Jared Schaffner believes the key to success is having options.
As principal of Onalaska High School, seeing those options unfold for students is part of his everyday experience.
“I have an awesome job, and I am frequently reminded how fortunate I am to have the opportunity to work with young people,” Schaffner said. “Most teens are very reasonable, ready to listen to reasons why something can or can’t happen, and then willing to problem-solve to reach their desired outcome. High school students have such resilience and I marvel at the individuals that overcome great odds and thrive in an unstable environment.”
That’s why he always reminds students: “Make sure you give yourself options for the future.” He’s passionate about them having a choice. That attitude is a hallmark of his career.
Before becoming an administrator in Onalaska, Schaffner was an agri-science teacher in Pulaski, Wis. He earned a bachelor’s degree from the University of Wisconsin–River Falls in agriculture education, and then a master’s degree from UW–Milwaukee in educational administration.
“Under Jared’s principalship, and his focus on continuous improvement, Onalaska High School has increased the achievement levels of students consistently over the past eight years,” said Onalaska School Superintendent Fran Finco, one of two who nominated Schaffner for Rising Stars Under 40. “Onalaska High School was nominated by the Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction to the U.S. Department of Education as a National Blue Ribbon School — an award that was bestowed on OHS in 2015. He has promoted the expansion of our Advanced Placement classes to where OHS now has 14 AP offerings in which over 200 of our 460 11th- and 12th-grade students enrolled in at least one AP course in 2016-17. Under Jared’s vision and leadership, OHS has increased its composite ACT scores from 22.5 in 2012-13 to 24.1 in 2014-15.”
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Finco said Schaffner also has worked closely with teachers to create extra learning time and programs for those who need helped, worked with families to create a Wall of Fame to honor Onalaska High School students who served in the military and who gave their lives in defense of the country.
For the past two years, he’s also coordinated a recognition program in which family members of the deceased are honored and thanked. In addition, as a member of district’s Alumni Association, he has promoted the school’s Wall of Excellence, which honors former graduates, employees or community members who have gone above and beyond in their careers to carry on the district’s tradition of excellence.
Schaffner is far more willing to give credit to those around him than to himself.
“I’ve been blessed to be surrounded by great mentors and team members,” he said. “They’re the ones who help us all achieve our goals.”
In the end, though, it’s the students who make Schaffner realize how much it’s worth doing what he does every day, and the importance of the collective goals being achieved.
“Two years ago,” he said, “I watched 900 students give one of their peers (Allan Bonner) a loud, long standing ovation at an assembly. The recipient of the attention was not a talented athlete nor did he accomplish a rare academic achievement. Rather, he was recognized for being a high-character, thoughtful young man that always supported his peers. That assembly was a special moment and cemented my pride of our community and high school. It’s one of many reasons why we have chosen to raise our family here.”