Some had heard ominous information on television or on the radio, but when the employees at Dearborn Public Schools’ administration offices were asked to congregate in conference room Monday morning, their worst fears were confirmed.
Robert Cipriano–the district’s 52-year-old business services director and the financial whiz that helped guide the district through rough fiscal waters for 12 years–was Monday morning.
It was a confirmation that no one wanted to believe, said Dave Mustonen, the district’s spokesman.
“The employees in this office, the (superintendent’s) cabinet, were told as they came in,” he said. “Other administrative employees were told in a conference room.
“There was shock, and tears, when people were told,” he said. They just couldn’t believe it.”
Adding to the sadness is the fact that Robert Cipriano’s 19-year-old son, Tucker Robert Cipriano, , according to the Farmington Hills Police Department.
Cipriano's wife and his 17-year-old son, Salvatore, who were also severely beaten, are in critical condition at Botsford Hospital. His other two children–Salvatore's twin brother Tanner and an 8-year-old daughter–were in the home at the time of the attack, and escaped injury.
Dearborn Community 'Devastated' by Cipriano's Death
Cipriano, who DPS colleagues remembered as an amiable co-worker and friend, came to the district in July 2000 from Oakwood Healthcare. According to schools sources, Cipriano was not a “behind the desk” administrator; he preferred to work directly with principals and employees, and attended games and events after hours.
“Bob made students the priority,” said Brian Whiston, the superintendent of Dearborn Schools. “If we had to make cuts, he would want to know how it would impact the classroom; if we were going to spend additional dollars, he wanted to make sure it was being spent to help students learn.”
School Board Trustee James Schoolmaster said he was shocked by Monday’s events.
“I’m devastated by this,” he said. “He was our top financial person at the district, but he was also a very good man, and he was a very caring person. He was fabulous.”
Other employees also expressed their sadness, and support for the family.
“This is a great loss for Dearborn Public Schools," Parent Liaison Nadia Dakroub commented on Dearborn Patch. “He was a very intelligent man who handled great economic challenges within our district these past few years. Our deepest sympathy and prayers go to the family.”
Eddie Fakhoury, the president of the Dearborn Education Foundation, called Robert Cipriano “a great friend.”
“We are praying that God will extend his wife and child strength and a full recovery as they continue to fight as they are still in critical condition (and) also for the other two children,” he said on the Dearborn Patch Facebook page.
Cipriano a 'Familiar Face' at Novi's Catholic Central
Rev. John Huber, the principal of Detroit Catholic Central High School in Novi, where Robert Cipriano’s twin sons attended classes, said he’s heartbroken by the turn of events.
“Bob was a familiar face here at school,” said Huber. “He and (his wife) were here all of the time; Bob was very active in our Dad’s Club, which raises money for families that cannot afford (tuition). He worked security for our events and was a very, very dedicated volunteer."
Huber added that representatives from the school, including the dean of students and the athletic director, have visited Botsford Hospital to show support for the Cipriano family.
Others that knew the Ciprianos have also expressed their shock.
Stephanie Dickow Surowiec's daughter goes to St. Fabian School in Farmington Hills with the Ciprianos' 8-year-old daughter, who was unharmed in the incident. The two girls were on a swim team at the Farmington YMCA.
While she didn't know Bob Cipriano well, Surowiec said she had "wonderful, positive experiences" with his wife as the families carpooled for swim meets.
"I was shocked, and everyone I have talked to from the St. Fabian community is just shocked," Surowiec said, "especially given the nature of the crime."
Mary Burck, a resident of Farmington Hills, was one of only a handful to address Robert Cipriano's relationship with Tucker Cipriano directly.
"God bless you Bob," she wrote on Facebook. "You were one of the best fathers I have ever met. No one did more than these parents to try and help their son. Just a wonderful person and friend, always willing to mentor and help others. You and (your wife) never gave up, trying so hard to set things right. I will never forget how much you both loved Tucker and how hard you tried to
Huber of Detroit Catholic Central said it’s important for those who knew and loved Robert Cipriano to focus on Bob’s family as they go through what will be a difficult transition.
“Bob loved his children,” he said. “It’s a horrible tragedy, and as much as we need to remain strong for Bob’s family, this is something that’s difficult to even try to understand.”