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PHOTO BY CIERA HUGHES Darit Riddle rises to the principal’s desk at Phil Campbell High School following former principal Gary Odom’s retirement. Riddle has spent the past 11 years as assistant principal at Phil Campbell.

Phil Campbell principal steps into new role with familiar faces

Phil Campbell’s Darit Riddle has seen a lot in his 11 years at Phil Campbell, from the 2011 tornados to the completion of the new school, but this year he is seeing something for the first time: the view from the principal’s chair.

Riddle said he is happy with his new position at the school, but he is happier to have the chance to lead after everything the students have been through.

“We’ve been through a lot at Phil Campbell,” Riddle said. “We’ve been through the school being torn down; we’ve been through being in trailers for a few years; we’ve been through being in the churches for the first few weeks until we got in here; so to finally be able to be in this place is just great.”

Riddle said he has experienced a lot of great memories with the Bobcats, but his fondest memory was touring the new school building with the students when it first opened in 2014.

“We went through so much, and this community just suffered so much,” Riddle said. “That was probably just the best thing – seeing their faces, knowing that we get to start a new tradition in this new school and carry on the old things that we’ve done but start something new with the new building.”

Riddle began his time at Phil Campbell as vice principal after teaching and serving as the principal at Tharptown for 10 years. He said through his time at Phil Campbell, he has developed a bond with the school and the community.

“It just feels like even though I’m not from Phil Campbell that the people of Phil Campbell have just taken me in as one of their own,” Riddle said. “I love it here, and I would love to stay here until I can retire from here.”

Franklin County Superintendent Greg Hamilton said Riddle was a great choice for the principal position because of how much time he has put into the school.

“He has been there a while as vice principal and as a coach, so he is very familiar with the school and the students there,” Hamilton said. “I expect that he will do a great job there.”

Riddle said one of his biggest goals as a principal is to create a positive learning atmosphere where students and teachers both feel supported and inspired.

“If I’m not empowering and developing leaders in the school, then I’m not doing my job,” Riddle said.

He said he is trying to change the school culture and promote an environment where the community is involved with the school and everyone feels a pride for Phil Campbell.

“Everybody is going to have their own opinion, and I don’t think the school, myself included, has done a good enough job spreading positivity to combat that,” Riddle said.

To begin spreading Bobcat spirit, Riddle said he is adopting the saying #ptp, which stands for “promote the pride.” He said he hopes to spend time asking students their favorite things about the school and focusing on the positives, such as the baseball team making it to the final four last year or the new aviation program.

Riddle said with as much as he would like to accomplish, his biggest goal is to keep adding programs and doing whatever he can to make Phil Campbell be the best place it can be.

“This is a great school,” Riddle said. “We have great teachers and great students. I’m just honored to be the principal here.”