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John Hall is the area’s second high school principal leaving at the end of the school year.
REBECCA BARNETT | The Roanoke Times
Salem High School Principal John Hall (center) speaks with seniors Zach Honaker (left) and Daniel Lindamood during lunch Wednesday. Hall will retire at the end of the school year.
REBECCA BARNETT | The Roanoke Times
John Hall, longtime Salem High School principal, monitors the halls after the last lunch of the school day on Wednesday. Hall will be retiring at the end of the school year.
Thursday, February 21, 2013
It’s hard for some to picture what Salem High School will be like next school year.
For the first time in more than 30 years, classes will begin in the fall without longtime Principal John Hall, who recently said he plans to retire at the end of the school year.
Hall came to Salem from Glenvar High School as an assistant principal in 1979 and became principal in 1987. But at the end of this school year he will call it quits and retire alongside his wife, who is also a longtime Salem educator.
“I have to say I really, really like the job. I really do. There’s a time for everything. My wife and I have talked about it a lot and we feel the time is now,” he said. “We can leave on a high note.”
Like many educators, he said he will miss the students. As the years have melted away and things have changed — the addition of cellphones, social media, Advanced Placement courses and more assessments to gauge student achievement — he says the students have largely stayed the same.
“I don’t know students change that much,” Hall said when asked about the changes he’s overseen after decades on the job. “They’re still hormone driven.”
Those who have worked with Hall, 69, called him compassionate and devoted. They also said he’s involved but doesn’t micromanage.
Hall has been a steady presence through the decades, leading the school through changes and helping to shape its culture of high standards and togetherness. That’s why some in the tightly knit community say the idea of starting a school year without him is tough to fathom.
“I have no idea,” assistant principal Bill Gerrol said when asked what next year would be like without Hall.
He said it’s difficult to picture. The two have worked together for 23 years.
“It has to be different, but I don’t know what it’ll be like,” he said.
Gerrol said Hall has had the longest tenure of the four principals the school has had. He said Hall established a culture that feels like family and the standards are high for students.
He also described his longtime colleague as “a bit of daredevil,” citing a broken leg from a ski accident and a shoulder injury from in line skating. And said he would also describe him as “a big old teddy bear.”
“When he told me he was retiring you know the bottom of your stomach falls out,” he said. “What he established is true teamwork.”
Assistant Principal Sandy Hadaway, who has worked with Hall since 1982, said through the years he has always been compassionate with students and staff.
Without him, she says, the school will obviously be different — but what will it be like?
“I couldn’t tell you,” she said.
She said Hall has made a difference in the lives of many students.
“He’s had one fantastic journey,” Hadaway said. “Lord, he’s given everything he’s had to education.
But now, Hall said, it’s time for a change of pace.
His wife, Linda Hall, is eligible to retire as well and he said the two will have time off together. He said they’ll continue to be involved in the community and their church, but also will travel and relax. They have two adult daughters, both of whom attended Salem High while their father was principal.
Between the two of them Linda and John Hall have more than 60 years of service to public education. Linda Hall is a fifth-grade teacher at South Salem Elementary School. She has taught for 31 years.
“It’s been a really hard decision for me because I really like it. It’s just been such a big part of my life. It’s one of those things you can’t do it forever,” she said. “We both, it’s been a really big part of our lives for so long.”
Like her husband, she said she will miss the people — the students and staff — the most.
“Honestly the students are the reason we get into this business in the first place,” Hall said, adding that during his tenure he’s been proud of the achievements of his students.
During his time at the school’s helm the school has established an International Baccalaureate program and a dual enrollment program with Virginia Western Community College. He said about half of each graduating class earns more than 15 semester hours of college credit.
Who will fill Hall’s post is unknown. Superintendent Alan Seibert said through a spokesman that the position has not yet been advertised. He said the vacancy has been communicated internally and candidates within the school division will be considered first.
In recent weeks, Hall is the second Roanoke Valley principal to announce retirement plans. In neighboring Roanoke City Public Schools, Patrick Henry High School Principal Connie Ratcliffe also recently announced her intent to retire at the end of the year.
Looking back, Hall said he’s proud of his students, as well as the high expectations that have been set by staff and cleared by students.
“If you look at what the functions of a high school are, that’s the bottom line to prepare kids for work ultimately and give them the tools to do it. If we focused just on that as a mission then we’ve done our job and we’ve done it well,” he said. “Our goal is to be excellent. I think that’s been accomplished.”
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