The Falls Church School Board met briefly Tuesday night for what amounted to a ceremonial unanimous vote to formally hire Dr. Peter Noonan, current superintendent of the Fairfax City school system, as the ninth superintendent of the Falls Church City Schools. The vote was taken in the Mary Ellen Henderson cafetorium with more than 60 invited guests who stayed after the vote for a reception in Noonan’s honor. He will begin his duties on May 15, the same day he will depart his Fairfax City job.
Noonan is currently superintendent of the City of Fairfax Schools, a position he’s held since 2012. He began his career as a special education teacher in New Mexico where he was named Teacher of the Year in 1993.
Prior to joining the City of Fairfax Schools, Noonan served for 11 years in the Fairfax County Public Schools division beginning in 2001 as assistant principal at Langley High School, principal at Lanier Middle School and Centreville High School, as assistant superintendent for the county’s Cluster VII schools, and as assistant superintendent for the Instructional Services Department overseeing academic programs for the Fairfax County system’s 180,000 students.
One of his role models and mentors in his first years in the Fairfax system was the late Falls Church resident Nancy Sprague, he told the News-Press in an interview yesterday. She passed away in 2003, and he eventually rose to the same post in Instructional Services that she’d held.
Noonan was chosen out of a field of 38 applicants in a recruitment process begun last fall following the departure of Superintendent Dr. Toni Jones, and following the retention of Interim Superintendent Dr. Robert Schiller, who will remain in his post until Noonan is on board next month.
The final step in hiring Dr. Noonan was an appearance before a board of 13 Falls Church School system “stakeholders” before the School Board made its final choice. “Dr. Noonan seems to be a thoughtful and strategic leader who will guide with experience and wisdom,” George Mason PTSA president Mary Stevens said as reported in the schools’ press release.
After the School Board vote and a signing of his contract by School Board chair Lawrence Webb and Noonan, the new superintendent said he’s accepting the post “with a humble and open heart.” He stated his four “overarching principles” are collaboration, innovation, ethical leadership and equity and excellence for all students.
School Board member and immediate past chair Justin Castillo told the News-Press that Noonan has “the experience, the vision, the training and the background.”
He toured all five Falls Church schools yesterday before heading back to work for his final six weeks in Fairfax City. He told the News-Press he hopes to find time to visit Falls Church frequently to engage the process here before coming on full time in just over a month.
After all, he said, the Plaka Grill here is one of his favorite eateries in the region, and he’s taught classes in the University of Virginia/Virginia Tech grad building here, too.
He said among other things he hopes to take advantage of the grad center’s proximity to the high school to expand the kind of dual-enrollment programs that Mason High students are enjoying with George Mason University and the Northern Virginia Community College system.
He told the News-Press he was particularly impressed meeting the “extraordinary people” working at the City’s five school sites on his tour yesterday.
With him at his welcoming reception Tuesday were his partner, Bethany Letiecq, education and human development professor at GMU, his oldest daughter, Emily, who is about to receive an International Baccalaureate diploma at Robinson High School before attending U.Va. in the fall, eighth grader son Brylan, and seven-year-old Betsy.