Loudoun County chooses new schools superintendent

Eric Williams, a veteran educator who has served in schools in New England, the Florida Gulf Coast and Sao Paolo, Brazil, will become the next superintendent of Loudoun County Public Schools this summer.

Williams, 48, now superintendent of York County schools in Virginia’s Tidewater area, will succeed Edgar B. Hatrick III, the longest-serving superintendent in the region. Hatrick’s retirement in June will end his two- decade run at the helm of the Loudoun County schools.

Williams was the unanimous choice of the Loudoun County School Board, emerging out of a field of 61 applicants. In York, Williams had overseen the daily operations of the 12,500-student system near Newport News since 2008. He had previously served as a principal, administrator and assistant superintendent of the 44,000-student school district in Florida’s Collier County, near Naples.

“Dr. Williams is an innovative leader who cares passionately about effective and meaningful instruction, as well as the need to creatively engage students in the learning process,” the School Board’s chairman, Eric Hornberger (Ashburn), said in a statement Wednesday night.

Loudoun officials said that Williams will guide the administration as it seeks to expand technology in the county’s classrooms. Williams “is a strong instructional leader who understands technology and the need for enhancing the educational opportunities provided by LCPS,” schools officials said in a statement.


The Loudoun County School Board selected Eric Williams as the school system’s new superintendent. (Noah Stephens)

Williams, the son of a U.S. Air Force colonel, moved around frequently as a child. A graduate of the College of William and Mary, Williams received a master’s degree in public policy from Harvard University and earned his doctorate in education at Boston University.

Williams has a connection to the Washington area: He began his career as a high school history teacher in Fairfax County. He later held positions in Massachusetts and Brazil. Williams is scheduled to begin his tenure in Loudoun on July 1.

“Loudoun County Public Schools has a long tradition of excellence and has consistently been one of the premier school systems in the country,” Williams said in a statement. “I look forward to continuing that tradition and working very closely with the board and the other division stakeholders to achieve even greater success for the students of LCPS.”

Hatrick’s departure this summer will mark the end of a career in the county schools that spans nearly half a century. When he first joined the school system in the 1960s, there were three high schools — one for blacks and two for whites. By the time he became superintendent in 1991, the largely rural district had 15,000 students. Next year, officials project enrollment will top 70,000 students in the booming suburb, and two more high schools are slated to be built by 2015 to address the county’s surging growth.

Hatrick, a 1963 graduate of Loudoun County High School, began teaching English in 1967 at his alma mater and became principal of the high school by his 30th birthday. He moved into the school district’s administration as director of special education in 1978 before assuming the role of superintendent.

During his stewardship, Hatrick oversaw the construction of 30 elementary schools, 10 middle schools and nine high schools.

Hatrick’s long tenure is unusual. The average stint for a superintendent nationally is about six years, according to the American Association of School Administrators. His official retirement is scheduled for June 30.

“We have become a lighthouse district in almost every area of our operations,” Hatrick told the School Board in June. “This work has been an honor that has defined my professional life.”

Other Washington area districts have had recent changes at the top. Alvin L. Crawley was named superintendent of Alexandria City schools in February after serving as an interim superintendent since September. New superintendents also took over in Prince George’s and Fairfax counties this school year.

Caitlin Gibson contributed to this report.

T. Rees Shapiro is an education reporter.
Michael Alison Chandler writes about schools and families in the Washington region.
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