JPS Wildcat PrinciPALS

The month of October is National Principals Month and I wanted to take the opportunity to introduce you to the hardworking JPS principals – and to thank them for their RELENTLESS work, day in and day out.

Webster’s definition of “principal” gives a rigid feeling of dominant control and authority. While the professionals in this role are definitely in an ‘authoritative’ position; ‘rigid’ and ‘dominate’ are absolutely not words that I would use to describe our Principals.

JPS Principals are true servant leaders setting the pace for our schools, as we seek to engage each and every child in our rigorous and comprehensive educational programming. Our principals are leading by example as we are eager to build meaningful and lasting relationships with the students we are privileged to serve. Most importantly, our principals hold firm to our core value that is to provide a safe, caring, nurturing, dynamic, and engaging learning environment in which every child can thrive. Our principals, and the staff they lead, provide a distinct difference and help Jenison stand out among other local districts.

Meet Jon Mroz, the new Sandy Hill principal – for the second time. Growing up in Jenison, he never fathomed he would find a teaching job in West Michigan, much less at his alma mater. 

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Jon Mroz, Sandy Hill Principal

Jon joined the JPS staff as a 6th grade Science teacher at Sandy Hill following graduation from Grand Valley State University. After 6 years of teaching, he stepped into the role of Principal at Sandy Hill. He loved working with the wide variety of kids in this different role, however he stepped away for a job in the private sector after two years. Two years later, Jon was missing the people focused profession of being a principal and I was ecstatic to have the opportunity to invite him back. Jon lives in Jenison with his wife and their three young daughters. He looks forward to a new challenge every day and is grateful to be surrounded by people that want the best for each and every kid they meet. One of his favorite perks of the job this year is riding to school with his favorite kindergartner, his oldest daughter.

Read more about the other amazing Jenison Public Schools Principals below:


 

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Dr. Brandon Graham, JHS Principal, is celebrating 20 years with JPS – the last 16 as principal. Brandon counts himself lucky to work with a highly dedicated and focused group of individuals at the high school. High school is a great time to watch the students grow into caring and compassionate young people who are dedicated to serving those around them. He is an appreciative leader who joins the team and is dedicated to meeting the needs of the entire student body.

 

 


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Brett Cataldo, JJHS Principal, brought his teaching and administration experience to the district 10 years ago. He loves being at Jenison and being a part of an “unbelievably supportive” team that gives 100% to keep the students the priority. The highlight of his day is centered around connection; with students, staff, and family.

“Everyone works so hard but we have so much fun learning together!”

 

 


38d1e0efa4c34d49965d3702bb5c175dCrystal Morse, Bauerwood Elementary Principal is very driven and loves to take advantage of creative problem solving and  forward thinking. After 8 years of teaching at JPS, she found herself packing up her classroom and moving to the Principal’s office. And for 15 years, she has been making decisions for the benefit of the kids. She continues to look for unique ways to show up daily for her students and demonstrate that they are loved and supported, no matter what. She and her staff work tirelessly to build relationships with students with the belief – and experience – that the academics will eventually fall into place.

“Each student is so important to me that the time, energy, tears, and each baby step to success is SOOOO worth it.” 

 


75c0d230c8894edc8c8bcaf80e3961afBrent Huck, Bursley Elementary Principal has been at JPS for 7 years, this is his 4th year as principal. One of Brent’s favorite parts of the job is socializing with the students. Chatting with them in the hallways, classrooms and playground is a highlight. He also feels blessed to work with such a tremendous group of hardworking and passionate educators. The genuine compassion they have for their students, their creative lesson planning, and unwavering commitment to student success are unparalleled. They never cease to amaze me.

“JPS students are the best! I love getting to know each one of them!”

 


3388d636734a455695d334a16d5cef8cRachael Postle-Brown, Pinewood Elementary Principal has been in education for nearly 20 years. Her roles of teaching high school and assistant administration have prepared her for the excitement of leadership in the elementary world. For 8 years, she has embraced the unpredictability and seized every opportunity to help a student with a new discovery, try a new way to encourage someone or just share a laugh with students and staff.

 “I am inspired by my staff every day, they don’t just work a job – they are on a mission to serve our students and our community.”

 


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Luke Verbeek, Rosewood Principal has been with JPS for 7 years; teaching 6th grade for 5 years and currently in his second year as principal. He loves being a principal in the Jenison district because he gets the opportunity to work with amazing students, parents, and staff members every day. Starting out as a teacher, Luke loves the opportunity to get back in the classroom and seeing what the students are accomplishing. Coming to work everyday puts a smile on his face because he loves greeting the members of his Rosewood village – students, parents, or the awesome staff he partners with daily. Words cannot express his appreciation for his colleagues and the commitment they share for the students at Rosewood.

“It truly takes a village to raise a child and I am proud to be part of the Rosewood/Jenison village.” 

 


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Lloyd Gingerich, Principal at El Puente has worked in education as a teacher and administrator for over 20 years. This is his 12th year in Jenison. For two years, he lived and taught in Costa Rica and was immersed in the Spanish language. He became a fluent speaker and gained a broader view of the world – outside of west Michigan. Daily, he takes those experiences and partners with his staff to challenge the students to grow and reach their potential. He was a key participant in the growth of the JPS Spanish Immersion program. He loves being a principal in Jenison because he feels that the whole community truly cares about education and they show that with their actions as much as with their words.

“The strong culture of teamwork in service of the children in our community is why I brought my own children to Jenison.” 

 


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Lee Westervelt, ECC Principal has spent his entire career in administration – 25 years with JPS. Being constantly surrounded by curiosity and wonderment is something that excites him on a daily basis. Lee sees his daily playground duty as his classroom where he can guide the children in ‘Being a Good Friend – 101’. Watching them cooperate and play inclusively is a highlight which extends to the classroom and home. 

