Seneca Valley Principal Receives Leadership Award

November 16, 2007
Seneca Valley High School Principal Suzanne Maxey Receives Distinguished Educational Leadership Award

Four years ago, when Suzanne Maxey took over as principal of Seneca Valley High School, she found an aging facility and underperforming students.

Some paint and hard work have helped make the facility a welcoming one for students, staff and community. More than that, though, Maxey has helped create an environment where students want to learn and achievement has soared. Her motto that Seneca Valley is a “School of Excellence” in academics, athletics and the arts has become a reality.

These are some of the reasons Maxey is this year’s winner of The Washington Post Distinguished Educational Leadership Award for Montgomery County. The award, given for promoting an excellent educational program and creating an exceptional educational environment, is presented each fall to one principal in each Washington metropolitan area school district and to one private school principal.

“She began an aggressive and comprehensive plan to improve student achievement,” the school’s PTSA said in a letter supporting her nomination. “The greatest proof of Mrs. Maxey’s leadership is in the success of her academic reforms.”

Maxey led the school into a new era of small learning communities. Seneca Valley has five career academies: Arts and Media, Business and Finance, Human Services, Science, and Technology. The school also offers the rigorous Cambridge International Studies Program. The Child Development Program has an onsite preschool. The Department of Energy has joined in partnership with the school to provide an Engineering Science Program. Students can take Montgomery College classes at the high school for college credit.

Under Maxey’s leadership, Seneca Valley’s attendance rate rose to more than 93 percent in 2006 and dropout rate decreased to .46 percent—both all-time records. Scores on the High School Assessments are up in every area, some by as much as 26 percent. Maxey worked with the school leadership team to come up with HSA remediation and support plans in each subject area. A Biology Blitz, Math Slam, Monday lunches for English learners and NSL government workshops all helped involve students in learning.

Almost 95 percent of 10th grade students took the 2005-2006 PSAT, an increase in all demographic areas. Maxey has encouraged teachers and administrators to identify more students who are capable of handling AP and Honors courses.

Maxey came to Montgomery County from Prince George’s County, where she was principal of Bowie High School. She also served as magnet academic coordinator, vice principal and dean of Academic and Student Affairs at Laurel High School and has been a social studies teacher and social studies coordinator.

Maxey “asks that every staff member make their corner of the school excellent,” said principal intern Khadija Barkley.

An active supporter of the PTSA, the principal invites all stakeholders to participate in decision-making. She has worked hard to involve parents, holding freshman parent evenings, testing information sessions for Latino parents and back-to-school meetings for special education, ESOL and African American parents. Maxey has worked with local businesses to create a Business Advisory Council, and in October, the school reached out to the community through the second annual Germantown Community Festival.

“Her ability to rally staff, students and parents around a shared vision is truly inspirational,” said Clarksburg High School Principal James Koutsos, who was assistant principal at Seneca Valley for two years and credits Maxey in preparing him for the challenges and opportunities of being a principal. “It has been amazing to witness how quickly and comprehensively Seneca Valley has changed under Mrs. Maxey’s leadership.”

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