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'I love this community'

Superintendent Suzanne Klein to retire at year's end

Suzanne Klein retires effective Dec. 31. She has worked for GPPSS since 1970, becoming the district’s first female superintedent in 1997. photo by Renee Landuyt.
February 17, 2011
Suzanne Klein put her heart into her career, so it's only fitting she announced her retirement on Valentine's Day.

With that heart now heavy, she will leave her post as superintendent of the Grosse Pointe Public School System Dec. 31, more than 41 years after her career started there.

"I've thought about it from time to time and it's been a tough decision to make," said Klein. "I've been honored to be part of this district."

As an undergrad student at the University of Michigan, a lunch date with her mother, her mother's friend and the friend's daughter set the wheels in motion for Klein's career.

The daughter was a special education teacher and invited Klein to visit her class. During a break in her own classes, she helped for a couple days, "and I loved it," she said. "This isn't where I thought I'd be. I thought I would be in Paris, France, working as a translator for the United Nations. I was excited to work abroad. After visiting that class, I realized how much I enjoyed working with children."

Klein said as a child she would pretend to teach her dolls in the family basement, enjoyed babysitting and ran camps for neighborhood children in her backyard.

"I was a natural," she said with a laugh. "I realized children had already been the focus of my life."

Klein went on to earn a bachelor's, master's and a doctorate from U of M.

Since 1970, she has worked for GPPSS in a number of capacities, both in teaching and administration. She was a special education teacher, assistant principal at Parcells Middle School and assistant principal of Pierce Middle School.

She was named director of special education in 1990, followed by appointments as assistant superintendent of instructional services and deputy superintendent. In 1997, Klein became the district's first female superintendent.

Klein said she will work harder than ever through the end of the year on several projects.

"I haven't decided what I'm going to do after Dec. 31 because there's plenty to do before it," she said in an interview Tuesday. "That piece of life has to unfold."

She knows she'll spend more time with her husband of 32 years, Jack.

They have a son, Andrew, who lives in Chicago and is engaged to be married this fall.

"My first and primary focus is completing my job here through Dec. 31," she said.

Klein said funding for public schools has been a challenge in recent years. She said cuts are hard to make in a district where residents expect the best for the students.

"I love this community and this school district," she said. "This community supports education and they make wonderful resources available for students. The administration team, the teachers and staff are very high quality."

During her career, Klein also taught in the Department of Special Education at Wayne State University and the Department of Curriculum, Instruction and Leadership at Oakland University. Her heart has remained with Grosse Pointe.

"It's a wonderful thing to find a career you love that matches the passion you have in life," Klein said.

"I wouldn't change a thing. I'm thrilled my life has taken this path with this school district."

A national search will commence for Klein's replacement, according to the district's community relations specialist Rebecca Fannon.

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