New principal tells Rotary of early changes at Handley

Posted: October 5, 2012

The Winchester Star

Jesse Dingle

WINCHESTER — It’s barely October, and new Handley High School Principal Jesse Dingle has already made some significant changes in how the school functions.

“I want it to get better and better,” said Dingle, who told the Winchester Rotary Club Thursday that talks with teachers and parents over the summer formed the background for those changes.

Dingle, who has 27 years in education and holds a master’s degree in educational administration from North Carolina State University, was named to head the school in July. He replaced V. Douglas Joyner, who is now coordinator for curriculum and instruction for the city schools.

One of the first things Dingle did was to set up meetings with all 112 of the school’s teachers.

He had three questions:

What three things make you most proud of Handley?

What three things would make the school better?

And what could he do, as principal, to help them have a successful year?

Later, he asked the same questions to parents of Handley students.

In terms of making the school better, the parents wanted to bring back honor classes and build a strong Career and Technical Education program. They also wanted more cultural diversity among the teachers.

The teachers asked for more visibility from administrators — even in the classroom — and consistency in the enforcement of discipline and expectations.

Enforcing a dress code is one of those expectations, Dingle said.

“There’s always been one,” he explained, but he wants the students to know that how they dress can contribute to the atmosphere of learning, or take away from it.

To help the teachers, he determined that there would be no extra duties, like lunchroom monitoring or bus duty before and after school.

That is being handled by the three assistant principals and other administrative staff.

“I want you to be about teaching and learning,” Dingle told his instructors.

Dingle also moved faculty meetings from after school to teacher planning blocks once a month, to keep their days shorter.

Going forward, Dingle said, there is more to do and consider.

Technology is changing the way students learn and educators have to rethink how to structure the classroom, he said.

“People don’t go to banks,” he said, because they can do everything online. And today, a person can hold 500 books “in the palm of their hand.”

Professional development for teachers is also on Dingle’s radar and he supports enrichment programs for students.

“If I’m ready to accelerate my learning, the school should be ready to help,” he said.

There are also certain groups of students who are struggling to learn, and they also need resources targeted to them.

Dingle said he will reach out to the community, both businesses and parents, for help.

“We want parents to feel comfortable coming into the High School,” he added.

Coming to Handley was “the best professional decision I’ve made in my life,” Dingle told the Rotary.

“I’m part of John Handley High School and it doesn’t get much better than that, folks.”

As for just a few of the positives already in place, Dingle learned that both parents and teachers are proud of Handley’s history and traditions, as well as its looks, following the recent renovation.

Teachers are also proud of the strong student-teacher relationships, and the parents agree with that, he said. The teachers are also proud of the strong relationships the students form with each other.

— Contact Val Van Meter at vvanmeter@winchesterstar.com