Loudoun Superintendent Eric Williams announced a slate of new school principals and other administrative changes at the School Board meeting Tuesday.
The biggest news of the evening was the appointment of Renee Dawson as principal of the future Brambleton Middle School, set to open along Braddock Road in the fall of 2017. She’s served as assistant principal at Woodgrove for five years, and Woodgrove Principal Sam Shipp sat with her at the board meeting as her new position was made official.
“She really is everything that you would hope for in an educator,” Shipp told Loudoun Now. “She sees the potential in all students and works with them closely to help them achieve the goal they’ve put forth for themselves. She’ll be dedicated to that school community. They’re very fortunate to have her.”
Dawson has taught Spanish and French at West Frederick Middle School in Maryland and at Berea Community High School in Kentucky. She also taught foreign languages at Harper Park and Smart’s Mill middle schools in Leesburg, as well as at Heritage High School in Leesburg.
Beth Huck (At Large), whose daughter will attend Brambleton Middle, said from the dais that she’s “absolutely ecstatic” that Dawson was tapped to lead the school. “You just bring absolute joy to everything you do,” she added.
Christopher O’Rourke will step up from assistant principal of Briar Woods High School in Ashburn to serve as its principal. He takes the role following the retirement of beloved Principal Ed Starzenski.
“You have big shoes to fill, and I know you know that,” board member Joy Maloney (Broad Run) told him. “I appreciate that you are stepping up to this position.”
O’Rourke, who’s worked at Briar Woods for five years, said he’s excited to continue working with the families and staff members he’s built relationships with over the years. “It’s an awesome staff, great parents and community. … It’s a good place.”
O’Rourke taught mathematics for Fairfax County Public Schools, before he served as an assistant principal at Broad Run High School in Ashburn, assistant principal at Tuscarora High School in Leesburg, and assistant principal at Briar Woods.
Janet Platenberg was named as the new principal of Catoctin Elementary, following the retirement of Jennifer Rueckert. Platenberg has served as principal at Steuart W. Weller Elementary in Ashburn since 2008, and was named Loudoun’s Principal of the Year in 2013.
Chairman Eric Hornberger (Ashburn) commended Platenberg for helping so many families feel welcome in a new school following major boundary readjustments. “I know I’ll start getting emails from people in that school community who are bemoaning the fact that you’re leaving. Thank you for your service there,” he said.
Platenberg taught elementary school before moving into administration positions. In Loudoun, she’s served as assistant principal of Lowes Island Elementary and principal of Potowmack Elementary before taking the lead at Steuart W. Weller Elementary.
Dennis Racke will transition from assistant principal at Creighton’s Corner Elementary to serve as principal at Lovettsville Elementary.
Huck, whose children attended Creighton’s Corner while Racke worked there, said he will be missed in the Ashburn community. “We just wish him the best of luck at Lovettsville,” she added.
Racke taught elementary school in Florida before moving to Loudoun to teach at Horizon Elementary and later serve as an administrator at Creighton’s Corner Elementary.
Elaine Layman will move from her position as principal at John W. Tolbert Jr. Elementary to serve as the school system’s elementary education supervisor.
Board member Tom Marshall (Leesburg) told Layman she’s done an excellent job at the helm of Tolbert Elementary in Leesburg. “Never heard a complaint about Tolbert Elementary School,” he said, “and that’s what I like to hear.”
She’s taught in Manassas and Virginia Beach before transitioning to Loudoun, where she taught at Waterford Elementary and served as assistant principal at Mill Run Elementary.
“She brings a breadth depth of experience to her new role as elementary education supervisor,” Williams said.