By Jeffrey Jensen
Great Lakes Higher Education Corp. & Affiliates

What does it take to serve as principal of a Madison public school? To find out, two Great Lakes Higher Education Corporation & Affiliates employees shadowed the principals of two Northside schools on Oct. 11 through the Foundation for Madison’s Public School’s annual A Principal Experience program.

Tammy Kielhofer, Great Lakes’ chief servicing officer, spent the day with Gompers Elementary School Principal Jackie Smith and attended a school assembly, visited classrooms and talked with students. “I really admire how much the school staff cares,” Kielhofer said. “Everyone working there is passionate about helping the kids succeed.”

After a day of meeting with students alongside Black Hawk Middle School Principal Jamie Sims, Stephanie Well, a print and mail technician at Great Lakes, agreed. “The principal, teachers, all the staff, they radiate positive energy,” she said. “It’s a great environment for learning.”

For the past 14 years, local business and community leaders have been welcomed into Madison’s schools to see exactly what principals and school staff do each day. This year, six Northside schools hosted “principal partners.”

This was the fifth year Great Lakes employees participated in A Principal Experience. According to Smith, this collaborative effort connects the Northside community and gives educators and local leaders a chance to share ideas and resources. “It really helps forge partnerships that support students,” she said. Both Smith and Sims have seen firsthand that this sort of community/school collaboration works.

In 2013 the employees of Great Lakes adopted Black Hawk as part of the Foundation’s Adopt-a-School program. They added Gompers, which shares a campus with Black Hawk, the following year. Since then, employees have supported students annually with donations of snacks, school supplies, books and more.

Kielhofer wasn’t prepared for all the thank yous she received when students learned she was from Great Lakes. “All the hugs were nice,” she said.

Melinda Heinritz, executive director of the Foundation for Madison’s Public Schools, knows that incredible things happen in the school district every day. “That’s why the foundation created A Principal Experience,” she said. “We wanted to open that world up and let the community in.”

If you’re interested in learning more about A Principal Experience or participating in 2018, contact Mary Bartzen at the Foundation for Madison’s Public Schools at