Loudoun County Public School parents got their first opportunity to dialogue with incoming superintendent Dr. Eric Williams at a question and answer session May 29 at the administration building.
Williams exuded enthusiasm as he briefly went over his background, which includes a bachelor's degree from the College of William and Mary, teaching positions in Virginia and Brazil and a role as director of an alternative school in Massachusetts that featured thematic and project-based learning. From there, he served as an assistant principal, principal and assistant superintendent in Naples, Fla. before accepting in 2008 a position as superintendent in York County, located in southeastern Virginia.
Williams explained his passion for teaching and noted that he decided he wanted to become a teacher in the fifth grade, motivated by his own teacher.
“Mrs. Green was my teacher,” he told the crowd. “Because of the way she taught, I learned to love teaching.”
He went on to explain his methodology of not just teaching according to a curriculum, but using experiential education, to include projects and role-playing.
“It's not just fluff,” Williams said. “And it encourages not just a joy of learning, but a joy of teaching.”
Williams noted that he wants to “sustain and build on the excellence of Loudoun County Public Schools.”
“The stupidest thing is for me to come in with a wrecking ball mentality,” Williams said.
For her part, parent and Belmont Station and Belmont Ridge LEAP representative Marna Gettleman appreciated William's sincerity.
“I'm impressed he is willing to come and learn first,” she said. “I love a person with ideas, but I also love a person who is willing to listen and learn.”
Though parents eagerly waited in line to talk with Williams amongst the hors d'oeuvres, the formal question and answer section quickly mutated from questions for the new superintendent to questions for the six attending School Board members -- and mostly about the budget.
Still smarting from this year's budget saga, parents inquired about a series of budget topics, ranging from gifted and talented programming and language acquisition to the use of technology in the classroom.
Because the event coincided with a LEAP meeting, the attendees were largely members of LEAP, the Loudoun Education Alliance of Parents; SEAC, the Special Education Advisory Committee; and MSAAC, the Minority Student Achievement Advisory Committee.
Addressing both the School Board and the attendees, parent Phillip Pressley offered advice, met with thunderous applause, regarding the budget.
“Do not hesitate to illustrate the shortcomings you see,” Pressley said. “The Board of Supervisors made their budget based on their perceptions. Next year is an election year. We have to be better at remembering where there are shortcomings.”
Outgoing superintendent Dr. Edgar Hatrick, now the longest-serving superintendent in the state with a tenure of 23 years, was given the final words at the event, and he used them to discuss the choice topic of the evening.
“I'm not going to make any bones about it. We could have had everything the School Board wanted with a reasonable tax rate,” Hatrick said. “When you try to do more with less, you end up doing less.”
And Hatrick, who said he was eager about Williams joining the staff, noted that though he is retired, he still plans on being a voice in the community.
“I will be living in Loudoun,” Hatrick said. “I will be continuing to advocate for education and I will keep advocating for funding for education.”