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HHS Media

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MEET MINES: New principal brings vision to Rocktown as construction continues

Clare Kirwan
Tamara Mines was hired over the summer of 2023 as the new principal of Rocktown High School.

The creation of ‘HHS2’ has been a major talking point for the Harrisonburg community over the past five plus years. Now, in just under a month the keys will be turned over to HHS2, Rocktown High School (RHS). The first to accept the keys will be recently hired principal Tamara Mines. Mines was a principal in Henrico County before the job opened up within Harrisonburg City Public Schools. She feels not only ready, but very excited for the next steps in her career.

“You rarely get an opportunity to open your school as a school administrator. To open a school, but also to be in on the foundational work of selecting furniture, those things began to be the heart and identity of the school as you began to build the culture and climate, it’s just an opportunity that I just couldn’t miss out on,” Mines said. “There are not too many communities that could pull me away from living in Richmond city. And that had to be a thought process of ‘Would I be willing to move to have this opportunity?’ As I began to look at Harrisonburg, Harrisonburg City Public Schools, and what we’re doing here, it was just an attractive opportunity to seek.”

Mines is a Richmond native. She attended Richmond Public Schools before undergrad at the University of Virginia. As a child and young adult she dreamed of becoming a corporate lawyer. Right out of college she worked at Capital One to try and achieve this dream. However, she still felt like something was missing. She began volunteering with Junior Achievement, a nonprofit devoted to educating youth on the economy, to give back to her community. Yet something unexpected happened to Mines: she fell in love.

“I went into the classroom space and fell in love. It felt so right and felt so natural to engage with students, but also to figure out how they learn best with a complicated subject like economics, figuring out how to make it come to life for students in a way that they understand it, while still staying true to what the curriculum was,” Mines said. “I kept doing that and volunteering. After I thought, ‘This is what feels right to me.’ So I went back and got my master’s. And then two years later, I am rolling into Highland Springs High School in Henrico County, Virginia and I am a history teacher. And that is where it starts.”

Mines has been around the block when it comes to working in education. She has served as a teacher, assistant principal, principal and as a disciplinary coordinator in the central office. Her experiences in the field have prepared her for opening a new school, according to Mines.

“When you are leading a school, you have to be a strong visionary, because you have to see things before they’re actually there and then put the steps in place to achieve that dream,” Mines said. “I love building a climate. [Administrators] we’re inclusive, we’re thoughtful. We make hard decisions, as long as they’re in the best interest of our students and we stay student centered.”

Despite her excitement, Mines recognizes that opening Rocktown is a daunting task. She describes the opening as “Having some fear, but we’re going to do it anyway.”

Rocktown will have a focus on interdisciplinary teaching. There are three levels of the school, each will have a mix of all the different subjects there are to offer. The wings of the school will be separated by color to create a team-like feel.

“Let’s do something that can be amazing. It’s one of those things where, you know, if we’re going to not get it done, let’s go with all of the things and reach for the sky and the stars. And even if we don’t get all the way there, what we will create for students and for this community will be amazing,” Mines said.

The mission and vision of the school is fully underway, but parts of the execution are still in the works. The split of the programs, staff and students is still being decided. Mines notes that one reason for this taking extra time is because of the deep community and tradition HHS has built over the years.

“We have to be thoughtful around how we engage in this process. It’s not just about a school, it’s not just about two schools as well, [it’s about] one community. We have to be really intentional. Every decision that I get to make, it’s not ever about what I want, it’s about what’s going to be best for not just Rocktown students, not just the Rocktown community, but also Harrisonburg High School community Harrisburg High School feeder pattern [and] Harrisonburg City Public Schools,” Mines said.

While Mines and the director of counseling at Rocktown, Rachel Linden, have been working hard to handle the split in the correct way, they also hope to create a distinct culture at Rocktown. Almost always, Mines is seen in bright red and black, Rocktown colors.

“I want everyone to be proud of being in Harrisonburg City Public Schools, but I also want people to be Rocktown strong. Every student, every staff member, I want the community to just be so proud of us. I want people to feel that everyone belongs, everyone’s included and [that] we got a lot of school spirit,” Mines said.

Mines has begun taking students and staff on tours of Rocktown High School. She hopes everyone will be just as excited as is to be a part of the Rocktown community. She believes the split will mimic that of a family who is moving onto a new stage in their lives.

“We’re all going to be a family just going to sometimes live in a different house. That’s the best way to look at it. You know, if you grew up, you had a sibling and as the family grew you had different opportunities, [but] everybody’s always looking for the free extra space, to make the room. Well, this is an opportunity for us to kind of split off and make something that’s ours, but still within the family,” Mines said.

*Originally published Dec. 8, 2023 through print

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    Dr. Aland HusseinJan 24, 2024 at 11:50 pm

    My like New High School and Harrisonburg VA
    New Principal at Rocktown High School New Office Thank you Class Of 2024 first Day Of School Open New High School Come New Principal and HHS Principal Thank you
    Dr. Aland Husssin
    President at Spotswood High School
    Rockingham County Public Schools