Q&A With CVHS Principal Michael Campbell
Campbell talks about where he's going after the end of the school year and his memories of Centreville High School.
After working three decades in education, Centreville High School principal Michael Campbell plans to spend his retirement in Huntsville, AL.
Campbell got his start in education as a physical education teacher in Albemarle County, where he stayed for two years. He moved on to Fairfax County, where he coached football, basketball and girls' softball. In 1997, he interviewed for a position as an athletic director at Centreville High School, but accepted a job as a vice principal instead. Campbell went on to a new position as an assistant principal at Westfield High School, and five years later, as principal. He was satisfied with the job, but his family lived in Little Rocky Run.
"I said, there's only one job I'd ever leave Westfield for, and that's Centreville. The next day, Peter Noonan, the principal here, announced he had been promoted and the principal job here at Centreville was open," Campbell recalled.
With his two sons—Hunter and Chris—in the Centreville pyramid, the opportunity was too good to turn down. Campbell applied and got the position, starting in 2006. Under his watch, Centreville High has had some proud moments, such as being included in Newsweek's list of 'America's Best High Schools' multiple times.
Six years later, he's moving on to a new position. Patch caught up with Campbell to ask him about his memories of Centreville High School and where he's going next.
What's the new job?
The new job is at J O. Johnson High School in Huntsville, Alabama. It's a school of about 600 students. It's a high free/reduced lunch population, a school that hasn't performed as well academically, that hopefully we can make some changes and be successful there. It's a great community, really. Huntsville has good parents and the potential's there.
In terms of Fairfax County, I've been in education 31 years. And my father was a principal, so I think my whole life has been in education. I always told people: I think when I retire from Fairfax County...I'll go into something different. And what am I doing? I'm going back into education. That's what I know, that's what I do best.
How did you start out at Centreville High?
I applied for the athletic director job here. My wife and I had just gotten married and I lived right down the road, and I thought, boy, that's a dream. So I applied for the position as athletic director. I remember getting a call from the principal and she said, I got good news and bad news. The bad news is, I didn't hire you for the job. I said, what could be the good news? She said, 'well, I'm going to hire you to be my assistant principal.'
"I didn't apply for that job," Campbell recalled.
She goes, well, you're going to be a principal someday.
What was Centreville High School like when it first opened up?
When we opened the doors to the school, we were the largest in the state. We had 51 trailers. We had more classrooms outside than inside.
It was huge. We had almost 3,000 at the time. That's when they split the school and opened Westfield, and took a large portion of the population from here and Chantilly. Now we're back up to 2,400 next year. So we've grown, tremendously.
If you had one piece of advice to the give to the new principal, what would it be?
I'm all about relationships. It's the same advice I'm going to give my teachers in Alabama. Dr. Ferguson has developed what he calls a tripod theory, where success is based on rigor, relationships and relevance. Well, I'd like to turn the tripod on its side. Relationships are key. Until you develop those relationships with the students, teachers and community, you can't get to the rigor and relevance of the curriculum.
I like to do it in that order because if you develop the relationships and get to know the community, your faculty, they can trust you and see your vision through. Develop relationships and get to know the students, faculty and community.