Latozas leaves legacy at North Sashabaw
June 22, 2011 - Debbie Latozas was touched when Clarkston High School seniors and students from her 13 years at North Sashabaw Elementary showed up at an ice cream social, May 18.
"The Kindergartners I started with graduated this year. Some of the kids came back to read letters they had written," the principal smiled. "Kids in the middle school and junior high came back – with speeches. I have kids that come back all the time."
Next year when North Sashabaw alumni comes back, Latozas will be gone – she begins her retirement July 1.
Her favorite memory from the years of being a Wildcat is when the school received their Michigan Blue Ribbon of Excellence in 2005.
The former owner of Burger King on Dixie Highway, Myron Grosz, was a sponsor for school fairs and would read to the students. He offered to host a luncheon since Michigan Department of Education officials, guests from around the district and community, and legislators would be at the school.
The lunch was a memorable occasion. Tables were covered in linen clothes with china dishware and silverware.
"The kids from the middle school came back and played music," Latozas added. "He taught the fifth-graders how to be servers. Everyone of them got a chef's hat and dressed up."
Latozas began at Clarkston Community Schools as a teacher at Bailey Lake Elementary in 1977.
"In the late 70s not a lot were hiring," she said. "It was tough to get a job. Everyone was applying everywhere."
After four years she was laid off and was called back after two years to teach at Clarkston Junior High School. She was laid off again and when she came back in 1985, she was placed at North Sashabaw Elementary.
Throughout the years, she has added to the district as math support program coordinator, beginning early intervention with the reading support program at North Sashabaw Elementary.
"All kids in grades Kindergarten through third grade have a blue book bag and they get to check out a book every day at their reading level," she said. "It is a big program because half of the school checks books out every day."
Three years ago they started the English as a Second Language magnet school program.
"Anyone in the district speaking little or no English we give them and their families an opportunity of having the kids come here," she said. "The kids receive support in the English language with reading and writing five days a week."
The elementary also partners with the high school's Spanish Club. The members come for their last hour of classes and help the students.
Latozas plans to continue working and will still be working with Clarkston Community Schools and will continue working with the ESL program and coordinating it. She will also work with Destination Imagination and write some curriculum for them and help spread the program nationwide. She also plans to work with leadership development.
She will also take time to travel with her family with camping and a trip to Greece next year.
"The best part of working in Clarkston are the people, the relationships you make with the staff and the parents and especially the kids," she smiled. "That is what keeps you coming back to work every day."
North Sashabaw Elementary students will be greeted by Tara Oullette when they come back to school.
Also in new positions, Nancy Mahoney is principal at Springfield Plains Elementary and Brian Adams is principal for Clarkston Elementary as Dana Pennanen goes back to a teaching position.
Wendi graduated from the University of Michigan-Flint with a degree in communications. She wrote for the Michigan Times college paper and Grand Blanc View before joining The Clarkston News in October 2007.