Tag: Cynthia Dillon

Principal Cynthia Dillon Reflects on Her First Year

Words: Natalie Knight-Griffin

Photo: Eliza Andrew

In a school of 1,612 students, a single face passes by new principal Cynthia Dillon. She says hello, just as the student smiles with a welcoming invitation to their club event later in the week. With a beaming look she says, yes, of course!

Dillon, after almost 180 days of being principal of Centennial High School, has attended nearly every student event possible: from band concerts, to It’s Academic tournaments, art galleries, sports games, and Worldfest. She has devoted the majority of her time here to the students– their individual needs, requests, and ideas.

“The hard part was when a kid would say to me in the hallway, ‘Hey, can you come to this tonight?’ I kind of felt like I couldn’t say no… my job is to be here for you and serve you,” Dillon assured. “If there’s a kid who wants you to come, you’re there.”

The average high schooler, as Dillon has noticed, yearns for change. She is fascinated by Centennial’s students, who yearn for school inclusion, safety, and success.

Such student-driven change can only make for an exciting, yet overwhelming year. As principal, handling such drive can become a challenge.

With only seven hours in a school day, and an exponential number of people to oversee, Dillon recognizes the powerful position she holds, and how different it is from being principal of a middle school.

“I quickly figured out what I do, because there are twice as many of you, twice as many teachers, twice as many parents, but I still have the same 7-hour day,” said Dillon. “So when you guys come to my door, I’m stopping what I’m doing.”

Out of the plethora of memorable moments from the past school year, the ones that stuck out most to Dillon were the individual, intimate conversations with students. The most seemingly insignificant and trivial responses may last a lifetime.

Despite these incredible moments, not all moments have been positive. Such an intensive job can only come with extreme highs and lows, times in which school conflicts feel endless, and parking permits may never be resolved.

“Another thing I care about is equity,” said Dillon. “If we take the parking for example, we asked every high school in the county, what is your process, how do you issue permits?”

In the heights of such student, teacher, or parent frustration, Dillon must sit back and understand her place.

“The hardest thing in the first year in any assignment is stopping and watching. So what I think it should be, may not be what it is here, and just because it’s not what I think it should be doesn’t mean it’s wrong,” said Dillon. “It’s just different.”

Upon walking through the expansive front doors of Centennial High School, Dillon immediately felt a wave of anxiety among the students. What formerly had been only warnings of the competitive nature became reality within an instant. Centennial’s high-achieving reputation does not exist without truth, as she discovered.  Students from ages 14 to 18 crowd the halls in discussion of their grades, SAT scores, AP test results, and anxieties.

“Certain students stress themselves out trying to achieve at such high levels that it’s emotionally unhealthy. I think a big part of this issue stems from students being reticent to talk about their stress.”

Dillon has appreciated every second she has spent in Centennial, learning and understanding the school’s community. Centennial, as she put it, is like no other. Especially different from that of middle schools, high schoolers possess an interest in the community’s well being. Often taken aback by the intensity of student passion, Dillon appreciates student conversation.

“All of a sudden, my primary target customers [students] are advocating for themselves, and coming to the door, whereas middle schoolers will very rarely seek you out.”

In Dillon’s past experience as a middle school principal of 12 years, she learned lessons she thought would be applicable to this new job, but soon realized otherwise. The most significant lessons, recalled Dillon, came from recognizing there was a lot to learn.

“A couple times this year I’ve made decisions like a middle school principal and not a high school principal… and didn’t go and say hey, this is what I’d like to see, how can we make it happen,” Dillon stated. “Once or twice I ruffled some feathers unintentionally.”

In just a year’s time, a lot has changed in Centennial. Most of all, it may be Dillon’s view of her position, and the students who make it possible. An experience many high schoolers can describe as the best of times, and the worst of times, is a year to remember- as Dillon’s legacy has only just begun.

Most importantly, to Dillon, of course, is her relationship with the students. “I think the role of the principal is to serve,” she says.

th/ks/nk/nkg

This article is featured in the 2019 Takeover Issue.  To see the full issue, Click Here!

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Centennial Advances to the National History Bowl Competition

Words: Delanie Tucker

Photos Contributed by: Cynthia Dillon

On Saturday, December 1, five teams from Centennial High School participated in the National History Bowl Regional Championship, held in Washington, D.C. Of the five teams, teams A and B were Varsity, while teams C, D, and E were Junior Varsity.

A total of 41 teams attended the competition, ranging from elementary school to high school.

Centennial’s A Team came in second place, earning a finalist trophy and a spot in the National History Bowl Competition. This team consisted of Anthony Duan, team captain, Peter Wilschke, and Mahta Gooya.

The second place slot did not come from a lack of trying, though, as the A Team placed higher than Richard Montgomery High, Montgomery Blair High, Georgetown Day School, and two teams from Thomas Jefferson High before falling to McLean High in the final match.

In addition to the varsity team’s success, the C Team, made up of Pingan Tang, Nathan Ho, and Benjamin Kantsiper, also qualified for the National Tournament.

Duan and Tang also advanced to the finals of the JV History Bee in 2019.

Beyond the high school teams, Burleigh Manor Middle School won in the middle school division, beating Centennial Lane Elementary School in the finals.

Six of the eight playoff teams were from Burleigh Manor or Centennial Lane.

