New principal approvedWisniewski said teaching is a collaborative effort
Chet Wisniewski, the new principal at St. James Elementary, said today that he feels that God has put him where he is meant to be now as he takes over the center seat at the school.
For the last several days, Wisniewski has been working with outgoing principal Teresa Beenblossom to prepare for the coming school year. He said that he feels he and Beenblossom have much the same philosophy of administration, but he still said that he plans to confer with Beenblossom throughout the coming year. Beenblossom left the position to take a principalship in Mid-Prairie school district. On Wednesday evening, the St. James Board approved Wisniewski’s contract.
“I think it was a calling from God to say ‘this is where I need you now,’” Wisniewski said. “‘These people need you to take over. Teresa has done a great job and I need someone who can continue to build the cornerstone and continue to build a quality education in our faith beliefs.’”
Wisniewski believes making a school run to its best effect is a collaborative effort. He said that working with the faculty is important. He got his first opportunity to meet most of the staff during a special learning event held by the Washington School District at the Riverside Casino and Golf Resort earlier this week.
Having been an athlete or a coach most of his life, he likened being a principal to being a coach. He said the important point he is hoping to implement is that everyone in the school is a team and has to work as one entity for the common good – to ensure that quality learning is happening at St. James.
“You have to find out what pushes the buttons to the players with buttons you need pushed,” he said. “You have to be there for them.”
Originally from Pennsylvania, Wisniewski moved to Connecticut early in life. He attended Sacred Heart University in Bridgeport, and finished his degree at Hiram Scott College — now the University of Nebraska at Scottsbluff – when Sacred Heart dropped its football program. He worked as a social studies, health and physical education teacher in O’Neill, Nebraska.
Moving on in his career, Wisniewski taught at the all-boy Omaha-Rummel. The school later became Omaha-Roncalli when it merged with two girls’ Catholic schools. He said that in 1991, he became principal at Payton-Turdan. He said that the decision to move to a larger district came as his son David was preparing to go into high school.
“David’s goal and commitment was to attend the United States Air Force Academy,” Wisniewski said. “Paton-Churdan had about 12 students in its graduating class. I knew for him to be successful, I had to get into a bigger institution. That’s when I left and went to Woodbury Central.”
He remained at Woodbury Central as principal for 12 years. He said that his mother and mother-in-law had both died within 17 hours of each other in 2006, highlighting the importance of becoming more family oriented, he said.
Iowa City Regina had an opening for an activities director, which Wisniewski took in 2006. While there, he found himself with increasingly more duties. He began to think about his priorities in life and determined they would be, in order, God, family and school. He said that he had accomplished quite a bit, but felt it was time to walk away and focus on his first passion of elementary administration. From there, he moves to St. James.
“My heart has always been in administration – and administration on the elementary side,” he said.
He also said that his son had made it to the Air Force Academy. On the wall of his new office, Wisniewski has a painting of a helicopter honoring his son’s service as a search and rescue pilot with the 66th Air Rescue Squadron.
Wisniewski said that his son, Capt. David Wisniewski, was shot down in 2010 in Afghanistan on his seventh tour. He died three weeks later. Wisniewski said that David Wisniewski has become the inspiration to keep going.
“At the end of every e-mail and every letter he would put a P.S. saying ‘I do this so you can stay safe at night,’” Wisniewski said.