New principal, Same problems

Centennial students have pressing concerns for new principal come fall.

As Ms. Cynthia Dillon’s tenure at Centennial High School comes to an end this June, the school is anxious to meet its new principal for the upcoming school year. Given both longstanding concerns about the culture of Centennial and recent program cuts, students have high expectations for this new leader. 

Students point out a few essential things about Centennial that they would like the new principal to be aware of in order for them to best lead the school. Notably, an anonymous freshman advises Dillion’s successor to be prepared for “the smart, but horribly stressed and competitive climate;” a sentiment echoed by an anonymous junior who notes the prevalent “academic pressure on students.” 

While the academic rigor is clearly undeniable, there are also positive aspects of Centennial that students believe are important to recognize. “The student community is friendly and tight knit,” states another anonymous freshman. 2024 Student Government President, Renee Wu, also emphasizes the uniqueness and dedication of the student body. “Centennial is passionate in several different areas of interest, including academics, the arts, athletics, and more,” Wu highlights. “In terms of celebrating our student body diversity, we actively organize events such as World Fest, as well as Black History Month assemblies, AAPI History Month assemblies, and more.” What Wu is personally looking for in a new principal is someone who would provide more administrative support for the variety of activities that students are involved in; this would mean “showing up at events such as games, competitions, or musical performances…[or] providing equal amounts of resources for each activity to run.” 

Resources for Centennial’s programs have been at the forefront of discussion recently, as the Humanities program has received what many students are calling detrimental cuts. The program is the only of its kind in the county, taking an interdisciplinary approach to teaching English and history through incorporating art and theater components; however, these very unique components are under threat. As a result of staffing issues, art and theater classes will not be integrated into the Humanities curriculum next year, much to the disappointment and anger of many students in the program. Freshman Cal Stewart is in the Humanities I class and takes a separate theater class. In his opinion, Humanities “is probably the best arts experience [he has] had in [his] life. The program is full of life.” Feeling betrayed by the county’s limitations on the Humanities program, Stewart advocates for a principal “who will fight for [Humanities students] in the county.”

Apart from preserving the arts, many students want a principal who will champion renovations for the school to relieve the famously inconsistent HVAC system and lack of windows. “In the principal’s capacity, I believe they should be a strong advocate for pushing further building renovations at CHS from the Board of Education,” Wu remarks. “They should also be supportive of other groups’ initiatives to push further renovations, namely the PTSA, SGA, and other student body members.” While many students joke that the lack of windows makes the school building reminiscent of a prison, it’s getting harder and harder to laugh about, making the issue one that the new principal is likely to receive lots of pressure about. As one of the freshmen pleads, “Please please just give us windows.”

Regardless of the issues on their minds, Centennial students, more than anything, want to feel supported and seen. “I think an impersonal leader is a bad leader,” Stewart shares. “When you have to take orders from or recognize the authority of somebody you’ve never heard or seen, you feel like you aren’t listened to.” He and Wu both believe that a good way for the new principal to create positive relationships with the student community is to show support for the students directly. This could be attained by sitting in on lunches, attending performances and games, and making a conscious effort to speak both with and to the students.

Just like any school, Centennial needs improvements. Its priorities and population are changing, but right now, the question of whether the new principal will rise to the occasion is yet another tick on the school’s pressing to-do list.


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