Vienna resident Tom Searby exaggerated slightly when gauging the reaction made by Karen Siple, his friend and neighbor of 17 years, when she was notified about her new job as principal of Floris Elementary School in Herndon.
“I could hear the scream when she got the call,” said Searby. “The county finally got something right. She’ll do fine. She was given a lot of responsibilities in her A.P. [assistant principal] position. She’ll step right in there and be a wonderful asset to that school and that community. The parents will be happy,” said Searby of his friend and former fellow usher.
Tom and Mary Ann Searby still volunteer their time as ushers at nearby Wolftrap, something Karen and her husband of 31 years Roy Siple used to do when they had more time. But the growing responsibilities on Siple’s career path cut back the amount of available time she had to volunteer. Even so, Siple relishes the career path she has chosen.
“It was really wonderful when I got the job," said Siple, as she starts her first assignment as a principal. "Colleagues called with congratulations and to offer assistance. The staff here has been just great."
“She really wanted this for a long time,” said friend and former colleague Mary King of Fairfax, an ESL teacher at Silverbrook Elementary School. The two taught together at Mosby Woods Elementary for at least six years. “Karen taught ESL while I taught sixth grade. I switched to ESL and she was sort of a mentor, unofficially. We’re still friends and I’m still an ESL teacher."
ASIDE FROM Mosby Woods Elementary in Fairfax, Siple began teaching in Charleston, S.C., then San Diego and Haddonfield, N.J. Her job-hopping was the product of a marriage made in the U.S. Navy, as Roy Siple, now retired, was a Commander.
Siple then took time to raise her children, Bill, a district manager for Pinkerton’s Security living in Fort Collins, Colo. and Jessica a PhD candidate in microbiology attending the University of Michigan.
Prior to teaching at Mosby Woods, Siple taught at Sleepy Hollow Elementary School in Falls Church, a place she returned to become its first-ever assistant principal. Following a four-year stint as AP at Sleepy Hollow, Siple became AP at McNair Elementary in Herndon, a school that opened its doors at the beginning of the past school year.
“The new school experience was very exciting, but a lot of work, setting precedents for everything such as running student council elections to managing students in the cafeteria,” said Siple.
“Karen brings experience as an educator and supervisor of teachers. She’s an outstanding mentor,” said four-year Franklin Middle School principal Michelle Peyser. While principal at Sleepy Hollow Elementary, Peyser selected Siple as the school’s first AP.
“Karen was my first choice of 52 candidates,” said Peyser. “She’s an intuitive responder to the needs of the community. It’s always been an honor to work with Karen. Floris is lucky to have her. I’m so proud of her."
SIPLE'S OWN educational background includes a degree in elementary education with a minor in science from Iowa State University. A native of Forest City, Iowa, Siple earned a masters at the University of Virginia in social foundations of education, followed by a masters in educational leadership from George Mason University.
At Floris, Siple will not only face about 800 students, but the challenge of learning the culture and history of the school and the community. “They do so many things so well here," she said. "They just celebrated their 125th anniversary. It’s a very powerful legacy."
“Floris is a strong school with involved parents and an outstanding staff,” said Siple, who set the goal of reviewing the files left by her predecessor Dennis Nelson and getting to know the students and parents over the summer.
One way Siple can achieve that goal is with the two upcoming open houses she is hosting at the school on Tuesday, July 16 and Wednesday, July 31. The times will be announced in a mailing to the school community.