Washington Mill Elementary parents, students, faculty and alumni crowded the school gym Thursday night to bid farewell to beloved principal Dr. Tish Howard.
Dr. Howard served as principal at Washington Mill Elementary School for 12 years. She has started her own educational consulting firm in conjunction with University of Virginia a little more than a year ago to help educators close the achievement gap and meet the individual needs of students.
“It’s going to be less contact with children, but a continuation of the impact on adults who are going to be impacting children,” Howard said. “It’s called need by name – how do you diagnostically use data to figure out where a child is, and tailor education to meet those needs? It’s very rewarding work and it’s doable.”
Since launching her consulting firm, business has taken off and she has worked with school districts in Florida and West Virginia. She decided to retire earlier in the year to dedicate more time to consulting.
Dr. Howard describes Washington Mill Elementary School as a “cohesive community” that she has helped foster.
“We’ve really built an educational family here,” Howard explained. “Teacher mobility is practically nothing. We’ve been together a long time and I think that’s what lead to our success is that we have a true core.”
Mount Vernon District School Board Representative Dan Storck described Dr. Howard as "irreplaceable" and credits her character for defining her success.
"I've never met a principal who is as strong an advocate and committed to all students, and it can be characterized by her character," Storck said. "Her character was formed by the fiery challenges she faced along the way. She was a divorced mom raising kids and she pulled herself up by her bootstraps. Her steely character and her ability to implement the same purpose to the most challenged kids is remarkable."
Sandy Dunbar has two daughters who graduated from Washington Mill and a third who is currently in fourth grade. She said her daughters adore Dr. Howard and described her retirement as "sad."
"Dr Howard gave me my job here," Dunbar said. "I started out as a cafeteria lady and Dr. Howard asked me to be an IA (instructional assistant). Before she got her PhD I was always rooting her on. She helped a lot of African-Americans in the school and started ethnic nights and an African-American Association for parents. The last principal didn't do that."
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