Meet Principal Hobin

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Back to Article

Meet Principal Hobin

Principal Hobin hard at work.

Principal Hobin hard at work.

Marissa Berardo

Principal Hobin hard at work.

Marissa Berardo

Marissa Berardo

Principal Hobin hard at work.

Marissa Berardo, Editor

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Westerly High School has a new principal, and he is eager to get to know students and implement improvements. Principal Michael J. Hobin brings an impressive background, having served as principal of Coventry High School for the past 12 years; a school with nearly twice as many students as WHS. In addition, he was named 2013 Principal of the Year by the Rhode Island Association of School Principals.

Leading a new school is a daunting task, but Principal Hobin says he has received a warm welcome here from students and staff. He’s eager to learn the names of WHS students.

“It’s my job to get to know every kid,” he said. “If it wasn’t for the kids I wouldn’t have a job, so I recognize that they’re the most important thing.”

He said he plans to familiarize himself with WHS students by asking their names, following up when they do something nice, conversing as he walks across the quad, signing students in after the late bell, and learning more about them when they get disciplined.

“Sometimes kids who are chronically late have something else going on in their lives,” he said.

Hobin has a positive first impression of WHS, noting that it is a beautiful, spirited school with a lot of pluses and some very hardworking teachers. “You have really great scores in some areas, a great graduation rate, and lot of good statistics.” However, he also noticed that the pace seems hectic with a seven-minute passing time to get to the other building.

Despite good scores in some subjects, Principal Hobin acknowledged that there are some areas that need improvement, such as standardized math test scores.

“A cheap answer is yes, we want to bring up our math scores” he said, “but it’s not about a particular department; it’s about how a school helps support a subject that needs improvement,” Hobin continued. “For example, do we have career and technical programs that use math language and teach math skills?”

He noted that English skills are supported in many other subjects, such as History classes that require reading, language analysis, and writing. It’s not quite the same with math, according to Hobin.

He said that the PARCC test used in the past was problematic because students were not invested in it. “It didn’t count.  Kids didn’t know why they were taking it, and they didn’t value it,” he said. “In contrast, students traditionally value the SAT because good scores are needed for college.”

Principal Hobin says he will also be mindful of students who don’t plan to attend college. “Every kid must be prepared for life after high school. I need to make sure that this school is preparing them for whatever their goals are, and that we offer them the opportunities to explore that.”

He has an ambitious vision for WHS. “I want WHS to be the premiere high school in Rhode Island,” he said. “My goal is to be one of the top three in three years. Whether or not we get there, I don’t know, but we’re going to have a relentless pursuit of it, because the kids in this community deserve it.”

He said, “Are there problems? Yes. Do things need to be run more efficiently? Yes. Are there changes that need to be made right away and in the longer term? Yes. But that’s every school; that’s not unique to here. There are some issues here that I’ve worked on in another school, and I think I can put some improvements into place that will help pretty quickly,” he said.

One area that may need improvement is the adding and dropping of classes and electives at the start of the school year. “We had some difficulty with the student information system,” said Hobin. He said that although the core classes were “scheduled perfectly,” electives sometimes did not get placed properly, and some students ended up with random electives that they did not choose.

“I know it’s caused some angst for families, but we’ll get through it,” he said.

Principal Hobin has asked guidance counselors not to make schedule changes until the second week of school.

“We get the first four days in, then there’s a 10-day add/drop period,” he said. “What I’ve experienced in the past is that some kids get a first impression and don’t give a class a chance.  I want to give them a couple of days to make a good decision.”

Hobin said that although such a system places pressure on a student, he doesn’t believe that missing a couple of classes in the beginning will keep them from being successful in the class.

Principal Hobin said that he wants the WHS school culture to be a positive one, while placing academics first and foremost.

“It’s an academic institution; that’s our purpose. I want kids to feel safe, and I want WHS to be a fun place to come to. Extracurricular stuff is awesome, but we must also help kids to become academically successful. We’re here to learn and be ready for our next stage in life,” said Hobin.

One of the extracurricular areas Principal Hobin hopes to improve at WHS is theater. “The theater program doesn’t exist, but we’re working on it,” he said. “We’ve contracted out with an agency that’s coming in from New York City. They’ll work with the students, have auditions, and put on a play in December. Our goal is to offer a drama class in the second semester and build that program, because there are lots of kids who want to express themselves in that way, so an afternoon club, a class in the second semester, and maybe put on a musical in the spring,” he said.

It is not surprising that, with so much on his plate, Principal Hobin relishes the rare quiet time that he gets with his wife and with his kids when they’re home from college.

“I have a lot of hobbies and interests, but one of them is just being home with nothing to do. It never happens! I always have something to do or somewhere to go, or some event to attend.”  He also enjoys quiet activities like painting and yard work. “It’s calming and allows me to stay grounded,” he said.

With a new job and 800 new faces to learn, “staying grounded” sounds like wise advice.

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