Hamisi Tarrant is one of two new faces on Haddonfield Memorial High School principal Tammy McHale’s reshaped administrative team. As the dean of students, he’s tasked with keeping the peace among nearly 800 pupils, but he recognizes the traditional manner of meting out discipline to teenagers whose minds are continually evolving is a thing of the past.
“My approach is more restorative. Sometimes it’s too easy to lay down the hammer to be punitive. But to get the background of why the particular behavior happened – or looking at if we can change that behavior – are there some things that we can do that are not punitive in order to change that behavior?” Tarrant explained.
“I’m kind of looking at alternative ways to handle certain behaviors. Detentions are great, but giving back to the community is better. It’s a little more powerful and more meaningful. Ultimately it’s about finding ways to realize their mistakes and be mindful of them.”
Integration of students into the academic community and also within the world outside the classroom and the borough is also part of Tarrant’s gameplan.
“My last three years (at Cherry Hill High School West), my role became more of a mentor. We did a lot of things with minority youth and increasing their academic performance, really just kind of bringing people together. Coming to Haddonfield, I feel like I can do the same thing, essentially finding ways to bring people together,” he noted.
Part of the 21st-century educational mindset that’s slowly taking root in the school district involves more conference and collaboration between adults and their charges to best prepare students for the next step in academia.
“That’s kind of the trend of education, looking to get more student involvement, and hearing student voices, that’s what we’re doing. We’re connecting students with teachers and with us (administration), and hopefully it will infuse the academic process. As we move forward, we have the new academic schedule coming out next year that moves us more into the collegiate lifestyle,” Tarrant said regarding the unique student-teacher-admin relationship at HMHS.
Tarrant is a new addition to the HMHS community but not to the area, as he spent the last 15 years at Cherry Hill Public Schools, working through the district in roles ranging from teacher to coach to administrator. He credits closeness with West English teacher and township council member Carole Roskoph as a motivating factor in his development.
“I started off at the elementary school level as a health and phys-ed teacher at Thomas Paine, also spent time at Woodcrest, Barton and Kingston. Then, I went up to the high school, where I started off coaching football and basketball and ended up coaching track at the end of my tenure. I later moved into administrative roles, so I was supervisor for athletics, coordinator for foreign-language health and physical education, professional development, student voice survey,” he said.
Tarrant cites the enthusiasm and philosophy of his new boss as a primary reason to join the team at the top of the Bulldawg high school pyramid and work together to hit the ground running once school begins.
“I really believe in her vision. I wanted to become a part of her team and her program. And Dan (assistant principal Licata) is one of the best people I’ve ever met. I know Tammy spoke about it before, but we’re excited, we’re all working together. We have time to figure out each other’s strengths and weaknesses. As we continue to grow, I think it’ll be a good experience.”
As McHale previously mentioned, Tarrant’s also most looking forward to the influx of students to break up the monotony of summer slowness on campus. A seeker of new challenges, his additional responsibilities with the school’s counseling department is one facet of the new job he’s looking forward to tackling.
“My goal here is to connect, bring awareness about mental health, anxiety, all those pressures that a lot of our students see, and find ways to have them cope with it,” he continued.
“I have an open-door policy. I’m around for the rest of the summer. If you’re around during the school year, come by, say hello. I’d like to meet any community members and interact with the student population.”