Robinson Reveled in Principal’s Role

“The best part of being a principal – even with all the paperwork – is the fact that, at any time during the day, I can go down and see kids, be with kids, watch them learn, hear about what’s going on at home. You still have that human connection, that personal connection with your kids and with your staff members. It’s not just paper-shuffling and it’s not just meeting deadlines. It’s meeting people and making relationships.”

Angela Robinson is quick to offer this response when she’s asked about the best part of being a principal.

Robinson, who has served as the principal of Leesburg Elementary since 2013, left that position on Friday, November 16th, to assume a job with Fairfax County Public Schools. Her new role will be manager, equity and closing the achievement gap. In that job, Robinson will match school programs that have been successful to new venues and determine their effectiveness.

Robinson had previously served as the principal of Cool Spring Elementary (2002-2006) and Sugarland Elementary (2006-2013).

“It was neat to be part of that growth and fast pace…,” she said of her time in Loudoun. “That also made us have to do things rather quickly, figure out pretty fast how to service the students we were getting.”

Robinson also commented on the unique role of principals in Loudoun County Public Schools (LCPS). “In Loudoun, the principals are given a lot of responsibility. With that responsibility comes a lot of opportunity to drive the changes in your school, even select things your faculty and students need to be better; to improve that school…

“Our principals really do run our schools. We look to them to make good decisions and we give them a lot of responsibility…That’s not the case everywhere you work in education…

“You’re guided here, but the direction really comes from the school up…

“It’s very collaborative between principals and their supervisors, much more than it’s ever been. Whether it’s sharing ideas or giving us direction on what we need to do, assessing our programs and our effectiveness. It’s a two-way street.”

Robinson said the personalized learning programs utilized by LCPS allow principals to tailor techniques to the needs of their student population. “You’re able to pick and choose based on your population of parents and students and teachers what would be best in your school…That’s always something I’ve been proud to be a part of. I’ve always tried to explain to faculties how much responsibility we really do get in choosing the avenue we take for our kids…

“In Loudoun, teachers and principals are very vested in their schools…You keep seeking and wanting the best for those kids. No matter their circumstances, their deficits in academics, your overall push for them – and your staff – is to always give them your best and find the best things to help and support them.”

Sharing learning strategies with colleagues was another highlight Robinson cited in her Loudoun experience.

“The colleagues in this county are so supportive. You just give a call or an email…several are coming to aid you or giving you what you want. I haven’t known camaraderie quite like that…It really is one unit. As big as we are in this county, we really are one unit. What we know to be good, we share with each other…

“We’re very open about saying ‘Come, I’ll show you how to do it’ or ‘Can I have that idea from you?’ You’re never refused.”

When asked the worst thing about being a principal, Robinson had another quick answer.

“You’re not really in charge of anything, until it goes wrong.”

She is quick to add that the principal’s job is to collaborate with staff.

“You’re not in charge of anything by yourself. You can’t do this job by yourself. Maybe this is said by other folks – but I say it to remind myself – teachers don’t have this job because of me. I have this job because of the teachers and the students…I have this job because of them. That really is how it should run. What do they need? I’m the person to get that.”

Robinson said she felt Leesburg Elementary has a very unique character.

“Leesburg Elementary is truly a neighborhood school. We have parents who attended this school with some of these teachers…That inter-generational part is a really good link. It proves those relationships were really strong with their teachers. They want to have their children back here…We get to know the families and the kids really well. There really is a personal connection….

“This staff really has a talent for building those relationships; to know more than just the school piece of it with families…

“You will never find a better set of parents than at this school…They’re very generous and very involved.”