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August 16, 2018

Liberty High School opens its 25th year immaculately

Begin to see how you can use your talents this year . . . . The most important thing you can do is be nice to others.
— Principal Sam Cox
Liberty High School
• Where: 6300 Independence Ave., Bealeton.

• Enrollment: About 1,200 students, grades 9-12.

• Built:1993.

• Opened: 1994.

• Square feet: 244,514

• Website: Click here.

• Principals:

John C. Harrison, 1994-2000
Trudy K. Peterson, 2000-01
John C. Harrison, 2001-02
Roger Lee, 2002-14:
Sam Cox, 2014 to present

John Harrison opened the school in August 1994 and retired after six years. His successor, Trudy Peterman lasted less than a year on the job, getting reassigned to the central office during a public battle with Superintendent Dallas Johnson about LHS’s inadequate air-handling system and resulting mold. Mr. Harrison returned for a year and half. Roger Lee, a former assistant principal at Liberty, then got the job.
By .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)
Staff Journalist
The front lobby and main corridor buzz with a cacophony of student voices echoing off tall ceilings before school starts Wednesday morning.

Starting its 25th year, Liberty High School looks about the same as it did in August 1994, with concrete walls painted in patriotic colors and teenagers packing its wide hallways.

All summer, Building and Grounds Director Greg Carter and his 11-member staff worked to prepare for the new term.

“We try to keep it up, like a new school,” Mr. Carter says. “It takes a lot of work.”

New teachers recently have told him that the school only looks about 5 years old, he says.

“Once school’s out . . . each floor gets about four or five coats of wax,” Mr. Carter says. “Over the summer we take all the stuff out of the classrooms, scrub the floors, wax it up and put it back in. It’s a big job. It takes all summer to do that.

“It starts with us. We need to keep it clean so (students) are relaxed and ready to learn,” says Mr. Carter, 60.

Mr. Carter and seven others remain from the staff that opened Liberty, built to alleviate crowding at Fauquier High School.

Scenes from Wednesday, Aug. 15, the first day of the 2018-19 term follow.

7:30 a.m. Block One
Technical drawing
Teacher: Mike Potts

Bright-eyed and energized, the career and technical education teacher stands in the hallway helping students find classrooms and catching up with coworkers.

Holding a Pittsburgh Steelers mug, Mike Potts got to school around 6:30 a.m. for the first day. An original Liberty staff member, he came to Fauquier County 33 years ago from a technical school in Pennsylvania.

When the bell rings, Mr. Potts begins to take attendance before Principal Sam Cox chimes into the overhead speaker with morning announcements.

Twenty-two bleary-eyed students, mostly freshman, sit at drafting tables.

“I’m going to try to learn your names as soon as possible,” Mr. Potts says. “I’ve been teaching here since Liberty opened. I love Liberty. I’ve coached football here.”

Handing out a description of the class, along with other important first day documents, he delves into his introduction.

“We’ll have fun in here and learn a lot,” he says. “We’ll be learning about (technical) drawing and CAD (computer-aided design software).”

“If you have questions, ask. (In school) I was shy. I probably didn’t ask enough questions.”

The large room, flooded with natural light contains several computer stations.

“This is probably the most expensive room in the school. We got new computers, technology last year,” Mr. Potts says. “Take care of the things you use.”

Mostly a hands-on class, students will learn how to design, sketch and make technical drawings and models and use a 3-D printer, among other skills that will help prepare them for possible careers in engineering or architecture.

Students become more alert when they start to participate in a “getting to know you activity.”

Students pair up and interview one another, asking questions such as: “Who is one person you respect?” “What’s your favorite sports team?” “If you could have lunch with any one person, who would it be and why?”

After five minutes, each group stands up to share what it has learned.

“(Eli Wilder) would have lunch with Gordon Ramsey so he could make us good food,” Tyler Dyson says his classmate.

