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One thing she won’t miss: Chasing down students to enforce school dress code

Needing some flexibility in her life, Halifax County High School Associate Principal Debbie Griles retired effective June 30 after 24 years with the Halifax County Public School System.

Griles said the decision didn’t come easy.

Describing it as one of the most difficult decisions she has ever had to make, Griles said she didn’t finally make up her mind until June 26.

 “It was a tremendous burden, but I needed some flexibility in my life and working at the high school or any school required commitment,” said Griles.

But one thing she won’t miss is enforcing the dress code at the high school and chasing down those students who violated it to make them change into more appropriate school attire.

Unlike her husband, Joe, who retired last year after 40 years in education, Griles has not spent her entire career in the county school system.

For 19 years she worked at Burlington Industries before deciding to go back to school to attain her teaching certificate and later her master’s degree. 

She began teaching at Scottsburg Elementary as an English/Language Arts teacher and then later moved to Halifax County Middle School to teach seventh grade English.

In 2000 she was approved as the assistant principal at Halifax County High School, a position that later led to her most recent promotion to associate principal.

“After working with adults all those years, I really enjoyed the interactions with the students whether it was elementary, middle or high school,” said Griles.

“They really provided such an insight into the real world. They see rules and regulations so differently; talking to them was always really interesting. Every child brings something different into the building every morning,” she added.

During her years at the high school she saw programs grow, and programs fade including the popular governor’s school. 

According to Griles, the students participating in the program needed a liaison between the schools and that became her job… she “was that person.”

“I took those kids under my wing,” said Griles.

The students often referred to Griles as “Mama G” or “Mama Griles,” and she hated to see the program get the axe due to budget constraints.

However, other programs such as dual enrollment and advanced placement have only grown at the county high school. 

“It was a challenge. We had to look at offering equal opportunities for all populations of students,” said Griles.

If the associate principal could change anything about her academic career, she said she wished she could change the fact that the schools didn’t have to spend so much curriculum time on testing for Standards of Learning.

“The No Child Left Behind has its advantages, but the stress it takes to get to the extras concerns me,” said Griles.

Griles currently doesn’t have any future long range plans and is unsure what the school system will do with her position. 

However she said she plans to participate in the Local Optional Retirement Plan. 

And for a change of pace, she is looking forward to doing things on the spur of the moment and not living by a calendar. 

“I’ve lived by a calendar for so long, I want to make the most out of each day and enjoy the days,” said Griles.

She and her husband plan to do some traveling with several trips already in the works. For starters, Griles said she hopes to go back to New York and see the Statue of Liberty.

Griles resides in South Boston with her husband, Joe.