Bellinger Brings Fresh Ideas

Channai Williams

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By Channai Williams

In July, Jennifer Bellinger replaced Leigh Ann Bradshaw as the school’s new principal.

Immediately, Bellinger, formerly the principal at Memorial Middle School, set the tone with the creation of some new policies, a more strict enforcement of others and a constant, encouraging presence on campus. Oak Ridge Media Group sat with Bellinger to find out about her goals and expectations for the school year and to paint a clear picture of who she is both a person and an administrative leader for the Pioneer family.

Bellinger said she is excited about this opportunity to return to a school where she worked as an assistant principal in the past. She acknowledges that she comes off as intimidating to students, but she also provides an assurance: she is all about helping students to reach their highest level of achievement.

“I want the best for the students,” said Bellinger, who is a firm believer in structure and order.

When Bellinger returned to Oak Ridge, she brought along many other teachers and staff. They include Emory Norris, a ninth grade dean who believes in structure and foundation.

“I think the best thing for Oak Ridge was to have Ms. Bellinger come,” said Norris. “She is person who is student-oriented and wants the best for all her students.”

Norris added that Bellinger will give students an opportunity to have fun but also get an education.

The new principal has made quite an impression on sophomore Shemiah Chaney.

“I feel like she has a good leading determination. However, that tardy rule is killing me like every period, Chaney said. “Are you serious?”

“I don’t like how there’s lockouts everyday. Even first period. I feel like we should get more time or more understanding towards students. Especially when you get a detention without warning. It’s freaking ridiculous.”

Sophomore Michael Rondon said he sees Bellinger as more involved than the previous principal.

“Dr. Bradshaw, no offense, was more of an in-the-shadows type of principal. With Ms. Bellinger, you see her in the hallways always walking around. When you talk to her, she’s really laid back. And she doesn’t try to sugarcoat anything. She’s just like genuine.”

Rondon brought up the current beef many students have with the new principal–that she has pushed a more strict enforcement of the Orange County Public Schools policy on cell phone use in the classroom. Essentially, Bellinger is on board with the district in strictly banning cell phone use in the classroom when it’s not associated with a teacher’s lesson.

“It doesn’t seem right to us students because we are so used to our phones. We listen to music and stuff like that. But, looking at their view, their side of the story, it seems right, because they are actually trying to improve statistics. They are trying to make us go to class (and learn more),” Rondon said.

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