Woodgrove High School Celebrates 10 Years


Woodgrove Outlander staff and administration celebrating Woodgrove’s 10 year anniversary. Photo by Dustin Talwar

Written by Jordan Fiala, Maryam Khan, and Logan Johnson

Over the last 200 million minutes, Woodgrove High School has secured 12 athletic state championships, has won the Wells Fargo Cup, and has been honored with a myriad of awards from academic competitions to fine arts. Despite its controversial opening, Woodgrove has built a community of success.

Flash back to the year 2000. With the Purcellvillle population practically doubling since 1995, plans for a new western Loudoun high school began. Loudoun Valley High School, with its capacity of 1,300 students, explodes to 1,900 students, requiring the addition of almost two dozen portable classrooms. For the next several years, overcrowding at Valley continues while the construction of a new school is stalled by lawsuits regarding land use, traffic issues, and water concerns for the town of Purcellville.

Finally, in 2008, the Loudoun County Circuit Court rules that Loudoun County Schools can begin construction of Woodgrove High School on the Fields’ Farm Property on the outskirts of Purcellville. The school opened in 2010, with Frederick Gauriloff as the first principal, and with students in ninth, tenth, and eleventh grades only.

The opening of the school causes a split within the small town of Purcellville, where students who have grown up together are suddenly school rivals. Despite its rocky start, the new students of Woodgrove were excited to form new traditions where, according to a member of the inaugural SCA Council, Florence Thompson, “Everything was new and exciting.”

Students formed new traditions such as racing the “Walter the Wolverine” motorized car around the track at football games and cheering in the student section which, at first, was known as “The Tundra,” later evolving into “The Wild,” as it is known today. Although Valley won the inaugural football game between the two schools, Woodgrove has defeated the Vikings every year since.

Despite the excitement of being a new school in town, Woodgrove continued to have some rocky moments. In the first three school years, the school had three principals. When Principal Gauriloff suddenly retired in December 2011, an interim principal, Dr. Edgar Markley, was installed. Dr. Markley was the beloved retired principal of Broad Run High School, and he finished Woodgrove’s second school year as principal. In the fall of 2012, the current Woodgrove principal, Mr. Sam Shipp, was hired.

Over the next several years, Woodgrove acquires numerous awards, including multiple state championships (see page 3), and garners too many awards in academic competitions to begin to list.

In the fall of 2017, the school also receives the Wells Fargo Award for the most points in academic competitions involving publications, fine arts, and debate. Principal Shipp accepted the award from Wells Fargo and the Virginia High School League at a halftime presentation at the University of Virginia football game. WHS still holds the title as the
only school in Loudoun’s history to win the award and was the state runner up for the award again this year.

Despite the many accolades, the school community has also suffered tragic setbacks. Over the past several years, two teachers, Mr. Bob McMillan and Ms. Rachel Leister, have both died suddenly, and in 2018, Mrs. Darryl Cummings, one of Woodgrove’s inaugural assistant principals, lost her battle with cancer. In 2014, Woodgrove also lost a student, Ryan Bartel, to suicide.

However, in darkness, there was also light. With the help of Ryan’s parents and the Ryan Bartel Foundation, Woodgrove led the way in founding the We’re All Human club in an effort to raise awareness of suicide prevention. The club’s goal is to provide a safe haven for all students.

We’re All Human leader Addison Halveland says, “We’re All Human has opened Woodgrove’s minds to mental illness as well as informing students on how serious this type of stuff is. It showed many students that they aren’t alone, and many of us are struggling either with the same thing or something similar.”

Woodgrove has also tried to grow its roots in the community. Playing a central role in the opening of WHS, Counseling Director Geri Fiore has been there to help overcome the adversities Woodgrove has faced.

“We see on the administrative side, the value of the community when good things happen with students, but then when tragedies happen with students, we see the good, the bad, and the ugly. When the ugly happens, the families look to the schools for guidance, and they look to the school for support,” says Fiore.

Woodgrove has also been able to build traditions. To include just a few, the annual dodgeball tournament, the homecoming fashion show, and the student vs. staff volleyball tournament. To students such as senior Andrew Rishmawi, building traditions is only possible because of what Woodgrove stands for.    “[Woodgrove] fosters a place for individualism and creativity. Even if there isn’t a club or activity you are interested in, you can create one and be supported in what you’re trying to do or make the change you want to make,” says Rishmawi.

Even with memorable and record-breaking success, Woodgrove continues to strive for prosperity in every aspect. Science teacher and girls softball coach Joseph Spicer has been teaching and coaching at Woodgrove since its opening in 2010.

“We decided we were going to be a serious school and that we weren’t gonna settle for being just an okay school,” says Spicer, longtime girls softball coach.