Loudoun County, Va. (August 25, 2014) – The new life of Loudoun County’s oldest public school building began August 4, 2014, with the dedication of the Middleburg Community Charter School.
Following the first day of school and a community barbecue, the dedication ceremony for Loudoun’s first charter school was held at the front of the school building (first dedicated in 1911).
“This has been quite the journey,” said Loudoun County School Board Vice Chairman Jill Turgeon (Blue Ridge District). “I stand here this evening feeling very much as I did several months ago when the charter application was approved…like a proud parent watching something from infancy grow and blossom to the school which stands before us. But I realize very little of what has been accomplished is due to my actions. It is because of the work of you all that we are standing here this evening.
“I have had individuals approach me and question whether or not this charter school is a true public school… And whether or not its existence would be a threat to our public school system. Nothing, I feel, could be further from the truth. This charter school is the epitome of a true public school. In fact, I don’t know how a school can be more public than the one we have here, which was developed by this community and for this community. And not just the community of Middleburg; the community that surrounds us…that of Loudoun County. You cannot get more public than that.”
Loudoun County School Board Chairman Eric Hornberger (Ashburn District) noted that the green and yellow ribbons used for the ribbon-cutting ceremony were very appropriate where Middleburg Community Charter School is concerned.
Hornberger said yellow is the color worn by those wishing to save or preserve something. “It symbolizes the saving of that legacy, that history. Just as important, and perhaps more important, is that the other color is green, which is life.” (When it came time to cut the ribbon, cousins Garrett and O’Malley Basinger did the honors.)
Hornberger said the dedication was historic in that Middleburg Community Charter School is the first charter school in Northern Virginia. He added that the School Board unanimously supported the charter application.
However, Hornberger said the school’s ultimate success doesn’t lie with the School Board. “In the long run, it’s going to be all of you students, your teachers and the parents in the community that are going to make this successful… Let’s not only save something; let’s make it better.”
Loudoun County Public Schools (LCPS) Superintendent Dr. Eric Williams said the students should consider their new school as they would a special gift. “When I think about gifts that are special to me, it’s because I know that the person who gave it to me really went out of their way to give me that particular gift. What I would say to all of us here this evening is a huge shout out to all the volunteers that had a crucial part in making this a reality.”
One of those volunteers Dave Quanbeck, chairman of the school’s Board of Directors, gave a brief history of the school and the efforts to establish a charter. A link to that history was represented by Mary Lee Phelps, who sat among the dignitaries for the ceremony. Phelps first came to Middleburg as a first-grader in 1933. She came back to teach at the school (seventh and second grades) between 1961 and 1970, then served as the school’s principal between 1971 and 1991. (In 1986, Phelps became the first Loudoun principal to receive The Washington Post’s Distinguished Educational Leadership Award.)
Dr. Barbara Smith, the charter school’s first principal, asked those in the audience to give a thumbs up if they had participated in a long list of firsts that she read off. It wasn’t long before she was surrounded by a forest of thumbs.
Teri Domanski, whose two sons went to the former Middleburg Elementary, served as master of ceremonies for the event. She recognized the school’s Board of Directors: Quanbeck, Susana Calley, Craig Mueller, Janelle Stewart, Middleburg Mayor Betsy Davis and Smith.
Hornberger, Jill Turgeon and School Board members Tom Reed (At-Large) and Jeff Morse (Dulles District) attended the dedication. Also attending was Andrew Ko of the Virginia Board of Education.