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Conohan tabbed as new principal

Former MCPASD teacher sees great promise at Heights


August 24, 2017

Chris Conohan was named the new principal at Wisconsin Heights High School and Middle School earlier this week.

As Chris Conohan looked at the Wisconsin Heights School District, he saw potential, promise, hope and excitement.

It's one of the main reasons Conohan was intrigued when the position of principal became available at the middle school/high school.

Like so many things in his life, Conohan attacked the opening with passion. And Monday night, the Board of Education approved Conohan to become the next principal at Wisconsin Heights High School and Middle School.

"Wisconsin Heights has always been a location that I've enjoyed in the sense that it's near Madison, it's in Dane County, but it's managed to keep its rural roots," Conohan said Tuesday morning. "I look out here and see larger businesses coming and staying, houses are being built in subdivisions again, and there's a nice mix of veteran staff and new staff.

"Talking with (district administrator) Jordan Sinz, I felt we had very similar philosophies and visions. That made Wisconsin Heights a very appealing place for me."

For 13 years, Conohan taught students from second through sixth grade in the Middleton-Cross Plains Area School District. Conohan's first 10 years were at Elm Lawn Elementary and the past three were at Kromrey Middle School.

In that time, Conohan spent nine years coaching basketball at Middleton, two at Wisconsin Heights and last year at Sauk Prairie. Interestingly, Conohan's year in Sauk was integral to his current career move.

"(Sauk Prairie) was a key stop for me because I spent a lot of extra time there interacting with the players and other students in the area," Conohan said. "Had I not stopped there, I don't know if I would've ever considered high school for an educational environment."

Conohan earned his bachelors degree from Edgewood College and UW-Madison. Then in 2016, he earned a masters degree in Educational Leadership from Viterbo University.

At the end of the 2015-16 school year, Conohan spent two months as the interim principal at West Middleton Elementary. It was during that time that Conohan fully realized how much he wanted to become a principal.

"That was a fantastic experience," Conohan said of being the interim principal at West Middleton. "I loved the staff, students and culture of the school.

"It cemented for me that I could serve a school community in that role. That's been my goal ever since, and I'm excited to serve the Wisconsin Heights School District now."

Conohan now sees a Wisconsin Heights School District filled with possibilities. Conohan likes where Heights is in many categories, and will begin exploring ways to make certain areas even better.

"I see schools that are performing well academically," Conohan said. "There's fine educators here and family support. That's a credit to the community.

"Whether coaching or teaching, theres always ways to look at the numbers and set new goals. Jordan (Sinz) is already starting that, to see how we can continue to grow.

"As for what I want to change, I'm working to collect some of those goals from staff and set a collective path for us to take. By facilitating that conversation, I think the highest priority changes will rise to the surface. As I get to know the school and district again, I'll see what else I think needs tweaking. For the most part, I'd like to do that with committees and input."

Conohan has always been a people person. He views relationship building as a vital part of his job, and a former colleague at West Middleton once described him as a "manager of human beings."

Chris Conohan spent 13 years in the Middleton-Cross Plains Area School District before being named principal at Wisconsin Heights High School and Middle School earlier this week.

That will be the approach Conohan takes as he tries making Wisconsin Heights High School and Middle School the best they can both be.

"Leadership is always about people," Conohan said. "In that sense, I like to be open and inviting. I like to reach out. Through training and experience, I like to facilitate next steps through a collaborative process. Voice and ownership go a long way for students and staff.

"I'd like most of what we do here to evolve that way. When challenging decisions need to be made, I'll be on it. But a collaborative approach yields longer-lasting results. 

"My primary goal is getting to know the staff, students and culture of the building. I'll be very intentional in getting to know whose lives are in these walls and how they exist outside of these walls. That will be ongoing. I want to get a grasp of each department and their scope and sequence."


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