The National History Bowl Competition will be held in April 2019.

Photo contributed by Cynthia Dillon

 

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Howard County School Board Narrows Redistricting Options

Words: Delanie Tucker

The Howard County School Board is in the process of resolving the overpopulation of several Howard County schools.

In a recent Board Meeting on October 11, 2018, the board met for the second time this academic year to discuss redistricting options for upcoming school years.

Caroline Walker, Executive Director of Program Innovation and Student Well-Being, presented and explained several options to relieve the overcrowding of Howard County schools, particularly focusing on Howard High School and Centennial High School.

The options consist primarily of voluntary changes, some for only a portion of the school day and others for the entire year.

The ideas presented were: a Howard County Community College Shuttle, JumpStart Program at Wilde Lake High School, Project Lead the Way at Marriotts Ridge High School, reassignment, additional ARL courses, and additional sections of work-based options.

The Howard County Community Shuttle would consist of participating students, juniors and seniors staying at their home school for first period to participate in classes such as band or orchestra and then taking a bus to HCC. The students will take and receive credit for college-level courses, as well as finish out their graduation required classes.

Students would be picked up by bus from their home school and be taken to HCC. These buses, though, would cost $9,000 a piece if they were to travel to Centennial or Howard to pick up students.

The problem presented with this option, pointed out by Sandra French, a member of the Board, was that music classes are not during first period, and not all classes can be moved to first period to fit the needs of certain students.

Walker predicted, based off a previous survey, that 40-60 students would participate in the HCC shuttle.

The JumpStart program at Wilde Lake High School would require students to transfer to Wilde Lake in order to participate.

It has an estimated price of $250,000, which would vary depending on the number of participating students.

This particular program is directed towards students interested in performing arts and film production. The arts program at Wilde Lake is looking to progress, and offers better opportunities for interested artists. The estimated participation for this is 15-20 students from each school.

Project Lead the Way, on the other hand, consists of a Biochemical Academy and a Computer Science Academy.

Again, this option would require a school transfer, this time to Marriotts Ridge High School.

Additionally, Walker presented an estimated price of $63,000, which is a combination of material and training for all academies.

The option of reassignment, previously known as open enrollment, would give students free reign to transfer to either Glenelg High School or Marriotts Ridge High School. A problem presented with this, though, is that students would have to provide their own transportation.

A positive with this option is that it would cost nothing to implement.

Additional sections of work-based options would help to decrease overcrowding during the day. Examples are GT intern/mentor, apprenticeship, and work release, all of which would help upperclassmen get real-world experience.

The problem with this, though, is the more students that enter the program, the more teachers they will need. A new teacher would cost the board $84,000.

Ideally, the Board would like to implement most, if not all, ideas at once. Their concern revolves around the question: where will the money come from?

The last option to fix overcrowding issues, presented by Anissa Brown Dennis, Chief Operating Officer, was redistricting in the form of boundary changes.

Her original intent was to present all plan options, which included: 2017 Feasibility Study Plan, 2017 Attendance Area Committee Plan I and II (August and September), Community plans as identified by Board members, and Howard High School small feeds.

The Board, however, voted to discontinue the presentation after the 2017 Feasibility Plan, and instead had conversation about small feeds.

Their votes were primarily based around the fact that, in a previous meeting, they had voted to not change school boundaries for the upcoming school year, so the presentation did not seem necessary at that moment.

The Board will begin making decisions in regard to the 2019-2020 school year in a meeting on October 18.

In a previous meeting on August 23, there was an idea of temporary and permanent freshmen redistricting, but this idea seems to have been taken out of the conversation, as it was not mentioned in the recent meeting.

This option would have consisted of incoming freshmen being relocated, either for just their freshman year or possibly their entire high school career.

Since no final changes have been made, Centennial students will have to work through the issues overcrowding brings.

Cynthia Dillon, Centennial’s principal who was present at the meeting, is confident in her students’ ability to make their school environment as comfortable as possible, despite the circumstances.

“The distances the students have to travel, while they are in some crowded hallways, they are very creative about how they get from point A to point B,” Dillon stated at the meeting. “They are also using their time. They are walking with a purpose, they are being efficient with how they get from point A to point B and we have not identified a problem with students arriving to class tardy.”

Ellie Zoller-Gritz contributed with background information, analysis and images for this article.

For more breaking news and photos, follow The Wingspan on Instagram and Twitter @CHSWingspan.

BREAKING- Cynthia Dillon Named CHS Principal for 2018-2019 School Year

Words: Maggie Ju

According to a public document released by the Howard County Public Schools Board, Cynthia Dillon has been announced as Centennial High School’s new principal for the 2018-2019 school year. Dillon is the current principal of Patapsco Middle School, where she has worked for eight years.

As stated in a Howard County Public School System (HCPSS) press release on March 5, 2018, Dillon has been an HCPSS educator for 25 years.

This spring, she was named the 2018 Maryland Middle School Principal of the Year by the Maryland Association of Secondary School Principals. A dedicated administrator, she has been commended for inspiring her students to be thoughtful, responsible, and kind.

Dillon has a Masters of Education in Supervision and Administration from Loyola University in Maryland and a Bachelor of Science in Education from the University of Maryland, College Park.

For more breaking news and photos, follow The Wingspan on Instagram and Twitter @CHSWingspan.