Meet Tom TenBrink

Tom2When I first came to Jenison in 1987, I never dreamed that my work in the junior high would one day lead to overseeing a district of over 400 staff members sprinkled across eight buildings. Now, having served as superintendent for the past thirteen years, I can say that it’s been a humbling journey that I’ve been privileged to share with committed, caring teachers and principals who truly desire the best for students.

Whether I peek my head in a classroom, enjoy an athletic event after school, or relax to our talented bands, choirs, orchestras, and thespians, I am reminded that this is not only a special place—it’s world-class. I am so proud of the quality of our programs and all we have achieved together, especially in this difficult climate of economic stagnation and budget cuts.

And while we have tests and standards to comply with, what I measure with great affection is our character. I have become more convinced than ever that the Jenison staff possesses the kind of integrity that influences young minds and fills fledgling hearts with compassion.

Margaret Mead was right when she famously said, “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.”

I believe we are doing that in Jenison Public Schools, and I’d love for you to witness it. Stop back here for news and highlights, or schedule a tour if you’re a prospective family new to the area.

Come change the world with us.

27 comments on “Meet Tom TenBrink

  1. Love the quote! And sincerely agree with your remarks about staff integrity and compassion, in addition to our steadfast desire to prepare our students for their future!
    This new year promises to be an exciting one for all of us as we learn, grow, plan, and celebrate together.

  2. Your blog is informative and a good reflection on the Jenison Pubic School District. As a grandparent in the district, will you please see what you can do to have the athletic portion of the Jenison website updated, specifically sports schedules. Thank you.

    • Hi Rita, Thanks so much for your comment. We’re aware that we need to give our attention to the sports schedules and are working hard to resolve the issue. I’ll make sure to touch base with our web technicians! Thanks again for reading!

  3. Why is there nothing on the site regarding sports ? Other schools have the rosters, game dates, scores, etc. Please tell me where to find this info.

    Don Benninger

  4. Forget about by posting at 12:54PM. I found the information I was looking for. I now am able to get the information. Guess I was on wrong link for Jenison.

    Don Benninger

  5. I was wondering if you ever thought of honoring ex-football coach David Woodcock, he is getting up there in age and I see all kinds of schools honoring coaches that have made great impact on a school…I just think he should be rememered and honored….He had over 300 wins, but more importantly he influenced many kids who played at Jenison for yrs and also taught for yrs…Coach Woodcock is no where to be seen at the high school…We honored Coach Hoag, Coach Cook with Field named after them….He deserves a night to be honored and at the very least he should be added to the jenison high school hall of fame…I don’t think you realize of many lives he touched…He isn’t getting any younger..I know you can’t just honor every coach that goes through Jenison, but this man is in the Michigan H.S. Football Coaches Hall of Fame and he is no where to be seen in the High School ….Other coaches have been honored….We have many families, former players, former students who would rush back to honor coach Woodcock if you gave them a chance…You have to power to make it happen…Please think about it…..Maybe honor him at halftime of a football game or basketball game…..I know he lives in Jension….it’s time to honor are own….thank you….just a suggestion….

  6. I stumbled upon this website from a facebook link, as I don’t live in the area anymore, I like to see what’s going on. I graduated in 1993-and remember when you were the Vice Principal (I think). it’s nice to be a graduate of a school system that has so much to be proud of. How long have you been the Superintendent now? Congratulations! My brother, Jason Morse, a 1992 graduate is now a Superintendent as well-way out in Mendocino, CA. Keep the good things happening at Jenison schools!

  7. Tom,
    I am curious if you ever look into starting a jenison school that is geared for boys. Possibly a school that models the Finnish way of schooling? I love our school district and feel you have done an excellent job. I especially love the ACT program and the spanish immersion program which my 2 boys benefit from, however, my boys and I feel sad that American schools are geared for girls and we would love to see a school that caters more to the boy and his activity level and constant curiosity. Finland seems to have a very good model for this and given the fact that you seem to be someone who is forward thinking I thought how appropriate that JPS would lead the way in such a school in our area.

  8. Re a school for boys: While it mght be a good idea (I don’t have enough info to form a decision), I am concerned with Jodi’s statement about satisfying a boy’s constant curiousity. I feel and have observed that girls are curious and anxious to experiment to learn new things just as boys are. It really depends more on the individual than the gender.

  9. Absolutely Rita, I really did not mean to single boys out versus girls, I have 2 of each. I am just observed how much easier the school setting seems to be for my 2 girls versus my 2 boys, that certainly does not make it a rule that boys are more curious than girls, one must always look at the individual child.

