August Frattali Named FCPS 2010 Principal of the Year
August Frattali, who has served as principal at Carson Middle School since 2003 and has been a Fairfax County Public Schools (FCPS) employee for 24 years, has been named the FCPS 2010 Principal of the Year and is the recipient of the Washington Post Distinguished Educational Leadership Award. Frattali is one of 21 principals–representing the public school systems in the Washington, D.C., metropolitan area and private schools–selected by the Washington Post for the award.
Frattali, known as Augie, was an assistant principal in 1998 when Carson first opened its doors, and, when his predecessor retired, staff members collected signatures on petitions and wrote letters to support his selection as the new principal. Since becoming principal, Frattali has become known for his hands-on approach to the job, greeting the buses every morning, showing up in the cafeteria during lunchtime, serving Thanksgiving lunch in a Pilgrim costume, taking students on hayrides during the school’s Fall Festival, attending all after-hours events, all while establishing an atmosphere of collaboration, respect, and trust, with a side of humor. Frattali personally mentors some students and holds monthly Pizza With the Principal lunches to encourage students who need additional support, part of his efforts to bring out the best in his students.
“Let us constantly juxtapose the way things are with fresh visions of what they might become,” a popular saying by Roland Barth, has been adopted by the Carson staff as its mantra, and, encouraged by Frattali, students and staff members are free to take positive risks and reach beyond their comfort zones. “Augie is not one to maintain the status quo, but an innovative leader who always encourages us to keep up with current and new educational trends,” say seven department chairs, who cosigned a letter of support for his nomination.
“It’s all about relationships,” say four staff members who endorsed his nomination and who point out that Frattali builds and retains a talented staff, keeps the school on the edge of educational innovation, and makes certain that all students feel welcome, valued, and competent. “He builds relationships with his teachers that communicate his belief in their abilities to do what others see as not only difficult but impossible. He challenges them to work together to solve complex problems, involves them in collaborative decision making, respects and encourages them to run with their ideas, and provides them with the resources to do what they need to do to support students.”
Frattali confronts challenges with creative solutions, say other nominators. When some minority students and families expressed that they felt disconnected from the school, Frattali established focus groups on minority issues, opened enrollment for honors classes to any student, and actively worked to increase minority participation throughout the school, from the in-house television program to extracurricular activities.
Director of student services Cheryl Weaver says that Frattali, in concert with the school’s namesake, ecologist Rachel Carson, “has always tried to maintain a connection to improving our environment and establishing a ‘sense of wonder’ for learning.” In that vein, Frattali established a paperless virtual opening to the school year, an electronic parent newsletter, and biweekly electronic progress reports to parents. He also worked with staff members to secure a grant for the installation of a set of solar panels on the school roof, she adds, as well as working with students to maintain a pond in the school courtyard and with local businesses to plant trees on school grounds.
“In the many years that we have worked with Augie, we have had the opportunity to witness, firsthand, the evolution of a good assistant principal into a great principal, mentor, and leader,” say nominators Chad Clayton, special education department chair, and Elena James, English for speakers of other languages department chair. “Augie’s charismatic leadership style, open door policy, respect for students and faculty and staff, willingness to help at a moment’s notice, and obvious joy in what he does each and every day are all strengths that have inspired us, as well as other teachers and administrators throughout FCPS, to reach deeper within ourselves to find what truly drives and inspires us to continue working in this noble profession.”
Frattali joined FCPS in 1985 as a sixth grade teacher at Chesterbrook Elementary School. He also taught at Spring Hill Elementary School and Franklin Middle School and served as assistant principal at Hunters Woods Elementary School, Franklin Middle School, and Carson Middle School. He earned his bachelor’s degree from Quinnipiac College in Connecticut, his master’s degree at Southern Connecticut State University, and his public school administration endorsement from the University of Virginia.
Finalists for the 2010 FCPS Principal of the Year included Annette Almedina-Cabrera of Weyanoke Elementary School and James Oliver of Mountain View Alternative High School.