It only took Loudoun County Public Schools Superintendent Edgar B. Hatrick three and a half years to return to his alma mater, Loudoun County High School.
Hatrick graduated from the school in 1963, when Loudoun schools were still segregated by the color of students’ skin. In June of the same year, he packed his bags for Blacksburg, Va., with the intentions of studying medicine at Virginia Tech.
Over the next few years, Hatrick, like Loudoun County, changed and grew.
"Loudoun was changing so dramatically, even back then," Hatrick said. "It was different every time I came home."
When Hatrick returned a college graduate in January 1967, he began teaching English to Loudoun County High School students in grades eight through 12.
Although his task there, relieving English teachers of overcrowded classrooms, was to be a temporary one, Hatrick knew he was where he was supposed to be.
"I wanted to become a doctor," Hatrick said, "but I did envision teaching at some point at the college level."
While teaching at Loudoun County High School, he met his wife, Betty Hatrick. She was an English teacher there, working with 50 students at a time. Her husband took half her class off her hands.
"She was so grateful, a year a half later she married me," he joked.
Loudoun County Public Schools has been an integral part of Hatrick’s life. Not only did he marry a county high school English teacher, but he brought his three children up in the school system.
"As much as we think we plan, the truth is that an awful lot happens in life almost by accident," Hatrick said. "Things change. Low and behold, here I am."
WHETHER HIS first job at Loudoun County High School was an accident or not, Hatrick worked his way to the top of the county public schools system over the course of 40 years.
From 1967 to 1969, Hatrick worked as an English teacher at his alma mater. In the fall of 1969, Hatrick moved to Broad Run High School to continue teaching English. In 1970, he was named Broad Run High School’s principal. In 1975, he returned to Loudoun County High School to serve as principal there. In 1978, he became director of special education and then, in 1983, director of instruction. In 1987, he became assistant superintendent of planning and pupil services and in 1991 he took on a new role as superintendent of schools.
During that time, Hatrick has seen new classrooms, playgrounds, schools and an administration building built. He’s even had a few Loudoun County Public Schools teachers in his classes.
One thing that never ceases to amaze him is the students.
IN APRIL, the Loudoun County School Board voted to extend the superintendent’s contract for another four years.
When asked why he chose to stay another four years, he joked, "Why not?"
Hatrick said he believes public education is the foundation of American society, and he still wants to be a part of what makes "our society so great."
"I still wake up every morning excited to go to work," he said. "I feel like I’m making a difference."
His biggest challenge now is dealing with growth and diversity.
"I want to find the best teachers across the nation and the world," Hatrick said. "I want to hire a diverse staff that looks like the kids they teach."
Potomac Falls High School Principal David Spage said Hatrick's work experience as a teacher and principal helps him relate to the people he works with. Spage joked that Hatrick has walked a mile in his shoes.
"I find him to be a very empathetic leader," Spage said. "He has a unique ability of putting a sense of worth on the job, whether he's working with senior staff or a group of principals whom he meets with monthly."
Hatrick views himself as the "head teacher."
"We are here for the children. That is the only reason," Hatrick said.
Whether your fixing the brakes on a school bus, serving meals in a high-school cafeteria or teaching fourth-grade math, Hatrick said every school employee has the ability to shape a student's life.
"Even with 48,000 students and 68 campuses, we have not lost touch with our roots and values that came when we were small," Hatrick said. "We are not 68 islands of education. We are a school system. We learn from each other and share with each other."
SCHOOL BOARD chairman Robert DuPree (Dulles) said he admired Hatrick's work ethic.
"Dr. Hatrick is not just an outstanding administrator, he is first and foremost an outstanding educator. And his stewardship of Loudoun County schools has always revolved around what is in the best interest of our children," DuPree said in an e-mail. "When I leave a committee meeting at 10 at night, he is still in his office, hard at work. His professionalism, dedication and work ethic on behalf of Loudoun's children and his commitment to our educational system is without parallel."
"My greatest fear is that we become self-satisfied," Hatrick said.
The superintendent and his staff try to look beyond the 10-year horizon, to plan for what he wants Loudoun County Public Schools to look like.
"The truth is, we’re going to get much bigger. Someday we will have at least 90,000 students," he said. "We’re forever looking ahead and trying to plan for that."