By Kyra Breslow
Despite being halfway through the school year, Dr. Elizabeth Noto will be leaving Potomac Falls at the end of this week to take over as principal of Herndon High School in Fairfax County. This will allow her to return to the school system where she began her career 13 years ago.
“Herndon is very similar to Potomac Falls, and when I worked in Fairfax years ago, I thought that it would be a really good place to be. But the principal was so young, and I thought he would never retire, and he’d be a lifer at that school. Then, he moved on. He was promoted in the Baltimore school [system], so they posted the position in November. The thing about these jobs, principal jobs, is that if you fit for the community, the job sort of speaks to you,” Noto said.
This transition also helps to stabilize her family’s situation since she and her husband, the athletic director at Langley High School, both work long hours. With the later school start times in Loudoun, it makes it very difficult for her to get work done and take care of her kids.
“I have to pick up my kids from daycare at 5:00. It’s hard for me to get there because I’m literally running from a meeting, and then I don’t even get to the real work I have to do until after my kids go to sleep, so it’ll be 11:00 at night and I’m typing emails or setting up a Connect-Ed, and I can’t do that forever. It just bums me out, but family-wise, this is just a lot better for us,” Noto said.
While her time at Potomac Falls has been relatively short, Noto has learned some important lessons about how to run a school effectively in her three years here.
“When I came here, I resisted getting to know everybody because I didn’t know what my relationships were supposed to be like with students and staff yet; I had never been a principal before. It took me about a year or two to realize how important it was for me to get to know the folks in my building,” Noto said. “One of the things that I love about Loudoun is how important relationships are here; I kind of resisted that at first. [Now] I really spent a lot of time at events and chatting it up with folks in the hallway, getting to know people on a more personal level. I think that has really been rewarding for me.”
Her arrival at Herndon will be a relief for students, staff, and the community after their principal left over the summer; however, this leaves a void here at Potomac Falls.
“They haven’t had a principal all year, so for them they’ve been in transitioning process all year. For us, we’re just going to have a short period transition. If I could stay until the next principal started, that would be ideal, but they can’t wait that long, so it’s a balance,”Noto said.
The hiring process has been long and strenuous since the school system requires the formation of a committee that consists of a school board member, a school staff member, a parent, and officials from Loudoun County Public Schools.
Faculty and staff received a survey seeking their input about qualities they are looking for in the new principal and nominations for the staff representative required for the principal selection board. This survey allows the remaining administrative team to gauge faculty interest, and they will then use this information to determine which staff member to appoint. Faculty and staff were informed by Nereida Gonzalez-Sales , Director of High School Education for LCPS, that the hiring process should take anywhere from two to six weeks when they attended a meeting on Jan. 3 where Noto announced her departure.
Noto also plans to give the new principal advice once they are hired. “What I hope to do with the new principal is to meet with him or her and be with them during the transition to give them the skinny on what works best for staff meetings and other things like that,” she said. “Because we’ve worked out a lot of kinks and I hate for us to go backwards on any of it; that would be hard.”
The position has been posted for a more than a week. Noto hopes the process is as smooth as possible, and the school won’t have to be under an interim principal for any longer than it has to be.
“I appreciate all the support everyone has given me; it’s been kind of mixed. Some people are mad at me [for leaving] and some are wishing me good luck,” Noto said.
Assistant principal Jarvis Weeks, who has worked at Potomac Falls for seven years, has confirmed that he has applied for the position; however, Weeks declined to comment further until the selection process has progressed.
Kyra Breslow is a Potomac Falls High School student and managing editor of the school’s newspaper, The Roar. Contact her at email@example.com.