Mrs. Gillespie Announces Retirement
By Paul Hurford
Deborah Gillespie, the principal of Hanover High School, is retiring at the end of the school year. She is leaving because she and her husband are going to spend more time together in West Virginia.
She has been the principal of HHS for the past ten years, but this was not her first job in education. She was an ed assistant for four years during college and then taught seventh grade at Meadowbrook Middle School in Poway, California, for seven years. She then moved to New Hampshire, where she also taught for seven years at Mascoma High School. Her next job was here at Hanover High School, where she was Dean of Students.
When Mrs. Gillespie became the Dean of Students, there were no study halls, and there was more free time than at other schools where she had worked. She was impressed by the real power held by Council, noting, “I had to make adjustments [to my leadership style].”
When Mrs. Gillespie first became principal, the building was very different. The renovation of HHS hadn’t occurred yet. She recalled, “There were no decent social areas, like the café and the atrium, and this created problems. Also there was no March Intensive, and activity period was once a week for one hour.”
She also noted what had stayed the same over time: “Hanover High School was a democratic school, and has been since the 1970s, and has always had excellent staff and Council.”
When asked about some of the most important changes that she had made over her years as being principal at Hanover High, her response was, “Some of the most important changes that I made were the break in the day and social life. Also, allowing or helping students and staff to bring new ideas like March Intensive. I helped to create a better tone of community, fixed the major issue of harassment, and now the departments work better together and are more involved.”
Mrs. Gillespie explained, “The best part of being principal is the students and staff, and they amaze me. Also people are so inviting and nice, and they are interested in working with you. They made me proud of HHS, and I wanted it to be the best.”
Mrs. Gillespie loves her job, but it is not an easy one. Throughout each school year there are challenges and high demands.
“The most challenging part depended on the time of year,” she said. “Also there were many long nights and weekends; it was hard keeping up energy. It is also difficult to have the amount of time that I am able to spend with students. Also, the diversity of the job is a challenge—budgeting, talking, etc.”
On a personal level, Mrs. Gillespie was blown away by the compassion of the HHS community when she faced an unforeseen challenge.
“When I was ill, some of the students and parents who were in the medical field were supportive to me. It really helped to show how caring the staff and students are.”
Mrs. Gillespie has no regrets as she approaches retirement. As she explained in her school-wide announcement, she made the decision to retire at the end of the school year because her husband is already retired and is [moving] back and forth from West Virginia to New Hampshire. She would like to spend more time with him.
Mrs. Gillespie is proud that HHS has evolved more into her vision of community, where ninth through twelfth graders feel more like HHS students and do not worry about hazing. She also believes that the departments and staff are all here for one reason, which is HHS. She added, “I am willing for HHS to try new things. If they work, great, but if they don’t, we will move on.” She believes HHS has changed for the best, commenting, “HHS has always been an excellent school, but it keeps getting better and will continue to do so.”
So what is next for Mrs. Gillespie? In addition to spending more time with her husband and reading, she might work as a fill-in principal. She also has a love for animals, so she may get a part-time job in those realms. She also mentioned, “I had always had a plan, but in some ways it seems exciting not to know what is coming.”
Mrs. Gillespie had some words of advice to give the student body of HHS for the upcoming years.
“My advice would be to continue to take care of the culture of HHS. Also support each other and adults. Keep Hanover High a special place, like awards being given to people in all the varieties and fields that the school has to offer, and make sure that they all appreciate and respect one another.”
Thank you, Mrs. Gillespie, for all your years of service, advice and guidance to HHS to make it a better place.