McGee steps in as acting principal at Damascus Elementary School
Former Laytonsville administrator moves up Route 108 to take over after principal gets new assignment
Acting principal Sean McGee only arrived at Damascus Elementary School in late July, but the school already feels like home to him.
The Damascus Elementary community is similar to the small upstate New York school community where he grew up.
"Everybody knows everybody," McGee said. "There's a sense of belonging here, a sense of pride in the community a wonderful sense of community."
McGee, 36, grew up in Plattsburgh, N.Y., and attended the elementary school where his mother still teaches fifth grade. His father owns a car dealership.
"I grew up in the classroom," he said.
McGee always knew he wanted to go into education. He and his wife, Kristin, moved to Montgomery County after several years of teaching in Plattsburgh and Long Island. He became an administrator six years ago.
His mother, now in her 43rd year of teaching, is his inspiration. Her advice on his becoming an administrator was to be true to his core values, be caring and treat people as you want them to treat you.
McGee has an open door policy. Parents are always welcome in the school, he said.
"Be involved," McGee said. "It's so important."
Damascus is a caring community, centered on students and student success, McGee said.
"When you walk in the front door, there's a sense of caring we are going to take care of your child,'" he said. "Everyone senses that when you walk in the building. I attribute that to community support, the home-school connection. You get that in an old community and school."
Rebecca Jones, Damascus Elementary's former principal, was named principal of Westbrook Elementary School in Bethesda in July. McGee, an assistant principal at Laytonsville Elementary, was sent to Damascus for the year. Everything was already in place for the start of the new school year when he arrived and enrollment is just as projected at 292 students, he said.
"We hated to see Miss Jones go," PTA President Megan McFarland said. "We're really excited about Sean McGee. He is energetic and enthusiastic."
He listens to parents and teachers, she said.
"I feel quite at ease with him already," McFarland said.
At the end of the year parents and staff will discuss whether they want to see McGee remain or look for a different permanent principal. The school needs a principal who puts students and the community first and works to improve the school, McFarland said.
"I think the county did a really good job of finding a good fit for us," she said. "We're very pleased with Mr. McGee."
Jones was known for quickly learning every child's name. McGee said he studies the school yearbook at night to match faces with names.
"That's important to me," he said. "The students want to be called by name."
McGee plans to continue the school's academic successes in reading and math. With the PTA, he is looking at reading and math incentive programs to encourage more reading at home.
McGee would like to improve communications to get the community more involved in the school. Staff will begin calling Spanish-speaking families with translations of essential pieces of the school's weekly newsletter.
McGee is also starting a new community partnership for the school.
At Laytonsville Elementary he worked with Damascus Community Bank and Rupert Nurseries to get the school landscaped. The bank and landscape company came to Damascus Elementary on Friday to spruce up the school. They plan to return throughout the year to pull out overgrown bushes and trees and add new plants, McFarland said.
-Wife: Kristin, an MCPS physical therapist in the Infants and Toddlers Service
-Children: Seamus, 4, and Kathleen, 30 months
-Education: Bachelor's degree from St. Lawrence University in Canton, N.Y.; Master's degree from State University of New York at Plattsburgh and administration certificate from State University of New York at Stoneybrook