Rocktown High School has its first principal

As Tamara Mines is introduced as the first principal of Rocktown High School, those attending Tuesday’s school board meeting applaud her. (Photo by Bridget Manley)

By Bridget Manley, publisher

City school leaders hired Tamara Mines as Rocktown High School’s first principal, and Superintendent Michael Richards and the school board welcomed her at Tuesday night’s meeting. 

Mines has been the assistant principal at Walker Upper Elementary School in Charlottesville and before that served as an assistant principal at high schools in the Charlottesville and Henrico School District and as a high school principal in Richmond City Schools. 

Richards said Rocktown has reached another significant milestone in its journey to opening. While the new school won’t open until fall 2024, Mines will play a key role in laying the groundwork for the opening and in hiring staff over the next year. 

Mines addressed the school board Tuesday evening, thanking the board for the opportunity to “create something special” at Rocktown. 

“I cannot wait for the work to start,” Mines said. “I’m excited to bring the community together.”

Mines will begin work in July in preparation for the opening of the school later next year. 

District leaders announced other personnel moves Tuesday evening, as some familiar faces among the district shuffled schools to take on new roles: 

  • Ian Linden, assistant principal of Stone Spring Elementary, will become principal at Waterman Elementary.
  • Erin Young, assistant principal at Keister Elementary, will move up to become principal there.
  • Norris Bunn, assistant principal at Smithland Elementary, will take the reins as principal at Stone Spring Elementary School.

Other personnel announcements included: 

  • Rachel Linden as director of counseling at Rocktown High School.
  • Ryan Henschel as assistant principal at Harrisonburg High School.
  • Durmount Perry as dean of students for Harrisonburg High School.
  • And Staci Hartman as the district’s coordinator of instruction. 

Rocktown’s progress continues 

Rocktown High School’s front parking lot is now complete, and work will begin on the side parking lots, said Operations Supervisor Craig Mackail during his update to the board on the new high school’s progress.

Crews are building the stairs in the fine arts wing, and the trees planted last year are blooming, confirming that they survived the winter, he said. 

The walls have fresh paint, cabinetry is being built, kitchen equipment is going in and athletic fields are nearly complete. Mackail said that means the construction crews are on track to finish work and “turn over the keys” – a key card, as it turns out – on Dec. 31, giving the district more than seven months to set up equipment and the classrooms before students arrive. 

Renovations planned for Harrisonburg High

Harrisonburg High School will undergo renovations and upgrades to its safety systems, technology and infrastructure, said Shawn Printz, the district’s chief operating officer.

The district has $1.5 million in the bank for upgrades, thanks to money allocated by the Virginia General Assembly for school renovations. 

The safety upgrades include camera systems, a key-fob system for door entry, vape detectors and possible weapons detection, an idea school officials will explore with the Harrisonburg Police Department in the coming months, Richards said. 

The infrastructure upgrades include a new dance studio and retrofitting of the schools broadcasting room, which students originally created. 

The camera system, key-fob system, and technology will be upgraded first in the coming months, with other projects like the dance studio taking place in the 2024-25 school year. 

Public comment changed 

This was the first meeting during which the board instituted their new policy for public comment. Public comment has now been broken into two sections – public comment for agenda items and public comment for non-agenda items. The two comment sections are separated by other items the board takes up during the meeting.

In addition, school board chair Deb Fitzgerald read aloud the portion of the policy that states who can comment, which includes:

  • Residents of the City of Harrisonburg.
  • Representatives of businesses located in Harrisonburg. 
  • Current or former students in Harrisonburg City Public Schools. 
  • Parents and guardians of HCPS students.
  • And HCPS employees and retirees.

Speakers can’t yield their time to another speaker and must follow the rules of decorum. 

The changes follow several meetings over the last few years where public comment has gone on for hours. 

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