We had 14 amazing applicants for the 2020 Principal of the Year Award in our first year of joint selection by MASSP and MASC/MAHS. Our MASC/MAHS Student Board of Delegates graded each application based on a rubric of criteria and selected three finalists. The finalists were then graded by a selection committee made up of members of MASSP’s Board of Directors. The winner of the award will be honored at the 2020 MASC/MAHS Student State Conference, the 2020 EdCon Conference and will be Michigan’s state representative for the 2020 NASSP Principals Institute in Washington D.C.. While only one winner is selected, the nomination itself is a distinction of which each nominee can be proud. Get to know all of the amazing nominees below:


Nicole Carter

Novi High School

Nicole Carter has been in education for 25 years and has been an administrator for 13 years. Her nominators describe her as supportive, kind, respected and hard-working, but dedication to her school is the most salient quality.

Brian Langley, a Science Teacher at Novi High School said of Nicole, “I realize I owe much of my charmed experience to her leadership...Principal Carter’s dedication to supporting others is unmatched.”

One of the student leaders in her building noted that “she makes sure that each student knows that they are her first concern and that her door is always open. I have never, ever seen a person more dedicated to the wellbeing of her students, her people, her community.”

Congratulations to Nicole Carter for being a finalist for the 2020 Principal of the Year Award.

Tom Lietz

Utica High School

Tom Lietz has been in education for 19 years and has been in administration for 11 years. He was nominated for this award by student leaders in his building and was supported by his staff and colleagues. Mr. Lietz is deeply involved in the culture of his school. He makes a habit of being a consistent face at many clubs and a listening ear to the students in his building.

“I consider myself fortunate to work with a principal who values the leadership of our students as much as Mr. Lietz does, said Kristen Bolitho, an English Teacher at Utica High School. "The change in our school over the past six years has been a credit to his efforts.”

Congratulations to Tom Lietz on being a finalist for the 2020 Principal of the Year Award. 

Todd Simmons

Pewamo-Westphalia Middle/High School

Todd Simmons was nominated for this award by Jennifer Branch, the Career Education Director at Clinton County RESA. His nomination was supported by his staff, students and members of his community. Todd has been in education for 18 years and has been an administrator for 11 of those years. He has been at Pewamo-Westphalia Middle/High School for 14 years and as a result, he lives and breathes Pirate Pride. Todd spends every morning standing at the front of the school, greeting all of the students by name. He is known for putting his students first and pushing all those in his building to be the best they can be.

One of the students in Todd’s building said of him, “Mr. Simmons is like having a motivational speaker as a principal. He is always positive and knows every individual in the school.” 

Congratulations to Todd Simmons on being a finalist for the 2020 Principal of the Year Award.


Todd Distelrath

Chippewa Valley High School

Todd Distelrath has been in education for 22 years and has been an administrator for 15 years. He has made a clear effort to support the student leaders in his building and the development of his staff.

“He is a positive force that genuinely cares about the students and their successes both in and out of school” said Kim Johnston, a teacher at Chippewa Valley High School.

Congratulations to Todd Distelrath on his nomination.

Lara Dixon

Troy Athens High School

Lara Dixon was nominated for this award by Kristy Hall, the Assistant Principal at Boulan Park Middle School. Lara has been in education for 26 years and has been in administration for 22 years.

“Dr. Lara Dixon has devoted her life to the field of education and has worked tirelessly as a school leader to improve the lives of those she serves, said Kristy Hall in her nomination of Lara Dixon. "In my experience of working with Lara over the past decade, I found her three greatest leadership attributes to be that she empowers her students and staff to think deeply and dream big, she celebrates all victories big and small, and she is never complacent.”

Congratulations to Lara Dixon on her nomination.

David Kirksey

Comstock High School

Mr. Kirksey has been an educator for 11 years and an administrator for three. He is described by those who know him as a positive presence in his building. Every day he walks down the hallways he makes an effort to be a motivating voice to the students.

Colleen Grueter, Comstock High School's NHS Advisor, commented that, “David is driven, dedicated, honest and passionate; he is truly someone who is meant to lead.”

