By God's grace, St. John Lutheran School has been proudly offering exceptional Christian education in the Rochester community for over 75 years.
St. John congregation officially took over the school that was begun by the Mission Board of the Michigan District – Lutheran Church in 1942. Sessions were held in the church building at Brooklands (now Gethsemane Lutheran Church at Dequindre and Auburn). Mr. Walter Zwintscher was the first teacher and principal of this school. An old barn on the present church property was converted into a school and dedicated in November 1945. Mr. Erwin Bauer replaced Mr. Zwintscher as principal and teacher of the one-room school in 1946. The total enrollment at that time was 30 students.
Enrollment in 1953 was 94 students. The faculty consisted of three teachers for grades 1-8. The “old wing” of our present structure was dedicated in 1950. The “new wing” of our present structure was dedicated in 1959. Mr. Roy Kaiser replaced Mr. Bauer as principal in 1961.
In 1963, the enrollment stood at 225 students. The faculty consisted of seven teachers for grades 1-8. In 1967, the lower level facilities were renovated and additional classrooms built.
The enrollment in 1973 was 415 students. The St. John nursery school program and the satellite program with St. Stephen, Drayton Plains, began in this decade.
Enrollment in grades K-8 stood at 485 students, including students from the inter-parish programs of St. Stephen (Drayton Plains), Gethsemane (Rochester), and two mission congregations in Rochester ~ Crown of Life and Shepherd of the Hills.
After 16 years of inter-parish relations, St. Stephen became an independent school with 200 students enrolled. A major renovation project was completed at St. John, giving us a media center, music room, art room, and additional classrooms. Nationwide recognition also came to St. John in 1986, as the U.S. Office of Education recognized St. John as “National Exemplary Private School.” It was one of only 60 private schools nationwide selected for this prestigious honor.
St. John and Living Word Lutheran Church, a mission congregation, started with sponsorship by St. John, joined hands in the “Sharing to Build – Building to Share” campaign, which resulted in a North Campus building at Gunn and Rochester Roads, housing St. John’s K-3 classrooms, as well as worship and pre-school facilities for Living Word.
Dr. Roy Kaiser retired from full time ministry. (Click here to read Roy's memoirs on his years of service at St. John.) Assistant principal Dr. William Hinz accepted the call to become St. John's next principal.
St. John’s enrollment made it the largest Lutheran school in the United States, with 728 students, including 83 preschool students. Ground was broken on June 16 for the North Campus/Living Word facility. Dr. William Hinz accepted a call to become the LCMS Texas District superintendent of education. Upon his departure, assistant principal Dr. Len Bassett was instrumental in helping with the completion of the North Campus construction project.
Dr. Bassett, following the untimely death of his wife, St. John teacher Judy Bassett, accepted a call to provide leadership in Concordia University - Seward, Nebraska’s graduate school. Mr. Bruce Gremel became interim principal of the school.
Our school year began with the opening of our North Campus. Our enrollment at this time was 754 students. Much was learned this year about the challenges of functioning with two campuses, as we continued to work together and enjoy the graciousness of the Lord. While several St. John teachers moved to take positions elsewhere, the school was blessed with a number of new teachers with vast experience, degrees and enthusiasm. Dr. H. James Boldt became principal, replacing Mr. Bruce Gremel, the congregation’s Director of Christian Care, who had graciously served as Interim Principal for one year. Mr. Gil Loewe, St. John Athletic Director, accepted the call issued by St. John to serve as Assistant Principal at the Main Campus.
Mr. Thomas Weiss became Assistant Principal of the North Campus. The challenges of the "Age of Technology" prompted the school to explore creative ways of meeting computer-age expectations of both parents and students. Nevertheless, as we entered the 21st century, St. John optimistically proclaimed, “Look what is and imagine what can be! The best is yet to come!”
Miss Beverly Koch became Interim Assistant Principal of the Main Campus. A number of new teachers joined the staff, as our faithful God once again provided excellent servants to teach His Word. With the renovation of the church, many adjustments took place in school operations. A new sanctioned dress standard was introduced.
Mr. Thomas Weiss was called by St. John to serve as Principal following the retirement of Dr. H. James Boldt. Miss Beverly Koch accepted St. John's call to be the Assistant Principal of the Main Campus. Mr. Julian Petzold was contracted to be the part-time Assistant Principal of our North Campus. A number of new teachers joined the staff once again as the need remained for a sizable faculty to provide instruction for the students.
The administration and most of the faculty returned for the new school year, with only two teaching spots to fill. The seldom-used stage area in the gym was converted to a storage room, several classrooms got new flooring and air conditioning, and the office area was renovated. Transition plans were developed with Living Word, which planned to begin their own day school with a kindergarten class in the fall.
St. John Lutheran School witnessed the birth of its daughter congregation’s school with over 100 students in its first year as a PK-8th grade school. To make room for Living Word Lutheran School, St. John moved its kindergarten and third grade classes to Main Campus. St. John began the school year with two sections each of kindergarten, 2nd, 3rd, 5th, and 6th grades. The remaining grade levels had one section each. Four more classrooms were upgraded with new flooring, sinks, and cabinets. Two classrooms on the building’s south side were also air-conditioned. Miss Beverly Koch and Mrs. Jan Brautnick were recognized for 25 years of service in Lutheran ministries.
After 20+ years of having some St. John students “farmed out” to other campuses, the entire student body was again on one site with 328 students in PS-Grade 8. In order to make room for the additional students, a new classroom was constructed from a section of the Media Center. The eighth grade used the music room for their homeroom. Air conditioning was added to the new classroom (7th grade), the Media Center, and Room 13. A new reading series from Houghton-Mifflin was purchased, and the Shurley English curriculum was adopted as a pilot program in fourth grade. The second annual school auction was held in October, raising over $60,000 in funds for the school.
Full day kindergarten was offered for the first time, in addition to the half day kindergarten class. St. John Lutheran School began new measures to grow enrollment not only from the core of our congregation, but by reaching out to the community as space allowed. The Shurley English curriculum was adopted for grades 2-8. Mr. Tim Grothaus was honored for 25 years of teaching, and Mrs. Jan Brautnick retired at the end of the school year.
Principal Thomas Weiss retired after 42 years of faithful service in Lutheran education. Miss Lucy Moerer, long time St. John teacher and Media Specialist, retired as well. This school year, we enrolled 268 students. We also welcomed Mr. Mychal Thom as our interim principal.
Mr. Bob Schafer was recognized for 25 years of service in Lutheran ministries. Mrs. Chris Rebeck announced her retirement. Lunch tables were purchased and the gym floor was redesigned with a new mascot picture and striking new lettering. Mr. Mark McLoughlin accepted a job offer in the Utica School District. We welcomed Mr. Gordon Kennedy as our interim principal.
Mr. Gordon Kennedy continued to serve our school as a highly skilled interim principal. Miss Linda Petros announced her retirement. Mrs. Karen Neumeyer joined our faculty as Preschool director and teacher. All classrooms were outfitted with brand new desks, chairs, and tables.
Mr. Todd Pehlke accepted the call extended by St. John to become our school principal.
Our growing school enrollment has presented the need for a second 4th grade classroom and a second 6th grade classroom.
With an continued increase in enrollment, 5th and 7th grades each have classrooms, and our Preschool 4's program has expanded to two classrooms as well. Technology enhancements include Chrome Books for our Middle School students and a mobile technology cart for Kindergarten to 5th grade classes.