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Suzanne Klein Gets Roasted at Retirement Party

The superintendent of Grosse Pointe Public Schools is calling it quits in December, but she's not getting out without a few laughs at her quirky ways.

Dozens gathered at the Wednesday to toast and roast Dr. C. Suzanne Klein, the superintendent of Grosse Pointe Public Schools since 1997,

No topic was off-limits—except maybe Klein’s hair.

“I got a threatening phone call on my way over here to not talk about her hair, and three anonymous letters,” joked roaster Chris Fenton, an assistant superintendent whose closing act rocked the ballroom overlooking Lake St. Clair.

Klein got her start in Grosse Pointe 41 years ago as a special education teacher at , eventually working her way up to become the district’s longest-serving superintendent. The Family Center and the Rotary Club organized her farewell event and tickets were $100 each.

One of the roasters was Susan Allan, who worked for Klein before Allan retired as an assistant superintendent. 

Allan told a story about a snowstorm “pajama party” she and Klein had at a colleague’s house—a blizzard had dumped heavy powder on Grosse Pointe during a school board meeting and Klein and Allan didn’t want to drive to their respective homes in Birmingham and Ann Arbor.

That night, they made the rare decision to cancel school the next day—while sharing a bottle of sherry.

“As we were doing this in our pajamas, with our sherry, I thought ‘I hope no one ever asks us about how this decision was made,’” said Allan, to roars of laughter, claiming there is a “ten-year statute of limitations” on snow day controversy.

Other roasters included Dr. Mike Dib, principal of , who, along with Fenton, poked fun at Klein’s love of the color purple.

“There are 747 shades of purple. She has, in her collection, 740 of those shades,” Fenton said, as Klein chuckled along, wearing a lighter one of the 740 purple shades.

It truly was Fenton who stole the show, joking that Klein’s wish list for building improvements included:

  • A trap door and ladder so she could escape from her office when certain board members came to see her
  • At least one room in every school building painted purple
  • A hot tub for the board office that fits 20 people

Klein’s unused ideas to increase revenue and make budget cuts? According to Fenton:

  • Put a private clown college on campus
  • Shorten the school day to 90 days and have kids go to school 12 hours a day
  • Turn the old pool into a chimp house and charge admission
  • Turn the front lawn of South into a community vegetable garden

Her suggestions for the mission statement?

  • We teach them good and fast
  • We learn them more gooder

And, eliciting the biggest laugh of the night, her four tattoos?

  • A picture of a Blue Devil and a Norseman holding hands
  • On her upper thigh, a Latin saying, “Quid est canis?” — or, “What up, dog?
  • On the nape of her neck, “Jimi Hendrix Lives, the Purple Haze Tour of 1973”
  • A fourth one, which only her husband has seen

Klein, who was Grosse Pointe’s first female superintendent, will continue to live in Oakland County and teach classes at Oakland University on educational leadership.

“One of the best parts of tonight has been talking with you, and hearing you laugh, and talking about the place we all love: this community,” Klein told the crowd.

She continued: “The beautiful thing about this community is they become partners, they become friends. You can pick up the phone, call them by their name, and they will help however they can, as we do in return.”

Chris Wigent, the superintendent at Wayne Regional Educational Service Agency, said it was “hard for some of us to get our arms around the idea that Suzanne is retiring.”

“We are here for the kids, not the adults,” Wigent said. “Suzanne has focused like a laser on the kids…regardless of the situation, Suzanne Klein is a consummate professional who leads with dignity and class.”

But Wigent, Allan, Dib, Fenton and others won’t go completely without Klein. After the event, she said she plans on spending plenty of time in Grosse Pointe with the many community organizations she has grown to love.

Klein was given three gifts: a caricature of her signed by dozens of attendees, a framed poem titled “Ode to Suzanne Klein” written by Grosse Pointe City resident Jake Liang, and a large cocktail ring with matching earrings — purple, of course — from .

as superintendent on Jan. 1, 2012.

George R. McMullen Jr. November 03, 2011 at 10:54 AM
A great event and while all the speakers were exceptional I have to find Chris Fenton. I owe him $2.00 .......a cover charge for his floor show......Congrats and Best wishes to Dr. Klein
Tanya Kudla November 03, 2011 at 03:36 PM
Thank you, Dr. Klein, for your years of dedicated service to our children and our community. You never appeared to forget why you initially pursued the role of educator, and that passion and commitment has impacted thousands of lives on an individual basis. You will be missed. We wish you many happy times of rest and enjoyment.
Ranae Beyerlein, PhD November 07, 2011 at 10:54 AM
This was a warm reception for a friend to the GPPSS; Suzanne will be missed. The legacy that she leaves is precedent-setting. Not only does she put kids first, but she has recognized the value that the GPEA members bring to the community in being the first line in students' learning. While we joked about the $25 dessert items, we were comforted in knowing that even in a retirement parting gift, she built the coffers of our community's service organizations dear to her heart. No stone unturned and each and every day lingers because of her dedication and servant leadership. Thanks to all for the gift of this celebration.

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