Transition: A conversation with new principal Ross Thibault

Way back in January, the DHS community learned that Principal John Gould was leaving at the end of this school year. Recently, two potential new principals were spotted in the school and rumors flew through the halls about their policies and visions for the future of Dartmouth High. It has since been announced that Oxford High School Principal Ross Thibault was chosen to fill the position.

Mr. Thibault hopes to make the school more student-centered.

“I’m hoping to help build a school that’s focused on putting students first,” he said. He wants to work with the administration, faculty, and yes, the students, in order to turn what he already considers a good school, into an excellent one.

Nevertheless, previously mentioned rumors concerned students as to what an “excellent school” would entail. As with any change in a leadership position, there are worries about major policy changes that could potentially disrupt an already successful, functioning community. However, Mr. Thibault has no plans for dramatic changes, at least not on the first day. He also would like to ease any anxieties about a supposed cell phone ban.

“There might be tweaks to policies like that, but there’s no plan to eliminate cell phones,” he said, “because the biggest thing I’m looking to do is help create a culture where students come first.”

Even though we have no idea what these “tweaks” could include, it’s important to remember that Mr. Thibault doesn’t plan on making any decision without consulting the students first.

Besides the cellphone issue, the dress code has also been a topic of discussion as of late. Rumors of banning leggings or restricting certain female attire have swept through the school. While Mr. Thibault wasn’t entirely clear about his stance on the topic, he had no plans for any revisions to the established dress codes.

“I would say the big thing for me is no clothing or other types of accessories related to gangs or violence or drugs,” he said. “We don’t want to see people’s stomachs/bare midriffs. But short of that, as long as students keep in mind that it is a place of business, and that we want to dress appropriately for the workplace.”

Another major concern circulating the student body is the relocation of backpacks, that is to say, bringing the rule from the Dartmouth Middle School (among other schools) of keeping backpacks in lockers. According to Mr. Thibault, Oxford High enforced the storage of backpacks in lockers when he first started working there, but has since abandoned that rule. However, he would like students to be aware that just because a policy was enacted at Oxford, doesn’t mean that the same policy would be appropriate for Dartmouth High. The rules fit the school and are determined by consulting faculty, administration, and students, as opposed to the principal having sole power over those decisions.

Before getting hired for his new position, Mr. Thibault had accomplished a multitude of advancements for the benefit of the Oxford students. At Oxford High, he created a video production program so that students would have an outlet to create a news program, and helped add a journalism elective, due to a lack of electives. Being a strong advocate for the arts, he also helped increase access to the arts programs and added Advanced Placement art classes, as well as expanded the annual art show in the last three years.

While Mr. Thibault’s appreciation for creative outlets should not go unnoticed, he wants to make clear that he does not like to play favorites. Having been a student athlete himself, he understands the importance of putting just as much attention and funding into sports programs as well as art programs.

Besides being an advocate for the arts, Mr. Thibault is equally in support of Advanced Placement (AP) classes.

“I think that our mission as a school is to make sure our students are college and career ready, and I think that one of the ways you do that is by having students take the most rigorous coursework you can offer, which for any high school, that would be Advanced Placement courses,” he said. He values hard-working students and wants to support the effort they put in daily.

If there’s one message he would like to send to the students of Dartmouth High, it’s that he has high expectations for the students, and that starts with their best academic effort, being on time every day, and working their hardest.