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Stoddert’s Erica Williams named 2024 CCPS Principal of the Year

Erica Williams, principal of Benjamin Stoddert Middle School, was named 2024 Charles County Public Schools (CCPS) Principal of the Year. She is also the CCPS nominee for The Washington Post’s Principal of the Year award.

“Principal Williams doesn’t just speak about what needs to be done here at Benjamin Stoddert, she becomes part of the solution,” Karen M. Dennis, registrar and counseling secretary, said.

Williams earned her bachelor’s and master’s from Old Dominion University in Norfolk, Va., before going on to teach math with Prince George’s County Public Schools for just short of 10 years. In 2011, she came to CCPS as a math instructional resource teacher at John Hanson and General Smallwood middle schools before segueing into administration in 2015.

She served as the administrative intern at Stoddert for a year before becoming assistant principal at the school for two years. She was an assistant principal at Milton M. Somers Middle School for a year before being named principal at Stoddert in 2019, just as the school was in the thick of a $45 million renovation project that would update and modernize a facility built in the mid-1970s.

“At one point, she was working out of an office that was literally in the center of an active construction zone,” Marquelle Peavy, assistant principal at Stoddert, said.

Just as the renovation at Stoddert was getting started so was a global pandemic that was gripping the planet and necessitated the use of virtual learning for staff and students. “As a veteran teacher, I knew that no matter what changes our educational environment faced interpersonally, technologically or physically, I always felt confident in Mrs. Williams’ leadership to guide us through any unknown adversity we were to face,” Sherry Mervine, choral director at Stoddert said.

Students and staff returned for in-person learning in March 2021 while the school’s renovation was still underway with Williams and her team ensuring the school day was impacted by the construction work as little as possible. “The demands of planning, decision making, flexibility of scheduling and overcoming the many operation setbacks did not go unnoticed as Ms. Williams’ managed to handle this major project and school renovation, opening with grace and keeping the importance of our scholars at the forefront,” Casey Cleary, a mathematics teacher, said.

Williams is known among staff for her visibility around the school. She is in the hallways; she is in the parking lot during arrival and dismissal and attending student performances and activities.

“As a 21-year veteran teacher, I had enough experience to see excellence in action,” Mervine said. “Mrs. Williams mixes a calm demeanor with an authoritative delivery to invite a caring exchange with adolescents, all while projecting a firm manner of both body language and verbal tone.”

Off the ol’ Block Party

In what was the school’s and community’s darkest hour, Williams helped usher in light. “Ms. Williams chose that path, and she arrived dedicated to the rebuilding so sorely needed,” Kevin Clancy, a language arts teacher of 31 years at Stoddert, said.

One of the steps in rebuilding was introducing an event that would become a Stoddert tradition. The Stoddert Block Party is an annual event that brings not only students and their families together but incorporates the community and organizations such as the Charles County Department of Health, the Charles County Public Library, nonprofits and other groups.

The first Block Party in 2017 hosted about 125 families. In 2023, more than 400 families showed up. The event features a three-on-three basketball tournament and other activities while strengthening the school-to-home bond and building partnerships between Stoddert and community organizations.

“Our mutual belief is if we as leaders lead our youth in building strong relationships with the stakeholders of our community the youth and their families will flourish as leaders and scholars,” Sarah Proctor, an assistant state’s attorney for Charles County from 2014 to 2020, said. Proctor met Williams when the latter was a vice principal at Stoddert. 

Williams puts students — they are called scholars at Stoddert — first and they can often be found in her office being tutored in math, taking over her whiteboard to figure out problems. She has taken messy binders and organized them and showed kids how to open lockers.

“She is always making sure everyone is doing what’s right,” eighth-grade students Kaedyn Belasco and Darien Chase wrote in a joint letter. “She is loved by many because of her kindness and her work ethic and determination to make sure her students and staff don’t mess up and are on the right track.”

Staff on the right track are regularly shouted out and highlighted with a Golden Stallion Award or a Golden Apple Award. The Golden Stallion goes to employees who show character, energy and positivity. The Golden Apple is given to staff members who make strong instructional decisions, who are meeting students where they are and taking innovative approaches to support their academic needs. The monthly recognitions are a way to bring the staff together and celebrate its hard work and dedication to the school and students.

“We know that Ms. Williams will continue to keep up her outstanding work and keep rocking it as the best principal,” Belasco and Chase wrote.

“I can honestly say,” Peavy said. “I don’t know what I — or the Stoddert community — would do without her.”

About CCPS

Charles County Public Schools provides 27,765 students in grades prekindergarten through 12 with an academically challenging education. Located in Southern Maryland, Charles County Public Schools has 38 schools that offer a technologically advanced, progressive and high quality education that builds character, equips for leadership and prepares students for life, careers and higher education.

The Charles County public school system does not discriminate on the basis of race, color, religion, national origin, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, age or disability in its programs, activities or employment practices. For inquiries, please contact Kathy Kiessling, Title IX/ADA/Section 504 Coordinator (students) or Nikial M. Majors, Title IX/ADA/Section 504 Coordinator (employees/ adults), at Charles County Public Schools, Jesse L. Starkey Administration Building, P.O. Box 2770, La Plata, MD 20646; 301-932-6610/301-870-3814. For special accommodations call 301-934-7230 or TDD 1-800-735-2258 two weeks prior to the event.

CCPS provides nondiscriminatory equal access to school facilities in accordance with its Use of Facilities rules to designated youth groups (including, but not limited to, the Boy Scouts).