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MacArthur Principal Announces Retirement After 36 Years

Alexandria City Public Schools will search for a new principal beginning in March.

Douglas MacArthur Elementary School Principal Deborah Z. Thompson has announced she will retire at the end of the current school year.

Thompson began her teaching career with Alexandria City Public Schools in 1973. After leaving the division in 1990, she returned and was appointed principal at MacArthur in 1994.

“We thank Debbie for her more than 36 years of combined service as a teacher and principal to ACPS,” said schools Superintendent Morton Sherman in a news release. “We appreciate her service and leadership, and we wish her a gratifying retirement.”

Thompson wrote, in a letter to her school community, “MacArthur and ACPS will always be in my heart. I will cherish the memories, friendships and hundreds of students.”

Her announcement comes less than a month after a MacArthur student was charged with brandishing a weapon by the Alexandria police following an incident on involving a toy gun on a school bus. 

Earlier this week, the child's mother, the Alexandria chapter of the NAACP and others criticized the handling of the incident by school officials and the police in a story in The Washington Post.

ACPS will begin the search for a new principal to lead MacArthur in March. The school's parents and staff will have the opportunity to meet the prospective candidate as he or she visits the school prior to a final selection and appointment.

“Our goal is to have a highly qualified principal selected and ready to begin the 2013-14 school year,” Sherman said. “We want to ensure a smooth transition and spectacular opening for MacArthur students and parents.”

The timeline for the new principal search is as follows:

  • March 1: Advertise the vacancy, accepting applications through March 29
  • March 18-29: Online survey allows respondents to provide feedback on most desired attributes.
  • March 18-22: Conduct staff and parent meetings to obtain feedback on most desired attributes
  • Week of April 15: Panel interviews
  • Week of April 22: Final interviews with ACPS superintendent

For more on Douglas MacArthur, see:

  • Mother of ACPS Student Arrested for Toy Gun Incident Criticizes Case's Handling
  • MacArthur Student Handed Weapons Charge Following Toy Gun Incident
Henry February 22, 2013 at 08:55 PM
Again, there is no leeway. It's a zero-tolerance policy. Thompson was bound by law. End of. It's really not a difficult notion to grasp. I get the emotion behind a little kid getting arrested over a toy, but stop blaming the actors. Blame Richmond. Or the voters. Or not. I don't really care if people choose to be willfully obtuse.
Lee Hernly February 22, 2013 at 08:58 PM
Current statute is very vague and is left up to the Board of Education to issue a regulation/rule which was probably followed. While I agree the Police should have used a little common sense, there was a similar toy gun incident at Woodbridge High some years back. The Police came, lectured the student involved, and were going to leave it alone until they found out a fellow student was in fear over the incident (Much like the MacArthur incident). This is where the following code comes in: http://leg1.state.va.us/cgi-bin/legp504.exe?000+cod+18.2-282
Henry February 22, 2013 at 09:09 PM
Imagine, for a moment, the outrage that this city would be boiling in had Thompson not notified the police and the toy wasn't a toy? It's a "what if" situation of course, but just imagine. Heads would be rolling down Janneys Lane. The statute and procedure exists to protect the kids. It's my understanding that no one knew the toy was a toy and his mother was unreachable. Were they just to assume it was a toy? A few weeks past Sandy Hook? Get real.
Edmund Lewis February 23, 2013 at 02:43 AM
The ACPS central office administration still has not held a security and policy meeting with ACPS parents. One recently scheduled at Mrs. Thompson's school was abruptly cancelled. Two months after Sandy Hook and the administrators in ACPS have done nothing substantial to improve the safety of our children or communicate clear security and response policies. Look no further than last week's mess at GW and the incident involving the 10 year old. ACPS administrators are unable to handle toy guns and smoldering power lines. Heaven help us all. Mrs. Thompson is wise to enjoy the benefits of retirement. One of which is severing ties with ACPS central office.
herbert berg February 24, 2013 at 09:29 PM
Debbie: Thank you for your many years of professional dedication. You are amazing! HMB

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