Meet the Assistant Principals

Lilli DiGrande, Co-Editor in Chief

This fall, Minnechuag welcomed two new vice principals to the administrative staff team, Trina Roberts and Joanne White. The role was previously filled by Heidi Drawec but has since been split up into two positions due to the extensive responsibilities required by the previous role.  

Ms. Roberts oversees and implements discipline in alignment with the handbook. She reminds students that there are levels to behavior and that there are consequences for any violations. 

Roberts previously worked at Springfield International Charter School as the principal for the past four years. There are some former SICS students that attend Minnechaug, and Roberts tries to connect them with other students. She uses this as an example for her hope to ensure that all students feel welcome at Minnechaug.

“It’s not to say that the Minnechaug students have not been inviting, because believe me they have, especially to me,” Roberts said. “But I think some of the kids, whether they are new to town or new to school, are shy at times.” 

Roberts loves to talk to students and staff alike, and hopes that through this she will be able to make strong connections with others. She mentioned that some of her favorite times of the day are arrival, lunch and dismissal. Roberts also uses that time to notice other things about students.

“It’s a great time to observe students in their ‘natural habitat,’” she said. “How are students behaving with their friends? Because how students are behaving with friends is definitely different from how they would behave independently or in a classroom.”

Although Roberts loves to get to know students and is welcome to any conversations, she emphasized the importance of the handbook, and its impact on students. 

“The handbook is a living, breathing, document that changes each year and the district as an administration will make amendments as needed.” Roberts explained. 

For example, the handbook changed drastically during COVID, by implementing new regulations and incorporating new methods of learning. Since the return to normalcy in regards to COVID regulations, there have been minor changes such as the new cell phone policy this year. However, the handbook still needs to be formally amended since we are currently operating on the handbook from the previous school year. 

“Once the handbook has been amended, it goes to the school committee for approval. Ultimately, they are part of the governance of the document.” Roberts said. “Everything that we do has to be sanctioned by them so that it’s legal, fair, and makes sense.” 

There are important forms and rules within the handbook, but many people at school aren’t aware of how detailed and complex the document is.

“The handbook lays down what our school committee and the community at large has agreed to that’s going to govern this school,” she said. “Knowledge is power, so it’s important that the students know the handbook.” 

For Minnechaug students there is a specific section that pertains to the high school, where the information can be found online with a simple “control F” search. Most consequences in the handbook follow a progressive discipline approach, meaning that penalties increase upon repeated occurrences. The website for the handbook will be linked below for easy access and viewing. 

Here is the link to the student handbook for all to reference.

Lastly, Roberts also emphasized the importance of learning from mistakes and reminded students that her door is always open.

“High school is hard. No one expects you to be perfect, but definitely be friendly and start off everyday with a smile.” 

Ms. White, the other assistant principal at Minnechaug, has a similar yet different set of responsibilities which include coordinating student activities and assisting Mr. Hale to help facilitate his vision. She oversees the clubs and assists when needed, and arranges certain events such as graduation or the Falcon Fest. She also works closely with Abigail O’Sullivan and Melissa Doe within the student government department. As of right now, Doe has overtaken one of Drawec’s previous roles by working with student government so White can learn about the culture and environment at Minnechaug.

White emphasized the importance of forming relationships with students. She wants to make sure that she can support administration as they implement their vision so that students can have a great high school experience. 

“I want to create a safe environment where kids have memorable moments and they look back on their four years with a lot of happiness and joy,” White said. “That’s my goal.”

Some of the steps she plans on taking to reach her goal include working more with student activities and possibly looking at different strategies to approach discipline and behavior. 

“We have to adapt and grow as a school and as an administrative team to meet those needs for the students, so we’re really diagnosing and seeing what strategies we can put into place,” White said. 

By using evidence-based research, White hopes that administration can implement new ideas, and then come back to assess the impact and reflect as a team to create meaningful changes when needed. 

White previously worked at Agawam high school as a history teacher for fourteen years, and she said she hopes to add to the sense of family here at Minnechaug. She mentioned how supportive the staff has been to her, and that she is still learning school protocols, peoples names, and room numbers. 

“As an assistant principal, the big thing is learning the role, learning the expectation and meeting those needs and working together with a new team.” White said. 

White reiterated the importance of making connections with students. She receives feedback from students by building relationships or having a connection in the hallway when greeting a student. In the office, White hopes that by being fair and honest, students will feel more comfortable around her. She said that even if there are disagreements she will always have that person’s back, and that in a good relationship you are able to say the difficult stuff.

“When someone needs corrective behavior, you’re honest, instead of pretending everything is okay and I think that’s really important.” White said.  “My biggest thing is recognizing that you’re not judged by your mistake, but you’re assessed by how you move forward from a mistake and learn from it.” 

Lastly, she said that she is happy to be here at ‘Chaug and is looking forward to seeing the freshman walking across that stage in a few years. 

“My door is always open to anyone. I’m here to be in your corner and help wherever I can.”