The approachable administrator

The approachable administrator

Katey Devine, Sports Editor

Walking into the office of the principal in most situations could mean trouble or intimidation. The completely opposite vibe was given off when first-year New Berlin West principal Michael Fesenmaier greeted me into his office. I received nothing less than welcome, and saw only eagerness to answer the questions I had for him. To lighten the mood even further, he proceeded to show me one of his favorite acquirements: a Buzz Lightyear type toy gun given to him by a friend at District. Talk about friendly.

Be it principal, teacher, or student, transitioning into a new school is never easy. Fesenmaier seems to be taking on the transition in full stride. Though he’s new to our school, he has plenty of experience to back him up. After teaching at East Troy, he was an administrator at Eisenhower, Nicolet, Palmyra-Eagle, and our own district office.
Because of this, Fesenmaier has been acquainted with diverse people and different environments. He’s seen successes and failures alike and he’s using all of this prior knowledge in order to make our school as successful as it can be.

A main trend this school year is obviously all the changes, be them big or small, i.e. the schedule change and music in the hallways.

Fesenmaier explains the reason for the modifications is because “Schools were traditionally built on a factory model… [people] have traditionally got the same things, and we don’t believe that’s true in the way people learn… so how flexible and how individualized can we have that environment…”

All of these variations resort back to one central theme: learning. One thing Principal Fesenmaier wants everyone to know is his main purpose is all about learning.

“The conversation is really about what we do for students to help them be successful beyond high school,” was his answer with confidence. He explains the purpose for junior and senior year, a small fishbowl he called it, is to really prepare the students for the world when they leave high school. In a school where many students nowadays see high school simply as an “audition for college,” many are thankful for this approach.

As far as juniors are concerned, some changes regarding the ACT include practice tests earlier in the year and focusing individual support on the areas of challenge for each student. Ultimately, it’s all about making the students as comfortable not only with the content, but with taking the test as a whole.

For seniors, the discussion is about providing opportunities for them to follow their potential career path, whether that’s them participating in clubs, or taking classes off campus. He rhetorically asked, “How much information do we need about you as a student to be able to help guide what your future courses and your future plans and your future experiences are?”

Though there are many positives, there are obviously still places to improve upon. A main focus lies in testing. Between using assessments in the right way, and supporting students correctly, this is an area to grow.
One exciting implementation new this year is the Cross-Town Cup with Eisenhower. This competition between the varsity sports teams will last all year; each school will gain a point for every match, meet, or game they win against each other. It’s main purpose is to promote positive competition and involvement within the two schools.

Though mostly out of his control, the principal enthusiastically revealed his intentions on remaining in his position for the upcoming years, as he shared his vision for the school in the next few years. Without any hesitation in answering, he wants the school to be one of the best in the state and even the country, aiming to appear on all the nationally acclaimed lists. In regards to the students and school culture itself, he wishes for every student to find some school-oriented activity that they can connect and get involved with.

Before meeting with Mr. Fesenmaier, I had heard several students comment on his good-natured attitude and his approachability, easing my slight nerves. This is the general impression received by anyone who meets with the principal. One of his goals is to make people feel as welcome as possible in order to make school seem less like a chore on the majority of days.

“I’m not here for me,” he said. “If we’re successful as an organization, it’s because the students are successful. It’s that simple.”