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Wednesday, October 5, 2011

FCPS outlines procedure for hiring a principal for the new school

A principal will be hired for the elementary school under construction in Annandale by early December, says Dan Parris, Fairfax County assistant superintendent for Cluster III. The new principal will start work by Feb. 1, which will provide plenty of time to organize the school before it opens in September 2012.

Parris and Beth Boivin of the FCPS Human Resources office explained the principal selection process at a community meeting Tuesday evening at Annandale Terrace Elementary School.

The new school is on the site of the former Masonville Elementary School, which later became the Lacey administrative center. It will have grades K-5 and will draw students from Annandale Terrace, Beech Tree, Belvedere, and Woodburn elementary schools. The attendance area was approved by the school board in July after a lengthy process that included community input.

A parent and staff member from each of those schools will serve on a panel to review the applicants for principal and make recommendations. The panel will meet Nov. 2.

“Our goal is to select the most talented, knowledgeable leader who is the best match for the new school,” says  Boivin.

Only sitting principals of existing FCPS schools will be considered, she says. Principals of the 130 elementary schools in the county have already been informed of the position, and an email giving them an opportunity to formally apply for the job will be sent next week. They will be given seven days to submit a resume.

The PTA president will help select that school’s representative on the panel and an alternate. Those names must be submitted to FCPS by Oct. 12.

Members of the community are encouraged to provide input on the skills, experiences, and leadership characteristics they would like to see in a principal and the challenges and issues the new principal will need to address. Those recommendations must be submitted to Boivin by Oct. 12.

Mason District school board member Sandy Evans told the audience they can also submit comments to her, by phone [571/423-1083] or email, and she will pass them along to FCPS staff. 

The HR staff will consider those suggestions when drafting questions the candidates will be asked during the panel. If several people raise the same concern, there will be a question on that issue, Boivin says.

The top applicants for the job—there could be just two of them—will be invited to address the panel, which will include the Cluster III director and one or two sitting principals, as well as the representatives from the four feeder schools. An HR official will facilitate the panel discussion.

At the start of the meeting, panelists will have a chance to review the applicants’ resumes and the written problem-solving activities they had been assigned.

Each candidate will be asked 10 questions during the panel meeting, Boivin says, although the first question will be an opening statement addressing why the applicant thinks he or she is the best match for the job, and the last question will be a closing statement. The other questions will  address such issues as instructional leadership, communications, planning and assessment, leadership style, and safety.

Following the questioning, the panelists will write a confidential assessment for each candidate. They can write additional questions on the assessment form. FCPS staff will not know who wrote each assessment but will know whether they were submitted by a member of the community or school staff.

HR staff will then put together a matrix outlining how each candidate was rated. One or two of the highest-rated candidates will then take part in a one and a-half to two-hour interview by the assistant superintendent, who could ask additional questions panelists had written on their assessment forms.

“The one candidate who rises to the top” will be interviewed by Superintendent Jack Dale. School board members will then have a chance to raise any concerns they might have about the top candidate.

Parris says the new school’s enrollment will be in the “mid-500s,” which means there will be about 90 to 100 students per grade level. The new principal will help decide which programs the school will have, such as an Advanced Placement program. At that point, there will also be community discussion about a name for the school.

Monica Buckhorn, a parent at Belvedere, has already started contacting parents from the other feeder schools about establishing a new PTA and hopes to schedule an informational meeting in mid-November.

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