By Celine Klosterman
The former activities director at Regina Junior/Senior High School in Iowa City will officially begin work Aug. 1 as principal of St. James Elementary School in Washington.
Chet Wisniewski has already started the transition process of meeting school staff and working with outgoing principal Teresa Beenblossom, who has accepted a job as principal of Kalona Elementary and Washington Township Elementary.
His position as St. James’ principal follows 43 years of service in public and Catholic schools in Iowa and Nebraska. After earning a bachelor’s degree in education from Hiram Scott College in Scottsbluff, Neb., in 1970, he served as teacher, athletic director and coach at St. Mary’s School in O’Neill, Neb. Later, he taught social studies and coached football, track and wrestling at Catholic high schools in Omaha. After teaching physical education and serving as athletic director in Ogden, Iowa, he joined St. Edmund’s in Fort Dodge in 1976. He spent 15 years at that Catholic school, where he coached football, wrestling and track and started a women’s softball program.
Wisniewski left Fort Dodge in 1991 after earning a master’s degree in educational administration at Drake University in Des Moines. He then served as a principal in Paton-Churdan Community Schools and, later, in Woodbury Central Community Schools. In 2006, he joined Regina as activities director.
At St. James, “Chet impressed the interview committee and school board members with his passion for Catholic education, his varied experiences as teacher, coach, athletic director and principal, and his overall energy and enthusiasm,” Ryan Flannery said. He is president of St. James’ board of education
At the PreK-5 school, he said he hopes to build on the “tremendous foundation” that Beenblossom laid. “My job is to make sure we maintain the academic excellence we have here and keep our Catholic beliefs intact.”
Wisniewski also aims to make sure more people know about St. James. “I’ve talked to people who didn’t know Washington has a Catholic school,” he said. “It’s the best-kept secret in eastern Iowa.”
For his first year at the school, he plans to commute from his Iowa City home. He and his wife Beverly, an educational associate at Coralville Central Elementary, may move to Washington next year, he said.
The spouses belong to St. Patrick Parish in Iowa City. Their oldest son, Craig, teaches at Clarke Community Schools in Osceola, Iowa, and son Matt will teach at Don Bosco High School in Gilbertville this fall. A third son, David, died while piloting an Air Force helicopter in Afghanistan in 2010.
The couple has two grandchildren: Hannah, 9, and Cael, 3.