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Here are the two Alexandria City High School executive principal finalists

Marcia Rice and Alexander Duncan, the Alexandria City High School executive principal candidates, on Zoom on June 12, 2022 (via ACPS)

A longtime ACPS educator and a principal from Chesterfield County Public Schools are the finalists for the executive principal position at Alexandria City High School.

Alexander Duncan III, the Minnie Howard Campus administrator, and Marcia Rice, principal at Meadowbrook High School, answered a variety of questions Monday night in a Zoom meet-and-greet moderated by former ACHS principal John Porter.

With 4,173 students spread across two campuses, ACHS is the second-largest high school in Virginia. Last month, ACHS Principal Beter Balas announced that, after six years on the job, he was leaving to start a new job as principal of Wakefield High School in Arlington County. The move prompted a swift response from the school system, and this Friday Superintendent Melanie Kay-Wyatt will interview both candidates. The School Board will make its decision to hire in a special meeting next Thursday (June 22), according to ACHS.

The executive principal salary is between $142,000 to $197,000 a year.

Duncan was hired by Alexandria City Public Schools as a middle school English teacher in 2007, and is a former ACHS assistant principal and summer school principal. He’s been in his current role since 2021, and has a bachelor’s in English from Johnson C. Smith University and a Master of Science in educational leadership from Trinity College. If hired, he said his first step would be to partner with the school PTSA this summer to conduct meet-and-greets with parents and students.

“I am proud to say I have dedicated more than half my career to ACPS,” Duncan said. “I know this school. It has been my home for over 10 years. I am familiar with its needs, with our triumphs and successes.”

Rice has been in education for 15 years, most recently the last four years as principal at Meadowbrook High School, which has about 1,800 students. She was also an assistant principal at the school for three years, and is a former chemistry teacher. She has a bachelor’s degree in science from Hampton University, a master’s of science in biochemistry from the Georgia Institute of Technology and a doctorate in educational leadership and administration from Virginia State University.

“I believe that there are a lot of great things that are currently occurring at Alexandria City High School,” Rice said. “I think that it requires a lot in terms of being able to bring people together in a collaborative fashion to reach a goal.”

Duncan said that he was raised on government assistance, and that he works with a “spirit of excellence.”

“I serve with a spirit of perseverance and endurance,” he added. “I am determined to meet my full potential and to represent myself in the most positive way possible. And so with that spirit, I come to work seeking to cultivate that in the staff and the students that I work with. I would say that that’s one of the most important traits that makes me best suited for this role, because it aims to bring out the potential and the best in everyone.”

Many of the questions posed to Rice and Duncan were similar, and they gave their opinions on how to reduce school violence, tardiness/absenteeism and student drug use.

Duncan said he takes a more restorative, less punitive approach toward student discipline. This year, for instance, he said ACHS started a new program where students without behavioral infractions and performing well academically were rewarded with “all-access” passes allowing them the autonomy to choose daily lunch and advisory locations. They also got tickets to use toward buying ACHS swag from the school store.

I am of the belief that school is to be a place where staff and students want to be,” he said. “We have incentivized students and we are rewarding students for demonstrating positive behaviors, not because we are paying them for being good, but because we are clarifying expectations and setting norms across the school.”

When asked about getting ACHS students to stop taking drugs in school bathrooms, Rice said staff need to more closely monitor hallway traffic, and that there might be an opportunity to start an electronic hall pass system. She also said that students and parents would know that the consequences for doing drugs at school “will not be light, and that it will be consistent.”

“I think visibility is key,” Rice said. “If students know that you’re visible and around, they’re less likely to make poor decisions.”

Duncan wasn’t asked about drugs, but said he’s helped improve tardiness/absenteeism at Minnie Howard gathering those students in a “support center” to do make-up work and calling their parents.

“We wanted to make sure that caregivers and families were aware that your young people were coming to school not at the start of school,” he said. “Most times the parent didn’t know, and so we were thrilled that we could join with them in helping support to get their young people in school on time.”

See the full videos of the sessions below.

Images via ACPS

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