By Grace McCormick
At first glance, Mr. Chad Hissong may seem like an ordinary principal – having years of experience in education, dressed in a button-down shirt and tie, talking to students and teachers throughout the day. However, Mr. Hissong differs from the traditional by-the-book leader of a school. When he specialized in the discipline of students from 1997 to 1999, serving as the dean of students at Hamilton Southeastern High School, Mr. Hissong liked to consider how his decisions would personally affect the students.
“Whenever you’re making a decision,” Mr. Hissong said, “you always have to think about how it will affect the individual student.”
In 1989, Mr. Hissong began his career in education as a teacher and coach at Hamilton Southeastern Middle School. He has worked with Fort Wayne Community Schools (FWCS) for the past ten years. From 2008 to 2010, Mr. Hissong was principal of Elmhurst High School; he
was also principal of North Side High School from 2010 to 2016 and Director of Student and Family Support Services at the Family and Community Engagement Center of FWCS from 2016 to 2018.
Being principal of Snider was an opportunity Mr. Hissong gladly seized.
“I was looking forward to being a principal again and being involved with students,” he said.
Mr. Hissong spent the first days of being principal introducing himself to students. On Wednesday, April 11, he met with the student council to discuss the changes the school needs.
On Monday, March 26, Mr. Hissong was approved by the FWCS Board of School Trustees to be Snider’s new principal. With fewer than two months left in the school year, Mr. Hissong does not plan to make any drastic changes. He will focus on building relationships with teachers.
“My focus for the rest of the school year is getting teachers excited about teaching,” he said, “so they can come back next year and feel refreshed and ready to prepare students to learn.”
To be a good principal, Mr. Hissong believes that he must be upbeat and have a positive attitude.
“If I’m not happy, then the teachers aren’t happy,” he said, “and the teachers’ attitudes affect the students.”
When he met with the Student Council, Mr. Hissong realized the school population needs more spirit. The Student Council plans to have a spirit week before finals of this school year.
“Spirit week doesn’t have to be connected to a sport,” Mr. Hissong said. “We’re doing a spirit week because this school needs spirit.”
Next school year, as part of his goal to bring back spirit, Mr. Hissong wants to initiate “theme Fridays” in which students and teachers will dress according to a certain theme.
It was rumored that Mr. Hissong wanted students to wear uniforms.
“I don’t even like dressing this way,” he said, indicating his suit and tie. “Friday is the day I wear jeans.”
Because he wears more casual clothing on Friday, it is Mr. Hissong’s favorite day of the week. Friday night football games are another feature that Mr. Hissong loves.
“Being a principal, you get to be a part of all that activity and excitement in Friday night football games, band competitions, Academic Super Bowl,” he said.
Seeing students get involved in school activities is something Mr. Hissong enjoys. He wants to work together with Mr. Mark Guitard and a group of students next year to videotape students getting involved in community events.
“Bringing back videography will show other students the cool things that their friends are doing,” he said.
Graduation Pathways recently changed the graduation requirements for students in Indiana. These new expectations will be mandatory for the freshmen of the 2019-2020 school year. Mr. Hissong believes the new requirements will have a beneficial effect on students and the school.
“Students are part of a community,” he said, “and I want them to realize that you can’t just live off the community, you have to give back to it.”
Snider offers many opportunities for volunteer and community service hours, something that will be expected of the graduating class of 2023.
The goal of the new graduation requirements coincides with Mr. Hissong’s goal for students: to prepare each individual student for whatever path they plan to take after high school.
“I don’t care what you want to be, I don’t care if you want to be a dump truck driver,” Mr. Hissong said, “but if you want to be a dump truck driver, I want you to be the best dump truck driver that you can be.”
His motivational language is derived from when Mr. Hissong coached wrestling and football at Hamilton Southeastern Schools.
“I teach the same way I coach,” he said, “just as hyper, just as motivated, just as inspirational.”
Considering his experience in education, it might seem that Mr. Hissong would get bored with his job.
“I like all of [my job],” he said. “I like being a part of parents raising their children.”
One of Mr. Hissong’s goals as principal is to help each student get the resources they need to succeed.
“I firmly believe that all students have the ability to succeed,” he said. “Just like the parents, I want their child to be successful too.”
Neither Mr. Hissong’s mother nor father went to a university, but they both had high hopes for their sons and encouraged them to pursue higher education.
