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 at Rocky Run. The new job is too good of an opportunity to pass up.
"Rocky Run's a difficult place to leave — I really love the school," said Meier. "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. Calling that school "outstanding in every respect," 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 at his career as a teacher, coach, guidance director and principal, Meier said all his experience will benefit him at Robinson. The real challenge, he said, will be "to find ways to make a huge school seem smaller, so you reach every child. My heart always goes to the invisible child, so no one is overlooked."
Meier said he'll embrace the school's traditions while making his own assessment of things. "The reason I applied to be a principal is because the principal sets the tone for the climate and atmosphere of the school," he said. "It's a good school now, but I hope I can make it even better."
Still, Meier 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 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 upgraded its technology, adding close to 200 computers and four computer labs. "We want to be a state-of-the-art technology school," said Meier. 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 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."
Meier and his wife Annie have four children, sons Michael, 15, Timothy, 13, and Joseph, 10, and daughter Mary, 8. They currently attend St. Timothy School in Chantilly but, when dad goes off to Robinson in September, eldest son Michael will, too, as a freshman.
"It was a family decision," said Meier. "My family is my priority, and I didn't want to miss out on his activities. I wanted to make sure I could do a good job as both a principal and a dad."