2 Principals Wheel Their Way to Community Awareness


For the second consecutive year, Dominion High School Principal Dr. John Brewer and Nick Cottone, the principal of Seneca Ridge Middle School, took a 22-mile ride through their community on Friday, July 22. The nine-hour, 20-stop journey allowed anyone who wanted to ride along or come by one of the designated stops to have a chat with their principal and the staff who rode along with them. Scooters and bikes with bells joined the caravan at various junctures. (Cottone even demonstrated some pine-tree pull ups at one stop.)

“When we talk about building community, this community is special,” said Cottone. “There’s a lot of good will and trust between the schools and families.”   

“You understand the diversity of our community,” said Brewer of exercises such as Friday’s ride. “We serve a culturally and economically diverse community. We have families who have the world’s greatest riches and abundance and we have families who have very little. Those families work together to create an amazing school community. They work seamlessly together, even though their experiences are so disparate.”

The bike tour had a less-ambitious start, said Cottone. “We would take staff on a bus tour. Our goal was to get to know the community a little better.” Since he and Brewer are avid cyclists, Cottone said they decided to take a ride around the community. “It was just going to be the two of us and then we thought ‘Why don’t we invite families?’” (Last year, about 100 community members joined the principals and a similar number was expected this year.)

Brewer said the tour departed from the road at some junctures to explore paths students use to walk and bike to school. There also was an opportunity to point out the farmhouse that was once the sole occupant of what is now the Sugarland Run community. “Some of the kids on the tour today had no idea this used to be farmland. It’s kind of a cool history lesson.”

Brewer said the cycling event was an ideal time to meet students who are transitioning between elementary and middle school and middle school and high school. “We’re taking the time to get to know everybody,” said Cottone. (Brewer has always paid a home visit to every student entering Dominion; approximately 225 each school year.)

Sometimes the cycling conversations turn philosophical. “I had a student who was thinking about getting into education ask me what a principal does,” said Cottone. “I said, ‘This right here, community building.’”

Cottone and Brewer regularly cycle around their schools after the school day. “It’s a chance to connect and let students know that we care about them well beyond the classroom,” said Cottone. “It lets them know that when the bell rings, we’re not done.”

School Board member Atoosa Reaser (Algonkian District) met the bike caravan during a stop at Sugarland Elementary.   

Published July 27, 2022