Mike Campbell's father was his mentor, as well as his principal during high school. And he always told his son that the most rewarding and gratifying job he ever had was being a high-school principal.
"So high schools have been my entire life," said Campbell, 45, of Little Rocky Run. "When other kids were playing soldier, I was playing teacher/principal."
GOOD THING, because the current Westfield High assistant principal is about to do it for real. Last Thursday, May 20, he was named the school's new principal, replacing Dale Rumberger who's leaving to open the new south county high school in Lorton.
"When I came in Thursday morning, everyone was wearing 'I like Mike' badges," said Campbell. "A mandatory staff meeting had been called for that afternoon, and the teachers came into it with banners and placards, and a big bouquet of flowers for my wife [who'd been notified earlier]."
He said Rumberger guided and encouraged him to seek the job and, over the past few months, others, too, offered their support. And Campbell's delighted with the opportunity.
"Westfield has a reputation as one of the top schools in the county and the nation, and here I am — a first-time applicant," he said. "I feel very lucky, flattered and scared. What Dale has done for the school is quite an act to follow."
But Campbell has a wealth of experience in education and joined Westfield in July 2000, becoming lead assistant principal in 2001. "I think he's a great, young man," said Rumberger. "He has the necessary intellect, temperament, interest, creativity and sense of humor to be a good principal, and he's organized and knowledgeable."
Believing that he's leaving the school in good hands, Rumberger said certain things there are planned for tweaking and refinement, so it helps that Campbell already knows what's needed.
"We're all thrilled," said administrative assistant Barbara Donohue. "Everything works well here, and Mike's familiar with the day-to-day operation of the school and knows the students and faculty. So for us, the transition will go very smoothly."
SHE SAID Campbell's "got a good heart" and works well with parents. "Mike's a strong leader with an air of confidence — a stay-the-course kind of guy," said Donohue. "And although he'll change a few things, he'll improve on a good thing."
Head of school security Ray Clements agreed. "I think it's a wise selection," he said. "He's a pleasant and sincere person who'll get the job done. He's approachable and he's got experience."
Campbell can also understand things from a parent's point of view. He and his wife of 17 years, Becky — a health and P.E. teacher at Chantilly High — have two sons, Hunter, 10, and Chris, 12, in fourth and sixth grades, respectively, at Union Mill Elementary. And since 1997, he's served in various capacities in SYA's basketball, baseball and soccer programs.
He was born and raised in Rockbridge County in Southwestern Virginia, where his dad was a high-school social studies teacher, coach, guidance counselor, assistant principal and principal. Said Campbell: "He brought his entire class and basketball team to see me in the hospital on the day I was born."
Campbell obtained a bachelor's in P.E. in 1981 from UVA and, in 1993 at UVA, he received a master's in Educational Leadership and Policy Studies, with emphasis in secondary administration. He began his career in 1981 as head athletic trainer at Western Albemarle High and a health/P.E. teacher at a nearby middle school.
He later became head athletic trainer at Fairfax High, where he also coached football, basketball and softball and eventually became health/P.E. department chair. From March 1993-March 1997, he was director of student activities at Marshall High.
THEN CAMPELL served as a subschool principal at Centreville High until June 2000, before moving to Westfield, where he served as a subschool principal in his first year. In 1988, the School Board recognized him for Outstanding Contributions and, in 1999, Centreville's faculty honored him with a Human Relations Award.
Now, as of July 1, he'll be top dog at Westfield and, Monday, he said he appreciated Rumberger's leadership, mentorship, guidance and friendship. He also acknowledged how hard the current principal has fought for staffing, plus additional funds for more teachers, security, custodial staff and supplies for the school.
But because of Westfield's rapid and tremendous growth since opening in September 2000 with just 1,600 students, some changes will be needed. Come fall, 3,100 students will pack the halls of this school built for 2,500. A building addition begins construction in November, but won't be completed for 17 months, so Westfield will start the school year with 26 trailers.
"So we're looking at better utilization of teachers' planning periods and possibly going from four to six subschools to make a big school seem small," said Campbell. "We're also looking at modifying our block schedule. I keep hearing that, because of the one period a day which is constant, teachers think kids are doing better academically. If we can prove that, we may add a C day [to our A and B days] so teachers would be assured of seeing their students at least three times a week."
He also wants a structured hierarchy defining how safety, security and instruction is provided at Westfield. But, he emphasized, "Westfield was built as a 'we' school, so I'll consult with staff, administration, students, faculty and the community." He also signed up Westfield for the school system's Keep in Touch program, which e-mails parents about happenings in the schools.
"I love this community and staff, and I want to get to know all the students and parents," said Campbell. "But Westfield isn't about what Mike Campbell can do — it's about what the students, staff, faculty and community can do together."