Dodd encourages student involvement in academic initiatives

Ria Parikh | Staff Writer

In May 2018, when Principal Bobby Dodd was first introduced as Mason High School’s new Principal, he said he wanted to set two major goals: make Mason High School more of a community and give students a voice. 

Through his communication with  students, Dodd has been able to learn about their progressive ideas and initiatives, and he has set new policies in place to keep Mason safe and comfortable.

When Dodd accepted the job at Mason, he was attracted to data such as the diversity and amount of opportunities for students, but he was also significantly impacted by his first impressions of the staff and students.

“(I liked) the diversity, the students’ success when it comes to different academic areas, also the amount of clubs, organizations for kids, and different opportunities outside of school to participate in,” Dodd said. “So once I came down for the initial interview, and I got to see the facilities and the city itself and meet a lot of the students and the staff here, to me it was one of those things (where) once you see those things together, I could tell it was one of the top places in the state–some place I’d like to be the Principal.”

Dodd said that he considers himself a lifelong learner and strives each day to better himself.

“I’m constantly reading, and constantly using social media to learn,” Dodd said. “When I think of the term lifelong learner I think of someone who is constantly working to get better, looking to grow, looking to learn from others. Every day I get out of bed and I’m always looking to get better.”

After being in Mason for over a month, Dodd said that he has noticed not only the academic achievement of the students, but also their desire to get involved with the school. It is through this desire that Dodd has been motivated to support students with their endeavors.

¨We´ve had maybe one situation where I´ve had to say ‘Hey, we have to think about this in a certain light, can you come back to me after you’ve talked with some other stakeholders to see how we can change what your original idea was?’ And then we were able to make it happen,” Dodd said. “I always try to remain (with the project) when a student or staff (member) comes to me that it’s going to be something we are going to make happen because if they weren’t passionate about it, they wouldn’t have come to see if we could make it happen.”

Coming from a small school in Lexington with close to 550 students, Dodd said he was able to learn from his experience at the school about seeing tasks through and sticking with projects.

“Sometimes in bigger schools you can come up with ideas and ways to do things and other people assist, so at a smaller place I was able to see them through myself if I had an idea or if I spoke with a staff (member) or student,” Dodd said. “I was more hands on. So I think those types of experiences lend themselves to coming to a place like Mason, and then you have the students or staff to help you carry ideas through.”

Through his experiences at Hannah Lincoln, his former school, Dodd learned about the importance of limiting the amount of entrances in the morning to keep students as safe as possible. Dodd said the intention for this was not to punish seniors with parking passes but to limit the amount of empty doors in the morning to better control security. 

“I have been fortunate enough to come from a place like Gahanna Lincoln where it’s a very large building as well,” Dodd said. “It’s set on a campus where we really had to put a focus last year on security and the amount of entrances and exits. So when I came here, I noticed that we had a lot of the practices that we used to have at Gahanna. There´s some inconvenience if seniors are parking in the lot there by Z pod. Sometimes in this day and age, it’s different than 10-15 years ago, where you have to take into consideration safety so everybody can come here and have a safe learning environment. As prinicpal, that’s one of the things I’m responsible for.”

By encouraging students to use their voices, Dodd said he has learned that the student have strong ideas and want to make change.

“I think the biggest thing I found from the students is they want to make change. They’re very progressive and they want to be the ones initiating that change,” Dodd said. “It’s very apparent that the students here have a lot of great ideas and a lot of great initiatives. They want to do things that are going to help our school but will also help the students and the community, so those ideas its shown me that the students here really want to go above and beyond what we think traditional schooling is.”

In order to learn more about students and facilitate their initiatives, Dodd said he plans on meeting with multiple other students groups and hearing their ideas about improving Mason High School. Dodd said he can take his experiences from other schools and use it to guide student projects.

“A good example would be the National Honor Society,” Dodd said. “I met with them and they were talking about an idea to have a dance very similar to something we did at Gahanna, and I was able to give them some ideas and tell them some things to look for and try to set up. That’s the biggest thing, for me, is letting that voice come out and letting the kids know I can help them with whatever form they need help with.”

Dodd said he makes it a point in the morning to either hold the front door or stand by the entry way to greet students. He said his motivation for doing so is to potentially develop relationships with students and staff members who come in through the front doors.

“I think it’s important for me to be visible,” Dodd said. “In a school this big, students could say ‘I’ve never seen the principal; I’ve never met the principal.’ The students who come in the front door have an opportunity to speak to me each day. That’s a possibility for me to build another relationship with students, and with staff members that come through the door.¨