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New Pettus school chief integrating technology into classrooms
by Bill Clough
Jul 21, 2012 | 1387 views | 0 0 comments | 12 12 recommendations | email to a friend | print
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David Hedges is the new middle-high school principal for the Pettus school system.
Bill Clough photo David Hedges is the new middle-high school principal for the Pettus school system.
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PETTUS — When 30 teachers and some 230 students return to Pettus Middle and High School this fall, they’re in for a surprise.

David Hedges, the new principal, has plans.

The 42-year-old — he will be 43 by the time school starts — wants to raise the bar when it comes to technology.

“I don’t mean buying more computers,” he says, “but teaching the students and the teachers how to better use technology.

“Our students today are digital natives,” he explains. “And they are far ahead of the adults. Multitasking is normal for them. They can be texting, listening to their iPod, watching television and be writing a paper simultaneously.”

The Pettus school board chose Hedges from a field of eight to 10 candidates. His first day on the job was July 1.

In that time, he has established a school Facebook page and a twitter account.

“I want to brag on the kids and the teachers. What better way,” he asks, “than social networking?”

It has others uses, as well.

While assistant principal in Callisburg, Texas, Hedges says it was standard procedure for teachers to twitter homework assignments.

“That way,” he smiles, “parents always knew their kid’s homework.”

A concept he hopes to initiate this year is requiring teachers to “flip” their classrooms.

“That means teachers record part of their daily lesson on video the day before so that the students can watch it on their computer, iPad or iPhone before class begins,” Hedges explains. “This way, when class starts, teachers are reviewing material the students have already seen. Instead of introducing material, they are reinforcing the concepts, and they can move on from there.”

Another technological use is to have the district’s dress code accessible on a cellphone, so that a student who is in violation can instantly see the guidelines.

“And you’re modeling,” he grins.

In Callisburg, administrators used district-supplied iPads to coordinate transportation requests, appointments and discipline records.

“The idea,” he stresses, “is innovation.”

Hedges grew up in Whitesboro, Texas, where his parents farmed and ranched.

“I never thought I would be a principal. All I knew is that I wanted to teach agriculture and I wanted to go to Texas A&M.”

He accomplished both.

He was graduated in 1991 from A&M with a bachelor’s degree in agriculture science.

He taught that subject at the high school in Canyon and later at Paradise, Texas.

But in 1995, he left education to work for a tractor company. “The pay was a whole lot different.”

By the turn of the century, he was running his own business in Collinsville when the local high school asked him to teach special education students.

“I found I missed the kids,” he says

By 2010, he had earned his master’s in school administration from Southeastern Oklahoma State and served on the Collinsville board.

Then the Pettus position opened up when former Principal Brian Thompson replaced Tucker Rackley as PISD superintendent.

“I researched the system when I applied,” Hedges says. “It seemed a perfect environment for raising kids in a community with good family values.”

The PISD board seemed equally impressed. Hedges was interviewed by telephone on a Thursday, asked to bring his family to Pettus for an interview with the search committee the next day and was hired four days later.

Now, three weeks into the job: “I love it.”

He says he soon will send letters to the faculty to introduce himself and his family. Later, he hopes to visit each home and plans similar letters to each student and parent.

“What it takes to be a successful principal,” he says, “is to listen to people, hear what they have to say, and then be considerate, be consistent and be fair.”

His goal: “To help students gain the knowledge and tools they need to survive in life.”

With the help of a few digital surprises.

Bill Clough is a reporter at the Bee-Picayune and can be reached at 358-2550, ext. 122, or at beepic@mySouTex.com.
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