Every summer, one-third of all Pyle Middle School students leave for high school. The last two summers, two Pyle principals also left for high school. Last summer, Pyle Principal Michael Doran was named principal of Wootton High. Alan Goodwin succeeded Doran at Pyle last fall, but just last month, Goodwin became principal of Walt Whitman High School after the resignation of Jerome Marco.
“It was a surprise, first of all, because Dr. Marco’s health was deteriorating so quickly,” said Goodwin. “I hadn’t thought my middle school experience would end so quickly.”
Goodwin’s family is familiar to the communities in several county school clusters. His wife, Eleanor Goodwin, teaches English at Churchill High School, and was named the county’s Teacher of the Year last spring. The Goodwins have two sons. Michael, 17, is a rising senior at Richard Montgomery High School, and Christopher, 14, a rising freshman at Rockville High School.
As he steps in as Whitman’s first new principal in 30 years, Goodwin says of Marco, “He is a really good listener, he also is a person who likes to give children a second chance, and he’s very proud of the legacy he’s passing on.”
Ben OuYang, an assistant principal at Whitman, said he feels fortunate to have worked during both Marco’s and Goodwin’s tenures. “Both [Goodwin and Marco] are very focused, both gentlemen are very intelligent, and both gentlemen have an excellent ability to communicate with the community,” OuYang said. “The Goodwin era is going to start out strong, because he’s got an ability to unify everyone, to get his troops in line.”
GOODWIN TAKES the helm at Whitman after a career of nearly 30 years in Montgomery County schools. He was an assistant principal at Whitman for four years before he accepted the Pyle position last fall.
During his tenure as an English teacher in the county schools, Goodwin also taught evening high school classes. Among the evening students were some who were deemed at-risk, and Goodwin describes his work with the at-risk students as being the most rewarding part of his career. “I have a strong commitment to the at-risk students,” said Goodwin, who includes a range of students in the category, not just ones with disciplinary problems. “Anybody who’s struggling” is at-risk, he said. “Anybody that’s not meeting with success at school. I want to enhance their chances of success.
“I can glean ideas from other principals,” Goodwin continued.
A mixture of experience and new faces joins Goodwin in the Whitman administration. Assistant Principal Katherine Carroll is a veteran of the position, while Ben OuYang just finished his first year as an assistant principal, and Jennifer Baker is entering her first.
Baker, who was head of Student Support Services at North Bethesda Middle School, said Goodwin’s familiarity with the Whitman community will be an asset. “He knows most of the staff, which I think will be a huge benefit to staff and students,” Baker said.
“IT’S A PLEASURE to work in Montgomery County schools, because Montgomery County citizens support their schools to such a high degree,” Goodwin said. “The [Whitman] community is especially supportive and passionate. My challenge, I feel, is to maintain the solid academic and extracurricular activities the school has.”
Among his concerns is what he believes is an increase of recreational drinking among students. Goodwin wants to continue student education on the effects and dangers of underage drinking.
Goodwin also wants to continue addressing another issue that can make lives difficult for many Whitman students “The level of stress,” Goodwin said. “It’s not all from the parents. A lot of it is self-imposed stress, trying to keep up in a high-achieving environment can be tough.”
One of Marco’s controversial legacies was the school’s zero-tolerance policy. The policy would forbid students who were caught under the influence of alcohol or drugs from participating in extra-curricular activities for a year. For seniors, this could mean missing prom and graduation. Goodwin said the policy will remain in place for at least the upcoming year. “I will keep all major policies like that,” Goodwin said.
If he later revisits this or any other major policies, he said, it would only be after meeting with parent, staff and student groups and hearing from them. As for zero-tolerance, Goodwin believes the majority of the Whitman community supports it, with a few exceptions.
“It kind of goes hand-in-hand with what I think my biggest challenge is — to slowly implement what I think will be helpful change,” Goodwin said. “My challenge is to continue what’s happened, but also enhance it.”