Before Potomac Falls Principal Wayne Griffith retires in June, Loudoun's middle and high school students might want to thank him for their homework.
Griffith introduced 8th period block scheduling in 2001, which cut students' homework load.
Dr. Edgar Hatrick, superintendent of schools, said this week that Griffith made his mark on Loudoun's education system in many ways. The most prominent was 8th period block scheduling, which is now used in all of the county's middle and high schools. Block scheduling gives students an hour and a half of instruction in a given subject every other day instead of 45 minutes daily. "It means when students go home, they don't have homework (in all subjects) every night. It's every other night," Hatrick said, adding that the method is similar to what they would encounter in college. "For the teachers, there's the opportunity to actually carry out a full lesson."
Griffith said block scheduling was used in the county before he expanded it to the 8th period block concept.
Hatrick also applauded Griffith's ability to make scheduling more efficient so students could take most of the subjects they would want or need during their high schools years.
GRIFFITH HAS been with Loudoun County schools for 36 years. He started out in 1968 as a teacher of mathematics at the Broad Run Annex. He joined Broad Run High School in 1969, teaching math and French and coaching golf and basketball. He became an assistant principal at Loudoun Valley High School in 1976 and then principal of Douglas Community School in 1977. In 1979, he returned to Broad Run as principal, where he oversaw students for 17 years. In 1996, he became principal of Potomac Falls High School, the first new high school built in the county in 21 years. He spent a year getting it ready to open in the fall of 1997.
Griffith cited the latter responsibility as his greatest accomplishment. He and a team of four educators created a model for future county high schools. He ordered the school supplies and hired the teachers. He credited Harry Bibb, formerly deputy superintendent of instruction, Linda Payne, bookkeeper, Sherron Gladden, assistant principal, and Charlie Lutman, athletic director, with helping to set the tenor for the upcoming schools
Hatrick said Griffith's school was one of the first to use the ninth grade teaming method. It separates the freshmen into three groups, matching each with a core of four teachers and a guidance counselor who work together on the students' academic needs.
HATRICK RECOGNIZED Griffith's leadership abilities. "Ultimately, I believe you measure the success of a principal by the success of his or her students," Hatrick said. "It certainly can be said at Broad Run and Potomac Falls, there is example after example of students who did very well after they left the school."
Griffith recalled a ploy he used at Broad Run High School in the '80s to get his students to improve their grade point averages. He challenged the freshmen, sophomores, junior and senior classes to bring up their grade average one full letter, such as a C to a B. If any of the classes succeeded, he would play his accordion for an hour. Every class showed improvement. "So there I was sitting on the roof, playing the accordion for four hours. It was 32 or 33 degrees," he recalled. "I remember some students brought me hot chocolate."
He sported the schools colors, maroon and gold, and played the BRHS fight song.
Mike Megeath, who retired as principal of Monroe Technology Center on Dec. 31, 2002, attended Virginia Tech and taught at Broad Run with Griffith. "Wayne is probably one of the most versatile principals I have known as far as his academic and athletic abilities are concerned. His musical talent is unquestionable."
He said Griffith was a member of the college glee club and played the accordion, the piano and the guitar.
Hatrick said Griffith was a leader in the Virginia High School League, which has authority over all high school sports in the state.
Griffith said he has watched the transformation of Loudoun's education system over four decades. Potomac High School was the first to have four computers in every classroom, he said.
"The biggest change in education is the advent of technology," he said. "It's just the beginning. We're just at the tip of that."
He reflected on other differences. Students are required to learn a lot more than before. Consequently, teachers have more learning to do too, he said. "There are higher expectations, from standards of learning to 'No Child Left Behind,'" he said. Virginia students must pass standards of learning requirements in order to graduate. The U.S. Department of Education, in its call for 'No Child Left Behind,' has mandated all schools have equal access to quality education.
ANOTHER TRANSFORMATION was the complexion of the student body. "We have a significant minority population that continues to grow," he said. "What is defined as minority now may become the majority."
Even athletics have changed. The number of girls' sports has increased. "The recognition of female sports has taken a real hold," he said. "And we have student athletes who are developing at a faster pace. They are stronger, faster and bigger."
Loudoun's education system will continue to change after Griffith retires. "I really envision education to continue to grow along the lines of technology," he said. "It's just the beginning of the technology age in education."