New principals sought for several FCPS schools in the Route 1 area
It’s back to school time Aug. 21 for Fairfax County Public Schools (FCPS), and several schools around the Richmond Highway Corridor are in the process of finding new principals following some recent departures.
Three of the seven county-wide FCPS schools without a permanent principal are in Region 3, which encompasses the Mount Vernon, West Potomac and Edison Pyramids, as well as Bryant High School.
Walt Whitman Middle School, Bryant High School and West Potomac High School are currently engaged in the principal selection process, while Fort Hunt Elementary School is expected to announce its new principal Aug. 14, according to Karen Corbett Sanders, the Mount Vernon District Representative to the Fairfax County School Board.
“The reality is, it’s not a lot,” said Corbett Sanders about the number of leadership departures, and she doesn’t believe the situation is unique to Southeast Fairfax County. The average length of time that administrators stay in the top position is three years, she said, and several principals who recently left FCPS were in their roles significantly longer than that. Some administrators, like Christopher Larrick from Bryant and Craig Herring from Whitman, chose to retire, she said, while others, like Tim Slayter from Fort Hunt and Tangy Millard from West Potomac, switched to Prince William County Schools to be closer to home (Slayter) or for a significant promotion (Millard).
Fort Belvoir Elementary School's Primary and Upper Schools also named new principals this summer due to the retirements of their predecessors, as did Edison High School.
An expedited selection process has been implemented by FCPS to fill some of the remaining leadership gaps. At Fort Hunt Elementary, for example, the initial FCPS community meeting to inform families about the principal selection process and to get their preliminary input was held July 10. That meeting was followed by interviews of prospects by a staff/community advisory panel, the regional assistant superintendent and the superintendent. Then the school board approved the final candidate by majority vote. The new Fort Hunt principal is being named five weeks after the start of the process.
Whitman’s new permanent administrator may be decided quickly, according to Corbett Sanders. In the meantime, Justine Klena, who retired as principal of Herndon Middle School last year, is filling in as interim.
“In our profession, we embrace change every year as we greet and welcome students into our classrooms, new families into our community, and new colleagues into our school,” wrote Klena in a message to Whitman families. “I am encouraging our staff during this time of transition and confident that we can all support each other and learn from each other as we begin the new school year at Whitman. We are ready for a strong start for your students.”
Community meetings about the principal selection process were recently held at Bryant and West Potomac, and the interim principal for West Potomac will be named soon, said Corbett Sanders. West Potomac’s advisory panel interview is scheduled for Aug. 31.
A newly produced overview of FCPS’s principal selection process can be viewed on the school system’s Professional Development YouTube channel.