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

Frank Edwards, President

Educated at the University of Pennsylvania, Frank is Chairman of the Board of Directors and Vice-President of Nylube Products Company, LLC. He founded the 501(c)(3) charity, Instead of a Gift Inc., and he serves as Vice-Chairman of the Board of Governors at the Cranbrook Academy of Art and Museum. Frank is a current Japhet School parent with two sons.

Read Mr. Edwards’ State-of-the-School Address.

Sheila Chaps, Vice-president

Sheila Chaps 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.

Erik Golbiw, Secretary

Erik Golbiw is the founder and president of Condotta, LLC, a manufacturers representative firm in Bloomfield Hills. Erik was formerly employed by PricewaterhouseCoopers as part of its tax projects delivery group. Erik is a graduate of Walsh college and is the father of two current Japhet students. Erik is an avid runner, golfer and triathlete.

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.

Don Button

Don is Partner and Creative Director of Elevator, Inc., a branding and multimedia communications firm in Royal Oak, serving clients such as Mercedes-Benz Financial, PPG Refinish, and Google/YouTube. Don holds a BFA in graphic design from Detroit’s Center for Creative Studies. He is the captain of an adult hockey league and coaches his son’s hockey team. He enjoys outdoor adventures with his son, who is a Japhet student.

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 Deane 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 Dusenberry 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.

Cheryl Haithco

Cheryl Haithco is a fundraising professional who is best known in the Japhet community as our Development Director from 2010-2014, but whose development experiences reaches well beyond her time with Japhet. Cheryl’s past appointments include development for Old Redford Academy, Think Detroit PAL Development Officer, and the YMCA’s Director of Development. She currently is Vice President of Development at Big Brothers Big Sisters of Metropolitan Detroit.

Bruce Kasl

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.

Victoria Lehman

Tori Lehman is Associate Attorney at Giarmarco, Mullins, and Horton, PC. She manages litigation as trial counsel for the defense of hospitals and healthcare providers. She also has experience in corporate legal and risk management consulting. Victoria received her juris doctorate from Wayne State University Law School and bachelor’s degree from the University of Michigan. Victoria is bilingual in English and Spanish.

Martha Moyer

Martha, a Japhet School alumni parent, formerly General Counsel to a Tier 1 automotive supply company, currently serves Of Counsel to Atwood Mobile Products LLC, a component manufacturer in the recreational vehicle industry. She also sits on the Board of HAVEN, Oakland County’s only comprehensive program for victims of sexual assault and domestic violence. Educated at Michigan State University and the University of Detroit School of Law, she has previously served on MSU’s College of Arts & Letters and Alumni Association Boards and Birmingham’s Baldwin Public Library.

Kerri Vizena

Kerri graduated from Michigan State University with a degree in Education, and she taught at Japhet for more than 10 years as early childhood director and physical education teacher. She helped develop the curriculum in both of these areas. Since then she has been an administrator for Lapeer Community Schools, and she has professionally applied her talents as a horticulturalist. Today she works for herself as a home stager and floral designer.

Dr. John White

Dr. White has had a lengthy connection with Japhet, as he previously served as the Assistant Superintendent of Lamphere Schools while we occupied the building in Madison Heights. He is currently an Adjunct Professor at Oakland University. Dr. White is currently on an extended teaching assignment in California, and we look forward to his return and his participation with the board at that time.


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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