by Michael Smith
For the last 15 years, Grain Valley High School has been like a second home for assistant principal Mike Tarrants.
This school year will be his last as he’s set to retire from being an administrator.
He said he decided to retire to help his wife, Marcy, with her consulting business for pharmaceuticals and to pursue some hobbies that he hasn’t been able to do while being a high school administrator.
Tarrants will be replaced by social studies teacher and assistant football coach Dominic Giangrosso for next school year.
“I really found my home here in Grain Valley,” Tarrants said. “I had opportunities to move and go other places and do other things, but I felt very fortunate and blessed to be in this community with great kids and staff. I never really considered going anywhere else.”
Tarrants has worked in the education field for 24 years, with nine of those years being spent as a teacher. He had stops at Fort Osage, Park Hill and Harrisonville as a social studies teacher and assistant football coach.
When he got to Harrisonville, that’s when he began to transition into an administration role.
“I had an opportunity to become the head coach at Harrisonville,” Tarrants said. “That’s when I had to decide which route I wanted to go with my career. I had two other job offers. One was as a head coach and teacher and the other was an assistant principal and I chose to come to Grain Valley.
“I knew several people in the community. And everyone in the community was supportive and the area was growing fast. There was a lot of upside potential.I always focused my career to do what’s best for kids, and that’s why I chose to be an administrator.”
He was hired at Grain Valley in 2006 by then principal Beth Mulvey along with current principal Jeremy Plowman. Once he arrived at Grain Valley, Tarrants was an assistant principal for four years, then he was an activities director for five years and has spent his last six years as an assistant principal.
After working with Tarrants for 15 years, Plowman admits there were times they didn’t see eye to eye but said they still made a great team.
“We are kind of like brothers,” Plowman said. “We fought the first week we worked together. We’ll probably fight on the last day we work together, but I know he always had my back. He always tried to do right by kids. Anyone who can do that as consistently as Mr. Tarrants has, is a pretty special guy.”
Added Tarrants: “We don’t always agree on things but we both want what is best for kids and Grain Valley High School. We are yin and yang. It’s worked for 15 years.
When the duo came to Grain Valley, Tarrants’ main focus was on discipline of students, while Plowman was more focused on improving education.
“We called (Tarrants) the sex, drugs and rock n’ roll guy,” Plowman said, referencing the types of issues Tarrants dealt with. “He always called me pretty boys because I handled all the nice things and he handled all the tough things.
“He has a special ability to make teachers feel supported. He’s the go-to guy for students, especially the ones who see him for discipline. He’s their voice of reason and voice of sanity for whatever they are dealing with.”
Looking back at his 15 years at Grain Valley, Tarrants said he will miss being an administrator but will cherish his decade and a half working with students at the school.
“I run into former students and see the success they have as adults,” Tarrants said. “I hope I had a little bit of positive influence on them and hopefully steered the youth in the right direction. The whole point of my career was to have a positive impact on kids. Now that I am retiring there will be a void there.”
Now, Tarrants has two more months until his administration career comes to a close. Will there be a retirement party for him?
“I hope not,” Tarrants quipped. “I am not that kind of guy. Yeah, I am sure they are (planning one). I threatened the admin staff that I wasn’t going to work the last week of school.”
While, Tarrants time is over as an administrator, he said he still plans on being a volunteer assistant coach for the football team. He helps out with coaching the offensive line and said there is still some unfinished business.
“I want to continue having those relationships with the kids and the coaching staff,” Tarrants said. “It’s always hard to leave something you are passionate about and coaching gives me an avenue to still work with kids.
“We have come close to winning a state title at Grain Valley. I have coached at two other schools that won state titles. That’s something I am still on a mission to do. We talk about it as a staff, we want to get a state title to Grain Valley. I still think about that when I lay my head on the pillow at night.”
Photo credit: Grain Valley Schools