When Herndon middle school students return to class Sept. 2, there will be two familiar faces greeting them at the door. Frank Jenkins returns for his seventh year at Herndon Middle School, while August Frattali, assistant principal at Rachel Carson Middle School since the school opened in 1998, will now be the school's educational leader.
In separate interviews, both answered questions about themselves in between training sessions, meetings with parents and staff, and the general organized chaos associated with getting a school ready to open.
* How long have you been an educator? With Fairfax County? As a principal?
August Frattali: Eighteen years; 18 years; first year.
Frank Jenkins: Approximately 30 years, somewhere in that neighborhood; 23 years; 7 years.
* What experience(s) led you to want to be a principal?
Frattali: When I first started teaching I had a love for children … and had no intention of going into administration. In fact, if someone asked me, I would say they were crazy. But eventually I had a great mentor … who encouraged me to go this route to make sure I had options as I moved through my educational career. I still had no interest, but as I went through the training, I found it fascinating. I could have an equal impact on the children as an administrator, a different impact, but an equal impact. I fell in love with the position. I was in no rush. I had a great experience here with [former principal] Gail Womble.
Jenkins: I would say a variety of experiences. Once I entered the field of education, I always felt I wanted to be the instructional leader. I was given a variety of [leadership] roles … and I always wanted to make a difference in a child's life. Every child has that one teacher that made a difference in his or her life. As the leader, I want a building of those teachers.
* How long have you been at this school?
Frattali: Since 1998.
Jenkins: Seven years.
* Have you ever had your own children at the same school you were teaching or the principal of? If yes, how do you 'switch off the educator' when you get home?
Frattali: No, we live in Ashburn. In fact, my oldest son is entering middle school …, which is scary.
Jenkins: No, both of my kids went to schools were we live. My son, who is entering high school, wasn't happy I didn't bring him with me. But I've denied people for pupil placement, it wouldn't be fair to pupil place my own son. I bring them to school functions and they feel a part of the school. They look at me as dad … they never look at me as a principal.
* What is the most difficult part of being a principal?
Frattali: Staying in this office. I like to move around and being with the kids. I want to continue visiting the classrooms.
I'm sure everything is going to be a challenge, but I have a lot of support in this county and if I have a problem or a question, I know I can pick up the phone.
Jenkins: A variety of things, irate parents (he says laughing). The day-to-day operations. Everything you have to take responsibility for, the positive and negative. If a teacher is having a difficult time with a student. The teacher feels the principal must hear about it. If a student is having a difficult time with a teacher. The student feels the principal must hear about it. If a parent is having a difficult time with a student or teacher. The parent feels the principal must hear about it. The buck stops here. Issues must be satisfied satisfactorily.
One issue lately is traffic and parking …, we've made progress. … We're no different than any other school located on a small street.
As an educator/principal, it's the discipline. The toughest call I have to make is to recommend a student be expelled. There are mandatory expulsions [for weapons, drugs and alcohol] on school grounds and in the community. Parents have a hard time with that, especially with 'in the community.'
* What is the best part?
Frattali: Being here at Rachel Carson. I love this school. I love this staff. The parents are so supportive. The children are the best … it's a joy to be around them.
Jenkins: Looking into the eyes of kids and seeing I made a difference in one or two kids. At the end of the year. When we're rewarding the outstanding kids, I would like to see more rewarded. I see kids make a mistake and rebound … a lot of kids bring a lot of baggage from home. ... They're dealing with a lot of things that are difficult to fathom, but when I see the kids learning, working with kids with disabilities … I enjoy seeing the smiling faces of the kids.
* What is your most memorable experience?
Frattali: Being appointed to Rachel Carson, a new school that was opening. It was exhausting and tiring, but a good exhausting. Everything we did here was new and unique.
Jenkins: Being nominated for principal of the year last year and going to the School Board to be recognized and hearing all the phenomenal things being said about me. You do things not for recognition, but because you think it will make a difference. I had my wife there. She walked away and said, 'No one did any more than you did, so anyone could have won that award.'
* Come June, what do you hope to have accomplished?
Frattali: Making sure every student in the building has had a wonderful learning experience. That they feel valued for who they are and not what they've done. And everybody passes. We have a persistent and tenacious staff.
Jenkins: Each year, we go through transitions and this year brings new challenges than before. We're implementing the honors program at eighth grade and the final phase in seventh grade.
We have [a new computer program] for all teachers to take attendance and for grading. We have to learn that this year and master it.
There's PAR [a new school discipline approach] … we're going to look at our handbook and ask, are we doing it? Are there things we still need to have in there as far as discipline goes? We're trying to make sure everyone's on the same page. It makes discipline at the school more standardized throughout the school. Under No Child Left Behind, if a teacher passes 90 percent of the kids, they haven’t done a good job, they have to pass 100 percent. We have to give them the tools. I feel schoolwide discipline allows teachers to focus on instruction. It's a collaborative effort. All of us working together to come up with the rules and regulations and then disseminating them to the parents and having them on display in the classrooms.