New administration begins work at East Hampton High School

By Kevin Hotary - Staff Writer
East Hampton - posted Tue., Jul. 12, 2011
New East Hampton High School Principal John Fidler. Photos by Kevin Hotary.
New East Hampton High School Principal John Fidler. Photos by Kevin Hotary.

With the departure of former Principal Linda Berry and Assistant Principal Donald Gates, students and staff returning to East Hampton High School are facing some changes this fall, although at least one of the “new” faces is one that will be familiar to nearly everyone.

Last week, John Fidler took over for Berry, who had spent the last 18 years as principal. Fidler will be starting his 22nd year in East Hampton schools, 14 of which were spent teaching at the high school. 

Fidler said that about half of the staff remains from when he taught at the school, “So it’s not like we are totally unfamiliar with each other. I expect to be able to assimilate fairly quickly,” he said.

Students should be even more familiar with Fidler. He spent the last seven years at the middle school, the final three as principal.

“So I will have seen all of the kids. Most of them would have known me as the principal,” he said, adding that the situation does present a unique opportunity, as the incoming freshmen have known him as principal at the middle school, and will now have him as high school principal for the next four years.

“That will be a unique experience. It will be an interesting graduation day, when that comes,” he said.    

Students will see a new face in the assistant principal’s chair this fall, as Michael Dalton comes to East Hampton after teaching social studies for the past 11 years in the Westbrook and Guilford school systems.

“East Hampton has a great reputation. It is a small community that was really attractive to me,” Dalton said, partly because he gets to wear several hats as assistant principal in a smaller school, whereas larger schools often have several, more specialized assistant principals.

“Here, I get to experience all of those things. I think it will make me a stronger administrator in the end,” he said. 

While changing both of a school’s top administrators simultaneously could conceivably lead to problems initially, neither Fidler nor Dalton foresee any difficulty in the coming year.

Fidler said that his familiarity with the students, and theirs with him, makes him very confident that the year will run smoothly.

“I’ve always had a good relationship with the students, and tried to be firm, fair, friendly and honest. And I get the same back from them.  I’m expecting a pretty warm reception,” he said.

Dalton, too, expects the transition to be smooth, mainly because of Fidler’s history with the kids.

“John knows everybody in the district. He knows the kids and they know him. There’s a familiarity there and there’s a great deal of respect that he has earned from the community,” Dalton said, adding that he is glad “to have somebody ahead of me who can serve as a real mentor. That’s very important to me.”

Dalton said he sees his job as “maintaining a positive relationship with all of the stakeholders in the school community,” a process that will revolve around communication and collaboration.

His responsibility of handling student discipline means “that I have a large part to play in the climate of the building. It takes an awful lot of communication to build a good, positive culture in a building,” he said. He maintains an open-door policy, and wants to keep open the lines of communication with students, parents and teachers. He will spend much of his first month after school begins observing and learning, he said.

“The more visible I am, the more accessible I am, the better I think I can do my job. I can’t do my job sitting in here and shutting my door.  I have a very real interest in seeing what goes on in the classroom and meeting the kids and the teachers, and getting to know them,” Dalton said.

Fidler likewise said that he is always available, but encourages students and teachers to try and work out any problems.

“But if that’s been tried and something doesn’t seem to be happening, my door is always open, whether it’s a classroom problem, a personal problem, a problem on the athletic field. I don’t turn people away,” Fidler said.

Both Fidler and Dalton say that there are no major changes in store for the school. Eventually, Dalton would like to take greater advantage of some current educational technologies, many of which are available at little or no cost.

“I don’t want students here to be competitive,” he said. “I want them to have an advantage. If I can put our students in a position to have that competitive advantage over their peers, that’s what we’re here for.”

Any immediate changes, said Fidler, would be driven by the school's accreditation evaluation.

“That report had a lot of recommendations for changes and improvements,” said Fidler. This will also be the first year in which the school will have a varsity football program, he said.

“That lends a different flavor to the fall, to have a varsity football team. It really kicks off the year, and the weekends become a bigger deal,” he said. The team will also help “boost school spirit a little and make homecoming a big thing,” he said.

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