School: Central High School
School District: Shenandoah County Public Schools
City, State: Woodstock, Virginia
About the Nominee: Melissa Hensley has served as both an assistant principal and principal in Shenandoah County Public Schools for 11 years. Most recently, she has served as the principal of Central High School for five years. During her tenure as an administrator, Ms. Hensley has exemplified all of the qualities of being a LifeChanger. Ms. Hensley has worked collaboratively with Central High School's staff to instill an inclusive philosophy in her school. This philosophy is grounded in the belief that student needs are placed at the forefront of all decisions. As such, it is the school's belief that all students can and will learn when held accountable for reaching their potential within an educational framework designed to meet their own unique needs and interests.
Because of Ms. Hensley's leadership, Central High School has transformed into an inclusive, collaborative teaching culture where students are a part of the instructional process. The faculty and staff have transitioned from being the deliverers of knowledge to being facilitators of a learning process designed to assist students in an inquiry-based educational environment. This collaborative learning environment creates a sustainable and stimulating atmosphere that contributes to a high level of performance and achievement. It utilizes an educational curriculum and instructional program that includes general educational courses, Advanced Placement courses, dual enrollment course offerings and specialized programming courses.
Every member of the school community is respected and valued for their unique and diverse skills and character traits. Members of the educational community are valued, recognized and celebrated for their vast array of achievements. The faculty, staff and student population have taken ownership of the philosophy held by Ms. Hensley and her administrative team. They are thriving in this collaborative atmosphere, which is designed to prepare students for college and career opportunities in an ever increasing global society.
During her tenure as principal at Central High School, there has been improvement in a variety of measures, including graduation rate and standards of learning assessments. The graduation rate at Central has increased to 96.5%.
Under her leadership, Central High School has established programs designed to address the needs of a diverse student body. These programs include, but are not limited to: The addition of a newcomer program and summer language acquisition program for English Language Learners, foundational skill development courses in English and math, summer academic academies, credit recovery programs, the additional of a JROTC Program through a partnership with MMA, a biomedical science program, the LIFE Program for post-graduate special education students and summer transition programs for students with disabilities as well as general education students. In addition, all staff are trained in the use of research-based instructional strategies to enhance the instructional delivery and learning process.
The data shows that students at Central High School are achieving academic success at a very high level. This past fall, Central High School was recognized by the United States Department of Education as a 2015 National Blue Ribbon School winner and was designated an Exemplary High Performing School!
Ms. Hensley is an innovative and collaborative educational leader who continually demonstrates her exceptional ability to meet the unique, ever-changing demands of Central High School's diverse student body. Under her leadership, Central High School has implemented successful academic programs that have received state-wide and international recognition. In fact, Ms. Hensley is the 2016 Virginia State Principal of the Year as well as a 2017 NASSP Finalist for the National Secondary Principal of the Year. Ms. Hensley is a role model that exemplifies all of the characteristics of a Principal of the Year. More importantly, she is an incredible LifeChanger!