Return to Headlines

A Random Choice Led Kraus to the Perfect Community

Neil Kraus, the new principal of Horizon Elementary School, wasn’t very deliberate when he sought a teaching job after graduating from East Stroudsburg University in Pennsylvania.

Wanting to explore and travel, he randomly applied to different school systems up and down the East Coast. Kraus’ first interview was at Belmont Ridge Middle School for a health and physical education teacher. He took the job when it was offered. “I did not know anything about Loudoun before I got here.”

Eleven years later, he has no regrets about his choice. “I absolutely love it.”

Kraus said he, his wife and three children love exploring everything Loudoun. “We enjoy doing that as a family, immersing ourselves.” The family can be found sampling various cuisines at local restaurants or attending a Purcellville Cannons game.

Kraus succeeds Jasmine Carpenter, who took a principal’s position in Prince William County.

After two years at Belmont Ridge, Kraus helped open Trailside Middle School. After three years there, he went to Countryside Elementary as a dean. Kraus later became Countryside’s assistant principal before coming to Horizon.

“I absolutely loved changing to the elementary school level. The teachers are amazing, but the kids need you. They need that support, that relationship and connection. It’s awesome when you build up those relationships with the little ones. The little ones have a special place in my heart.”

Kraus has a very clear vision of how Horizon fits into its community. “I want to build the community-staff-school relationship. I want energy and excitement. I want students to feel a sense of pride in the school they attend. I want them to feel Horizon is a staple of the community.”

“We want parents to come into the building. We want community support. I want the kids to feel like they have voice and choice.”

Kraus wants teachers to engage every student in the room, especially those who are reluctant to raise their hand and participate. “Making sure you get all kids to feel like they’re a part of the school, the class. Hearing their voice at least once a day is important. It doesn’t matter what language they speak; you want them to be able to have a voice in your building.

“The most important thing is students want to come to school. They want to engage. I want them to be open to all the great things we can offer.”

Horizon serves a diverse community with some students attending an American school for the first time. Kraus said there is a common denominator that affects parent’s feelings about school. “First, making sure parents feel comfortable, safe. You’re sending your child to someplace new, so you want to make sure the child is protected. For the parent, you want to make sure they know what is going on.”

Being the parent of an 8-, 6- and 4-year-old gives Kraus an insight to the challenges elementary students face. “When I get home, I get to ask my kids about their day and what they’re doing. I get to see both sides. I get to see it from the perspective of a principal, and then I have to flip that switch. Now I’m a Loudoun County parent, working on homework.”

Published August 24, 2022