The halls are empty, the students not due to return for a few weeks, but already new Principal Thomas Payne has put his mark on Fred Lynn Middle School.
Gone is the 1970s-style fake wood paneling on the painted cinder block walls of his office. He hasn't had a chance to decorate further, though, because he's busy taking care of parents, handling new computers, dodging stacks of textbooks reaching nearly to the ceiling, calling contractors working on the school, hiring teachers, overseeing class registration and juggling the myriad other tasks that await principals during the summer.
He's not alone. Payne is one of eight new principals appointed since May 17. Several more appointments of principals and assistant principals, including the new principal of Hylton High School, remain to be made.
In all, about 10 percent of Prince William County's 200 or so administrators will be new to their positions next year, said Associate Superintendent for Management Robert Ferrebee. That's slightly higher than usual, he said.
"It's exciting more than anything else," said Payne, now in his ninth year as an administrator at Fred Lynn. He was previously the assistant principal over the eighth-grade class. "There's anxiety, but there's also the fact that I've been here. Still, I don't know the school as the principal."
The turnover in Prince William mirrors a nationwide trend, said Vincent Ferrandino, executive director of the National Association of Elementary School Principals. In his organization, which has about 28,000 members, there has been an 80 percent turnover in membership in the past 10 years.
Also, a poll conducted by his association and the National Association of Secondary School Principals showed that fewer teachers were willing to shoulder the additional responsibilities of being a school administrator. The reasons most often cited are stress, long hours and crushing responsibility.
Ferrebee said he has heard the same concerns from Prince William staff.
"We've seen a a reduction in the number of people who want to go into school administration," often citing the time it takes to do the job, Ferrebee said.
"When I was a high school principal, I would spend literally four to five nights a week at that school until 11 p.m.," Ferrebee said.
Despite the drawbacks, another new principal, Gary Shaw, made the choice to enter teaching after a 23-year career as an Army helicopter pilot. He started teaching at Dumfries Elementary School and was assistant principal at Fort Belvoir Elementary School in Fairfax County before joining King Elementary School in Woodbridge.
Shaw has spent summer learning about the school's budget, the number of students expected and past projects. He has been surprised at the number of parents who have stopped in to say hello.
"I've been absolutely amazed by that. The number of parents who want to see you and know who you are," Shaw said.
Brenda French-Lewis, the new principal of Loch Lomond Elementary School, agreed. She has thrown herself into her new job, meeting staff, parents and other community members. This week, she'll attend the opening of the Freedom Museum, where a Loch Lomond student will sing the national anthem.
"The community, they have been so supportive to my entering Loch Lomond," said French-Lewis, who previously was assistant principal at Parkside Elementary School. "I feel just so privileged."
Changes at the Top
Prince William made 17 new administrative appointments from late May to early August. Several remain to be filled because of vacancies caused by promotions.
Fred Lynn Middle
Hylton High School
Loch Lomond Elementary
Marumsco Hills Elementary
New middle school
Osbourn Park High
River Oaks Elementary
West Gate Elementary