by Alexander Lehmbeck
Jo Vining, principal of Brownsville Elementary School, and Karen Marcus, principal of Crozet Elementary, have retired. They’ve had very successful careers as principals. Vining has been at Brownsville for seven years and said she has enjoyed it very much. “My wish for the new principal is that she loves the school as much as I have.” Ms. Vining said. Marcus has been the principal at Crozet for five years.
Before becoming a principal, Marcus was a teacher for 28 years. Vining taught art to all ages from kindergarten to college. She was also an assistant principal, and had lots of small jobs, but mostly in education.
“The only thing I ever wanted to be was a teacher.” Marcus said. “That’s all I wanted to do.”
Vining originally had a slightly different goal: “I wanted to be an artist. I really wanted to do something in art. I found that being able to draw and do artwork made me really want to be in school,” Vining said.
Why did they want to be a principal? “I had been teaching for 28 years and I thought I could influence more students in a positive way beyond just the normal twenty students you get in a class every year,” Marcus said. Vining thought almost the same thing. “As an art teacher I worked under some very good principals and I wanted to be like them. I watched how they helped teachers and students and parents and that so I went back and got my degree. I thought I could help more people as a principal.”
Marcus and Vining are incredibly proud of their students. “My proudest moments at Crozet are at the end of the year when the students do excellent work on their SOL (Standards of Learning) tests,” said Marcus. “Also, I am proud when they are engaged in any kind of service learning work, such as when the first graders go up to the assisted living residence and they sing and they bring the folks there a lot of happiness.” Vining stated, “I’m most proud every year when we all navigate the year successfully, and I know every student has achieved in some way.”
Vining and Marcus have had their share of funny things happen to them while they were principals. “Every once in a while I’ve locked myself out of the building and had to call someone to help me get back in,” Vining said.
Marcus shared that “one of the bus drivers chased me down on the last day of school with a bucket full of water and threw water on my head. I knew that he was going to do it, so I went out in a plastic garbage bag hooked up around my neck and a hat on trying to prevent my clothes from being entirely drowned.”
When they are out of the office, Marcus and Vining both enjoy reading, as they have all their lives. Marcus’s other favorite hobbies include swimming, biking, water skiing, and hiking.
Marcus will go on a trip to Japan with her daughter and son-in-law. She will also go to Australia to see where she used to teach.
Vining also likes gardening and going to her favorite island, Ocracoke. She will do more artwork now, she said. Vining will teach art classes for a college. She will also spend time with her grandson, Henry, who lives in New York City, and spend more time with the rest of her family.
Marcus and Vining had advice to give the new principals: “Any time you have to make a decision whether it is small, large, easy, or hard, always do what’s best for the kids,” said Marcus. “To make good decisions, get to know everybody and meet everybody and do a lot of listening to learn about who is in the school,” Vining recommended.
“I’ve been at Brownsville for seven years and I was honored to be here,” said Ms. Vining.
“It’s been a very short career,” said Marcus. “It seems like I went to my first day of teaching just yesterday. I’m glad to be retiring but sad to leave something that I have so thoroughly enjoyed.”
Cub reporter Alexander Lehmbeck will enter Henley Middle School this fall.