Principal brings control to high school

Published 6:43 am Saturday, September 25, 2021

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By Dawn Burleigh

Perception is a matter of how one person sees something which may be differently than another person sees it.

West Orange Stark High School has dealt with having the perception of being an unruly high school with multiple fights a day from those on the outside looking in, however, since Rolanda Holifield has taken over as principal, her goal to bring order to the chaos is starting to show the times are changing.

“I joined the team in the middle of the 2017-2018 school year,” Holifield said. “I was the assistant principal and was responsible for day-to-day discipline. It also allowed me to build relationships. These students have known me since they were Freshmen.”

She added there are three areas she will not wavier on:

  • Dress Code
  • Cell Phones
  • Discipline

“When I started here, the culture of the campus was mayhem rom what I saw,” Holifield said. “I began to control the mayhem. When I started, there was an average of five fights a week. Last year, there were four for the whole year.”

She describes the students as “every student is my child.”

A student who did not have running water at home, spoke with her about needing a shower. Holifield made sure the student had soap and shampoo, clean clothes and a towel. After showering, the student thanks her because they felt so much better.

Students that are hungry, know they can go to her office and she will make sure they have something to eat.

“My duty while I am here is to be a mom,” Holifield said. “I know what kids do. When there is an issue, I can tell you who was involved. I know these children, their siblings and their parents. It is not always peaches and cream, but a mother is forgiving, isn’t she?”

While she strives for every student to try harder and to do their best, she is aware that not everyone flourishes in the classroom.

“We had a student that everyone gave up on,” Holifield said. “When he walked across the stage for his diploma, people commented they never thought he would graduate. I was going to see that he did.”

In his situation, his strength was found in another program outside the traditional classroom as part of the Maritime Program.

“That is when I realized the classroom was not for hm,” Holifield said.

While concerns were recently raised on how she handled a situation concerning a dress code issue, she pointed out the dress code policy.

Under the section labeled TOPS, the first bullet reads:

  • Any article or apparel which clearly displays sexually suggestive expressions, profanity, obscenity, drugs, alcohol, or tobacco is prohibited.

“There is a tobacco product called Backwoods, and while the clothing does not say tobacco or display tobacco, the clothes are not permitted due to the dress code policy,” Holifield said. “Mothers will say that is all the child has to wear and I will let them know I have clothes here they can wear instead.”

She added it is about protecting everyone.

“It is not my intention to offend,” she said.

As she gave a tour through the campus, she stayed consistent with her three rules on dress code, discipline and cell phones without regards to if the student was male, female, transgender, or a different ethic group. Each student was treated the same and she held the same expectations of each one.

“Teachers are teaching,” Holifield said.

The campus was rated a C with a score of 78 at the last time of state testing.

“Our goal is to be an A campus,” Holifield said. “We were nationally recognized for our ranking in history scores.”

Her own mother was an LVN by the age of 19.

“She graduated high school as a CNA and later became an RN,” Holifield said. “If she could do that then, why can’t we do that here at WOS now? There are so many opportunities our kids do not know about.”

She is working on adding an LVN program to the campus which already provides certification on Cosmetology, auto mechanics, welding, Google certification, Adobe certification, maritime program, Pharm Tech, and CNA.