Brand New Face is Here to Stay

H. Hackney is a new assistant principal at WAHS


Credit: Alex Noth

After holding many roles before becoming a principal, Hackney knows the challenges of being a teacher but is here to help.

Tatiana Bird, Assistant Editor

Among the new faces at Western, Assistant Principal H. Hackney is one that students will be seeing often. A Chapel Hill native, Hackney has been in and around schools for most of his life. Following jobs in Richmond, Essex, and Prince William Counties, Hackney sought out a permanent community to settle into, leading to his arrival in Albemarle County.


What kinds of things are you looking forward to in your first year at WAHS?

I’m looking forward to just grasping the Western way. I look forward to the first day of school. I look forward to the first home football game. I look forward to every aspect of school life, because I’m brand new. I couldn’t wait to meet you all on the first day of school. Coming back from this pandemic, it was really great to see y’all walk into the building, get off the bus. Those are things that I like to watch. I’m looking forward to watching you all grow and develop. And eventually, watch you walk across the stage, come graduation.”

What kind of challenges have arisen in the absence of students in the building?

I think the biggest difficulty was, say, for our ninth and 10th graders, just getting used to high school life. So learning to be in high school, like I said, I could say I’m in ninth or 10th grade, but unless you are in the building, and you are doing the activities that we used to do in a high school, it’s not really a high school experience. So I think the most difficult thing is, the ninth and 10th graders have to adjust. So pretty much half of our student body hasn’t had high school, and even the 11th or 12th graders have been very limited, so it’s hopefully trying to get back to some kind of normalcy. We would love it for y’all to continue with the one lunch period, but because of the contract tracing and all that stuff,  we had to come up with two. But we will try to have as close to a normal Western day that we used to have. And hopefully we’ll get back to that.

Is there going to be any transparent data for students and the public about the amount of COVID-19 cases in the student body?

Eventually there will be. As far as the name of the student, of course it’ll be kept confidential. For example: If Western has 13 confirmed cases, y’all will get to know that, and to ensure that it doesn’t break out even more, we have to determine whether it’s coming from outside, or if it’s coming from within us.  So we take a look at that data and we definitely share that.

What are your thoughts on the high turnover rate in Administrative positions over the past few years?

From y’all’s standpoint, some of y’all may be thinking, what is it us?  In our line of work, when we get to our levels, teachers have tenure. We don’t, our goal is to move up. The good thing about Ms. Sublette is that she grew up in this community. She went to school here, she taught here, she was assistant principal here, and now she’s the principal. So you have a principal who knows you, who knows the school, knows the western way. And for me I drive 90 minutes a day to get here. I drive 90 minutes to get home, y’all are workers. I’d drive three hours for y’all. Mr. Granger came through the program. And he’s been here for years and been a principal. And of course, Ms. Tyler’s a mainstay. So all of us are a unique admin team, but we all have experience in different levels and different areas, we have different talents.

In addition to the Administration turnover, teachers at this school have been coming and going at a high rate as well. What will our new look administration do to mitigate the friction that has contributed to the problem?

So across the state, pretty much there’s a teacher shortage. A lot of times, I’ve noticed teachers, a lot of newer or younger teachers, millennials, when they get into the profession, it may not be what they think it is, and they burn out quickly. Or they may be looking for that next big job opportunity, then they’re not tied into careers as we are. We knew when we started teaching, this is gonna be our career, pretty much until we retire.  The school culture and climate all play a big hand in teacher retention. Folks will move on, folks will retire. But our goal is to keep the staff intact. . And I think this is probably the most eclectic and best administrative fit that we’ve had. And our goal is to make sure y’all have the best and y’all continue to be the best. 

So it sounds like you have a lot of experience in different educational roles on the admin side and the teaching side, even coaching. What do you think those different experiences will help you bring to the table at WAHS?

It allows me to see from all angles. If you’ve ever heard the term player’s coach, I’m a teacher’s administrator. I know good teachers want to share strategies, I too like to share best practices, I like to see you all getting it and being engaged in learning and enjoying learning, and coming up with different methods.