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BHS principal makes a move

Lead the administrators, faculty and students under your watch as principal — don’t manage them.

That’s how Lynn Hill tries to inspire and delegate authority as a principal — more than 30 years after a locally famous coach inspired Hill and his siblings on a path to educate.

“The person who was the inspiration was Kenny Sparks,” said Hill, former Bearden High School principal, about the highly regarded Carson-Newman football head coach in his early teaching and coaching days at Gibbs High School.

Hill, a 26-year educator who has been principal at BHS since March 2007, is heading back to his alma mater, Gibbs High School, as principal.

“He helped us and guided our family into college admission, help with financial aid, all those type things to help guide us what to do,” Hill said about Sparks.

As a result, “My two brothers, my sister and I are all educators,” added Hill, a 1978 GHS graduate. “Once my oldest brother [Benjie, Class of 1971] got started, it continued through the rest of us, all four of us.

“He helped to inspire us, along with my dad [Benjamin A. Hill] saying we would go somewhere. … There was never a question of whether we would go on to college.”

Other Hill siblings preceding Lynn as GHS grads are Sheree, 1972, and Stacey, 1975.

“I don’t know that I’ve personally ever thanked [Sparks] for what he did for our family.”

Hill completes nine years at BHS, where he began as assistant principal and athletic director.

“Very difficult, it’s going to be very, very hard to leave Bearden High School,” Hill said. “It’s an excellent high school, academically, athletically. Very difficult decision.

“It was probably a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to be able to go back to a school that you graduated from 30 years ago,” Hill added. “I still live in the community. I have driven for nine years.

“My grandmother [Bonnie Harvey] graduated from Gibbs in ’28, my mother [Betty] graduated there in ’49.”

The latest of the four immediate generations to graduate from GHS are Lynn’s daughters, Lynnsey (2004) and Amy (2007).

“My oldest has completed her classes at E-T-S-U in elementary ed, and she will intern this fall in Knoxville,” Hill said. “My youngest has completed her freshman year at E-T-S-U, and she is also going into elementary ed.”

Hill said he “definitely” likes the idea of a challenge at GHS.

However, “It would be hard for anybody to match the parental and community support we receive at Bearden,” he said. “And now, after nine years here, I’ve developed a very strong bond with the Bearden community.

“We have so much academic support from the parents,” Hill added.

“Not just to raise money for us or to buy things for us, but high demands, high expectations on the children, which carries over into the classroom.”

Hill said he would have about half the students at Gibbs this fall (about 1,000) that he had at Bearden in 2007-08 (about 2,000) to go with 130 BHS teachers and administrators.

Previous to Bearden, Hill spent 17 years as a teacher-coach at Knoxville Central High School. As a biology/physical science teacher, Hill also started the Bobcat wrestling program in the late 1980s, was an assistant football coach (wide receivers, defensive backs), girls track and field head coach and a baseball assistant.

With an administrative degree earned by the late 1990s, Hill said Bearden presented an opportunity for advancement as athletic director/assistant principal.

“But it was very difficult to leave there,” Hill said of Central.

Hill said he would miss “the exciting atmosphere” of BHS athletics, especially its rivalries with Farragut and West.

As for high points at BHS? “My first three years [1999 to 2001] we defeated Farragut in football,” Hill said. “And then we went for a long stretch [of losing].

“And this year [2007 season] to get over the hump … was a great accomplishment,” headded.

Individually, “It goes back to being able to work with Bill Young — great relationship,” Hill said of the former BHS head football coach. “To be able to hire Bill Wilson [local football coaching legend], and that first year [2006] was an awesome year.

“And then have to go back and deal with the death of Bill Wilson was just traumatic to me and to the team and to the school.”

As for principal challenges, “Any time you’re dealing with 2,000 students, close to 130 staff, it’s just a big, big job,” Hill said. “Most of my days start between 5 and 5:30, and then most days end anywhere from 7 to midnight. It’s a very demanding, very hard job.”

Upon taking over as interim principal in March 2007, Hill said he was well-versed on the inner workings of BHS.

“I had many, many responsibilities prior to taking this,” he said. “Dr. [Mary Lou] Kanipe and Mrs. [Barbara] Jenkins helped prepare me for this day. “Everything from staffing to master schedule to finance, budgeting. Both of them had worked with me over the years.”

In one way 2007-08 was easier than those interim months late in the prior school year.

“I pretty much did both jobs last spring, the principal’s job and then all the responsibilities that I had done athletically, facility-wise, school scheduling,” Hill said. “Last spring was almost overwhelming. … Last spring we were one [assistant] principal short.”

So, any second thought at that point about becoming a principal?

“Never,” Hill said. “I wanted to be an educator. This year I’ve delegated and re-assigned a lot of responsibilities.

“When you’re the principal you do delegate, but basically everything comes back to you,” Hill added.

“I’m one of those that I have to force myself to delegate. I’m not a micro-manager.”

Lead, don’t manage.

“My goal to run Bearden High School was a leader, not a manager,” Hill said. “I’ve tried to use a leadership style, not a management style.

“And it’s worked. … If you’re a good leader they’ll follow you, and then they’ll do what they’re supposed to do,” he added. “For the most part, everyone does. … The majority of your students do exactly what they’re supposed to every day.”

Out of Gibbs, Hill landed at Tennessee Tech and majored in forestry for two years before transferring to UT and switching to education. Athletically at Tech, Hill was a wrestler.

At Gibbs, Hill ran track and was a wide receiver-defensive back for the Eagles football team.

Hill said his BHS predecessor could be named any day.


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