Longtime Allen Park High School Principal Janet P. Wasko personified dedication to her students, and in doing so, helped her students and the school succeed, friends and colleagues said.
Her colleagues and others said she thrived on helping students meet their goals. She was the first female principal in the history of Allen Park High School, district officials said.
Mrs. Wasko, 63, of Detroit died Saturday, Aug. 19, 2017, of complications of cancer, said her husband Steve Wasko, a former longtime administrator for Detroit Public Schools.
Wasko said his wife’s cancer battle began in 1999, when she was first diagnosed with Stage 4 breast cancer and she wasn’t given long to live. She prevailed against the disease many times, he said.
“She became the spokesman for having hope in the face of this dreaded disease,” said Wasko on Sunday. He said his wife would make care packages for other cancer patients — some she knew and others who were complete strangers.
She was a “teacher at heart” but also an administrator who helped take Allen Park into a top-performing school district by “building a team and changing the culture” within her high school, Wasko said. He said she also helped her assistant principals prepare for positions as superintendents.
The school plans to have a scholarship named in Mrs. Wasko’s honor, said her husband. The district also was working on plans to honor his wife, he said.
Michael H. Darga, superintendent of Allen Park Public Schools, said in a statement Sunday: “The entire school community is grieving the loss of Mrs. Wasko — she was well-respected and loved by the ‘(Jaguar) community.’ Our school community will come together as a family to celebrate Janet's life at the Martenson Funeral Home and at Saint Suzanne's. While we will miss Janet, her footprint on Allen Park High School and the Allen Park school community will remain forever.”
In a letter sent to staff, parents and students on Aug. 4 announcing that Mrs. Wasko was stepping down due to her declining health, Dargo said Mrs. Wasko was “leaving Allen Park High School in excellent shape and ready to continue its outstanding reputation for providing an excellent education to all of our students. In addition, she has been a significant contributor to the Allen Park Administrative Team.”
The letter continued: “We are so proud of the vast and varied accomplishments and initiatives that have flourished through Mrs. Wasko’s motivational leadership, collaboration and empowerment of staff over the past 17 years, which is the longest tenure principal in history at APHS. And, more than ever before, students were empowered to be participants in the school-improvement process, wellness, school culture and climate, safety and inclusion of special-needs students.”
Mrs. Wasko also was a former assistant principal at West Bloomfield High School. She served as an educator for 42 years, 23 of those in administration, according to school district.
In addition to her husband, Mrs. Wasko is survived by her sister Barbara Bos; and her brother, Thomas Pullman. Her brother Kent and parents preceded her in death.
Visitation will be noon to 8 p.m. Tuesday with a prayer service an hour before at the Allen Park Chapel of the Martenson Funeral home, 10915 Allen Road, in Allen Park.
A funeral Mass will be said for Mrs. Wasko 11 a.m. Wednesday at St. Suzanne Catholic Church, 19321 West Chicago, in Detroit.
Burial will be in Roselawn Cemetery in Royal Oak immediately after the funeral.