Alexandria names Suzanne Maxey principal of T.C. Williams

By Michael Alison Chandler
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, May 7, 2010

A former Maryland principal with a record of school improvement will become the next principal of Alexandria's T.C. Williams High School, as the school launches a dramatic reform effort aimed at boosting the performance of minority students.

Suzanne Maxey has more than three decades of experience in Washington area schools. In the past 10 years, she was principal at Bowie High School in Prince George's County and Seneca Valley High School in Montgomery County. Since 2008, she has worked as a mentor to middle school and high school principals in Montgomery County.

Maxey, 58, will replace William Clendaniel, who served for two years as interim principal at Alexandria's only public high school. With 2,900 students on two campuses, T.C. Williams is one of the largest high schools in the state.

The school has a large cadre of engaged parents, and more than 80 percent of its students go on to college. But its standardized test scores are lower and its drop out rates are higher than state averages.

"Mrs. Maxey is a perfect fit for T.C. and for this community," said Alexandria Superintendent Morton Sherman in a press release. "She brings to us a proven track record of high achievement, a deep and pervasive commitment to all students, clear expectations for staff, and a remarkable track record for connecting with the community."

Maxey was recognized for sparking a turnaround at Seneca Valley High School. Test scores climbed under her tenure. She won a Washington Post award for distinguished leadership in 2007.

Teachers who nominated her for the award highlighted her contagious effect on school spirit. She was known for showing up at football games with cowbells and volunteering to sit in a dunk tank at school events.

Alexandria residents are hoping for a similar boost in morale and success at T.C. Williams. The school was targeted by the federal government this spring as among the weakest in the nation, given a "persistently lowest achieving school" title.

The new designation, based on test scores, is part of an Obama administration program to improve struggling schools.

A committee of teachers, parents and administrators formed recently to begin developing strategies to revamp instruction and expand professional development to meet new goals.

As Maxey met school board members Thursday night for the first time, she said she was looking forward to starting the job in July. "I tend to put my nose to the grindstone and just go for it," she said.

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