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For Arletha Dockery, her new job is close to home.
The new Bruton High School principal’s two children both attend the upper York County high school. While some might see the arrangement as complicated, Dockery said it works well for her family.
“It’s actually simplified our schedules,” she said.
Before coming to Bruton, the Dockerys worked on three calendars: the Smithfield school calendar, where her husband works as a teacher, the York High calendar, where she worked as an assistant principal, and the Bruton calendar for her children.
“Snow days were like, ‘Ah!’” she said.
But even with the hectic schedules, Dockery never lost her passion for education.
Growing up in Newport News, Dockery knew she wanted to be a teacher. She studied education at Elizabeth City State University and received a bachelor’s degree in education.
Her first job out of college was an English teacher position at Denbigh High School. Dockery stayed there for 12 years, eventually serving as chair of the English Department. After a time, Dockery began to wonder if she could be of service outside the classroom.
“It was while I was there I first figured out administration might be an option,” she said.
Dockery enrolled at Regent University and received a master’s degree in administration, her family moved to Williamsburg, and she applied for a job in Williamsburg-James City County Schools.
She was hired as an assistant principal at James Blair Middle School, which excited her. The actual job, however, was harder than she expected.
“I thought that middle school might not be the right fit for me,” Dockery said.
She decided to return to where she was most familiar – high school. Dockery was hired for an assistant principal position at Jamestown High School and spent six years at the school before applying for an assistant principal position at York High School.
Dockery spent two years at York before moving to Bruton for the 2015-16 school year.
Dockery said her children are still getting used to having their mother as a principal.
“Their friends will come over to our house and see me and be like, ‘This is weird,’” she said.
Dockery said she understands some people may be uncomfortable with her children attending the school where she is a principal, but she said expects Bruton teachers to treat her kids the same as every other student.
“There may be a perception that they’ll be treated differently,” she said. “Some would see that as an advantage for my children, but I respect my colleagues. I know they’ll be professional and treat them no different than any other student.”
As a longtime resident of the area, Dockery said she has a familiarity with upper York County and the Williamsburg area, which helps her connect with the Bruton community.
Dockery said building community is one of her main focuses as a principal. Bruton’s small size, she said, can help in that effort.
“It’s my school, but I can’t do it alone,” she said.
Dockery said the theme for this school year is “know your input.” She wants everyone at the school – from students to teachers to parents – to understand what they contribute to Bruton and how they fit into the community.
“Knowing your input helps us understand how we can grow together,” Dockery said. “But it’s a formula, not the end. That’s what we want students to think about. It’s a journey.”