Honeck finishes his time at HHS ‘at the top of my game’


Dale Honeck says his best accomplishment during his eight years as prinicpal was maintaining the strong tradition of excellence at Hillsboro HIgh School.

True to his self-deprecating style, Dale Honeck said his greatest achievement during the eight years he has served as principal of Hillsboro High School is that he followed the advice of the superintendent who hired him:

?Our main job is not to screw it up.?

Honeck will retire from his post at the end of this school year believing that the long tradition for excellence at HHS is still in tact.

?I came in here on ice skates,? he said. ?Things were really good. I didn?t really bring much to it.?

In fact, the ice was so smooth when he came that he almost fell right on his backside in the first few months. Having addressed a myriad of negative influences at his previous location, Honeck assumed such challenges would be par for the course at Hills?boro, too.

?When I came here, you start out as a principal thinking, ?Well, this is what I?ve got to do,?? he said. ?So I was out in the parking lot every single night, we issued tardies for (being late to class) for using the bathroom….?

Suffice it to say Honeck?s hard-line approach caused a stir among students, parents and faculty who were used to something more amenable.

?I just had to back off and let things go on that had been going on, and to support those things,? he said. ?I wasn?t here to clean up a mess?I had to keep telling myself that.?

Honeck said his first task was to rebuild trust, and he opted for a new approach.

?I needed to show people that I cared about kids?that was the first thing,? he said. ?How good I did at that, I don?t know, but I think it turned out fine.?

In the ensuing years, Honeck has been pleased with several developments that have taken place with his support and encouragement if not always his direct initiative.

At the top of his list is the development of the school?s academic skills program, which he calls ?second to none.? The program blossomed when the district was awarded a significant grant to hire a full-time staff person in Jannette Brubacher.

Under her direction, the program has become a model for other districts as it seeks to incorporate the values of respect and responsibility with the classroom skills and achievement for students who otherwise would struggle.

?I can honestly say it?s the best thing that has occurred academically since I?ve been here,? Honeck said. ?That has made such a huge difference. (Brubacher) has been recognized for her work at a lot of different levels.?

Honeck also feels good about initiating an ?Academic Award Night? this spring, which recognized students not just for making good grades for a variety of making positive contributions they made to the classroom.

?We highlighted some things the public may not know they do,? Honeck said. ?We recognized those kids who never get any recognition. They are important in this school, too. That was the purpose of the night, and it was a good thing.?

The new event came at the expense of the traditional honors recognition night.

?A 3.5 (grade-point average) doesn?t tell you much about a kid,? Honeck said. ?It?s just two numbers with a point in between them. It doesn?t tell you where they do well, or where their strengths are.?

Honeck has also encouraged the development of the school?s chapter of National Honor Society.

?Basically, the introduction ceremony was about all we did,? he said. ?The National Honor Society is supposed to be a service organization that does things for the school. Now we do that.?

Honeck said he knew the faculty adviser was overloaded with other responsibilities, so he volunteered to help in the service area.

?It?s not as good as it could be, but we have a fairly active chapter,? he said.

Though he is committed to maintaining a positive learning environment for students, Honeck said the most enjoyable part of his job is working with the adults.

?That?s why I became an administrator,? he said. ?I worked in teaching for 23 years and I loved it. But I like working with adults. As I get older and have more experience and more age, I?m even more comfortable, more calm (in the role).?

That has carried over into the way he deals with students, particularly in the area of discipline.

?Not everything is a big deal, where I have to prove I have the authority,? he said. ?I take to kids differently now because my demeanor is different.

?I don?t know what the kids think about that, but I don?t think I?ve hurt very many kids. That?s been my goal: to get my discipline done in a way that a kid doesn?t feel demeaned. But once in a while you still have to get pretty hard on them, too.?

All in all, Honeck feels he is leaving the principal role with a lot of hard-won confidence.

?For the most part, I think I?ve been the best principal I?ve ever been before during the past three or four years,? he said. ?I feel I?m at the top of my game?as good as my game is going to get. It may not be that good, but I?m at the top of it.

?That?s one thing I feel a little sad about, because it took me a heck of a long time to be able to say that. I really feel good about being a high school principal.?

Honeck?s one-year return to basketball coaching last year was a particularly gratifying, if demanding, experience.

?I would have to say it could be No. 1 on my list,? he said. ?I had coached for a long, long time and had never taken a team to a state tournament?and a lot of coaches never do. But it was something that was kind of boiling in me a little bit.?

When the Trojan girls made an explosive run to the state title last March, the picture was finally complete.

?I got the greatest satisfaction out of it as I did any other single thing I?ve done,? he said. ?What a marvelous group of girls?not just personality, but talent. It was the best. I got more than I deserved.

?Now I?m at peace with he whole coaching thing,? he added. ?I did it. It?s done.?

Honeck and wife Mary have built a house in north Wichita. At 62, he plans to work for another three years, whether it be in education or in another field.

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