The Roar

Year of the Wolfe

After being principal of PFHS for a year, Dr. Brandon Wolfe reflects on his experience

On March 27 2017, Dr. Brandon Wolfe had his first day as the Potomac Falls principal. Over a year later, he is just beginning to see the school he envisioned emerge.

“All high schools are crazy busy. Every place you go there’s always a different vibe, the way you feel when you walk in,” said Wolfe. “Everything I’ve [experienced] here has been super positive; the kids are supportive 99 percent of the time, and when working with parents, you run into the same thing.”

In the past year, Wolfe was able to build a relationship with students, faculty, and the school community. One of the biggest things that connects Wolfe to the Potomac Falls community is his drive to support students.

“There’s always going to be people who disagree with you, but [this is] one community where I’ve always been able to come to a common ground with whomever I am working with. I have found that as long as we are all placing the best interest of the student first, we come to some sort of understanding, respectfully,” said Wolfe.

Wolfe, who grew up in Pennsylvania and got his undergraduate degree from the University of Pittsburgh, has plenty of experience working with students. In addition to serving as the Dean of Students at Falls Church High School, Wolfe was also the principal of the S. John Davis Career Center at Marshall High School, where he helped students with disabilities gain important life skills.

Taking his expertise to Potomac Falls, Wolfe has already made some big changes, including changing the early release policy. Before, students had to have a pass before they could leave. Now, they can leave without a pass, making class transition smoother, as well as clearing the usual traffic at the attendance window.

“If you’re not in class when you are supposed to be in class, you’re obviously skipping and the teacher will report that,” said Wolfe.

Wolfe also changed what students have to do if they’re 15 minutes late to school. Before, they had to go to the attendance window. Now, if a student arrives on or before 9:30, they just simply go to class. “That is not a 15 minute grace period however – that just means that the teacher is marking you as late instead of the attendance secretary. The reason for this is because we are more interested in you getting to class rather than waiting to sign in – all while still being held accountable,” said Wolfe.

In addition to starting new initiatives, Wolfe and his staff carried out the changes that were put into motion before he began here, such as transitioning FLEX to CORE.

Like most educators, Wolfe is also focused on improving the school in the future. One of the biggest things Wolfe hopes to improve on is academic achievement.

“One of my personal beliefs is that when students are exposed to more challenging courses, it increases their academic achievement overall,” said Wolfe.

After writing his graduate school dissertation about the different factors that help students be successful in school, Wolfe found that being exposed to difficult courses can help students be more successful in all of their classes. One of the ways this happens is due to the increased confidence that students obtain when they take and find success in more rigorous courses.

“[Students] could have the easiest classes and coast [their] way through high school, but we want more students to challenge themselves and be exposed to different courses,” said Wolfe. “You don’t have to do five AP courses every year and get all fives [on the exams], but just try something that’s out of your comfort zone.”

Focused on improving not only what goes on inside of the building but the building itself, Wolfe has made cosmetic changes to the school as well. The mural in the front of the school celebrates students’ academic and community-based achievements, and a beautification committee is working on proposals for other areas that need improvement.

“I really couldn’t imagine myself doing anything else. It’s just been fun, exciting, sometimes stressful,” said Wolfe. “I’ve had the chance to get to know a lot of students, a lot of parents, and a lot of teachers.”

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