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Q/A with Dr. Cody Blair about the start of school
September 2, 2022
Dr. Cody Blair has kicked off his fifth year as principal at Rider High School. With no more COVID protocols to worry about, school has finally returned to normalcy. The Rider Chronicle conversed with Blair to talk about safety, class sizes, school expectations and more.
Q: Are there any new rules or changes to the handbook that students need to know about?
A: We are emphasizing some things that, over the last few years, have kind of slid a little bit just due to COVID and all the transitioning kids back to class. We’ve been pretty clear with emphasizing student expectations with behavior, emphasizing some dress code, following the dress code. And we’ll continue to kind of emphasis those things these first few weeks of school, just so that, the things that were already in place can keep the focus on learning and making sure our school is safe and orderly.
Q: What are some of the new safety measures that we’ve been taking?
A: We are, and always have been very serious about that. We were kind of a couple years ahead of that, if you remember we implemented a couple years ago where we only restricted entry to the campus to two locations. We also purchased magnetic doors to the cafeteria to secure that during the day, eliminated students entering through other exterior doors throughout the day, so we’re continuing to monitor and scrutinize that, and really train staff and students to adhere to that. Our campus police officer does multiple door checks every single day. Administrators are checking doors to make sure they’re locked and working properly, so we’re really focusing in on those things.
Q: How chaotic has it been having Rider-Old High week on the first full week of school?
A: We weren’t too sure on how it would go, but I’ve been really impressed with everyone, including our freshmen who have never been through this before. I think that they, for the most part, have done a really good job at handling it. All of our sophomores, juniors and seniors did a great job making the building look great, which was a lot of fun, so it hasn’t been as chaotic as I thought it would be. We’ll see how tonight (The Happening) and tomorrow night (The Rider-Old High game) go, but it’s made for a fun start to the year, just, different.
Q: What’s the struggle of having a lot bigger classes this year?
A: It’s definitely been a challenge for our teachers, they’re handling it well. We have more students on campus this year than we did last year, and fewer staff. That is always a challenge because we’ve had to get more creative with finding space and solutions. I feel like all of our staff is taking on a little bit more this year because we have less people, but we know that we’re ultimately still trying to do it for kids and be here for students to serve them. So as challenging as it is, we’re still trying to have a good attitude about it, and take it on.
Q: Because of the shorter number of staff, have you been struggling with fulfilling positions? Do you have them all filled?
A: We started the year with two vacancies, and we’ve been interviewing teachers for those, so we’re still trying to fill a couple spots. We’re very fortunate that it’s not more than that, there are some other campuses that have a few more vacancies than we do. The last couple of school years, probably the last three or four, we’ve started every year with at least one or two vacancies and then been able to progress and get those filled.
Q: What goals do you have in mind for the school year?
A: We always have one main mission, our mission that we dedicate every day to and that’s to prepare you guys, our students, for life after high school so we’re very focused on that. This year we want to continue our work toward that mission. We want to improve academically, both our state accountability ratings, the performance of our students on AP test and PSAT, all those kind of measures. We’ve been really successful with those things in the past, and we want to continue the success we’ve had in our extracurriculars, that’s always an area of focus, we want to continue to maintain a safe and orderly environment that’s always a goal here. Some of the ways we measure that is a decrease in referrals and discipline incidents, so we’re trying to work on that. We’ve got another goal to be recognized and certified as a High Reliability School Level 2, which deals with the effective teaching in every classroom, so that’s one of our goals. Big picture we’re trying to, as we kind’ve finish off the last two years of Rider High School and move to two new high schools, we just want this to be a great year for all of our students and our staff.