When Sterling Middle School's new principal, Michael Williams, showed up for work Friday, he was greeted by the skeletal remains of what had once served as the principal's office.
The office desk, chair, file cabinets and phone had been removed and two walls had been torn down. The secretaries' furniture and phones also were gone from the adjoining office. Williams set out Friday on a tour of the school, which is undergoing renovations and an expansion, and introduced himself to the contractors. The intercom system was not working, but the phones were back up after someone accidentally cut the wires the week before.
In place of the sound system, secretary Judy Bartow passed messages along to employees who stopped at her make-shift office and used a radio as another means of communication within the building.
Williams replaced Ellen Fein, who retired in June. He was assistant principal of Swanson Middle School in Arlington for five years, an elementary-school advanced math strategies and language arts teacher in Arlington for three years, and a third-grade teacher in Fairfax County for 14 years. He has been working on his doctorate in Education Leadership, and plans to write a thesis on "How Does Belief Impact the Academic Achievement of Minority Students."
"To be successful in school, you need three people believing that a student can achieve at a higher level: the student, the teacher and the student's family," he said.
Unfortunately, sometimes one or two of the three people are missing, he said. Parents need to understand how important the belief structure is to a student's success.
WILLIAMS SAID he would like to build a volunteer network at Sterling Middle School, with students volunteering in the region and with parents, business people and community members tutoring and mentoring the students.
School Board member J. Warren Geurin met with Williams Friday and presented a necktie and a drawing of the construction-phasing plan for the middle school. "Mr. Williams has made a personal commitment to advocate for students and foster the dreams of staff and parents and we welcome him to our community," he said.
Sterling Middle School is one of Loudoun County's most diverse middle school. Thirty-three percent of the 908 students last year were Hispanic, 14 percent Asian, 11 percent African American and 41 percent white.
A $10.2 million renovation and expansion project is underway and will take two years to finish. Most of the construction is slated for completion by mid-September. Seven classrooms and a resource room are being added to the west side of the school. Renovations include a new entrance, administrative offices and a refurbished auditorium.
Williams said he would assess the achievements of the students and then set goals. He plans to expand on their academic successes, he said.