Military students can easily find themselves changing schools partway through the year, but it’s a less common experience as a high school principal.
Fort Campbell High School Principal Andrea Marr accepted that challenge head on when she started the job on Oct. 10, after previously serving as principal for Murray Elementary School, Fort Stewart, Georgia.
“I love being back at Fort Campbell,” said Marr, who started working with DoDEA in 2017 as Barsanti Elementary School’s assistant principal. “In my little time here, the staff has been very supportive of me coming in. They’ve brought me up to speed, they’re working with me and making sure we have everything that we need in place for the students who are at the center of all that we do.”
Marr may be new to FCHS, but she has more than 20 years of experience in military communities. While in the Army she served as a military police officer and as a member of the Old Guard in Arlington, Virginia, and she taught students at military feeder schools in North Carolina and Arizona before joining DoDEA.
“Everybody comes into DoDEA wanting to do the best for students, and that’s why we’re in this job,” she said. “I think I bring a unique perspective having my own children grow up as military-connected children, having a firsthand account of being a mom and helping them through multiple transitions into different learning environments. It helped me have that insight to be the compassionate, understanding leader the students need.”
During her first month on the job, Marr has focused on building relationships with students, learning from staff members and making sure parents can be involved in their children’s education.
“My goal is to make this a great place for everybody – not that it isn’t already, but you always want to improve the best you can,” she said. “I want FCHS to be a place where people love to come to work and kids love to come to school, and they already have a huge supportive environment with everybody here.”
To help promote that welcoming atmosphere, Marr has introduced some new traditions that have already proven popular with students.
“Every morning between 7:15 and 7:30 a.m. we have a teacher who goes out there and volunteers to play music in the commons where students eat their breakfast,” she said. “They get to start their day with some requests and songs to keep them going throughout the day, and every Friday is Falcon Spirit Day because I really want to build that culture of pride in our school.”
Marr can often be seen getting to know her students at lunchtime or cheering them on from the sidelines at athletic events, and she said having that support from their teachers encourages students to succeed academically.
“I love going to the students’ classrooms and watching them work, but if you don’t have a good culture they feel as though they don’t belong,” she said. “Watching them during homecoming weekend during all the events – the dance, spirit week and the football game – that was a great way to get to know everybody, because I’d only been with the kids for a week and a half prior. It was good to participate with them and just watch them be kids.”
For many FCHS students, hosting homecoming events represented a return to normalcy after months of quarantine and restrictions. Marr said it was important for students to safely enjoy those experiences, but COVID-19 remains an ongoing concern – both from a health perspective and an academic one.
“Right now, we’re working on just strengthening our collaboration and providing that academic intervention students need after that time of quarantining,” she said. “We’re learning in person now, but we had that extended quarantine period so we want to make sure their skills were not lost.”
Marr said virtual learning did provide an opportunity for parents to be more involved in their children’s learning, and she wants to continue that partnership between students, teachers and Families moving forward as a way to enrich the community.
“Parents go through the struggles of moving as much as kids do, so I look at it as a systemic support system where you’re supporting the whole Family so the student can be successful,” she said. “I’ve been learning from the staff how they do things and slowly starting to work with the teachers to give my ideas and suggestions, because coming in at this time of year my goal isn’t to change everything. The most important thing right now is learning how people work together.”
Editor’s Note: The Department of Defense Education Activity continues a tradition of excellence as it marks its 75th anniversary. DoDEA operates 160 schools in eight districts across 11 countries, seven U.S. states and two U.S. territories for more than 67,000 students, including six schools at Fort Campbell. To celebrate this milestone the Fort Campbell Courier will feature stories about Fort Campbell schools throughout the 2021-2022 academic year.