The National Principal of the Year is from Wisconsin: One-on-one with Brookfield East’s Andy Farley

By Salina Heller

October 25, 2023

For the first time in decades, the national principal of the year is from Wisconsin. Brookfield East High School Principal Andy Farley said he is “tremendously and deeply humbled and honored” to be recognized in such a way.

Farley found out he won the country’s top principal prize last week, during the National Association of Secondary School Principals (NASSP) celebration in Washington, DC.

Once he landed back in Badgerland, we caught up with Farley:

UpNorthNews Reporter Salina Heller: How did you find out you were one of three finalists for National Principal of the Year? And what’s the first thing that went through your head?

Mr. Farley: I was on a zoom call with the NASSP in April. They first told me they wanted to write an article on how principals prepare for the upcoming school year, but then they announced I was one of three finalists!
I was surprised. I’m still surprised! There are so many amazing leaders in schools across the country.

Salina: You’ve been a student, a parent, a social studies teacher, and a principal at Brookfield East. Which role was the hardest or most rewarding?

Mr. Farley: Each came with unique challenges. I was a student in the 90s. I was a coach, too, along with the teacher role, and now I have two of my three kids here. All have been rewarding. There’s an amazing faculty. We build the potential of each student and have a front row seat to the success of each student. I am their biggest fan.

Salina: What’s the most unique thing you do as principal that sets you apart?

Mr. Farley: Parents and students submitted information as part of the nomination process. One student wrote, “Mr. Farley knows so many students.” In a school of 1,400, I challenge myself to know each student and have a conversation with them. I want to know their background and potential pathways. Relationships are transformational to be successful here and beyond Brookfield East.

Salina: How is being a principal today different than it was 10 years ago?

Mr. Farley: After the pandemic, we see how valued education is. We know that the roles between teacher and student are always constant. The greatest change is there are more opportunities to earn college credits. Nearly all of last year’s graduates left Brookfield East with at least one college credit. The US Department of Education named Brookfield East a 2023 National Blue Ribbon School and that means we’re closing the education gap.

Salina: What is one thing you’d like everyone to know about a principal’s job, that they may not?

Mr. Farley: It’s a comprehensive job. No day looks like the previous day. That’s the part I love the most. You’re constantly growing and evolving and it gives you a sense of passion and energy.

Salina: What do people get wrong about your job?

Mr. Farley: Sometimes they think we know everything. We have to be intentional with our decisions, making sure they align with our goals, mission, and values.

Salina: What do you wish you could do more of?

Mr. Farley: Really attempt to be in each teacher’s classroom everyday to see the brilliance in those classrooms! That’s my dream goal. I would truly value and appreciate that opportunity.

RELATED: The Best Of: Wisconsin Education in 2022

Author

  • Salina Heller

    A former 15-year veteran of reporting local news for western Wisconsin TV and radio stations, Salina Heller also volunteers in community theater, helps organize the Chippewa Valley Air Show, and is kept busy by her daughter’s elementary school PTA meetings. She is a UW-Eau Claire alum.

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