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Neal principal gets schooled at conference

The W.S. Neal High School Principal Matthew Hodge recently attended the 2019 National Principals Conference in Boston.

“The discussions and ideas coming from the sessions I have attended are motivating me more than ever,” Hodge said. “Parents, students, staff, and community of East Brewton, get ready. This year will be great.”

One of the biggest things Hodge said he learned from the conference was the importance of networking within the community of educators. Hodge said he met with principals from all over the nation at the conference who are dealing with similar issues he deals with at WSNHS.

“I was able to meet and discuss things with people who have the same issues but in different sections of the United States,” Hodge said. “This was probably the most valuable resource I have ever had in my 27 years as an educator. I came back full of ideas for the year.”

Hodge said he didn’t want to spoil his new ideas for the school year by sharing them before the first day of school, but he did say that you will be able to see some of the changes during the first couple of weeks of school.

One of the things Hodge said he noticed during his first year as Neal principal last year was that Neal lacked culture. Hodge learned about how to incorporate culture into the school through the author and former principal Jimmy Cassis’ presentations at the conference.

“The one thing I noticed when I came in last year is that W.S. Neal doesn’t really have a culture,” Hodge said. “So, we started doing some Facebook posts and videos we call ‘We are Neal.’ We’re trying to get the kids and community to buy in.”

Hodge said one of the biggest issues he and Neal’s staff deal with is maintaining the students’ attention spans. Hodge said many students are distracted by their cell phones, so he plans to work with his staff to find a way to make learning more interactive and fun to help encourage that Neal culture.

“When the kids see that this cell phone isn’t the center of their world, that they are the center,” Hodge said. “Then they realize that they get to decide how things go.”

Hodge said he also learned new ways to approach bullying. For one thing, he plans to encourage a positive environment for both the students and staff.

Hodge said his experience at the conference has prepared him with a plethora of ideas to make the 2019-2020 school year an excellent year to be an eagle.