New BHS principal pledges to set high expectations

June 22, 2011

By PAUL COLLINS - Bulletin Staff Writer

“Welcome to Bassett. I’m glad to know you’re local,” a smiling woman with hand raised told new Principal Garrett Dillard as she left Bassett High School after a meet-and-greet Tuesday night.

About 125 people attended the event, in which Dillard introduced himself and nearly a dozen other new staff members.

“Change can be really scary. Change can be really good,” Dillard told the audience made up of teachers and staff, students, parents, school division officials and others before he began introducing new staff members.

He said expectations will be set high, and veteran educators will work with and support new staff members to help them succeed, including helping new teachers prepare better lesson plans.

“Change is constant” in life. “...Embrace change,” he said as he welcomed the staff to the “Bassett family.”

New staff members, many of them teachers, are Matthew Beaton, science; Valerie Clarke and Anastasia Ford, Spanish; Joshua Eanes, Mary Beth Hubbard and Matthew Woods, social studies; Anita Hairston, culinary arts; Shekila Melchior, guidance; Nathan Noble, math; Sara Veazey, chorus; Bonnie Wagoner, bookkeeper (she previously worked at BHS as an administrative assistant); Brad Whitehead, marketing; Craig Curtis and Renee Scott, assistant principals.

Beaton, Hubbard, Melchior, Noble, Veazey, Whitehead and Woods are new teachers, Dillard said.

Dillard told stories about or teased some of the new staff members as he introduced them.

For instance, he said Noble “is here with his dad. His dad is excited Nathan is leaving out. We’re excited Nathan is coming in.” In the audience, Noble’s father laughingly agreed.

In an interview, Nathan Noble, 21, of Salem, said, “I’m excited” about the job, and he plans to use “interactive lessons” to get students involved. He will graduate from Virginia Tech with a bachelor’s degree in math in about two weeks, he said.

Woods, 22, from Franklin County, graduated from Ferrum College in May with a double major in history and social studies. “I’m excited” about teaching at Bassett, he said, adding that Franklin County and Henry County are similar demographically. He plans to use real-world examples and to help his students “think outside the box,” he said.

Dillard said he wants to be “a transformative leader.”

He wants to help give an overall vision and support the staff and students as they work to achieve that vision. He also wants to help people advance from one level to the next.

Among his goals are, depending on data, to help more students have more advanced scores on Standards of Learning tests, improve the passing rate on Advanced Placement tests and increase the amount of scholarship money for which students qualify.

Dillard said BHS staff and parents working together will be able to accomplish much more for their children than if “we work against each other.” He said educators and parents have the same goals: They both want the students to be successful, to get into the best colleges, to enter the military at the highest ranks, to get the best jobs, to achieve life goals.

He described himself as “very approachable, fair and consistent.”

And he said, “If we do it for the A student, we’ll do it for the struggling student.”

As a teacher, coach and assistant principal, he did such things as drive a student and his parents to a distant state to enroll in college, mediate between students to prevent a fight, build the morale of younger teachers, and be a “neutral eye” in a group of people to make sure that all sides are heard, he said.

Among the accomplishments listed on his résumé are, as assistant principal at Page High School in Greensboro, N.C., he worked with ninth-grade teachers and students in 2008 and the ninth grade failure rate decreased by 30 percent from the previous year; he created a contract for academic success that was widely used by Page High School staff; he worked closely with the social studies and physical education departments as they restructured; and he restructured bus dismissal to reduce possible student conflicts in the bus parking lot.

Also at Page, he was the administrator for students in the Class of 2012. One of the things he did was visit classrooms and give each student a motivational quote. When they found out he was leaving Page and going to Bassett, a lot of students asked him to come back and see them graduate in 2012, he said.

Getting the job at Bassett “was a great opportunity,” he said. BHS has “great students, staff and community.”

“With good leadership skills and great staff, you’d like to think great things are going to happen,” he said.

Dillard grew up in Henry County, so coming to BHS is “coming back home,” he said. “I know Henry County, what drives and motivates people ... and what people want for their kids,” he said.

Dillard, 40, grew up in Sandy Level and graduated from Laurel Park High School in 1989. He earned a bachelor’s degree in social sciences with a teaching certificate from Radford University in 1993 and a master’s degree in school administration from the University of North Carolina at Greensboro in 2008.

He taught, in succession, at George Washington High School in Danville, Global Village School, and Halifax County, Western Guilford and High Point Central high schools from 1993 through 2008.

He was varsity basketball coach at High Point Central, Western Guilford and Halifax County high schools and assistant coach at GW High School.

He was assistant principal at Page High School from 2008 until he became principal of Bassett High School.

He and his wife, LaTonda Dillard, have a son, Caleb, 12; and two daughters, Ciara, 8, and Cadance, 2. They live in Greensboro, N.C., and are looking to move to this area.

Garrett Dillard runs a basketball camp in Sandy Level, which is set for July 15 this year.

Among the awards listed on Dillard’s résumé are Iriswood District Citizen Recognition Award in 1997 and Western Valley District Coach of the Year in 2003.


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