Another friend and community leader is gone, so my first blog post rolls with the punches and completely changes its focus. Welcome to 'Home Port.'
Waukesha is a community that cares about its kids, and demands alot of its parents and caretakers. In our schools, high expectations are the norm. Students often attain astonishing results, individually and as teams. Some achievements even blare like a trumpet. Waukesha West's Academic Decathlon blue ribbon in 2002 and consistently high national decathlon rankings are the best examples. But the majority of achievements happen on a smaller, quieter, more local scale -- throughout Waukesha, in dozens of neighborhoods, in individual schools.
For most of our families, our children's journey begins in one of our seventeen primary age public schools. Teachers, and principals like Dennis Bissett, who died peacefully at home on the Tuesday morning following Independence Day, are the backbones of these elementary schools. Without a doubt, Dennis, who was a dynamic teacher and principal, was one of the most experienced people within our K-12 school system.
Never the slacker, he worked in the School District of Waukesha for 39 years! Most recently, as principal of Waukesha's largest primary age school for many years, (Summit View Elementary), 'Mister Bissett' influenced, educated and entertained hundreds of children, teachers and others who were fortunate enough to intersect his path.
He was also a tireless community volunteer. Dennis was the School Superintendent's choice to represent the public schools on the Waukesha Public Library Board. He had an intelligent and outspoken presence that served him well as one of the Board's leaders, as Secretary of the Executive Board. As a library administrator colleague, we chatted about our lives, collaborated and decided on tough personnel issues and spent long hours negotiating around various union bargaining tables. Dennis was always fair, firm, and in the end, humorous. It's no coincidence that these are also qualifications that define outstanding leaders, teachers, and parents.
When describing his life, Dennis would choose sweet over bittersweet, zest over rest. He eagerly and enthusiastically passed his educational beliefs and open-hearted warm personality on to kids, teachers, parents and others who walked or sprinted into his 61-year life.
Thanks, 'Mister Bissett,' for spending 10,000 days helping our children develop their characters, minds, creativity, team spirits, and senses of humor. They will be far better people because of you.
It was a pleasure sharing this ride on life's sweet roller coaster. In the Spring, we will plant an apple tree in your memory. Shalom.