Japhet School

National School of Character


Preschool - 8th Grade

Preschool - 8th Grade

Board of Trustees

“With each new year, we grow. We critique, we analyze, and we develop. I am proud that while we grow in program, we remain true to our mission. Japhet cherishes childhood, cultivates wonder, and inspires confident learners and leaders. We live our mission each day, and we think carefully about individuals. We differentiate, we are flexible, and we care. Often when schools focus on specifics, they forget to remain true to the greater good — the mission of the school. Japhet remains true.”

— Julie Knaffla, Former Board President and Alumni Parent

Susie Golbiw, President

Susie is a graduate of the University of Michigan and has worked for AT&T, owned a catering business, and after a successful career at Xerox Corporation, she is happy to be at home with her two children. Susie is an active volunteer for her church and currently serves as the librarian in the Birmingham Christian Science Reading Room. Susie is the parent of both a Japhet alumnus and a current student. She actively participates in Japhet committee work and was especially helpful in helping Japhet School relocate to its new building.

Read the most recent State-of-the-School address from the board president.

Sheila Chaps, Vice-president

Sheila has provided academic leadership for more than four decades. With advanced education degrees and a school administration endorsement, her teaching assignments included work in New York, Boston, Texas, and Spain. She was employed at Japhet for 18 years, initially as a classroom teacher and eventually as principal, served as Head of School at Daycroft Montessori, and most recently held the Lower School Head position at University Liggett.

Bruce Kasl, Secretary

Bruce is a project manager in product development for Ford Motor Company, working specifically on truck powertrains. He has volunteered in a variety of civic and church organizations, serving as a board member or as a hands-on volunteer worker. Bruce is a graduate of Principia College and holds an MBA from Michigan State University.

Jay Schmitt, Treasurer

Jay serves Japhet School as chairman of the Finance Committee, chairman of the Investment Oversight Committee, and member of the Development Committee. He worked for 37 years at Detroit Edison, and four years at Michigan Electric Transmission Company, achieving the position of Director of Transmission Planning.

Susie Auten

Susie has a business degree from Western Michigan University, and she and her husband have been involved with Japhet since its founding. Their two children were among the first students enrolled, and Susie helped start the Preschool. Susie’s mother, Barbara Droege, and her mother-in-law, Arline Hartman, both served on Japhet’s board. Today the Autens provide two annual merit scholarships to hard-working students in honor of their mothers.

Dan Commer

Dan is a Japhet alumnus. Dan works for a non-profit in Southwest Detroit, where he is involved in community outreach and economic development. He graduated Wayne State University with a B.A. in Urban Studies, and he will attend the University of Michigan for grad school. He says it is because of his family’s gratitude for all Japhet has given him and his three siblings that he is compelled to give back.

Denise Deane

Denise is a seasoned educator who strongly supports the work and culture of independent schools. Her experience includes 15 years as Associate Director of Admissions at University Liggett School. She earned her bachelor’s and master’s degrees at Michigan State University in speech and language pathology. Denise is an active volunteer and spokesperson for Gleaners Community Food Bank.

Esther Dusenberry

Esther is a Japhet School alumni parent. She graduated from Michigan State University with a degree in communication arts. She and her late husband Kirk Dusenberry raised two sons and worked and traveled throughout the world. Today Esther is a caregiver and is married to Jim Stevens, a retired kindergarten teacher and landscaper. They reside in Troy and enjoy traveling and working at their church.

Susan Ellithorpe

Susan Ellithorpe has dedicated her life to educating young children and being an advocate for peace education. She graduated from Michigan State University with a degree in Early Childhood Education, Art History, and Spanish, and she holds a Master of Elementary Education from Wayne State University. She taught at Japhet School for 28 years, almost entirely in Kindergarten, and she is the parent of two Japhet School alumnae. She also has taught at Potomac School in Virginia, and currently teaches in Hartland. She founded Japhet School’s chapter of Kids for Peace, an international organization.

Cheryl Haithco

Cheryl is a fundraising professional who is best known in the Japhet community as our Development Director from 2010-2014, but whose development experiences reach well beyond her time with Japhet. Cheryl has served Old Redford Academy, Think Detroit PAL Development Officer, the YMCA, and Big Brothers Big Sisters of Metropolitan Detroit. She now pursues her passion for painting as a full-time career while serving the philanthropic community, currently as Recording Secretary/Finance Manager for the Clothilde R. Smith Foundation.

Edward Shields

Edward is the father of two daughters who are current Japhet students.  Born and raised in Philadelphia, Edward and his wife Lisa moved to moved to Michigan a few years before the birth of their first child. Edward currently works for Apple retail, responsible for high volume and business/enterprise sales. Ed also owns his own freelance graphic design studio, TwoFifteen Design Studio. After achieving the rank of Eagle Scout in the Boy Scouts of America, Ed studied journalism and digital media at West Virginia University and the Community College of Philadelphia.

Stacey Sitarek

Stacey is the parent to a Japhet alumna, and Stacey served on our Parent Support Group (PSG) Board for several years, including two as PSG President. She is a registered nurse with 26 years of experience. She holds a BSN from the University of Detroit Mercy, and currently works at Beaumont Hospital in Royal Oak doing cancer research. She has also worked as a consultant for start-up healthcare companies. Stacey enjoys baking, traveling, gardening, and volunteering for charity and community events.


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Our Mission

Japhet School's mission is to nurture and prepare each child for life by integrating character education with a strong academic program.

© Japhet School 2017