Dr. Staci England and Trisha Moya have taken the helm at Crozet Elementary as the school welcomes more than 200 new students from Brownsville Elementary as part of a recent redistricting. As the construction of a new classroom wing and expanded cafeteria, movement space, and playground received their final touches over the summer at Crozet Elementary, new principal England and new vice principal Moya worked together to ensure a smooth transition for students and families. Luckily, they already knew they would get along famously.
The pair met a dozen years ago when England was Burley’s assistant principal and Moya’s son was a student there. They worked on a few issues together and each found the other to be “gracious” and “supportive.” They’ve been mutual fans ever since. “I can say our hearts knit together that year,” said Moya, “and we always said to each other, ‘wouldn’t it be great if we could be on a team together?’” Now, the match seems ideal as the pair draw on their similar pedagogical perspectives and varied life experiences.
Both administrators have lengthy resumes packed with diverse experiences. England attended the U.S. Air Force Academy for two years before embarking on an 18-month missionary trip to Uraguay and then finishing her bachelor’s degree in zoology at Brigham Young University. She followed that with a master’s in biology from Utah State University, and later earned an Ed.S. and doctorate in education from UVA.
After teaching high school science and coaching volleyball at a Utah high school for several years, she turned what was supposed to be a one-year sabbatical to the east coast into a permanent resettlement. England led youth development programs for the Virginia Cooperative Extension as a 4-H agent and then directed the 21st Century Community Learning Center curriculum for the after-school program for at-risk kids at Yancey Elementary.
She was a board member for Camp Albemarle for ten years, served as assistant principal for CATEC, Burley Middle School, and Hollymead Elementary School, and has been principal of Scottsville Elementary since 2018. England arrived at Scottsville Elementary the year after Yancey Elementary had been closed and consolidated into the Scottsville and Red Hill schools, so she has dealt with the aftermath of a redistricting.
“[When I arrived] it was still an ‘us and them’ environment that they had been working to unify before I got there,” said England. “I started a school advisory council made up of parents and community leaders, and our staff had been talking about the importance of unity and we really were working towards that. And then one of the parents on the council said, ‘unity towards what?’ As in, ‘give us an even higher goal than just the abstract concept.’”
England recognized that the goal needed more grounding and, with help from the advisory council and an “awesome team” at Scottsville, she felt the school begin to coalesce. “I feel really confident in saying that they’re unified around creating the best education for the kids,” she said.
Throughout her career, England has focused on helping those around her feel part of a larger effort. As a teacher she mentored other novice educators and served on the Diversity Awareness Committee at her school, and as an administrator she has implemented Restorative Practices for student discipline, coached and supervised teachers using an improvement model and by providing feedback opportunities, and coordinated with community partners. At Yancey she interpreted for Spanish-speaking parents at school and community events, and she produced Scottsville’s school newsletter in both English and Spanish so all families felt included.
Moya’s career followed a west-to-east path as well. Armed with an undergraduate degree in elementary education and a master’s in TESOL (teaching English to speakers of other languages), she spent a year teaching in a Head Start program in inner city Seattle, speaking Spanish with the 40% Hispanic student body and their families there. She moved to the University of Northern Colorado to direct an intensive English program for international students for nine years, then made her way to Albemarle county.
Here, Moya first served as the ESOL program director, then as an instructional coach in five different elementary schools, and then taught STEAM and was a math interventionist at Greer Elementary for two years. Most recently, Moya served as assistant principal at Brownsville Elementary, and she believes that her presence at Crozet will ease the transition for the Brownsville students making the switch this year.
“When the decision was made to move over 200 students to Crozet Elementary, I understood that the reduced numbers at Brownsville meant that my position would have to be eliminated,” said Moya. “So, I volunteered to come over to Crozet and help with the transition. I said I would love to be part of the process and be a familiar face for all the students and their families and teachers who were coming over.”
Moya said that the county asked for volunteers among the Brownsville teaching staff, and enough teachers opted to move to Crozet so that none were forced to switch schools. Most of the specialty teachers who had been part-time at Crozet have been able to move up to full-time positions due to the increased school size.
The Redistricting Advisory Committee’s work in 2021 on the transition was uncharacteristically drama-free. Very few members of the public commented on the options or the final plan, and there has been little to no dissatisfaction expressed by families during the lead-up to the school year. “We’ve been really intentional about the ‘two schools—one community’ idea,” said Moya. “We’re all on the same team.” She and England (and the rest of the staff) sported t-shirts with a fierce-looking blue eagle on the front and a motto of “Where You Belong” on the back, courtesy of the PTO who worked with a design team to make the shirts.
The Crozet Elementary team has gone far beyond garb and slogans to foster unity, however. “We made sure that we built groups of students from Brownsville so that when they came over, it wouldn’t be just one Brownsville child by themselves in a sea of previous Crozet students,” said Moya. “[Just as in any normal school year], we asked the families to send us any friend requests and to tell us about how their child learns best, so that there would be friend groups and strengths-based connections in every classroom. It was a bit of a puzzle, but we were able to meet every one of those needs.”
Soft-spoken with an easy smile, England said that values and autonomy are important in her relationships with teachers and staff. “We met with the leadership team here—all of the teacher leaders—and they have great ideas, so why wouldn’t we practice shared leadership?” she said. “I think that’s been fairly common in the leadership teams that I’ve been a part of.”
“In my interview [for the principal position], there were parents from both communities, and two of the questions I asked them were, what are you most worried about, and what is something you want to stay the same that you have at either school?” said England. “And all of them talked about how important the small school feel was, at both places. We love that, too, and we want to keep having it.”
Welcome, Principal England and Vice Principal Moya!