  10. Jodi I agree with you I have girls and boys I do school of choice for her and my niece they go to Hudsonville and will graduate from there my son is at Bursley and I agree they cater more towards the girls then boys and wish they would look more into that and see what they could do to help close the gap I am hoping when my son gets to the junior high and high school things change from what they were when i moved the girls so I can continue to keep my son in the Jenison

  11. Mr. TenBrink – I have been to three concerts in the new Fine Arts Center. After the first one, I raised a concern that my mom could not hear anything said because there was not a loop system for those who wore hearing aids. I was told there are ‘power packs’ that the hearing impaired can request, but being the first concert, the staff forgot to announce they were available. The second time, I totally forgot to ask about the power pack – and nothing was announced about them even being available. Again, she could not hear what was said. The third time, again, nothing was said about power packs being available. For a facility as ‘state of the art’ as this — and I will admit, it is a beautiful center — a better sound system is needed. I understand there was money left over, and I’ve been attempting to get someone to look into installing the loop system (or something auditorium wide without asking for a pack) before that extra money needs to be returned to the State so the grandparents can hear when they come watch their grandchildren.

    • Kimberly,
      There are 40 hearing aid packs available at the ticket counter. The acoustics in the Fine Arts Center are amazing, and these power packs should help make concerts more enjoyable for the hearing impaired.

    • Kris Banta in the high school office is the contact person for the Vet board, which is displayed in the cafeteria. I hope this helps!

  12. I’m rather disturbed at what my wife read to me today (Oct. 4). Teaching that allah is the god of the Christians, Jews, Buddhists (their athiests) and hindus etc. etc. If you are going to allow this lie to be taught in your district you better wake up sir. allah is translated, (babylonian moon god) which is idolatry which by the way, is blasphemy according to their (muslims) own teachings. This history class, if it is considered history should at least be taught in truth. Jehovah GOD, YHWH, is the ONE true GOD of Christians NOT allah. My fellow brothers and sisters in Christ, YOU ALL BETTER WAKE UP!!!!! The watchman has sounded the trumpet (Ezekiel 33:1-5).

  13. Tom, you seem like a nice guy. I demand that principal Brandon Graham be fired on Monday for allowing a history teacher to teach that allah is the God of the Christians! Really??? The history teacher asked 10th graders to write a pamphlet to help 3rd graders to better understand how great islam is. Really??? Let me ask you this, why don’t you take the 4 or 5 videos of the beheading of innocent people by these barbarick people? I am shocked and dismayed that this guy has not already been fired. I am going to tell the entire US about this absurdity and if you don’t nip this in the bud this Jennison school will be done forever. You sir have the power to fire this guy, the teacher,and issue an apology to all the good people of Michigan. I assure you this IS NOT GOING AWAY!

    • Mr. Walser,
      Thank you for contacting me regarding your concern over a 10th grade World History assignment that was given students to assess their understanding of the basic tenets of the Islamic faith. Unfortunately the Facebook post that goes along with the pictures of the 10th grade high school assignment is totally misleading and is inaccurate. 
      After meeting with the high school administrator and seeing the entirety of the world history curriculum in regard to this subject matter, the mother has taken down her post and is sorry she ever put it up because it is not at all reflective of what we teach in World History and how we teach it! Jenison Public Schools does not in any way, shape, or form teach any religious content to our elementary students. 
      In 10th grade World History our students are introduced to the 5 major religions in the world, Christianity, Judaism, Hinduism, Buddhism, and Islam. It is impossible to teach World History without having a basic understanding of what people believe and how this belief has shaped the world in which we live. We do not go into depth in any of the world religions, but want the students to have a basic understanding of the tenets of each of the world religions.
      The particular assignment that has been posted is just one page of a 5 page packet that was given to 10th graders. They were asked to create a pamphlet at the level that an elementary student would be able to understand. The purpose of this assignment was for the teacher to be able to assess the students’ basic understanding of the Islamic faith. This assignment was never intended to be given to 3rd graders as the parent who started this firestorm wanted people to believe. The pamphlet that the students were asked to create was intended only for the eyes of the classroom teachers to assess the students understanding of the Islam religion.
      What you have read in the first page of the pamphlets is what Muslim people actually believe within their faith. This is made very clear to the students in the classroom before they ever start studying this material. Two days before this assignment was given students studied Christianity. They were taught that Christians believe that there is only one true God. Jesus Christ was the Son of God who came to earth, died and was resurrected. The only way to get to Heaven is through a personal relationship with Jesus Christ. Again, a basic tenet of the Christian faith.
      We are not promoting any religion or trying to proselytize our students toward any belief system. Rather, it is important that they have a basic understanding of how people believe within their religion and how that has resulted in the shaping of World History.
      I trust this response helps to clarify your concerns.
      Tom TenBrink 

