After just two years as principal of Rocky Run Middle School, Danny Meier is leaving to become principal of Robinson Secondary School. It's not because he didn't enjoy his job here, but because it's too good of an opportunity to pass up.
"Rocky Run's a difficult place to leave — I really love the school," he said. "I've been blessed to have served here. But in my 19 years in Fairfax County, it's only the second time the Robinson job's been open. And with close to 4,400 students in grades seven through 12, it's a great challenge because of its sheer size."
Not that Meier hasn't already made his mark here. He was a guidance counselor and varsity football coach at Chantilly High. He developed football programs that won three AAA state championships and was inducted into the county's Football Hall of Fame. But Meier also earned his stripes in administration as Herndon High's guidance director and, later, assistant principal, prior to coming to Rocky Run.
"All my career has been at the high-school level, except for the past two years," he said. "But I've fallen in love with middle school and, at Robinson, I'll have the best of both worlds. I've learned a great deal about middle-school instruction, philosophy and teaming, and I think it'll serve me well at Robinson."
The job there became available after former principal Ann Monday became Cluster VI director in mid-year. Since then, associate principal Janet Colegrove has been acting principal. Meier said everyone in the county looks at Robinson with great regard because of its academics, athletics and fine arts, and "the more research I did on it, the more impressed I was."
Looking back on his career as a teacher, coach, guidance director and principal, he said all his experience will benefit him at Robinson. "The reason I applied to be a principal is because the principal sets the tone for the climate and atmosphere of the school," he explained. "It's a good school now, but I hope I can make it even better."
Still, he said, it won't be easy leaving Rocky Run. "This community is so supportive and wonderful," he said. "The tight-knit faculty is made up of hard-working and committed professionals, and the students are upbeat and enthusiastic learners. The kids come to school every day, wide-eyed, cheerful and enjoying life."
While there, Meier's worked diligently to encourage community involvement — inviting parents to "come inside and help us make this a great school. We wanted our community to be proud of [us]."
Also during his tenure, the school's upgraded its technology, adding close to 200 computers and four computer labs. Said Meier: "We want to be a state-of-the-art technology school." Rocky Run also focused on enhancing instruction.
"We've tried to bolster our GT center, while also raising the bar for all students," he said. "Next year, we're piloting an honors program — and we'll be one of the first middle schools with a GT center to also pilot the honors program."
Meier said Rocky Run's worked hard to improve relations and communication between it and the high schools and its feeder elementaries to make sure that student progress and transition from one school to another is as smooth as possible.
"Besides Chantilly High, Rocky Run students also go to Westfield, Centreville, Fairfax, Robinson and Thomas Jefferson," he said. "And we want to prepare them fully for the academic rigors of high-school life."
Meier's also proud of Rocky Run's activities. "Our model U.N. was number one in Northern Virginia at the T.J. competition in the spring," he said. "Our Cybersurfari team was first in the county, last spring and our Odyssey of the Mind Team does great. And our music department — orchestra, band and choral groups — earn superior ratings at competitions. I can't take credit for it — it's what we do."
He believes his biggest accomplishment at Rocky Run was overseeing its transition, last September, from the largest middle school in the county — with 1,426 students — to, perhaps, the smallest, with just 757 students, after Liberty Middle opened its doors. It also meant that he had to "find homes" for 37 de-staffed teachers, plus clerical and support personnel.
"It was almost like opening a new school, in many ways," said Meier. "We lost 21 trailers, revamped the school interior, classroom-wise, formed new academic teams and established new procedures and guidelines. We pretty much reinvented the school. We had a fine school, last year — we have a great school, this year."
The most rewarding thing for him at Rocky Run, said Meier, is seeing what a terrific place the school has become. "I really think our faculty, parents and students all take great pride in the school," he said. "They relish the atmosphere and look forward to coming every day and being a part of it."