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Principal Burton reviews his first year at Fauquier High School

Monday, Jun. 23 | By Hannah Dellinger
Fauquier High School Principal Clarence Burton III
Courtesy Photo
It’s been quite a year for Fauquier High School Principal Clarence “Tripp” Burton III.

On top of taking on his new position as principal he has had multiple challenges to tackle including the renovation of the school, 11 missed days of instruction due to snow and the implementation of the “bring your own device” (BYOD) policy for students. Fauquier Times sat down recently with Burton to ask about his first year as principal.

Fauquier Times: How do you think that this past school year went overall?

Burton: I think it went great. I certainly learned a lot. That was my main goal through out the year, was to really learn about Fauquier High School and the people. I thoroughly enjoyed it. We’ve got great students here, great parents, great staff and great teachers. It really was quite a positive experience for myself and I hope it was for the students as well.

FT: What was the biggest challenge that you faced this year?

Burton: Probably the construction. We had construction going on in a lot of places and students that were used to walking a certain way to class, which we couldn’t do, because the middle part, the 1979 building is still not finished.
We also had all the snow days. We had 11 less instructional days for teachers to cover the same amount of instructional material that they’re supposed to cover.

FT: This was the first year that the school system implemented BYOD for students. How do you think it went?

Burton: Well, it’s just like anything new, we’re learning both as students and as a staff the best way to utilize it. Are we perfect with it yet? No. Do the kids like it? Yes. They like having their devices before school and during lunch. Some teachers are beginning to use the devices to help with instruction. Some are not using them at all, and that’s fine as well. It’s their choice. We’ll get better at it as we go.

FT: What do you think was your greatest achievement this past year?

Burton: I really don’t look at it as what I achieved. The school achieved so much this year. It’s hard to put a finger on one thing that’s greater than another. I think that if you just go throughout the year and look at the excellence that we had both in the classroom, at competitions, in the arts and athletics it’s really hard to chose just one thing. If you look at your newspaper or our Twitter account, you can see all of the accomplishments that we’ve had this year and it’s really awe-inspiring.

FT: Being a high school principal is a 24/7 job. You obviously have to have a passion for the work to take on the job. Why do you love it?

Burton: You have to love the three A’s: academics, arts and athletics. We really are a 24/7 building. We’re only closed from 11p.m. to 5 a.m. Other than that there is always someone here doing something.
It really is exciting because you never know what you’re going to get. Every day is something new.
It’s really an exciting job to have, to help people when you can. Really that’s my job is to help. Not to micromanage, not to tell people what to do, but to help people and to put them in the best position to succeed, kind of like a coach. You can’t be out there playing with them but you can help them when you can.

FT: Coming into the school, did you feel like you had to make a lot of changes? Or did you build upon the work of former FHS Principal Roger Sites?

Burton: Mr. Sites left an outstanding faculty for me to come in and work with. This was not a school in crisis. The staff has been very welcoming to me. I couldn’t have asked for more from them, they’ve been outstanding.

FT: What are your future goals for the school?

Burton: Our teachers do a great job of helping each other and I want us to continue to get better at that all the time. I want us to be the type of school where teachers are watching each other teach and learning from each other. We do that already now, but I want to take it to the next level. Developing relationships, talking to each other, building that collaboration and doing the best we can to make sure that if a teacher is doing something great in a classroom, that the teacher down the hall knows about it too so we can share.

FT: Superintendent of FCPS Schools Dr. David Jeck recently presented statistics from a school quality survey. The statistics showed that many students don’t enjoy coming to school and that they feel that there should be a better way to resolve school bullying problems. What do you think that you as a principal can learn from those statistics?

Burton: That’s something that we will take time to really look at during the summer, because it’s a good time to reflect. I think that getting kids to come to school and enjoy it, comes from involvement with after-school activities. Every study shows that if you’re involved in the arts or athletics you’re academics are going to be better. I think that it’s important for kids to like school, to see it as more than just a place that I go to take notes and work hard in class. It really makes you feel like a part of the whole school environment if you’re involved.

FT: What about the statistics on bullying?

Burton: We try to do our best to prevent bullying issues. We talk to our ninth-graders constantly. We try to have open communication with them. I tell parents and kids, ‘We only know what we know.’ We need to have that two-way street of communication. We not only try to prevent it, we try to stop it. We take it very seriously. It’s hard to say if there is a bullying problem. If you have even one kid that doesn’t want to go to school that day and their stomach is in knots because they’re worried about what someone may say or do to them, that’s a problem. I do worry about it and it’s something that we work on everyday.

FT: What do you think is the biggest difference between being a principal and an assistant principal?

Burton: In my previous position I would be the one pushing ideas to Mr. [Major] Warner at Kettle Run. I didn’t have to say no, I just put forth ideas. Being principal means that you have a final say on things and it makes you a little bit more conservative sometimes. Mr. Warner would always say that to me. ‘When you get in this chair, you’ll know what I’m talking about.’

FT: How was your first commencement as principal this past weekend?

Burton: Oh, I was extremely nervous. But once I saw the joy, the happiness, the smiles on the class of 2014’s faces sitting there on Falcon Field, that nervousness went away. The speeches that they gave were outstanding.

FT: Anything else that you’d like to add about your first year as FHS principal?

Burton: I can’t thank our entire school community for being so welcoming to my family and me. My family is here a lot; I bring my little boys and my little girl around a lot. I couldn’t have asked for more and I want to publicly thank everyone for that.

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