DATE: May 13, 2019
CONTACT: Phil Giaramita, Public Affairs and Strategic Communications Officer
Dr. Stephen Saunders Appointed as Greer Elementary School’s Next Principal, Effective July 1
Dr. Stephen Saunders
(ALBEMARLE COUNTY, Virginia) – Dr. Stephen Saunders, who has served as the principal at Baker-Butler Elementary School for the past five years, has been appointed as Greer Elementary School’s next principal, effective July 1. Saunders will succeed Jill Lee, who is relocating.
Saunders is returning to a familiar area, as he served as an assistant principal at Jouett Middle School, which is located on the same campus as Greer, from 2008 until 2012. While at Jouett, he was a literacy volunteer for Greer students, which led him to want to serve at the elementary school level.
“I am honored to join Greer this summer, as I have long valued the strength of its learning community. What impressed me about Greer while I was at Jouett, and which still impresses me today, is the dedication and enthusiasm of its students and staff,” Saunders said. “People are the most important part of high-performing schools, and Greer has great students and teachers. My role will be to bring together students, teachers, families, and community members around common goals,” Saunders added.
That approach worked at Baker-Butler. During his leadership, the school received both state and national recognition for its innovative work around design thinking, which is a methodology for collaborative problem solving though empathy. Other achievements included significant increases in the state’s Standards of Learning (SOL) test scores and noteworthy decreases in the achievement gaps for every student demographic group.
“We are highly appreciative of the valuable contributions Jill Lee made to Greer this year and, in fact, her leadership contributions to our entire school division,” said Dr. Clare Keiser, the school division’s Assistant Superintendent for Organizational Development and Human Resource Leadership.
“Dr. Saunders is the obvious choice to lead Greer going forward,” Keiser said. “The emphasis he places on collaboration between school and community, his welcoming of new ideas, and his focus on tapping the highest potential of every student and every professional all will build on Jill Lee’s accomplishments in taking Greer to new heights,” she said.
Greer is the most diverse school in the division, with a student body that is 31 percent Black, 26 percent Hispanic, 26 percent White, and 11 percent Asian. One-third of its students are English Learners.
Saunders noted the opportunities this diversity offers for the development of a particularly important life skill: developing global awareness and perspectives. His own background includes studying and working abroad and serving as a volunteer with the International Rescue Committee here in Charlottesville. He is fluent in French and has studied Spanish and Russian.
As Jouett’s assistant principal, Saunders supported the initial implementation of AVID (Advancement via Individual Determination) across all grade levels, providing yet another opportunity to work with Greer students before their transition to Jouett. AVID is a college readiness program that develops organizational and academic skills in students and promotes their personal growth with a special focus on students who would be the first in their family to attend college.
Saunders received his B.A. with Honors from Hampden-Sydney College and earned both a Master of Arts and a Master of Education from the University of Virginia (UVA). He also earned his Doctorate of Philosophy (Ph.D.) from UVA. His doctoral dissertation examined how to support the motivation and reading skills of students struggling in school. He began his career in education teaching undergraduates at UVA and taught in the Charlottesville City school division for seven years before joining Albemarle County schools.
Not limiting his teaching to the classroom, Dr. Saunders has been heavily involved in student activities, including serving as the head coach of Charlottesville High School’s varsity girls soccer team. He earned several state and national coaching awards and was a finalist in 2006 for National High School Coach of the Year.
“I strongly believe in the value of learning through listening, and I look forward to meeting and hearing from the members of the Greer community over the coming months,” Saunders said.