They came from as far away as 1,700 miles and as close as 11 miles, as the Albemarle County School Board selected five principals to lead elementary schools in the division, more than a month ahead of the division’s objective to have all principals in place by June 30.
All five appointments follow community surveys and interview panels that included input from staff and community representatives and were chosen “from an exceptionally strong applicant pool,” said Dr. Clare Keiser, the Director of Educator Quality. “We had an outstanding combination of highly-qualified internal and external candidates. Among the strengths these leaders will bring to their new school communities are finely-developed instructional skills and a commitment to broad community engagement,” she added.
The newly-selected elementary school principals include Jill Lee at Greer; Kimberly Candler at Hollymead; Nancy McCullen at Red Hill; Staci England at Scottsville; and LaTishia Wilson at Stony Point. All appointments are effective on July 1.
Lee joins the school division from her current position as the principal of E.J. Martinez Elementary School in Santa Fe, New Mexico. She previously served for three years as the principal of John Adams Elementary School in the Alexandria City Public Schools division. She began her career as a language arts teacher in California and later was a division-wide coordinator of services for English Learners and language arts.
She has extensive experience leading diverse elementary schools, including two schools that exceeded the student enrollment of Brownsville, which is the largest elementary school in Albemarle County. Lee speaks Spanish, which will be an asset at Greer, where 27 percent of students are from Hispanic homes and 37 percent are English Learners. Lee earned both her undergraduate and master’s degrees from San Diego State University.
Candler, Hollymead’s new principal, has 12 years of experience as an administrator at Rockfish River Elementary School in Nelson County, including the past six years as its leader. She began her career with Campbell County Public Schools, teaching first, third and fourth grades.
“What really stood out in our interviews with Ms. Candler were her passion and commitment to collaborative learning, bringing together students, teachers and parents. That enabled her to develop strong relationships in her school community. Together with her focus on the importance of staff professional development and innovative instructional practices, she set and met high performance standards for students. That makes her an ideal leader for Hollymead’s learning community,” said Dr. Keiser, herself a former Hollymead principal.
Candler received both her undergraduate and master’s degrees from Lynchburg College in Childhood Development and Educational Leadership, respectively. Her administrative experience also includes serving as the summer school coordinator in Campbell County.
The new principal at Red Hill, Nancy McCullen, began her professional career in the private sector in professional development. She joined Albemarle County Public Schools as a classroom teacher at Greer and later, in 2002, became a literary specialist and technology integration partner at the school. McCullen later led the county’s program to support and develop novice teachers, and in 2009, she was appointed to the division’s nationally-acclaimed instructional coaching program. She worked with elementary school teachers on improving classroom instructional strategies and practices to improve student learning outcomes.
Since 2014, McCullen has been an assistant principal at Brownsville, where she led efforts to improve literacy programs and the use of data to close student learning opportunity gaps. A graduate of the University of Virginia (UVA) with a degree in government, McCullen earned her master’s degree in elementary education from William & Mary. She also holds a certificate in educational leadership from James Madison University.
Staci England, the current assistant principal at Hollymead, also has experience at both the middle and high school levels, having been an assistant principal at Burley and the Charlottesville Albemarle Technical Education Center (CATEC). In all of these leadership roles, she has been a consistent advocate for learning centered on student interests.
An innovative leader, England, who attended the Air Force Academy, has supported initiatives that have promoted an emphasis on creativity and problem-solving work among students, especially in the sciences and arts. “We were very impressed in our interviews with Ms. England’s priority on using relationships among students, teachers and parents to remove barriers to learning. An important part of her success is the willingness to embrace new ideas that drive student achievement to higher levels,” Dr. Keiser said.
England began her career in Utah as a university teaching assistant, and her first position in Virginia involved directing youth development programs for 4-H. Prior to joining CATEC in 2008, she was the Club Yancey Program Manager for four years, during which she secured a $163,000 grant from the state for the program. She received her bachelor’s degree from Brigham Young University and her master’s degree from Utah State. She currently is enrolled in UVA’s Doctorate of Education program.
For Wilson, being appointed as Stony Point’s next principal is a homecoming. She served for three years as a special education lead teacher at the school from 2009 to 2012. Under her leadership, student pass rates on alternative assessments in reading, writing and math were 90 percent one year and 100 percent on reading and math assessments the following year.
She presently is the assistant principal at Greer and previously served as Stone-Robinson’s assistant principal. In between those appointments, Wilson was a performance improvement consultant and instructional specialist with the Community Training Assistant Center in Boston. In that role, she worked closely with Richmond City Public Schools.
This weekend, Wilson will become one of nine administrators and teachers in the division who will be certified as a Culturally Responsive Educator. That certification, which is unique in the state of Virginia, requires evidence that an educator is having a positive effect on student achievement through the use of culturally-responsive teaching strategies and practices. Those strategies and practices focus on aligning individualized instruction with specific individual life experiences that influence how a student learns. Overall, the division will have 17 educators after this weekend who have earned certification.
Wilson earned her undergraduate degree from UVA and holds a master’s degree in special education from the University of Phoenix and a doctorate in education in administration and supervision from Regent University.