School Division Places a Premium on Leadership Experience in Appointing New Principals for Baker-Butler, Murray Elementary Schools

School Division Places a Premium on Leadership Experience in Appointing New Principals for Baker-Butler, Murray Elementary Schools

Two experienced school leaders have been approved by the Albemarle County School Board as new principals effective July 1. Brad Handrich, who has been an assistant principal at two elementary schools, will be Baker-Butler’s new principal, and Wendy Eckerle, who has served three elementary schools as an assistant principal, will be the new principal for Murray Elementary School.

Brad Handrich, 2022-23

Brad Handrich

Handrich has been a teacher and reading interventionist for schools in Colorado and South America, and for Albemarle County Public Schools (ACPS), where he earned certification in culturally responsive teaching in 2018. During his career, he has led school improvement teams and professional development workshops.

In talking about his goals for Baker-Butler, Handrich said, “I want our students and families to feel welcome and safe at school every day, knowing they can count on us at all times. I want all students to thrive as they explore their passions and interests in a fun and engaging learning environment, to have a deep sense of pride and excitement, and to develop lifelong friendships. We need to be nurturing the unique character of every student and family, providing teachers and staff with relevant and innovative professional development, and recognizing the mutual benefits that come from community outreach.”

Handrich is succeeding Seth Kennard, who was named last month as the next principal of Mountain View Elementary School. Most recently one of two assistant principals at Mountain View, Handrich also was an assistant principal for Greer.

Wendy Eckerle, 2022-23

Wendy Eckerle

Having served as Greer Elementary School’s assistant principal for the last five years, Eckerle previously was an assistant principal for Brownsville and Baker-Butler elementary schools. Eckerle began her career with ACPS as a teacher for Brownsville and a teacher and literacy specialist for Meriwether Lewis Elementary School. For eight years, she oversaw summer school programming for both Brownsville and Crozet elementary schools before being appointed an assistant principal for Brownsville in 2014.

Eckerle is among the 4% of all teachers in the United States who are National Board certified. She is a former Phi Delta Kappa teacher of the year and a Golden Apple Award recipient, and she holds a certification in culturally responsive teaching.

In a message to her new school community, Eckerle wrote, “Murray Elementary School always has been empowered by a mission statement that all children will find success, happiness, and a lifelong love of learning in a positive, safe and nurturing environment. This uplifting commitment is what inspired me to want to be a part of your community. Building and fostering great relationships with students, families and staff is how our children will fulfill their highest social, emotional and academic potential.”

Eckerle succeeds C’ta DeLaurier, who was named last month as the new principal of Woodbrook Elementary School.

In talking about the two new principals, Dr. Clare Keiser, who serves as the division’s Assistant Superintendent for Organizational Development and led the search process for both appointments, noted how tightly their experiences fit the three goals in the division’s strategic plan—thriving students, empowered communities, and equitable and transformative resources. “Both of these outstanding educational leaders have done this work well. They have the skills and insight to know the needs of every student and the abilities to work in teams to accomplish each of these strategic goals,” Keiser said.

“The role of the Baker-Butler and Murray communities in identifying the leadership qualities that are most important in a school leader and in helping to screen candidates helped to ensure the best possible decisions,” Keiser said. “Parents and staff today most want educators who have a strong instructional background and who prioritize both openness and collaborative relationships,” she added.

An undergraduate of the University of Northern Colorado, Handrich earned his Bachelor of Arts in Bilingual and Bicultural Education, and he earned his Master of Arts in Administrative Leadership and Policy Studies from the University of Colorado in Denver. He holds professional licenses in administration and supervision, elementary education, and English as a Second Language.

Eckerle is an undergraduate of Central Michigan University, holding a Bachelor of Science in Elementary Education. She received her master’s degree in Elementary Reading and Literacy from Walden University, and she holds an endorsement from the Virginia School-University Partnership’s Leadership Preparation Program.

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