Harrisonburg City Public Schools Announces the selection of candidates for 3 principal positions

Harrisonburg City Public Schools is pleased to announce the selection of candidates for three principal positions. At its July 2, 2019 meeting, the Harrisonburg City School Board approved the following appointments:

  • Ms. Deb Cook, principal of Spotswood Elementary School
  • Mr. Mark Miller, principal of Keister Elementary School
  • Ms. Melissa Hensley, principal of Harrisonburg High School
Ms. Cook has 16 years of instructional and school leadership experience. She has served as assistant principal for Spotswood Elementary School since 2016. Ms. Cook received a Bachelor of Science degree in Biology with a Secondary Biology Education certification from Campbell University and a Master of Science in Educational Leadership from Purdue University. Ms. Cook has provided professional development presentations throughout the state on a variety of topics such as technology, literacy, and student engagement.
Mr. Miller has 15 years of instructional and school leadership experience. He has served as an assistant principal since 2010, first at Smithland Elementary and then at Keister Elementary beginning in 2015. He received a Bachelor of Science degree in Elementary Education from Eastern Mennonite University and a Master of Science in Education Administration from Shenandoah University. Mr. Miller has presented at Virginia School Board Association conferences on several topics including dual language learning.
“As assistant principals, Ms. Cook and Mr. Miller have demonstrated successful leadership at their respective schools,” said Dr. Michael G. Richards, Superintendent. “They are experts on the unique needs of their students and school communities. However, even without that familiarity, they stood out as exceptional educators in the field of candidates. We look forward to the leadership they will continue to provide in their new roles as principals.”
Ms. Hensley has 24 years of instructional and school leadership experience. She has been a school administrator since 2004 and has served as principal of Central High School in Woodstock, VA since 2012. She received a Bachelor of Science degree from Eastern Mennonite University and Master of Science and Master of Education degrees from James Madison University. She is currently enrolled in the Doctor of Education (Ed.D.) program at Morehead State University. Having graduated high school from Spotswood High School in Rockingham County, she is a longtime resident of the Shenandoah Valley.
Ms. Hensley is a highly regarded educational leader who has received numerous awards.  She was named Virginia Principal of the Year in 2016 and was a finalist for the 2017 National Secondary Principal of the Year award, given by the National Association of Secondary School Principals. During her tenure at Central High School, the school was listed as one of the best K-12 schools in Virginia by Niche.com and was named a National Blue Ribbon School for Exemplary High Performance by the U. S. Department of Education in 2015.
In 2017, she was one of 20 Virginia high school principals selected to participate in the William and Mary Center for Innovation in Learning Design’s “School Retool” cohort, a professional development fellowship that focuses on research-based deeper learning practices and the innovative redesign of high school culture. She has implemented a number of new initiatives at Central High School, among them a Newcomer program and summer language acquisition program for English Language Learners, and a post-graduate program that provides enriched, transition-focused services for students with intellectual disabilities. 
“We are very excited for Ms. Hensley to join us,” said Dr. Richards. “She is a forward-thinking leader who will continue the important work of fostering a positive school culture based on respect and high expectations. As a student-centered educator, she will provide the leadership that is essential to ensuring every member of our diverse student body receives the best education we can provide.”