While telling his faculty and staff Monday he's leaving Westfield to head another high school, Principal Mike Campbell presented a slide show.
"The first thing under his reasons for leaving Westfield was a picture of me, and everybody laughed," said Theater Director Scott Pafumi, a longtime friend. "Under his reasons for going to Centreville were photos of his kids."
Noting that Westfield's first principal, Dale Rumberger, "took the best teachers to start this school" and later left to open South County High, Pafumi said it's turned into something of a tradition that "Westfield trains excellent administrators who then go to other schools."
However, he fully supports Campbell's decision and wishes him nothing but the best. "He wants to be with his kids and community, so I get what he's doing," said Pafumi. "And I understand that he likes being the principal in the neighborhood and town that he lives in."
WESTFIELD Assistant Principal Karla Butler has known Campbell since she was an English teacher at Centreville and he was a subschool principal there from 1997-2000. "I'm very happy for him," she said. "I think the work he's done with us has been remarkable, and Centreville is very fortunate to have him."
Ray Clements, Westfield safety and security specialist, described Campbell as a "good-natured person who gets along well with the kids." Said Clements: "He'll do well at Centreville; he did well here, and we'll miss him."
Finance Officer Laila Latib said Campbell's a wonderful principal. "It was a pleasure and a joy working for and with him," she said. "He's the nicest man to work with. He's patient, he listens, he's a very good communicator and he follows through on things."
Chuck Welch, head baseball coach and technology-education teacher, called the move good for Centreville but bad for Westfield. "It's certainly a loss for us," he said. "But it was a great experience to be able to work with him."
"This is my 23rd year in education, and I've known Mike all 23 years through coaching high-school athletics," continued Welch. "He was the football coach at Fairfax High in 1983 when I was a teacher and coach at Langley High." So what qualities made Campbell such a popular guy? "He's supportive of his staff and the decisions we make," explained Welch. "He's one of us in the hallways, and that's a big factor."
SUBSCHOOL principal Brian Grainer has known Campbell since 1981 when Grainer taught at Albemarle High and Campbell was a first-year teacher at rival Western Albemarle High. "You knew then he had a clear path set, just by the way he carried himself," said Grainer. "You hate to see anybody go, but I totally understand it."
Calling it a great move for Campbell and his family, Grainer said Campbell will continue to keep students first and "kids [at Centreville] will be just as fortunate as the kids he worked with here."
Journalism advisor Pat McCarthy said Westfield is really sorry to lose him. "We genuinely liked and appreciated his abilities here," he said. "He's an excellent principal who understands people and values their expertise. But on the other hand, the faculty understands his reasons for leaving."
Still, AP psychology teacher Chuck Hoskins couldn't help being dejected about Campbell's departure. "Centreville's going to get a quality principal and leader," he said. "He's so supportive of the school — athletics, academics, extra-curricular activities, the students. The faculty is so sad."
Hoskins said everyone there wishes Campbell the best and "he'll take a little piece of Westfield [to Centreville] with him." And, he added, "It'll make our sports rivalry a little more interesting."
Administrative assistant Stacy McDonald said Campbell's "real personable. He's always been one of the gang — one of the parents and one of the employees here." But, added administrative assistant Barbara Donohue, "We know this is what he wants — to be where his family is."
Christy Adams, weight-training/physical-education teacher, is in her first year at Westfield, but was a Centreville student when Campbell was a subschool principal there. And he hired her for Westfield.
"So I felt very at home and welcome here," she said. "I'm so happy for him that he's returning to his home where we first crossed paths. He's just such a genuinely wonderful, encouraging person. There aren't enough adjectives to say how much he'll be missed here."
FORMER Centreville Principal Peter Noonan created the opening there when he left to become assistant superintendent of Cluster VII. And, from a personal perspective as the past principal, he said, "I'm very excited that Mike is coming in to add to the fine work the faculty has been doing for the past two years."
From a professional standpoint, said Noonan, "Mike's a proven leader who's taken a school that's the largest in Virginia and done a superior job. And I'm confident that his skills as a principal will translate very well from Westfield to Centreville."
Noonan said one of the things he loves about Centreville is that it's a community and "what better way to make it a community school than to put a community member in it as the leader? I think it's a perfect opportunity for Centreville High to grow and to become even stronger than it is."
Noonan said it was a "real joyous occasion" Tuesday afternoon when he introduced Campbell to Centreville's faculty and staff. "Everybody was excited to see him, and he was excited to see them," said Noonan. "It's a perfect fit."