Prieto announces retirement, reflects on 34 years in education

Principal+Cynthia+Prieto+discusses+the+qualities+she+found+in+teachers+during+a+faculty+meeting.+Prieto+will+be+retiring+this+year+after+serving+in+education+for+34+years.+She+joined+Harrisonburg+High+School+five+years+ago.+
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Prieto announces retirement, reflects on 34 years in education

Principal Cynthia Prieto discusses the qualities she found in teachers during a faculty meeting. Prieto will be retiring this year after serving in education for 34 years. She joined Harrisonburg High School five years ago.

Principal Cynthia Prieto discusses the qualities she found in teachers during a faculty meeting. Prieto will be retiring this year after serving in education for 34 years. She joined Harrisonburg High School five years ago.

Nyah Phengsitthy

Principal Cynthia Prieto discusses the qualities she found in teachers during a faculty meeting. Prieto will be retiring this year after serving in education for 34 years. She joined Harrisonburg High School five years ago.

Nyah Phengsitthy

Nyah Phengsitthy

Principal Cynthia Prieto discusses the qualities she found in teachers during a faculty meeting. Prieto will be retiring this year after serving in education for 34 years. She joined Harrisonburg High School five years ago.

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It’s been five years since Cynthia Prieto packed up her belongings in northern Virginia and came down to Harrisonburg High School to be the next principal. After running a school of over 1800 and contributing multiple ideas to the school community, Prieto will retire after the 2018-2019 school year.

“I want to make it very clear how much admiration and gratitude I have for HHS. I’m not politically correct or incorrect on [how] these have been the best five years in my 34 years as an educator,” Prieto said. “I’m ending on a high note.”

Before starting her journey as a Blue Streak, Prieto served as an educator in multiple other settings. She was a high school teacher in both Spanish and math for 14 years and an assistant principal for 15 years. The schools Prieto had taught or administered at were Chantilly High School, Mount Vernon High School, Lake Braddock Secondary School and Harrisonburg High School.

Prieto was offered to apply for the position after previous principal Tracy Shaver advanced to his current position as Executive Director of Finance for HCPS. At the time, she was unaware of where Harrisonburg was on the map and what it consisted of. After traveling down and stepping into ‘The Friendly City’ for the first time, it felt like home to her.

“I went to the interview and it was fun. It was exciting,” Prieto said. “It just felt right.”

Completing the application process, Prieto had accepted the position and joined HCPS after a meeting with previous HCPS superintendent, Dr. Scott Kizner. In order to get to know Prieto before she took on the principal position, Kizner traveled to Fairfax County to observe her in an educational setting. Working with her for four years, Kizner recognized the attention and commitment she contributed to the school after accepting the lead role.

“I believe her greatest contribution was managing the significant growth at HHS and not losing focus on the needs of the students,” Kizner said.

Kizner also took note of the multiple connections Prieto made in the large community she was immersed in.

“Ms. Prieto’s understanding of reaching out to parents, especially those who often feel detached from a school, was impressive. Her Saturday morning parent-tea meetings [were] an example of making herself available to parents and seeing parents as important partners,” Kizner said.

Working alongside Prieto as Associate Principal, Joe Glick found her to be all-hands-on-deck with the Streaks from the moment she stepped into the building.

“She has worked, since I’ve known her, tirelessly nights [and] weekends, with the focus on making Harrisonburg High School better,” Glick said. “Being a principal is a very difficult job, and she has brought together a lot of strong teachers and lot of committed teachers and staff to go along with her vision.”

From parent meetings to award ceremonies, the one thing that sticks out about Prieto in Glick’s eyes is the knowledge she carries with her. According to Glick, being aware of others and having a strong background in multiple situations is what made her an excellent principal the past five years.

“What I admire most of her, or what makes her a good principal, is her intelligence. She’s very intelligent. She is a risk taker, so she is not afraid to make the difficult decisions. She understands what good teaching looks like. She’s 100 percent committed to the school and the kids in this school,” Glick said.

This summer will be the first one in 34 years where Prieto will have a full-on relaxed break. After working in the education system for quite some time, she is unaware on what her next step will be after leaving the Streaks. Her interests range from being a co-author of a book to traveling with friends around the world. While the options are limitless to her, she will always recollect her time as a Blue Streak wherever she goes.

“It has been nothing but phenomenal experiences. I’ve learned a lot [and] I don’t think I’ve worked harder or more intensely like I have here. I tell the faculty that what they do is not the norm and they go above and beyond… It [was] their norm, and now it’s my norm,” Prieto said. “I absolutely love this job. I know some people think I’m crazy because it is an intense job, but I love it. I have no interest in other adventures and it’s time to retire.”

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