Heath E. Morrison, who led Thomas Stone High School in Waldorf from lackluster to distinguished, is heading to the Montgomery County public schools, where he will be director of school performance.
His departure comes one year after he won a Maryland principal of the year award.
"It's a loss for the school system," said John H. Cox, assistant superintendent for instruction in Charles County.
During his five years as Thomas Stone's principal, Morrison increased the number of Advanced Placement courses from nine to 21. The number of students in AP classes more than quadrupled. Last June, Newsweek magazine named the school one of the most challenging in the country.
More graduates are attending two- and four-year colleges -- from less than 60 percent to nearly 70 percent this year -- and more are receiving scholarships.
"We've increased the academic rigor for a lot of different students," Morrison said.
In Montgomery County, he will serve as a link between the system's central office and the schools in the Rockville area with many students who are learning English and come from lower-income families.
Morrison, 38, said he plans to be highly visible in the schools he covers.
"It's a different role, but an exciting role where you still have an opportunity to do a lot of good."
Despite his departure, Morrison's ties to Southern Maryland will remain through his children. He will commute for at least the first year, and his children -- third-grader Sammie and kindergartner Zachary -- will attend Charles County schools.
-- ANN E. MARIMOW