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Louise Porter, principal of Luther Jackson Middle School, plans to retire effective Feb. 1, after 32 years working in Fairfax County schools as a science teacher and school administrator.

The announcement comes in the middle of Porter’s seventh year at the helm of the Falls Church school, and she said the decision to leave was a difficult one.

“I love my job, my students, my school,” Porter said. “I’m looking forward to spending more time with my family, but still, it’s hard to let go.”

While Porter announced her plans to Jackson Middle school parents in an email last week, the decision has been months in the making. She was eligible to retire in June, but other positions in Jackson Middle School’s administration were experiencing turnover, so she stayed on to help ensure a smooth transition.

“It’s never easy to decide when is the best time to leave,” Porter said. “We’ve got something going on all year round, so I had to plan carefully.”

That led her to select February for her exit. While the month may seem arbitrary to those outside the school, according to Porter it serves a strategic purpose. In February, preparations start ramping up for the next school year, and Porter wants to give the new principal ample time to get their footing.

The process to select the next principal is already in motion, headed by Jim Kacur, the assistant superintendent for Cluster 2, Porter said.

While Jackson Middle School makes plans, Porter, too, is charting her own next steps. She loves to travel, and she and her family already are preparing for a summer trip to visit Yellowstone National Park and other Western locales.

Still, Porter will miss her work as principal, which she described as her most challenging but also most rewarding job.

“These kids, that’s what I’ve been in this business for,” Porter said. “It’s the most wonderful feeling, knowing you’ve made a difference in even one person’s life.”

Superintendent announces winter listening tour dates

County schools Superintendent Karen Garza announced on Wednesday the final three dates to round out a listening tour that began in October.

As part of the listening tour, Garza already has held meetings at six of the county’s nine districts to hear concerns and answer questions on the school system. The remaining three events take place in the Lee, Springfield and Braddock districts, though people from all districts are encouraged to attend any event.

The remaining three dates are: Tuesday, Jan. 21, at 6:30 p.m., at Twain Middle School in Alexandria; Tuesday, Feb. 4, at 7 p.m., at West Springfield High School; and Monday, Feb. 24, at 6:30 p.m., at Lake Braddock Secondary School in Burke.

Those planning to attend are requested to register online at www.fcps.edu/news/listeningtour. If you are unable to attend, you also can share your thoughts with Garza in an online forum at fcps.uservoice.com/forums.

— Kate Yanchulis

Luther Jackson Middle principal to retire in February