McLean High School’s new principal, Paul Wardinski, plans to make the educational facility a magical place to be. His administration and his personal beliefs are patterned after Walt Disney, whose optimism Wardinski intends to bring to the students. He manifests Disney’s spirit on a daily basis by wearing a Mickey Mouse tie.
“I wear a Mickey tie every day. I’ve got about 80 of them. It keeps me young,” said Wardinski. He chooses to promote the Disney values because of his admiration for the entertainment and fantasy empire that Disney built. “He created great opportunities and fun. I got sucked into what he was all about through DECA,” Wardinski said. The Distributive Education Clubs of America (DECA) offers marketing education to students.
Wardinski has been highly involved in the county DECA program throughout his career.
Wardinski earned a bachelor’s degree in marketing education from Virginia Tech and a master’s in school administration from George Mason University.
He has authored curriculum in several marketing areas at county, state and national levels. He has also written in excess of 300 national DECA competitive events with his wife, who is also an educator. He has received Administrator of the Year awards from the Business Teachers Association and the Virginia DECA.
WARDINSKI SUPPORTS DECA because, in his experience, it can be during a non-academic program like this that a student begins to see where his talents lie and what he would like to do in the future. “I think we need to teach the whole child. In these programs, sometimes that’s when the light bulb goes on for these kids,” said Wardinski.
Though he intends to put his own stamp on McLean, Wardinski says the school is in great condition now and there are very few changes he will make that will directly impact the student body.
“This is a great school and a great opportunity for me,” said Wardinski. “The biggest part of my management style is that I’m team-oriented. No one person can do it all. We need to collaborate with each other. Everything will be approached that way,” said Wardinski.
As the new principal looks around his office, at the mouse ears perched on the computer monitor, the Disney figures that hold paper clips and pens, and a black wooden sign that spells out “IMAGINE,” he becomes reflective. “Anyone who comes here for an education is here with a purpose. We’re not ‘after’ kids, we’re here to provide them that opportunity. We’re here to give a safe environment and a good environment for kids. Our No. 1 goal is the positive side,” said Wardinski.
Administration assistant Sue Robinson has been working with Wardinski for only a short time but says his optimism is infectious and he has already rallied the teachers and administrators. “He’s a very positive thinker. He’s got a lot of plans to allow the staff collaborative time. Everyone is really excited about him being here and about this new year,” said Robinson.
“The staff really wants to build up the spirit among themselves, so we’re going to do some things to do that,” said Wardinski.
His team-building efforts follow the advice that the previous principal, Donald Weinheimer, left Wardinski. “This is a great school with great people. He’ll need to get to know people quickly here, but in the short time I’ve known him, that’s not going to be a problem for him. He’s going to fit right in,” said Weinheimer.
“I hope people realize that I’m approachable. I’m a people person,” said Wardinski. “The kids will see me out and about. It’s easy to get sucked into the office, but I’ll be out doing things with them every day.”
ATTENDING SCHOOL PLAYS and athletic games is one way he will be involved with the students and the school. Wardinski says that extracurricular activities can be the most impressionable events for students. “McLean has some great traditions already. Things like McFest. Kids remembers that stuff. Lesson plans go, but those memories will stay forever. High school is a last chance for some kids. Think about it, when was the last time you got 21 friends together for a football game?” said Wardinski.
“He’s really going to pull the faculty, staff and the students together. His communication and human relations skills are super,” said Robinson. “This is a great school, and we’re just going to get better.”
Enrollment at McLean is up for the new year, and the school year is longer than before. “There are going to be some challenges there,” said Wardinski. “The biggest thing is that people have to be patient. It’s going to take a little time,” said Wardinski of his new administration.