Getting to Know Your Interim Principal, Dale Rumberger


Interim Principal Dale Rumberger talking to students. (Courtesy West Potomac High School Website)

Week after week, West Potomac’s boys’ varsity basketball team left fans on the edge of their seats. It’s impossible to miss the energetic and ever-spirited student section, as interim principal Dale Rumberger found out for himself at one of the games.

Rumberger sat among all the proud basketball parents, who cheered on the team from the bleachers, when one of them looked at him.

“Which one is yours?” she asked him.

“Actually, they’re all mine,” said Rumberger.

After giving him a “funny look,” he introduced himself to the confused parent.

Rumberger laughed describing the moment at one of his first sports events as interim principal. He recalls the parent saying, “Wow! Thank you,” and promptly moving away.

“So, what was the moral of that story?” he said. “I’m not sure. But it was kind of fun.”

Rumberger has seen a basketball playoff game or two during his 41 years serving Fairfax County Public Schools.

He’s worked at a number of FCPS schools, and was the first principal of Westfield, part of the starting staff at Thomas Jefferson, and has held every administrative job in between. Rumberger retired in 2008, but couldn’t turn down the opportunity to work for FCPS after the required one year of severance from the county.

“Sounds like I can’t keep a job,” he joked, “but what I’m really at is that I still had a little gas left in the tank, and I still like what I’m doing.”

As he has dedicated several decades of his life to education, Rumberger values his experiences in both the administrative and more hands-on side of his work.

“I very much like the contact with students, and working in the school,” he said. “I like feeling like, if I can make a connection…with the student body and the faculty, and I can either help things or fix things, or move them along to the next level, then I feel really good about that.”

However, Rumberger doesn’t believe West Potomac is a school that “needs fixing.” Instead, he said that if he’s done a good job as interim principal, he would have taken a step back, evaluated how things are run and figured out for himself how things work in the community. He marvels at the warm welcome he’s received from West Potomac students, who he also assumes “have no idea who he is…” yet.

“I think they kind of heard that disembodied voice over the PA system talking about the game, and all the rest of that, and were just like ‘who is that?’” he said. “But, because of that, I probably had two dozen kids ask me, ‘are you the interim principal?’”

Having worked in so many administrative positions in the county, Rumberger has developed a set of expectations for himself as principal.

“I think [principals] should be open,” he said. “Students and principals don’t always agree, but they should be able to communicate. I don’t always expect them to understand every reason why I make a decision I make, I don’t always understand their motivations, so it really kind of falls towards us to explain ourselves, to come to a meaning.”

Considering these guidelines, paired with a love for education that spans four decades, Rumberger said he has a rewarding moment at every school he’s worked for.

“[Rewarding moments] are what motivate educators,” he said.

He said some of them were as large as being a graduation speaker, but they could also be as small as doing cafeteria duty at Bailey’s Elementary and having a fourth grade student hug his legs as he walked by, because “he looked like he needed one.”

“That doesn’t happen in high school lunch duty, okay?” he said. “Just doesn’t happen here.”

Since he’s arrived at West Potomac, Rumberger hopes the community will get to know him as he’s gotten to know the school. He’s come to admire the spirit of the student body and the hard work of the faculty and staff. He appreciated the warm welcome from the Student Government Association, and the invitation to the honor roll ceremony.

“I thought that was a nice place to go,” he said. “Of course, nobody knew who I was, ‘who’s the guy eating all of our donuts?’ But, you know, those things I enjoy.”

Summed up, Rumberger is a long-time member of the FCPS community, an avid Hokie fan (Virginia Tech Class of 1975, B.S. in Education with a dual degree with Speech Theatre and History, and Class of 1984, M.A. in Educational Administration), a believer in every student of every school he’s worked for, and often a fan of self-deprecating humor. He said he’s looking forward to seeing even more events hosted by the school, from the arts department, sports, and everything in between.

“I think the students and the faculty together and the administration work hard to find something for everybody, to find where you can fit in, should you wish,” he said. “And then kind of push you, even if you don’t wish, kind of push you to do so. Because the more involved you are…the more you put into it, the more you’ll get out of it. So, we just have to take our time and uncover those things as we go.”