School Principal’s Day 2021: Hanlon marks first year leading LHS

Hanlon+holds+the+school+doors+open+for+students+in+the+mornings.+

Lancer Media Staff

Hanlon holds the school doors open for students in the mornings.

The click of Principal Cindy Hanlon’s heels as she confidently moves through the hallways is becoming a familiar and identifiable sound to teachers and students, as they get to know her better beyond the Google Meet. Since the last time Hanlon was interviewed for The Lance, Hanlon has moved the entire school from remote learning to a bustling in-person cohort, crowning this return with an in-person graduation.

This year was Hanlon’s first year at Linganore and her first year as principal. She was tasked with adapting to these hefty changes on top of the fact that FCPS and the other Maryland school systems were navigating virtual and hybrid learning models for the first time. 

Hanlon entered LHS when the students and staff were completely virtual, having to introduce herself over Google Meets and welcome videos. However, despite these challenges, Hanlon was able to make a huge impact on the school by keeping everything running smoothly and doing all she could to make it a memorable and meaningful year for the students.

In honor of School Principal’s Day in May, Lancer Media is taking the time to recognize Hanlon for her achievements. 

We appreciate: A new leader in a new school

Hanlon earned her degree from Rutgers University in New Jersey. She moved to Maryland after graduation where she lives now with her five children and one grandchild. She began her teaching career at Middletown High School in Frederick County. Last year, Hanlon served as an assistant principal at Tuscarora High School.

Transitioning to a new school and a new role was a challenge for Hanlon, but she looked to other principals in the county for guidance. 

Hanlon said, “Changing roles meant changing schools, and it was definitely hard to get to know everyone when we started the year in virtual mode. I really appreciated having my principal colleagues as mentors this year… They have been very helpful when I’ve had questions.”

There has been a lot of uncertainty, so students, staff, and parents came looking to Hanlon for answers. Not knowing all the details yet herself, she sometimes had to give people answers they didn’t want to hear.

“I’ve learned that clear and timely communication is important so that everyone knows what is going on,” said Hanlon. “But I have also learned that sometimes communication can’t be sent out as fast as everyone would like because all the details aren’t known yet. So I’ve also learned to accept that sometimes folks are going to be unhappy, and there isn’t much I can do about that. I’ve learned to appreciate when others share a compliment, and to try not to let criticism cut too deeply.”

Hanlon has found a lot to love about Linganore and about being a principal. 

“The students are hands-down the best part of my job! I love when I am able to interact with you all, to help you with your projects, to be in your classes hearing your terrific comments and discussions, and to recognize you for all of your accomplishments. I love that as a principal I am able to have a positive impact on all of our students through the guidance and professional learning I provide to our teachers and through the new staff I am able to bring to LHS,” said Hanlon. 

In her first interview with The Lance, Hanlon shared her experience with the elephant lesson, addressing how to tackle overwhelming situations. In one of her Google Meets with other doctoral candidates at Hood College, an instructor asked, “How do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time.” On her desk at school, Hanlon has an elephant from her collection to remind her.

“I do still have my elephant, and he has been a good reminder to take a step at a time. Many large tasks we have had to do this year, from bringing everyone back hybrid to planning the stadium graduation, could have been overwhelming. But taking it ‘one bite at a time’ is an important perspective to maintain for my mental health,” said Hanlon.

As this year comes to a close, Hanlon is beginning to prepare for summer school and her own vacation.

“This summer, I will be [at school]! We will have both in-person and virtual summer school, and we will be planning on preparing for next year,” said Hanlon. “I am hopeful to take a long weekend to visit my parents and go to the beach in New Jersey after summer school ends.”

As for next school year, Hanlon has big goals. 

Hanlon said, “I want to continue to work on strengthening the positive, warm, inclusive school culture I know LHS can have. This began before I got here, with Student Voices, and I have continued this work with professional learning opportunities for staff, as well as incorporating students into our School Improvement Team and our School Culture Committee.”

