As John Wittmann begins his last month as administrator of The Chantilly Academy, after 11 years, teachers and staff there are sad to see him go. But they also wish him well as head of a new magnet high school in North Carolina.
"I think he has an idea and a vision and, once it's up and running, he needs the next challenge," said chef instructor Clay Doubleday, head of the academy's culinary arts program. Still, Wittmann will be sorely missed.
"He's the one who hired me, nine years ago," said Doubleday. "He's incredibly supportive and is definitely more interested in the big picture; he's not a micro-manager. There are so many times, as a teacher, you want to chuck the whole thing, and he was calm when I was not. As someone who'd been there and done that, he'd give me a feasible strategy for working things out."
He said what's most important to Wittmann is the students' success, and he makes sure they have an environment in which to excel. Construction technology teacher George Griswold agreed.
"Everything he does is for the benefit of the students," he said. "And he's always looking for opportunities to promote their well-being, through internships and scholarships. He recognizes student achievement and tries to reward it in some way."
WITH WITTMANN'S help, said Griswold, construction technology has expanded from 15 students initially to 40 this year, with 70 or more expected in the fall. "He's the only reason I came back from retirement as a teacher," said Griswold. "He was so enthusiastic about the program and what it does that I knew it would be neat to work with him — and I'm lovin' it."
Tech. Sgt. John Wilks and Sheila Allen instruct the Air Force Junior ROTC program, and both sang Wittmann's praises. "He's a great supervisor," said Wilks. "He lets the professionals be professionals and do their jobs without interference. He's a great communicator, a man of his word and a man of integrity. We don't want him to go; his will be huge shoes to fill."
Allen said Wittmann inspires young people to get ready for the real world, and sparks his staff with his enthusiasm. "He helped us promote our program throughout the county, and he's open to new ideas about the instructional process," she said. "He's thinking outside the box, all the time, and you can get him to listen to an idea or give you advice, and he makes you feel comfortable."
Engineering physics teacher Marty Rothwell called Wittmann "fantastic — the best guy you'd ever want to work for — and a great friend." Administrative assistant Gretchen West said it's been a pleasure working with him and she's delighted that he has such a wonderful, new opportunity.
"Obviously, we're sorry to see him go," said Chantilly Principal Tammy Turner. "They recruited him for the job, and I think he's going to do great in his new position. He was a true trailblazer [here] in providing programs that made students better prepared for the world of work, and it helped put Chantilly on the map."
Griswold said Wittmann's departure will leave "a tremendous void." Added Doubleday: "We don't need someone to come in and put his own imprint on the program. We just need someone to keep it steered in the same direction."