New Assistant Principal Whitley Morse begins to find her place at FHC


Last Monday morning, Whitley Morse walked through the doors of FHC and stepped into her first day as FHC’s newest assistant principal. It was a rather quiet arrival, with no announcement over FX or school meeting in the gym. But after only a week, it’s becoming apparent that Morse won’t be a quiet, office-addicted assistant principal, but one who comes to meet us where we are.

“I think people are still kind of trying to figure out who [I am],” Morse said. “So, I’ve been really trying to go out of my way to be in the hallways in the morning, be in the cafeteria, and at least be a friendly face. Overall, students were polite and welcoming. I think that they’re really still trying to figure me out.”

Coming in as a new administrator seems to have a lot of the same issues that coming into high school as a freshman does, especially when it comes to figuring out who teachers are and how to get around.

“This is kind of a confusing school to get a handle on, as far as the layout,” Interim Assistant Principal Steve Harvey said. “I’m finally used to that now, and I know where all the teachers’ rooms are. During open house, I [had been] here for a week in the school. Parents were like, ‘Hey, can you tell me where so and so’s room is,’ and I was like, ‘Not so much.’”

Now, Morse is going through that same process.

“I was very pumped [at conferences],” Morse said. “A parent asked me where they could get Forest Hills gear. I even knew Ms. O’Brien’s name and sent them in the right direction. So, I call it a win. That’s exciting.”

Although the role of assistant principal is likely one of the most complex and overlapping jobs in the building, there are three main attributes they look for when searching for someone to fill the position.

“First and foremost, [we want] someone who can be a team player with our administrative team and someone who relates well to kids, to students,” Principal Steve Passinault said.

Both of those are essential because assistant principals are often put in situations where discipline is required, in cases of both students and teachers. However, when there is a level of respect and understanding in place, those situations can be handled with much better care.

“Another big piece of our administrative team is the administrators are really the instructional leaders for our teachers as well,” Passinault said. “Helping teachers continue to look for ways that [improve] their classrooms [is a substantial part of the job].”

Already, Morse has shown a desire to step inside classrooms and understand them by appearing in a multitude of different classes in her first week.

“I was excited, and it didn’t disappoint,” Morse said. “[At] breakfast and bagels first thing Monday morning, people just were really welcoming and inviting me into their classrooms. So, it’s been really nice.”

However, the most important job of any administrator is to build relationships with students and faculty and to be there to support them.

“My advice to [Morse] would be the same if they were in any building in the country,” Harvey said. “High schools are made up of people, so you have to build relationships with the people in the building. The policies and procedures you’ll learn, but the best way to acclimate yourself to any situation that involves working with people is to get to know the people, know their stories, and know their backgrounds.”

Morse obviously wishes to do that and to make deep connections with students. However, she feels especially pulled to help those who feel as though they don’t belong here at FHC.

“[The students in the interview process] were asking a lot of really good questions, tough questions, and questions that they had concerns about,” Morse said. “It was very obvious that there are some students who are dealing with a sense of not belonging and some cultural issues. I love being there for all students, but especially those students who don’t feel as if they belong. I had asked a couple of them, ‘How did you become a part of this process?’ It was strictly volunteers. So, that was just very telling to me that those students were wanting to be heard. I think that yes, I’ll do testing and all of those details that assistant principals do, but my ultimate goal is to get all students feeling as if they are a part of the community.”

Who better to do that than someone who has seen what our FHC community can be?

“A month ago, I learned that I would be getting the position and have been overwhelmed by the amount of support I have been receiving,” Morse said. “I don’t have a school email or anything, but people here all seem to have my personal email, which is wonderful, and have just sent me a lot of really great messages. The athletic director contacted me right away [asking], “What sizes do you wear, so I can have gear ready for you?” I knew I was coming into something good and into a positive environment, which was something that I was looking for.”