Tonight Principal John Porter will pass out diplomas for the last time at Alexandria's T.C. Williams High School. For 21 years, Mr. Porter's indefatigable energy has taken him in a single day from the tedium of paperwork to after-school events ranging from sports to theater. He has made time to write notes to students and to meet with parents and community leaders to seek resources for his school. His weekends have been filled with school activities.

In an era in which we focus increasingly on test scores, Mr. Porter exemplified the importance of the human factor in our schools. His easygoing manner belied a commitment to the academic achievement of all his students in one of the area's most diverse schools. From standing outside on cold mornings with his walkie-talkie to long evenings with the school board, his optimistic demeanor never failed him. His can-do spirit rubbed off on even the most cynical teacher.

Mr. Porter made sure that the only public high school in Alexandria fought the flight of its middle class to private schools. He made sure that minorities in his school were never left behind. Test scores have risen dramatically at T.C. Williams during Mr. Porter's tenure, especially among minorities.

As a parent who had two children graduate from T.C. Williams to go on to top universities, I can attest to the time and attention this outstanding principal paid to their school matriculation. His caring, patient and dedicated approach to leading a large high school will be sorely missed.

Mr. Porter is not leaving Alexandria schools; he is becoming an assistant school superintendent. Many in the city feel a fitting tribute to this outstanding leader would be to name the new high school that is replacing T.C. Williams after him.

ROSS SIMONS

Alexandria