KINGWOOD — Terra Alta/East Preston will have a new principal this fall, and while he hasn’t been at the front of the classroom for long, he’s been in education all his life.
Justin Hough, 33, grew up in a family of educators in Fayetteville. His father, Gary, was a principal for nearly 30 years, then county director of transportation and now is an assistant superintendent for Fayette County Schools.
His mother is an elementary teacher and his sister teaches special education.
Hough believes he absorbed a lot of the knowledge his parents acquired in education. “My personal philosophy is always people first, and that’s not just my staff but the kids.”
He earned his undergraduate degree at WVU in public relations and a master’s in special education from Fairmont State. His administrative certification is from Salem University.
His wife is from Mineral County, and the couple first lived in Morgantown, because it was halfway between their families.
Three years ago, they moved to Kingwood.
He taught for six years. After a year at Oak Hill, he took a job as a behavior disorder teacher at Preston High. Hough was deployed for one of those six years with the West Virginia National Guard. He has served 16 years with the Guard, first in military police and now with public affairs.
Thinking about his 1-year-old daughter’s future is another reason he entered administration.
“There’s never a problem unless there actually is a solution to it,” Hough said. “I’ve always been someone who could see that solution. With the issues we have in public education, I really didn’t want to be the guy sitting on the sidelines, not being able to make those positive changes.”
At TA/EP, he hopes to offer “a complete education.”
“Besides just being curriculum based, I think we need to shift our focus,” to meet the challenges students face today, Hough said. “To be successful outside the classroom, they need more skills than the curriculum-based standards are.”
This “hybrid education” will incorporate more independent living skills, he hopes.
He thinks this will help students be more successful in life and at Preston High.
His challenge to the staff will be to help lead the way.
“I believe regardless of how good a job we do, we can always do a little better, and really taking it to the next level,” Hough said. “A school is a school because of the people who comprise it … and I think when the individuals in the building take pride in what they are doing, that’s ultimately what makes that into a school.”
Hough doesn’t claim to have all the answers, and he knows that, “There’s going to be a lot of learning on my part. So I’m happy that I have such a knowledgeable staff.”
Without that staff, he might not have taken on the job, Hough said. “And they really are a family environment, and they have that dynamic with each other and with the students. And that helps going into a new environment, knowing that everybody’s there for that good reason.”
Preston School Superintendent Steve Wotring said, “The Interview Committee was most impressed with Mr. Hough. He demonstrated a commitment to Preston County Schools and our students. He possesses many leadership skills that we feel will make him an excellent fit at Terra Alta/East Preston School.”
Wotring said, “Justin communicated the ideals we look for in our administrators,” and while like any new administrator he will have a lot to learn, “he has not only acknowledged that, but demonstrated a willingness and eagerness to learn.”
“We believe he will work to continue to build and facilitate community support for his school and that he will set high expectations that will help take the school to the next level,” Wotring said.
Hough also has been involved in politics. In May, he narrowly lost the Republican nomination for the 52nd District House of Delegates seat.
“At the end of the day, a principal is a politician,” Hough said, because you can’t always make people happy. But, “you’re going to have to state it in a way to make them know you care.”
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