Stepping up

Miesnik takes over as acting principal at Marist

These days, Alice Miesnik’s face glows as she walks through the halls of Marist High School. An assistant principal there since 1997, Miesnik became acting principal just after New Year’s, when Marist Brother Donnell Neary – principal since last July – became ill and needed time to recuperate.
“In my 13 years as assistant principal, I had not anticipated ever becoming principal,” Miesnik said.
Although offered similar positions elsewhere in the past, Miesnik said she had no ambitions to move beyond the position she held at Marist.
“When I was asked to consider it this time, I took a day or two to think about it, and then I decided it felt right,” she said. “Everything fell together for me.”


“When I met with the faculty, I told them I would give this 100 percent.” – Alice Miesnik

She was approached on Jan. 4 and took over as acting principal on Jan. 7.
Marist High School has 413 students, most of whom come from Bayonne and Jersey City, although some students come from as far away as Irvington and Newark.
In taking the role, she becomes the first female principal at the school, although she said she hasn’t yet made up her mind whether or not to submit her name to the search committee to become more than just the acting principal.
“When I met with the faculty, I told them I would give this 100 percent,” she said. “I’m not going to be just a finger in the dike.”
She called this “a calling.”
“That’s how I feel about this,” she said. “This isn’t my wanting something. I’m being called to do this, and that feels right to me.”
The Marist education, she said, involves “mind, body, and spirit.” Her role in the past was focused on the mind. In her new role, she must oversee all three aspects – and for some of these she must delegate duties. “No one person has to do it all,” she said.
She believes the school was on solid footing before she took over, and it is her goal to keep it there.

Symbols are key

Small things matter to her – such as rearranging her office and installing small, symbolic reminders of her mission: a lantern, two paintings, and a scroll. This may come from her years of teaching literature, and her understanding of the power symbols play in people’s lives, evoking a sense of faith and personal courage.
From when she was a small girl, Miesnik wanted to be a teacher. She got her degree in teaching from the University of Delaware in Willimgton, and her master’s in Villanova. She received her second master’s in administration from Seton Hall University.
As a freshman at the University of Delaware, she felt a strong calling to the religious life, and a year later entered the Felican Sisters order. She spent the next three years completing her education before teaching for 11 years in a variety of schools. She taught for six years at Immaculate Conception High School in Lodi and at other schools before she decided to leave the order.
While her years in the order were happy ones, “I felt the calling to join the order just as I felt called to leave it,” she said.
A friend of hers at Marist said the school was looking for an English teacher. She applied.
Miesnik arrived at Marist one year after the school went co-ed.
She found a guiding light in the compassion in the Marist order’s founder, Marcellin Champagnat. She recalled the story of how on the road in France, he discovered a dying boy who could not read or write and had not heard of God, and his mission became one of educating children.
When offered the job as assistant principal, Miesnik also had to make a critical decision in giving up the classroom she loved for administrative work. Since she took up the post in 1997, she has been credited with creating some of the school’s more innovative programs.
Miesnik said she will decide her own future when the mid-February break comes and she can focus on it.
She said her goals are largely the same as before, in building leadership skills in the students, enhancing the athletic program, and reaching out to more people living in Bayonne.
“We want to keep our tuition affordable,” she said, calling Marist “an academic powerhouse” where students can learn in a safe and spiritual environment.
“I want people to know that Marist is a school they can believe in,” she said, “that offers an affordable, co-ed program in the Marist tradition, and it doesn’t get any better than that.”

© 2000, Newspaper Media Group