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This story was updated at 4:45 p.m. July 25, 2013.

West Potomac High School Principal Clifford “Cliff” Hardison, 60, died Tuesday from a recent illness. Hardison had served as principal since 2009.

“Cliff was a caring and thoughtful person who inspired all who knew him, and he will be greatly missed,” wrote Deborah Tyler, assistant superintendent of Cluster 4, in a letter to the West Potomac community. “Cliff worked tirelessly to empower parents to support their children in educational endeavors and development. His death will leave a void that can never entirely be filled.”

Hardison had worked as an educator for nearly 40 years. The principal had a record for innovation, which drew both praise and criticism from the West Potomac community. After seeing too many students fail classes, in 2010, Hardison piloted a new no ‘F’ grade policy, which meant delaying the awarding of failing grade to allow students to complete additional assignments and improve their grade and learning experience.

Hardison was also dedicated to risk prevention efforts for students. He served as a Board of Directors member of the Unified Prevention Coalition of Fairfax County.

“We have lost a real advocate for keeping our youth safe and drug-free,” wrote Lisa Adler, president of the Unified Prevention Coalition of Fairfax County. “[H]e was committed to working with youth and the community in efforts to discourage and prevent underage alcohol and binge drinking, and marijuana and prescription drug abuse. His West Potomac High School was among the first to have students join our UPC Youth Council, and his leadership and support will be greatly missed.”

According to Mary Shaw, a spokeswoman with Fairfax County Public Schools, the school system is in the process of identifying a retired principal to be named as interim and expects to have someone in place by early next week.

An FCPS Crisis Team will be available to support West Potomac High School staff and students. Parents and teachers were urged to contact the school for support as needed.

hhobbs@fairfaxtimes.com