On July 1, Stephen Saunders will begin his role as principal of Baker-Butler Elementary School.

“We were fortunate to have had so many exceptional candidates for this position,” said Matthew Haas, Albemarle’s assistant superintendent for organizational and human resource leadership.

Families of Baker-Butler students were able to convey qualities they value in a principal through an online survey during the weeks leading up to Saunders’ appointment.

“We were able to set the bar high, and Dr. Saunders easily cleared it,” Haas said.

Saunders began his career in education instructing undergraduates at the University of Virginia and spent seven years teaching in Charlottesville City Schools. He joined the Albemarle County school division in 2008.

“It’s an honor to have the opportunity to join Baker-Butler’s vibrant learning community and to work with such an outstanding staff and team of educators,” Saunders said.

Saunders’ previous administrative experience includes time as an assistant principal at both Brownsville Elementary School and Jack Jouett Middle School. Under Saunders’ leadership, Jouett earned AVID (Advancement via Individual Determination) Demonstration School status, signifying that Jouett’s AVID program was among the top 3 percent worldwide. AVID is a college readiness program supporting first-generation college-bound students.

India Haun, principal of Brownsville, praised Saunders’ work as assistant principal.

“What really distinguished him in our school not only was what he could accomplish as our assistant principal, but his dedication and leadership to young people as a literacy volunteer, a mentor, an administrator who still worked with students in the classroom, and an active participant on so many advisory committees,” Haun said.

Among other accomplishments, Saunders earned a doctorate of Philosophy from University of Virginia. In his doctoral dissertation, Saunders studied ways to support the motivation and reading skills of struggling students.

In addition to his work in the school division, Saunders has also engaged with the community as the head coach of Charlottesville’s varsity girls’ soccer team, which set nine state records during his time as a coach. Saunders’ coaching has been recognized with awards at the state and national levels, and in 2006, he was a finalist for National High School Coach of the Year.

Saunders plans to engage with the Baker-Butler community as he begins work this summer.

“Among my most important immediate goals will be to build a strong relationship with Baker-Butler students,” he said.

Saunders is succeeding David Cushman, who retired this summer after 25 years with Albemarle County Public Schools.