When Edison Intermediate-Middle School Principal Bob Baeslack was called Dec. 12 to the second-floor staff break room because a matter needed his attention, his first thought was, "Oh boy, what's this all about?" he said.
And on his 60th birthday, of all days.
The "matter" that needed his attention was a surprise birthday luncheon from Edison staff members -- all of whom were dressed in the style of Baeslack's trademark khaki pants, dress shirts and decorative ties.
They also had prepared his favorite midday meal of a peanut butter and jelly sandwich, potato chips, an apple and bottled water -- a menu Baeslack enjoys nearly every school day.
"It was pretty overwhelming," Baeslack said of the moment he walked into the room to the shouts of "surprise" and "happy birthday."
"It's a very special surprise," he said. "I'm not a guy who shows much emotion on the outside, but believe me, inside I'm very touched by this."
Later that afternoon, Baeslack posed for a picture with Edison staff and students, many of whom also adopted their principal's clothing style for the photograph.
Baeslack said he tries to bring a sense of fun to the serious business of educating students.
"I'll wear ties with unusual patterns or a design that relates to something that's going on at the school," he said. "If the girls volleyball team or the boys basketball team has a big game, I'll wear a tie with volleyballs or basketballs on it, or I'll wear a patriotic tie before a national holiday."
It's important for students and staff to be serious about learning, "but there's room for some levity, too," which can help reduce stress for adults and youngsters alike, Baeslack said.
Over the years, Baeslack has done everything from spending the night on Edison's roof to sitting in a dunking booth to reward students for successful fundraising efforts.
He has been principal at Edison since January 1999.
The birthday tribute may have been lighthearted, but it was also heartfelt, said student/staff support specialist Liz McClellan.
"We're working this year on just being together, working collaboratively and having fun as a staff, and the tone Bob sets is an integral part of that," she said.
"He is so dedicated to doing what's best for the students," McClellan said. "He sets a climate where we're working hard, but it's a fun place to be."