Melissa Hensley, Principal of Central High School (Woodstock) and Virginia’s Principal of the Year, has been selected as one of three finalists for national principal of the year. State Principals of the Year from Georgia and Colorado have been named as the other two finalists.
“Over the past four years,” said Ms. Hensley, “I have been honored to serve as the principal of Central High School where I have been fortunate to work with a dynamic group of educators who bring the passion, professionalism, and perseverance necessary to continuously scaffold and reframe an innovative and dynamic learning culture that puts the needs of all of our scholars at the forefront of our learning culture.”
"I am humbled and honored,” Ms. Hensley continued, “to represent all of VA’s amazing school administrators--administrators who work tirelessly to provide the framework for our students to be successful in their educational journey----they are all special people who do amazing work to make our scholars’ dreams come true. This is our award and this is our day! It is with great pride that I will represent the great work of the faculty and staff of CHS, SCPS and administrators throughout the Commonwealth as a National Finalist.”
Ms. Hensley offered her “sincerest gratitude to the dozens of people without whom this experience would not have been possible.”
The national announcement came on June 27 during the Virginia Association of Secondary School Principals’ 89th Annual Virginia Middle and High School Principals Conference and Exposition in Williamsburg, (June 26-29, 2016) where Ms. Hensley has been recognized as Virginia’s Principal of the Year. The National Association of Secondary School Principals will select and announce the winner at their annual conference in October.
Catherine Gewertz, in her Education Week blog wrote: Hensley has been recognized for her work to build a shared leadership model with her teachers. Teachers help shape key school improvement priorities and their own professional development. The U.S. Department of Education invited Hensley and her team to discuss their work at the Department's Teach to Lead Summit earlier this year. Hensley's work has also focused on building student leadership, by adopting an active, project-based learning approach.
Teach to Lead Summit (left to right): Kristina Zaccaria (CHS Special Education teacher/lnstructional Coach), Melissa Hensley (Principal), Tara Mason (CHS English teacher) and Heather Lacey (Department of Education, Critical Friend)
Dr. Jeremy Raley, Superintendent of Shenandoah County Public Schools, commented, “Ms. Hensley has demonstrated an exceptional ability to work in partnership with students, faculty, staff, and the community to lead Central High School in its current status of being a recognized leader in innovative high school instructional practices and programmatic design.”
Since Ms. Hensley took over the helm of Central High School in 2012, the Falcons have earned a significant number of state and national awards. Most recently, XQ Super Schools named Central High School as one of 348
Semi-finalists or one of approximately 740 who submitted a grant proposal to move on to the next phase in the $10 million school reinvention grant challenge issued by XQ Super Schools. The Falcons will find out in August if Central High School is among the five schools in the nation who will be awarded $2 million a year for five years from this philanthropic effort to move secondary education into the 21st Century.
Last November, Central High School was designated a 2015 National Blue Ribbon School for Exemplary Academic Performance. This is the highest level recognition given by the United States Department of Education.
Aba Kumi, Director of the National Blue Ribbon Schools Program, presents plaque to Central High School representatives. From left: Tara Mason (Senior Instructional Team), Melissa Hensley (Principal, Central High School), Aba Kumi, and Dr. Jeremy Raley, Superintendent of Shenandoah County Public Schools
The Falcons have also been recognized by U.S. News and World Report and NICHE.com as one of America’s Best High Schools.
In addition, the Falcons have also consistently earned the Virginia Naturally Award, the Stay in the Game Award from the VHSL, as well as the Claudia Dodson VHSL Sportsmanship, Ethics, and Integrity Award. Central’s music programs, athletic teams, clubs and co-curricular teams have also excelled and earned local, regional, state and national recognition.
On a curricular level the school has increased the number of dual enrollment course offerings, increased the amount of technology in the building and added a multitude of programs designed to meet the needs of all students. Program additions include the LIFE Program for students with disabilities ages 18-22, the ROTC program, the Biomedical program, Falcon Final Four Transition Program, Newcomers Program for English Language Learners, Fusion Reading Program as an intervention for struggling readers, the Summer Reading Academy and Summer Math Academy with focus on passing the SOL. Central’s program initiatives have also included among many others: Standards Based Grading, Bring Your Own Device Division Pilot School, Composting Program, Champions Together, an Instructional Collaborators program and implementation of the Competent Learner Model.
Ms. Hensley, who was recognized in May 2016 for earning the Principal of Distinction Level II school administrative license endorsement from the Virginia Department of Education, earned her Bachelor of Science degree from Eastern Mennonite University (1992) and her Master of Science in Kinesiology (1999) and Master of Education (2001) from James Madison University.