Brian Hull is a happy man. He's in a profession he loves and is principal of the new Colin Powell Elementary in Centreville.
"This is a dream come true — something I wanted to do for quite awhile," he said. So when he was offered the top job at Powell, "Everything came together and I jumped at the opportunity."
Built to relieve overcrowding at four local schools, Powell will receive its first students in September. And although the school is new to the local area, its principal is not.
"In many respects, I feel like I've come home," said Hull, a resident of Herndon. "Most of my career has been in the western part of Fairfax County."
Born and raised in the Boston area, Hull, 48, always planned on a career in education. "I've never had any other aspirations — or any regrets," he said. "I love my job."
His 11th-grade English teacher, Mrs. Mead, inspired him. "She was like a quiet mentor," he said. "She taught me how to look at things from a more global perspective." He then attended the first teacher's college in the U.S., Westfield State College in western Massachusetts, where he received a bachelor of science in special education and elementary education in 1977.
HULL THEN WENT to graduate school, full time, while teaching special ed in fourth, fifth and sixth grades for the Milwaukee Public School System. He obtained his masters in vocational and special education in 1980 from George Washington University.
He began teaching in Fairfax County, that same year, and has been here, ever since. Said Hull: "I liked the schools and the types of programs I saw, and I was impressed by the people and by the vision the school system had for [its vocational special ed] program — the transitional program for these students after high school."
As a vocational special ed teacher, he worked with the physically disabled at Fairfax High until 1984, when he was appointed principal of the special ed center at Bush Hill Elementary in Alexandria. After two years, he became principal of the Fairhill Center (for the physically disabled).
Then in 1988, Hull switched to general education, serving as assistant principal at Brookfield Elementary for eight months before being tapped as the acting principal at Jermantown Elementary from November 1989 to June 1990.
After that, he returned to Brookfield as principal until June 1994, when he took over the reins at Willow Springs Elementary. He stayed five years, moving in June 1999 to Franklin Sherman Elementary in McLean, until this February, when he began work at Colin Powell.
SPRINGFIELD DISTRICT School Board representative Cathy Belter first met Hull during the boundary meetings for the new school and liked what she saw. "I was extremely impressed by him because he had a sense of community and what people would be looking for in the school for their children," she explained. "He's very good with people; his skills [include] talking and listening."
She noted, as well, that Hull helped Powell's new PTA get off to an early start and is quite supportive of it. "The folks I've heard from out there are very excited about their new school," said Belter. "And Brian and [Assistant Principal] Pat [Sheehy] each bring their own strengths in dealing with different types of students, so they're a good combination."
Powell PTA president Phyllis Villani is also impressed with Hull and his team. "In making some of the plans for Powell Elementary and for establishing traditions, he's made decisions with the children in mind first, as well as the community," she said. "I really think he'll be sensational. He's excited and enthusiastic, and it rubs off on everybody."
Not surprisingly, Hull's leadership philosophy is based on a shared focus. "We're all here to support the needs of children and to work as a team with their parents," he said. A parent, himself, he and his wife of 18 years, Laura, a nurse, have two children. Daughters Andrea, 16, and Marissa, 14, will be a junior and freshman, respectively, at Westfield High.
The toughest part of his job, said Hull, is trying to be everything to everyone. "You set your own expectations for what you'd like to achieve," he said. "But I have learned to delegate better, and I also set realistic expectations and try to model that for others."
WHAT GIVES HIM the most satisfaction is "a child achieving — whether [it] be an academic or a social goal." And it's also important to him to do what he can for his students' families, too, such as help them find a certain resource they need. "It's those types of moments that stick out more than anything else," he said. "You feel like you've made a difference."
Hull's goal at Powell is "to establish ourselves as an inclusive school where all children will be supported in whatever instructional or social needs they require. "We'll have a staff that strongly supports the benefits of teaming, working collaboratively and developing a partnership with our community to meet the needs of our students."