  14. Mr. Tom TenBrick,
    I was stunned and disgusted to read the Jenison Public School system is allowing radicalized Christian hatemongers Dave Daudenmire and Bradlee Dean to speak at the Arts Center. The event is sponsored by Brian Klawiter, the mechanic who has some fame in ultra-right-wing circles as a bigot and homophobe. This “town hall” meeting is nothing more than a meeting of fellow hate mongers. Is this the image you or the school system want to project to the world? Some history on the two speakers main speakers:

    Daudenmire is a former high school coach, who proselytized and was successfully sued by the ACLU. One of his infamous quotes is, “I hate homosexuality and I am not afraid to stand up and say it.”

    Dean is part of the sovereign citizen movement and believes he is only answerable to God. The sovereign citizen movement is violent and has total contempt for police and any authority they deem wrong. The FBI has written extensively on this movement. Dean’s anti-American radicalism extends to more extreme thinking than just being a “sovereign citizen”

    The Southern Poverty Law Center has denounced both Daudenmire and Dean and categorized them sponsors of hate. They are no different than the Klu Klux Klan. Would you allow the Klan to speak at your school facilities under the weak banner of free speech? Of course not. Common decency, moral conviction and rational thinking should allow you to prevent this meeting of hate mongers and anyone who supports them. National press have already started to report on this meeting, shedding a poor light on the school and county which allow this travesty. This debacle is scheduled for tomorrow, June 11, 2015. It is not too late to put an end to this.

  15. Please read the following message that was sent to our district parents in regard to this event.

    Dear Parents,

    As you know, we are blessed to have been gifted an amazing Performing Arts Center by our community. Part of the function of that facility is outside use. You may be aware of, or soon become aware of, a potentially controversial event that will be hosted following the conclusion of the school year by Dieseltec of Grandville at the JCA on June 11. The First Amendment and Board Policy prevent the District from restricting this group or other community groups from using our facility based on the content of the views to be expressed. In short, we cannot by law suppress their free speech. However, the district does not endorse the views of Dieseltec or any other community group that rents our facility. As a school district, we work to assure that any controversial event in one of our facilities be scheduled so that there is no disruption to our main mission, which is serving the educational needs of your son or daughter.

    We would request that if you, as a member of the public, wish to express concern about the time, energy and financial obligation JPS is undertaking to mitigate the negative publicity toward the District associated with this event that you direct your concern directly to Dieseltec. Dieseltec is the sole sponsor of the event. JPS in no way endorses this event, but does respect the rule of law and the expression of divergent views consistent with the First Amendment. On the advice of legal counsel, we have no statement other than that we are allowing facility use under obligation of law.

    JPS official statement on event:

    “Diverse groups which express diverse political and religious views utilize District facilities. This District, however, does not endorse nor necessarily agree with all views expressed. Permitted use of a District facility should not be misinterpreted as the District’s endorsement of views expressed by the users. Upon advice from the District’s legal counsel, and consistent with the First Amendment, the District does not (and can not lawfully) censor use based on the views expected to be expressed even if offensive to members in our community. We respect free speech and the rule of law even when we object to the content of that speech.”

  16. As of parent of three Jenison school students I have a real concern about the inability of students to attend the school that they are zoned for. Is there any plan in place to address this growing issue? I know it was an area of concerns for my family two years ago, and again this year.

  17. I have meant to send you a message for many years. Our grandsons are a part of the Jenison public schools and we could not be prouder and happier.
    As a retired educator (38) years with GRPS I am extremely impressed with Jenison Public Schools. My wife and I attended the choir concert tonight and again the students and directors were awesome. I never remember programs so outstanding in Grand Rapids.
    Our grandsons, the Van Elst boys will be well prepared for the future! My hat goes off to you and your staff. I brag about you all time . Keep up the outstanding work!
    Jon Hartman grandfather to Clayton,Caleb and Cameron Van Elst

  18. Pingback: Through a Superintendent’s Eyes - Because a hungry child hurts

  19. Retirement is a blessing enjoyed after a long time of service. Where did all that time go? It doesn’t seem that long ago we were the kids. Now we have turned into the OLD PEOPLE.
    Enjoy your retirement. You earned it.

    Just an old friend from the past
    Terry Baer

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