HHS Principal Bob Cotter is an avid hunter who can sit still for hours in a tree stand, but you won’t catch him sitting still much at school. He rushed to a recent interview with The Ville News and answered questions with a walkie-talkie by his side. Still, Cotter was patient and candid in discussing a wide-range of issues. His edited remarks are below.
Do you foresee any changes in the dress code? We understand that it was developed years ago when styles were much different.
Right now, it’s really not my call. The high school dress code was developed by the high school principals several years ago. We revisit it every now and then as a group to see if it needs tweaking. At this point, I just can’t go out and say ‘Hey, I’m getting rid of this part of the dress code’ because it was a mutual agreement among high school principals. Right now I’m satisfied with it. I really want people to look at the dress code and understand and follow it.
The administration seems really strict with IDs. Would it be acceptable to wear IDs tied to backpacks instead of around the neck?
The number one reason to have it on is for security purposes, so that we know who is in the building is supposed to be in the building. Secondly, we have learned from different scenarios involving emergencies at schools that the police that come in during those times are also looking for the IDs. If you are separated from your backpack, they don’t know if you’re legit or not supposed to be here. We try to reiterate this with the staff too, because police request that they have them on to know if they are supposed to be here or not.
When do you think it is appropriate for students to use their phones in the building?
Basically what we have lined up now, which is during lunch and when teachers allow that access in the classroom. Students need to realize that when their phone is on, whether it is being used or not, it is pulling data down from the network. This messes with online testing because our network may not be able to support everybody being online at one time. That is why we make announcements sometimes requesting for you to turn your phones off.
Is it acceptable for students to listen to music during down time?
We don’t have a problem with this at lunch, and I think there are teachers who allow some of that in their classrooms. Our big concern is when you have headphones on and you’re walking through the hall because it makes it hard to communicate with you. It is a safety issue because you can’t hear announcements that may be telling you to get into the classroom, or anything. We aren’t against listening to music, it just has to be at appropriate times.
How do you feel Commando Time is going, and do you expect any changes?
I think it’s better than it was last year. It’s another one of those things where you’ve got a new program you’re starting and you evaluate it when it’s over and you try to tweak it and make changes to it. The teachers have a big part in making Commando Time work and we’ve tried to make things a little easier for the teachers as opposed to having so many different options like we did the first year.
Why can’t students leave campus during lunch?
Lunch is only 25 minutes long, and it’s a huge liability to let students leave campus. To leave to go somewhere and come back all within 25 minutes just doesn’t work.
What are your thoughts on homework and the amount teachers should assign?
Homework is important to reinforce what you’ve learned. It should always be something your teacher has already taught you because if you learn something the wrong way, it will be really hard to learn it the right way. The amount of homework assigned should depend on the skill. But I don’t think a teacher needs to assign 20 problems when five will show mastery of the skill. And we have to talk to teachers about that sometimes.
There is a lot of emphasis on football and basketball, yet many students play other sports. Is there more that can be done to call attention to the other sports?
Football and basketball are our two main revenue sports. It’s not purposeful, and I admit that we should do a better job of promoting other sports.
Some students would like to see prom held off campus so it would be more of a special event. What are your thoughts?
There is a cost factor with having prom off campus because you have to rent the facility that you want to use. Here we don’t have to rent the gym. There is also a safety factor of driving somewhere to have prom. By coming to campus, we eliminate a lot of that.
What are your favorite and least favorite things about your job at HHS?
My favorite thing would be the energy that high school students put off. It keeps me feeling young - if not looking it. I also like being able to interact with a large group of kids. There are always so many things going on; as an administrator you never get bored. My least favorite part is having to do discipline and dealing with all of the change, with trying to keep up with the newest thing the state wants you to do which they pass down to the county. The constant change is sometimes hard to deal with.
What would you do if you were not a principal?
I would probably go back to teaching history and social studies, probably back to sixth grade. I have a soft spot for sixth graders.
Article by staff writers Kelsey Dotson, Abigail Lewis, Bryce Mathias and Giulia Giordani