HC teacher Montgomery shares perspective on new possibilities: principal hires and building renovation must be a priority


Evie Smith

The HC halls emptied after staff and students leave the building.

HC teacher Ryan Montgomery, Guest Writer

Open Letter: HCHS Principal & Facility 

The need for a truly modernized school building for Henry Clay High School (HCHS), and the selection of a new Principal present a unique opportunity for our community to pause and inclusively gather input on the future of our school.

A special thanks to Principal Little for his service.  He recently announced his exiting at the end of this school year.  Principal Little has been HCHS’ shepherd these last six years, and guided our school through a redistricting process, a global pandemic, rapidly evolving mode of learner in a digital age, as well as overcoming countless other challenges the job entails.  There is an old saying in Education that a new Principal will either have big shoes to fill or need to be a change agent.  As HCHS looks to its next Principal, this individual arguably will need to be both of these and in the case of the near 7-foot, mountain-giant of Paul Little, the shoe metaphor takes on additional dimensions.  I write here to advocate for an inclusive conversation around who HCHS desires in its next Principal, and I believe such a conversation will also mobilize support across roles – students, faculty, staff, parent/guardians, community partners – to best collaborate with our new school leader.  

How the selection process for our next leader plays out is significant in the context of three important developments.  First, the diminishing tenure of Principals, four years, highlights the monumental pressures of the job.  Compounding the increasingly complex duties of a Principal is the fact that every FCPS high school has the label of Targeted Support and Improvement, per Kentucky Department of Education’s accountability system; meaning we at HCHS must improve our service model to better connect with and educate African American, English Language, and Special Education students.  Second, the January 2022 Senate Bill 1 minimizes the role of the Site Based Decision Making Committee and provides the Superintendent (proxy) greater discretion in hiring Principals.  Lastly, the job posting is for a  ‘pool,’ rather than a specific high school.  How will FCPS ensure HCHS has a voice in determining the best possible leader and this leader wants to lead not just a high school, but HCHS?   

Regarding the building that is HCHS, there is another old saying that comes to mind when thinking about the current discussion:  we seem to not be able to see the forest for the trees.  The issue of vermin in the building has received right and necessary attention this school year.  Mice and their predators, snakes, along with racoons, birds and other animals are of concern in a learning environment.  What other concerns does our community have that also deserve additional attention and action?  

The secondary purpose of this writing asks how we create an opportunity for our community of learners to step back and look more broadly at facility modernization and ask broader questions about the motivation a learning space has on the mission of teaching and learning.  In other words, let us together take a view break to see the forest for the trees.  Might there be an opportunity for an inclusive conversation between partners: the School Board, the Local Planning Committee, and because they have had little to no formal input in the FCPS Facility Modernization Plan – students, faculty, staff, as well as current and future parent/guardians.  Ms. Zehnder and Samet’s student inquiry of Library modernization is a great model and begs the question how it could be expanded to include the entire campus.  How might this conversation intersect with the onboarding and start of the tenure for HCHS’ new Principal? 

There is a need to create urgency for a broader vision for the facility, including: safety, recruitment-retention of staff and students, natural lighting in classrooms, student movement throughout the building, improved alignment of learning spaces to curriculum, and aesthetics.  Superintendent Liggins recently emailed soliciting feedback on FCPS’ construction priorities (link).  If you feel similarly that there needs to be a more meaningful conversation around HCHS facilities, please reply to this survey if you haven’t already.

The maxim that great schools deserve great schools embodies the rationale for rethinking the building that plays host to HCHS.  As the longest-serving high school in Fayette County Public Schools, HCHS has been a great school for generations, and it will be for many more to come.  To that end, this faculty member encourages the opportunity for further discussion and input with FCPS, and our community partners, on these timely and important matters.  If you feel similarly about this moment for HCHS, the purpose of this writing is to encourage you to voice your perspective(s) to FCPS leadership and community partners in hopes of elevating the conversation to support the next building leader, as well as current and future students learning to lead here.


Ryan Montgomery

HCHS Social Studies teacher