New LHS principal ‘coming home’
When Benecia Bendele graduated from Liberty High School in 1991, there was never a thought in her mind that she would some day return to lead her alma mater. With a vote by the Liberty ISD Board of Trustees at their last meeting, July 17, Bendele will officially take the helm at the high school and realize a dream she never knew she would have.
“I’m really excited about this opportunity. It is wonderful to return where I walked the halls as a teenager and embark on another chapter in my career,” she said.
For the last year, she was at the side of former principal Chad Barrett shadowing his every move while working as the academic dean. Barrett left for an administration job in Pasadena ISD. It was only per chance that Barrett received the opportunity and now Bendele must fill his shoes.
She was born and raised in Liberty and graduated in 1991.
“I was very involved in high school and thoroughly enjoyed it,” she said.
She earned a hotel and restaurant degree from the Conrad Hilton School of Hotel and Restaurant Management at the University of Houston which ultimately took her away from Liberty for work.
She eventually moved back to Liberty where she met her husband.
“We wanted to start a family and the hotel and restaurant management life meant late nights and was not conducive to raising a family. So my favorite part of my work in the business was training,” she said.
Bendele thought it would be a perfect fit for her.
“Luckily, there was a permanent sub position available at Liberty High School in 2000,” she said.
She took the job and sought an alternative education certificate in marketing, business, and technology education.
“One of the favorite things I taught was co-op because I could pull from my experience as a manager and relate it to the kids,” she said.
The position led to advancement for her as career and technology coordinator for Liberty High School.
She later moved to Liberty Middle School as counselor for two-and-a-half years and then she took the assistant principal’s job at Dayton High School for two years and was promoted to associate principal for night school for two years.
She was moved to Knottingham Elementary as the principal for two years and ultimately and following the merger of Knottingham, she became the principal for Woodrow Wilson Middle School.
Last year she returned to her alma mater at Liberty High School as the academic dean.
Her tour of duty in education has been a whirlwind, but an experience from which to rely on.
“It was amazing! Being a counselor, being in career and technology, I’ve had a wonderful exposure to so many areas in the school system,” she said.
One of her favorite things to do is the master schedule—a task most principals dread.
“Had I not had that experience in my past under Principal David Taylor at the middle school, I would have never earned that knowledge,” Bendele explained.
She’s been in Liberty ISD for a total of 10 years and spent seven in Dayton ISD.
With a daughter who will be graduating this year from Liberty high school, the timing couldn’t be better.
“I loved my experience with Dayton, but it was time to come home and be with my kid,” she said.
Her daughter Avery, a senior, has become her sounding board.
“She fusses at me when I impose a rule she doesn’t like,” she laughed.
“She loudly communicates that to me since she feels like she’s the voice of the students,” her mom said.
Bendele says there are times when she has valid points and she makes adjustments and there are other times when it’s the law and that’s the way it’s got to be, but she thanks her for sharing, her mom smiled.
Her kids have gone to Liberty schools their entire life and she’s seen this group of students grow up and this year will be special to see them finish their education at the high school.
“Some of these kiddos I’ve watched grow up since they were five years old,” she said.
There will be some changes this year at the high school with the start date.
“We made this change before the title changes, but students won’t be reporting to the high school until 8:20 a.m. this year,” she said.
Teachers will still report at 7:30 a.m. and it’s a promising outlook.
“We will be able to tutor kids during that time, identify students with weaknesses that need help and pull them in before the other kids get there, and really give them specialized attention that they need to be successful,” she said.
It also allows her time to meet with her staff or one of the departments before students arrive for their first class.
In the meantime, she’s shuffling things around after returning from an educator’s conference and trying to set up her office and get ready for registration.
“We have a great staff and we’re ready to accomplish great things this year,” she said.