Three newbies and a lifer hired as principals

New Wyoming High School Principal Josh Baumbach stops to talk to senior Amanda Melendez during lunch

Meet Your Principal: Josh Baumbach

Josh Baumbach is the new Wyoming High School principal. A graduate of the former Wyoming Park High School and Hope College, he most recently served as West Elementary principal for two years. Because Baumbach was highlighted then as a new principal, SNN asked him a few questions specific to his new role.

What’s your favorite thing about high school students? They keep us on our toes and feeling connected. Their sense of perspective is neat. I like learning about their dreams — what they want to do for a living, the opportunities that lie ahead for them. One of my favorite things is the passion they have for anything they are involved in, whether it’s football, theater, band; whatever it is they are all in. The student section at the basketball games and its energy is an example of that.

What’s the most important piece of advice you have for them? What I’ve told our students is get engaged, get connected in something at the high school: band, Key Club, National Honor Society. Enjoy that experience of being a part of something bigger.

What’s your favorite high school memory? I remember the relationships with teachers and classmates, the great pride we took in being from “The Park,” and beating East Grand Rapids in Triple Overtime during our senior season of football.

Meet Your Principal: Kristen Fuss

Kristen Fuss is the new Oriole Park Elementary School principal. 

Other positions you have held in education: I spent 24 years in Romulus Community Schools. I was a fifth-grade teacher for nine years. After that, I was a Title I Learning Specialist and managed all of our Title I funds and interventions. I was in that position for nine years before being hired as a principal. This was all at the same elementary school that I did my student teaching.

How about jobs outside education? I worked at Kensington Metropark for six years in the maintenance department at one of the beaches.

What roles have you served in during your 17 years in the district?

  • Sixth-and-seventh grade social studies teacher at Jackson Park Junior High School
  • Ninth- and 10th-grade social studies teacher at Wyoming Park and Rogers High schools
  • Assistant principal at Wyoming Junior High
  • Assistant principal at Wyoming High School
  • Head varsity football coach at Wyoming Park High School

What is it like to become high school principal in the community where you grew up? It’s a very humbling experience to be the high school principal in the district you graduated from. I love this community, our students, and Wyoming Public Schools. It’s a cool honor and privilege — not something I take lightly. We have a great staff who want to be champions for kids and to make a difference in their lives.

Oriole Park Principal Kristen Fuss

Education and degrees: Bachelor of science degree from Western Michigan University, a master’s in children’s literature from Wayne State University, and administration certification from Michigan Association of Secondary School Principals.

Spouse/children: No spouse or children, but engaged to be married.

Hobbies/Interests: Reading, spending time with family & friends, traveling.

What kind of kid were you at the age of students at this new school? I was a rule follower and tried to make friends with everyone. I was a student who struggled a bit academically, but had a lot of support around me to help me be more successful than I may have been without the support.

The biggest lesson you have learned from students is… They just want to feel cared for! Building relationships is key to any student’s heart. Building relationships is key to any student’s heart. They will thrive if they feel you truly care for them.

If you walked into your new school building to theme music every day, what would the song be? “I Gotta Feeling”. It’s uplifting and makes you feel that everything’s going to be just fine!

New Parkview Principal Nick Damico and his family

Meet Your Principal: Nick Damico

Nick Damico is the new Parkview Elementary School principal

Other positions you have held in education: I have served as a history teacher, elementary school principal, and middle school principal. I was also a basketball, baseball, and football coach.

How about jobs outside education? Sac-MENTORING, a college mentoring program for at-risk youth operated through Cal State Sacramento.

Education and degrees: Currently a doctoral candidate at Brandman University in Irvine, California. My dissertation is on leadership storytelling and how school and district leaders use storytelling to make transformational change. Master’s degree in teaching from Azusa Pacific University and a bachelor’s degree in government from California State University Sacramento.

Parkview Elementary School Principal Nick Damico chats with, from left, Anevay Keller and Scarlette Holcombe

Spouse/children: My wife, Vicky, is an Autism Spectrum Disorder teacher for Thornapple Kellogg. We have three beautiful daughters; Lucy, 6, Emily, 4, and Macy , 3.

Hobbies/Interests: Angels baseball and dissertation writing.

What kind of kid were you at the age of students at this new school? I was so immersed in athletics and competition that I counted down the minutes until recess and lunchtime. I was all about playing basketball, soccer, football and any other competitive sport with my friends, including pogs.

The biggest lesson you have learned from students is… Every day is a new opportunity to do right by students. A lot is asked of educators on a daily basis but the most important thing for us is to live by the motto “as much love as you can muster,” which to me means a relentless compassion for our most vulnerable students.

Finish this sentence: If I could go back to school I would go to… Honestly being in the middle of my dissertation … I can’t answer this question without getting knots in my stomach. I am ready for a school break.

If you walked into your new school building to theme music every day, what would the song be? “Whatever It Takes” by Imagine Dragons.

Brian Hartigan high fives students passing by

Meet Your Principal: Brian Hartigan

Brian Hartigan is the new West Elementary School principal.

Other positions you have held in education: I’ve been an elementary teacher in every grade besides second, including kindergarten. I have taught in North Carolina, Kentucky, Traverse City and was instructional coach in Kentucky and Traverse City. I was most recently the K-12 principal in Glen Lake Community Schools.

How about jobs outside education? Everyone in my family is an educator. My dad was my K-12 principal, my mom was an elementary teacher. My sister is a high school Engilish teacher. The only thing I knew I didn’t want to be was a teacher. I ran a youth sports program in Chicago, working with students ages 3 to 9. Then I got into sales. I missed working with kids, so I returned to college for an education degree.

Education and degrees: Bachelor’s degree in sports management and communications from the University of Michigan; bachelor’s degree in elementary education from U-M; master’s degree in teacher leadership from University of the Cumberlands; master’s degree in educational leadership from Central Michigan University.

Spouse/children: Wife, Jody, and two children: Sophie, a second grader, and Wesley, a kindergartner

Hobbies/Interests: I like being outdoors. My family and I like hiking, biking, camping and going to the beach. I love Frisbees, disc golf, and Ultimate Frisbee.

What kind of kid were you at the age of students at this new school? My dad was my principal, so I guess I was well-behaved and compliant for the most part. I grew up in a K-12 school, so teachers were very familiar with families.That kind of closeness helps you make good choices. I’ve always loved sports since fourth grade when I became interested in going to U of M. That probably had to do with when Michigan won (the NCAA Division I Men’s Basketball Tournament).

The biggest lesson you have learned from students is… Compassion and forgiveness.  When you work in education you realize students are trying their best. Mistakes are made. Second and third chances are necessary and deserved.

Finish this sentence: If I could go back to school I would go to... Seventh grade. That’s the first time I had the opportunity to play organized sports. I love soccer, basketball and tennis.

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Erin Albanese
Erin Albanese has worked as a journalist in the Grand Rapids area since 2000. A graduate of Central Michigan University, she has written for The Grand Rapids Press, Advance Newspapers and On-the-Town Magazine. She has been covering the many exciting facets of K-12 public education for School News Network since 2013. Read Erin's full bio or email Erin.

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