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Western Albemarle High School’s New Interim Principal Doesn’t Have Far to Go to Be Right at Home

DATE: June 27, 2019
CONTACT: Phil Giaramita, Public Affairs and Strategic Communications Officer
PHONE: 434-972-4049

Western Albemarle High School’s New Interim Principal Doesn’t Have Far to Go to Be Right at Home

Patrick McLaughlin Patrick McLaughlin

(ALBEMARLE COUNTY, Virginia) – Dr. Patrick McLaughlin, the Chief of Strategic Planning for Albemarle County Public Schools and a former principal of the division’s largest middle school, which is in the western feeder pattern, has been appointed by the School Board as Western Albemarle High School’s interim principal. Dr. McLaughlin will serve in this new role for no more than one year, allowing the division to conduct a comprehensive national search for a new principal.

Dr. McLaughlin succeeds Darah Bonham, who was named principal of Albemarle High School last month.

“Two important considerations drove this interim appointment,” said Dr. Clare Keiser, the division’s Assistant Superintendent for Organizational Development and Human Resource Leadership. “First was the ability to have a proven and bottom-line educational leader in place right away, someone with strong professional and personal ties to the community. Second, we wanted to ensure the deepest talented candidate list and full staff and community participation in the selection process for a principal,” she explained.

Dr. Keiser said that process will begin early in 2020 as part of the school division’s normal recruitment and hiring cycle.

Dr. McLaughlin, who attended schools in the county and lives with his family in the western part of the county, was the principal of Henley Middle School for seven years. Under his direction, the 800-student school received the Virginia School Board’s Distinguished Achievement Award. During his tenure, Henley was the first school in the division to install solar panels to increase energy efficiency, and as part of its science curriculum, the school transformed its undersized traditional gymnasium into a multi-purpose, technology-driven modern physical education facility promoting student and community health and fitness.

“It’s a privilege to join Western Albemarle at this time,” Dr. McLaughlin said. “I long have admired the school’s strong history of accomplished educators and high-achieving students. I see my role as supporting our learning community in continuing and adding to these extraordinary achievement levels. Once a new principal is appointed, I will work to provide an effective transition next year that will add to the school’s upward path,” he added.

As part of his transition to Western Albemarle High School, Dr. McLaughlin plans to follow a management model successfully utilized by Superintendent Dr. Matthew Haas a year ago. “His listening tour conversations produced many great ideas from teachers, students and parents. I’m looking forward to getting to know and talk with Western teachers, staff, students and parents about their experiences at the school and their ideas and suggestions for improvement,” he said.

In the case of juniors and seniors, Dr. McLaughlin will be reuniting with students who attended Henley when he was the middle school’s principal.

Since 2015, Dr. McLaughlin has led strategic planning for the division, most recently focusing on how the high school learning experience can be improved. Among the issues he’s examined are expanding the ability of students to take courses in which they have a strong interest; equalizing educational opportunities; reexamining the division’s homework policy; reducing student stress; and working closely with colleges and universities on enhancing college preparation programs.

Dr. McLaughlin will return to his role as Chief of Strategic Planning once a new principal has been appointed for Western Albemarle. One of his immediate priorities at that time will be to lead the development of an updated strategic plan for the division, succeeding the current Horizon 2020.

A graduate of the University of Pittsburgh, Dr. McLaughlin received both his master’s and Doctor of Education degrees from the University of Virginia. Prior to joining Albemarle County Public Schools in 2007, he was a high school English teacher and then an assistant principal at two high schools in the Henrico County school division.

Dr. McLaughlin is expected to complete his transition from the central office to Western Albemarle High School by mid-July.

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