Nanette Levin, Special to the Catholic Virginian
Holy Cross Regional Catholic School, the oldest continuously running school in Lynchburg, has hired Doug Washington as its principal. The Wednesday, Nov. 8 announcement marks a promotion for Washington, who has served the school as assistant principal for nine years among his 37 years of experience as a coach, teacher and administrator to the position. Holy Cross provides education for 180 students in grades pre-K through 12, with 41 of those in grades 9-12.
“Since July, a team from the Office of Catholic Schools has completed a search for the next Head of School for Holy Cross,” explained Ray Honeycutt, superintendent of the Office of Catholic Schools for the Diocese of Richmond. “A national search took us far and wide. In the end, we returned home to Lynchburg.”
At a meeting of school faculty and administrators held immediately following the announcement, Washington outlined a three- pronged strategy for success. Prior to that, he sat down with the Catholic Virginian to explain his plans.
Student achievement is high in his priorities. Washington said the school already excels there, with 82 percent of students ranking in the high to above average range in academic achievement, while fewer than five children in the building are seen as low performers. He intends to ensure all students improve. Washington said 100 percent of graduates are college bound.
His second focus is in marketing, development and admissions. Those areas are currently the responsibilities of Beth Holcomb. Immediate plans call for the hiring of a full-time director of admissions and enrollment.
Washington seeks to strategically pinpoint seats that need to be filled in the school.
“You’re dealing with some of the top families and kids in the region,” he said about his students.
Located in an area with a strong Baptist community, Washington is also reaching out to the Protestant population. This includes plans to contact Realtors, doctors, lawyers, elected officials and the Chamber of Commerce to — in his words — “get a seat at the table.”
This will be a primary focus of Holcomb as she focuses on marketing and development exclusively. Washington underscored the importance of keeping the Catholic identity of the school, whose current enrollment is 65 percent Catholic.
“A Catholic school without that would have no reason to exist,” he said.
His third priority, equal in importance to student achievement and promotion, involves the long-term financial security of the school. Washington is determined to create a $5 million endowment fund. He arrived at that number by calculating how much would be needed to generate $300,000 to $400,000 a year in income.
He has already secured $26,100 in private donations for the endowment. Holcomb has also applied for a $25,000 grant to help.
“I started the ball rolling with $1,000 of my own money, which is really nothing when you talk about an endowment fund, but it’s a lot to me,” Washington said.
He’s had strong support from parishes in the area, including Holy Cross and St. Thomas Moore. He cites Msgr. Kenneth Rush, pastor of Holy Cross Parish, Lynchburg, and Msgr. Michael McCarron, pastor of St. Thomas More Parish, Lynchburg, as being instrumental in helping to spread the word and create enthusiasm. Father Jim Gallagher Jr., the school chaplain, has also been supportive, as well as Honeycutt and Patrick Patterson, principal of Roanoke Catholic School, Washington said.
The endowment is being designed to be a revenue builder, to pay off debt from operations and to help maintain security for the school’s existence well into the future. The annual operating budget is in the $2-3 million range, Washington said.
“The energy at Holy Cross this school year has been remarkable,” Honeycutt said. “Doug has rallied a team of dedicated teachers, parents and community members.”
Washington also credits his teachers for their excellence with the students and also in how they’ve handled the transition from his predecessor.
“The leadership of the school depends on the love and guidance of Jesus Christ,” Washington said.