For 22 years, John Porter had a simple title that was easy to remember and clearly expressed his job — principal. Starting on July 1, his title became a bit more complicated. He’s now the assistant superintendent for administrative services and public relations. From his new Beauregard Street office, Porter has taken on a portfolio that includes everything from representing the school district at civic association meetings to overseeing the construction of the city’s new $98 million high school.
“We’re going to be spending a lot of time getting ready for the move to the new T.C.,” Porter said. “As we get toward the end of this upcoming school year, we will begin to shut the old building down.”
To the disappointment of many former T.C. Williams students hoping to see the 1965 building vanish in a puff of smoke, Porter said demolition of the school will take place in stages. The southeast corner of the old building — the part nearest to the new school — with other segments of the building going down in increments over the next eight months.
“We’re not doing this for dramatic effect,” Porter said. “It’s got to be quick but careful.”
Porter knows how hectic the end of a school year can be. Report cards need to be finalized and transcripts need to be sent out to colleges and universities. Meanwhile, teachers and staff members will be making preparations for the big move that will happen next summer. Porter said he hoped the school would be out of the 1960s-era building by May.
“Everybody knows that moving can be terrible,” Porter said. “But it can also be a good time to get rid of things and clean house.”
AS ASSISTANT SUPERINTENDENRT, Porter will oversee the planning process for the move, any purchasing that needs to be done for furniture at the new building and the move itself. Once the new school year is underway, Porter said that the school will host a dedication ceremony that will include a new time capsule.
“We never found the old one,” Porter said, referring to a time capsule from 1965. “I don’t have any idea where it is, but I think there’s a real good chance we’ll find it during the construction process.”
Porter’s new job description includes oversight in a number of areas. He will supervise the director of facilities, director of food services, the director of transportation and the director of construction. The expansive portfolio is significantly larger that his original administrative job, which was limited to public information and outreach.
“Mr. Porter’s enthusiasm, instructional background, dedication, and involvement in the division and the community will prove valuable as we move forward on a number of educational initiatives to benefit our children,” said Superintendent Perry in a written statement announcing Porter’s move on Jan. 13, 2005.
When the job search failed to find a candidate in time, Porter agreed to stay at the high school for another year. On Feb. 14, Mel Riddile was named to replace Porter. Last month, both men moved into their new offices.
“He’s got his hands full,” Riddile said. “But Porter has been helping me during my transition.”
PUBLIC RELATIONS will be one of Porter’s major responsibilities, and he will be representing the school district at civic association meetings, public forums and special events. As a longtime resident of the city — one who has a personal relationship with generations of former students — Porter knows a lot of people.
“My role will be to make sure the school system has a presence,” Porter said. “One of the first things I’m going to try to do is increase our presence with the business community.”
Porter said that he wants to work with the Alexandria Chamber of Commerce to get more high school students involved in the city’s business community. He said that students could be involved in any number of activities, everything from formalized internships to informal volunteering and shadowing.
“I’m hitting the ground running,” Porter said. “But there’s still a learning curve.”