“I get to be a part of students’ lives and help shape them for a better future. How cool is that! I love what I do.”

 


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Matthew Baughman, Jenison International Academy – Elementary Principal is in his second year in the district. He loves putting his passion to work at JPS because there is an openness to rethink components of traditional education. Conversations and programs are clearly about helping kids and supporting teachers. Families value education and are engaged in the path to success. He feels the program is validated in the support JIA receives from the Central Office provides time, resources, and support for new initiatives. Greeting in a student-led way each morning is the highlight of his day. Matthew also has the opportunity to teach PE every Tuesday and Kindergarten Coding every Wednesday.  

“The JIA staff are committed not only to seeing that students learn important skills and information, but also how to apply that learning to the real world.”


osterberg_k_2019.jpgKrista Osterberg, Jenison International Academy – Junior/High School Principal has been part of JPS for 14 years. While teaching, she has been integral in the formation and progression of the JIA; participating in the development and guidance of each program over the past 10 years. Now, her 14th year marks the beginning of a totally new adventure, as we divide the oversight of the Jenison International Academy and she takes the appointment to Principal of the secondary programs for the JIA. She is thankful for the opportunity to work with amazing students, families, and educators – to be creative in providing optimal, personalized learning opportunities and pathways for our students in both virtual and blended settings. 

“I appreciate, and am proud of the numerous unique opportunities that JIA Junior/Senior High offers to JPS families”

Jenison’s ECC Wraps Educational Excellence in Hugs and Smiles

Imagine:

After a harried morning of looking for shoes, fighting traffic and dodging flood zones, you turn the corner on Connie Street to drop your child off at Jenison’s Early Childhood Center. Walking through secure doors, you pass an impressive aquarium whose bright colors are matched only by charming displays of artwork dotting the halls.

Making your way past the infant rooms, you locate your child’s preschool classroom and scoop her up for a last kiss before she skips into class. Stopping at the coffee kiosk for a free cup of flavored Joe on the way out, you nod to the chef who’s returning to the kitchen with an armful of veggies from the school’s garden.

You realize that your bologna sandwich will pale in comparison to the lunch your four-year old will be eating, but you wouldn’t have it any other way.

One of the preschool rooms in Jenison's Early Childhood Center

One of the preschool rooms in Jenison’s Early Childhood Center

The scenario above is not part of a movie or a facility reserved for an elite crowd of Hollywood starlets. It is a snapshot of life at the ECC for every parent and every child who walk through the doors (*bologna sandwich optional). With room for little ones starting at 3 months and up to 5 year old pre-kindergarteners, this school is buzzing with laughter and finding innovative ways to make learning fun.

Mr. Westervelt at the coffee kiosk.

Mr. Westervelt at the coffee kiosk.

Principal Lee Westervelt beams like a proud parent as he weaves through the hallways. He knows this school is special, and notes that parents drive from as far away as Allegan County and Grand Haven to grab a coveted registration slot.

At the moment there is a waiting list for preschool at the ECC, despite incorporating the use of several portables and rooms at other Jenison Elementary Schools. Currently, 450 children are in the building every day, with another 300 in satellite locations.

We’ve been fortunate that there is a lot of stability here. We’ve proven that we hire people who have graduate-level preparedness and who stay. We really don’t experience a lot of turnover, which is great for the kids. I hire the best people out there,” said Mr. Westervelt.

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Ms. Keriann Poquette

One such teacher is Ms. Keriann Poquette who uses the latest technology to foster growth in reading. Two days a week, students use iPads to read with a reading buddy from Mrs. Ryan’s class at Bursley Elementary School.

Using Facetime, ECC kids sit and listen to an older student read to them while the iPad sends images from the book. This partnership allows older students on the other side of Jenison to practice reading and gives younger students additionally examples of fluency.

In mid-April the 5 year olds at the ECC will begin to read back to their reading buddies, practicing their newly forged skills in a tangible way.

Students view pages to their reading buddy's book via Facetime on the iPad.

Students view pages to their reading buddy’s book via Facetime on the iPad.

Aside from the gifted staff of teachers, the ECC boasts an amazing army of volunteers who come in every day to run the morning coffee kiosk, work with students, and organize the “Motor Moms” group. Motor Moms focus their attention on developing fine and gross motor skills by employing techniques used in Brain Gym and Bal-A-Vis-X. Examples of those activities include: obstacle courses, balance beams, crawling, rolling, galloping-to-marching, catching and throwing.

Motor Moms work with students each day.

Motor Moms work with students each day.

Chef Wade Borysiak preps black beans for the next day's lunch menu.

Chef Wade Borysiak preps black beans for the next day’s lunch menu.

All that galloping works up an appetite in the kids, and they’re fortunate to have GRCC Culinary Institute graduate and former Head Chef at GR’s One Trick PonyWade Borysiak, prepping fresh vegetables and healthy meals each day for the entire facility.

Aside from the community garden on the ECC grounds which provides food each spring and summer, Chef Borysiak shops locally at least every-other day for the freshest foods. On the menu that day: whole grain brown rice with mirepoix and slow roasted pork shoulder.

Mr. Westervelt is passionate about the connection between healthy eating and healthy, well-fed, attentive kids who are ready to learn. His dream is to expand the kitchen, hire a sous chef, virtually eliminate sugar and processed food from the school, and begin to partner with local farms for a larger variety of garden-fresh options.

But more than anything, Mr. Westervelt and his staff are excited about kids. They take good care of each other. They pursue excellence. They focus on what’s important.

“The great thing about my job is knowing that for many kids, being here is the best part of their day. And I love being a part of that.”