As is the case at the beginning of any new school year, there are many changes to be made. Teachers are replaced or promoted; administrative changes are made, and new principals take the helm. This is true in Fairfax County, where 30 new principals were hired just this year.
There are four new principals in the Mount Vernon area alone. Eric Brent returned to Mount Vernon High School to become its principal, while Rima Vesilind took over at West Potomac High School. Maura Caulfield was promoted from Waynewood’s assistant principal to become Stratford Landing’s principal. Connie Goodman, former assistant principal at Stratford, left to become principal at White Oaks Elementary; the school system is still interviewing to fill her former position. Sharon Aldredge was promoted from assistant principal at Woodley Hills to become its new principal; the school system is also still interviewing for assistant principal.
Luke Fennell continues to serve as West Potomac’s acting principal as Rima Vesilind recovers from emergency surgery. She is feeling stronger and hopes to return to school as soon as possible.
During an interview with Fennell, he said that he was there for the short term and that things were coming along very well.
Fennell retired the year before as principal of Edison High School and smiled as he said, “I would never have thought I’d be doing this.”
He said that he was there for a number of reasons: to assist Rima; because he had a vested interest — his daughter, Meg, graduated from West Potomac in 1998, and because he was called to serve.
“Meg had a wonderful four years here, so it’s fun to be here. We have lots of excellent memories,” Fennell said. “We [Rima and I] have agreed that it’s a joint effort. The sooner she can get to the helm, the better.”
Fennell is dealing with the planning and organizing part of getting the school ready to open, while Vesilind has time to reflect on what she hopes to accomplish this year.
“She’s there [via phone and e-mail] to make final decisions,” Fennell said.
As of last week, Vesilind and Fennell were closing in on the seven or so open teacher positions that still had to be filled. Bill Haire has been hired as security specialist, replacing Cig Howerton, who retired this year.
“There were some critical vacancies in the classroom, but we are finding some good people. The good news is that Fairfax County attracts a lot of aspiring teachers, so we have a chance to get some good, solid people,” Fennell said.
He also said that Erin O’Malley is working on the schedule, which is coming along very well.
“We review it almost daily and are making sure that it will be an excellent product,” Fennell said. “Estimated target date for mailing it out is Aug. 26.”
“My advice to Rima is to get a handle on things, learn, listen and observe. Take baby steps before making a leap. The potential here is unlimited. If you could run a school on just energy, Mrs. Vesilind would be the one to do it. The school’s ready to move, and Rima will move it in a good direction. It’s a good place to be and getting better,” he said.
Fennell is not sure how much longer he will be at West Potomac, but he said, “It’s been enjoyable, and it was fun to come and try to help.”
THE MOUNT VERNON High School Band program has hired a new band director. Richard Bacz, who started Aug. 13, will be the new director for the Mount Vernon March Majors and the band program.
Bacz has 16 years’ experience in public school education as a high-school teacher and director of bands, most recently having served two years as a supervisor of instrumental music and as head director of bands in Angleton, Texas.
“Bacz’s ability to teach at all grade levels; coordinate all band curricula; manage top-rated high-school bands; create performance ensembles and implement community service programs was the recipe that Mount Vernon was looking for,” said Band Booster president Kristi Hellmuth.
"It's going to be very exciting to watch the combination of our Virginia State Honor Band with this experienced and successful director. This is going to be a fun year," said Kathleen Pablo, subschool principal.
Flossie Hoy, chair of the Fine and Performing Arts Department, said, "The entire Fine and Performing Arts Department is excited about working with Mr. Bacz in the coming year."
“I cannot wait to begin this journey. Fairfax County’s reputation for quality in music education is no secret, and I intend to secure Mount Vernon High School as one of the schools responsible for this reputation. Everyone is proud of the band’s accomplishments to date, especially last year; great programs, however, develop a standard of excellence year after year. Together, we will achieve great things, we will learn, we will grow, and we will have fun doing it," said Bacz, who will be moving to the Mount Vernon area with his wife, Jennifer, and 3-year-old son, Caden.
The Mount Vernon March Majors began its season last week with rookie camp. This week was home camp for all marchers, with their community car wash on Aug. 28. They will continue to "perfect" their marching program the week of August 29.