THS principal creating a new culture

TORRINGTON – Dr. Cynthia Porter, who took on responsibilities as the Principal of Torrington High School (THS) at the beginning of this fall semester, held an open Listening Session at Platte Valley Bank Wednesday evening at 5:30 p.m.

After having held the first session shortly after accepting her position earlier in May, Dr. Porter has shown significant confidence and comfort in settling into her position for the new school year.

Dr. Porter’s Listening Sessions are held every so often as part of community engagement between THS and the residents of Torrington. This gives them a chance to have a meaningful, productive conversation with the Principal, school faculty and each other.

With a laid-back, yet positive and open-minded demeanor, Dr. Porter listened attentively to both parents and teachers, while responding with a poised sincerity in regard to the first six weeks of school.

“It’s just really fun to see the culture of the school for the last six weeks,” Dr. Porter began. “They just seem to be very cool and kind with each other.”

The THS principal continued and was quick to disregard any pre-conceived notions that the high school she chose to take the helm of had any sort of behavioral or discipline problems.

A retired veteran of the U.S. military, Dr. Porter assured the parents and staff in attendance that she is always eager to take on a challenge, and does not shy away from problems.

What Dr. Porter did reiterate further however, is that the foundation for any success in education, is building trusting relationships with the students.

“When I came here, I heard that the freshmen were going to burn the place to the ground,” Dr. Porter laughed. “But that hasn’t been the case at all. They are just normal freshmen and normal kids.  Freshmen are freshmen, and they always will be, but by the end of the year they are almost sophomores and are different people. Get them through their freshmen year and then it gets easy. And, things will continue to get better now that we’ve gotten through the first six weeks, and it will only get better. What I find interesting about Torrington children is that they are very literal, they are so extremely literal. I did open the gym so the kids don’t have to leave right away after school, partly because they can play basketball, and they don’t have a cell phone in their hands.”

“I don’ think discipline is bad,” Dr. Porter continued. “Self-discipline is what we want for every human. We want people who are self-disciplined, and we have our own set of ethos that we live by that is centered on the practice of discipline for ourselves. I’m trying to create a culture where we are helping this lost generation create their own practice of discipline for themselves. That’s what we are trying to do, and that’s what we are seeing happen. I don’t have to take cell phones away, I just ask them to please put it away and they have disciplined themselves to do it.

“I had a great conversation with two young ladies today; two seniors who were struggling with communicating with a teacher. We talked about strategies, and what does this look like if we don’t advocate for ourselves? It was a great conversation for 45 minutes, with two young women who had made the choice to have a brave conversation with a  teacher they needed to talk to. That’s self-discipline.”

When it came to past issues concerning the use of cell phones in the classroom, Dr. Porter was assuring that with appropriate consistency, structure and a little discipline, the unnecessary and occasional unhealthy use of cell phones in class will begin to decline.

“I’m hoping that we can, over time, build a culture that kids will regulate themselves, or even talk to other students about not wanting phones. It’s been fun seeing the kids do good on this I think, and it’s almost novel. When kids have asked me the reason I did this, I explain that I know a majority of school bullying is coming through social media. They don’t care about what the research says about ear buds in their ears, vaping, or dopamine, but they do know about bullying. I’ve told them we need to do this because we need to stop bullying each other. As they get older, kids get more mature about those things.”

When it came to the issue of being on the same page and teamwork among teachers, Dr. Porter noted that every teacher so far this year has truly stepped up in wanting to provide a safe haven for adolescents to come, learn, progress and grow.

“For me it’s my staff,” Dr. Porter stated. “I have 35 people who wake up and put their feet on the floor with the best intentions to do good things at work. When you have that, it’s easy to make a team work. I think we’ve done a great job so far as our teachers just teach, nothing else. Just teach. What I am experiencing here in Torrington, is that I have an incredibly caring staff. They show up every day and give me their best. I say here’s what I need from you, and we don’t have time for other games. My staff is great, and I think it was easy because all they had to do was go to class each day with the kids and love them. Its expectations; managing expectations in the classroom. It’s the glue holding us together.”

Despite taking on the four-year institution that veers to have a reputation for teenage challenges, Dr. Porter once again smiled, with assuring confidence, to the parents in turnout that all will continue to go well.

The THS Principal also advocated for more community involvement with a welcoming open-door policy.

“I never say you can or cannot do something without explaining why,” Dr. Porter concluded. “I’m not finding this extremely off putting. I love this job and I like the work we are doing here. I don’t use Facebook and don’t look at Facebook, but I try to be unoffendable. I want you to know that you can always come and talk to me. I would like to get things going like a monthly luncheon with community members. Those are the things I want to have, and more community engagement. The community and school is a culture-piece and is connected. I want the community to understand I’m going to be a part of it. When it comes to our building, within a year I want kids to feel that it’s theirs. I just want the community and school to get together and create those relationships.”

The meeting concluded shortly before 6:30 p.m.

If you would like further information or have questions, feel free to contact THS at 307-532-7101.

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