Derrick Fries

A photo of Derrick Fries.

Associate Professor

Special Education and Communication Sciences and Disorders

106 John W. Porter Building


[email protected]


  • BA, 1976, Michigan State University, Education
  • MA, 1979, Oakland University, Special Education
  • Ph.D., 1993, University of Michigan, Educational Administration


Derrick Fries is an associate professor at Eastern Michigan University in the Department of Special Education. Following his doctoral degree in Educational Administration at the University of Michigan in 1993, Dr. Fries became the principal of Avondale Middle School in Auburn Hills, Michigan. In 2001, Avondale Middle School became a Blue Ribbon Exemplary School under Dr. Fries’ leadership. In 2002, Dr. Fries became deputy superintendent of Avondale Schools where he held the positions of special education director, community education director and K–12 curriculum director. In 2007 after beginning his tenure-track professorship at EMU, Fries began an extensive research project examining the consequences of the new Michigan Merit Curriculum and its ultimate effects on high school graduation rates.

Dr. Fries is one of few educators in Michigan to have earned both Oakland County Teacher of the Year (1986) and Michigan Middle School Principal of the Year (2001) during his 31 year K–12 public school career. Dr. Fries was also a NASA Teacher in Space finalist in 1986 and is the author of the world’s most famous Learn to Sail book entitled Start Sailing Right. This book, now owned by US Sailing, has sold over 1.3 million copies and is translated into six different languages. In 2006, Fries was nominated into the International Sailing World Hall of Fame. From 1975 to 2001 he has won six sailing World Titles and 15 National/North American Titles. He was a Collegiate All-American in sailing in 1973 and 1974 while attending Michigan State University. During the summers of 2008–15 he competed in over 114 triathlons and has been a United States Triathlon “All- American” the past seven years. During the summer of 2013 he won his first National US Triathlon Title in Cleveland, Ohio and won a National US Triathlon again in 2015 in St Paul, MN, setting a new American Course Record in the 60–64 age group. In 2014 he published his seventh book entitled Educating At-Risk and Special Education Boys: A Great American K–12 Tragedy. For the past 20 years he has served as an expert witness on special education cases around the U.S., doing mostly defense work.

Publications and Presentations

Selected Publications

  • Educating At-Risk and Special Education Boys: A Great American K-12 Tragedy October 2013 Pearson Publications, Boston, MA
Peer Review Publications
  • Development of an outcome assessment tool for teen parent wraparound program. October 2021 School Social Work Journal 37, (1) 36-53
  • Wraparound Services: Infusion into Secondary Schools as a Dropout Prevention Strategy. June 2012, NASSP Vol. 96 (Special Education Research)
  • Run, Swim, March: Extra-curricular Activities Motor Emerson Benefits and Remediation for Autism" Center for Educational Networking, Winter 2009, Michigan Department of Education
  • Alternative Resolutions to Behaviorally Challenged Students" Michigan Elementary and Middle School Principals Association Jan. 2005 Key Issues
  • "Meeting the Needs of all Students" Co-authored with Helene Mills Educational Periodical Publication NASSP February 1984 Vol.26