Dirk Ash retired as the principal of La Vergne High School on June 25 after 10 years in that job.
His career in education includes having worked as a teacher and basketball coach and having served in Rutherford County at Riverdale High School, Siegel Middle School, La Vergne Middle School and La Vergne High School.
“I went to La Vergne High School with the mission to improve the facility and improve the education there. I had been successful with the kids at La Vergne Middle School for six years. I was then brought in to La Vergne High School, and I was allowed to hire the administration. We kind of revamped the school and re-branded it,” Ash said.
Student relationships and achievements were a priority to him.
“I hope that the school culture is looked at as a very caring faculty that is involved in the day-to-day lives of their kids and not just the academics,” Ash said.
Kyle Nix is the assistant principal at La Vergne High School and has worked with Ash.
“La Vergne High School was a turnaround school 10 years ago,” Nix said. “(Ash) came in to help make it a higher academic standard school. He did a great job of creating a positive culture for our students. He really has created a lot of post-secondary opportunities for our students. Testing-wise, he also turned us into a Level Five school.”
Tierra Allgood, 25, was a student at both La Vergne Middle and La Vergne High Schools when Ash was principal at both schools. She recalled an incident in which Ash supported her.
“I was fortunate enough to have the ability to work in the front office (of the middle school) in the morning, and I would see a lot of teachers come back and forth from the mail room. One day, I had (one of my) teachers look at me and ask, ‘Did they finally find drugs in your locker?’
“I spoke to Mr. Ash about it, and he said, ‘That is unacceptable. What would you like to happen?’ And I said, ‘Frankly, I would like an apology.’
“Mr. Ash said, ‘Oh yeah, I’ve never had an issue with you, you’re one of the ones I handpicked to work up here. Let me handle it.’ Mr. Ash called me back to his office one day, and my teacher — apparently (Ash) made him write an apology letter — and made him read it in front of me, saying, ‘That’s unacceptable to say to one of our best students.’
“From that day on, Mr. Ash looked out for me and always called on me, and later on in high school, he even wrote a letter of recommendation for me for an internship. I have nothing but appreciation,” Allgood said.
Dr. Theowauna Hatchett, who previously served as principal of Smyrna Middle School, will succeed Ash as principal of La Vergne High School.
To educators just starting out in Rutherford County, Ash said, “Make sure you’re keeping the main thing the students and their health and safety, and let the education come with their successes and not reverse that. Sometimes we’re so involved in testing, we don’t know what we’re testing or who we’re testing, but that’s really not what’s it’s about. It’s more about the relationship piece first, and then the success in the classroom will come, and they’ll know you care about them.”