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Douglas Freeman HS principal honored with REB Award for Distinguished Leadership

Marshall will receive a $10,000 cash grant and an additional $20,000 for school projects.

Trevor Dickerson

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John Marshall, principal of Douglas S. Freeman High School, has been awarded the 2023-24 REB Award for Distinguished Educational Leadership. The Community Foundation and the REB Foundation present the award to four principals annually — one each from the school divisions of Henrico, Chesterfield and Hanover counties and one from the city of Richmond. Marshall was surprised with the news Monday at a gathering in the school’s library, attended by his family, students and Henrico County Public Schools leaders.

Marshall will receive a $10,000 cash grant and an additional $20,000 for school projects. He plans to use the funds to create “FC Freeman,” an in-school, incentive-based soccer club program. The program will connect students and families from different backgrounds and nationalities, using a common love of soccer. It will include peer-tutoring and other support for students.

Jennifer Rhoden, principal of David A. Kaechele Elementary School, was runner-up for the award. She will receive a $10,000 grant to create a serene area for students to relax, recharge, create and socialize. The project will include a maker space.

The REB award recognizes principals who go beyond the day-to-day demands of their jobs to create an exceptional educational environment. The award stresses management and communication skills, and the ability to inspire, encourage and advocate for the school. Nominees must have served as principal at their school for at least three years.

“Any success I have is because of the people around me,” Marshall said Monday at the gathering. “I know it sounds cliché, but it happens to be true. And I just get to take credit for it … I have a lot of gratitude to be recognized, and it means a lot that people notice that we’re doing good work here.

“A during-school-day soccer program for our multilingual learners will help them really feel part of school, to be celebrated and to tie that to positive behavioral awards … We’re all about making sure there’s a Freeman family for all, and that everybody feels a part of what we do here.”

Marshall served three years as associate principal at Douglas Freeman before becoming the school’s leader in 2019. He joined HCPS in 2005 as a history teacher and wrestling coach at Varina High School. Marshall became social studies department chair at Glen Allen High School, and then the school’s assistant principal. He was named HCPS’ Instructional Leader of the Year in 2022 and won the Kay Vasse Memorial Award for Outstanding Service to English Learners in 2019. Originally from Bridgewater, he earned a bachelor’s from the College of William & Mary, a master’s from the University of Virginia and a doctorate from Virginia Commonwealth University.

A graduate of Henrico County’s Mills Godwin High School, Rhoden became principal of Kaechele in 2021. She served as a student teacher at Charles Johnson Elementary School. She became a teacher at Highland Springs and Skipwith elementary schools, served as a literacy coach with Richmond Public Schools and taught at Laburnum Elementary School. She was assistant principal at Maude Trevvett Elementary School before assuming her current position. Originally from Northern Virginia, she holds bachelor’s and master’s degrees from Virginia Commonwealth University and a post-master’s graduate certificate from the University of Richmond.

“I was really caught off guard … I had no idea. Completely shocked,” Rhoden said of the honor. “When I came here, everyone said it was a family and that they would never leave to go anywhere else. And I do find that to be true — it’s a family of people that are here working for the students, [asking] ‘How do we grow every single child?’ And so that has been the vision of Kaechele: ‘How do we go beyond where we are?’”

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Trevor Dickerson is the Editor and Co-Founder of RVAHub.