Montgomery Blair High School
With New Principal, a Renewed Sense of Energy
Thursday, October 4, 2007
Darryl Williams took over as principal of Silver Spring's Montgomery Blair High School knowing that it would be challenging to step into the job after former principal Phillip Gainous.
Gainous, who left in June after 23 years as principal to work in the school system's central office, was well liked and left an indelible mark. But three months after taking charge of the county's largest high school, Williams is beginning to make Blair his own.
Since school opened, the former Gaithersburg High School principal has begun strictly enforcing Blair's dress code, scheduled time for students to meet with advisers, increased the visibility of staff members in the hallways and begun working on ways to improve the grades of low-performing students.
Although some of the moves have ruffled a few students and parents, Williams, 41, is generally receiving high marks.
"We've seen a new energy. We've seen a new leadership," said David Ottalini, co-president of the school's PTSA, who notes that Williams has been responsive to the concerns of parents and students. "Because he was a seasoned principal, he really came in and hit the ground running. I'm amazed at the kind of energy he has."
Assistant Principal Myriam Rogers noted that the transition to Williams's leadership has been "very smooth," and students are adjusting to policy changes. Resistance to the enforcement of the dress code, in which students wearing items such as midriff and halter shirts were asked to change or put on clothing kept in the office, is melting away.
For the first couple of weeks, about 10 students each day were asked to change their clothes. But that number has dropped considerably, Rogers said. "The kids are doing well and still dressing very fashionably," she said.
Gazing down recently from the balcony on a second-floor walkway as many of the school's 2,800 students passed through the main hallway below, Williams seemed at ease with his leadership of a campus with roughly 600 more students than his former school.
It was activity-fair day, which meant the main hallway was lined with tables staffed by students from various clubs, and the school band was rocking the crowd with a percussion-filled tune.
"I love it," said Williams of the music, as his eyes roved over the students moving through the school's three levels. "It's loud and strong."
Minutes later, in his office, he outlined some of the steps he's taken and his plans for the well-regarded school, which is home to two magnet programs and five career academies.
One step was to reduce the time between classes from eight to six minutes, which has been unpopular among students. The change, which was under consideration before Williams arrived, is a result of the school's lower enrollment, the elimination of portable classrooms that were needed to serve the bigger population and Williams's desire to provide time for students to meet with counselors in "advisories."