December 14, 2011 - By Joe St. Henry
Lake Orion High School Principal Sophia Lafayette is following her passion, leaving the position after nearly two years to become the district's Director of Technology and Media Services, effective Jan. 3.
District administrators made the announcement to the high school staff, technology team and community last Wednesday, Dec. 7.
Tom Tobe will serve as interim principal until a permanent replacement is found, ideally by June 30, according to Superintendent Marion Ginopolis. Tobe served as co-interim principal in 2009-10 during the district's last search for a high school principal and is well liked, she said.
The Superintendent and Lake Orion school board members said Lafayette's decision to pursue the new position was made by her when the job became vacant earlier this fall.
"Ms. Lafayette asked to be considered for the open technology position," said school board President Mary Jo Burchart. "Nobody asked her to move. She has done a nice job at the high school."
Ginopolis said Lafayette provided valuable leadership for a number of new initiatives, including the Olweus Bully Prevention Program while, at the same time, kept momentum going for the school improvement efforts underway prior to her becoming principal.
Board Treasurer Jim Weidman echoed this sentiment, while noting that her new position is something she trained for and has extensive experience. Prior to joining the district in early 2010, Lafayette was Chief of Staff and Chief Information Officer for the Detroit Public Schools.
"I think she realized the position ideally met her skills and background," Ginopolis added. "Sophia will be a visionary in an area where we need it right now."
Lafayette herself said it was a bittersweet decision to leave Lake Orion High School.
"This was not an easy decision for me," she said. "There are a lot of great things taking place at the high school. I'll miss the kids coming in everyday with smiles on their faces and I've really enjoyed working with the teachers and community.
"But now I have the opportunity to impact the entire Lake Orion school district in something that all of our schools need to look at: how we use information and understand it to our advantage. Kids are learning in new ways today and I look forward to helping them do so."
Lafayette's deep background in instructional technology and media began early in her career, after receiving a teaching degree from Washington University in St. Louis. She took a job in Missouri as a classroom teacher and the avid reader received a master's degree in library media services from Lindenwood University in St. Charles, Mo.
A native of Lansing, Lafayette decided to return to Michigan with her children in 2007 to be closer to her family and join her former boss who was then superintendent of the Detroit schools. As Chief of Staff in Detroit, she traveled throughout the state representing the district and met administrators throughout the region, including those from Lake Orion who hired her as principal.
"Lake Orion was a progressive community and I liked the idea of a one-high school town," she said. "I was told it was a tight-knit community with a lot of spirit. That was very appealing to me."
Lafayette said she is very confident in the administrative team at the high school and she would not have made the move if she was not. She also was quick to point out, while she may be changing jobs and moving to a new building, she still expects to attend various school district events.
"I now have a full closet of Dragon wearables that need to be worn," she said.
Weidman said the district is very pleased to secure Tobe for a return stint as interim principal, beginning in early January. "Bringing in Tobe lends continuity to the transition," he explained. "He did a great job before and we expect the same again. He knows much of the high school staff and will get up to speed quickly, since he was here not long ago."
The school board treasurer added that the search for a new principal will most likely begin in February, when principal candidates begin to decide if they want to apply for and be considered for such opportunitiesthe next school year.
"The second semester is a good time to conduct a deliberate search process," Weidman said. "It gives you enough time to publicize the position and obtain a strong mix of candidates. We will conduct a thorough search."