Hopewell High School principal quits
By Caitlin Davis, Senior Staff Writer
Jul 8, 2014, 16:25
Dr. Rodney Berry
HOPEWELL — After two years at Hopewell High School, Dr. Rodney Berry is stepping down as principal and taking another position in Sussex County. This marks the fifth leadership change at the school since 2007.
“It wasn’t anything negative wise as to why I left,” Berry said. “It was a career opportunity that arose for me down in Sussex and it was an opportunity for growth.”
Berry is now serving as the director of instruction for Sussex County. He said this marks a new step in his career, 11 years as an administrator and 20 years in education.
Before coming to Hopewell, Berry had been an assistant principal at Caroline High School, principal at J.P King Middle School, a chemistry and biology teacher for Richmond Public Schools and just before taking over in Hopewell, the principal at Franklin High School in Franklin City Public Schools.
“It was a growing opportunity for me professionally and leaving Hopewell was definitely bittersweet because we had an outstanding two years while I was there,” he said.
When he walked through the doors of the high school in July of 2012, Berry made it his mission to get the high school fully accredited by the state. Though the test scores have not yet been released, Berry is confident the school will gain accreditation.
“Our overall test scores increased dramatically over the last two years,” Berry said. “... When I first came in, our math scores were around 40 percent, our graduation rate was low at the time, two years prior, but that did come up when I first came on board.”
Although he served as the principal of the school, Berry does not take any credit for the accomplishments over the past two years but instead passes them along.
“It was a team effort to get that school to a position where it’s a place that’s once again a school of choice for families in the area,” Berry said. “We have families now that want to send their students to Hopewell High School and when I first got there two years ago that was not necessarily the case, so it’s once again the destination of choice for families to send their children to receive a quality education.”
The departure for Berry was a sudden one as he said he did not even get a chance to say goodbye to the students or staff.
“To the staff and students especially, thanks for making the last two years the best two years of my life,” Berry said. “I also want to thank Dr. Fahey and the school board for giving me the opportunity to work in such a fine institution and a fine city as Hopewell.”
Berry’s departure has left the students of the 2014-2015 school year without a permanent replacement. Last week, the Hopewell Public School board approved the appointment of Thomas Pond to serve as the interim principal.
“I’m very excited about this opportunity,” Pond said. “We have a lot of great students here at Hopewell High School. I really want to work toward getting our community even more involved and keep building on the momentum of the last few years.”
Pond earned his undergraduate degree from Virginia State University and has a master’s degree from the University of Virginia. His previous administrative positions include assistant principal at Falling Creek Middle School in Chesterfield County, principal at North Elementary School and assistant principal at Colonial Heights High School. He joined Hopewell High School in 2012 as an assistant principal.
Superintendent Dr. John Fahey was pleased with the school board’s appointment.
“The summer is such an important time for us and it was critical to name Mr. Pond to the post of interim principal,” he said. “He is a talented leader who will continue to move our high school forward.”
Pond will remain as interim principal as the 2014-2015 school year begins and the search for Berry’s replacement continues.
This new change in leadership marks the fourth principal since 2007. Rudolph Ford served one year as principal in 2007, followed by Neal Fletcher in 2008 who served until 2011, Kim Allen who also served just one year, and then Berry who served from 2012 until 2014.
The last principal to serve more than three years was Gayle Keith who served from 1991 until 2007.
“It wasn’t anything I had on the radar,” Berry said. “It was just one of those opportunities you can’t turn down. ... I just take my hat off to the students for rising to the challenge of the last two years to get the school accredited to where it needs to be. Hats off to them and the staff because that school couldn’t be where it is without them. It wasn’t my doing it was their doing.”
Though Berry’s career has moved almost 40 miles from Hopewell, a piece of pride will always remain at the school on Mesa Drive.
“I will miss the city of Hopewell but I will always be a Blue Devil,” Berry said.