By: Emily Sobel
While many students dread a questioning from the principal, I was given the opportunity to reverse the role and put Hills East’s spectacular principal, Dr. Strong, in the hot seat. Thank you, Dr. Strong, for allowing me to interview you so that the Thunderbird can serve as a platform for the Half Hollow Hills community to learn about your opinions on current topics and initiatives for the upcoming year while learning a little bit about who you are outside of HSE.
Thunderbird: Are there any initiatives for the school year that you’re in the process of implementing?
Dr. Strong: We always want to try to make the school community enticing to everyone, so we added some new clubs and activities for students this year. We’re super excited about East sports, which is an area of the community that’s really been flourishing. It’s amazing to see that colleges are giving scholarships to our student-athletes. Really, our goal is to provide different opportunities to allow students to enjoy the campus. We’ve touched up the student center and increased the use of technology in that space to make life easier for students. We’re always looking at our academics, athletics, and extracurriculars to see what we can change, add, and do to cultivate an ideal experience for everyone.
Thunderbird: What are some of your biggest challenges as the principal of Hills East?
Dr. Strong: Well, anytime you bring 1,700 kids together, there are day-to-day challenges. However, I want to preface that by saying how fortunate I am to be in Half Hollow Hills. It’s always been an outstanding community, from way back when I joined the district to now. I think the daily challenge is providing the best opportunities for every student to meet their maximum potential and prepare for the future.
Thunderbird: In the past, Hills East has used the eBoard system to integrate technology into the classroom by providing an online communication and collaboration platform. This school year, Hills East has done away with eBoards and transitioned to new technology: Canvas. How do you feel about this?
Dr. Strong: This transition is definitely going to be a big one. I think that eBoards were great, but their time has come and gone, in a way. Everything that we see out there, especially at a college level, is very advanced. The opportunities that students and faculty will have in the future with Canvas will be outstanding. However, I know that with every transition comes some anxiety. Some teachers are off and running with Canvas, and others will take more time to adjust. We are doing our best to work with teachers through that transition. The ability to grade assignments, have conversations, and interact in other ways through a learning management system just couldn’t be done through the typical eBoards. I’m excited to see the launch of Canvas this year and where that can go in the future.
Thunderbird: How do you feel about the current school safety measures, and are you planning on implementing anymore in the future?
Dr. Strong: I think we can always do more. Moving forward, there are a couple of things in the works. Just in my time here, we’ve transitioned to a buzzing system at all of the doors. We are now a closed campus except for the entry points where staff and faculty display their ID badges, which wasn’t always the case. ID badges are one measure of many that we’re in the process of implementing, and there are new projects on the horizon. One of these is a transition from keys to an automated system that will lock doors. I think we’re always looking to see what we can do to improve measures on campus, and as the year goes on, we will continue with practice drills and informing our staff and students to be prepared for any situation.
Thunderbird: What is the main difference between your role as the principal of High School East and your role as the principal of West Hollow Middle School?
Dr. Strong: It’s been interesting to see how the students have become more focused on their aspirations and goals. I’ve learned to adjust to knowing that they’re not kids anymore; they’re young adults ready to take on the world. Certainly, I’ve transitioned to the mindset of the young adolescent. Interestingly, I’ve felt the adjustments came more from myself than the students, but it’s been amazing to see the programs they’ve been involved in and watch their academic growth, the accolades they receive, and the futures they pursue. It’s been a really enriching experience watching the transition of my students from the elementary stage to the high school level.
Thunderbird: Now, we have some fun questions to allow our readers to get to know you on a more personal level. Do you have a quote or philosophy that you live by?
Dr. Strong: Lead by example. People can say a lot of things and talk the talk, but I try to let my actions serve as an example for others.
Thunderbird: How do you like to spend your free time?
Dr. Strong: When I get some free time, I like to exercise and get out there, whether it be running, walking, or hitting the gym. I also enjoy time with my family, whether it’s soccer with my son or spending quality time with my daughter. I’m a pretty family-centered guy.
Thunderbird: What’s your favorite restaurant?
Dr. Strong: My favorite restaurant is Prime in Huntington.
Thunderbird: What was your favorite subject in school?
Dr. Strong: My favorite subject is probably social studies; I jumped around a lot, but I turned out to be a Political Science major. I’ve always enjoyed history, and it’s interesting to see how it tends to repeat itself. When I travel, I get to see how those pieces that I read about come to life down the line.
Thunderbird: What are your opinions on social media?
Dr. Strong: I do think social media is a great tool for individuals to share their voice, but one of the challenges is tempering that desire to post anything. Especially for the youth, the question remains how we can be responsible while putting things out there. I am a fan of individuals putting their feelings and opinions online, as long as they’re doing it in a way that respects others and doesn’t put opposing ideas down.
Thunderbird: What type of music do you like?
Dr. Strong: I listen to Beyonce; I listen to it all. I’ve listened to Classic Rock, Reggae, and Pop. If you looked at my iTunes account, you’d probably see a range of everything. The type of music I’m tapping into is dependent on what I’m doing.
Thunderbird: If you were on a deserted island, what three things would you bring?
Dr. Strong: I’d like to have access to my iTunes account so I’ll have some music with me, some good books to keep me entertained, and some movies to occupy my time, specifically the Star Wars collection. Oh, and I’ll bring a boat so that I can paddle off the island!
Photo courtesy of Chip Parker