Editorial: An open letter to our new principal

Dear Principal Woods-Weeks, 

Welcome to Riverside High School. Riverside is a great place, and we’re excited for you to lead our school. The shift from online instruction back to in-person learning has been difficult for students and staff. From the extremely long car lines in the mornings and afternoons, to the chaotic schedule changes that took place earlier this year, students and staff have worked hard to find a way to make it work and look forward to you applying your expertise to what’s already in place. As you learn about your new community, here is what we – The Pirates’ Hook staff – think students need. 

Commitment

You are Riverside’s sixth principal in fourteen years, and the third in the past two. Leslie Kinard’s resignation left students and staff feeling abandoned. The school’s leadership has felt dysfunctional, and it’s made students and teachers’ jobs harder. 

Since the pandemic, many people who worked in the front office left. Rules have changed, and students can no longer interact with office staff like some are used to. We don’t have the sense of camaraderie  that many say they felt before the pandemic. 

We need you to make an effort to get to know the students and staff of Riverside. Even if you simply continue to greet students when they arrive at school every morning, or attend club events outside of school, both students and staff need to know who our principal is. 

Having someone who is kind and welcoming will only help students to succeed. If kids see that their new principal is committed to students and staff, it will help maintain a positive attitude throughout the school year. 

Trust 

Former principal Tonya Williams stuck with students through adverse times. In 2019, a child pornography investigation took place at Riverside High after sexually explicit content was posted on social media. Instead of allowing the weight of this situation drive her away from Riverside, Willaims supported students and staff. She also supported The Pirates’ Hook staff’s decision to publish an article refuting some of the claims in local media’s coverage in a story of our own, which was later reposted by state media outlets. Simply put, she did not let this incident define students of Riverside.

Williams also trusted students and staff to implement SMART Lunch, an hour-long lunch break that lets students move freely around campus. 

It’s unique to Riverside. No other school in the district does this. Students and staff spent a long time developing this model and knowing this system. Students have plenty of time to attend club meetings, complete homework, and spend time with friends. Data collected in 2019, a few months after it was implemented, suggests it may also improve student discipline. 

We ask you to be patient with this model, even if you are not accustomed to it. Students and teachers love it, and we trust the teachers who have been working at Riverside for a while to keep it running well.  

Open Communication 

Riverside is a huge community. The building accommodates nearly 2000 students and staff.  We need a principal who will keep communication lines open with students, parents and staff. We would love for you to speak to us first before making decisions that directly affect the students and staff. 

For example, a former principal removed the traditional music that was played in the morning for students in JROTC to salute to. This principal did not speak with students about it, which made many JROTC students frustrated. They would have appreciated it if this principal communicated with them first, instead of removing one of their traditions abruptly.

You have already shown Riverside parents, students, and staff you are capable of communicating effectively. In a recent message sent to all Riverside Parents, you explained how carpool should work. Your instructions were clear and concise and so far this system has been successful. This is a great example of what students want you to keep up. 

While expectations may be high, students and staff at Riverside are thrilled to welcome you into our community. We have heard wonderful things about your work at other DPS schools and couldn’t be more appreciative that you chose Riverside. 

Sincerely, 

The Pirates Hook

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