A Fulbright Scholar, an adjunct professor at GMU and now in her 10th year as principal of Centreville High, Pam Latt is the 2003 Lady Fairfax for the Springfield District.
"Every year we look for people who have served the community well," said Supervisor Elaine McConnell (R-Springfield), who bestowed the honor upon Latt. "She has had an excellent record of service at the school, she's well-thought-of by her pupils and parents, and I thought it was appropriate that we recognize her."
Latt, 51, of Clifton, said she was "taken aback" by the honorary title. "It was so touching," she said. "When I found out, I asked, 'Me?' In my job, I help people. For people to be grateful for what I do is the icing on the cake. And for somebody to recognize it was flabbergasting — it brought tears to my eyes."
Actually, Latt is part of a two-principal family. Jim, her husband of 29 years, is principal of Centreville Elementary. They have one son, Jeremy, 21, a fourth-year student at UVA where he's majoring in math, philosophy and computer science.
Involved in education in Virginia for 29 years, Pam Latt's a 28-year employee of Fairfax County Public Schools. She began in 1976 as a teacher at Graham Road Elementary in Falls Church, later teaching ESL and reading at Pine Spring, Mosby Woods and Ravensworth elementaries. She taught the same subjects at Kilmer Intermediate School in Vienna.
In 1980, she worked at the county administrative office, developing the school system's central-registration program. She also worked in staff development at what's now the Department of Instructional Technology, learning how to use computers and the big mainframe.
Latt returned to central registration in the late 1980s and became the school system's Director of Student Services. But she wanted to be in a school again and, in 1991, she was named assistant principal at Lake Braddock Secondary School, where she served for 1 1/2 years.
She took over as Centreville High's principal in December 1993. There, she developed and implemented educational programs she knew would benefit the students, and she introduced STEP CATS, a free Saturday-morning tutoring program for those needing extra help.
"It's been fun to bring in courses that no one else had," said Latt. "And every year is exciting when you're in a school. The kids keep me young — I've enjoyed watching them take ownership and, every year, I hand them more keys to the kingdom. I'm grateful for knowing them; they've made my life so rich, over the years."
Delighted, she noted that Centreville just won a $10,000 grant on Monday from Newman's Own to enhance its physics program. And, warmly praising her teachers, she said, "I'm so proud of the faculty — they're an amazing group of people."
Latt said Centreville's won the AAA Wachovia Cup for its athletics program, plus lots of other awards. "But it's nothing compared to graduating fine, young men and women," she said. "They come back with their wives and children, and it's like, every year, I extend my personal family."
She's known McConnell for some 25 years and says she's always been a fair person where she and the school are concerned. So, said Latt, it was a pleasant experience when the last redistricting sent Centreville High from the Sully to the Springfield District."
As for being named Lady Fairfax, she said she always thought it was an opportunity to recognize others more worthy than herself. "I'm very humble — I see myself as being a small cog in a big wheel," she explained. "I just do things because I enjoy working with people. So to be recognized by Fairfax County is the nicest thing that's ever happened to me."
Latt said every day at Centreville is fresh and new, and she thanks the parents, each year, for the privilege of having the most important persons in their life in her life. "I don't know of any accomplishment better than that," she said. "I get choked up at graduation because it's like having my own children leave. That's why I'm always so pleased when they come back — it's like they're home."