Shortly after she was appointed to succeed Jane Barranger as principal of Towson High School, Charlene DiMino spent two days at the school with her predecessor, learning the ins and outs of the school she'd soon call her own.
Those days with Barranger, who was DiMino's mentor when she first became a principal at Parkville High and who retired in June after a dozen years leading Towson High, helped DiMino gain a better understanding of Towson High. But then she had to begin distinguishing herself from Barranger, and begin to mold Towson High into something new.
"I think that it's always important to honor the past, and look at traditions that have been here at the school," DiMino said. "But it's also really important to create new traditions and work with the students and staff and parents moving forward."
DiMino, a Pennsylvania native, has been an educator for 17 years. Her classroom experience stretched across elementary, middle, and high schools in the northeast and southeast regions of Baltimore County, and most recently, she spent three years as principal at Parkville High.
In those roles, plus her experiences as a mother of two, she has seen the changing face of education and the children themselves.
But in the short term, DiMino will be charged with two important transitions for Towson High: a move to the Common Core curriculum and the implementation of a new teaching evaluation method, the Charlotte Danielson Framework for Teaching.
DiMino said that last year Parkville High was a pilot school for the Danielson Framework, which encourages reflection and collaboration for instructors.
"I'm familiar with the framework, so I think that makes it easier," she said. "In education, change is always a challenge. But we also constantly need to be reinventing ourselves for what's going on with the kids."
Sue Parts, a mother of four from West Towson who has a son at Towson High and two other children at Dumbarton Middle School, said a fresh face in charge to go along with so many changes was a good idea.
Parts was one of several parents who attended an early-morning meet-and-greet with DiMino last month, and said DiMino was "very friendly, very professional, and she seemed really comfortable."
"I love Dr. Barranger, and I love Towson High," Parts said. "(But) I think it's good the Towson principal is kind of young and energetic. I think that'll be really nice."
Barranger said DiMino is "poised to carry out the direction of" Superintendent Dallas Dance.
"She's good with kids, she's good with parents, she has great communication skills, and most importantly, she knows instruction," Barranger said. "I'm really happy for the community and for the kids and for the teachers."
The past two months have involved mostly administrative work for DiMino, who has been preparing for the school year with Towson High's three returning assistant principals, Joslyn Travis, Traci Mathena and John Stevens.
DiMino said the transition "has been as smooth as it can be."
"I find that the administrative staff here is phenomenal," she said. "They're collaborative, they're supportive, and they're hard workers — their efforts stand out."
Likewise, she said there's a "really great pool of talent" among the rest of the staff.
But whenever she speaks of the impending arrival of students, DiMino's face lights up. She said preparations are under way for freshman orientation night, and she had a visit planned to the school's marching band camp at Camp Bramblewood.
"That's ultimately on my mind," she said. "I'm really excited to (meet the students)."