New School Year Brings New Principals

When students at seven of Rochester’s school buildings return this fall, they’ll be greeted by new principals.
Earlier in the summer, the board of education approved the hiring of Kevin Cumming for Adams High School, Michael Behrman for Van Hoosen Middle School and Rachel Guinn for Hart Middle School.

In July, David Pontzious, formerly an elementary principal in the Royal Oak school district, was named the new principal at North Hill. Sharon Bienkowski from the Van Dyke school district was also hired as the new principal at Delta Kelly.
The most recent new principal is Charles Rowland III, who was appointed Monday to lead Rochester High School. He is the building’s former Assistant Principal. A vacancy in the principal’s office at Hampton Elementary is expected to be filled Aug. 29, when Ryan Starr will be recommended to the board.
Pontzious and Bienkowski officially opened their offices for the fall on Monday.
“I’ve been telling my wife I feel like I’ve come to the New York Yankees,” Pontzious said. “It’s like a very high-performing team.”
A resident of Shelby Township, Pontzious is the father of twin girls who will be entering kindergarten this fall. He began his career in 1996 as a social-studies teacher at Dondero High School. A Warren native, he attended Michigan State University and received his master’s degree from Central Michigan University. After four years as a middle-school principal, he spent the last two years as principal of Oakland Elementary School. He’s also coached baseball and swimming.
He’s aware of North Hill’s ranking among the top 100 elementary schools in the state and its excellent record on MEAP tests. “This first year, my goal is just to honor the traditions and norms that have allowed North Hill to have such great success,” he said.
Pontzious is big on building relationship. ”I think the cornerstone of any organization’s success is the relationships of the people within that organization,” he said. “If people trust each other … the sky’s the limit.”
Pontzious has already held a series of meet-and-greets on the playground and surveyed his new staff about their priorities for him. They said he must be accessible, communicate with all stakeholders, and build trust. The results dovetail nicely, he said, with his three guiding principles: clarity, priority and simplicity.
“I’m a team player. I have a passion for education,” he said. “Our greatest resource is our children and making sure they’re appropriately educated for the future. … I think sometimes that gets overlooked.”
Bienkowski is equally bullish on coming to Rochester. “The educational excellence, what’s expected of teachers, what the community expects is what I’ve always been about,” she said.
A resident of Macomb Township, Bienkowski has two adult sons. After earning an associate’s degree in recreational leadership, she began working as a paraprofessional with special-education students at the Macomb Intermediate School District. During that time she attended Wayne State University, then went on to teach first and third grades and eighth-grade English. She’s also been a PTA president and the principal of two elementary schools, including the one she attended as a child.
“So I kind of feel like when I step into a situation as an administrator, I wear all the hats. I kind of feel like they feel,” she said.
Though her previous district had a different socio-economic makeup from Rochester, Bienkowski said her goal, then and now, is continuous improvement.
“I’m very proud I raised the academic scores,” she said. “High achievement is something I’m familiar with.”
Delta Kelly has a significant and growing Asian population, Bienkowski said. That’s exciting for her because a couple of years ago she attended a summer program in China. When she came home, “We started a little summer-school program,” she said. “My vision is to work with the community and see how we can reach out to the global community.”
Like Pontzious, Bienkowski is big on relationship building. She thinks it’s key to Rochester’s success and continuing high expectations, even in the face of financial belt-tightening.
“I really always think it comes from a collaboration,” she said. “That’s the big buzz word, collaboration, but Rochester does have that. …
“What I’m hearing is it’s a great time to be a new educator in Rochester.”

By Annette Kingsbury

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