Ashley McCallum attended W. E. Cundiff in the 1980s when it was known as Hardy Road Elementary. She is returning this year as principal upon the retirement of Sherry Bryant.
McCallum has been serving as principal of Green Valley Elementary School in Roanoke County since 2011. She came to Roanoke County in 1998 as a physical education teacher at Mountain View Elementary. In 2006, she was named principal at Mason’s Cove Elementary before being appointed to Green Valley.
During her tenure at Green Valley, she helped the school earn the coveted Blue Ribbon School Award– the top national honor given to schools with either overall academic excellence or exemplary progress in closing achievement gaps among students.
She is a graduate of William Byrd High School, where she played basketball, softball, and volleyball. Her basketball team was state runner-up in her senior year in 1993. She was also a valedictorian in the Class of 1993.
She earned her Bachelor’s Degree from Roanoke College, where she also played basketball and softball.
McCallum said that when she initially enrolled at Roanoke College she wanted to become a physical therapist.
“After I took a few education classes, I changed my mind,” said McCallum. “Looking back, I always enjoyed playing school with my sister and next-door neighbor, so it seemed like a natural fit.”
She chose to work with elementary school students because “I love children in general and have coached kids at all levels, but have always felt ‘called’ to work at the elementary level with students in grades PK-5.”
As for why she got into administration, “When I was a P.E. teacher at Mountain View Elementary, my principal at the time, Judy Price, encouraged me to go back to school to obtain my administrative degree because she thought I possessed skills that would enable me to be an effective school leader. Once she planted the seed, I was motivated to try something new. In 2004, I decided to go back to school at Virginia Tech to earn my Educational Leadership and Policy Studies degree. The rest is history.”
McCallum said, “I consider it an honor to return to the school where I began my educational experience/career. It’s my opportunity to give back to the community that helped shape me into the person and leader that I am today. Very early on at Hardy Road Elementary, my teachers instilled a love of learning in me that has carried on for 35-plus years. I hope to do that same thing for the current and future students of W.E. Cundiff.
“I love the sense of pride in the Vinton area, and W.E. Cundiff Elementary School is a vital part of this community,” she continued. “WEC is blessed with a group of dedicated teachers and staff that work diligently to meet the learning needs of all students in our part of the district. Furthermore, WEC students are hard-working and our parents are supportive of the school and its goals.”
Asked if she anticipates making any changes at WEC, McCallum said, “With any new administrative team, there will be changes, but we won’t change the long-standing tradition of excellence that W.E. Cundiff Elementary has built over the years. My assistant principal, Suzanne Lothes, and I are focusing on teamwork this year and have established a school-wide ‘team theme’ to support this goal/vision. #TEAMCUNDIFF is on the move and ready for a fabulous year of engaging learners in daily, meaningful learning experiences!”
McCallum said W.E. Cundiff is the largest elementary school in Roanoke County at the moment and “usually hovers at around 550 students.”
Frank Stone was the principal when McCallum was a student at Hardy Road Elementary from 1980-1987, when the sixth grade was still housed in elementary schools.
“I can vividly remember all of the teachers from when I attended Hardy Road – just like it was yesterday,” said McCallum. “I remember going to Monticello in fifth grade and visiting Washington, D.C. in the sixth grade. I remember having a beach-themed graduation party in the cafeteria as well as countless field days that were full of games, competition, friends, music, and laughter. I loved participating in the SCA and in the gifted program as well.
“I am very excited about the opportunity to be the next principal at W.E. Cundiff Elementary School,” said McCallum upon her appointment last spring. “I look forward to working with the staff, students, and parents in the Vinton community to provide educational experiences that will prepare these children with 21st century skills for the future.”