Jeff Meisenheimer, principal of Lee’s Summit North High School, says the hardest thing about his job is managing time.
Usually three nights a week during the school year, he wants to attend extracurricular events, academic awards (one of his favorite events) a concert, play or a game.
“And of course I want to spend time with my own family,” Meisenheimer said.
During the days, he looks at hundreds of emails from students, teachers and parents with questions, and all are eager for answers.
Through the week, he weaves into his schedule observing and coaching teachers in classrooms and administrative team meetings. He tries to get into the halls as about 1,850 students change classes or dismiss for the day. He interviews prospective teachers for next year.
He said many aspects of his job fall in place because he’s surrounded by great teachers, bosses in administration and his own administrative staff.
For his skill in juggling all those duties, Meisenheimer has been named Principal of the Year by the Greater Kansas City Missouri Principals Association. As their honoree, he goes on to the statewide competition.
Meisenheimer said the best thing about the award is being recognized by peers who understand the challenges of the position.
Tim Collins, an assistant principal who was Meisenheimer’s first hire when he took the LSN job four years ago, nominated his boss.
“We have three new assistant principals this year and he coaches and supports them unconditionally,” Collins said. “The staff responds well to his leadership style and he is constantly pushing them to improve as educators.”
Meisenheimer said he tries to inspire a culture of “leadership service,” where administrators find ways to help teachers, who in turn can help students. He said his teachers are often the best recruiters to encourage other talented teachers to come to Lee’s Summit.
“If teachers enjoy their jobs, the kids are going to enjoy going to their classrooms, and they’re going to learn more from them,” Meisenheimer said.
He said he had a great mentor in John Faulkenberry at Lee’s Summit High School, where Meisenheimer was an assistant principal. He’s also served as a teacher, and an assistant principal at Hickman Mills High School.
He said Faulkenberry gave him meaningful duties, which helped train his for his role as a principal.
As one example of improving the school’s culture, Meisenheimer said, the school surveyed students several years ago and learned one big deficit was how “institutional” the structure felt.
Long stretches of walls were bland and blank.
“There wasn’t anything that screamed Lee’s Summit North or the school colors,” Meisenheimer said.
The school began to break up the monotony on walls using school colors, posters, signs and photographs taken by yearbook staff.
The school also instituted Bronco Time, a 30-minute study period offered three days each week, where students can go to spend time with the teacher of their choice and get help with a particular subject or do homework.
A lot of the school clubs meet at that time as well, giving freshmen and sophomores who ride the bus more opportunity to participate. Students who are in extracurricular activities tend to do better in school, he said.
“It doesn’t matter what it is, if you get them involved, they perform better academically,” Meisenheimer said.
Meisenheimer said he uses Twitter and Facebook and a new marquee in front of the school to make sure he can communicate with everyone, to celebrate student success and make sure teachers and students feel like they are valuable members of the school.
“I don’t know that I’m a great principal. I work with great people who make me look good,” Meisenheimer said. “I love my job. You have to feel like you’re making a difference.”