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Burd Brings a Clear Vision to Rolling Ridge

Michael Burd got a very good piece of advice from a veteran principal on what it means to be a school’s principal as opposed to a member of the staff.

“She said ‘Once you sit in that chair, you’ll understand the difference.’ For me, everything becomes your responsibility. The ownership changes entirely. The amount of responsibility and connection that you feel is the big difference. It’s my job to create the conditions where everyone can be successful. You have to create shared experiences, a collaborative environment, a family environment.

“That’s a big task. But, as a leader, that’s something that I take very personally.”

Burd, the new principal of Rolling Ridge Elementary, knows the feelings he wants the school to provide students and their families. “I want all the students who attend Rolling Ridge to feel loved. I want them to feel cared for. I want them to have somebody that they can go to in the building; that they see as ‘their’ person. When they need something, they know they can rely on that person. That person’s going to be there for them and do everything they can to make that student successful.”  

Through events like “Popsicles with the Principal,” Burd has gotten to know what families want from his school. “It’s very family oriented. They want to make sure Rolling Ridge is, not only a learning institution, but an institution where we’ll help their children grow as individuals.” 

Burd wants to ask the questions – and find the answers to those questions – that will build on the family feelings at Rolling Ridge. “Are we inviting the community in? What types of events are we having and are they accessible to everyone? Does everybody feel welcome?”

The principal has a method for discovering these answers. “First, I have to listen and hear from every stakeholder that I can. See what works already, because there’s a lot of work that’s been done. See what I can enhance.”

Burd also wants his teachers to ask these questions, starting with back-to-school night. “Instead of just giving them the syllabus, let’s talk to the parents and ask them ‘What are your hopes for your children this year? What are your dreams? What are your fears? What kinds of things are you uncomfortable about? What can we do to help with that?’ It’s having an open line of collaboration and communication. Really strengthening those relationships so everybody feels comfortable. If we create those conditions for success, I think we’ve got a chance for everybody to be successful.

“Communication is huge. Make sure the community has all the information they need to make their student successful.”

Rolling Ridge should be a culturally responsive building, Burd added. “Do I see myself when I’m walking through the hallway? Are the photos of student families in classrooms? What types of celebrations are we having? There are a lot of things that can be done.”

Burd comes to Loudoun County Public Schools (LCPS) after serving for five years as the principal of East Silver Spring Elementary in Montgomery County, Md. (The bulk of his educational career has been spent in Montgomery County.) “Sometimes you can feel stagnant,” he said of seeking the Rolling Ridge position. “I’m somebody who believes in constant evolution and growth. If I don't believe in that as a leader, I think I’m doing a disservice to our staff and students.”

Part of growing professionally was finding a match for his educational philosophy, Burd added. He researched Loudoun County Public Schools (LCPS) and saw the school division’s vision, mission and strategic plan were a match. “I thought, ‘That’s something that aligns with who I am as an educator.’”

Burd has a lot of experience in schools with similar demographics and needs to those of Rolling Ridge. “I felt that connection. You have to find the right match with the staff, the community, the students. If you build those relationships, the sky’s the limit.”

Published September 13, 2023