New T.A. Dugger principal to focus on needed change

By Julie Fann
star staff

Regina Cates loves kids. After teaching kindergarten for one year and first grade for 11 years, Cates said her love for working with children has grown by leaps and bounds. The assistant principal at T.A. Dugger Junior High School for the past six years, Cates will become the new principal in July, following the retirement of Richard Culver.
   Cates looks forward to the change. "Change doesn't bother me. My strength is organization, so I really like to organize and plan things, and get things in order. I like that much more than being in the limelight, so, personally, that's going to be hard for me," she said.
   Cates, 41, from Hampton, received her B.S. degree in K-8 education from East Tennessee State University and her master's degree in educational administration. Cates said she looks forward to being the new principal of T.A. Dugger, in spite of the challenges ahead. "The buck stops at the principal; you're the final word. Mr. Culver and I work so closely together, though, I don't feel like there's going to be many big differences other than that I'm going to be front and center," she said.
   Cates said she is very proud of the steps the school has made in education over the past few years, including strong improvements to the language arts program. The next project Cates plans to focus on as principal is reading and writing across the curriculum. "Because children are having a hard time reading textbooks, and teachers who teach social studies may or may not know how to teach reading, so we want to work a lot on staff development and how they can help children read social studies, or math or whatever," she said. Writing across the curriculum Cates said involves testing students' ability by asking essay questions, which also increases critical thinking skills.
   Another change Cates plans to implement at T.A. Dugger is moving to a new math curriculum called Saxon Math, a math series that divides skills into small steps that build on each other. "Then if you have someone who has a weakness, you can go back and build. We'll start that in 2003," she said.
   Cates expressed that being an educational administrator requires an ability to cope with a variety of different situations and problems. "The quantity of things that go on, which is just overwhelming some days, is a challenge. The things you deal with on any given day," she said.