If you think about the number of principals we have employed who are the leaders of individual schools and the number of new schools we open each year, we don’t get off to rocky starts. We literally hit the ground running either when we bring a new leader into a school or open a new school. We need to scale up that model to changing leadership in the school system.
While the superintendent is an important position, it is far from the only important position in the school system.
Our strength is in the people who work for the school system. Our strength is not in one person or even the senior leadership team. The fact is you can have a great superintendent and a great senior staff, but if you don’t have people who understand the fundamental mission of the school system, who have helped create that mission, who believe in that mission, that school district will not be successful.
The fundamental ingredient for a successful transition to occur is the same fundamental that we need for success each year: involvement by staff, understanding by staff and commitment by staff to the mission of the school system. To that we add the support of parents and the community that we serve. And, finally we need the support of the students who are being educated. They have to understand why what’s happening in their life right now is so important to their future.
Whoever occupies the superintendent’s position will not alter our fundamental mission.
Our mission is to continue to absorb the growth that will be part of Loudoun County for years to come while becoming a better school system on every measurable scale at the same time. Building and equipping new schools for growth is not enough. If anything really distinguishes Loudoun County Public Schools during the last 25 years – a time period for most of which I happened to be superintendent – it is not simply our ability to accommodate growth, even though we do successfully build and open new schools at costs that are competitive throughout our state. Years ago we agreed that simply accommodating growth would not be a sufficient measure of success. We committed to improving the quality of everything we do even as we grew from 13,000 to 70,000 students and provided all the staff and equipment needed for those new students. We are really a better school system now than we were 25 years ago.
What we’ve been able to do is keep our eye on the prize. The prize was to become a top-tier school district in America. That’s who our kids will compete with. They’ll be competing with students graduating from other top-tier school districts. Ultimately, the success of our country – not just our county and our state – will depend upon children receiving a world-class education. It’s always hard to define, but to me world class means you’re ready to compete. You have been given the preparation you need in order to be successful. It doesn’t mean we’ve given you the answers to all the questions. What we have done is trained you to recognize the questions; given you the tools to discover the answers to those questions. Frankly, we don’t know many of the questions our children are going to be answering 20 years from now. We do, however, know at a human level the resources students will need to interact in the world.
A big part of what we do for students is preparing them for the world into which they are growing, not the one in which we grew.
What kinds of skills do students need? They need to be able to read. They need to be able to compute. They need the fundamental skills they’ve always needed. But I think they need a whole other set of skills that are maturational, that really represent a level of maturity.
During my final year as your superintendent, I expect our biggest challenge to be the one we face every year.
Our biggest challenge every year is to make sure we have hired all the right people to interact with our children and that we support them in the work that they do. That could mean supporting the mechanic in the garage who makes sure the bus is safe. It can be supporting the supervisor in administration who makes sure that the curriculum presented to students is the one we should be offering. It means supporting the classroom teacher who has to deliver that curriculum to the students. Fundamentally it means working together as staff, parents, community, and students.
It is literally making sure that we don’t take our eye off the prize – the instruction of children. Everything we do in this school system – from financial services to support services to transportation – has to be focused on facilitating instruction to children. In that regard this year is like any other. The distractor this year could be – but I hope won’t be – the search for a new superintendent. That’s where it’s incumbent on the School Board and me, as the current superintendent, and whoever the new superintendent is, to make sure that we make the transition as seamless as possible.
I’m as committed as I ever have been to introducing a budget that really does address the needs of our children and the needs of this school system. It’s my intent to propose a budget for fiscal 2015 that addresses those needs as we see them. We’re accumulating some problems that, if we continue not to address them, will eventually hurt us. They range from technology, where we’re getting behind, to compensation, where we have to make sure we’re competitive to bring the best people here that we can find. We also must continue meeting our commitment to facilities to make sure that children are in schools in which they feel safe, in that they are safe, and in which their instructional needs are met. My proposed budget will probably look like most of my budgets have looked.
Finally, I want to say thank you to this community and to everyone associated with Loudoun County Public Schools for the excellent work that they have done over the years. We did not get to be a great school system by accident. We got to be a great school system because our community committed to funding a great school system. Our staff committed to do the work it takes to move us from good to great. The culture of excellence is established, and we all must look to the future to be sure that we increase opportunities for your students. As you read about last year’s accomplishments in this report I hope that you will be thinking about how future reports can be even better — that should be our legacy for our children who are our future.
Edgar B. Hatrick, Ed.D.
Last Modified on September 27, 2013