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New Principal to Establish 'Community of Caring'

July 24-30, 2002

John Brewer won’t be leaving the past behind when he becomes principal of Dominion High School in 2003.

The 32-year-old grew up in the small town of Little Valley, N.Y. where “everyone knew each other,” he said. With a population of 1,500, the town was nearly the size of Dominion High School, which is designed for 1,600 students but will open with 830 students. Brewer’s graduating class had 38 students in 1987.

“We were a community,” Brewer said. “This was a community where everyone knew each other, and we cared a whole lot about each other."

Brewer wants the same thing for Dominion High School through a community of caring. As he defines it, the community will include students, teachers, staff, parents and others who "all care deeply about one another" and will work together to help students succeed academically, athletically, socially and emotionally. This community will move from one person to the entire school staff. "You can't create a community of caring with one guy," Brewer said.

The community will involve students who are connected both to adult role models and to other students who act as positive role models. “Every kid has a sense of belonging that has to be filled. People are meant to interact and find a sense of belonging,” Brewer said.

Brewer will strive to personally meet every student attending the school. "It's amazing how even if you know who they are, they understand you care about them," he said.

BREWER BECAME principal of Dominion High School July 1 to establish this community from “the best vantage point” as head of the school, he said. For this, Brewer had to give up coaching and his love for teaching.

“As a principal, there’s a greater difference I can make,” Brewer said.

Since he was 11 years old, Brewer wanted to coach and teach. His major was an easy choice, since he also liked mathematics. He became certified to teach and earned his bachelor’s of science degree in 1991 from Cedarville University in Ohio.

"I love being with teenagers," Brewer said. "When I'm with teenagers, I'm relaxed. I can laugh with them, yet I can be very businesslike. It's easy for me to establish a mutually respectful relationship with kids. I just love that."

Brewer taught mathematics at a Richmond high school for two years before moving to Loudoun in 1994. He taught the subject for another three years at Broad Run High School until 1996, when he became assistant principal for the same school. For the next six years, he served in the three assistant principal positions, assisting principal Edgar Markley with special education, the school building and the instructional programs. Brewer needed all three to prepare him for the principalship position.

"Anytime that becomes his [Brewer's] responsibility, he takes it to a new level," Markley said. "He's one of the hardest working people I know."

BREWER'S CO-WORKER Ron Petrella agreed.

"He really has a drive for getting things done and getting things done right," said Petrella, athletic director at Heritage High School in Leesburg. Petrella was an assistant principal at Broad Run High School for eight years, five years with Brewer. "He has a very realistic approach and practical mind to getting things done. That's needed when doing something new."

Markley set several goals for the school while Brewer served in the various assistant principalship roles. “Dr. Markley allowed me to play a major role in everything we did to achieve those goals,” Brewer said.

Brewer helped Markley increase the attendance rate by 4 percent since 1996. He also helped Markley lead the school to full accreditation in 2000, when it received four passing rates instead of two on the Standards of Learning tests.

"He knows what leadership should be [and] has a good insight into people," Markley said.

Brewer coached for five years as an assistant football coach in Richmond and an assistant softball coach at Broad Run High School. He had to stop coaching when he became an assistant principal, since principals and assistant principals are required to attend as many school events and sporting activities as possible to show sportsmanship and to support student athletes.

Brewer earned a master’s of science degree from George Mason University and currently is working on his doctorate degree from the University of Virginia. He and his wife of 11 years, Rachel Brewer, have two daughters ages six and four.