New Leadership at WHS Makes Students, Staff, Administrators HopefulApril 24, 2015
by Jillian DiPersio, Windham High School Intern
In the short six years that Windham High School has been in existence, the main office has housed three principals. After the official announcement on Tuesday, April 14, WHS prepares to welcome a fourth: current Assistant Principal Robert “Bob” Dawson. This time, however, the community hopes for continuity, as he knows the school’s history and already has a rapport with students, staff, and administrators. The decision was formally announced to the student body at an assembly on April 15.
“This is something I really wanted,” stated Mr. Dawson, excited to take on the position. “It was a long process” to be named principal, he said, but “It’s all obviously well worth the stress and the worry and all the meetings and the million questions.” As he was going through the process he reported, “It’s one of those things you think about constantly,” making it all the more satisfying for him to see the fruits of his labors.
Dawson and the other applicants underwent a long selection process, moving from the initial application to a formal interview. From there a small group of candidates were interviewed for about an hour each. After narrowing down the field, each of the candidates spent a day at Windham High, answering questions from community members, students, teachers, and administrators.
Katie Farrell, WHS junior, was a member of one of the student panels and commented, “I think that the other two candidates did a wonderful job. I think they both loved Windham High School and would be great leaders. However, I know that the bond Mr. Dawson has with all students at WHS is what set him apart because of how long he has been at Windham as a figure of authority that everyone knows and loves.” Likewise, senior Troy Peters believed “Mr. Dawson was the candidate that, from my perspective, promised the most stability within the school.”
Ultimately, Superintendent Winfred Feneberg made the final choice. At the Windham School Board meeting on the night of April 14, the nomination was unanimously approved.
As assistant principal, Dawson spent much of his time working directly with students. With this basis his main goal “is to look at ways to try to keep the school really focused on individuals. I’m a big proponent of not looking at 818 students [as a unit], but looking … at one student, individual goals – the individual future of each student.” He extends this goal of helping individuals to the staff as well.
Aware of the turnover the school has undergone, the newest WHS principal has a second goal that pertains mainly to the staff. “They need to feel settled and feel like they have a leader, that somebody’s going to be there for a while,” he said. “They can know what they’re going to get from me. They can walk into my office when they want to talk and get heard,” he added.
School to Careers Transition Coordinator Holly Londo hopes Dawson’s change of roles will have a positive impact on the school. She described him as “always smiling, he always has a presence” in the school. “He knows the school. He knows the layout, he has a good pulse … I’m just hoping for positive things.” She added that the students she has spoken with have a lot of respect for Dawson and though “unfortunately we haven’t had a lot of consistency with the administration … I think having this consistent person move forward, it could really benefit the school. I think that’s the direction we’re heading for.”
Farrell is hopeful that the school’s new leadership will prove a positive change. She said, “Mr. Dawson prevails as a leader of stability and authority. The students respect Mr. Dawson and I trust that he will hold this firm position of authority and provide as the strong leader that our school needs.”
Peters added, “Mr. Dawson has been part of Windham High School almost from the beginning, and he knows both staff and students very well. This kind of connection, one that bridges the gaps between administration, staff, and students, will be the resounding evidence of his impact.”
Likewise, Mr. Adam Steel, Business Administrator for the Windham School District, is pleased with the change of Mr. Dawson’s role. “Mr. Dawson is a wonderful choice to be the next principal of WHS. He brings enthusiasm, stability, and a student-first mentality to the position,” Steel said. “I am excited to work with him to help push WHS from being one of the best schools in the state to being the very best. I believe Mr. Dawson brings a genuine desire to help every student find success in Windham … I trust he will help the faculty coalesce around a clearly articulated vision for the school that will define WHS’s success over the next decade.”