Parents unite in effort to keep 'lovable' principal


Eight-year-old Anya Feuchtenberger said she likes the way her principal goes into classrooms and helps students.

She also likes the hugs Louise DeJesu gives and how she pays attention to children, but there's one thing that makes Ms. DeJesu stand out in Anya's mind.

"She knows our names," the youth said with a grin. "She doesn't say 'girls'; she says our names."

Ms. DeJesu of Belvedere Elementary is one of a number of administrators being transferred this year as part of Superintendent Carol S. Parham's plan to give employees a variety of experiences.

Anya wants Ms. DeJesu to stay, and so do more than 100 Arnold parents who signed petitions when they found out that the school board wanted to transfer Ms. DeJesu to Hilltop Elementary.

Parents say Ms. DeJesu is the kind of principal who is caring and affectionate to children, but who fights for Belvedere to get its share of the school budget.

"She's very much of a personable principal, and she's also very much of a businesswoman," said Debra Klau, vice president of the PTA.

Ms. DeJesu said she did not want to talk about herself, but parents say she has had an impact on Belvedere as no one else has.

In her four years as principal, Ms. DeJesu has petitioned the school board for renovation money to expand the crowded school and has gotten money to repair the leaky roof that creates "Belvedere falls." She was still working to repair the school's uneven ball fields when she got word of her transfer on the last day of school.

Between battles for money and repairs, Ms. DeJesu helped create a self-esteem program and taught the pupils a school motto: "Belvedere believes in me -- I believe it. I achieve it."

She expanded the awards program so that every child was acknowledged for classroom contributions, and she ignited a fire under a sputtering PTA.

"She always stressed to me, 'I will fight with you and for you no matter what,' " said Donna Feuchtenberger, who has two disabled daughters. Ms. DeJesu helped to get and retain in-school aides for the girls, Anya and Katya, 9.

Parents plan a protest at the Wednesday school board meeting in an effort to get board members to reverse their transfer decision.

They say they have heard nothing but good things about Virginia Pope, principal of Crofton Elementary School, who is to replace Ms. DeJesu on July 1. But they are concerned that it would take Ms. Pope or any other administrator too long to become familiar with issues surrounding the school and the area.

Anya simply wants to see her friend when she returns to school this fall.

"We can come to her and give her hugs at the end of day. That's what I like about her," she said. "Ms. DeJesu is lovable."

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