was in 2019 with Tostada Magazine, where her stories were featured on WDET CultureShift.
“Tostada taught me my interest in food and culture journalism,” Grace said. “I found my niche – telling stories through food culture.”
She returned to Tostada for another internship in 2021, where she ran social media and TikTok. That was where she discovered Eater magazine and decided to reach out for a freelance opportunity.
In January, Grace began working at WDET as a breaking news intern writing radio scripts or radio “wraps” – two to three-minute informational news pieces from traffic to weather read on air, which she said represents “a great change of pace.”
This summer she begins an internship for the Detroit Pistons working with the marketing team on media marketing. She credits the connections made in the industry through her former Free Press internship for the opportunity. She plans to continue her freelance writing for Eater.
Grace Reyes sampled food at Daebak Korean BBQ while giving an inside look at Metro Detroit's New Seoul Plaza for Tostada Magazine.
While meeting with South’s journalism classes, Grace focused on some of the finer points of review writing to prepare the students for a visit to The Sugar Bar on Fisher Road to write their own reviews.
“There are many different formats to reviews, from holistic to a guide or a profile of the restaurant or the persons involved in the industry to a first-person essay,” she explained.
She advised the students to avoid jargon, get creative and explore their voice. A review should engage the reader and make them want to read more, she said. Heavy description is important.
“What does the atmosphere feel like? Is it a cozy room? Describe the feeling. Does it feel energetic? Describe the food. Can you smell the food when you come in from the parking lot? Be creative and have fun with it.”
In general, Grace tells students who may want to pursue journalism in college or as a career not to “be afraid to put your voice out there. Journalism is a very welcoming industry. It’s a passion and you are telling people’s stories and raising awareness for communities that may not feel represented in mainstream media. There are so many different outlets. Journalism isn’t just one path, like many careers. You find your niche; you find what you love. That is what is really great about it – you can write about anything.”
Grace plans to pursue this career after she graduates from WSU.
“I’d love to stay in food and culture reporting,” she said. “With Eater in 25 cities across the U.S., I could see myself working my way up.”
Working toward this goal started in that newsroom at Grosse Pointe South.
“I always knew it was for me,” Grace said. “I never could see myself – even now – doing anything else. I’m so glad I decided to take honors journalism my freshman year.”
Check out a recent review by Grace Reyes in Eater Detroit.
Nominate your favorite GPPSS alum!
We are partnering with the Grosse Pointe Alumni & Friends Association to feature 100 alumni as part of the district's 100th anniversary. Click here for details on how to nominate an alum of your choice.