Jun 1, 201209:12 AMEducation Matters
MCPS Loses One of the Good Ones
During his years at Bethesda's Westland Middle School, Principal Danny Vogelman helped shepherd thousands of students through the awkward years of adolescence—and found that he did some growing up as well.
While dealing with the daily challenges of helping children transition from elementary to high school over the past decade, Vogelman also got married and started a family. He now has three sons; one is 7 and the twins are 18 months old.
“I feel as if I almost became a man,” Vogelman said recently about his time at Westland. “You learn there’s not just one way of raising and parenting children,” he said. “I don’t think parents realize they’re teaching us ways to raise kids. I learned how to raise children from Westland.”
Now Vogelman is about to embark on a new life chapter. He leaves Westland this summer to become an assistant superintendent for the Wilson County public schools in North Carolina. He’ll be working under Superintendent Sean Bulson, a former principal of Bethesda-Chevy Chase High School who served as a community superintendent for Montgomery County Public Schools before taking the North Carolina job in 2011.
Vogelman is one of those educators whose passion for the job is evident for all to see. And he's leaving behind a supportive community of parents who sing his praises and are sad to see the departure of the man they know as "Danny."
Vogelman said he’s looking forward to the new challenge in North Carolina, even though he said the decision to take the job was “one of the hardest” he’s had to make because he’ll no longer have daily interaction with students. That’s because he knows he's going to miss running a middle school, even though he affectionately described the environment as “nuts.”
"Middle school is such an exciting and interesting time," he said. “Part of what makes middle school so great is that kids are in that in-between stage where they want to be young adults, but still want adult support.”
Westland itself has undergone a transformation under the helm of Vogelman and his staff, who’ve worked to increase rigor and academic quality to produce a “Westland brand” of education. No longer does Vogelman see parents sending their kids to private school for middle school because they didn’t like what was happening at Westland.
Vogelman’s proud of creating a school community out of a diverse population of about 1,100 students, including 30 percent who are minority students. "It's challenging, but I think we've done a very good job of getting our students to interact as one community," he said.
And then there is the school's success at narrowing the achievement gap between Asian and white students and African-American and Hispanic students even as academic rigor was increased. Vogelman points out that the success didn't happen by chance; rather it was through the efforts of his staff, who worked hard to create equity in the classroom.
Bringing about change while trying to meet the demands of the federal No Child Left Behind law and facing decreasing funding for staff was perhaps the biggest challenge he faced, Vogelman said.
"But I think we've done it," he said, crediting Westland students as well for the school's success. "Our parents send us resilient kids. They'll do anything you ask them to do."
Vogelman is leaving Montgomery County Public Schools after 17 years in the system. He wants his successor at Westland to know that he or she will "be one lucky person" and that the next principal "should exercise the position knowing that."
"It's not something that you do eight hours a day. You bring your family into this community with you," he said. "If you can make Westland a part of your family, it will make the job so fulfilling."
Alison Serino, the current principal of Loiederman MS, was appointed earlier this month as the new Westland principal effective July 1.