A Bellefonte Area High School Class of 1999 graduate is now the principal of the school he once attended.
“I like it, but it’s kind of a heavy responsibility because it’s my school and I’m passionate about it,” Mike Fedisson said. “A big part for me is doing the right things and making those people proud of what it is.”
New Bellefonte Area High School principal was a Class of ‘99 grad
Fedisson was approved for the position in May by the Bellefonte Area school board. The promotion came after a slew of leadership changes at district schools sparked by the retirement of a former elementary school principal.
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The retirement of former Marion-Walker Elementary School Principal Sharlene Yontosh was unanimously approved by the board in April.
Karen Krisch replaced Yontosh; Jennifer Brown then replaced Krisch as principal of Bellefonte Elementary School; and Fedisson, the former high school vice principal, replaced Brown as high school principal.
Becky Michaels also replaced Fedisson as high school vice principal; and former Bellefonte Area teacher and literacy coach Jacqueline Wynkoop replaced Michaels as vice principal at Bellefonte Area Middle School.
“There’s a really good vibe between us going into the school year, and at the high school we (Fedisson, Michaels and co-Vice Principal Dan Park) share all that leadership,” Fedisson said. “There are certain things I will do, but then there are specialty areas they oversee.”
School served by a principal and two vice principals, Becky Michaels and Dan Park
Among other responsibilities, Park helps oversee school safety initiatives and Michaels helps oversee the school’s positive behavior campaigns.
“We take turns sharing some of those other committees and working with teachers on planning, and obviously a lot of other things, but we’re with each other every day and we meet every week, and will go through things,” Fedisson said. “We also will regularly look at building goals and what the plans are for the year.”
Fedisson said his top priority is to help provide students with opportunities, and smoothly roll out new school initiatives.
For the first time this year, all students have been offered Chromebooks, which can be used in and outside of the classroom.
“I think the goal is we want the kids to have a variety of opportunity to achieve academic, social and emotional education, and make sure they have those opportunities through athletics, extracurriculars and academics for a well-rounded experience,” he said. “Personally there are also things I have to learn, too.”
But Fedisson said it’s not a position he’s nervous about. That’s because he said he’s worked at the district for about 15 years, including seven years at the high school, and lives by advice he got from a former high school teacher.
I was told one time, ‘just trust yourself; you’ve gotten to this point. Rely on those around you and trust yourself and if you do right by the students it’s going to work out’
Mike Fedisson, BAHS principal
“I was told one time, ‘just trust yourself; you’ve gotten to this point. Rely on those around you and trust yourself and if you do right by the students it’s going to work out,’ ” he said. “People won’t always agree with you, but if you’re genuine, then maybe they can respect it. If I can look myself in the mirror and I say, ‘we did what was right for the student whether they agree or not, then you can’t find fault in that.’ ”
His approach, Fedisson said, is to help students know he cares about them.
“You don’t want to get in the trap where you’re letting them get away with things because they’re not going to respect you for that, but you have to treat them like your own children,” Fedisson said. “You talk to them, and let them know of expectations and how things get fixed and then you build them up.”
Fedisson received an undergraduate degree from Lock Haven University, and received his master’s from California University of Pennsylvania. He started at the district as a long-term substitute teacher at the middle school, before working his way to principal.