Stribling settling into role as newly named HCHS principal

Since his promotion in June, Habersham County native Jonathan Stribling has described his time as Habersham Central High School principal as both exciting and rewarding.
“Being principal of Habersham Central brings new challenges each day,” he told The Northeast Georgian. “Meeting those challenges in a way that puts students’ interests first is very rewarding.”
Stribling, formerly assistant principal/CTAE (Career, Technical, Agriculture Education) director at HCHS for seven years, said throughout his career in education, it wasn’t long before he knew he wanted a higher role in the system.
“I knew when I started teaching I wanted to be an administrator,” he said. “It has only been within the past three or four years that I thought I may like the challenge of being a high school principal.”
In his short time as principal, Stribling said high points have included learning HCHS increased its 2017 graduation rate from 91.2 percent in 2016 to 94.9 percent – 14.3 points above the state rate.
“What an accomplishment for our school and our community!” he said.
Stribling also recalls the first time he introduced himself as HCHS principal before his peers.
“When I introduced myself at our first faculty meeting, many of the teachers and staff applauded,” he said. “I have a deep appreciation and respect for those I work with, and for them to applaud me was humbling and really made me feel good.”
One of Stribling’s high points, of course, also includes his students.
“I will never forget the first day of school this year. We had an assembly that Friday in the gym with all the students and, after I talked with them for a few minutes about expectations, I had the honor of announcing, ‘Today is Friday, August the fourth, and this is the day of the Raider!’” he said. “All the students cheered and the band played the fight song. The gym was full of excitement and anticipation for the new year. That moment was super neat and is a high point because I am an alum, and that phrase means so much to me. I had never said, ‘This is the day of the Raider!’ to students before. I was nervous about that one.”
But Stribling’s new venture hasn’t been without its challenges, he said.
“We had a student pass away in an automobile accident almost immediately after I became principal,” he said. “My heart hurt for her family as I went to the funeral and counseled with students about her loss.”
As principal, Stribling said his priorities in terms of HCHS, its students and staff are quite clear.
“First, providing a safe environment for teaching and learning to take place,” he said. “Second, providing the teachers the resources and support necessary to deliver premier instruction. Quality instruction is the key to student success. Tied for second, making certain we are putting students first in all that we do.”
While Stribling does “very little now in the area of operations,” he said he has an excellent group of assistant principals and other team members who make certain HCHS runs as it should every day.
That’s “in relation to transportation, student transitions, nutrition, student services, test administration, etc.,” he said. “The principal’s role is to be an instructional leader, ensuring that quality instruction takes place in an environment that is optimal for learning.”
A “typical” day for Stribling begins with arriving to work at 6:45 a.m.
“I welcome all the teachers and students, and do the morning announcements over the intercom every morning at 8 a.m.,” he said.
From there, Stribling said his day is filled with a varying ratio of meetings with teachers, students and parents, administrators, county-level Board of Education employees, community stakeholders, etc., and observing teachers/students in classrooms.
“If at all possible, I am outside when school dismisses, speaking to students and parents,” he said. “After school is often spent meeting with individual teachers or groups of faculty members like department heads.”
But Stribling’s evenings are often a chance to enjoy seeing his school community in action.
“My evenings are often spent at Raider athletic events, fine arts events or informative programs for students and parents sponsored by the school,” he said.
Looking ahead in the short term, Stribling said he’s working toward increasing student achievement, while also encouraging improvement in student and teacher data as it relates to academic performance.
“Along with student achievement, I also want all of us to focus on creating a sense of oneness at Habersham Central,” he said. “Students, faculty, staff and community are all integral components of the Raider Nation. My hope is that everyone recognizes their role and carries it out to the best of their ability for the sake of all of our students.”
In the long term, say, in the next five years, Stribling said he would like to offer students the opportunity to earn college credits in math, English, science and social studies on campus, taught by a college instructor.
“I am not talking about online classes,” he said. “I am talking about a live person teaching college courses in all four core academic subject areas on our campus. Offering dual enrollment in this fashion eliminates barriers for students, builds confidence and also gives students an advantage when they graduate.”
But what does Stribling enjoy most about being HCHS’s principal, you might ask?
“The answer to this question has not changed as I have transitioned roles from teacher to assistant principal and to principal,” he said. “What I enjoy the most are the interactions I get to have with the students, teachers, parents, etc. each day at work. I tell people all the time that you have to love people to be a successful educator.”
When reached by The Northeast Georgian for comment, Habersham County School Superintendent Matthew Cooper said Stribling is “off to a fantastic start” as new principal at HCHS.
“He has quickly established himself as a strong, competent leader in our great high school and he has earned the respect of both students and staff,” Cooper said. “I am particularly pleased with the new brand he has created at Habersham Central, which is ‘Students First.’ I have observed that these are not just words to Mr. Stribling, but that he is putting ‘Students First’ into practice on a daily basis. I fully expect Habersham Central to become what I call a ‘flagship high school’ under his continued leadership.”
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