Since 1986, the Virginia Associations of Secondary School and Elementary School Principals have requested an annual proclamation from the state’s Governor to recognize their members. This year, Governor Ralph Northam, declared the week of January 24-30, as a week to “recognize the hard work of Virginia school principals and to recognize the importance of principals in ensuring that every child has access to a quality education.”

Westmoreland County Public Schools is fortunate to have four outstanding educational leaders guiding the school operations in the district. The principals are Roger Coleman, Washington & Lee High School; William Bowen, Montross Middle School; Leslie Steele, Cople Elementary School; and Christie Douglas, Washington District Elementary School. The role of a principal is to provide strategic direction in the school system. Under the guidance of the Superintendent, principals help develop standardized curriculum, assess teaching methods, monitor student achievement, encourage parent involvement, understand policies and procedures, administer their school budgets, evaluate staff and oversee facilities. In Westmoreland County, each school has an assistant principal to assist the principal with their myriad of duties. The assistant principals are Will Hernandez, Washington & Lee High School; Leah Segar, Montross Middle School; Michael Bathgate, Cople Elementary School; and Jarvis Bailey, Washington District Elementary School.

During School Principals Appreciation Week, the district recognized the unique talents and skills of each principal. Each of the principals have faced a different type of educational challenge during this year of the Covid pandemic. Washington & Lee High School principal, Roger Coleman noted, “The most exciting part of my job this year was creating a virtual atmosphere for all to be successful. This includes the educational staff, students, parents and community. We have grown immensely in the last several months and we continue to create new and innovative paths to enhance our instruction. As we continue on this educational journey, I look forward to the ideas that will enhance all of our instructional plans.” 

 William Bowen, Montross Middle School principal, explained the frustration faced by many administrators. “This year has been a roller coaster ride. Moving from all virtual to hybrid learning and back to virtual has been difficult. We loved seeing our students in the building again. Our faces lit up when students were moving in the halls and there were warm bodies in the classrooms. One of the biggest challenges at the middle school is getting all of our students to join and do their Google meets and submit work. Because of their age, parents assume students are self-sufficient, but that is not the case. Many of our students haven’t developed the time-management skills or maturity to be successful in this setting. Our teachers have done a phenomenal job of creating lessons and offering online support; however, students have to be present. It is so frustrating because these students are only falling farther behind.”

Leslie Steele, Cople Elementary School principal, shares, “The resilience of our teachers and staff is incomparable. I appreciate their commitment and that of our parents and students. This is a difficult time for everyone yet we continue to get things done. I am truly grateful for the opportunity to work with such a caring and diverse group of teachers, staff, students and parents.”

Washington District Elementary School principal, Christie Douglas, began her duties in September. “Being a first year principal during a global pandemic has been very challenging. However, with the support of my WDES family, we have persevered through all of the obstacles that we have faced. I hope that we will be able to have staff and students safely return to the building. Our students are the reason that we do what we do; we miss seeing their smiling faces!”

Westmoreland County Public Schools is honored to have such dedicated educators at the helm of their fully accredited schools. Their devotion to education and their students is appreciated not only during Principal Appreciation Week, but throughout the school year. Dr. Michael Perry is superintendent of Westmoreland County Public Schools and Cathy Rice is the deputy superintendent.