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Garza announces hires for reorganized leadership team

Superintendent Karen Garza announced another round of new hires Monday as part of a major overhaul to the Fairfax County school system.

The reorganization, set to take effect July 1, will see county schools sorted into five regions rather than the current eight clusters. The hires announced Monday include five executive principals — one for each region.

The executive principal position replaces the former cluster director position. Similar to cluster directors, executive principals will serve as second-in-command to their region’s assistant superintendent.

However, the executive principals will take a more hands-on role in school operations, according to Garza. Executive principals will serve as advisers and mentors for principals at the schools in their region.

Of the five executive principals, four were pulled from within the Fairfax County school system, including cluster directors Evangeline Petrich and Grace Taylor and principals Rebecca Baenig, from Cunningham Park Elementary, and Jay Pearson, from Marshall High School.

The other is Eric Brent, the principal at Forest Park High School in Prince William County. Brent formerly was the principal at West Potomac and Mount Vernon high schools in Fairfax County.

Garza also hired two executive principals for school improvement: Terry Dade, from Dogwood Elementary, and Mark Greenfelder, from West Springfield High School. These positions serve the two regions identified as needing extra support and will focus specifically on improvement efforts at struggling schools.

Madison special ed students chat with aquanaut

Students at Madison High School participated Monday in a video chat with aquanaut Fabien Cousteau while he was aboard the Aquarius underwater laboratory.

The three freshmen in teacher Tanner Sewell’s special education English class conducted a question-and-answer session with Cousteau, while he was nine miles off the coast of Key Largo, Fla., and 63 feet below the surface of the ocean in the Aquarius laboratory.

Cousteau and his crew are spending 31 days living and working under water to commemorate a similar mission undertaken by Cousteau’s grandfather, famed ocean explorer Jacques-Yves Cousteau. This year marks the 50th anniversary of a 30-day expedition Jacques-Yves Cousteau spent in the red sea filming his Academy Award-winning documentary “World Without Sun.”

Cousteau and crew are scheduled to emerge from the marine laboratory on July 2.

While his students enjoyed learning about the logistics of living under water, Sewell said they also learned about the environmental issues of climate change and pollution.

— Kate Yanchulis