Lacey Has Recipe for a Successful School

Shawn Lacey refers to a recipe from his Louisiana roots when it comes to the ingredients for a successful school.

“I love to cook…

“My favorite dish is gumbo. The rationale behind that is gumbo is… made out of leftovers. You take the scraps from here and the scraps from there and put it all together into a beautiful delicacy. That’s an approach to life. You can take somebody’s worst and put it with something better. It can always turn out good.”

On Wednesday, November 28th, Lacey became the principal at Leesburg Elementary after serving as the school’s assistant principal since 2016. He came to Leesburg with a definite intent; not necessarily to take the short walk down the hall from his current office to the principal’s.

“I wanted to gain the necessary skills and confidence to walk down somebody’s hall. Having the opportunity to do it here at Leesburg is special…It resembles, ironically enough, my elementary school. Having the opportunities to build relationships here with the staff, with the students and with the families has been great. To move down the hall puts everybody at ease. You know the lay of the land.”

Lacey said he anticipates no major changes as he takes over for Angie Robinson, who moved to an administrative job in Fairfax County.

“I’m not one to come in and clean house…I want to stay focused on our current mission and look for ways we can be better. I’m fortunate. I had the opportunity to work under a great leader in Ms. Robinson…She put some great things in place that I can nurture, nourish and keep them growing. Then there are some other things – as a new leader – that I want to see differently. I want to take some different chances and opportunities. I want to get some feedback from the teachers; ‘Hey, we’ve been doing this for the last three or four years, what are your thoughts? How we can change it? What can we do better to serve our students?’ You never know until you try it.

“I don’t want to treat 21st century learners with 20th century mindsets and approaches.”

Lacey said Leesburg Elementary is a true reflection of its community.

“Family oriented… From my first day here, I was welcomed into the family. We do things that are beneficial to the entire community…Look at the demographics of our school, it represents the entire community…We are that school that embodies everything we want this community to embody. The diversity of our classrooms, the approach we take with all of our students is one that we want them to carry into the community.”

Lacey noted Leesburg Elementary has food available to families during the summer, supports coat drives and has a Parents Engaging in Partnerships (PEP) program to make parents who are non-English speakers comfortable with the school. “We have to realize we have students coming in from different countries, different backgrounds, who may not know what the role of the school is. We want to make sure they’re comfortable, ready to learn…

“The truth of the matter is if we can’t take care of the basic needs of anyone – whether that’s a student or a teacher – we won’t be able to get the most out of them.”

Lacey was born and raised in New Orleans and is a huge Saints fan. He came to Loudoun County when his wife Dr. Tracey Lacey (“everyone gives her a hard time because her name rhymes”) became the chief academic officer for Strayer University (she is now a training officer for the Food and Drug Administration).

Shawn Lacey said he and his wife chose to live in Loudoun because of the school system.

“We saw a lot of write-ups about the test scores, but then we looked at the diversity of the community. We wanted our children in a position that was real world. You’re going to have to work with folks from every background. Let’s learn that now.” (The Lacey’s oldest son, Brian, is a graduate of Briar Woods High School, their youngest, Kevin, a graduate of Rock Ridge.)

Shawn Lacey began his career with Loudoun County Public Schools (LCPS) as a special education teacher at Seneca Ridge Middle School before becoming a dean and special education teacher at Eagle Ridge Middle School.

He knows how he wants the community to view Leesburg Elementary.

“I want families to see that we truly work hard, we play hard and that we want to be the best… I want our students to be the best mathematician they can be, the best language arts student they can be…but also be the best child. Be the best (through) something you learned here.”         

Lacey wants students leaving at the end of the day with very positive thoughts.

“I had a great time learning. I learned more today than I did yesterday. They really care for me at Leesburg. I can talk to teachers, staff about what’s going on.”