By Hayley Siegle
When Mr. Chris Walsh was selected to become the new principal of Byram Hills High School, there was a new job to be filled. The administration and the Board of Education needed to choose the right person for an Assistant Principal position, and they clearly did. We can already see how wonderfully Mrs. Gina Cunningham has taken on her new role as Assistant Principal of BHHS.
Prior to becoming one of the two vice principals at the high school, Mrs. Cunningham was the school psychologist at H.C. Crittenden Middle School. Having this position involved meeting with students for counseling, performing student evaluations, initiating parent-teacher conferences, and being a “problem-solver” as she worked hard to help the students in any way possible with whatever issues they presented her with. In addition to being the school psychologist, Mrs. Cunningham was an active member of the faculty. One of the things she did year after year was coordinate and lead the 8th grade class trip to Washington D.C. She loved running the trips as she got to know many more students in addition from those whom she had already met with.
When asked why exactly she wanted the role of Vice Principal at the High School, Mrs. Cunningham replied that a few years ago, she wanted to do something different. Yet, she knew that she wanted to remain in the school environment as her passion had been and still was working with people, which is evident by her great care and concern for the well-being of the students and teachers. Mrs. Cunningham also felt that this was a great opportunity to grow as an individual. With this in mind, Mrs. Cunningham received her administrative degree. Additionally, Mrs. Cunningham thought that this job was so desirable as she wanted to “learn, grow, become a larger part of the community.”
Not only has Mrs. Cunningham changed positions entirely from a psychologist to a vice principal, but she has also moved from the middle school to high school, which we all already know can be a huge and rather difficult transition in and of itself. Imagine having to deal with two transitions at once! Well, Mrs. Cunningham has done a fantastic job, seamlessly transitioning into the high school and her new role, contributing to the good of both the students and faculty. In addition to the new location and position, Mrs. Cunningham also noted that in general, there is a lot more activity going on at the school, with something happening at all times. With the plethora of sports and clubs our school has to offer, there is almost never a moment when the hallways are empty or the fields aren’t occupied (except for when students are in class, of course)! Furthermore, the circumstances and situations occurring at the high school are drastically different from things that students grades 6-8 experience. For instance, the nerves, excitement, and work surrounding the college process is something Mrs. Cunningham did not experience on a day to day basis at the middle school. In general, Mrs. Cunningham has many more daily tasks to do and large shoes to fill, but it does not seem to be phasing her at all.
A typical day for Mrs. Cunningham consists of overseeing lunch and meeting with students, teachers, and parents. She is also in charge of the emergency drills, ensuring that the school knows how to cooperate in the case of an emergency. Additionally, Mrs. Cunningham oversees the school clubs and extracurricular activities.
When asked about her goals being the Vice Principal of the high school, she said, “I want to get to know as many kids as possible.” Additionally, she noted that she did not only want to be known for having to be a disciplinarian but also someone that students could approach for support and advice. Perhaps this is one of the more challenging obstacles that come with the position of Vice Principal; she is trying to find the perfect balance between disciplining students for skipping class or other behaviors that go against the school’s contract while trying to maintain her role as a trusted adult whom students can seek for help. Not only does she feel passionately about building strong relationships with the students, but she feels it is important to maintain her great relationships with staff members. As for making changes within the school, Mrs. Cunningham thinks that everything is going well and that there is nothing in need of change at the moment. Rather, she would like to continue on with the great traditions and spirit of our community.
As the year progresses, Mrs. Cunningham looks forward to becoming more comfortable in her new shoes and becoming an even more integral part of the community. So far, she loves the excitement and energy of the high school and enjoys being in the know constantly, as there is so much activity at BHHS. Mrs. Cunningham noted, “There’s a newness and great energy about being at the high school level.” We are just as excited to have Mrs. Cunningham as she is as eager to grow as an individual and help others. We know that Mrs. Cunningham will do nothing less than make the Byram Hills community an even better place for students to learn and grow!