Principal Thomas Lietz named MIPA’s 2017 Administrator of the Year


Kaci Watt , Copy Editor

Each year the Michigan Interscholastic Press Association, MIPA,  honors student newspapers and yearbooks from across the state in various award categories. This year, after the Arrow newspaper and Warrior yearbook editors perused the contest website, one category in particular caught their attention: Administrator of the Year.

MIPA was looking for an administrator who supported scholastic journalism through every possible aspect. From simply acceptance and encouragement to active participation in the program, it became clear the criteria was a perfect fit.

Adviser Stacy Smale and the editors unanimously decided principal Thomas Lietz was an excellent candidate for this particular award.

“Mr.Lietz understands the importance of journalism and encourages students to use their voices through freedom of the press,” sophomore Madalyn Dishman said. “He pushes us to be the best reporters we can be.”

On March 16, Smale received a rather exciting email from MIPA executive director Jeremy W. Steele, congratulating Lietz on his title of MIPA’s 2017 Administrator of the Year. He will be honored on April 18 at a luncheon in Lansing.

It is a a huge success  to be named this title so soon, seeing as Lietz was welcomed to Utica only two years ago during the 2014-2015 school year. His entrance left many in the journalism department wondering how this change impact their publishing process.

However, before the first interaction between Lietz and the student journalists occurred, Smale received an informative email from Novi High School’s newspaper adviser, Lydia Cadena.

“He is smart, smart, smart,” Cadena said, “And he gets that kids are, as well–he will not be surprised when your kids have real stories they’re working on, he won’t be afraid of tough questions other administrators in some districts would avoid, he’s supportive of educators and understands that those of his who advise/coach academic organizations contribute just as much as those who coach athletics.”

As time passed everyone came to realize just how much truth Cadena’s words held.

“He treated our students like professional reporters, and never shied away from a question,” former teacher intern Chelsea Edwards said. “I believe he contributed to a culture of integrity in our newsroom.”

Each month the newspaper staff holds a press conference with Lietz to ask his opinions on the next issues stories. Despite his busy schedule, he always makes sure to clear a space to attend.

“He sits with us for an hour, answering our pressing questions on whatever stories we are writing at the time, as well as sharing a few laughs,” alumna Annabel Aquino said.

During the press conferences, Lietz gives each student journalist a chance to feel like they’re out in the real word interviewing. He answers the questions truthfully and embraces controversial topics of interest.

“Recently, we ran a story about the about the use of student vapor in our school,” current editor-in-chief of the Arrow, Ethan Cartwright said. “Many principals would refuse to comment on the use of drugs in school but Lietz believes in the importance of an honest student-run paper where students can report the news, knowing their First Amendment rights are protected.”

As well as willingly contributing his thoughts and perspectives on the story topics at hand, Lietz also often suggested story ideas himself.

“His awareness on what goes on in the world is clear,” Aquino said. “For he’d always bring up topics in the media giving us ideas on new stories to write from presidential elections to feature stories about a new penguin exhibit opening up at the Detroit Zoo.”

Lietz always makes sure the newspaper students receive recognition for their hard work. He knows the importance of everyone being updated within our school’s community.

“He often promotes newspaper articles by posting links to our school’s official web page, tweeting links, and by encouraging students to read about stories,” Smale said.

From his active role in student press and his avid protection of first amendment rights, Lietz also understands news is a fast-paced, changing field and how important it is to stay up to date.

During 2015, new books for the journalism class were purchased to aid in the teaching of future journalists. And just this year Lietz successfully advocated for the newsroom to receive a new printer, that would surpass the ability of the original printers in the classroom which dated back to 2003.

The entire publications staff agreed that Lietz is more than deserving of this award, and surprised him with a party during a scheduled press conference.

“We would not be able to do this brilliant work,” current business manager of the Arrow and Warrior Vita Simmons said, “without his unwavering support, faith, and investment in our program.”