DETROIT, MI – Greek-American Marion Ginopolis will be retiring on June 30 after a 50-year career in public education, The Detroit News (TDN) reported on June 17.
The daughter of Greek immigrants, Ginopolis, 76, began her career “as a school secretary in a special education office and worked her way up to superintendent in Lake Orion schools,” TDN reported, adding that “during her five-decade tenure, Ginopolis was a classroom teacher for students with special needs, a staff development trainer, principal, human resources director, and assistant superintendent,” and “she was first superintendent at Oxford Public Schools, then Lake Orion starting in 2010.”
Ginopolis told TDN that “being a principal at an elementary school in Birmingham was one of the best posts she ever had, because of the kids.”
“I knew every kid in the school. Parents still remember me as principal. You have the ability to make a difference with teachers. There are rewards, little kids hug, they love you, the emulate you, you wear fun earrings, and they draw pictures of you. I did an HR job. I hated it. I was so removed from the kids,” Ginopolis said, TDN reported.
As superintendent of Oxford Public Schools in 1993, Ginopolis was one of only a few female superintendents at that time, TDN noted, adding that “Ginopolis said her approach to the job and focus on children has made her successful and her career fulfilling.”
“I stood my own ground. I always speak my mind. It's about being confident,” she told TDN, “If your bottom line is what is best for kids, it sounds like a cliche, then I think people respect that.”
Ginopolis’ colleagues noted “her human touch with people, including dressing up last year as a gorilla for March is Reading Month and laying down in the snow for a snow day splash at Lake Orion schools,” TDN reported.
Michelle Cureton, a teacher in Lake Orion and the district's diversity and equity coordinator, said that “Ginopolis was always approachable, forward thinking and people were drawn to her literally, there were always students coming back after graduation to see her,” TDN reported.
“She was on a first-name basis with everyone. I never felt like she was boss, there never was an intimidation factor, we were always equals,” Cureton, told TDN, “You knew you were talking to someone intelligent and at the same time she was your grandmother and mother wrapped up into one.”
Of the snow angel stunt, Ginopolis told TDN, “Snow days are crazy. My Twitter account would go crazy if I didn't call one. If I did, they would praise me. I said I would do something different. I am going outside, I laid down in the snow. … It took five people to get me up.”
Ginopolis began at the Lake Orion district when it was “experiencing an epidemic of teen suicides,” TDN reported, adding that “during her tenure, the district built a school-wide mental health approach that reaches across grades, ages, genders and economic status,” and “last fall, the district dedicated an entire week to mental health.”
Lake Orion teacher Amy Redman told TDN, “Without her vision and leadership to make mental health awareness a priority and using valuable and scarce resources to address it, we couldn’t have helped as many kids or brought such awareness. She helped to make our district a leader in this curriculum in our county and state. I will forever appreciate her for this.”
Ginopolis told TDN that “retiring during a pandemic is tough, but she made the decision last year to leave this June and her husband, John Ginopolis, sold his namesake restaurant Ginopolis BBQ Smokehouse in Farmington Hills earlier this year.”
“We will see where we go. I have been doing this my whole life and who knows," Ginopolis told TDN.
Ginopolis has “two adult children and one child who died at age 4 of a rare blood disease,” TDN reported, adding that “she hopes the pandemic has taught the public the value of educators.”
“This could be a blessing in disguise for teachers. No one understands the work and time that goes into teaching. The value of our teachers, that is what I want people to understand,” Ginopolis said, TDN reported.