Ashburn, Va. (August 28, 2014) – “Sometimes you have to go slow to go fast. What I mean by that is I find myself not making decisions right away; not trying to solve something right away. Maybe putting something aside because it doesn’t need to be solved right away.
“It’s like leaving a balloon in the air and you have to keep hitting it back up. But sometimes (the problem) solves itself or a better solution (presents itself) than you can think of on the spot.”
If there was a “Principal’s Zen Guide,” Dave Spage, the new principal of Broad Run High School, would be its author.
Check out this bit of philosophical wisdom…
“If I want someone to see my perspective, the first thing I have to do is see theirs. Let them know I have a genuine interest and can see or understand – at least in part – their perspective. Until I’ve done that… it’s going to be very difficult for them to see (my perspective)… Seek to understand, then be understood…
“You may not agree with it, you may not be able to give them what they want; but you wish you could and can actually see things their way. Then you can ask them to come see things your way.”
Spage is the first to admit that he couldn’t have been this philosophical when he first became a principal (at Potomac Falls High School in 2004). Five years as Potomac Falls’ principal and five more as Loudoun County Public Schools’ director of high school education led Spage to this degree of enlightenment.
One thing experience has taught him is that a principal can’t do it all.
“You can live this job. You can be here every night and weekends. As I approach this the second time around, one of the things I’m really trying to be cognizant of is that balance. I have surrounded myself with a good team of people and let them do what they can do so I don’t have to have my hand in every cookie jar.”
Spage said he’s learned to listen much more than he talks. “If you listen more than you talk, you’ll actually be heard. I like to listen.”
He added that he’s much more patient. “Let somebody know that you are on it. Let somebody know that you are on it – no matter what ‘it’ is.”
While he’s Broad Run’s new principal, Spage isn’t new to Broad Run. He served as an assistant principal there from 2001 to 2004. When asked how much the school has changed in his absence, Spage said “not as much as I thought; a little less than 50 percent of the staff were here 10 years ago.”
In addition, Spage has lived in the community Broad Run serves since 1998.
This means he’s well acquainted with the school’s history.
“When you talk about rich tradition; you can’t go anywhere in Loudoun County and not talk to someone who graduated from Broad Run High School…People who are prominent leaders in Loudoun County, a lot of them came through Broad Run High School…
“You really want to appreciate that, because that’s an asset… Those are people who really believe in the experience (Broad Run) gave them. We want this high school experience to be the most positive in these kids’ lives until they go on to bigger and better things; and they will…
“I want this to be the best four years until they go on to the next best four years.”
Spage is only the fifth principal in Broad Run’s 46-year history and said he plans to be there for the school’s 50th anniversary as its principal. He also plans on much more than simply being present.
Spage said he’ll spend his time as principal drumming a philosophy into his students.
“I believe in their potential. I’m going to treat each of them as if they were mine…
“Kids will respond to you if you communicate potential worth to them through your words and, more importantly, your actions. If you constantly say ‘You have potential and worth’ to the point where they have no choice but to see it in themselves, they’ll respond… Sometimes it’s a little struggle. Sometimes it takes a little longer. But if you’re communicating potential worth so much and so consistently with students – first – teachers and parents, then they’ll see it in themselves.”
Spage is realistic enough to know that a student will sometimes go off the path of reaching their potential.
“You want to say ‘I wish you hadn’t done that’ or ‘I’m not proud of that moment.’ What you want them to do is look in the mirror; whether it be a student, parent or teacher…‘How could I have handled that differently. What was the problem and what was my role in it.’ If a student is not reaching their fullest potential, get them to recognize their role in not meeting that potential and then we’ll take on our role as educators.”
Spage has two children coming through the Broad Run cluster and his talk about balance centers on them. “They do well in school, but they also need dad time. We’ve got to make sure that happens.”
Returning to a school setting was not a decision Spage made lightly.
“I really enjoyed being the director of high schools… It was a fantastic growth opportunity. It was a bit of a struggle to maybe try to do something different… Certainly there were days during the spring transition when I thought ‘What was I thinking?’ But after being here… I know this is where I belong at the school.
“You live these jobs, whether it be director or high school principal. While I enjoyed being director, I love being around students, parents and teachers. Some days are better than others, just like any job, but you have to love what you live.”