Dunneback shares perspectives at mid-year press conference

Principal Meg Dunneback discussed her first few months as principal

Olivia Carter, Junior Reporter

With one semester of the year finished, Principal Meg Dunneback discussed her first few months as principal, her thoughts on the future of the school and what she wants people to know about her during a press conference on Jan. 18 and 19.

Although she admitted that “being in the spotlight” was why she almost turned down the job, Dunneback said that she is adjusting to her role as principal as she continues to seek out connections with students in particular.

“The first few months have been very exciting, very, very fast, new and challenging,” Dunneback said. “There is so much to learn when you are sitting in the principal’s chair. I am a teacher at heart and I pride myself on my relationships with students. I like to be pretty down to Earth, open and approachable. I think the kids are starting to learn that. I will walk up to kids in the hallway and the cafeteria and strike up a conversation, and I hope doing this will make students feel more comfortable talking to me.”

Dunneback tries to focus on what is most important each day, but said that she dedicates her time to what is needed in the moment and meets with as many students as she can. She walks the halls, visits the lunchroom and even goes into the gymnasium during holding periods to be around the students.

She also visited classrooms last semester to learn a little more about what goes on each day.

“The students were compliant to the learning,” Dunneback said. “They were quiet for the most part, and they looked as if they were absorbing everything that was flying at them. The sad part was that they were just sitting there. But teachers have had to adjust how they teach due to the pandemic and the guidelines for keeping everyone safe.”

Dunneback went on to talk about some of the other challenges of running a school during the pandemic.

“It’s hard to run a school under these conditions,” Dunneback said. “For example, I don’t love [these masks] at all, but it’s my job to wear it and to tell you to wear it. We never want to go back to remote learning. We want you in the building as much as possible and the administrative team is doing everything it can to ensure that.”

Another way that Dunneback tries to connect with students is through her “Are You With Me?” videos that she sends to students.

“Are You With Me?” became her catch phrase by accident during the filming of her first videos, a phrase that she continues to use to try to bring the community even closer together.

As she began creating videos with her daughter Clare’s help, Dunneback would stop periodically and ask “Are you with me?” and Clare would ask her who she was talking to.

“I told Clare that I was talking to the students and I decided that this would be my catch phrase,” Dunneback said. “I want the students to know that I am with them and I am trying to build a place that is exciting for them, a place to come where you will make great memories.”

In addition to her videos, Dunneback started a podcast this year called “Inside Marist” where she hopes to document the inner workings of the school through interviews with various members of the community. She wants people to talk about faith, our mission, clubs, sports and any other aspect of school life they find important.

Dunneback’s podcasts are available at www.marist.net. Her first interview was with Larry Tucker ‘79, the current school president and her second with Br. Rich Grenier, now in his 53rd year here and his 57th year as a Marist Brother.

“I’m a huge fan of podcasts and I look forward to hosting conversations with people on the inside so our listeners can get to know more about this home away from home we call Marist,” Dunneback said.

When interviewed for the October issue of the Sentinel, Dunneback indicated that family spirit is the Marist pillar the administrative team chose to focus on this year. At the press conference, she said that the pillar boils down to making sure that all are welcome and stressed the importance of recognizing the diversity in our community.

“I think that the more we really get to know different types of people, the more that we can be open to them,” Dunneback said. “I think doing this equals family spirit and that’s not just a theme for this year, but for always.”

Following the press conference, Tucker praised the work that Dunneback has done in terms of upholding the family spirit pillar this year.

“Mrs. Dunneback wants families to know that she cares and loves their children; Marcellin Champagnat was keen on telling the brothers to love theirstudents before they can teach them,” Tucker said. “She is trying to get to know as many students as she can; she is very visible around the building. Mrs. Dunneback has a ‘Marist’ heart which was one of the main reasons that the committee felt she was the best person for this job.”

Dunneback also talked about the changes that have taken place here in the 20 years since she taught in the English department. She was one of the faculty members who helped the late Brother Vito Aresto develop the Marcellin Program. As principal, she is happy to see that the program is going strong.

“The Marcellin Program has blossomed into a successful program that helps meet the varying needs of students in terms of how they learn,” Dunneback said. “We need to continue to make sure that students in that program who learn differently do not feel inadequate or unable to succeed academically.”

Dunneback pointed to the revision of the grading scale during the first semester as another important change. She said that the administration had discussed doing this before she was here and before the pandemic, and it was “just a matter of making the move to do it.” The decision was made, she said, to help as many current students as possible as they apply to colleges and compete for scholarships.

Dunneback notes that today’s students have a greater variety of job pathways and thinks college is an important step toward preparing for those opportunities.

photo by John Gonczy

Principal Meg Dunneback meets with the Sentinel staff in room 126 on Jan. 18 to discuss her first months on the job. Dunneback also shared the hopes she has for students and her vision for the future.


“I believe in the four-year degree, and I think [students] should go for it and get it,” Dunneback said. “The path that many will take and what we need to set them up for success looks wildly different today than it did when I was in school. I think that’s one of the challenges of the vision of Marist, to keep up with the times and live up to our reputation of preparing students for success. People come here for that reason.”

Still in touch with one of her favorite teachers, Dunneback also talked about the importance of having mentors in life.

“I believe in mentors, so when you find them in your life, I think you should hang on to them,” Dunneback said. “One of my mentors is a former teacher from grade school who continues to influence me today. My mentor worked with my mom, who was also a teacher, and he became friendly with me and my three siblings. He is a part of my family’s life today.”

Dunneback also shared that she did not intend to go into teaching.

“I was an English major and wanted to write,” she said. “I did an internship at a television station and I liked to golf, so I thought I would write sports news for radio or television. In those days, there were few women in broadcasting. My mom kept telling me to get my minor in teaching because it’s a great thing to fall back on.”

It was not until she did student teaching that Dunneback changed her mind.

“My friends were going out at night and I was showering and going to bed because I had to teach at 7:30 in the morning,” Dunneback said. “I remember calling my parents and telling them I was going to drop it, but they talked me into continuing. Eventually, I really liked it. I got a job teaching in Chicago, left my family in New York, and that’s my story. Sometimes your plans change.”

One of Dunneback’s concerns is how much pressure students put on themselves to do well in school.

“I want students to realize that there’s no such thing as perfection and that it’s important to have a good laugh, so spend time with people who make you laugh.”

Dunneback ended with a reminder that her door is always open for students and with what she believes is important advice for them.

“Don’t be afraid to fail,” Dunneback said. “Don’t be afraid to adjust the sails. You’re not going to get it right the first time and you are going to change your mind a lot. Anything you’ve ever done that was hard in life was probably the something that you learned the most from.”