Making of a principal
Greg Dinse had more than a 22 year career in the Marines, but has spent about the same amount of time teaching in classrooms and administering in principal's offices.
The current principal of Canby High School embodies what most Americans would call an ideal principal, open and honest, but still strict enough to do the job. His history provides a good clue as to how he got that way.
Dinse graduated from St. Mary's High in Berkeley, Calif., and went on to receive his undergraduate degree at the University of California in Berkeley. It was there he also went into ROTC training and on graduation was commissioned a Marine second lieutenant. When he retired at the end of 22-plus years he was a lieutenant colonel.
"My father always wanted to be a Marine, but was unable to join because of a medical condition. I was on active duty for 4 ½ years before I left and joined the Federal Bureau of Investigation," he told the Herald. After his training he became an agent in the FBI Los Angeles office.
A few years later, his wife was offered a job in Portland and they decided Oregon might be a better place to raise their children. He became a Marine reservist and spent the nine winter months teaching social studies and history and his summers with the Marines. This allowed him the best of both worlds.
He also went back to school to get an administrative degree, allowing him to be an assistant principal for Tualatin High School. He was appointed principal of Canby about three years ago.
It seems there's quite a dichotomy between the military and education, and Dinse says they do have few points alike.
"There's more structure in the military, more routine, more rigidity and sometimes it has more stifling affects, but the biggest difference is in the military you don't have to worry about budgets," he said. "Education has equally difficult tasks that aren't always easy to do. But there's not enough consistent investment or funding in education as there is in the military."
imes he misses being a Marine, "You get things done easier, there's structure. Questions center on people, equipment, terrain, enemies, weather and what resources are available. It's simpler to get things done. Here you worry about how the community will react to what we're doing, how the students and parents will respond. There's more work building support, allies and credibility," he said.
It's important a principal be open-minded and a good listener. He must be flexible and guided by principles he knows are right. "Unlike private schools, we take anyone who walks in the door," he told the Herald.
"So while we have students who take advanced placement or dual [college and high school] credit, we also have students who don't speak English and others we have to prove that an education will help them. That's hard to do without stable funding."
Dinse described the need for alternative classes for students that don't want or need to go to college. It would be great to have career and technical classes, he said. He would love to provide construction and graphics classes or auto mechanics, medical technology and computer technology. "There are any number of different classes and different needs and programs, but we need the money to start and build them."
To add those types of programs, the school would need at least $100,000 to $200,000, possibly more than the higher figure, he said.
The school has three academic counselors and one social worker for its 1,400 students. That's 250 students per counselor and they're not just dealing with academics, they must also deal with family problems, mental health and other issues affecting the students. The school also has to work to discourage harassment and bullying, which is worse because of social media — another big problem that shows no signs of letting up.
Even though Dinse may look sort of tired, it's obvious he enjoys his work.
He knows that most principals quote statistics about how many students are going to college. He'd prefer to know that every Canby High graduate is prepared for where he or she is going and what they want to do.
"I hope to see them ready to jump to the next four years, to take any path, to grab that layer of education and go."
His statement is reminiscent of one he made last March, when Canby's students quietly and orderly left school for a short period to remember the 17 students killed by a gunman at Parkland High School in Florida.
He said he was pleased with their actions and hoped that they weren't just accepting what to think, but learning how to think on their own and how to formulate taking a stand; that they were taking a position of action. "Learn the issue, get involved and that's how you get the government you deserve," he told the Pioneer.
"I'd much rather have young people involved based on facts and knowledge and effective analysis of information than just following a position of rhetoric," he said.
It seems he practices what he preaches.