Loudoun principal Jean Hall wanted to work closer to home, so when a position opened up at Cedar Lane Elementary School on July 1, she got what she wanted.
“It’s nice to work in the community where you live,” said Hall about the Ashburn school, which is minutes away from her Belmont neighborhood. Likewise, the school’s former principal Nancy McManus left the school to take a principalship position at Round Hill Elementary School closer to where she lives.
Hall took the position for other reasons, too. With 27 years of experience in education, she has taught and served as a principal at the elementary, middle and high school and the college levels. She served as the director of staff development and training for Fairfax County and director of research and evaluation for the Indianapolis Public Schools. She found that what she likes best is working at the elementary school level. Her last position was serving as principal at Westlawn Elementary School in Falls Church from 1997 to 2003.
“I choose to be an elementary school principal. It’s where you can have the greatest impact on teachers, students and people in the community,” Hall said. “You have the opportunity to structure the learning environment for teachers and students.”
AT CEDAR LANE, Hall plans to emphasize grade-level teams that will work on integrated curriculums, explaining that though teachers work in separate rooms, they do not have to be isolated. “We foster that collegiality,” she said, adding that when teachers feel valued, they will remain excited about teaching, an excitement that in turn will impact the quality of teaching in the classroom.
At the same time, Hall believes in a child-centered school with all decisions made in consideration of children first. She wants staff to look at each student to identify individual academic, social and other needs and to provide the students with differentiated instruction based on their level of performance. She favors the use of flexible grouping, a new trend in education that places students together for a lesson and regroups them once they master the needed skills. “We need to reach every child,” she said.
Hall has three main goals for the upcoming school year, including providing a safe environment, to raise student achievement and to create a “satisfying learning environment for teachers and students,” she said. “If I can accomplish those, I’ll feel really good.”
Hall plans to emphasize reading this year to help bring up the third-grade reading score on the Standards of Learning tests, the lowest score for the school though above the state requirement. To do this, the school day will include a 90-minute block for language arts. The library will offer the Accelerated Reader program for students to take a computer assessment on their reading skills that will guide their reading choices. And parents will be encouraged to read to their children every day.
“What I was very excited about in our first meeting is [Hall]’s excitement about reading,” said Ashburn Farm resident Vicki Bruley, president of the school’s Parent Teacher Association and mother of two. “I think reading is important, too.”
Bruley described Hall as being soft spoken and having a gentle nature. “I think the kids will appreciate that,” she said.
“She’s very motivated,” said David Stewart, assistant principal at the school for more than two years. “With that motivation comes a lot of energy that she puts into her job. She’s here for the kids.”
HALL was born and raised in Pennsylvania, where she attended college. She earned her bachelor’s degree in education in three years from Clarion University, her master’s in reading from Slippery Rock University and her doctorate in reading and teacher education from Ohio State University. She taught and worked in education in Pennsylvania, Ohio, Indiana and Virginia.
Hall and her husband of 33 years Bob Hall have two adult children. Bob Hall is a retired FBI agent and works with a Tysons Corner consulting company.