In less than 10 minutes Thursday, Robert DuPree, Jr. knew he had to get busy.
The Ashburn resident has school principals to meet, PTO and PTA meetings to attend and stacks of paperwork to read on school issues, some of the most pressing and current by Jan. 28 for his first School Board meeting.
"I can't afford to have a learning curve. I have to be up to speed and fit in," DuPree said, adding that he wants to find out what the priorities and "important issues" are for the residents living in the Dulles district. The district includes a portion of Ashburn Farm and extends south beyond South Riding and from Oak Grove to east of Aldie.
"We're going to get this dialogue going and get everyone together," DuPree said. "You don't represent one community. You represent the entire district, all of the communities."
The Loudoun County School Board unanimously appointed DuPree, 44, to fill Patrick Chorpenning's seat, left vacant Dec. 9 when the Mercer representative moved out of state. DuPree will serve as the Dulles representative for the remaining year of the School Board's four-year term under the same district name as Chairman Joseph Vogric, who, along with the rest of the board, was elected into office before the district lines were changed in 2001.
THE SCHOOL BOARD considered eight candidates, casting votes in alphabetical order with DuPree second up in the first round of balloting. DuPree was the first candidate to receive at least five votes, required under a policy adopted in 1999 by a previous School Board.
"I was looking for somebody that would be moderate and non-political, somebody that wouldn't rant and rave — that had a cool head — and somebody that had children in the school system or had had children [there]," said Thomas Reed (At Large). "Robert exceeded in all of those three categories. He's got a first-hand knowledge of the different parts of the education system, which I think is unique."
DuPree and his wife of 22 years Heidi DuPree have three children, who are in the 12th grade, the 8th grade and a special education preschool program.
"The learning environment is so much better than what I grew up in," said DuPree, who by the time his last child graduates, will have seen his children through 26 years of schooling.
DuPree grew up in Jacksonville, Fla. in a high-growth area, where the schools were overcrowded and did not keep up with growth, he said. "These are the nicest schools. The teachers are well-prepared," he said. "The statistics on a school system speak for themselves. How do we maintain that commitment with all the pressures of growth, a flat economy and [competition] with other districts?"
DUPREE MOVED to Loudoun County in 1984, spending six years in Sterling before moving to his present home in Ashburn Farm, where he has lived for 13 years. He received a bachelor's degree in government in 1980, then worked for eight years as a congressional aide and the past 14 years as a lobbyist for national trade association American Textile Manufacturers Institute.
In 1996, DuPree served as Dulles representative on the Loudoun County Planning Commission, where he said he learned about county government and how to work within the "framework of government." "Although it's land issues, a lot of the analytical issues are the same," said DuPree, elected by the other commissioners as vice-chairman in 1998 and as chairman in 1999, the last year he served as a commissioner. "I understand there is a lot of detail work and analysis."
Vogric noted that DuPree "does his homework." "He has the ability to process a large amount of data ... get the information and make informed decisions," he said.
SUPERINTENDENT Edgar Hatrick said he already knows DuPree from the Planning Commission. "We know him, and he knows us, and we're looking forward to working with him," he said.
Geary Higgins (Catoctin) said, "He seemed to have good life experience, and he's a longtime resident of the county, which helps him know the issues."
DuPree now has to play "play catch-up" entering the board fourth year into the term, he said. "I have to hit the ground running with the first meeting," he said.
As for the next term, DuPree said it "makes no sense to me to do a crash course" and not run for the seat.