Dr. Voni Perrine has been named as the newest assistant principal at Middletown High School.

    Dr. Voni Perrine is a household name at Middletown High School.
    She’s best known as director of the school’s chorus and annual spring musicals, and now she’ll be known as something else – assistant principal.
    Dr. Tony Marchio, superintendent of the Appoquinimink School District, announced at the Sept. 9 Board of Education meeting Perrine was hired after Byron Murphy left his assistant principal position at MHS to become principal of Dickinson High School.
    Perrine said she won’t completely put down her choral conductor’s baton just yet, and she won’t step away from music completely.
    “One day I would like to be the head administrator at an arts school, and I need the administrative experience,” she said. “I’ll still be involved [in music at MHS]. I really do love what I do, but I’ve also been told the time to switch jobs is when you still love the job you do.”
    Perrine said she will be in charge of fine arts, personal studies, physical education, health, drivers education, ROTC and all the vocational and business classes as assistant principal.
    She said she already had her certification in supervision and was an arts supervisor when she taught in Alabama in the 1980s.
    Perrine took administration certification classes at the University of Delaware and Delaware State University, and graduated from the Appoquinimink Aspiring Administrators program to further her administrative training.
    She is advisor to the MHS National Honor Society and Tri-M Music Honor Society. She is a National Board for Professional Teaching Standards educator and has been department chair for the better part of a decade.
    Perrine, who is now in her 19th year at MHS and 32nd year as an educator, has taught everything from general music to band to chorus and students in elementary, middle and high school. She taught in Ohio, Alabama, North Carolina and the Cape Henlopen School District before she came to Middletown. Her husband, Bob, moved every few years with the United States Air Force, which is how they ended up in Delaware.
    She said she graduated from Indiana University of Pennsylvania with a bachelor’s degree in music education. She then earned her master’s in special education with a concentration on gifted and talented education from Kent State University in Ohio. In 1989, she received her Ph.D. in secondary education with an emphasis on music education from the University of Alabama.
    Voni said she wrote her dissertation about the benefits of music and the performing arts, which is what inspired her to become a music teacher.
    “My dissertation was about how musical performance and performing in the arts raises students’ self esteem and creativity,” she said. “It’s just a great opportunity for the students to experience success and allow their self esteem to grow.”
    Voni said she became involved in musicals when she was in high school, and found a passion that would stay with her throughout her life.
    “I took dance lessons and piano lessons and liked to sing, but everybody always thought of me as a smart girl,” she said. “I had curly hair when straight hair was in. I was much more nerdier than I was part of the in-crowd.
    “But when I got to do the musicals, it opened up another side of my personality and it really gave me confidence and inspired me to do this with other kids,” Voni said.
    And that’s exactly what she’s done.
    Voni has watched the MHS chorus grow from 17 kids in her first year to 180 students at its highest point. Every spring the stage is packed with students who sing, dance and act in front of sell-out crowds.
    “Nobody else does musicals like we do with the number of kids we have in them and the quality of it, the professionalism and the kids doing all the technical work,” she said. “I’ve had the most kids in All State Chorus for two consecutive years and for the last five years, MHS was always in the top three.”
    Under her direction, the chorus has brought home numerous trophies from competitions, including one for being named overall Grand Champion of a cruise festival in 2004.
    She’s even inspired performance in her daughter, Natassia, who is the assistant community art outreach director for the Metropolitan Opera in Manhattan.
    It was Natassia’s experience in the Tri-M Music Honor Society at Dover High School that inspired Voni to start a chapter at MHS.
    “I saw how my daughter and her friends grew from that opportunity. It gave kids another chance to perform in solos, duets or groups,” Voni said. “I’ve had rock bands play. I’ve had dads accompany their daughters on the guitar. It’s been a real cool thing.”
    Voni said her favorite part of being an educator is watching the successes her students have had.
    “I enjoy watching kids grow and a lot of the parents who have come and helped support my programs, they make me feel like I’m part of their family,” she said. “It’s the joy in watching students succeeded and the look on their face when they get it right. When we sing something great and the sound was just there or a dance number is tight, you see it in everybody’s face.”
    Voni said she plans to have that same attitude in her new position and will push as many students as she can to succeed.
    “Once a student knows they can achieve and be successful, I truly believe they will continue to want to achieve success,” she said, “and that just motivates them to work harder and try harder and attempt different things.
    “The students are going to know they can depend on me,” she said. “If I can’t help them with something, I will find someone who can. I will try hard to find the person that’s the best fit to help a student or parent in need.”
    Voni also knows how to keep students in line.
    “I’m not going to have a problem with being in charge. I think students need to know the parameters,” she said. “They need to know a certain decorum is expected from them. I’m good at stomping my foot when necessary. I’m also a firm believer you have to praise people when they’ve done a good job.
    “I know I’m going to have to work a lot with kids who aren’t being successful, whether it’s a discipline issue or an academic issue,” Voni said. “I’m going to encourage them to get involved and not to give up. I will tutor them if necessary or find somebody to work with them. I believe in kids. I truly do.”
    She said she’s looking forward to being a part of the decision-making process that affects the entire school.
    “I like to know what’s going on behind the scenes,” Voni said. “I’ve always liked to know why things run the way they run and why certain decisions are made. Now I’ll not only know that, but I will help to make those decisions for what I believe is the best for Middletown High School.
    “I’ll be working with a group of dedicated individuals at MHS and the District Office,” she said. “They work hard. They want the best for all the kids and I admire what they do.”
    Voni said she will transition out of the choral program and into administration. For now, a substitute is assisting with her classes until her replacement is hired, and she is still supervising the program.
    “The Middletown community has accepted me as part of their family. I can’t just leave a program in the lurch,” she said. “I work very closely with [drama teacher] Amanda Chas and I’m not going to let her down, nor the kids. I want the kids to keep experiencing excellence.
    “We’re going to make this work so we can continue to have a successful program,” Voni said. “I really feel like I’m ready to conquer something new.”