School administrator Bennett Lacy really wanted to be a rock star.
The 49-year-old Ashburn resident said this in a suit and tie as he sat in a new office in a new school building. The principal of River Bend Middle School in Sterling still plays his classical guitar in his free time, but now his focus is elsewhere.
“I reluctantly went into education when my pursuit of stardom failed,” Lacy said.
The reluctance soon changed, since being around children helped Lacy feel alive and kept him current. “It’s electric because there is something new and exciting happening,” he said. “Middle school is ... a time where you can still make a difference in a child’s life.”
Lacy taught music and guitar classes at Seneca Ridge Middle School for 11 years before he went into administration in 1988. "I had taken the [guitar] program as far as I could take it," Lacy said. "I was looking for a new horizon, a new challenge."
That summer, Lacy found out the guitar classes he taught at the middle school level were being expanded to the high schools. "I had to decide," he said. "It was a tough choice because I wanted to do the high school thing. I loved teaching. [But] I had made a decision to move into administration, so I wasn't going to look back."
LACY, who grew up in Sterling Park, graduated from Broad Run High School in 1971. Four years later, he earned a bachelor’s degree in music from the Shenandoah Conservatory in Winchester. His first teaching job was in 1976 in Westmoreland County, where he taught for one year. He returned to Loudoun in 1977 to open Seneca Ridge Middle School as a music teacher, staying in the position for the next 11 years. In the meantime, he attended graduate school at the Catholic University of America in Washington, D.C., earning a master’s degree in music in 1981.
In 1988, Lacy took his first administrator’s position as a dean at Simpson Middle School, moving up to assistant principal in 1995 to work with Francis “Rocky” Fera, the school’s principal. The two administrators opened Farmwell Station Middle School in 1995, followed by Harper Park Middle School in 1999.
In 2000, Lacy became the on-site administrator for an eighth grade class temporarily housed at the new Stone Bridge High School, which did not have a senior class that year.
“After being an assistant principal for so long, there comes a point when you have to be in charge yourself,” Lacy said. “I reached that point where I needed to be at the helm.”
IN JULY, Lacy moved to the North Street Administration Office to begin the process for opening River Bend Middle School. He picked the school colors, which are purple and gold; the tile, carpet and fabric used in the building; and the school mascot, since he could not meet with students before the mascot was due. He chose the ravens, repeating the mascot for Baltimore’s football team, which also has the same colors as the school.
Lacy helped organize a Parent Teacher Association (PTA), which began meeting in November.
“He’s very open to parental participation,” said Michele Zuckerman, PTA president. “He’s very child-oriented, and he wants to have a lot of activity going on at the middle school for students to participate in. … He wants to make it a place of activity as well as a center of learning.”
Lacy said his first goal will be making the parents feel River Bend is their school. He placed a desk in the administration office for the PTA to use and plans to give the association a voice in school activities.
“I try to involve the parents in every way I can,” Lacy said. “I consult the PTA and get their advice. I use them as a sounding board.”
AS FOR STUDENTS, Lacy wants them to want to come to school. He plans to institute several intramural programs and clubs and provide after-school programs.
"He will give them [the students] structure. He will set goals and expectations, and he will insist they will abide by them," said Fera, retired principal from Harper Park Middle School.
There's no rule out there that says school can't be fun," Lacy said. "I would like the kids to feel it's an enjoyable experience. ... Curriculum is anything a child experiences here at the school. I want that curriculum to be as rich as I can make it."
Lacy hired 93 teachers and a total staff of 120 employees to work with a student body of 1,085 students. The school is designed for 1,200 students.
"I'm sure he'll do an excellent job. He's up for the challenge," Fera said.
Lacy has two sons and two stepsons. His wife Cheryl Lacy is an art teacher at Eagle Ridge Middle School.