The end of the school year is traditionally a time of advancement and reflection. However, the end of the 2019 marks the end of Principal Deirdre Lavery’s service to Lee High School. This departure marks the end of an era and an unknown beginning for Lee, as the selection committee begins its search for a replacement.
And while we are all curious to see who will be our new principal and what Lee will be like in the future, let’s take a moment to remember Principal Lavery, her accomplishments, and what she has in store for her future.
After five years here at Lee High School, Principal Lavery is retiring. She has worked as an educator, both as a teacher and administrator, for the past thirty two years, all in Fairfax County.
She began teaching at Frost Middle School and then went on from there to work at FCPS’ Central Office, until she joined Lee High School.
Even though she is retiring from working at Lee High School, Principal Lavery is not throwing in the towel just yet.
“Although I’m retiring from Fairfax, I’m hoping to not stop working completely. So I’m in talks with IB (International Baccalaureate) to do some consulting with them. Although I’m ending my career here, I’m really looking forward to what can I do next, how I can contribute to education in a different way,” Lavery said.
Principal Lavery has dedicated thirty two years of her life to shaping the minds of kids, the future of America. She’s not one to boast about what she has accomplished and believes when you’re in education there is no one thing that you can single out and say this was my greatest accomplishment.
However when looking at all her time as an educator as a whole, she does notice one significant philosophy that helped guide her and lead her to become the person she is today.
“What I do know, and feel very proud of is that through all my time being an administrator, decisions that I made always boiled down to ‘Is this what’s right for the kid?’ I had a saying, ‘We do what’s right for kids and not what’s easy for adults,’’’ Lavery said.
Despite Principal Lavery leaving us for retirement, she will miss the Lee community and this job that she worked for for the majority of her life. Afterall, it’s hard to not form a bond after working somewhere for so long.
“When you do something for thirty two years. When you are connected to people everyday, day in and day out… that’s what I’ll miss. I’ll also miss seeing kids when they start and when they finish, I’ll miss seeing that maturation. But there’s a lot about the job that I won’t miss. There are challenges to being a principal, you can’t make everyone happy all of the time. There are things I won’t miss, but at the end of the day working with students, working with other adults, leading other adults, I’m going to miss that,” Lavery said.
This has not been the first time a principal has left and we are left with searching for a new one, and it probably won’t be our last. When Principal Lavery came on board she quickly had to learn some things to adapt to Lee’s environment.
However she walked in with a few goals to make her transition experience successful, and she hopes to pass on those words of wisdom to her successor.
“Whoever it is that comes in to take my place, the first thing I’d say is listen, observe, and learn. Don’t feel the need to jump in and shake things up. The second piece of advice I would give is, there is an unwarranted perception of some people who have never stepped foot in this school, and I would urge the new principal to not pay so much attention to those voices. Pay attention to the greatness that exists in the walls of this school. If you stay focused on that, the rest will take care of itself,” Lavery said.
Principal Lavery still encountered many challenges and she understands that Lee high school is still facing these challenges. She acknowledged that the greatest challenge Lee faces is how do you create a really great learning experience for all kids in a school as diverse as Lee.
“We had some work to do to support kids who are new to our country and need to learn English and kids who are in standard-level classes who maybe didn’t have the opportunity to stretch themselves,” Lavery said.
Lavery handled these problems alongside the staff of this school by attempting to with a thoughtful plan. This meant hiring more ESOL teachers to help newly arrived students, and promoting AVID to identify students who could be pushed into higher level classes with extra support.
Principal Lavery made it clear though that all this was possible because of the teachers.
“ I want to be clear: the teachers do the work. The teachers are the ones on the front line implementing the new things. I’m the idea and resource person, and I figure out how to get that stuff here,” Lavery said.
When asked about what type of legacy she thinks she left at Lee High School, Principal Lavery did not respond with anything about herself but the school itself. In a few words this is her legacy:
“The academic program, the activities and athletics programs and our culture is in a much better place,” Lavery said.
Finally when asked how to describe her experience at Lee in a few words she responded with this.
“Fun, intense, satisfying, and extraordinary,” Lavery said.
These words hold a testament of what really comprises Lee. Many alumni and teachers have also described their time here as this.
Despite any bad publicity from complete outsiders, this is what Lee really is, and Principal Lavery is another valuable member of the Lee community who made it like this.
She will be missed, but her journey continues and she will add great value to wherever she goes next.