DANVILLE — Longtime administrator Tracy Cherry was named Wednesday night as the new Danville High School principal effective immediately.
Cherry’s career in education spans 37 years, with 29 of those years spent in Danville District 118. During her tenure in the district, she has worked at DHS a number of times, first teaching physical education and later serving as assistant principal and then as associate principal.
Cherry told a crowded school board room, which was filled with many of her “extended family” of friends and supporters, that she has always wanted to be principal of DHS.
“I’m more than excited,” she said. “I never thought the position would become available before I retired.
“I believe God opened that door and I walked through to have that experience,” she said. “I wanted to be at Danville High School, and I wanted to finish my career in District 118.”
She also thanked the administration, school board and the committee that recommended her for the job for believing in her.
“I did a lot of praying and preparing during the process,” she said. “I felt the spirit of my parents, both of them educators.”
Since arriving in 1990 in Danville, Cherry also has been a physical education teacher at Edison and Garfield elementary schools and North Ridge Middle School. She became an administrator in the district starting in 2000.
In addition to her posts at DHS, Cherry has been assistant principal at North Ridge and principal at Garfield Elementary School before being in charge of the district’s alternative program for more than 10 years, including serving as principal of the Kenneth D. Bailey Academy when it opened in 2012.
Cherry became tearful when she talked about having to leave Bailey Academy.
“My time at KDBA has been more than amazing,” she said. “I have the best staff. They are dedicated to those kids. They never give up on those kids.”
When Kimberly Norton, who had been DHS principal since 2015, stepped down last month to become Urbana School District’s Assistant Superintendent of Curriculum and Instruction, District 118 officials wasted no time finding a successor.
A nine-member committee consisting of Danville Education Association members, district administrators, DHS staff, community members and parents was formed to interview candidates and recommended Cherry to Superintendent Alicia Geddis.
Some of the committee members who interviewed Cherry said she inspired them and moved them emotionally.
“It was palpable her passion for her kids,” Tinisha Shade-Spain, a parent of a sixth-grader, said.
Fellow committee member DeMarko Wright, who is a DHS assistant principal, said, “She does have a passion our community and our kids. She will be a good ambassador for our school.”
Committee and school board member Shannon Schroeder invited the audience to watch Cherry interact with her students, adding, “She has an incredible heart for young people.”
Geddis also interviewed Cherry and recommended her hiring to the school board, saying that not only does Cherry “have a heart for children,” but she is known for “building relationships and creating a supportive environment for her staff.”
Mitzi Campbell will succeed Cherry as principal at Bailey Academy. She started in 2009 in District 118 as an alternative education teacher, became a dean at DHS in 2014, and has been an assistant principal at Bailey Academy, South View Upper Elementary School and most recently at DHS.
Nicole Zaayer, who served as an administrative intern at Bailey Academy last school year, was named as assistant principal at Bailey Academy.
District 118 will need to fill a DHS assistant principal vacancy left by Campbell.