When Deborah Jackson, Ph.D., saw that the principal’s seat had opened up at McLean High School two months ago, she did not hesitate to submit her name for consideration.
“I thought, oh my God this is a wonderful opportunity for me to give back to my community and come home,” said Jackson, who is a 16-year resident of McLean. “This is just part of my extended family, and you want to take care of your family. ”
Apparently Fairfax County Public Schools staff shared Jackson's sentiments about the importance of serving in one's own community. Jackson, who has served as principal of Langston Hughes Middle School in Reston for the last seven years, was recently appointed as the new principal of McLean High School, and officially began in her new position on July 9. She replaced Paul Wardinski who served as principal of McLean High School for the last three years. Wardinski announced in late May that he had accepted the offer to take over as principal at West Springfield High School. Wardinski, who lives with his family in Springfield, chose to take the position for the very same reason that Deborah Jackson jumped at the opportunity to join the adminstration at McLean High School — he wanted to serve the high school students in his own community.
“For 22 years in FCPS, I have been leaving my community to serve others during my tenures at Marshall, Fairfax, Jefferson, and most recently McLean,” wrote Wardinski in his farewell letter to the McLean community. “The move to West Springfield allows me to strike a balance between my professional responsibilities as a community leader and personal desire to serve my neighborhood as a resident and parent. As the principal of West Springfield, it will allow me to follow the priorities that I constantly emphasize to my staff — family and health at the top of the list.”
PRIOR TO HER seven-year run as principal of Langston Hughes Middle School, Jackson worked as assistant principal of Annandale High School, summer school principal at Frost Middle School and assistant principal at Holmes Middle School. She has also held several teaching positions in various Fairfax County Public Schools (FCPS). Her other experience includes serving as a pre-college planner for Gallaudet University, working as a research specialist for George Mason University, and as an administrative aide with the Maryland General Assembly.
“Although Jackson has enjoyed her middle school experiences, she is delighted to ‘return’ to the high school level,” said Audra Sydnor, assistant superintendent for FCPS Cluster I, in a statement announcing Jackson’s appointment as principal at McLean High School. “She is very excited to become a member of the McLean family of students, teachers and parents.”
Jackson said she has only ever noticed one major difference between working as an administrator at a middle school verses working as one at a high school.
“The kids are bigger,” she said with a laugh. “But that’s it, so it’s not too bad.”
In her previous years of service to Fairfax County Public Schools, Jackson implemented the International Baccalaureate Middle Years Program at Hughes Middle School, supported the Gifted and Talented (GT) Center at Hughes, served on the Gifted and Talented Advisory Committee for Gifted and Talented Education, helped to develop instructional programs for adult learners, and worked with many programs that focused on strategies for student success for all student populations. Jackson has also served on numerous Fairfax County Public Schools committees, acted as a presenter at conferences and helped to coach new assistant principals.
Jackson received her bachelor’s degree in political science from Frostburg State University, and earned her master’s degree in business and public administration from Southeastern University. In addition, she received her educational leadership endorsements from Virginia Tech University and the University of Virginia, and earned her doctorate degree from Virginia Tech.
JACKSON SAID she has been delighted by the warm welcome she has already received thus far.
“The people have been awesome,” said Jackson. “This has been the most heartwarming welcoming, and that’s when you really know you’re home — when the warmth of the congratulations is this overwhelming.”
Jackson has already held one meet-and-greet event with the school community, but plans to hold another one sometime in August.
“We’ll have another meeting set up, not just for the community but for the teachers as well,” she said. “I want to give everyone the chance to drop by and talk to me. I come as someone who is very passionate about kids … I can assure parents that while they send me their most precious jewels, I will be returning them as highly qualified students, who are knowledgeable, caring, young people.”
Jackson said her primary goal in the coming school year is to make sure that McLean High School continues to be a high-ranking, high-achieving educational institution, and she also hopes to push the envelope and aim even higher.
“I want to be part of taking the school to the next level,” said Jackson. “I think McLean is a flagship school that has enjoyed a tradition of excellence, and I want to make sure that continues.”
One of Jackson’s personal standards is to ensure that her teaching staff knows who they are there to serve — the students.
“I always want to make sure that teachers and administrators are passionate about kids because that’s why we come to work everyday,” said Jackson. “We’re here to make sure students receive the kind of education that they need to succeed, not just in their community, but in the rest of the world as well.”
The McLean High School administration has one more change on the horizon. Assistant principal Stephen Wojciechowski recently announced his plans to depart the school, and a search for his replacement is currently under way.