New leadership begins at AHS


Every school year there are always new faces in the halls of Annandale; this year, there’s one at the helm- Principal Tim Thomas.

He’s been working in Fairfax County for 23 years, starting from his days as a Spanish teacher at Centreville High School. He also chaired the Undergraduate Awards Committee and co-chaired the Spanish Honor Society there as well.

After eight years as a Spanish teacher, Thomas would go on to become the assistant principal at Centreville and Westfield high schools, and eventually principal of Westfield and now AHS.

Already a month into the job, Thomas has been able to make some observations about Annandale and how it is different from Westfield.

“I recognize the difference in the size of the school for example, and the diversity as well. What I come into at Annandale is a place that is very much of a community-based school with a tremendous amount of adversity,” Thomas said. “Those are things that are very exciting to me that are a little bit different than what I’m used to. I don’t see those as challenges, I see those as opportunities.”

Thomas will have to make adjustments because of the difference between Westfield and Annandale.

He acknowledges that making radical changes aren’t needed straight out the gate, but he intends to build on what we have instead.

“My plan is not to turn things upside down and make drastic changes from the beginning. I think one of the things I want to do is create some clear direction, create some clear vision, optimize the interventions that are in place [and] work closely with the administrative team,” Thomas said. “[We are] not only sustaining either a level of excellence or tradition that takes place at Annandale, but really trying to take it to another level. I’m excited about the opportunity.”

One of the things that he’s noticed is that Annandale is packed with school spirit.

“I recognize that there’s a tremendous amount of energy, excitement, investment, dedication and commitment already in place by so many folks at Annandale High School,” Thomas said. “People are here because they want to be here, and I include myself in a part of that as well.”

There are some changes that are already being put in place in order to enhance the education at Annandale.

“The bell schedule is different because of the later high school start time. We’ll [also] look at some of the intervention programs that are in place, we’ll look at trying to make sure that we are using the intervention period- W4, not only for interventions but for enrichment as well,” Thomas said. “We’ll be sure to align that work with division-wide goals, region-wide goals, pyramid goals and Annandale goals.”

Among other changes, Thomas is trying to fill up the open positions in the staff.

“Some of the changes that we are looking at making are more organizational structure [oriented]. First and foremost, at this time we’re awaiting the approval of the hiring of an assistant principal to fill a vacancy that we have,” Thomas said. “Being fully staffed administratively, being fully staffed with the security team, making sure that our instructional staff is fully staffed and also taking a look at the support staff and making sure that we’re fully staffed there as well. Right out of the gate, [we are] making sure that we have all of the right people in all of the right places.”

Principal Thomas has always come off as a very sociable leader. Consistently attending school activities at Westfield High School during his tenure there, and constantly taking selfies with students.

“I think what students can anticipate from me personally is a level of accessibility, a level of approachability, a high level of engagement during the school day and after school as well,” Thomas continued.

One of Thomas’ goals is not only making sure students are regularly coming to school, but that they are also attending their classes in order for them to take advantage of the academic opportunities that they are provided with at Annandale.

“It is paramount to me that we focus on attendance and kids coming to school regularly, students being aware of and hearing to attendance and tardy policies for example. Among the priorities is to make sure that we have a high level of instructions taking place in classrooms, and that kids get to class on time and stay in class,” Thomas said. “At the end of the day, what’s most important is the learning opportunities that are provided to students in the classroom, but I also recognize the need to pay close attention to extracurricular activities, athletics, fine and performing arts, CTE programs, family and computer sciences programs that exist here that students take advantage of.”

Thomas is aware of how important communicating will be because it will help staff members, students and the parents of students stay informed on what’s going on at Annandale High School.

“We like to use keep in touch messages, for example, to get that information out,” Thomas said. “I’m on Twitter, so I can tweet some of that information out as well.”

Thomas wants to emphasize the idea of Atom Pride. He believes that the motto that was acquired last year is demonstrated very well by the Annandale community.

“I think students can expect a continued emphasis on Atom Pride, I think they can expect that the school will have a clear, unified vision, and so the vision statement will serve to really underscore our beliefs, our collected beliefs as a faculty and staff and as students and families as well. The vision statement is separate from Atom Pride because of what Atom Pride is,” Thomas said. “If we look at what P.R.I.D.E stands for, participation, respect, integrity, determination and empathy, that really helps to outline what the expectations are for student and adult behavior.”

Principal Thomas plans on keeping Atom Pride alive by starting to have lessons on Atom Pride being taught in the W4 period.

“We look to keep the momentum going with some of the emphasis on Atom Pride, and we look to use W4, not only as a time for students to make connections with their W4 teachers, but also we’ll look to use that time to help to reinforce and illustrate things like SR&R, Honor Code, attendance and hopefully incorporate some lessons around Atom Pride,” Thomas continued. “[We want to] really make sure that at the end of the day, all of the adults and the students and families in the community share a common vision, and that everyone understands what it means to be an Annandale Atom and what it means to demonstrate Atom Pride, not only at school or during school, but also outside of school, like at events for example, and in the community.”

One idea that Thomas got from his time at Westfield that he wants to apply at Annandale is the use of interior security cameras.

“I will look to gather feedback from the faculty and staff, from the community and from the students about interior cameras. We had interior cameras at Westfield, and I see value in using interior cameras as a deterrent, not as a “gotcha” or “to try and catch people” mechanism, that’s really not what it’s all about,” Thomas said. “Interior cameras, for me, are really about providing additional sets of eyes, and discouraging negative, inappropriate behavior for everyone. The degree to which we are able to protect the adults and the students in the building during the school day can also influence the degree to which learning and teaching are taking place.”

Thomas doesn’t intend on making changes that would transform Annandale into Westfield High School 2.0. He knows that because they are different schools, that the same adjustments might not have the same exact effect.

“I want to be very careful about referencing Westfield because there are things that we did that worked there and some things that we did that didn’t work there. I don’t want to make it Westfield High School, this is Annandale High School, it has its own spirit, it clearly has its own traditions and its history,” Thomas said. “I’m not out to change all of that and turn it into a school that were not, we’re Annandale High School. What it means to be an Atom is having a tremendous amount of pride, investment, tradition and history.”

Principal Thomas is more of an interactive principal than a reclusive one and aspires to establish relationships with the members of the school.

“I think what the Annandale community can expect from me is a principal that is very engaged, interactive, visible, approachable and accessible. I don’t think people are going to wonder where they stand with me,” Thomas said. “I think whether you’re an adult or a student or a parent or a community member, you’re going to know where you stand with me. I try to be very transparent but probably at the core of what I am as a school leader is the degree in which I establish relationships with students.”

We all should open our arms to our new principal and help him establish strong relationships with the members of our school.

“All types of students energize inspire me. The connections and relationships that I establish and maintain with students are really what drives me to do this job,” Thomas said. “With that being said I think it’s safe to say that people will be able to come to the conclusion that I am someone who you will find is very interactive. Hopefully I’ve already demonstrated some of that and I don’t plan to back down.”