Estralee Michaelson promised herself she wouldn't cry.
"This is going to be a great evening," she said as she greeted guests at the door of her "Farewell from My Heart" party held Thursday evening at in Farmington Hills.
But the tears came anyway, as more than a dozen speakers shared memories and praise for her 40-year career in . Michaelson leaves the district at the end of this year; her position as director of Safe Schools and Student Services has been eliminated.
As Safe Schools director, Michaelson was responsible for developing a crisis response plan, which she put in place even before the tragic shooting at a Columbine, CO high school heightened awareness in schools across the country. She collaborated often with law enforcement agencies from both Farmington and Farmington Hills, the , local clergy, service organizations and many community volunteers.
James Lanigan, who was principal at Larkshire Elementary (now ), was Michaelson's first boss. She started with the district as an elementary school teacher.
"I want people to know Estralee is – not was – an excellent teacher," he said, adding they were together six or seven years. "Every year, I could see how good she was to the boys and girls. The children really grew with her. As her principal, looking at those youngsters, I really felt good."
Emcee Sgt. David Schutz of the Southfield Police Dept. said Michaelson has been part of his family's life for 16 years.
"Estralee is not retiring," he said. "She's moving on to her next chapter. Whatever it is, she's going to tackle it, and she's going to get it done."
Michaelson thanked all those who worked with her, in particular those in law enforcement and emergency services, and urged everyone present to ensure that safe schools continues to be a priority in the district, as much as academics.
"Safe schools must be a priority every single day of the week," she said, urging everyone to take on the responsibility of ensuring school and community safety.
"Never, ever underestimate the power of a community to commit to action and to always respond to the needs of its citizens," she said. "As you have often heard me say, I could not have done this without the support of every single one of you standing as you are today."