Nochta discusses HC’s past, present, and future

It appears that the student graffiti artist who inscribed “Nochta Returneth” on the side of an HC mobile classroom in the fall of 2013 was prophetic. Following the resignation of principal Greg Quenon, former HC principal John Nochta was approached by Central Office leadership to fill in as interim principal for the second semester of the 2015-16 school year.

Nochta, previously the principal of HC for eight years, agreed to return to the seat for the semester. Despite the uncertainty of the months leading up to the announcement of Nocha’s return, he is resolute in his purpose and vision for the school.

“When you come in as a new principal, you have a plan in place to [make] the changes that you want,” he said. “Because of the situation I’m in, my biggest focal point is to soothe everything and try to put everyone back into a better climate to get instruction done… I’m not going to try to do anything other than calm the waters. A new person is going to come in as the principal on Jul. 1st, and that person is going to have their own agenda, so too much change is [would] be awful.”

Nochta wishes to return the school’s focus back to education and instruction, in contrast to “foggy stuff that was here before, due to problems with leadership,” problems he felt previously perforated the atmosphere of HC.

Nochta Profile“Your leadership will lead you in a certain direction… if the leadership has a vision and everybody is on board with that vision, then that’s probably the most important thing.”

Nochta is no stranger to overseeing and adapting to changes. In his previous tenure as principal, he faced many state policy adoptions which dramatically impacted students.

“Over that eight or so years, there were a lot of changes in the things that the state required us to do,” Nochta said. “A lot of testing, [but] we put in place a lot of things that could really address the needs of our students. We did a lot of stuff with advanced placement, which helped us instruction-wise and helped us prepare the kids for the next step.”

Nochta feels that he owes some of his training for the reprised role of principal to his storied past as a football coach.

“[Coaching] prepares you really well because you have to deal with all sorts of students, parents, and teachers, and you have to make sure your students (players) are being successful in the classroom,” Nochta said. “Parents entrust their kid to play for you, so you have to have that open dialogue and make sure you’re treating everyone fairly.”

He feels coaching provided an environment for his leadership skills to grow and develop.

“[Athletics] is where I developed the plan [for] teamwork. When you roll into administration… you have a different set of rules, it’s a different season, and so you just adjust and carry it over to leadership. All those things [teach] you to learn how to be successful, and that carries over to the principal’s seat… You learn to build a leadership team.”

He also believes that coaching helped him to develop his personal skills and caused him to develop a welcoming attitude.

“I’m a fair person,” he said. “I’m going to do what I can to help students…. What made me successful, whether it’s athletics or as a principal, is the fact that… students or players knew that deep down, I had their best interests in mind.

Of course, dealing with one of the largest high schools in the state isn’t the same as coaching a football team.

“It’s a little harder with 2,400 students to get that message across as opposed to 50 or 60 kids on a team, but [I] will do what I say and help [you] out where I can. The reason I introduced myself that first day was just so everybody [knew] who that is.”

Looking beyond himself, Nochta is preparing HC to thrive under the leadership of a new principal, asking questions that many in the HCHS community are also asking.

“What makes a good person? When I tell you something, can you take it to the bank?”

Furthermore, he believes the most important quality for the both himself and the new principal to have is, as he describes, level-headedness.

“If your demeanor is always calm no matter what emergency walks through your door… your staff and students understand they have a person in charge who’s not going to wig out.”

He feels that the Site Based Decision-Making Council (SBDM), who became the base of the principal selection committee, should have very specific goals and ideas in beginning the search for the new  principal.

“I think what you do as a selection committee, you look at your organization,” he said. “Is HC doing really well, or is it not doing so hot? If it’s doing well, take that into consideration. If you think it needs a drastic change, take that into consideration. Because we just did this a couple years ago, we can look at the things that seemed to take precedent last time…. Maybe our thought process in picking someone should be different this time.”

In adapting to upcoming changes in leadership, Nochta says, building a relationship with the new principal is necessary, especially for incoming freshmen, contributing to his vision for which candidates are best-suited for the job.

“Put yourself in a position to be outgoing and reach out to the new principal. If it’s someone from within… then the learning curve is not nearly as big. Sometimes change is hard to go through, so you just have to filter and say ‘this is the way I’m going to handle things.’”

In his over 30-year career as an educator, principal, and coach, John Nochta has amassed a wealth of advice for his students.

“Take it upon yourself to make positive change that will affect everybody,” he said. “I often scratch my head because I’m 62, and the change that I’ve seen in education has been big, and I’m not sure if the interaction of everyone has gone as well as [I] want it to. So as you go out, go to college, and try to put your mark on the world, be a [mouth] for change for the better.