DANVILLE — After 11 years at the helm of the Danville school district’s alternative-education programming, Tracy Cherry is returning to the high school as its new leader.
School board members on Wednesday unanimously appointed Cherry, a 37-year educator and former Danville High School assistant and associate principal, as the high school’s head principal.
The board also appointed Mitzi Campbell, a Danville High assistant principal and former Kenneth D. Bailey Academy assistant principal and teacher, to succeed Cherry as the academy’s principal.
The appointments came just three weeks after Cherry’s predecessor, Kimberly Norton, resigned the post to become the Urbana school district’s assistant superintendent of student learning.
Superintendent Alicia Geddis said eight people applied for the principal’s job. A search committee of district stakeholders reviewed the applications, interviewed candidates Monday and made a recommendation to her the next day. She said she was thrilled to recommend its selection to the board.
“I believe she brings the right combination of being student-centered, staff-focused, community-driven and passionate for helping all kids succeed,” she said of Cherry, who is also a Danville Area Community College trustee.
Cherry hails from Palmyra, N.J., but moved to the Midwest when her brother, Deron, played for the Kansas City Chiefs. She taught health and P.E. and coached in a K-12 private school in Kansas City, Mo., for seven years and then taught at a public school for a year.
She moved to Danville in 1990 to teach P.E. — first at Edison Elementary, then at Garfield Elementary. Following a short stint in St. Louis, she returned to Danville to teach and coach at North Ridge Middle School and later the high school, before becoming an administrator.
Cherry served as an assistant principal at North Ridge and Danville High; as Garfield’s principal for a year; then as associate principal at the high school. In 2008, she was tapped to lead alternative programming, which serves more than 100 high school and middle school students a year.
Among other things, she helped bring the programs under one roof (at which time, it was named Bailey Academy), and she’s largely responsible for shaping the programs, which emphasize community outreach as much as academics. As part of that outreach, both students and their parents volunteer 10 hours a year through the veterans Wall of Honor, Spring Bling, Fall Festival and Thanksgiving luncheon.
“That has given our students an understanding that it’s more important to give than to receive,” Cherry said.
While she’ll miss Bailey Academy’s students and staff, Cherry said, she’s always had the desire to lead the high school, which “has always been a special place for me, but I didn’t think the opportunity would come about before I considered retiring.”
So, “I felt like this was the perfect time for me to apply,” she continued. “I feel the greatest needs at Danville High School revolve around culture and climate and building relationships and working with staff, and I feel those are my strengths. I also feel really confident (Campbell) will do a great job. And we have a great core of assistant principals and support staff at Danville High School, and I’m really excited to have the opportunity to work alongside them.”
Cherry said she’s excited to pilot the Pre-Advanced Placement program for freshmen and sophomores, allowing them to take more rigorous AP and dual-enrollment classes as they move on. She also wants to continue providing staff with “meaningful” professional development “that will give them the skills and best practices that will improve rigor and make learning engaging and relevant to students.”
“And I want to continue the collaboration between the high school and North Ridge in respect to students being able to earn high school credits prior to coming to DHS," she said. "It’s so important to help the freshmen make a smooth transition and give them a head start and solid base for earning their high school graduation requirements in timely manner. Some students will even be able to graduate early.”
Cherry said she will continue serving on the DACC board. She was appointed to fill a vacancy last September and elected to a six-year term in April.
“I’m very committed to doing that,” she said. “We have a great collaboration with the college and the community, and my position at Danville High School will just allow me to support that even more.”