Mount Vernon After 23 years in education, Tanganyika "Tangy" Millard, 46, of La Plata, Md., was named new principal of West Potomac High School in Alexandria, on June 16, replacing former principal Alex Case.
She will lead the Wolverines with 2,650 students and a staff of 280 at the Quander Road location, which was established in 1985 by combining two existing schools — Fort Hunt and Groveton. The ethnic breakdown of West Potomac is 34.4 percent Hispanic; 38.1 percent White; 16.3 percent Black; 6.6 percent Asian; and 4.3 percent Other. Almost half of the school (43.1 percent) is on the free or reduced fees on meals; and 14.3 percent of students are in special education.
"We might be close to 30 different languages being represented in this building. The way I look at West Potomac is it's a true microcosm of this nation. Every language, race, ethnicity, gender specificity, every socio-economic background you can find across this nation, they all converge in this beautiful amalgamation we call West Pot," she said.
Millard added: "Having our students coming from various backgrounds, not just Hispanic, but African nations, Caribbean nations — all that it does is enrich the entire community."
What's unique about West Potomac is that many of the parents were first-generation graduates of the school, she said. And over the years, the campus has grown to three separate buildings: Springbank, Quander and Gunston.
"The uniqueness of the school is taking two separate communities and blending them to create a whole new community," she said. "So, what we have currently is the kids who graduated in the '80s are now parents of the kids going here now. These adults have never fully left the community. They went to college and came back to raising their kids. It's a small-town mentality. These folks have been born here and are raising their next generation here."
She added: "And then you have the new people — the military influx, families who are coming from other countries that mixes in with this well-established, long-standing community.... It makes for a very cool and interesting place to work in."
What also makes West Potomac unique is it's a Health and Human Services Academy that's open to 20 high schools, and named after former principal Cliff Hardison who died in 2013. It houses courses in criminal justice, TV and production, dentistry, and pharmacy, to name a few. "And kids who go and take these courses, they walk away with certifications in those industries," she said. "And many of them can walk into that service industry and begin their careers."
A member of the West Potomac Pyramid, the school is a feeder school from Sandburg Middle; as well as Belle View, Gunston, Hybla Valley, Bucknell, Fort Hunt, Groveton, Hollin Meadows, Riverside, Sandburg, Stratford Landing, and Waynewood elementary schools.
West Potomac doesn't have any business sponsors, per se, but receives a lot of support from local businesses, she said. "Our biggest supporters are our parent families who own businesses in the community," said Millard, adding that the PTSA is looking to create more partnerships, including working with the Fort Hunt Business Association.
She said her challenge is making sure she's meeting the academic needs of all children in the building. "It causes us to stretch our thinking and be innovative in the way we instruct students. We can no longer be an institution still structured in the 19th century model where teachers lecture for 90 minutes," she said.
For personal goals, her main focus is looking at the school's culture and creating a sense of oneness, inclusiveness, and support. "By doing that, I believe we will engage kids to really owning that this is their school, that they'll be proud of it, and they'll want to come here to learn every day," she said.
Millard said she loves absolutely "everything" about her job. "What motivates educators is watching kids become their best selves and knowing you had a hand in that and knowing that work has a moral imperative," she added. "Public school students have a right to a strong foundational education. The joy in it is watching them become and develop into young men and women."
"When I think of Tangy Millard as a principal, several words come to mind: visionary, compassionate, authentic, mentor, servant leader," said Dr. Sylinda Banks, director of Student Services at Bryant Alternative High School, who's worked for nine principals. "Mrs. Millard is the first leader who focused on educating the whole child by creating a student-centered environment that values delivering innovative instruction by teacher-leaders."
According to Bianca Aiello, director of Student Services at Poe Middle School: "Ms. Millard is a great principal because she truly cares deeply about her students, teachers and community. Her passion and energy for her work are infectious and inspire you to give your best each day for every student. Every action she takes models positive and productive leadership."
Added Deirdre Lavery, principal of Robert E. Lee High School: "Children first and equity are two (values) that immediately come to mind when I envision Ms. Millard in the role of the principal. When making decisions, Ms. Millard will always ask, ‘Will this benefit all students? How does it benefit all students?’”
She said: "Ms. Millard exudes excitement and passion in all that she does and when you are around her, those emotions 'rub off' on you and you want to follow her; you want to accomplish the vision that she lays out for the students and community you serve."
Millard was born in Washington, D.C., and raised in Prince George's and Charles counties. She graduated from Friendly High School in Prince George's County and studied biology at Carnegie Mellon University. She did her master's in counseling psychology at Bowie State University and is currently getting a doctorate in educational administration and policy at George Washington University.
Her career started at the all-girls private Stone Ridge of the Sacred Heart in Maryland where she taught biology. Then she taught math and psychology at St. John's College High School. In 2001, she became a school counselor at Falls Church High and joined administrative cohorts. Next, she was director of Student Services at Glasgow Middle School and then assistant principal at Hayfield Secondary. She then transitioned to Lee High School as an AP, and then became principal at Bryant Alternative High School before moving to West Potomac's principal position.
Millard is married to husband David, a U.S. Capitol police officer, and the couple has three daughters ages 22, 16, and 4.