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'A new challenge': Principal Michael Negley settling into new role at Dawson County High School
Dawson County High School’s new principal, Michael Negley, says that she is adjusting to and enjoying her new position in the school system. - photo by Erica Jones

Just over a month and a half into the academic year and new Dawson County High School Principal Michael Negley said that she has been welcomed to her new role with open arms.

Things have been great, Negley said, especially the time she’s had to get to know her staff better and interact with students and the Dawson County community. 

Before stepping into her new role, Negley served as assistant principal at Dawson County High School for two years, so the transition has been an easy one, she said. 

“It was a fairly simple transition because I was an assistant principal for two years prior, so I just moved one office over,” Negley said. “I have hard shoes to fill with Brody; he was kind of unprecedented, did a phenomenal job and I think everybody here including me misses him, but they all seem very receptive to me.” 

Negley said that her favorite part, and the main difference between her previous role and her new role is the amount that she gets to interact with students, staff and community members. 

“There’s definitely some differences in the two positions, like I’ve gotten to meet more people in the community in this role than I ever did as an assistant principal so that’s been fun,” Negley said. “I was in the classroom for 11 years before I moved into administration so I missed that day to day interaction with the students, so this has been kind of a breath of fresh air to get back out there with them a little bit more.” 

According to Negley, being an assistant principal is a much more task-oriented role, so in her previous role she was almost always working on jobs like making schedules, working on funding and rosters. 

But as principal, her main job now is to make sure everything in the building runs safely and smoothly. 

“It’s more making sure my building is running correctly, making sure everybody is safe and making sure everything is clean, so it also gives me the ability to get out and about more in my own building,” Negley said. “So I can pop in and visit with teachers and students, or like now I can spend every lunch period in the cafeteria with the staff and the kids, whereas before I could pop in for a little while but then I’d have to get back, cause I’d have a meeting or something set up.” 

The new position has not been without its learning curves, she said, especially in such an unprecedented year, going back to classes after school was online for most of the Spring 2020 semester due to the COVID-19 pandemic. 

“I think I spent the beginning of the year doing things that I would have never imagined doing as a principal, but I think probably regardless of if you were a first-year principal or not that’s the way that everybody’s year started,” Negley said. “So we’re really trying to get the kids back in the building, make sure that they’re safe and make sure that they’re okay, and also trying to balance that with knowing there’s gaps in their learning.” 

But in the most recent weeks of school, a routine has developed allowing Negley to turn her attention towards improving the high school, so that it can reach its full potential and serve the students as well as possible. 

“We’re actually able now within the last few weeks to really start working on some of our school improvement goals and getting our kids to do some of our local assessments to see where they’re at and what gaps we need to fill,” Negley said. “I’m carrying on a lot of the things we started as an admin team when Brody was the principal, but also trying to put my own touch on a few new initiatives.” 

These initiatives include ideas such as having the teachers work in professional communities to plan, assess and look at student growth. 

Negley has also added new practices such as announcing students’ birthdays over the intercom in the morning and is hoping to put together a “principal’s council” consisting of two students from each grade level who will be asked for feedback and ideas on upcoming plans. 

Negley said that her transition has been smooth because of how open the students and staff are, and that she welcomes the chance to be open to them in return. 

“We’ve always had an open-door policy up here, so if you have something that you’re concerned about or if you have a suggestion or an idea on something bring it to us because we’re always willing to listen and learn,” Negley said. “I’m always open to anything like that that will make this a better place.”