DHS Press Staff/Courtesy of LCPS
What was your initial reaction to the news that Superintendent Williams would be leaving LCPS midyear for Clear Creek ISD?
During my tenure with LCPS, I found Dr. Williams to be a well-respected and collaborative leader and enjoyed working with him as a member of his cabinet. I think we were all a little surprised when Dr. Williams announced his departure. Dr. Williams served in LCPS for about six years which is the average time a superintendent typically spends in one school division.
What concerns do you have about this disruption in leadership during this time where the county is faced with the challenge of virtual learning and planning an eventual return to the classroom?
We have strong leadership teams at the school and division levels that are committed to excellence in LCPS, so I think we are well positioned to handle any challenges that come our way. In just the past month, we’ve opened a vaccine clinic for all teachers and staff that has already inoculated almost 10,000 employees and presented a plan to return students to hybrid learning once it is safe to do so.
Can you describe what it is like taking over a school district in the middle of a pandemic?
As a senior in high school (go class of 1986!) I described looking at life after graduation as “ life coming at you like a Mack Truck.” Becoming the leader of a school division as large as Loudoun County during a pandemic is a lot like that. COVID is big, it’s loud, and it always seems to be coming right at you. Despite that, I entered into this position with a profound sense of optimism. We have a great community of learners here and I believe that we will get through this pandemic and more prepared to handle the challenges of the future.
While the past year has been difficult, LCPS should all take pride in the collective and individual successes we achieved in 2020. Among them, as an organization, teachers developed and implemented an entirely new learning modality for students. Students, teachers, and staff members found ways to bridge gaps caused by COVID and forge a path forward. Teachers are delivering quality instruction in their classrooms and from their homes. Counselors are supporting the social-emotional and mental health needs of students and families. School Nutrition Services is providing meals to students in need. Custodians are making sure our buildings are clean and safe, and Bus Drivers are transporting students safely. Students are completing assignments, winning awards and scholarships, and progressing in their learning.
Teachers have been largely impressed with your communication and actions so far. What have you heard from them and how does that make you feel?
Everyone, myself included, likes to receive positive feedback, so that feels pretty good. I hope to continue open and transparent lines of communication and welcome any feedback that teachers or the broader community have to offer.
What have you done/continue to do to ensure that this transition is as smooth as possible?
Like I said earlier, we have a great team of leaders here in Loudoun County so that helps a great deal with the transition. It also helps that I have been in a leadership role for the past year as the Assistant Superintendent of Human Resources, so I am familiar with the school division and the county. After that it’s a matter of connecting with the broader community. I have already met with the Loudoun Chamber of Commerce, and the Hunt District PTA and will begin visiting schools to meet with principals, teachers, and students.
What do you hope to be able to achieve during your time as Acting Superintendent?
I hope to be able to help get us through the pandemic and back to what many are calling the ‘new normal.’ Our ultimate goal is to return students and staff safely to school. With the dedicated work of our school board, staff, and community, we move closer to that goal each day.
Do you feel this is a tryout for the position full time? If so, what are your big goals for LCPS if you lose the acting title and become Superintendent?
I am excited to serve the students, staff, and community of Loudoun County Public Schools. The school division has entrusted me with this role and I do not take this for granted. The School Board will no doubt be thorough in its search for a new superintendent. As the third largest school division in the Commonwealth, our students deserve the very best person as their superintendent. My goal for now is to do the best I can in this role.
What are your goals for graduation for the class of 2021?
In my talks around COVID-19 I have emphasized four key concepts when talking about the present and the future. Those concepts are patience, flexibility, comfort with the not-yet-known, and grace. So my goal is that we will be able to celebrate the class of 2021 with in-person graduation ceremonies. But the reality is that we don’t yet know what graduation will look like this year. I know it is a lot to ask – and I know we’ve already asked a great deal – but I have to ask seniors to be patient with us as we learn how the effects of COVID will continue into the spring.
What is LCPS currently doing to prepare for the 2021-22 school year? Is the goal being open, in-person 5 days a week?
We are all hoping for an in-person return for the 2021-22 school year. Just like in other years, planning for the new school year is well underway. The School Board will adopt the budget in early February that sets the groundwork for growth and programs across the division. The Department of Human Resources and Talent Development has already started to hire teachers and staff. Hovatter Elementary School and The North Star School will be ready for students in August and we are moving forward.
What do you like to do in your free time?
Free time, what’s that? Just kidding, when I’m not working I like to spend time with family and have a couple of hobbies that keep me busy. For exercise, I enjoy lifting weights and hiking the Appalachian Trail. I also believe in being a life-long learner and started playing the piano over the winter break.
Was there any thought to you taking over the snow day phone calls to supplant Wayde as the #1 LCPS meme and celebrity?
No one can replace Wayde!