DDESS Schools in the News
Quantico Schools Seek New Principals
by Mike DiCicco
Quantico VA | January 25, 2012
Two recent retirements have resulted in a bit of a shakeup in administration at Quantico’s schools.
Randell Ekanger, who was principal of Burrows Elementary since 2008, after serving for four years as principal of the base’s Russell Elementary School, retired effective Dec. 31. While his long-term replacement is being sought, Janey Idell, an early childhood curriculum coordinator for the New York, Virginia and Puerto Rico District of Department of Defense Education Activity, whose focus is on language arts and social studies, is filling in as Burrows’ principal.
District Superintendent Michael Gould said two rounds of interviews for a new principal had been conducted in December. “Since the process is taking a little bit longer than I had hoped, I’ve named Ms. Janey Idell as the interim principal,” he said, noting that Idell was also a certified principal and had served in that position for most of her 30 years with DoDEA.
Also retired as of Dec. 31 is District School Improvement Specialist Bill Ramos, who held that position since he worked as principal of Burrows Elementary for the eight years immediately preceding Ekanger’s tenure in that position.
“Both these people had long careers with DoDEA,” said Gould.
When the school improvement specialist opening was announced as a result of Ramos’ retirement, then-Quantico Middle/High School Principal Michael Hollier declared his interest in filling the slot.
“In a small district like this, these positions don’t open up often, so you’ve got to act fast,” Gould said, noting that he had already selected Hollier to take over the position, effective Jan. 17, the first day of the new semester.
The move represents a return, as Hollier, who was in his fourth year as principal of the middle/high school, previously served as the district’s school improvement specialist between 2005 and 2008. Before that, he was assistant principal at Quantico Middle/High School.
Gould, who was district assistant superintendent in those days, recalled working with Hollier on school improvement. “He’s a very strong curriculum person, and he will be a tremendous asset to us here at the district office,” he said.
Meanwhile, Quantico Middle/High School Assistant Principal Dan Mulhern is filling in as the school’s principal while a permanent replacement is sought, “and we’ll provide the middle/high school with additional support through district office personnel as needed,” Gould said. Mulhern has been at the middle/high school since he arrived as a special education teacher around 2000, and has been the assistant principal since 2004.
As school improvement specialist, Hollier will be responsible for helping each of the district’s 11 schools maintain their accreditation with the regional accrediting group AdvancED and meet their self-stated goals for improving student achievement.
“The part I like is that my role will be to assist the schools with the attainment of those goals,” Hollier said, noting that it was this opportunity to work with the principals and staff of all the district’s schools that drew him back to the job.
The schools are accredited every five years, and Quantico Middle/High School will be up for re-accreditation this April. “So this uniquely positions [Hollier] to build on what he knows is already being done at Quantico Middle/High School,” Gould said.
As assistant superintendent, Gould worked closely with Hollier when he was the school improvement specialist, in part because Gould had earlier held that position himself. “Michael is a very intelligent man. He has a very good grasp of instructional strategies, and he’s detail-oriented,” Gould said. He noted that the job requires working with schools in far-flung locations, without the ideal amount of face-to-face interaction. “He’s able to bridge that gap because he’s a good communicator,” he said of Hollier.
As the middle/high school principal, Gould said, “Michael’s success areas were in building a collaborative team and strengthening unity among the staff with a clear focus on student achievement.”
Hollier said the school’s accomplishments he was most proud of during his time there were the piloting of a science, technology, engineering and math summer camp for middle-schoolers last year and a biotechnology class this school year, the continued accolades for the school’s champion Junior ROTC program, the half-million dollars in scholarships awarded to 11 of last year’s 27 graduates and the selection of several students in the music program for the Virginia Tech Honor Band.
“That’s what I liked most, was being able to highlight what our little school continuously does,” he said, adding that he had also especially enjoyed “the personal connection I had with the parents and the students.”
Meanwhile, Idell is working to build those connections at Burrows Elementary. Having served as principal of three elementary schools at Fort Bragg and as director of a private, pre-kindergarten school in the Panama Canal Zone, she said she had already been considering spending the remaining years of her career as a principal. And having grown up in a military family and then married a military man, she said she had an easy understanding of the needs of DoDEA families.“When I say it’s comfortable, it’s comfortable in a lot of ways,” Idell said. “I think I have a really good feel for what it’s like to be that child who has that military family member.”
She said she was “absolutely delighted” to be filling in as an elementary school principal again.
As the district searches for permanent principals for both Burrows and the middle/high school, Gould said administration is looking for candidates with successful track records in school administration at those grade levels, recent training and knowledge of current educational priorities, and proven skills as instructional leaders.