“It was very important to my parents that all of their boys went to universities,” he said. “My brothers were the ones that inspired me to become a teacher.”
The youngest of five children, with the closest in age to him being ten years his elder, Mr. Hissong said he “was basically raised an only child.”
Two of Mr. Hissong’s brothers were teachers and coaches in Fort Wayne, and he has nieces who are also educators. He said that his children didn’t want to pursue a career in education.
“I think they saw how many hours I put into my work,” he said, “and wanted to pursue an easier field.”
Mr. Hissong has pictures of his three children and wife of 29 years on his desk. His eldest daughter works as a pharmacist, his son studies accounting at the University of Louisville and his youngest daughter is currently in the middle of her sophomore year of high school.
Talking with parents about their children’s education is an aspect of Mr. Hissong’s job that he enjoys. With the new graduation requirements quickly approaching, Mr. Hissong expects more communication from parents.
“Parents can’t be passive,” he said. “They’re going to have to be actively involved in their child’s education.”
Mr. Hissong hopes students will talk with their parents about the projects they are doing in school.
“When students are excited to talk about their schoolwork, that means we’re doing a good job,” he said.
With the goals of videotaping students getting involved in the community and bringing back school spirit, it is clear that Mr. Hissong wants students to have fun in school.
“The student council and I want to get people to smile again,” he said, “[and] get students excited about coming to school.”
One of Mr. Hissong’s goals is to create a healthy learning environment for students and teachers alike.
“The reason we’re all here is to benefit each other,” he said. “We have the resources to serve students of all ability levels.”
Mr. Hissong takes responsibility for providing each student with the support they need to succeed.
“If a student is struggling in school, then it is my responsibility to talk to their teacher and their parents,” he said, “and get them the resources they need.”
As he speaks about his goals and his relationship with teachers, it is obvious that Mr. Hissong is enthusiastic about his job. He credits this enthusiasm to students.
“I derive my energy from students,” he said.
Talking with students about school and their ideas to make it better is another enjoyable facet of Mr. Hissong’s work.
“I love hearing feedback from students,” he said. “Students have a really good feel for what our school needs to do better.”
Mr. Hissong thinks the Snider community could use more positivity.
“We’ve got to start a happiness movement,” he said.
His positive attitude is especially noticeable when he speaks of his goals to bring back school spirit.
“We want people to be proud to be a Panther,” Mr. Hissong said, “not just obligated.”
Spirit weeks, building relationships with teachers and talking to students are all practices Mr. Hissong thinks will result in a school community people can be proud of.
Mr. Hissong takes pride in many of his accomplishments as a school principal, his proudest being building North Side High School’s Collegiate Connection program. He is also pleased with the number of students who have graduated from schools where he was principal.
“Nothing makes a principal feel happier than being able to shake the hands of successful students,” he said, “and being able to give them the ticket to anything they want to do in life.”
Being able to congratulate students is why graduation day is Mr. Hissong’s favorite day of the school year.
“I’m probably more excited about graduation day than some of the graduates,” he said.
Mr. Hissong’s second favorite day of the school year is prom night.
“I get to announce the people on the court,” he said, “and I get to make it as dramatic as I want.”
One of Mr. Hissong’s goals as principal of Snider is to make students’ high school experience as enjoyable as possible.
Mr. Hissong attended a public high school after attending a Lutheran elementary and middle school. He went to Ball State University for his bachelor’s and master’s degrees and completed his education at Indiana University to earn his Specialist in Education Degree.
When he started his career, Mr. Hissong realized the necessary skills he had to have to be a principal.
“You have to be a great communicator,” he said.
Mr. Hissong knows that he has to talk with administrators and teachers on a regular basis to achieve his goal of a positive learning environment.
“We don’t want anyone feeling higher or lower than anyone else,” he said. “We want everyone to have equal footing.”
Mr. Hissong loves to hear students’ concerns about problems at school. He left his meeting with the student council on April 11 inspired and eager to start making Snider better.
Mr. Hissong wants to reach out to other clubs and students about making the school a better place. The Embracers Club, a new group started by sophomore Elijah Conley, is on his list.
“The Embracers Club, that’s the people I want to talk to,” he said. “I can talk to them about my happiness movement!”
As Mr. Hissong builds relationships with teachers and students during the last two months of the school year, he is hopeful that his upbeat attitude will spread throughout the school and everyone will come back next year eager to learn.