We appreciate: Support for teachers and staff 

Though Hanlon’s achievements this year and goals for next year demonstrate her values as a principal, effectiveness in this role is truly measured by the testimony of colleagues who both rely on and confide in her. Staff has been particularly impressed with her accomplishments in the new position, as they are occurring during an especially tumultuous year. 

“Mrs. Hanlon has been extremely flexible and present in such an uncertain school year. With each change that happens, she is immediately available for questions and discussion and disseminates information to teachers as soon as she has it. She’s also just checked in with teachers often and been a very active principal where we’ve felt her support throughout the school year,” said teacher Samira Diggs. 

As if her own ability to tackle adversity while managing a school in the midst of an unforeseen global pandemic, Hanlon’s ability to assist her staff and support them through the same struggles is equally admirable.  

Mrs. Hanlon was the calm in the storm this year. ”

— Jessica Baker

“She’s very supportive. When I’ve had concerns or felt overwhelmed with teaching this year, I’ve felt like I can be very up front with her and she checks in with me as well to see how she can best support me. . . Just taking on leadership at a new school during a pandemic is pretty difficult and she’s done it with grace and transparency,” said Diggs.

Though flexibility is important during a school year in which procedures and protocols are constantly changing, staff further admires her grace in the presentation of these changes. 

“I appreciate that she is honest and will listen to new ideas about how to make our school a better place. It’s been a really tough year dealing with multiple changes in scheduling and what the school board decides. She presents information to the teachers in a factual and timely manner. She’s not afraid to say, ‘I don’t know the answer to that right now but I will find out for you.’ It’s as if she is still a teacher at heart and she’s a good role model for our staff and students,” said teacher Jessica Baker. 

It is not just teachers who benefit from her decision making skills, as counselors and other administrators alike all appreciate her role in the team that keeps our school functioning. 

Counselor Christopher O’Brien said, “Great leaders need to be consistent and fair. My experience leads me to believe that Mrs. Hanlon strives to accomplish both. She has to make tough decisions on a daily basis ,and I think she’s done a solid job of hearing our voices and concerns while leading us through this pandemic.”

“Mrs. Hanlon was able to carry herself with so much grace and strength as the new leader of our community, especially as we continue to navigate distance learning, the complexities of hybrid learning, and the constant changes,” added O’Brien.

Furthermore, Hanlon has demonstrated that the role of principal goes beyond the official and technical administrative work, as she makes extra efforts to get involved in clubs and extracurriculars.

“She is level-headed and always positive. During our faculty meetings she is always smiling, she greets us in the morning, and is always available to hear a concern . . . She is very much part of our tribe after this year. She has taken time to meet teachers and students by dropping into our classrooms. She is a valuable part of our community and supports all of our programs (athletics, theater, band, FFA, academic groups, and honor societies),” said Jessica Baker. 

We appreciate: Involvement in the community 

The role of principal is not limited to scholarly managerial duties, as being a school leader comes with the responsibility of also being an accessible figure for parents, families, and members of the community. Hanlon embodies the complexity of this role, as is shown by positive reactions from individuals (not just teachers) who have interacted with her. 

Last summer I had some issues with mistakes on my daughter’s report card. I reached out to the school and ended up getting in contact with Mrs. Hanlon. It was one of her first weeks as the principal and she was already on top of things. She replied immediately and was very responsive and willing to help. It was a really easy experience and I was very impressed,” said  parent Heather Dembeck. 

Aside from her responsiveness and general sense of control even in new and uncertain situations, students also were quick to notice Hanlon’s warm attitude, helpful spirit, and considerate approach to the job. 

“Mrs. Hanlon always complimented my outfits and it has always made my day. She is always so welcoming and happy! I can tell she puts the students first. One day after observing one of my classes she messaged me and other students for our feedback on the class. I loved being able to give my input on the class,” said senior Carolina Heister. 

Regardless of the circumstances, on this unusual School Principal’s Day in 2021, we are thankful for principal Cindy Hanlon, whose committed and kind approach to a new job serves as a lesson in perseverance to all students, staff, and community members.