“I can be as goofy as anyone. I’ve been at this a long time,” Mr. Potts says. “I like to have fun, but get things accomplished.”

9 a.m. Block Two
Teacher: Bev Wynn

“My name is Hunter and I like hamburgers,” senior Hunter Lambert tells 18 of his classmates.

“My name’s Zach, and I guess zebras are pretty cool,” senior Zachary Wilkins says.

The five-minute activity helps math teacher Bev Wynn learn student names on the first day.

“Do you know how many students I’ve been teaching in my 30 years? Probably 3,000,” Ms. Wynn tells the class.

“I try to avoid rules on the first day and always include math,” Ms. Wynn says in an interview later that day. “We’ve always had good kids.”

After the quick activity, she jumps right into a math lesson, giving students a problem to solve.

“One of the most important things in this class is that you can communicate your thoughts,” Ms. Wynn says. “This is not about how quick you can be, but about how you got to the answer . . . . If I ask you to explain it, what are you going to say?”

She started teaching at Fauquier High School and decided to transfer to Liberty when it opened.

“People had chosen to be here and there was a feeling that we’re all in this together, and it’s going to be great,” she says. “The people are great to work with. I haven’t wanted to go anywhere else.”

She believes teachers “should be approachable and make (students) feel welcome” on the first day.

Over the years she has watched technology change in the school.

“We use to average grades by hand,” she says. “Now we can plug the numbers into the computer.

“Now, we got robo calls on snow days, and you don’t have to wake up and turn on the TV to see Fauquier County on the bottom of the screen. That’s fabulous.”

10 a.m. Block Two

Hundreds of juniors file in for a half-hour class assembly.

“Class of 2020, you are now leaders at Liberty High School,” Mr. Cox says. “This year’s theme is ‘Be the Difference’.”

Delving into staff and student class representative introductions, Mr. Cox and assistant principals take turns reminding students about the dress code, safety and spreading positive messages on social media.

“You have no right to pick on someone . . . You have no right to be a bully,” Mr. Cox says. “You must, as juniors, do the right thing.

“How can you help someone be better? How can you make a difference in someone’s life?

“Begin to see how you can use your talents this year. I’m going to be preaching that a lot to you this year,” Mr. Cox adds. “The most important thing you can do is be nice to others.”

10:30 a.m. Block Two
Main corridor

Walking down the main hallway and into the cafeteria, Greg Carter, wearing a Liberty polo shirt, smiles and gives high fives to students walking to the auditorium.

He pauses to talk whom senior Kinsley Lewis about her plans after graduation.

“Where do you want to go to college?”

“Radford,” Kinsley replies.

Mr. Carter coached Kinsley for three years in basketball. After coaching for 23 years, he stopped last year.

“He kept everything level-headed all the time,” Kinsley says.

“It’s sad because it’s our last year, but also exciting,” she adds.

As the first lunch shift begins at 11:10, Mr. Carter makes his way into the cafeteria to help monitor students.

He fields requests for routine repairs around the campus. For larger jobs, Mr. Carter submits a work order to the county general services department.

Almost 25 years later, Mr. Carter still cooks breakfast — pancakes and sausage — for teachers the day before schools starts. This year about 150 teachers attended.

“Our main thing is to make sure the building is clean,” Mr. Carter says. “If a kid comes into a clean building, they don’t have to worry about anything and just come in and learn. I think it’s a big responsibility.”

The day before school starts, he always reminds his staff to unlock the front door for teachers and staff arriving early.

“Back when I started, we didn’t lock all the doors” during the school day, Mr. Carter recalls.

Today, the school has more surveillance cameras and doors remain locked during class time.

But, for the most part, the building looks the same.

“The staff here is great to work for,” he says.

These days, the school uses Twitter and Instagram to promote events and congratulate students on their accomplishments.

To celebrate its 25th school year, Liberty will conduct a spirit day each month, create a special video and possibly prepare a time capsule, among other activities.
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