Congratulations to David Kirksey on his nomination.

Dan Mesyar

Ludington High School

Mr. Mesyar has been in education for 21 years and has been in administration for 13 years. He was nominated by Steve Forsberg, the Assistant Principal of Ludington High School. As a Ludington High School alum, Dan Mesyar’s passion for his community is unmet.

“Dan works tirelessly to build a positive school culture that allows all to meet their full potential,” said Amber Nasson, a Social Studies Teacher and Ludington

High School. Congratulations to Dan Mesyar for his nomination. 

Kate Murray

Grosse Pointe North High School

Kate Murray has spent seven of her 23 years in education as an administrator. Her commitment to her school and her community is evident in her nomination. Kate was nominated by student leaders in her building who say that she “has impacted this school and community more than you could ever imagine. She is always so positive and very selfless when it comes to people’s academic troubles, always offering to help.”

Congratulations to Kate Murray for her nomination.

Michelle Newman

Chippewa Hills High School

Michelle has been in education for 18 years and has been an administrator for 14 years.

“Michelle is a selfless person," said an English Teacher in her building. "Her dedication to our educational family is admirable and is demonstrated through the countless hours she spends with students, staff, and community helping to make our school a better place for learning.”

Congratulations to Michelle Newman for her nomination.

Melanie Post

Highlander Way Middle School

Melanie has been an educator for 20 years and has been an administrator for 13 of those years. The Highlander Way Middle School Leadership Class collectively wrote a letter on behalf of Mrs. Post’s nomination. They write: “Mrs. Post is an outstanding leader with great integrity and the belief that the students can have a voice and help improve their own building.”

Congratulations to Melanie. Post for her nomination.

Ryan Sines

Fraser High School

Ryan has been in education for 17 years and has been an administrator for 10 of those years. Ryan was nominated for this award by the student leaders in his building and was supported by his staff and community. The words humble, confident and passionate are words that are repeated many times in Ryan’s nomination. It is clear that his staff and students feel the love he has for his building.

“He has transformed the culture of our High School. He has an enthusiasm and ability to make connections with our students that is felt by all of our stakeholders. Building relationships are the cornerstone of his leadership style,” said Carrie Wozniak, Superintendent of Fraser Public Schools. 

Congratulations to Ryan Sines on his nomination.

Cheri Steckel

Plymouth High School

Cheri has been in education for 23 years and has been in administration for 11 years. Cheri has been with Plymouth High School for the past 11 years which has garnered support for her nomination. She is described as open-minded, supported, and incredibly friendly towards the students in her building.

The Student Activities Director, Elena Girolamo, said, “Teachers and students alike know that they can approach Cheri with a new idea and they are encouraged to take risks to improve themselves professionally or to improve the school community.”

Congratulations to Cheri Steckel for her nomination. 

Jeffrey Wierzbicki

Byron Center West Middle School 

Jeffery Wierzbicki was nominated for this award by his Assistant Principal, Abby Kanitz. Jeffrey has been in education for 13 years and an administrator for four years. He is described by students and staff as a man who loves his job and treats every person in his building as a team member.

“Much like a building with a firm foundation cannot be shaken an effective principal provides similarly strong support for all aspects of a great school including establishing a healthy culture, providing a clear vision, enabling staff members to excel and expecting exceptional student achievement," said 8th grade science teacher, Ben Lacy. "In 16 years as a teacher, I've never had a principal who has balanced all these components quite like Jeff Wierzbicki”

Congratulations to Jeffery Wierzbicki for his nomination.

Steve Wolf

Oxford High School 

Mr. Wolf has been an educator for 14 years and has been an administrator for nine years. During his time at Oxford High School he has been a consistent presence in the school and in his community. He takes time every day to purposefully connect with the staff and students in his building.

One of the students who nominated Steve for this award described him as “a strong example of someone who genuinely cares and is invested in his community.”

Congratulations to Steve Wolf for his nomination. 

Written by Alyssa Schoenherr, MASSP Executive Assistant