Horrigan and Kent accept first-time roles as principals
Aug. 10, 2000
Justin Jouvenal
Staff Writer

As students prepare to hit the books, the county school system finished its summer homework August 4 by naming new principals at two area schools.

Donald Horrigan, a two-year vice principal at Eugene Burroughs Middle School in Accokeek, is the new acting principal of Parkdale High School in Riverdale. Donnell Kent, a five-year vice principal of Nicholas Orem Middle School in Hyattsville, takes over as acting principal at Charles Carroll Middle School in New Carrollton. Both are first-time principals.

Horrigan said after 30 years in education, 26 of those in Prince George's County, he wanted to take on the special challenges of principal.

The principal is the person that makes the difference," he said. "The principal enables things to happen for school reform. I'm excited to explore this."

"Parkdale is an excellent school," he said. "My task is to come on board as a member of that team. They have an excellent school improvement program for next year."

Horrigan said he would follow the program that includes increasing student attendance; bolstering achievement in mathematics, reading and writing; opening communication among students, teachers and parents; honing student management skills; and retaining teachers at the school.

Horrigan has served in a variety of positions in county education including coordinating science and technology coordinator at Eleanor Roosevelt High School in Greenbelt and administrating for Equity 2000, a national program that aims to improve county student's SAT scores.

"I would rate him very highly," said Dr. Bruce Katz, principal at Eugene Borroughs and Horrigan's former boss. "I think Don's greatest strengths are his intelligence and his listening. He's able to build a consensus among different groups."

Donnell Kent was relaxing when he received news that he was the new principal of Charles Carroll.

"I was on vacation­­I guess that all changes today," he said Monday, his first day on the job.

Kent, who worked as a guidance counselor at Charles Carroll during the 1992 and 1993 school year, said he has more than 20 years experience in elementary and middle school education.

He said he is still formulating a vision for the school and his approach to the principalship, but did say he brings a simple philosophy to the job.

"I'm like this: if something's working don't fix it," he said. "All I want to see is the students achieve."

Kent will have to put his philosophy into practice immediately. Charles Carroll is in the third and final year of a state imposed probation for poor performance. If students don't improve their test scores, the state may take control of the school at the end of the year. Kent could be out his job if that happens.

"I came from a...school [on probation] so I'm very familiar with how that works," he said. "I have a couple ideas in mind to raise test scores from my experience at Nicholas Orem. We will focus on reading and math test scores."

Omar Jones, vice principal of Charles Carroll, and friend of Kent said he will bring a range of talent to the job of principal.

"I think he brings more diversity as a principal, because he was a peer mediator, guidance counselor and classroom teacher."

Kent said parents will have a chance to meet him and hear his vision for the school at Back to School Night, which is scheduled for September.

Parkdale High School has not had a permanent principal since September, when William Lefevre resigned to take an administrative position with the county school system. Charles Carroll's two-year principal Gordon Libby left in June to take over the top post at Frederick Douglas High School in Upper Marlboro.

The county board of education tentatively approved both candidates as principals because they did not have time to review their credentials, said Athena Ware, a spokesperson for the school system. The board will likely give full approval to Horrigan and Kent at its next meeting in late August.