Principal Tom Lietz accepts new position

Alexander Schmidt, Digital Editor

It was shocking news for students and staff to learn that principal Thomas Lietz would be leaving Utica at the end of the school year.
“I have accepted a position as the Associate Director for Training and Development with the Michigan Association of Secondary School Principals. So basically, it’s a state association that supports principals in Michigan at the junior high and high school level. I will be one of two people training principals around the state and supporting them,” Lietz said. “It’s quite an honor and I’m very excited about the work. For as much as I am excited, it was by far the toughest decision in my adult life.”
Lietz’s appointment begins July 1, which allows him to continue to serve as principal through the end of the school year.
“I’ve been at UCS since I was four years old. I went to elementary, junior high, and high school here, and the minute I graduated I started coaching at the school I graduated from, and I taught there for seven years. I never thought I’d be there until I got the opportunity to start the UAIS, and so I did that and then I got to come here to Utica High.”

For Lietz, the move comes with mixed emotions.
“This place has been my home,” Lietz said. “My son was seven months old when I started here and my daughter was just under three years old, so all they know is orange and black,”
The Lietz family will feel the impact of the move.
“My kids, and my family as a whole, bleed orange and black. Even my dad wears Utica High gear. My kids were sad,” Lietz said. “They love coming to the games, visiting the school, stealing candy from my candy dish, and feeling like a part of this community. They love this place. Even their friends love coming up here with them, so it is going to be a huge change.”

Despite leaving his Utica family, Lietz is prepared for his next move.

“I’m excited and with that comes a degree of nervousness. I want to do well in anything I do, and the idea of serving principals, teachers, and districts around the state is exciting, but it is a huge task and a great responsibility,” Lietz said. “I’m really happy, and grateful, to have that opportunity.”
Lietz’s replacement has not been named yet.
“UCS has a tradition of incredible leaders. I followed an incredible principal in Mrs. Jones, and she followed an incredible principal in Dr. Macheski, and so on. UCS will do a great job in naming a replacement,” Lietz said. “I’m sure they’ll exceed the work I’ve done and continue moving UHS forward. It’s always tough to be the new person in a school, and I’m confident UHS will give my successor as warm of a welcome as it did me. And I’m sure they’ll do great things.”

Many students and staff hope that the things Lietz has done at Utica, such as daily morning announcements and social media posts, will continue.
“I do think the next person in line to be principal will continue Utica’s traditions. This place is rich in tradition, and it will be their honor to work with the students and staff to make sure those traditions continue where appropriate and evolve where appropriate,” Lietz said. “When I came to UHS many of the current traditions were in place, but many others were not. We changed some that had run their course, and, under the leadership of students and staff, saw new and exciting traditions begin. So, it’s not just about continuity, it is about seeing the bigger picture and moving the school forward.”
Lietz has many moments that will stay with him forever.
“There are far too many of my favorite memories to list,” Lietz said. As crazy as it sounds, the first one that comes to mind was having my head shaved by a couple of DECA students, who also happened to be members of the Arrow newspaper. But that’s quickly followed by school plays, a myriad of sporting events, the parades at homecoming, awards convocations, hearing the band playing in the courtyard during summer break, my press conferences with the Arrow, being recognized by MIPA as Administrator of the Year — there are so many. In the end, though, I think what will stick with me most was the way this community rallied for one another during the pandemic. It was incredible, it was humbling, and it will forever make this place exceptional to me.”
The staff is something Lietz finds special.

Natalie Garwood

“I’ll miss everyone and everything about the U. It is my home and it’s never easy to leave a home,” Lietz said. “Everyone tangentially related to this place is so special. I mean Officer Leslie, the teaching staff, our custodial crew, those amazing ladies in the kitchen… there are just so many it’s hard to know where to begin. Utica High is a community in the truest sense and, despite many challenges, remains a community that cares for one another and sees the best in people. That’s laudable in this day and age. Standing out in the crowd are certainly my APs, Mr. Kranzo and Mrs. Olson and my office team as whole. This is a big boat to steer, and you cannot do it alone. They are the best. I could not have done my job without them and they’re the last to expect praise and the first to say they’d rather I didn’t single them out, but I have to. Last, but certainly not least, I’ll miss my students. You guys inspire us all to do better each and every day in ways you don’t even know.”
While Utica is sad to see him go, Lietz says we haven’t seen the last of him.
“Gosh, I don’t think you could keep me away from this place,” Lietz said. “I love it, it is home to me, and I hope to see many more successes from the periphery going forward.”